Finally, we seem to nearing a conclusion to the Mysterious Case of the Red Sox Rotation. Granted, we don't know what this conclusion's going to look like. But it's close. In the mean time, YFSF's Paul F. thinks he knows what the Red Sox should do:
- A look at the Red Sox' rotation since May 1 gives us a pretty good idea exactly who should be replaced when Smoltz returns:
• Josh Beckett: 5-1, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 50 Ks, 16 BB
• Jon Lester: 4-3, 4.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 63 Ks, 18 BB
• Tim Wakefield: 6-2, 6.13 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 26 Ks, 22 BB
• Brad Penny: 3-2, 4.10 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 38 Ks, 9 BB
• Daisuke Matsuzaka: 1-3, 6.20 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 27 Ks, 9 BB
Clearly the best starting rotation at the moment does not include Matsuzaka, who (unlike Wakefield) has shown us nothing positive in his seven starts this season. A second DL stint -- fatigued shoulder, one month for arm strengthening, mechanics work and a bevy of rehab starts -- seems like the most logical choice. If and when a good enough offer for Penny arises, Buchholz can take his place in the rotation.
It's the only option that makes sense right now. The Red Sox would be foolish to simply dump Penny, a solid pitcher at this point, simply because they can. And they would be foolish to keep Smoltz out of the rotation when he would be a clear improvement over the Sox' worst starter.
Gee, I dunno. Wakefield's and Dice-K's ERA's are essentially the same, but the latter's strikeouts and walks are significantly better. I don't have any reason to think that Wakefield's at the end of the line or anything; he's probably just going through a little rough patch. But the difference between these two isn't nearly as obvious as Paul suggests.
Frankly, I wonder if there's not some other solution to this Gordian Knot. I wonder if the Red Sox wouldn't be better -- in the short term, at least -- with Smoltz and Buchholz in the rotation ... and Wakefield and Matsuzaka out.
Of course, that would be a tricky thing. Wakefield is beloved by all, and for good reasons. The Red Sox have a huge amount of money invested in Matsuzaka; $103 million, to be roughly exact. Many years ago, Bill James wrote in one of the Baseball Abstracts that it's possible to have too many viable starting pitchers. That you wind up wasting a lot of energy figuring out which five are your best.
I don't know that the Red Sox have too many. But in the process of sorting everything out, they're probably going to wind up losing a few games and hurting a few feelings. I believe that entering a spring -- if not a season -- with seven or eight starters is probably a good idea. I'm not sure that having seven or eight in June is optimal.