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Plan B: The 2011 Red Sox Backup Starting Pitchers

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Continuing our look at some of the projections for the 2011 backups, we consider the replacement starters. While nothing is set in stone just yet, we expect the 2011 Red Sox rotation to include Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The fifth spot is far from a lock; especially since Dice-K has been struggling and waiver-wire bargain Alfredo Aceves is looking great so far this spring. The top four should inspire some confidence, but what can we expect from their understudies?

Player

Age

ERA

FIP

K/BB

WHIP

ERA+

Tim Wakefield

44

4.74

4.67

1.91

1.39

93.75

Stolmy Pimentel

21

6.26

5.67

1.19

1.74

71.01

Felix Doubront

23

5.13

4.52

1.34

1.65

86.67

Alfredo Aceves

28

4.38

4.35

2.34

1.32

101.5

Scott Atchison

35

4.07

3.93

2.45

1.33

109

Michael Bowden

24

4.90

4.84

1.62

1.46

90.58

Matt Fox

28

6.48

5.94

1.12

1.79

68.59

Andrew Miller

26

6.04

5.28

1

1.93

73.58

Rich Hill

31

5.64

5.54

1

1.85

78.77

 

After using Marcel’s for the position players’ piece, I have decided to use ZiP’s projection system this time around. ZiP’s projections everyone as if they were full time players and projects almost every player who has any shot of playing in the majors. This is great since we can consider a player like Stolmy Pimentel here, though he realistically has almost no chance of seeing the majors this season. Most of the pitchers here will likely see more work relieving than starting, but should we need a replacement starter, these are the men we must turn to.

 

As a group, they don’t look too good. Their collective FIP of 4.97 would have been the worst in the league by a wide margin, as would their 5.29 ERA. Not including the young Pimental would make things look a little better, but it does not make a large enough difference to keep this staff from being at the bottom of the barrel.

Andrew Miller, the former first round draft pick the Sox scooped up from the Marlins is an interesting case here. He has a great fastball and scouts have always liked his strikeout potential, but he has never found the strike zone. The reports on Miller from Fort Myers have been very good and he is as likely as player here to blow away these projections. The Red Sox have shown dedication to the process of transforming Miller, including a rather devious clause in his contract to force any team that should claim him from waivers to pay him an extra $3M. There is precedent for a tall lefty finding his control in his late twenties; a wild flamethrower in the Mariner’s organization did just that more than twenty years ago and things worked out pretty well for Randy Johnson.

While Miller is a long shot with serious upside, Alfredo Aceves looks like an absolute steal. He is second only to Scott Atchison by ZiP’s numbers and he has been looking capable of being even better. Even if he only can only manage to match these projections, he will be a very valuable arm. All his numbers are pretty close to league average. For a fifth or sixth starter, league average is actually very good. Seeing Aceves succeed in Boston would be even sweeter if the Yankees end up short of starting pitching- a very real possibility.

The one startling projection here is Felix Doubront. After a very solid season as a spot starter and reliever at age 22, Doubront doesn’t get much love from ZiP’s. I would expect him to be league average if he were to start regularly. Pitching as a LOOGY, he will almost certainly be better than these numbers with his platoon advantage. I wonder what function of the ZiP’s system has caused him to fall below Tim Wakefield and Michael Bowden by ERA and WHIP. His FIP is a better reflection of his abilities here, but I still feel he is getting underrated.

The back-up starters are not quite as comforting for Sox fans as the back position players, but they aren’t terrible either. While I certainly don’t want three or four of these names racking up serious innings in 2011, the occasional spot start by Aceves, Doubront, Wake or Atchison will be more than tolerable. If Miller or Aceves turns the corner at some point this year, they could become very solid values for the team.