Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pitching: It's a Problem, But it Could be Worse

Crap in a hat. A few years ago, I have run screaming for the hills - or the ridge in Prospect Park; I'm in Brooklyn, after all - at the idea of facing the Yankees in the Bronx down a key member of the line up. Now I'm just slightly nervous. Shocking the Yanks at home seems like a possibility - particularly after the embarrassments the Bombers have suffered at the hands of the Sox this year - and I'm sticking to my optimism unless something bad happens this evening. In the meantime, let's talk pitching.

There's a sense of panic in the press about the state of the back 3/5ths rotation, with quotes like "a 2-5 record and 7.74 ERA in its past three trips through the rotation" being bandied about like they're signs of the Apocalypse. If there's another Boston Massacre this weekend those fears could - could - be justified, but right now they're just short sighted, for a few reasons:
  1. The problem isn't Penny (or even Buchholz, who's had one terrible start, one shortened start, and two quality starts) so much as it is Smoltz. Penny's started 21 games this season; he's given up five runs or more four times, and he's had two starts where he's pitched less than five innings. Remembering that he's both an experiment on the cheap and a fourth or fifth starter, I can't see any reason to complain about what he's brought to the table this year. Last night was just a poorly-timed deviation from the pattern. Smoltz, on the other hand, has only given up less than five runs on two out of his seven starts, and those were against the AAAA teams in KC and Baltimore. Unlike Penny, he's also had almost no run support, so his bad days look that much worse.

  2. Experiments or no, imagine how bad things would be if the Sox hadn't signed Penny and Smoltz now that injuries have put us in our time of need: we'd been looking at 2006 all over again, with the corresponding overexposure of young talent unprepared for the big stage. I'd much rather have veterans like Penny and Smoltz out on the mound than watch the Sox bring up Bowden a year or two too early or try to convert Bard into a starter mid-year. These guys were hired to be insurance and they're providing it, much like Paul Byrd will be if his climb up from the minors proves successful.

  3. Wakefield and Matsuzaka might not be on the world's fastest healing schedules, but it's likely they'll be back before the season is over. It sucks that they're both out at such a critical time in the season, but I think - and yes, I'm about to concede the title to the East - that the Sox have the ability to hang on long enough to take the Wild Card. Time to step things up, boys. Let's start with taking down Cletus the Hutt tonight.