2012 Reviews/2013 Previews: Breaking Down the Rotation and Bullpen

Starting Rotation

2012 Positional Recap 

In 2012, Red Sox starting pitchers amassed a 5.19 ERA, good enough for fourth last in the majors. Only Cleveland, Minnesota and Colorado had poorer rotations. The rotation has gradually performed worse and worse over the past three seasons, and certainly has played a big role in the team’s lack of success. Red Sox starters went 48-72 this season, finishing under .500 for the first time this millennium. Red Sox starters pitched 4 shutouts this season, the fewest in the majors and 7 less than the year before. No starting rotation allowed more earned runs than the 2012 Red Sox rotation and only three rotations walked more batters. Their .272 batting average against was 5th worst in the majors, and again, was the franchise’s worst in recent memory.

No regular starter had an ERA under 4.5 this season. No regular starter had more than 11 wins this season. Red Sox starters had a combined WAR of 9.1 this season, which is less than half of the collective WAR they had in 2010, 2009 and 2007, and most of the decades prior. Overall, there is an easy argument to be made that this was the worst Red Sox pitching staff in my 23 years of living.

Individual Production 

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

There will probably be occasional rumblings from some Red Sox fans to trade Jon Lester this offseason. I’m not going to be one of those fans. Why trade a guy who has shown he can be an ace in this league after posting his worst season since being a rookie? You couldn’t possible expect fair value (assuming you value him as a top of the rotation pitcher). Secondly, his contract isn’t one that is currently hamstringing the team. He’s slated to make $11.6M next season, with a $13M option for the 2014 season with a very cheap buyout. It’s probably wise to see how he fares this season and if the team isn’t contending (probable), maybe look to move him them. I just don’t see what the rush should be, unless of course they get an offer that is too good to refuse.

Assuming Lester returns, he will pair up with Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront to form 3/5th of the rotation. John Lackey, who has 2 years and $30.5M left on his contract, will assuredly be given every shot there is to gain a rotation spot when he is healthy, and it sounds like he will be ready for Spring Training. That leaves one open roster spot.

Internal options: The Red Sox could fill that void internally with a player like Franklin Morales, or less likely a prospect like Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster or Drake Britton (Barnes, Owens, etc. are probably more than a year away from being ready). Even so, if the Red Sox have learned any thing the past few seasons about a pitching rotation, it’s that there is no such thing as too much depth. It’s hard for me to imagine the team not bringing in someone from outside the organization.

Free agent options: Brandon McCarthy was on his way to a big payday before being hit on the head by a line drive and subsequently having his season end prematurely. It’s hard to project what type of offers he will get, but if he can be had for a team-friendly low risk/high reward contract, the Red Sox should explore that possibility. Ervin Santana could be another low risk/high reward signing depending on the offers he gets. His 2012 season was mostly a disaster, but he turned it around at the end of the season and has shown he can pitch at an elite level before. Shaun Marcum has shown that he can be a successful pitcher in the AL East before. Anibal Sanchez could be a younger, more long-term option. He had a solid career with the Marlins and saw solid success in his brief stint with Detroit. At 28, he is younger than just about every other free agent out there. Maybe they take a flier on a guy like Francisco Liriano or Rich Harden .

I think it is imperative that the Red Sox avoid going after the likes of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, James Shields (if his option isn’t picked up), or Edwin Jackson, especially if bidding gets out of hand. While all are solid pitchers and would prove to be upgrades, the club can’t keep making the same mistakes that buried them the past 3 years, especially with a young team that probably isn’t going to seriously contend next year.



2012 Positional Recap

Even though the bullpen was decimated by injuries and unperformances from key players, the bullpen was still perceived as a strength for most of the season, even with Alfredo Aceves blowing 8 saves. Bobby Valentine, who couldn’t get a semblance of a compliment from many people, was often credited for managing a strong bullpen. The bullpen was indeed pretty solid, but far from spectacular. Considering how poor some key pitchers performed, and how the team was without it’s closer for the vast majority of the season, it’s hard to criticize much of what happened. A lot of players stepped up and admirably filled in roles no one could have foreseen them having to fill.

The club ranked 10th in the Majors in WAR, but fared much worse in most other metrics. They blew 22 saves which ranks third most in the Majors and their bullpen ERA of 3.88 ranked 12th worst in the league. Considering the unit pitched 514.2 innings this season and certainly was consistently stretched thin, it is hard to criticize them too much.

Individual Production

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

Projecting a bullpen always seems like a futile attempt. Bobby Jenks and Vicente Padilla will be let go in free agency. It seems certain that Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Daniel Bard and Junichi Tazawa will all be a part of the 2013 bull pen. Rich Hill, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow probably aren’t going anywhere either. Aceves has arbitration and could be trade fodder. Morales, Mortensen and Atchison will probably be fighting for the remaining roster spot(s).

Internal options: There is plenty of depth within the organization. The Pawtucket team will have plenty of options like Josh Fields, Chris Carpenter, Pedro Beato, Brock Huntzinger, Zach Stewart, Alex Wilson and Stolmy Pimentel.

External options/Trade possibility: Certainly always a possibility, and certainly hard to project.

It’s hard for me to imagine much turnover in the rotation. The unit improving is most contingent on the health of Andrew Bailey and the performances of Daniel Bard and Mark Melancon. If Bailey is healthy and the latter two pitch solidly as relievers like they have shown before, the bullpen should be markedly better.


So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see in the bullpen next season? The rotation? Thanks for following along.

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise. 

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