Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm not trying to be a social worker...

...I'm trying to get that paper. By far the best quote of the movie "Notorious" and also by far the best way to describe the situation this year with the Red Sox' rotation and Tim Wakefield's role in it.

Wakefield, and rightfully so, said to the media this week that he deserves a spot in the 2010 rotation, but unfortunately, he is the odd man out. While it's true that he could earn a rotation spot in most rotations in baseball, it's not going to happen when the people ahead of him in the depth chart are Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka.

I know I'm not the only one who right around July 1st last year was hoping Wakefield would embrace his All-Star selection, ride out a good 2009 season, and hang them up at the top of the world after 2009. Obviously, that didn't happen, as things really went south after the break. He only pitched twenty-one (21) innings after the All-Star Break, where he surrendered fifteen runs while being hampered by a debilitating back injury. Wakefield is turning 44 during the 2010 season, and it's looking like he's no longer the "innings-eater" he once was.

Even in 2008 and 2007, when he still logged quite a few innings out of the rotation, he missed significant time in August and September due to injury. As a starter, he cannot be an innings-eater anymore, and instead he's really only an asset in the rotation if he has the hot hand. Obviously, for the first three months of 2009, Wakefield had one of the hottest hands in the American League.

If Wakefield is not the first guy not to make the cut for this rotation, who is? It's not Lester, Beckett, or Lackey, obviously. It's not Buchholz, who proved last year that he has both the stuff and the makeup to be part of a major league rotation, even if it is the best rotation in the league. And it's not Matsuzaka, whose performance when not being an idiot in the offseason has indicated he can give more quality innings than Wakefield can at age 43-44. Wakefield would be the long guy, something the Red Sox did not have last year. And Wakefield would further be an asset, because he'd be a good stopgap if one of the starters got hurt. He would also be the guy breathing down the necks of Matsuzaka and Buchholz--it is not a bad thing if those guys are always playing to keep their jobs.

There have been discussions about a six-man rotation. This is intriguing, as some of the merits include that Wakefield's feelings would be satiated, it is what they do in Japan, and it gives starters more time to recover/work out between starts. But I don't think Tim Wakefield is the guy to inspire the six-man rotation idea. One hundred thirty-five starts (5x27) from the other five and twenty-seven from Wakefield does not give the team as good of a chance to be competitive--ESPECIALLY if they're only going to score 2-3 runs a night--than 162 starts from the other guys.

Anyone who has read this blog for a long time knows I'm a huge Tim Wakefield fan. I have defended him against people who say that you don't know what you're going to get from the guy. I wrote aggressively endorsing him for the All-Star Game. But the Red Sox aren't trying to be a social worker with Tim Wakefield. They're trying (at least in theory) to win baseball games. And Wakefield in the rotation is contrary to that goal.


Anonymous said...


I was glad that he made the All-Star game as well. I have tremendous appreciation for the his unique skill and also his sense of loyalty to the organization. I also have always been leery of him--not only do you not know what you're getting from him on a start to start basis, but he quite literally can be dominating a game for five innings and give up four runs in a matter of three or four pitches. But that's just the nature of what he does and it doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot of value. That being said, coming into this year it's naive and shortsighted for him to say he deserves a spot in the rotation this year. As you mentioned, he's broken down each of the past three years, and what's worse, his second half trends have been poor since 2004. If he was a Mariner, Padre, Ranger, or Pirate, he'd deserve a spot. Unfortunately for him, he isn't.

That being said, he'll still get starts this year. Probably as many as fifteen or so. Not everyone is going to be healthy all the time. There are double-headers, rain outs, etc. He won't be completely happy, but he won't be miserable either.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

No doubt. I'd be pumped and inclined to believe the Red Sox could win 88 games this year if Wakefield got all the Aaron Small/Paul Byrd starts. Better than Bowden or that punk Tazawa.

Anonymous said...

If I were Wakefield I would be pumped to be the 6th man in the Sox rotation. Now wait a minute you say, can we really expect a competitive professional athlete to do this? Maybe not, but as Pat discussed earlier this week, you need to have at least 6 starters in the picture because someone is going to get hurt.

Plus, it's not really that bad to play 15-20 games in a year and collect a professional athlete's salary.

Wakefield will be needed this year at some point and when that happens, he'll get a lot of credit if he pitches well, and will have a chance to earn a spot in the rotation and be the hero on a big market team, which is a good place to be if you are really a middle of the road journeyman type of guy.


Patrick said...

wakefield should be the starter because you know what you are going to get from him. the only two guys (matsuzaka/buchholz) he'd realistically be competing with for spots (beckett, lester, and lackey are locks if healthy) are less certain but have higher upsides. so you want to find out if they can reach a level of that upside that is above time wakefield production. if they don't, then you can always just go back to tim wakefield. but you need to find out first.

all that said, "even if it is the best rotation in the league". are you definitively ready to say that? it is something i was actually planning on writing about in the next week or two. but just for a quick breakdown:

sabathia/beckett - sabathia, and this is the biggest landslide on list (which is why i would list lester first, lackey second, and beckett third, but no matter which one of them you put here it's sabathia, he's been the best pitcher in baseball the last 3 seasons).

lester/burnett - lester.

pettitte/lackey - lackey.

vazquez/matsuzaka - vazquez.

chamberlain-hughes/buchholz - wash.

chamberlain-hughes(other)/wakefield - chamberlain/hughes

i don't think there would be a whole lot of debate about that, save maybe that some people would say matsuzaka could be better than vazquez. but if we re-ordered the rotation, it could similarly be argued that pettitte could be better than beckett (because they've been pretty close over the last few seasons despite one being flashier than the other).

so the yankees have the first and fourth starters, and the red sox have the second and third, with them washing the fifth. the yankees also likely have an edge in the 6th spot. at the very least, i think it's close enough that right now you can't absolutely say the sox have the best staff in the league.

the gm at work said...


No, I'm not ready to say that the Red Sox have the best rotation in the league. They might, especially if Beckett decides to get his s*** together this year. Maybe I wasn't choosing my words carefully. Either way, it's not important because they'll get about four hits a night.

Anonymous said...

Yea Pat.

Way to nitpick.



Anonymous said...


Jury is very much out on whether or not Sox have best rotation. A lot of guys with a lot to prove. Beckett could go either way--and I agree with DV that he's a real key--he could be awesome or he could be mediocre. We've seen both versions of him. Lackey will be good if he's healthy. But that's an IF and nobody wants to use that word with someone newly signed for 82 million dollars. I like Buchholz and I like Daisuke's chances to bounce back, but is anybody really sold on either of them? They could both win 17 games and I wouldn't be surprised. They could both win seven and I wouldn't be surprised. That's not awesome at all.

The thing I'm surest of is that Javier Vazquez is going to struggle. He's an NL pitcher. And there's no shame in that. Unless of course you pitch in the AL East. Even with that in mind, I think the Yankees have at least as good a rotation as Boston does. AJ Burnett seems like a stain, but let's face facts--that guy was huge last year when it really mattered and he's proven he can pitch on the big stage. Lots of value there. Sabathia speaks for himself. Pettitte is ageless and you can always pencil him in for 12-16 wins.

Also, I saw something about baseball prospectus picking the Rays to win the division this year. Come on now. I bet they win 82 games.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

yeah that's really all i was saying, that it's up for debate. it seemed like you were going with them as the best, but i appreciate you clarifying. the sox certainly could have the best rotatin, but there are a few other teams that are in the mix, including the yankees, especially because they have sabathia, and the mariners, who though they don't have the depth of either the sox or yankees, have a better top two than either of them. if things fall right, the rays could be right there too.

i saw baseball prospectus' projections too. the key word as we all know is projection, and a number of other projection systems have substantially different results. what i thought was interesting was that they had the rays, sox, and yankees with the three best records in baseball. that would be tough to accomplish in the same division. i will say that you have to watch out for the rays pitching and if they get bounce backs from a few key offensive guys and maybe even add a piece, they are definitely a team to concern yourself with. but even then i'm not sold they are best record in baseball good, really a lot of things would have to go right. if things don't go right, i don't think they'll be much better than a bit above average, mid to high 80s in wins maybe. but what do i know.

jason said...

6 man rotation option is pretty much out the window but i like him as a back up starter, with beckett in his contract year i couldnt see him being happy with that situation as he probably wants to go for 20 wins, and lackey didnt sign up to play every 6th start either

the gm at work said...

Pat and Gunn,

Addressing the standings prediction from Baseball Prospectus, I also find it hard to believe that the three best records will come from the same division. But seeing that they're going by Pythagorean won-loss instead of actual games won and lost this year in the official MLB standings, that's a lot more possible as long as they can all drop 20 on the Royals every night they play at their respective home parks.

the gm at work said...


Good point on the other pitchers wanting to throw their full 32-33 starts. I mean, there are definitely players on the Red Sox who are begging for days off all the time (one of them plays right field, obviously). Neither Beckett or Lackey really seem to be one of them. But even Nancy Drew would want to maximize time on the field when playing for a contract. And think about how pissed off Lackey was about being pulled an inning early? If he's losing six starts for Tim Wakefield? Not a good situation.