The real Boston rotation stands up
September 14, 2009 1 Comment
As we come down the stretch, four games ahead in the wild card race and seven behind the Yankees, the Red Sox are in a familiar and strangely comfortable place. All they have to do is continue doing what they’re doing, which right now happens to be playing winning baseball. Josh Beckett seems to have shaken off his rough stretch, Jon Lester has shown himself to be perhaps the top lefty in all of baseball this season, and Clay Buchholz is piling up the quality starts. Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in shape and will take the ball tomorrow against the Angels, and you have to think, apart from losing Dice-K for most of this year, this was the plan all along. Well, more or less.
For all the paranoia and worry about this rotation, here’s a surprise for you: at least from a sabermetric point of view, the Red Sox rotation is the best in baseball, having produced 18.0 WAR (wins above replacement) this season. Yes, even counting the failed John Smoltz experiment, Brad Penny’s second-half implosion and Tim Wakefield’s decaying corpse that still throws 70 mph (Just kidding, Wake, I love you man). Buchholz has compiled a 2.27 ERA in his 8 starts since August 8, and the Sox are 6-2 in that span. He’s averaged six and a half innings per start during that period, and looks like a fine 3rd or 4th starter. If Dice-K can’t get it together, we have Wakefield, Paul Byrd, Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa as options. The rotation owns a 6-3 record in September, along with a 3.36 ERA. If that doesn’t inspire confidence, I don’t know what does.
And that “shaky” bullpen is not too shabby either; it has saved the third-most runs in baseball this season, at 52.3 runs above replacement. Jonathan Papelbon has allowed a lot more walks and hits this year, but has had no problem slamming the door when it needed to be slammed. Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima are steady, as is almost every arm in the deepest bullpen in baseball.
And on top of that, they are getting rest and tuning up for October. How can you not like that?