Today at Boston Red Sox camp, it’s a two-for-one special on thumb injuries! Plus, buy a two-liter bottle of Coke, Diet Coke or Mountain Dew Stroke-Inducing Cherry and get a free dish of garlic knots!
We knew that closer Andrew Bailey, who has a tendency to break down under a stiff breeze, is to have his thumb examined today. According to the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham, he will be joined by Josh Beckett, who seems to be out to confirm his pattern of off years in even-numbered seasons.
In both cases, we have yet to learn the severity of the injuries, so speculating on how they will affect the Red Sox is a bit premature, but premature speculation is a problem that often affects men of my age, so let’s make the most of it.
The Red Sox have a reliever with closing experience in Mark Melancon, who saved 20 games for the Astros last season. Daniel Bard, last year’s setup man, is now officially the No. 5 starter, but before anyone starts keening for him to return to the 'pen, consider:
- Getting 180-200 innings out of a starter with an ERA around 3.75 is about as valuable as a closer with a 2.00 ERA—a real 2.00 ERA (courtesy research by Nate Silver).
- The gap between the best and worst closers is usually insignificant.
In other words:
- Don’t sweat this. You can win as many games in the first six innings as you can in the last three.
Losing an ace-level pitcher like Beckett would be a bigger deal, but as of this writing, the club is downplaying the seriousness of the injury, according to Boston.com.
Having versatile swingman Alfredo Aceves on hand would help mitigate the loss of a starter, but as good as Aceves has been, his stuff plays up in relief; he would not and could not replace a starter of Beckett’s ability. He might be good enough, though, to get by in the short term.
He would have to do the trick, because the Sox don’t have a lot of depth in starters.
Closer injuries are mostly survivable, but they attract more attention due to the way end-of-game flameouts look more like car accidents on the highlight shows. Starter injuries are much worse—200 innings are harder to replace than 60 or 80 innings, no matter how important those innings are. ALL innings are important, damn it.
The Red Sox lack the depth in prospects to patch too many rotation holes—this was a key factor in last season’s collapse—but Bailey is survivable. In fact, given how often he gets hurt, you’d think Boston would almost have had to plan for it.