And trade Clay.
I coached youth baseball (Little League plus Babe Ruth) for ten years. My final year coaching, I took our underdog team to the second round of the playoffs, against the odds. (We were predicted not to make the playoffs.) We did it by using a combination of positive reinforcement, hard work, set plays (including situational hit-and-runs without signs), and statistics. I kept detailed stats (including attendance) on all players. I put our best on-base-percentage players in the 1-2-3 slots, our best RBI players in the 4-5-6 slots, and the remaining players ordered by batting average. My own son got fewer at-bats as a result of this approach, but he did get to be in the starting rotation, which he earned by eating up innings and throwing strikes.
I loved that final year of coaching, and based on the feedback I received from the team, the kids had a great time too.
So it is not in a vacuum that I give the following advice to the 2015 Red Sox as they start the second half of the season: Start the pitchers who help you win games.
I have heard many commentators say, “The Red Sox have to win this series.” Or, “All you have to do is focus on winning each series.”
This is the wrong approach. At this point in the season, the series do not matter. The only thing that matters is winning games. And to win games you have to win the rotation.
Win the rotation, don’t win the series.
In the post-season (i.e. the playoffs), the rotation is set so that your ace pitcher starts Game 1 (and maybe Games 4 and 7). So at the end of the season, winning the rotation equals winning the series. Before then, winning the series does not matter.
In the first half of the 2015 season, the Red Sox used a 5-man rotation for all rounds except for three. For the final round, the Red Sox used a 3-man rotation (due to the All-Star break). For two rounds, the Red Sox used a 6-man rotation. The 6-man rotation occurred when the Red Sox were introducing Eduardo Rodriguez into the rotation.
Looking at the season in terms of rounds through the rotation, here is out the first half played out.
- 2 wins
- 4 losses (resulting in the firing of Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves in the middle of round 6)
- 1 win
- 6 losses (resulting in NO CHANGES TO RED SOX PERSONNEL, Erod introduced in rounds 10 and 11)
- 4 wins (resulting in (misplaced?) optimism)
- 1 loss (before the All-Star break)
The totals for the (unofficial) first half of the season: 7 wins, 11 losses.
This is why, even in the middle of the 4-round winning streak, the postseason probability for the Red Sox never got above 17 percent (http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/standings/probability.jsp).
In short, there is NO WAY that the Red Sox should be buyers at the trading deadline (unless, of course, they are buying for 2016). They should be sellers. They should have traded Clay Buchholz before he got injured (again), but that ship has sailed.
To start the second half, the Red Sox should do what I did as a youth baseball coach. Use the stats. In short, if Wade Miley is not in the #1 slot to start the second half of the season, then both (Field) Manager John Farrell and General Manger Ben Cherington should be fired.
Winning games matters. And, of course, there are intangibles to winning. Clay Buchholz, for whatever reason, does not put his teammates in a winning mood. Perhaps his slow speaking style and his slow pitching style puts his teammates’ gloves and bats to sleep. All I know is that when Clay starts, the team, more often than not, does not win. Wade Miley, on the other hand, does not put his teammates to sleep. When Wade starts, for whatever reason, the team, more often than not, wins.
All year on Facebook, I have been tracking the team’s record based on games started by each starting pitcher.
After 2 rounds:
After 4 rounds:
After 8 rounds:
After 10+ rounds:
After 14 rounds:
After 16 rounds:
After 18 rounds through the rotation, here is the Red Sox team record for games started by each pitcher:
- 10-8 = Wade Miley
- 8-9 = Rick Porcello
- 8-10 = Clay Buchholz (DL)
- 6-3 = Eduardo Rodriguez
- 5-9 = Joe Kelly (AAA)
- 4-5 = Justin Masterson
- 1-3 = Steven Wright (AAA)
Wade Miley is your ace. And that’s a problem. Because in the playoffs, when the rotation and the series are in sync, the other team’s ace is going to be better.
The Red Sox need an ace. The Red Sox need a #2 pitcher. The Red Sox need a #3 pitcher. The Red Sox have won 3 World Series in the last dozen years or so. That is Very Good. The Red Sox will not make the playoffs in 2015. But there is still time to make the best of 2015 (by putting Miley in the #1 slot) and preparing for the future (by getting rid of Buchholz, one way or the other).
I’m also a season ticket holder, if that matters (which it should).
Whether they win or lose, I’m a Red Sox fan for life, but please, in the name of Yaz, stop the madness. Start Miley.
- Red Sox World Series Game 6: More Than A Game (2013-10-31)
A top 10 moment at Fenway with my best friend.
- Drawing That Explains ErikJHeels Blog (2012-09-18)
Technology, Law, Baseball, Rock ‘n’ Roll.
- Epic Comeback: Red Sox Win ALCS Game 5 Over Rays 8-7 (2008-10-17)
Down to their last 7 outs and trailing 7-0, the Boston Red Sox staged one of the most amazing comebacks in history. And I was there.
- Sox Win World Series (2007-10-29)
Red Sox defeat Rockies 4-3, Sox sweep series.
- How To Not Jinx A No-Hitter (2007-09-02)
Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter just what the doctor (and Red Sox Nation) ordered.
- Nine Principles Of Baseball And Life (2007-05-02)
Philosophy of Baseball: How to Play the Game of Life.
- Walk-Off Hits And Other Game-Winning Hits By David Ortiz (2006-08-01)
Twenty game-winning moments by Boston’s Big Papi.
- Red Sox Thoughts: What It Means To Be A Red Sox Fan (1999-10-18)
An email message promoted from my email archives to my blog on the last day the 2004 Red Sox were world champions (10/26/05).
- The Truth About Stats And Dogs (Or Why Most Surveys Are Wrong) (1997-05-01)
All statistics are hearsay, but some are reliable hearsay.