Given his first real shot in the Boston starting rotation this season, Doubront has pitched pretty well. By looking at the obvious statistics, he has 10 wins, fives losses and an average ERA of 4.54. His WAR is the third-best among Red Sox starters this season behind veterans Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, according to FanGraphs.
Digging deeper into Doubront’s stats on the year, you’ll find a number that the Red Sox should be very concerned about, that being his work factor.
Doubront has the sixth-highest work factor in all of baseball, according to A.J. Mass of ESPN. Mass writes that work factor is a number that shows the difference between how many pitches a player has thrown in a season compared to how many they were expected to throw. A negative work factor shows efficiency whereas a positive work factor shows a lack of efficiency.
Doubront’s work factor is 82, a very high positive number. He’s thrown 1,884 pitches this season and was only expected to throw 1,802. He’s averaged 17.6 pitches per inning in 107 innings this season.
Throughout the entire season, Doubront has found himself in deep counts early in the game which has led to shorter outings. In 19 starts this year, he’s only pitched move than six innings four times. Averaging around 5.2 innings per start is not what is going to keep you in a major league rotation.
Felix Doubront has been slowly but surely deteriorating since the start of June, when he was 6-2,” says Mass. “Since that time, including Monday night’s six runs in five innings versus the Texas Rangers, he has gone 4-3 and only managed to see the seventh inning twice. The rest of the way may see his ability to work deep into contests slip even further.
Should the Red Sox place an innings limit on Doubront?
Doubront has to work with Bob McClure—Boston’s pitching coach—and Randy Niemann—Boston’s assistant pitching coach—in order to find a solution. He has to be able to pitch more accurately and effectively. He’ll never make it as a big league starter if he doesn’t.
Of the other seven players on Mass’ list, several of them are well-established veterans who have thrown well over 100 or 200 innings in a season over the course of their career. As I mentioned, Doubront has thrown 107 innings this season, which is the most he’s ever thrown in a major league uniform in a single season. The most he’s ever throw in his professional career is 121, coming in 2009 in Double-A.
The Washington Nationals have been relatively open in saying that their future ace Stephen Strasburg will pitch with an innings limit this season. Strasburg is coming off of Tommy John surgery and even though Doubront isn’t in the same exact situation, Boston should think about shutting him down early as well.
Doubront could become one of the main starters for the Red Sox in the future and it would be stupid for them to overuse him this season that could result in an injury. He’s clearly being overworked and it’s only late July. He will easily set a career-high in innings pitched this season which might not work out in Boston’s favor. It puts him at a huge risk for injury.
If the Red Sox are in the playoff race and only if, that’s the only situation where they should continue sending Doubront out to mound. If not, shut him down. The numbers say it all and if Boston isn’t concerned about them yet, they should be.