John Lackey Should Still Be With Boston

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey was a strong contributor to the 2013 World Series team and trading him was a big mistake. Lackey had a roller coaster ride in a Sox uniform as he struggled in his first two seasons before becoming a reliable arm every fifth day for the organization. When the 2014 team was scuffling and the trade deadline came around, former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decided to part ways with John Lackey, trading him for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Craig was struggling and his career looked to be dwindling and Kelly had his struggles inJohn Lackey the National League which typically doesn’t lead to success in the more hitter friendly American League. Meanwhile, Lackey seemed to be gaining form and becoming who the Sox thought they were getting him when they signed him to a five year $82.5 million deal. That improvement has continued and John Lackey is pitching like an ace, often going unnoticed behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the best starting pitching rotation in baseball.

Last season in St. Louis, Lackey had a 2.77 ERA and this season he has a 2.63 ERA for the Cubs. At this point in his career he will not wow you with his stuff but he hits his spots and gets guys out, something many Sox pitchers struggle to do. Lackey seems to be blossoming late in his career as last season was his best season to date and he’s on track to improve on those numbers this year. With John Lackey pitching so great, the Sox return of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in the trade has been a catastrophe.

John Lackey Belongs with Red Sox Nation

Kelly has not established himself in the Sox rotation and is not looking likely to do so. Kelly has good stuff to work with but he has yet to put it together and it seems like yesterday the 28 year old was still a promising prospect. Kelly is now in the minor leagues, joining the other piece in the trade, Craig. Craig has been a disaster as he has been a minor leaguer for most of his tenure with the Sox organization. A once promising offensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig has seen his career vanish quickly and likely has played his last inning in the major leagues.

The Sox let go of a pitcher that was big time in the postseason in 2013 in order to gamble on a pitcher with upside who hadn’t put it together and a bat that was on the downfall. As a result, this trade is one of the worst in recent memory and the Sox 4.22 ERA as a pitching staff would be much better if Ben Cherington had stayed with John Lackey.

Red Sox Draft Picks, Trey Ball and Teddy Stankiewicz

red sox draft picks

Trey Ball #7 Draft Pick Courtesy of soxprospects.com

For weeks there have been questions about who the Red Sox draft picks will be in the #7 and #45 spots, which they hold. What does the organization need? How do they make these decisions, anyway? How does this affect current players at all levels in the Red Sox organization?  What a meaty topic. After all, who doesn’t love a little human trafficking to the tune of millions of dollars, while they enjoy their morning coffee and take in the early edition of Sports Center.

These draft spots will only improve a farm system that is already filled with talent. In the #7 spot, the Sox picked up a left-handed pitcher named Trey Ball. He is still in high school, and now the coolest kid in school. In the #45 spot, they drafted another pitcher, right-hander, Teddy Stankiewicz. I guess you cannot have enough pitching. It certainly has made the difference in the series versus the Texas Rangers, so I’m confident that the picks are good ones, though I know little about the players. Wonder where in the system they will start their careers with the Red Sox?

When questions, like those posed in this post, present themselves, I thank God that I just write about this stuff and I don’t have to negotiate for anyone. I typically give people what they want so I can avoid blood-pressure medication as I approach my mid-thirties. It is nice to know that I can just sit back on my couch, groan, and scratch my head with the rest of Red Sox Nation as the news unfolds.

Really, all this draft talk, for fans like us, is just that, talk. It is the equivalent of watching someone who participates in Fantasy Baseball or Football.  None of us have any control over how our friend may be managing their team, but boy do we hold many opinions about it.

Koji Uehara: the Unsung Hero of Spring Training

Koji Uehara

When talking about all of the additions that the Red Sox made over the off-season  you rarely hear a mention of Koji Uehara on that list.

You’ve got your Mike Napoli’s, your Stephen Drew’s, Joel Hanrahan’s and Ryan Dempster’s, but Uehara just might prove to be a major X-factor for the Red Sox this season. It was a very low-key move, triggered by general manager Ben Cherington, which could pay major dividends for Boston.

The Red Sox bullpen, if healthy, could end up being the most effective bullpen in all of baseball. With several names camped out in Fenway’s right field bullpen with closing experience, Uehara trumped all of them this spring. The right-hander logged 9.2 innings over 10 appearances without yielding a run, while punching out 12 batters and allowing just two walks.

Bill James has Uehara appearing in 40 games for Boston in 2013, and predicts a 2.25 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 49 innings, and just six walks. If Uehara comes even remotely close to James’ predictions, the Red Sox may have found their secret weapon.

Red Sox Rotation Run-down

Red Sox rotation

(This is the second installment of the Red Sox rotation run-down. To view the first one, detailing apparent ace Jon Lester, click here: http://yawkeywayreport.com/red-sox-rotation-run-down/ )

After no-hitters, the similarities between Lester and Clay Buchholz end.  One is an imposing lefty, the other a skinny righty with an over the top style.  They may be different, but both pitchers have proven to be effective.  Buchholz is trying to return to his 2010 All-Star form in which he cruised to a 17-7 record while posting a 2.33 ERA. It appears as though that year may have been a fluke. Since that stellar 2010, he was sidelined in 2011 due to a lower back strain which turned in to a fracture, then in 2012 he posted an 11-8 record with a fat 4.56 ERA–a far cry from the miniscule 2.33.  Certainly a regression from the 2010 season was to be expected, but not to that extent. But Buchholz was not alone–last year’s rotations futility has been well documented.  This season, like it is for so many other Sox pitchers, will be a season of redemption.  It will also be uncharted territory for Buchholz as he projects to be the second in rotation.  He will also be one of the veterans who survived the 2011 collapse.  This puts him in a leader position he has not been in before.

Hopefully, Buchholz embraces his new role and returns close to 2010 form, although don’t expect an ERA below 3. I would expect a stat line of around a 3.5 ERA, a 12-10 record, and 150 punch outs.  These solid stats would keep the Sox in plenty of games which is all they can ask for from Buchholz.