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The Red Sox Pitching Problem

During this our fortnight of discontent, the Red Sox have been positively Wasdinian (Look pops, new word!) on the mound. Since the calendar flipped to September, the Sox have lost nine of eleven games, falling to within easy shouting distance of missing the playoffs and giving life to a Rays team that was dead in the water just two weeks ago.

It's easy to look at the losses and say the team is playing like crap, but the Sox are scoring 4.9 runs a game during this stretch of futility. That isn't going to break any records but it isn't like the team isn't hitting either. No, the problem is elsewhere, as you probably guessed by the title of this post.

With all the caveats in the world about small sample size (this isn't intended to be a predictive post anyway), the starting pitching has performed horrifically in September. You'll almost certainly believe that the Red Sox starters have the worst ERA in baseball in September. You believe that? Well you should. It's true.

Of course, ERA isn't the best guess of future production but again, this is what has happened not what will happen. The Red Sox have hit just fine, but they haven't hit like the '03 Sox which, to have a chance when trotting out starters with a 6.80 ERA, they'd have to do. But if it's more advanced stats you want, it's more advanced stats you'll get. Let's look at xFIP. The Red Sox jump from last in all of baseball to third to last in all of baseball. What does this tell us? The Red Sox starters have been about as putrid in September as you thought.

So who are these denizens of putridity? The Red Sox have had seven different starting pitchers in September. Only Jon Lester has started three games, Andrew Miller has started two and so has John Lackey. Kyle Weiland, Tim Wakefield, Erik Bedard, and Josh Beckett have all started one game apiece. By my count six of the eleven games have been started by guys who were supposed to be in the rotation with the other five started by stop gaps of varying degrees (Tim Wakefield is a swing man while Kyle Weiland is a the-glass-is-already-broken-in-case-of-emergency man).

The problem is two-fold. One, crappy pitching from the guys who are supposed to be carrying the starting duties in Lackey and Lester. Beckett's contribution was 3.2 innings before getting hurt. Two, crappy pitching from guys who are crappy pitchers. The Red Sox entered the season with a deep reserve of starters, relatively speaking. They even traded for a starter at the trade deadline too. Yet still they've been forced to give starts to Andrew Miller (a.k.a. the White Flag of Surrender) and Kyle Weiland.

What can be done about this? The talent level isn't as bad as the last eleven games have looked. It just isn't. But the more the Sox have to send Weiland and Miller out there the more trouble they're going to be in. That's to say nothing of John Lackey who has been possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball and is having among the worst seasons in franchise history. In a perfect world Lackey would pull an ERA and get sat down for a while, but the Sox simply can't do that now.

We all know what needs to happen. The team needs to pitch better. That'll happen through getting healthy. If Beckett and Bedard can come back and pitch well the team should be fine. If not, and the Sox have to continue giving starts to the White Flag of Surrender and Kyle Weiland, things aren't likely to improve but incrementally. So get healthy Josh and Erik because the Sox are going to have to win a few sometime soon.