When John Farrell began his arguably traitorous path back to his dream job in Boston, my first thought was how it would affect both the Blue Jays' and Red Sox's pitching staffs. Through the first 30-plus games of the season, it has played out the way I expected it to.
Toronto's staff has imploded (hence the team's dreadful start), and Boston's has been phenomenal (even if Clay Buchholz has been using questionable tactics to get to 6-0). Over the past two seasons without Farrell as their pitching coach, the Red Sox's team ERA was a combined 4.45. The two pitchers who alarmingly struggled were Jon Lester and Buchholz.
Lester had a miserable 2012 campaign, going 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA. Buchholz was 11-8, but had a 4.56 ERA and served up 25 home runs. Both are on fire to start the 2013 season, and Lester is even doing it without foreign substances on his pitching hand.
All kidding aside, the Blue Jays are crying all the way to the bank to ask for a refund on their R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle investments. Granted, none of these pitchers had Farrell as their pitching coach, but they sure could use him.
Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner, is 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA. Johnson: 0-1, 6.86. And what happened to Mr. Perfect Game Buehrle? He's 1-2 with a 6.43 ERA. As an entire staff, the Jays' team ERA is 4.73. Is it any wonder they are 12-21 and mired in last place?
With Farrell as their manager (in truth, never their pitching coach), Toronto's team ERA numbers weren't all that much better: 4.32 in 2011 and 4.64 in 2012. But also consider what he had to work with. Ricky Romero, who began 2013 in the minors, was his ace. Brandon Morrow was oft-injured. Henderson Alvarez and Drew Hutchinson were on his staff.
A supremely more talented group of arms (on paper, anyway) under the passive John Gibbons is getting shellacked in baseball's toughest division, while Farrell's rotation and bullpen are both loaded and deep. Casey Janssen, Toronto's closer, is a respectable stopper, but in all likelihood would be Boston's mop-up reliever. Still, give Farrell the nod for improving Janssen's resume—22 saves and a 2.54 ERA last season.
Farrell, who was Boston's pitching coach from 2007-10 before taking the Blue Jays' managerial job, never felt comfortable in Toronto. It doesn't mean he didn't put in the maximum effort, but his heart was clearly elsewhere. When he was elsewhere, his former Sox disciples struggled.
In 2010, Lester and Buchholz were a dynamic duo. The former was 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA, striking out 225 batters in 208 innings pitched. The latter was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 173.2 innings pitched. Neither had a year like that after he left. Both are on pace for a year like that in 2013.
It's not a coincidence.