Congratulations to the 2011 Red Sox, and thank you for doing what you could to reduce the historical significance of the 1969 Cubs' mega-collapse, as little as it might have been.
The Sox' September collapse was the result of awful pitching. The team's ERA for the month of September was 5.84 — dead last in all of Major League Baseball.
More specifically, it was Boston's starting pitching that did the team in over its last 27 games. Seven different Sox were used as starting pitchers in the month of September. Erik Bedard had the lowest ERA of the group, and he posted a lousy 5.25 earned run average in his three starts.
Other Red Sox starters, listed with GS and ERA:
- Jon Lester, 6 GS, 5.40 ERA
- Josh Beckett, 4 GS, 5.48 ERA
- Tim Wakefield, 4 GS, 6.30 ERA
- John Lackey, 5 GS, 9.13 ERA
- Kyle Weiland, 3 GS, 9.26 ERA
- Andrew Miller, 2 GS, 15.63
In contrast, Rays starters posted a 3.74 ERA in September. Perhaps the biggest night for any Tampa Bay starter took place on Sept. 22, when Durham call-up Matt Moore shut down the New York Yankees for five innings.
To me, this is what the September race came down to, luck and various other factors notwithstanding: when the Rays needed a starter outside of their front five, the called on Moore; in contrast, the Sox had to rely on Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland. Neither spot starter for the Sox was able to give his team a chance a win.
Now's when we bring in the 2011 Cubs — a terrible team, no doubt, with issues on offense, defense, and amongst its pitchers (hey, they sucked at everything!). But if you ask me to point to one stat that defines the Cubs' performance this past season — a year in which they went 71-91 — I'll give you this:
In games started by Casey Coleman, Doug Davis, James Russell and Ramon Ortiz, the Cubs went 5-28. Their record in all other contests: 66-63. Yes, a winning team.
The MVP of the Cubs 2011 season? Rodrigo Lopez. Yes, the 35-year-old Quad-A pitcher with a career ERA of 4.82 was in some respects Chicago's most important piece this past year. Why? Because Lopez gave his team a chance to win, something neither Davis nor Russell nor Ortiz were capable of doing as a major league starter, and something Coleman struggled to do on most nights. Indeed, the Cubs went 7-9 in games started by Lopez.
Yesterday's events were stark proof of one fact: in a 162-game season, every single game is of the utmost importance. Every win is immensely valuable. You need a talented starting lineup, you need reliable aces at the front of your rotation — and you need minor league depth to cover your ass when guys get hurt or fall into slumps.
A final point: the Durham Bulls, Tampa's AAA affiliate, led the International League in ERA this year with a 3.56 mark. The Pawtucket Red Sox: 2nd to last, with a 4.54 staff ERA.
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