Nation Station: Starting to show quality

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Nation Station: Starting to show quality

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Do you remember when the Sox started off 1-7? That was when Henny Penny (or was it Brad Penny?) was shouting that the sky was falling. It turns out that it was a tad of an overreaction.

The almost .500 Sox are not entirely out of the woods yet, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Those of you who were boiling the tar and plucking the feathers to dress new Sox pitching coach Curt Young can chillax, Sox starting pitching is producing at a high rate of quality. And quality is the key word.

"Quality starts" is a somewhat controversial statistic for starters. A quality start is defined as a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. The controversy is that six innings of three-run ball results in an ERA of 4.50, certainly not a reflection of quality. As a result, the stat -- created in 1985 by Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter John Lowe -- is often minimized in certain quarters of the baseball fan community.

Red Sox Nation should not be amongst the doubters. The quality start will prove to be a critical measure over the next number of years for Boston, as its deep, run-producing lineup should provide enough support to presumably enable starters to pick up wins by holding the opposition to three or fewer runs in six innings.

Lets go to the numbers: The Sox are now 10-11, but lets take a look at the Sox first 20 games, a nice round number that basically reflects four rotations of a five-man staff. In those games through Saturday, the 9-11 Sox had 10 quality starts.

Heres a look at the starters:

Josh Beckett has four starts with three quality starts resulting in two wins and one no-decision (in his last start against the Angels). The Sox have been 3-1 in his starts.

Clay Buchholz did not have a quality start in his first four starts with one win, two losses, and one no-decision. The Sox were 1-3 in his starts.

John Lackey had three starts (he now has four), with one (now two) quality start. Overall, Lackey is now 2-2 and the team is 2-2 in his starts. One of his losses occurred in his first quality start. One of his quality wins occurred Sunday.

Jon Lester has made five starts and has already thrown four quality starts. One of his quality starts resulted in a loss. Lester is 2-1-2, while the Sox are 2-3 in his starts.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has made four starts and made two very high quality, with two stinkers. Not surprisingly, his record is 2-2.

Overall, in the first 20 Sox games the Sox starters were 8-8-4 with 10 quality starts. There were two quality start losses and two starters picked up wins in non-quality start games.

If we go under assumption that quality starts are key to ultimate team success, you might wonder how the competition (code for Yankees) is doing.

Here is a chart (through Saturday) that shows how every AL teams starters are doing and shows wins, losses and no decision by starters, quality starts and the percentage of quality starts by the starters.

TeamGS
Wgs
Lgs
ND
QS
QS
LAA
21
10
5
6
16
76
CLE
20
10
5
5
15
75
DET
21
8
8
5
14
67
OAK
21
8
5
8
13
62
KC
21
7
6
8
12
57
SEA
22
6
12
4
12
55
TEX
20
12
4
4
12
60
BAL
19
6
10
3
11
58
TB
21
7
10
4
11
52
LgAvg
20
8
7
5
11
56
BOS
20
8
8
4
10
50
CWS
21
6
9
6
9
43
MIN20
6
10
4
9
45
TOR
20
4
8
8
8
40
NYY
17
737741

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

Heres one more Delicious Stat (so yummy I gain weight thinking about it)

From April 1-7, the Sox played seven games and lost all but one. They had one quality start, Jon Lester in the 1-0 loss to Cleveland.

From April 16-24, the Sox played nine games and won eight and had eight quality starts. The only game they lost (Oakland, 5-0) John Lackey had a quality start, allowing one run in six innings. Clay Buchholz was the only pitcher without a quality start and he fell two outs shy of a QS as he was pulled after 5 13 innings having given up just one run but had thrown 102 pitches.

Good starting pitching bolsters the batters and lessens the pressure on the bullpen. Watch the starts, the more of they are of quality the more wins that will result.

The quality Nation STATion will continue to track quality starts for our quality readers as the season progresses.

Next stop: .500.

First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

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First impressions: Red Sox get to Yankees bullpen

First Impressions from the Red Sox' 8-7 victory over the Yankees.

 

All of a sudden, David Price is having issues at Fenway.

When the Sox signed Price last December, they cited his past

success in their home ballpark (1.95 ERA) as evidence that he could thrive here. But six starts into his Red Sox career, his three worst starts have come here. He's pitched 22 2/3 innings and allowed 21 earned runs.

Even stranger is that so much damage was done by Alex Rodriguez, who previously had compiled a .237 career average against Price with just one homer in 57 at-bats.

 

It's highly unusual for John Farrell to go to the mound and not take the starting pitcher out.

But that's what happened in the top of the seventh. David Price was in the mid-90s with his pitch count and Rodriguez -- who had homered and doubled off Price in his previous two at-bats -- was due. It seemed obvious that Price was coming out of the game.

Instead, Price was left in and grounded out to second to end the inning. It says something about Farrell's trust in Price - or Price's powers of persuasion -- that the lefty stayed in the game.

 

Credit Travis Shaw with making some in-game adjustments.

In his first two at-bats against New York starter Nathan Eovaldi, Shaw struck out twice. Both times, Eovaldi started him off with a curve ball.

But when Eovaldi tried it again in the fifth, Shaw hammered the pitch deep into the right field seats for a two-run homer.

 

The Red Sox bullpen far outshone that of the Yankees in this series.

In the three games just played, Boston relievers tossed seven shutout innings in the series, while Yankees' righthander Dellin Betances twice yielded two-run homers to cost the Yanks both games.

 

Dustin Pedroia insists he's not focusing on hitting the ball the other way, but the results suggest otherwise.

Pedroia banged out three singles Sunday night and all three were hit to right. On the current homestand, Pedroia has a total of eight hits; five were hit to right field.

 

Farrell on Sox rotation: 'We've got to get Clay going'

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Farrell on Sox rotation: 'We've got to get Clay going'

BOSTON - Maybe it wasn't a warning shot, but more of an idle observation. Maybe it wasn't a challenge at all.

But what John Farrell had to say Sunday afternoon about Clay Buchholz was, if nothing else, noteworthy.

In assessing his team's play in the just-completed first month of the season, Farrell noted that the starting rotation, after a particularly rough beginning, had stabilized of late.

With one exception, that is.

"We've got to get Clay going, particularly," Farrell said. "He's an important part of our rotation, an important part of this team. We've got to get him on track." Buchholz is winless in his five starts, with an 0-3 mark and an inflated ERA of 6.51. He's given up a minimum of five earned runs in each start and has yet to pitch through the seventh inning.

Farrell noted that the issue has been less about quality of stuff and more about his aggressiveness - or lack thereof.

"There are times,'' Farrell said, "when we've seen Clay execute pitches with, I think, a greater conviction to the pitch. There are other times where maybe he's pitched away from contact a little bit too much and not attacked the strike zone. To me, there comes an attitude on the mound that's got to be prevailing."

The Sox aren't far from welcoming back to starters. Eduardo Rodriguez, who tweaked his knee in early March, is set to make his second rehab start for Pawtucket Tuesday and could conceivably return five days after that. At most, Rodriguez will be ready with one more additional outing.

Next up is Joe Kelly, who is on the DL with a shoulder impingement. Kelly has thrown some bullpen sessions and could begin a rehab assignment later in the week.

That will lead to the Sox making some tough decisions in the coming weeks. It had been widely assumed that knuckleballer Steven Wright would be he most vulnerable starter, but Wright is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in four outings.

Asked to assess where the Sox within the context of the division, Farrell said: "We're probably searching to shore up areas that are in need, and that first starts with making the necessary adjustments with the guys that are on our roster now. Not that we're going to make wholesale changes. Like I said, we've got to get Clay going. That's a big improvement that we could make."