Franklin Morales has been exciting. But is he the right man for Fenway Park? (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Allow me to diagnose the Red Sox: their pitching isn't very good.
There are, of course, other problems. Particularly that they're always injured, be it because Ellsbury can't avoid the knees of other players, Buchholz has a bad back/esophagus, or Dustin Pedroia's thumb was secretly taped onto his hand at birth. Still, that's not so much a roster composition problem as it is one of luck or a result of the medical team. I'm not willing to make that particular judgement yet.
Either way, if the Sox could manage a decent run of luck as far as health is concerned, there's not much to complain about in their lineup. Consider:
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Dustin Pedroia
SS: Mike Aviles
LF: Carl Crawford
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Cody Ross
DH: David Ortiz
Imperfect? Yes, especially with Gonzalez slumping. But there's plenty to like there, both offensively and defensively.
Now consider the healthy rotation...
Wait, no, let's stop pretending that John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka actually have a place on this team
In other words, we aren't really getting any better with health.
What do we have here?
- A one-time ace who has been declining at a remarkable pace for a 28-year-old.
- The every-other-year-wonder who has lost three miles off his fastball from his best years.
- A guy who even in his best years raised giant red flags with his peripherals and has a bad back to boot.
- Two young lefties who, while showing significant promise, seem to be very poorly built for Fenway park given their fly ball tendencies.
If you don't include the two money sinks who shall not be named (again), that's about $30 million. If you do, it's nearly twice that on one of the worst rotations in the game today.
For me, the bullet that draws my attention there is the last one. At the moment, the Sox are 21-19 on the road, and 22-24 at home, and a lot of that is probably because their three left-handed pitchers just can't survive Fenway. We're not talking about some light struggles either, we're talking about Felix Doubront's 5.66 ERA being the best of the three.
Jon Lester, at least, seems to be more a product of his complete inability to strand baserunners, which is really his biggest problem on the season overall. He's not the same pitcher he was back in 2010, but he's not nearly so bad as he seems to be.
Doubront and Morales, on the other hand, just seem like poor fits for the Red Sox, which is a shame given the fact that they also seem to be reasonably talented young arms on the whole. In fact, given their difficulties at home and the current six-man rotation setup, I wonder if it wouldn't be worth the instability in scheduling to try and shift around their starts to keep them on the road as much as possible, while guys like Cook and a hopefully luckier/more defiant Lester get the home starts.
Either way, however, it seems to me like the idea behind Doubront and Morales is right. Going younger and picking up some guys more built for Fenway who can provide solid numbers for, say, a #4 would actually be a significant step up for this organization. With a lineup like the Sox should have, throwing out a rotation composed without a true ace but without any real great weak points should be enough.
The problem lies in finding those players. Should the Sox indeed end up losing this month, and ultimately deciding that it's in their best interest to sell, perhaps this could be their focus. Doubront and Morales themselves might even come into the equation via trades if they manage to prove themselves well enough on the road that the Sox can find some good value for them over the offseason.
One way or another, though, something has to change in the rotation. Its faults left the Sox with the greatest collapse in history last year, and so far this year it's made the injuries impossible to really cope with. The Sox won't be truly well-off unless the likes of Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz can find their best form, but they can start moving in the right direction by starting to cater to the realities of their home park.