Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Sox Pitching Thoughts

1) Last winter and even up until about mid-May, if you had asked me who I would rather trade, Jon Lester or Clay Bucholz I would have answered Lester without even thinking about it. Now of course the answer would be about as definitive a 180 from those sentiments as humanly possible.

And that brings me to my point here.

Just because Clay Bucholz had a lost season and seemingly regressed does not mean that he is a failed project and a guy that should be sent out of town. Let's not forget that we're talking about a guy with only about 100 (less actually) innings pitched in the majors and who just turned 24 in August. Yes, it's easy to write him off and drop his name in every single trade rumor out there, but again I ask you to think back to a year ago and what your thoughts were on Jon Lester's future. I know that I for one pegged him as the nibbling type and a 20 pitch/inning guy who'd be lucky to get the team to the seventh inning. Furthermore I thought his ceiling would be as a number three starter in the National League. Re-read those last two sentences. They are laughable. But I was not alone with those thoughts. Remember that. And think on that before trying to find the easiest way out of town for Bucholz.

A few others things to consider about Bucholz...

* Eight of his sixteen starts came against AL East competition AKA the best division in MLB. He also had two starts against the Angels, one each against the AL Central co-champs (for all intents and purposes) the Twins and White Sox, and one against the Tigers (4th in the league in runs scored) and the Rangers (first in the league in runs scored). That's leaves just two more starts and they came against the Royals and Mariners. So while Bucholz admittedly got rocked more often than not this year, he was forced to "learn" for lack of a better word on the job and against the best competition in MLB. A tough assignment for anyone and let's look at the brightside and say it will only make him stronger in the long run.

* Heading into the 2007 and 2008 seasons, according to Baseball America, Bucholz was the Sox second and first ranked prospect respectively. He flip-flopped with Ellsbury after the 2007 season. Obviously, that's not the be all and end all, but when the most respected minor league publication out there ranks a guy as your best or second best prospect two years running then you probably want to give him every chance to prove his worth.

2) Count me as one of the many who would love to see D-Lowe make his triumphant return to Fenway in a Sox uniform. I think he would be a great addition to the back-end of the rotation and a front four of Beckett, Lester, Dice, and D-Lowe would be awesome. But now I have to play the wet blankett here.

While it cannot be overstated how great Derek Lowe was in the 2004 postseason - him and Keith Foulke were indisputably the two most important pitchers in that run - it should also be noted that he started that postseason not in the rotation. Do you know who the number three starter was at the start of the playoffs that year? Bronson Arroyo. And do you know what else? He absolutely deserved it. His ERA+ that season of 122 far outpaced Lowe's ERA+ of 90. In other words, Arroyo's ERA in 2004 was 4.04 while D-Lowe's was 5.42.

I bring this up, not to denigrate Lowe's memory but instead to point out to everybody who is expecting D-Lowe to come in to town and act as a fourth ace that that aint happening. What Lowe should bring is stability to the back of the rotation, roughly 200 innings, and an ERA around 4. In short, he'd be a highly valuable fourth starter. But at the same time, is he worth paying like an ace? If Lowe is to come back to town, my guess is it's four years and $50-$60M to get him here. Sorry, but I'm just not okay with having Derek Lowe being the highest paid pitcher on the Sox staff. Of course that does not "mean" a whole lot on the actual diamond - JD Drew is now after all their highest paid position player barring a free agent signing - but what it does mean is that the pitcher which the Sox will have the most long term time and money committed to would be Derek Lowe and not the guys they should be looking to funnell money towards, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. If Lowe will take a two or even three year contract at about $12M per, then sign me up. Any more than that though and I think it has to be a thanks but no thanks.

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