September 8, 2013

On Baseball: Despite so-so stats, Dempster hasn't thrown Sox for a loss

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON - The Boston Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year, $26.5-million contract and he has responded with an 8-9 record and 4.79 ERA so far, in his first season.

For that, and more, the Red Sox are grateful.

"He's been the pitcher we thought we were signing," Manager John Farrell said earlier this week.

Dempster's numbers go beyond won-loss and ERA. He has made 27 starts and his 157 2/3 innings ranks third on the team.

Want to know Dempster's value? Think Tim Wakefield. You don't have to be the shining star of the rotation, but stay healthy, eat up innings and help keep your bullpen from wearing down during the season.

Look at Boston's two world championship seasons, in 2004 and 2007. Wakefield's ERA was 4.87 and 4.76 respectively.

Yet Wakefield provided value, as Dempster does.

"Dependability and reliability are two main aspects you look for in any player," Farrell said. "They will give you hopefully what you anticipate. And Ryan has done that.

"Whether it be innings, or walking to the mound without interruption due to injury. Innings by starting rotation are worth their weight in gold."

That 2004 staff of Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe all stayed healthy and averaged 198 2/3 innings.

In the postseason, Wakefield provided some valuable innings in relief in the 2004 American League Championship Series (recording one win). But in the World Series that year, Wakefield started Game 1 and got a non-decision, allowing five runs in 3 2/3 innings.

In 2007, Wakefield made only one playoff appearance, losing his ALCS start in Cleveland.

Dempster may not be in the rotation much longer, depending on who Clay Buchholz replaces when he returns.

Regardless, Boston will only need four starters in the playoffs, and Dempster is likely not among that group.

Still, Dempster could be a valuable part of the staff, especially since Boston is searching for a reliable right-handed set-up reliever.

Dempster, 36, has bullpen experience, with the Cubs from 2004 to 2007 (220 games in relief).

So maybe the Red Sox overpaid for Dempster. They knew what they were getting and he has delivered. And if he can stabilize the bullpen, it's a bonus.

AROUND THIS TIME back in 2006, I remember talking to then-Boston scouting director Jason McLeod at Fenway Park. He was anticipating a trip south to watch the Red Sox first-round draft pick pitch in the Florida Instructional League.

"Easy delivery," McLeod said, going on to say how the ball explodes in the catcher's mitt.

Daniel Bard had signed too late to pitch in the minors that year, but the Red Sox could not wait to see that golden arm in action.

When Bard did pitch in 2007, it looked like Boston made a colossal mistake. In 75 innings, Bard had walked 78, hit eight batters and recorded a 7.08 ERA.

Bard was sent to the now-defunct Hawaiian Winter League and, with the help of then-Sea Dogs pitching coach Mike Cather, regained his form. He ended the 2008 season in Portland (64 strikeouts, 26 walks and 1.99 ERA in 49 2/3 innings) and reached Boston in 2009.

Fast forward to the disastrous attempt to make Bard a starter in 2012, and his struggles this season back in the minors: 15 1/3 innings, 27 walks and a 6.46 ERA.

Boston put Bard on waivers and the Cubs claimed him. Not coincidently, McLeod is now with Chicago (along with former Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer).

No reason to believe that Bard can't recover his form, especially in a new environment.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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