Anthony Ranaudo Makes Texas Debut

Anthony Ranaudo

During the off season, in the wake of all the acquisitions to this years pitching staff, general manager Ben Cherington made the move to trade away 25-year-old Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers. Boston acquired left-handed specialist, Robbie Ross Jr. in return from Texas.

The Ranaudo trade to Texas caught a lot of Boston fans by surprise. Anthony Ranaudo ranked in Anthony Ranaudothe top-three of pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization and seemed to be on the rise. Ranaudo was outstanding in 2014 while pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, posting a 14-4 record to compliment a 2.61 ERA en route to International Pitcher of the Year honors. Ranaudo also had a nasty curveball—winning best curve ball in the Boston Red Sox organization for two straight years. Ranaudo got some brief time with the MLB club down the stretch, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts.

Ranaudo’s brief struggles in the show weren’t necessarily the reason he was dealt, but more or so the reason of where does he fit in? Boston was able to bring in veteran starters, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley in the offseason leaving no room for Ranaudo in the rotation. Boston also has top-tier prospects named Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes knocking on the door so, in the big scheme of things, Ranaudo didn’t have a spot; Boston had a need for a left-handed reliever.

Ranaudo made his first start for a depleted Ranger rotation on Wednesday as he was opposed by Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels. He would only go 1.2 innings in this one, allowing six hits, six runs to go with a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

After a relatively smooth first inning, Ranaudo struggled heavily in the second. David Freese’s single to center lead to a Chris Iannetta walk, followed by a walk soon after- making it bases loaded with one-out. Angels second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, would deliver the big blower with a liner to left field scoring two and it would just get worse from there. Los Angeles was able to tack on four more runs off of Ranaudo en route to a 10-2 win.

Obviously Ranaudo wasn’t as prepared for this start as he would have liked to have been. It’s also obvious that he still needs some work down in the minor leagues before he can come up and make that impact the Rangers need him to make.

Matt Barnes Likely Next Man Up If Starter Goes Down

matt  barnes

This winter the Red Sox made some moves to their pitching staff that signaled they were moving onto the next wave of pitching prospects. Besides not being able to retain Jon Lester, gone are Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. De La Rosa and Webster were sent to Arizona in the Wade Milley trade, while Ranaudo was sent to Texas for Robbie Ross.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the next wave of pitching Matt Barnesprospects the Red Sox have, and are all left handed, highly valued in today’s game. We are not going to argue about who has the most potential as the Red Sox hope all three lefties pan out. The one holdover from the Pawtucket Red Sox rotation from last season is Matt Barnes.

Barnes, 6’4 210 pounds out of the University of Connecticut throws hard and has been a starter since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. There has been talk of Barnes converting to a reliever this season and even cracking the opening day roster out of the ‘pen. However with Alexei Ogando and Robbie Ross Jr. likely ahead of Barnes of the depth chart, he may start the season in AAA Pawtucket and be ready for the call if a starter should go down.

Not many teams have all five starters make 30 starts in a season. The Rangers are already experiencing problems with Yu Darvish likely missing the year because of the Tommy John Surgery. The Blue Jays will be without Marcus Stroman for the season after he torn his MCL during fielding drills. And just yesterday the against the Red Sox, Yankees starter Chris Capuano strained his quad running to cover first base. Rotation depth is something you need in baseball to make it to October.

Barnes made his major league debut last season after the minor league season ended. He appeared in 5 games for the Sox tossing 9 innings, while giving up 4 runs. So far this spring Barnes has appeared in 2 games, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work with only 2 hits allowed. The Sox could have used Barnes as a trade chip like they used Webster, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo, but they kept him– signaling he is still a part of the future.

A lot can happen in the three weeks left of spring training, but don’t be surprised if Matt Barnes does not make the team out of spring training. The value he has as a depth starter is huge and flip flopping him from starter to reliever might have an impact on him, like it did on Brandon Workman last season.

Offseason Review: Did the Red Sox Do Enough?

red sox offseason

In signing two of the top free agent position players and revamping a depleted starting rotation, the Red Sox undoubtedly made progress this offseason. Yet, deep down, questions still remain as to whether they improved enough, and whether management could’ve done even more to upgrade a messy roster and steer Boston back to the postseason.

In analyzing the winter work of Ben Cherington, it’s important to remember the thorough incompetence of the baseline roster he sought to improve. As you are probably all too aware, the 2014 Red Sox were awful, ranking 18th in runs, 24th in slugging, 23rd in ERA and 22nd in WHIP. At 71-91, they finished dead last in the AL East, 25 games behind the runaway Orioles. Only three teams American League teams compiled a worse record.

Offseason Review

Accordingly, in seeking a swift rebuild, Cherington was at an immediate disadvantage, with the Red Sox basically trying to win a race after giving a head start to all their closest opponents. They would have to work incredibly hard just to get back in the conversation.

Thus, no time was wasted, as Boston committed a combined $192.5 million to Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Justin Masterson, before acquiring Rick Porcello and Wade Miley via trade, dealing from surplus to add quality.

The success of this approach, and, by extension, the degree to which the Sox will improve in 2015, rests largely on the ability of those five new arrivals to significantly outperform their predecessors. The probability of that happening is relatively high, with the collective 2014 WAR of the incoming players sitting at 11.5, compared to the awful 3 WAR accumulated by the forebears in the same position, namely Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks, Brock Holt, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby de La Rosa and Allen Webster.

Theoretically, the net increase of 8.5 WAR should help the Sox back above the .500 threshold, but, at this point, it’s difficult to foresee a quantum leap back into the 90-win range required to secure a wildcard, let alone the 95-win plateau typically needed to clinch the AL East.

Of course, we’ve seen this team march from worse starting points to loftier destinations, most recently in 2013, but, this time round, there seems to be far more uncertainty and far less magic surrounding the team. As Opening Day approaches, there are still so many landscape-altering factors to be determined, all with potentially major affects on the baseline win-loss record. Will the new superstars meet their expectations? At what point do the Sox abandon their no-ace strategy and pursue elite, frontline starting pitching? What impact will the new hitting coach have? Is the clubhouse culture compatible with another worst-to-first turnaround?

At this point, we just don’t know. This Sox team is harder to define and quantify than most in recent memory. In all likelihood, it’ll be better than the 2014 incarnation, but to what extent? Ultimately, that will only be discovered once this perplexing blend of players jogs onto the diamond in competitive action. Nobody knows what to expect, which, after all, is why 162 actual games are required to capture a definitive answer.

Did We Over Value Brandon Workman?

Brandon WorkmanOn Sunday Brandon Workman was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket, and, in return, recently-acquired Heath Hembree was called up to the show. Undoubtedly, Workman was sent down due to failing to maintain consistency with the Red Sox’ rather inexperienced rotation — oh, sorry, forgot about Clay Buchholz.

It’s a sensible transaction, especially considering (if Boston’s smart) it’ll allow Anthony Ranaudo to rejoin the club’s pitching staff. It is, however,one that surprises a bit given his hype (notably surrounding his postseason success in ’13) coming into the year and Boston’s lack of urgency to make a change. After all, won’t Boston just inevitably call him up September 1st for MLB’s roster expansions? You couldn’t wait seven measly days?

Anyway, the logic behind the move is not what I wanted to discuss, rather, I’d like to dabble into the trickery small sample size success (especially in big-games) has on the masses opinion.

Yes, Workman was absolutely lights out for Boston in the postseason, not allowing a single run in eight and 2/3 innings pitched. In fact, he was so good I strongly contemplated purchasing a Brandon Workman World Series bobblehead — I went with a Xander Bogaerts one instead.

However good he may have been in such a short sample size, at least in my mind, it seems to have distorted his actual potential/value. I mean, the guy posted a 4.97 ERA with Boston last year, yet everyone was calling for him to be a part of the rotation before the season even commenced. His peripherals were respectable in ’13 in large part to his tremendous 10.15 K/9, but lurking next to that was an ugly 3.24 BB/9 that seemed to be ignored. Oh, and it’s not like Workman had ever produced such a terrific strikeout rate in the minor-leagues before, so, naturally, his K/9 probably would fall back down to earth the next season.

How much it would fall, admittedly, I didn’t see coming, and entering Monday it reads at just a 6.90 K/9. Sitting next to it on Fangraphs, is an even worse 3.45 BB/9. Such lackluster peripherals generally lead to runs being allowed at a high-rate, and that’s been the narrative for Workman, too. Through 73 innings of work the right-hander has sported a 4.93 ERA (and 4.58 FIP).

Don’t get me wrong; Brandon did perform well (not great) in the minors, but aside from his work in Pawtucket last season, which produced a 4.76 FIP but excellent 2.80 ERA, there’s no reason to believe he’ll be prosperous as a big-league starter. Maybe the bullpen is better suited for Workman. He certainly has two really good pitches in his cutter and curveball (or knucklecurve) and could thrive as a reliever.

Only time will tell, but for now Workman will (or should) focus on in Pawtucket what John Farrell requests he hone.

What Is Wrong With Clay Buchholz?

Clay BuchholzThe oldest member of the Boston Red Sox rotation right now is only 29-years-old. That man is Clay Buchholz. 29 is an age where most players peak and put up the best numbers of their career. For Buchholz, this is not the case.
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In his worst year since he hit a tremendous sophomore slump, things could not get much worse for Buchholz than they are right now. In 18 starts he owns a 6.20 ERA over the course of 101 2/3 innings on the year, showing how consistent he has been with his poor pitching. In fact, if he qualified, Buchholz would have the worst ERA for a starter in all of baseball. He does not, but only due to a lack of innings pitched in his low-quality outings.

Right now, the Boston Red Sox are not in contention and took themselves out of contention entirely at the trade deadline last Thursday. At this point in a season that mattered for something, the front office would take action and do something about Clay Buchholz. Since it does not matter, and the team is not in a good spot, they sit and they wait.
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Meanwhile, the Red Sox have the best starting pitcher in AAA sitting down in the minors after giving the big league club a quality start — against the New York Yankees. Anthony Ranaudo owns a 2.41 ERA in 21 starts for the Pawtucket Red Sox and definitely warrants some starts in the Major Leagues, but there is no room for him right now despite the way Clay Buchholz is pitching.

The Buchholz situation is a tough one to play out, but maybe it would be best if Boston shut him down for the rest of this season. Clearly this is not a Red Sox team that is going to play in October and Buchholz’ problems are mental, not physical. Giving Buchholz some time to think and get back to his old approach would be a smart call by Boston so they can bank on him coming back strong for the 2015 season.
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It’s Time for Jake Peavy to Be Traded

Jake PeavyThe Boston Red Sox are 8-3 over their last 11 contests and two of those losses have come at the expense of starting Jake Peavy. Now, Peavy has pitched in some great games this season, but he also has given the lead up multiple times after the Boston Red Sox have battled back to tie the contest. The veteran now is 1-9 on the season in 20 starts and a change of venue might be what the pitcher needs to get back on the winning track.

In his most recent outing on Tuesday, Peavy threw away a definite infield hit to allow the Toronto Blue Jays to score first in the third inning. Then the wheels fell off in the sixth inning when the frame started off with a Jose Reyes home run, which was followed by a double and a two-run homer to put the Blue Jays up 4-0.

The 33-year-old has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, with the most home runs allowed in the AL this season, while leading the Red Sox in runs allowed at 67. He also leads the staff in walks (46) and in losses. Sure, he has received the lowest run support in all of MLB, but he really hasn’t given the team much to work with in his other starts as he now owns a 4.72 ERA on the season.

The Red Sox are trying to work on a deal to send Peavy to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cardinals just want to pick up the salary for the rest of the season while the Red Sox want at least one prospect or player to be added into the deal.

If the team really wants to move on from Peavy, who is a great presence in the clubhouse even with the losing record, then they need to look at all their options, and the pitchers in the minor leagues are ready to start at the major league level.

Pitchers like Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Steven Wright have shown they can get the job done. They have the right to at least spot start in the rotation and showcase what they can do for this squad in the future. You can’t forget about Brandon Workman either!

If the Red Sox are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Peavy should be on the trading block either way with the way he has been pitching this season. Leaving a game with the lead only once in 20 starts is average at best and the Red Sox should move on while he has some value.