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July 11, 2005
Half and half
So how about it? Is that old glass half-empty or half-full?
To the half-full crowd, this is a batting-practice fastball. The Red Sox -- minus Curt Schilling for all but three mostly inefffective starts, and with Keith Foulke redefining the term "bullpen arsonist" -- are 25th in the major leagues in ERA (4.84), 22nd in WHIP (1.41), 24th in OPS allowed (.772). (There are many more negative stats out there, but you get the drift.) And yet they're still in first place. Both Schilling and Foulke will return, and when they do . . .
. . . there's no guarantee -- at all -- they'll be anything close to normal, fret the half-empty folks. Schilling isn't even coming back as a starter but as a reliever. His ankle is still a question mark, he's not yet back in shape, he hasn't pitched relief in about 14 years, and his presence in the 'pen means the Sox still don't have that top-of-the-rotation horse so important in a short postseason series. As for Foulke, the knee surgery should make him better -- he really can't be any worse -- but how long will it take him to reach his peak level of effectiveness? And suppose he can't? Suppose the Sox hit September, which is really the earliest we can hope to see the Grade A Keith Foulke again, and discover he's not the same pitcher? Then what? Finding another closer is all-but-impossible now, before the trade deadline; think someone like Billy Wagner's going to sneak through waivers on Labor Day?
Which is why all the first-half analyses you're going to see over the next three days are nothing more than educated guesses. Because the fact is, we don't know what's going to happen with either Curt Schilling or Keith Foulke. We don't know what the Red Sox' fallback position is if they discover they need a fallback position. They're in good shape right now, except they lack two things: A No. 1 starter, and a dependable closer. Schilling and Foulke theoretically fill both holes . . . but the difference between theory and execution is demonstrated in Schilling's 1-2, 8.15 numbers over the three starts he was able to make, and Foulke's five losses and 6.23 ERA.
If they don't come back as reasonable facsimiles of the Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke of 2004 -- or, conversely, if the Red Sox don't find replacements for those two crucial roles if they don't -- it's hard to see how the Sox can win. One scenario might be for Schilling to actually thrive in the closer's role with Matt Clement stepping in as the No. 1 starter, but that's about the only plausible solution with the personnel on hand.
Wish I had insights more profound than this. But, really, we've spent the first half of the season proving what we've known all along: That the Red Sox need a healthy Curt Schilling and an effective Keith Foulke.
And I suppose the second half will prove it, as well. One way or the other.
Hear the audio version of this post, complete with multimedia slideshow presentation on projo's Red Sox page.
Posted by Art at 2:23 PM | Permalink