The Red Sox officially signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year, 26.5 million-dollar deal yesterday.
To which I say, meh.
I just don’t think Dempster will be that good. Ryan Dempster’s the kind of pitcher that’s been around so long that everyone knows his name – but that doesn’t mean he can hold up the Red Sox rotation. Especially – ESPECIALLY – in the AL East.
Look at Dempster’s stats on baseball-reference.com. He started 2012 with the Chicago Cubs, and was traded to the Texas Rangers on July 31, literally two minutes before the deadline expired. His numbers with Chicago – where he began as a reliever and a closer before earning a starting spot in 2008 – are good. He had an ERA basically in the mid-threes as a starter, save for a down 2011 season and a renaissance 2012 first half. He left Chicago sporting a 2.25 ERA on the year.
But, look what happened once he got traded to Texas. He lodged a 5.09 ERA in the last half of 2012, and the fact he started walking the ballpark didn’t help him out any.
It’s well-known that for pitchers, the switch from the National League to the American League is a tough one. The DH comes into play, the hitters tend to grind out their at-bats more (especially in the AL East), and ERAs tend to rise significantly. Dempster pitched well against the Sox last year – allowing no runs over 13 2/3 innings – but let’s face it, pretty much everyone “pitched well” against the Sox last year. And, Dempster got crushed by the better teams in the American League. Nick Cafardo at the Boston Globe put it well:
The Angels ate him up in three starts. He allowed nine hits and eight runs in 4-2/3 innings in one start; six hits and five runs over 3-1/3 innings in another; and seven hits and our runs in 5-2/3 innings in a third.
The Yankees beat him up for nine hits and eight runs over six innings. The A’s got him for six hits and five runs over three innings.
And, as Cafardo notes, the Rangers didn’t make a big push to re-sign Dempster. Cafardo also writes that a National League manager expects the Red Sox to pick and choose the teams that Dempster goes up against. That’s… not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Was the last half of 2012 a hiccup? Or was it a sign of things to come? And what, exactly, do the Red Sox expect out of Dempster? He’s gone 200 innings a year consistently since he became a starter (except for last year – 173). The Sox needed that kind of consistency last year, and couldn’t get it out of the starting staff. The looming question, though, is whether those 200 innings will be quality innings or not.
I have my doubts. The Red Sox still need to put some serious work into their starting staff – Dempster will be a good addition, but I would be very concerned if Ben Cherington sees him as anything better than a fourth starter. The Sox still need that top-of-the-rotation guy, and their time is starting to run out.
Also, as an aside, SOMETHING is going on with the Mike Napoli deal. The Sox haven’t announced it formally yet, but Cafardo also wrote in the Globe that a medical issue’s come up with Napoli’s leg or hip, and that the sides are trying to wrangle the contract language to accommodate that issue. Even if the sides work out the language and Napoli gets signed, yikes – it seems like Murphy’s Law applies to medical issues.
But, happy thoughts – Shane Victorino gave a great press conference yesterday, and it’s Friday. We all love Fridays!