Thursday, September 25, 2003
Last Night we saw how reliable Boston's 4th starter is. But in the post-season* Boston may possess a unique solution to their depth problem: Tim Wakefield.
With the knuckleballer's uncommon ability to pitch on only a couple of days of rest he can in effect act as the Red Sox's no.2 and no.4 starter. Why no.2 you ask? Isn't that where Derek Lowe should be? Lowe is the better pitcher but imagine the Red Sox post-season rotation set up like this:
As you can see this makes use of Wakefield's ability to fill two rotation spots. Putting Wakefield lower than the 2 spot would mean that you would need a 4th starter unless you plan on throwing Wakefield out there in back to back games. That 4th starter would be either Jeff Suppan (5.37 ERA) or John Burkett (5.19 ERA) and I'd rather take my chances on Wakefield (4.13 ERA) twice than having these guys in the post-season rotation at all.
But besides Boston's lack of a decent alternative there's also another very good reason to have Wakefield take up two rotation spots in the post-season. I'm not sure why but Wakefield throws better against left-handers (3.55 ERA) than righties (4.67 ERA). So, while Wakefield throws from the right side he essentially has the effect of a good left-handed pitcher on left-handed batters. All the AL teams entering the post-season, except for Boston, are in the bottom half of the AL hitting against lefties. (New York is 9th, Minnesota 11th, and Oakland is 13th, out of 14 AL teams.) With no left-handers in their rotation, and it such a glaring weakness among the other three AL playoff teams, Boston should consider Wakefield their defacto lefty and worthy of that extra spot in the post-season rotation.
A third potential benefit to Wakefield's presence in the rotation would be that Suppan and Burkett can help stabilize Boston's less than stellar bullpen which has a 4.98 ERA good for 2nd worst in the league. I don't think these two would be the saviors of the pen but I certainly think they would help if used in the proper situations. In limited appearances in relief this season, Burkett sports a 1.50 ERA in 6 innings of work while Suppan a 0.00 ERA in 3.2 innings. That's a very small sampling of relief work but at least it is encouraging.
Will Boston use Wakefield thusly? They may have to; Pedro is no longer the type of no.1 who can pitch on shortened rest and with his history of injury I hope they don't pressure him into trying to pull a Schilling. Just send Timmy out there again. He likes it.
*Based on the very safe assumption that Boston will win the AL wild card.