Following another command performance by Anthony Ranaudo on Wednesday night (7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 8 Ks), I reached for the Sea Dogs Media Guide and flipped to the team records to see where both Ranaudo and this pitching staff rank in the annals of hurlers at Hadlock.
Not surprisingly, Ranaudo and crew seem to have a special thing going in Portland this season, putting themselves on pace to get close to the breaking point of some long standing records in team history.
The core of the starting rotation – Ranaudo (58 Ks), Matt Barnes (54), Brandon Workman (69) and Drake Britton (49) – have all struck out over 45 batters and relievers Pete Ruiz (39) and Keith Couch (36) have each eclipsed 35 Ks thus far.
As a whole the staff has 456 strikeouts on the season in 51 games, giving them an average of 8.9 Ks per game.
Averaged out over a 140 game season the Sea Dogs staff is on pace for 1,246 strikeouts which would shatter the team record of 1,141, set in 2001.
Then an affiliate of the Florida Marlins, that 2001 staff featured a 21-year-old Josh Beckett who went 8-1 with 1.82 ERA and 102 Ks in 13 starts.
Those Beckett numbers seem to mirror Ranaudo’s efforts this season, but the 6’7” righty could eclipse current Red Sox ace Jon Lester’s single-season ERA record (for pitchers with a minimum of 114 innings) of 2.61 set back in 2005.
Ranaudo is currently 6-1 with a 1.48 ERA and although he hasn’t given many reasons to think otherwise, an ERA that low will be a very hard mark to maintain. Regardless, he has some wiggle room to stay in pursuit of Lester’s 8-year-old record.
The staff currently boasts a 3.98 ERA overall, which is a far cry from the 3.24 low-water mark set by the 2001 staff, but it is something that could be attainable should the staff continue to improve.
Another mark that could be broached is the single-season strikeout record, set back in 1996 by Brent Billingsley who K'd 183 batters. Lester’s 163 in ’05 are as close as any other pitcher has come.
If Workman is afforded the 25 starts that he made last year, averaging his current 6.9 Ks/game pace, he will have 172 on the season, showing the true scope of how tough Billingsley’s mark may be to reach.
On the wins front, both Ranaudo with 6 and Workman with 5, could be capable of approaching the 13 wins of Michael Tejera (1999) and Tony Saunders (1996) if they run off a decent string of consecutive victories. Workman had 10 wins last year, but given the current-day restrictions on young pitchers, especially valuable ones, they could be held back from win situations at times.
All of this is, of course, easier said than done, but also keep in mind that Matt Barnes has yet to be Matt Barnes and Drake Britton is showing that he is capable as being just as good as the rest when he is on.
The bullpen remaining reliable will go a long way in helping achieve the team marks, but the individual marks will be in the hands, and arms, of those in pursuit.
Yes, we are only two months into the season and obviously anything can happen from now until the end of the year.
Ranaudo knows all-too-well that injuries are a major part of the game and of course there are call-ups, but with a Pawtucket clubhouse already full of pitching talent, most, if not all of Portland’s staff could stay in-tact for much of the way this season.
Lastly, maintaining mentally for a full season may be just as tall a task as staying healthy, so it will be interesting to see how many of these young arms fare as the dog days wear on.
There is however little doubt that the 20th Portland Sea Dogs pitching staff will go down as one of the all-time greats in franchise history should they just continue to do what they do best.
Listen to what the best Red Sox pitcher of the last two decades had to say about the Portland staff…
Craig Forde can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @OnDeckBDC.
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