Clayton Richard- 13-9, 3.71 ERA
Clayton has been a big part of the Padres' first place pitching staff. He has racked up nearly 200 innings while giving his team a chance to win. I've heard numerous Sox fans wishing he were still in our rotation this season.
However, I don't think he's that big a loss based on a few factors.
The biggest one is that he is in a very good situation that helps his numbers. Not only is he in the NL, which features shallower lineups, but he pitches half of his game at Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league.
That shows in his splits from this season: his ERA is 3.15 at home and 4.37 away from Petco Park. In fact, his ERA+ (which is park-adjusted) is below league average this season.
How much worse would those numbers look if he were still on the Sox, pitching in homer-friendly US Cellular Field against lineups that feature a designated hitter?
Richard also puts a lot of guys on base, as shown in his 1.40 WHIP. If not for his solid .7 homers per nine rate and 74.8% strand rate (both career lows), his ERA could be a fair amount higher.
Finally, Clayton just turned 27, making him several years older than the other two pitchers featured in this article. He probably doesn't have as much upside because of it.
While his numbers might look decent on paper, Richard doesn't look like a guy the Sox will miss long term.
Gio Gonzalez- 14-9, 3.35 ERA
Gio has been a personal favorite of mine since I saw his devastating curve ball in draft prospect video. I wasn't particularly happy when the Sox traded him (twice), but his lack of control made it look like a non-issue until this season. The 25 year old has taken a major leap forward this year.
While most teams would kill to get a talented young lefty like Gonzalez, there are still two things to consider when evaluating his production.
First, much like Richard, Gonzalez is much better at his spacious home park than he is on the road. Gio has a stellar 2.56 home ERA but a much more pedestrian 4.22 ERA. That said, a 4.22 is still pretty good considering he pitches in the American League, as shown by his 125 ERA+ this season.
The other concern is that his actual ERA is far lower than his expected ERA of 4.22. He's struggled with home runs in the past, but has kept the ball in the park much more frequently this year. He also stranded 77.2% of runners this year, much higher than his past rates. Also, though four walks per nine innings isn't a great rate, that is his career best.
Still, I'm much more of a believer in Gonzalez than Richard. He just turned 25 and was selected as a first round compensation pick, suggesting that he is younger and more talented as well as pitching better this season.
Daniel Hudson- 8-2, 2.45 ERA
Hudson has been lights out since he was traded to the Diamondbacks, posting a 1.69 ERA and a 70/16 strikeout to walk ratio in the national league. Though Edwin Jackson has been solid for the Sox, this trade looks pretty painful.
On top of that, Hudson is still only 23 and doesn't have a full year of MLB service time yet. That means that his contract will be extremely cheap for another three seasons before he is eligible for arbitration. He'd be highly useful to the Sox given the financial crunch the Sox face this off-season (more in a future article).
His numbers are stellar this season, so any question marks about Dan are related to the big picture.
There's simply no way he's going to sustain a sub-2 ERA forever, so what can we expect from Hudson? Is he still a #3 type starter like so many suggested entering this season, or has he shown he can do more? Will teams hit him better when they see him more often?
We won't really know the answer to those questions until next season.
The Sox appear to have a solid rotation locked up for next season, so this may be a bit of nitpicking. However, it's hard to ignore that the Sox have given up three productive major league starters with relatively little return so far and a lot of money committed to the players they acquired.
The biggest thing these starters would have given the Sox is cost certainty, with none of them being arbitration eligible until at least 2012. Hudson in particular would be under team control for several more years. With over $40 mil committed to 4 starters already and John Danks needing an extension soon, the extra money committed will be a big issue the next few years.
Hopefully this will all be a moot point in a few years, but the early returns don't look particularly good.