Clay Buchholz is finally starting to show signs of life again.
Buchholz threw a bullpen session on Friday (40 pitches), and had this to say afterwards according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, “I threw more intense today. I threw all my pitches. I felt good last time out, too, but that was the first step. We’re going to keep trying to progress.”
That’s a good sign, and with things starting to looking up for the Sox’ ace, it gives me some reassurance that he will be back pitching with Boston by at least September with plenty of bullpen sessions, simulated games, and possible rehab starts, in between. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the Red Sox maintaing a 6-man rotation when this happens, leaving one starter on the chopping block. That starter, is Ryan Dempster.
When discussing the five starters in question that include, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, and Ryan Dempster, the answer seems clear. Dempster is the weak link in this cog of pitching. They certainly wouldn’t pull Lester (even if it kind of makes sense), Lackey and Doubront have been the most consistent, and Peavy wasn’t acquired to sit on the bench, or come out of the bullpen. I honestly tried to come up with some reasons for why Dempster should stay, but none of them were as strong as the argument for why he should go.
He is 6-8 on the year, with a 4.67 ERA, in 133 innings pitched. While I didn’t expect him to be lights out, I did expect a guy who could hold his own while pitching a quality amount of innings. So far, the only thing he’s really done well, is stayed healthy. I worried a little, as I do for most pitchers from the National League, that he would struggle with American League lineups. In his 12 starts with Texas last season, he boasted a 5.09 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP, and gave up 10 home runs in just 69 innings pitched for his first taste of the AL. This year, he has given up 22 home runs on the year (7th worst in MLB), and has a 1.48 WHIP on the season (also good for 7th worst in the majors). Notice, there’s not much change between his performance with Texas, and with Boston.
Furthermore, let’s take a look at his numbers of late. July was not kind to Dempster, and by not kind, I mean absolutely dreadful…
- 4.87 ERA
- 1.83 WHIP!!!
- 20 1/3 innings pitched
- .315 opponent batting avg.
What amazes me most about it though is that he still didn’t lose a single game that month. You see, Dempster gets the 2nd most run support in the MLB with 5.78 runs per game, so you would think he would win his fair share of games. Well he doesn’t, he gets almost six runs a game and has still lost more than he’s won. It doesn’t get much worse than that, except for maybe Jon Lester’s month of June.
Speaking of Lester, I could see why people might think he’s the guy who should get yanked instead of Dempster, but I promise you he’s not. I’m not saying he has performed well, but you better believe I want him on the mound over Dempster in a pressure game any day of the week. In 6 playoff starts, Lester has a 2-3 record with 2.57 ERA, compared to Dempster’s 6.35 ERA in just one post-season start. Lester means a lot to Boston, even if he’s struggling. He’s a homegrown talent who won us a World Series clinching-game in 2007, that sure as hell still means a lot to me. So believe me, Dempster is the one.
I don’t say that with a smile because from everything I’ve heard, and read about him, Dempster is a great clubhouse guy and one of the funniest players around. He falls victim to a numbers game, and his inability to perform at a level adequate enough to deserve a spot when Buchholz returns, is the reason why Dempster is the odd man out.