Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Starting Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

The Red Sox first half has come and gone and seven pitchers have gotten starts so far. Jon Lester is proving that he is an ace and deserves ace money, while some of the other veterans have been shaky.

Lester is coming off a terrific postseason and could be headed for free agency next year, putting the Red Sox in a tough place. Some think the Sox won’t pay him and should trade him to a contender. The Red Sox have been on a run recently though and Lester is a big part of it. Coming into the year, his best season was probably 2010, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Going into the break this year, he’s 9-7 with a 2.65 ERA. While he probably won’t get a high win total, that’s not on him because he has been pitching great with only a few rough starts. Lester ranks in the top ten in virtually every category in the AL and has without a doubt been the team’s ace this year.

John Lackey is having a similar year to 2013, but has been shaky as of late. Following his nine inning scoreless outing against the Twins, Lackey’s ERA has gone up from 2.96 to 3.79 in four starts, despite getting the win in two of them. Lackey has only had an ERA below 3.5 twice in his career and was close to a third time last season when he finished at 3.52. So while it would have been nice if he continued to pitch sub-3.00, it is hard to expect a pitcher to have a career year at age 35.

Clay Buchholz could have really done anything this season and it wouldn’t be too surprising, but his first half was almost shockingly bad. Since returning from the DL, he has been much better, but he still has the tendency to leave some pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in home runs. He finished the first half with a bang, shutting out the Astros while striking out 12. His ERA has gone down from 7.02 (yikes) to 5.42 since coming back from the DL four starts ago, but that should continue to go down if he continues to have the stuff he did against the Astros. Physically, he looks fine, so this may be a mental battle from now on for Buchholz.

Jake Peavy has been mediocre at best and may be at the end of his run in Boston. With trade rumors swirling around the former Cy Young winner, he may be gone by the deadline. With a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, he doesn’t seem to be fooling batters very often. The Sox have lost nine of the last ten games he’s started and with a few youngsters ready to get a chance, it just doesn’t make sense to keep Peavy around.

Felix Doubront began the year in the rotation, but worked his way out of it with poor pitching and injuries. In ten starts, he posted a 5.19 ERA and had trouble with accuracy. He has only came out of the bullpen three times since his last start on June 20th, so it is unclear what the team wants to do with him moving forward.

Brandon Workman has seen eight starts and has had varying results. In his last three starts, he’s allowed five home runs and has seen his ERA go from 2.88 to 4.13. He still has been able to maintain a low WHIP of 1.18, so if he is able to cut down on the long ball, his ERA should lower quite a bit. If Peavy is dealt, Workman is sure to see some more starts in the second half.

Rubby De La Rosa has pitched very well so far and has had a couple of lights-out starts. With a WHIP hovering around 1.00 and a sub-3.00 ERA, De La Rosa is finally showing why he was such a big factor in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in 2012. He has still made some mistakes here and there, but should be able to stay in the rotation unless he works his way out of it.

Jon Lester- Grade: A

John Lackey- Grade: B-

Clay Buchholz- Grade: F

Jake Peavy- Grade: D

Felix Doubront- Grade: F

Brandon Workman- Grade: C

Rubby De La Rosa- Grade: A

Why Is Felix Doubront Even Here?

felix doubrontSeldom used out of the Red Sox bullpen after being demoted from the rotation, Felix Doubront is unhappy with his role on the team. Instead of questioning whether or not he deserves a bigger role on the team, the real question is why is he on the team at all?  Since June 25th the 27-year-old lefty has pitched four times out of the bullpen, giving up five runs on 5 1/3 innings of work. The only reliever on the Red Sox pitching worse than Doubront as of late is Burke Badenhop, but unlike Doubront, Badenhop had a dominant stretch earlier in the year. With this being said, Doubront is essentially a waste of space on the roster and the club should look elsewhere to find their last man in the bullpen.
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While Felix Doubront is a lame duck in Boston, there is a plethora of talent just waiting to get the call from Pawtucket. Names such as Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Steven Wright and Tommy Layne come to mind when thinking of better options than Felix Doubront. With the exception of Layne, all of these men could perform a long relief role with the club and all of them would contribute more to the team than Felix Doubront. Unfortunately for Boston, Doubront is out of options so they would either need to trade him or DFA him. Perhaps a struggling team takes a risk on him for half nothing.

The way that the bullpen looks right now, Steven Wright would be the best choice to take over for Felix Doubront. The knuckleballer is posting a 2.21 ERA for the Paw Sox in nine starts, totaling 61 innings while punching-out 50 men. Wright’s stamina and ability to pitch well, even when not used for a while, makes him the right choice for job. Although Brandon Workman has plenty of big league experience, he will likely get a spot in the rotation if Jake Peavy is dealt, taking him out of the candidacy for the job.
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Right now, the only reason why it seems like Boston has not cut ties with Felix Doubront is because of options. The lefty is out of options, but if Boston is looking to compete this year and win games, that should be a risk they are willing to take for the benefit of the team. If they can get a return on Doubront that is great, and if not hopefully they can outright him so he is not gone forever.

Felix Doubront in Bullpen Opens Spot in Rotation

Felix DoubrontWith Clay Buchholz  activated from the DL to start today’s contest against the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox had some decisions to make and sending Felix Doubront into the bullpen is just step one in a bigger plan this week.

The 26-year-old has not pitched out of the bullpen since the World Series and has been a starter most of his career, including 10 starts before his two perfect innings against Seattle Tuesday. His season ERA is now at 4.99.

The Red Sox had seven starters for five spots and moving Doubront out of the rotation makes it six pitchers for five rotation spots. Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman will likely be fighting for the final spot unless Buchholz throws an absolute stinker in his return.

Both De La Rosa and Workman have been phenomenal this season with a 2.51 and 2.88 ERA respectively. Both pitchers are a little different in their approach on the mound, but both get the job done at the major league level.

The Red Sox bullpen was in need of another left-handed reliever as Craig Breslow, Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller have all had their struggles. Doubront may not be the long-term solution, but he is a solid pitcher to get the job done until he can fix whatever is going on with his velocity and command.

The team does not have much wiggle room as they find themselves eight games below .500 and seven games out of a playoff spot. So, if the 29-year-old does not get the job done, then it might be time to just let the young guys stay in the rotation until they falter. It all starts and ends with Buchholz’ performance on tonight.

Rubby De La Rosa Might Be Odd Man Out of Rotation

Rubby De La RosaWith Felix Doubront set to return at some point during the weekend series against the Oakand Athletics, Rubby De La Rosa might be the starter who will be sent back to Pawtucket.

In four starts since coming up with the Boston Red Sox, the 25-year-old is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA with 14 shutout innings at Fenway Park. He has allowed eight runs in his other 11.1 innings of work on the road because he has had less control of his fastball which helps keep hitters off his change-up and breaking pitches.

Brandon Workman has been more consistent with five starts and a 2.88 ERA. He has allowed just two home runs in 34.1 innings of work compared to three for De La Rosa.

Workman has also been better of late on the road and at home, and has really shown that he can get the job done against almost any opponent.

Doubront has shown great control in the minors through three starts with a 2.63 ERA while walking five and striking out 15 in 13.2 innings of work. Sure, he has yet to win a start, but he has also not lost a start either.

The Red Sox could find a way to keep both De La Rosa and Workman up on the big league squad with Workman definitely earning a spot on the team. The 25-year-old could pitch out of the bullpen in an extended role, just like he did in 2013 in the postseason when Jake Peavy struggled at times.

For De La Rosa, his last start on Monday showed the Red Sox that he is ready to compete in the majors and that if the team needs to turn to him, then he can be relied upon.

It’s all up to whether the Red Sox want to keep him in the rotation or not.

Matt Barnes a Reliever?

matt barnesOn Sunday June 15th, Matt Barnes was slated to make a start for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Instead, Felix Doubront got the start since he needed a rehab start in order to prepare himself to get back to the Major League team. Well, that start went great for Doubront who tossed five no hit innings for the Paw Sox totaling 93 pitches in which he fanned ten batters while walking four.
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In the sixth inning of the game, for the first time of his professional career, Matt Barnes came in as a reliever. Barnes tossed three scoreless innings allowing a pair of hits while fanning a batter. Although some people might see that as just an abbreviated appearance, there could be more to it. This could be a blessing in disguise for Barnes.

A top prospect in the Red Sox organization, Matt Barnes has not pitched great since about mid 2012. Since July of that year, minus the relief appearance, Barnes owns a 4.29 ERA in 203 2/3 innings. Although this is not great, Barnes does have great stuff. His fastball touches 98mph and he also throws a solid curve and change-up.  With 142 in 113 1/3 innings last year, Barnes has the swing-and-miss type stuff to make a good reliever. As his curve develops, he should be able to generate even more whiffs making him even more successful.
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Given that Boston already has plenty of starting pitchers lined up ahead of Barnes on the depth chart, the bullpen might just be his calling. In order to get to the big leagues quicker last year, both Brandon Workman and Drake Britton pitched in relief so it is possible that Matt Barnes could do the same thing this year. Realistically, Barnes could not do much to help Boston this year the way he has been starting, but as a reliever there is a chance that he could help this team out.

Overall, Matt Barnes is a talented pitcher, but he has not pitched like someone who deserves a chance in a Major League rotation in a long time. Fortunately for Barnes, he has stuff that transfers well over to the bullpen and that may just be his calling in his big league future. This is not to say that Barnes should never get a chance in the rotation, but the bullpen seems like his best bet for now.

Brandon Workman Needs to Stay in Starting Rotation

Brandon WorkmanThe Boston Red Sox season has been slowly becoming a repeat of two years ago, but Brandon Workman has been a pleasant surprise and has really made the fourth spot in the rotation his own.

In all seven career starts, the right-hander has gone at least five innings and has yet to give up more than three runs in any of those starts.

With a career 4.11 ERA through 70 innings with the Red Sox, Workman has been a solid back-of-the-rotation starter and should be used on a regular basis even when Felix Doubront and/or Clay Buchholz return from their respective injuries with their rehab stints starting sometime over the next week..

In 28.1 innings this season, the 25-year-old has a solid 2.86 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 10 walks. Sure, the walk totals need to go down and he needs to last more than the five innings each start, but he can handle his own on the mound and is a viable fourth starter in a rotation that also includes Jon Lester and John Lackey.

Workman is starting put things together on the mound and has pretty solid numbers against AL East opponents.

In his start against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, he allowed just one hit and walked one in 6.2 innings of work while throwing just 67 pitches due to a couple rain delays in the early innings.

If Workman can continue to be this reliable, then the Red Sox have no choice but to let him keep his spot in the rotation.and let Buchholz and Doubront regroup in the minors until they can pitch consistently on the major league mound.