|Anything Goes: Too Much Pitching In Boston?|
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on June 24, 2009
Everyone knows the old adage you can never have too much pitching.Â Starting, relievers, prospects (even though we all know There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, or TINSTAAPP), whatever, you need arms, and preferably power arms.
Theo Epstein and his clan of brainiacs, including baseball-geek hero Bill James (no offense should be taken there, Bill James is an icon and should be in the Hall of Fame), know this, so they made three brilliant deals, signing Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and future Coop resident John Smoltz, all to cheap one-year deals.
Brad Penny has been a LAIM, which is all Brad Penny is, but LAIM's are worth a lot, and Boston knew this, so they signed him.Â He was valuable and cheap, so they took a chance.
It shouldn't be forgotten that all three of these guys were coming off injury problems, and it was just as likely that all three would spend the year on DL as be productive.Â But, if you sign those types of players and expect nothing more from them than to be complimentary pieces, it's smart.Â Again, Boston did that.Â I am not a Red Sox fan, but I have to admit, they are smart people, and easily the most well-run organization in baseball.
With Smoltz done tearing it up at Pawtucket, Boston ran into a problem.Â With him back, plus Penny, on top of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, PLUS Clay Buchholz at Triple-A, well, that gives you a lot of starters.Â And you really don't want to run out a six-man rotation, do you?
Those things tend to work themselves out in the form of injuries or suckitude.Â Dice-K stepped up and filled the void.
Look, Matsuzaka is not a great pitcher, much less a good pitcher.Â He's a nibbler, which means he doesn't have good enough stuff to just throw.Â The scouts sometimes say he 'toys' with hitters, because his stuff is so good he can do that.Â Well, that makes sense.Â Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, they all toy with hitters too instead of just challenging them.Â Right.
He has average stuff and average command.Â Where in that equation did anyone find great?
I will not rip Boston for signing him, because I would have too.Â But I think, as Rob Neyer pointed out, we all were wrong:
"In retrospect, investing $103 million in a pitcher who'd never pitched against most of the best hitters in the world seems at least a little bit risky, right?"
Yep.Â He had essentially torn up Quad-A competition, and you know what?Â Lots of those guys are available.Â Ian Kennedy threw 69 innings at Scranton (the Yankees AAA affiliate) in 2008, allowing 52 hits and 17 walks while striking out 72, all to the tune of a 2.35 ERA.Â He owned those hitters.
His major league ERA in 2008?Â A petite 8.17.Â Those hitters owned him.
We simply never knew what Matsuzaka offered.Â Again, to Neyer:
"...Particularly a pitcher who had, by all accounts, thrown an immense number of pitches before reaching physical maturity? Oh, and do you remember when Matsuzaka was held up as a shining example of why young pitchers should not be babied?"
There's that, too.Â Guess what, a young pitcher that throws a billion pitches is an injury risk.Â Matsuzaka, he of the 'never tired arm,' is, guess what?Â Going through dead arm!Â No way!
So Matsuzaka doing on the DL for his shoulder is a good thing for Boston.Â In fact, I'd keep him there all year, if I can get away with it.Â Rest him.Â You have Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz and Buchholz, all of whom, frankly, are likely to out-perform Matsuzaka.Â See if you can better performance in the next two years from him.Â If two of the above pitchers sucks or is hurt, bring back Matsuzaka, but if you can avoid it, I'd leave him alone to rest.Â He needs to be shut down.
As for the six-man rotation idea, pleh.Â In this situation it wouldn't have been so bad, since all the pitchers were good (aside from one), but in a situation where the staff is very top-heavy, all a six-man rotation would serve to do is take away innings from your best arms and hand them to scrubs, and that's no good, is it?