B.Chuck: Boston should be worried about their pitching
As I pointed out yesterday, the Red Sox revival this season has more to do with John Farrell's magic with getting the most out of timely hitting and good clubhouse chemistry than with his presumed talents with a pitching staff.
- The Red Sox are seventh in the league with a team ERA of 3.84.
- Their starters are fourth in the league with a 3.79 ERA and their bullpen is 11th in the AL with a 3.94 ERA.
But perhaps what should be most disconcerting for Red Sox Nation is there is no indication that the pitching staff is getting better.
A look at the numbers
When you look at the numbers for the pitchers, you can sense that it's pretty amazing that this is a first-place ballclub.
- With 171 bases on ball, Sox starters have a significant lead in issuing walks over any other group of starters in the majors.
- With 7142 pitches, Sox starters have thrown more pitches than any other group of starters in the majors, yet they are 10th in the majors in innings thrown.
- Sox relievers are 10th in innings pitched in the AL with 208.0, but are 11th in ERA in the AL and 13th in WHIP with 1.365.
- Slugging average against starters is .403, tied for third in the AL and while the slugging against the relievers is .403, that's only good for 13th in the AL.
- The strikeout to walk ratio is 2.30 for starters (10th in the AL) and 2.54 for the bullpen (6th in the AL).
- FYI: The Sox pitchers have issued eight bases-loaded walks this season, the most in the majors.
Let's look at some individual numbers
- Clay Buchholz is having a Cy Young season: he's 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He has pitched brilliantly when he's been out there. Buchholz has made 12 starts, missing three so far and we await news as to whether he is going on the DL. Since the start of 2010, Buchholz has made 83 starts, while teammate Jon Lester has made 111.
- Lester is a whole other set of issues. In his first nine starts, Lester was 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. In his last six starts, he is 0-4 and a 7.20 ERA. Lester with 1627 pitches thrown, has tossed more than any other pitcher in baseball, but his 94.7 IP is good for only 15th in baseball. Lester is around the strike zone, he has 69 full counts, the most in baseball, but his 135 foul balls when the batter has two strikes on him is indicative of his inability to finish off an at bat.
- Despite his 4-5 record, John Lackey has been a pleasant surprise rebounding well from two bad seasons and Tommy John surgery. He has a 3.08 ERA but has a not very impressive 1.212 WHIP.
- Of course, Lackey's WHIP looks better when you compare it to Ryan Dempster's 1.332 and Felix Doubront's 1.895, who have ERAs of 4.21 and 4.445 respectively, if not respectfully.
Let's go to the bullpen
- With the relief corps being used frequently, the Sox bullpenners Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara have each appeared in over 30 games already this season.
- Andrew Bailey is the full-time closer now that Joel Hanrahan's Red Sox career is probably finished due to injuries. Each season Bailey seems to battle injuries as well. He has been successful in eight-of-10 save attempts. He's had seven-of-22 appearances in which he has not allowed a baserunner.
- As a frame of reference, Joe Nathan has had 15-of-30 appearances without allowing a baserunner and Jason Grilli is 17-of-33.
Reason to be concerned
The deeper you look at the pitching (and this was just a glance) for the Red Sox, the more you need to be concerned.
Thus far, the Red Sox timely hitting has carried the team. Having said that, the average team BABIP is .296 and the Red Sox have the highest team BABIP in baseball at .332.
How lucky is that hitting?
Well, in 2008 the Texas Rangers had a .325 BABIP and in 1997, the Red Sox had a .325 batting average for balls in play, the Twins had a .325 BABIP in 1996, the highest numbers in the last 20 seasons.
All of which makes you think that if the Sox don't start getting luckier or better on the mound, the Orioles and Rays and maybe even the Yankees and the Jays will be making the AL East and Wild Card races very close and Red Sox Nation very nervous.