Recently, there seems to be a big discussion every time "spot starts" comes up in article comments. Because of all the nagging pitching injuries, double headers and the roster shuffling, there are quite a few spot starts to hand out lately.
I find myself writing the same things over and over so I decided to write my first fanpost and be done with it.
Many Sox fans point to Alfredo Aceves and say he's done an admirable job and then also point out that Allen Webster has been pretty awful. So the argument is that Aceves should to continue to get these spot starts for those two reasons. Fair enough.
That may appear correct when looking at basic stats and game results. But is it sustainable?
Here are Aceves' career stats as a starter: 77.2 IP, 4.87 BB/9, 4.87 K/9, a 4.29 ERA and the kicker - a 5.52 FIP. This year, it's a 6.41. To those not familiar with FIP, it's short for Fielding Independent Pitching or what an ERA would eventually normalize to with league average BAPIP assuming they continue pitching the same way.
To put it simply, it is easy to see with his starting FIP, BB/9 and K/9 rates, Aceves and the Red Sox are quite lucky to have gotten the results they've had. Given enough chances that luck would run out and normalize to far worse performances based on how he has pitched as a starter for his entire career. Like 2011 Lackey bad. There is always the possibility that these stats are just based on too small of a sample size, but does anyone really think he could be better than his peripherals have been so far using the eye test?
I'm not going to analyze Webster's three starts as a rookie with stats because that's just not worth anything, though it's safe to say that his K/BB rate will remain far superior to Aceves'. If I had to make a guess about future performance, if both Aceves and Webster continued to pitch as they are, their results would normalize to be about equal. As it stands now, it looks like Webster's mistakes turn into grand slams and Aceves' mistakes turn into double plays. Yeah, that's a little bit of hyperbole.
But using the eye test with Webster, don't you see so much more potential to improve? He misses a lot of bats. Limiting mistakes would make him a very passable pitcher right now even with the same K and BB rates. In the long run, you still want his walks to go down but that doesn't have to happen for him to be an OK spot starter right now.
Given that I believe them to be about equally effective pitchers today and that Webster has so much potential to improve while Aceves does not, it's a pretty easy choice to me that Webster should be getting these spot starts. I'd love to see him on the roster as the 5th starter when needed instead of playing the roster shuffle game. Give him a little stability and let him work with Nieves and Farrell the days between starts. And finally, it just matters more for the future that the Sox help grow Webster's confidence. Show some faith in him and that will help. There's a lot more at stake than just a couple games in June.
Wow, I am a baseball dork.