5-17-2011: What we know about our pitchers by now

While several hitting statistics are starting to stabilize by this point in the season, pitching stats take quite a bit longer to mean something. At 150 batters faced, you can reference strikeout rate, GB rate and line drive rate, and at 200 batters faced, you can talk about fly ball rate and FB/GB ratio. Here’s a look at these numbers from our rotation:

2011 2010
Lester 238 24.4% 55.3% 12.0% 32.7% 1.69 861 26.1% 53.6% 16.9% 29.6% 1.81
Buchholz 202 14.9% 47.0% 14.6% 38.4% 1.22 711 16.9% 50.8% 17.7% 31.5% 1.61
Beckett 195 25.1% 43.8% 16.4% 39.8% 1.10 577 20.1% 45.8% 19.0% 35.3% 1.30
Lackey 192 9.9% 33.6% 21.2% 45.2% 0.74 930 16.8% 45.6% 18.4% 36.0% 1.27
Matsuzaka 167 15.6% 31.6% 12.8% 55.6% 0.57 664 20.0% 33.0% 21.6% 45.5% 0.73
Wakefield 99 11.1% 37.5% 16.3% 46.3% 0.81 610 13.8% 37.0% 16.5% 46.6% 0.79

You can see that Jon Lester is his same dominant self, and that he is clearly the ace of this staff, boasting very high strikeout and ground ball rates. Josh Beckett is fully healthy, striking out hitters at the highest rate in the rotation and a lower line drive rate. Clay Buchholz is very solid in these peripherals, and so we should continue to see solid starts out of him, though he won’t likely reproduce that sub-3.00 ERA from last season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield look like they’re pretty much status quo from last year, but may be suffering from some bad luck. Dice-K’s fly ball rate is an astoundingly bad 55.6%, though his line drive rate is way down. His K rate seems to have regressed a bit too, but is still quite solid for a number 5 starter. Tim Wakefield is still his old self, but may be fooling fewer hitters, which would be a bad sign moving forward.

John Lackey and has clearly slipped from last season, allowing more line drives. His GB and K rates have just fallen off of a cliff, and that crazy fly ball rate is not good in Fenway. Let’s hope that his DL stint gets him right.

We can also look at changes in velocity as an additional stat to see if guys are healthy or not.

Name 2011 2010 Diff
Beckett 92.7 93.5 -0.8
Buchholz 92.5 94.1 -1.6
Lester 92.4 93.3 -0.9
Lackey 90.6 91.5 -0.9
Matsuzaka 90.6 92.0 -1.4
Wakefield 72.5 72.9 -0.4
Bard 97.1 97.9 -0.8
Papelbon 94.1 94.9 -0.8
Albers 93.7 92.5 1.2
Jenks 93.4 95.0 -1.6
Aceves 91.8 89.9 1.9
Doubront 91.6 91.5 0.1
Hill 90.8 89.1 1.7
Atchison 90.2 91.1 -0.9
Reyes 88.5 90.2 -1.7
Wheeler 88.4 88.6 -0.2
Okajima 87.0 87.2 -0.2

It’s normal to see a small yearly decline in velocity for most pitchers, especially those older than about 27 or 28 and also this early in the season. However, once you start to see a difference of greater than 1.5-2 mph, then you start to think bad mechanics or injury.

Buchholz seems to be okay, though he has lost some zip on his heater, which may help explain why he hasn’t been as effective as last year. You see that Bobby Jenks and Denys Reyes both lost a lot of velocity, and that helped lead to their ineffectiveness as well. We know that Jenks had a mechanical issue which hopefully he is sorting out now.

The relievers who have been effective this season are those who have increased their fastball speed over last season – Matt Albers, Rich Hill and Alfredo Aceves, who we know was hurt last season. Everyone else is more or less where we expect them to be, and that’s good news.

5 Responses to 5-17-2011: What we know about our pitchers by now

  1. kip152 says:

    The big three are doing their jobs, but Lackey worries me. Could Doubront be considered to take his place?

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    The Sox sent Doubront to Pawtucket a few weeks ago to get stretched out. With Matsuzaka being so mercurial, Wakefield fragile and Lackey now on the shelf, the Sox will need a depth starter.

    He’s been lights out down there, with a 1.98 ERA over 13.2 IP in 4 starts, 18 punchouts versus 5 walks. I think we will see Doubront up here by early June at least for a couple of starts, so the Sox can evaluate what he can or can’t do for us this year.

  3. toosoxy says:

    What are your thoughts on Lackey? “Injury” aside, he stresses me out every single outing.

    • redsoxtalk says:

      Lackey is concerning, I agree, especially since he’s only in the second year or a long-term deal. I think maybe people had really high expectations of him, but moving from the AL West into this division is a tough call.

      But I don’t think he is cooked quite yet, or that he is nearly as bad as he has looked this season. If he can roughly recreate 2010 for the rest of his deal, it won’t be so terrible. That makes him a decent #4 going forward. I know, not exactly worth $16M/year, but better than nothing.

  4. toosoxy says:

    i hope you’re right!
    “better than nothing” is better than some people’s opinion of lackey right now…

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