I wanted to break down our system to see what options we have internally to solve any starting pitching problems that are here or will come up. For this episode of armchair GM for a day I am going to outline the elephant in the room for the Red Sox. The glaring deficiency of starting pitching depth and issues with our starting rotation mixed in with possible solutions to those problems.
-------------Problems + Potential Problems--------------------
1. Bard started out the year acceptable for a 4th starter, but is starting to unravel lately and is losing control of his pitches. The second problem that will face him is that he will likely be on an innings limit as the year progresses.
2. Doubront has been better than expected, but also is likely to see his innings limited.
3. Clay has been better as of late, but as recently as two starts ago people wanted him traded away for a bucket of balls.
4. Lester is not pitching as well as we have become accustomed to.
5. Beckett is pitching well now, but has a history of needing to miss a start here or there from blisters or minor injuries. People wanted his head for playing golf and seem to target him for being part of the problem with last years team for some reason.
So that breakdown of our current starters and the potential problems warrant a breakdown of the starters we have in house. I will break down the starters in the order that I feel that they deserve recognition and pose some other solutions that we could also try.
-------------------In House Starting Solutions---------------
1. Dice K... Recovering from Tommy John surgery. Stated early in his rehab starts that some days his elbow feels great and others it still gives him problems (red flag). He ran into some neck problems during rehab that set him back, but he is progressing in a positive direction.
His fastball is clocking in at 90-91 so far and his strikeout numbers are down, but so are his walk totals. He is sporting a WHIP of 0.95 in his starts so his control is much better than it was before he got injured. He is also noticeably working faster on the mound. So far Dice has made 7 starts in the minors going 35 innings with a cumulative 3.53 ERA. The most alarming stat is that he has given up 7 home runs in just 35 innings of work. The last two starts however he has looked markedly better. That being said, he is only going 5+ innings and is around 70 pitches.
2. Aaron Cook- Still hasn't started pitching after getting a nasty gash on his knee during his spot start for the Sox. He is 33 years old and an 11 year veteran with a career 4.56 ERA. He has been in a steady decline since his best year in 2008 when he pitched 211 innings and spotted a 3.96 ERA. Since then he has pitched in less innings each year with worse and worse ERAs before last year posting a 6.03 ERA after posting a 5.08 ERA in Colorado.
As a contact / sinkerball pitcher he relies on his fielding behind him heavily. He had a good start to the season with the PawSox and only had a 1.89 ERA in the small sample sized 5 starts before getting called up. He has never had good strikeout numbers and would be an acceptable 5th starter, but nothing more honestly.
3. Justin Germano- A 29 year old journeyman pitcher who has good command but his stuff isn't good enough to strike people out acceptably at the major league level. He tends to pitch to contact and when he gets hit hard, he gets hit hard with his below average fastball. Has a career 5.02 ERA in the majors as both a starter and reliever. His minor league career spans 12 years sporting a 3.77 career ERA.
He has the best numbers of any starter at Pawtucket currently with a 2.89 ERA and batters are only hitting 230 against him. He only has 38 Ks in 62 innings of work with just 7 BB and a very high 9 home runs. He could spot start for the team, but I would be very nervous to see him do anything more than a handful of spot starts for us as the number 5 starter in the rotation.
4. Brandon Duckworth- 36 year old journeyman who showed pretty good numbers the past couple of years in AAA, but last pitched in the majors in 2008. He has a career 5.28 ERA in parts of 8 seasons in the majors and 3.86 ERA in his 14 minor league seasons.
5. Billy Buckner- 28 year old right handed swingman with a terrible name for Boston fans. Has a career 6.25 ERA in the majors and hasn't seen time in the show since 13 innings in 2010. In 9 minor league seasons he has posted a 4.56 ERA and currently has a 3.20 ERA in AAA right now.
6. Doug Mathis- 29 year old righty with under 100 innings of major league ball supporting a 4.84 ERA in parts of three seasons. He is a career 4.15 pitcher in 8 seasons in the minors.
1. Matt Barnes - Top pitching prospect, but still pitching A ball in Salem
2. Anthony Ranaudo - Only has 3 games in AA under his belt, but his 6.86 ERA says he needs more time to adjust
3. Brandon Workman - Still in A ball but having a good year
4. Mickey Pena - still in A ball but having a very good year
5. Chris Balcom-Miller - in AA, but doesn't seem destined to be a starter in the long run, but is only 23... bad season last year and worse one this year... we traded Manny Delcarmen for this kid back in the day
6. Drake Britton- In AA, but his ERA is 5.80 from A ball... yet to pitch for Portland. He has a very live arm and is working on his secondary pitches to compliment his great fastball, but he appears to be destined for bullpen work over time
7. Stolmy Pimentel- In AA and had a horrible year last year with a 9.12 ERA in Portland. This year is better at 5.04 ERA, but people are hitting 289 off of him.
------------Out of the box thinking for solutions-----------------
1. Franklin Morales- He is still young at 26 years old and has been pitching in the majors since he was 21 years old. I was very impressed with his 4+ innings after Bard came out of the game and opened my eyes to the possibility of him as a starting option. I looked over his minor league numbers and he started games up until 2009 in the minors even though he only pitched in relief in the majors since 2007.
2. Clay Mortensen- He is also young at 27 years old and was a starter in 2010 with a 4.25 ERA in AAA. He was terrible last year as a starter in 2011 with a 9.42 ERA and his time in the majors has been steadily improving as a bullpen arm. It's not ideal, but it is an option in an emergency. He is having a great year in the bullpen at Pawtucket right now and really impressed in this role with the Sox in limited time.
3. Junichi Tazawa- Another young live arm at 26 years old. He like Clay has been mainly used in 2 inning outings in the minors so he is the other likely candidate to be stretched out in an emergency. We drafted him in 2009 as a starter and posted a 2.57 ERA in AA as a starter and a 2.38 ERA in AAA. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and spent last year going through all levels of the minors in the bullpen and got a cup of coffee in September. This year however he is looking much stronger than last year and if it were not for his TJ surgery I would put him ahead of Clay Mortensen as an option to stretch out.
4. Andrew Miller- Having a reverse Bard season. He has a career 5.68 ERA in the majors and seems to have found a groove in the bullpen spotting a 2.31 ERA this year. That being said, he could be stretched out in an emergency with the risk of reversing all the progress made thus far.
5. Vicente Padilla- He could be stretched out as a starter as that is where he originated from over his very long major league career. He pitched in 95 innings in 2010 with a 4.07 ERA for the Dodgers so he could be serviceable.
6. Alfredo Aceves- The only reason I have him so low is that he is closing for us right now and doing it well. He expressed his preference for starting before the season began and if we needed to we could certainly convert this very versatile player into a starter.
7. Matt Albers- He last started in the majors in 2007 for Houston sporting 4 wins, 11 losses and a 5.86 ERA... not really an option honestly but at 29 years old he could do it