Felix Doubront's claim to fame in 2013 was a three-month stretch in which he allowed no more than three earned runs per start. It was not always pretty or impressive, but even in his worst starts during that period, Doubront managed to keep the Red Sox in the game. John Lackey was Boston's anchor, but during the dog days of summer, Felix Doubront was the second man that Boston could truly rely on day in and day out.
Up until Wednesday, Doubront hadn't had a single game which was really reminiscent of that pitcher. He'd been struggling through games, barely staying alive as much due to good luck as good pitching. You certainly couldn't call his season-to-date "good" no matter how you try to spin it.
Somehow, though, he's one month deep into the same streak that made us all take notice in 2013.
Don't believe it? Here's a link to his game log. Granted, this month-long streak of his includes a game where he allowed four unearned runs--that's the 2.2 inning disaster against the Yankees that first caused frustration with the southpaw to bubble over. Still, one way or another Felix hasn't allowed better than three earned runs since April 8th, when Texas went ballistic on him.
That doesn't serve to prove that Felix has been better than he's looked. He hasn't. If it weren't for yesterday and 2013, this might honestly serve to do little more than point out the flawed nature of the quality start, which might be the very definition of beating a dead horse.
Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham
But we do have yesterday, and we do have 2013! And these are very good things for Doubront's sake. In 2013, Doubront was an absolute mess before his streak got underway, holding an ERA of 6.40 after two efforts with six earned runs a piece. Interestingly enough, that's almost exactly where Felix's average runs allowed (ignoring earned vs. unearned runs) sat heading into yesterday's game.
Beyond that, even the beginning of his streak last season was hardly clean. In three starts from May 16 to May 26, Doubront allowed six earned runs in 17 innings of work, but coughed up four homers and ten walks in the process. That's kind of the Doubront we saw over the two games heading into this one. Unimpressive, but able to survive.
It's hard to say when the "breakout" came in 2013. Was it June 1st, when Doubront allowed just one run in six innings against the Yankees, even though he walked three? Was it June 18, when Doubront went eight scoreless against Tampa Bay? You can certainly carve out a certain stretch where Doubront produced quality results. You can also carve out a stretch where he was a legitimately excellent pitcher even in terms of peripherals.
Wherever you draw the line, that Felix Doubront is valuable, either as the secondary anchor he was or just as a fully serviceable fourth/fifth starter. The Red Sox could certainly use the help of either one right now given Peavy's peripherals and Clay Buchholz' inability to find a single pitch that really works for him.
When Doubront came into camp in shape this year, there was hope that his improved conditioning would mean the end to his slow starts. That hasn't come to pass, but at the same time it doesn't mean the parts of Doubront that made him a worthwhile use of a rotation spot are gone. His last start may have been his first truly good performance of the year, but it was heralded by the same signs as in seasons past, and actually arrived ahead of time compared to 2013. If Doubront is a pitcher good for only three months a year, it's debatable how valuable a commodity that is for a team like the Red Sox. But for now they've already paid the cost in April. They can only hope the rewards are as great from May to August.