Which Starter should go to the Bullpen?

The Red Sox were built for the post-season in that they were built around their starting pitching, beginning with Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, with Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo currently pitching the best they have all season. … Are there concerns? Certainly, beginning with any series of games when the bullpen has to be stretched past six outs. But if they make it into the playoffs, the Red Sox can use one of their starters in a setup role.

This is from Peter Gammon’s well-done (I thought) Wacky AL Race column. This raised my eyebrows. I definitely find this interesting, and it makes a lot of sense. With all the position players coming back, we could see the playoff roster be pared down to 11 or even ten pitchers. The incumbents are: Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, Bronson Arroyo, Derek Lowe, Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Mike Myers, and then if we wanted ten pitchers, it would be a dogfight between Ramiro Mendoza and Curtis Leskanic. I believe that they’ll carry 11, both Mendoza and Leskanic, for injury concerns.

Considering that we still have a minor weakness on the middle relief front, it makes complete sense to have a starter move to the bullpen, especially if we only carry ten pitchers. Pedro and Curt, will for obvious reasons, be starting. Tim Wakefield, who has a season-low WHIP (1.14) and the lowest Batting Average Against (.238) since April, deserves a starting slot. This makes more sense when you think about three things – one, that he can both start and relieve in the same series, so why not have him start and then relieve if need be? Two, he gives up a lot of home-runs, which is not good for a reliever. And finally, three – his MVP-like efforts last year in the playoffs. In the ALDS, he started one game and pitched in two for an ERA of 3.52 in 7.2 IP. In the ALCS, he appeared in 3 games and started in 2, having a 2.57 ERA in 14.0 IP.

So, Arroyo or Lowe?

Boston players, especially Varitek, believe Arroyo will blossom into a big winner when he gets command of his fastball. “He should have 12 or 13 wins right now,” says Lowe. “Those whiffle ball curveballs are unhittable.” As Varitek points out, Arroyo changes speeds and arm angles on both of his breaking balls, and gives a look unlike anyone else.

Arroyo has gotten a lot of praise, rightfully so as he has started 22 games, (three relief appearances) for 141.2 IP with a 4.07 ERA and 7-9 record. He has actually increased his effectiveness as the season has gone on, but has slipped in August – if you can call it slipping, because it is still his second best month.

April – 4 G, 3 GS, 5.79 ERA, 0-1

May – 6 G, 4 GS, 4.44 ERA, 2-1

June – 5 G, 5 GS, 4.18 ERA, 0-5 (!)

July – 5 G, 5 GS, 2.83 ERA, 2-0

August – 5 G, 5 GS, 4.01 ERA 3-2

Derek Lowe on the other hand, has a 12-10 record in 26 games started, with a 5.22 ERA. August has been his best month, with a 4.19 ERA. That’s worse than Arroyo’s three of five months. Let’s say it again: Derek Lowe’s best month is worse than Arroyo’s June, July, and August. And yes, this holds true for the WHIP statistic also. Also factor in this:

Last year in the ALDS, Derek Lowe appeared in 3 games and started one, having a 0.93 ERA. He started two in the ALCS, with a 6.43 ERA. I believe Lowe would better serve us in the postseason as a middle reliever and not Arroyo, particularly because Lowe has done that before (and also been the best closer in the majors for a year) and knows how to pitch in relief.

But aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? We’re 4.5 back of the Yankees and 1.5 up on the Wild Card with a month to play and nine straight games against the AL West Contenders. We’ve won 12 of 13. Full steam ahead!