September 29, 2013

On Baseball: Many reasons for Red Sox revival, but improved pitching tops list

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Over the next week, we will be hearing all about the Red Sox transformation.

Stop me if you've heard this phrase before: Worst to first.

We will look at reasons for the change, from the general manager (see C1 story) to the manager, to the clubhouse atmosphere.

But one reason for success is obvious. It's the first word used whenever talking about a winning baseball team:

Pitching.

Look at the numbers (stats are through Friday).

Jon Lester

2012: 9-14, 4.82 ERA

2013: 15-8, 3.67 ERA

Clay Buchholz

2012: 11-8, 4.56 ERA

2013: 12-1, 1.74 ERA

Felix Doubront

2012: 11-10, 4.86 ERA

2013: 11-6, 4.08 ERA

John Lackey

2012: Disabled list

2013: 10-13, 3.52 ERA

Other starters

2012: 5.84 ERA

2013: 4.84 ERA

Bullpen

2012: 3.88 ERA

2013: 3.58 ERA

Heading into the weekend, the starters had already pitched about 50 innings more than last year's starters. That's a lot more rest for the bullpen.

Clearly, this is a likable team led by veterans and a capable manager.

But without the pitching

REMEMBER WHEN Jose Iglesias took Will Middlebrooks' job at third base.

Since Middlebrooks was called back up from the minors on Aug. 10, he's batting .298 with eight home runs.

Since being traded to the Tigers on July 31, Iglesias is batting .276 and showing off his golden glove. But he has also missed time because of shin splints and a sore left hand after being hit by a pitch.

Iglesias seems to get hurt every year, which may be one reason why the Red Sox felt they could afford to deal him (having Xander Bogaerts may be a better reason).

In his first three pro seasons in the Red Sox organization, Iglesias played 261 games, missing time because of various injuries.

JED LOWRIE is another former Red Sox shortstop who could never stay healthy. Lowrie, 29, never played more than 97 games in his five major league seasons before this year.

Lowrie played 93 games with the Sea Dogs in 2007 before being promoted to Triple-A. He would have been the Red Sox starting shortstop by 2009 if he could have stayed off the disabled list.

Now with Oakland, Lowrie has played in 154 games going into Sunday's season finale. An injury-free Lowrie is a good player. He's batting .290 with 15 home runs.

WHEN THE RED SOX handed out their minor league awards, the list had plenty of Sea Dogs representation, as well as anticipation for 2014.

Among the winners were Henry Owens as Pitcher of the Year and Deven Marrero as Base Runner of the Year. Both finished the season with the Sea Dogs and likely to return to Portland.

Second baseman Mookie Betts (Offensive Player of the Year) and catcher Blake Swihart (Defensive Player of the Year) played for advanced Class A Salem and are expected to begin next season in Portland.

Owens, a left-hander, went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in six starts for the Sea Dogs, striking out 46 in 301/3 innings. Counting his Salem numbers, he was 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA.

Marrero, a superb defensive shortstop, stole 27 bases in 29 attempts.

Betts, only 20, hit .314 with 36 doubles, four triples and 15 home runs for Greenville and Salem. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and spent the previous two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. Needless to say, this was a breakout season for the 5-foot-9 dynamo.

Swihart is no offensive slouch, batting .298 for Salem. He also threw out 41 percent of potential base stealers.

With Christian Vazquez moving up to Portland, Swihart should be at Hadlock next April.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com 

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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