Thursday, August 26, 2010

Did the Red Sox Just Sacrifice Tim Wakefield?

I was pretty excited going into last night. Despite the rainout, the marquee match-up had been preserved. Jon Lester was squaring off against Felix Hernandez. So, I was on my computer, and just checked in to see how the game had started. I see it’s Tim Wakefield on the mound, and my heart sank. This could not be good news. Had Lester already been shelled? Again? Was he a late scratch? I couldn’t decide which was worse. I scoured around looking for the answer, and was immediately puzzled. Lester was fine. It was Dice-K that was hurt. So, they had moved Lester into Dice’s spot, and pitched Wakefield in Lester’s place. Why do all that shuffling? Why not leave Lester in the spot he expected to be in, and let Wake go Friday? My guess is Felix Hernandez was the reason.

Some people point to the thought of saving Lester for the Rays. After all, the Rays game is more important that the Mariners. That’s not really true. If Lester won last night, and Wake loses Friday, it would have been no different in the standings. After all, Tampa had already lost yesterday. So, saving Lester for Tampa didn’t do anything. Daisuke was bypassed, and that might be a good thing, I admit. Going into Tampa, I’m more excited with Lester-Buchholz-Lackey than I was with Matsuzaka leading the charge. But, replacing Dice directly with Wake wouldn’t have changed things. And, Wake wouldn’t have been rushed into a start. I think the Red Sox were conceding last night’s game to King Felix. I’m sure they didn’t feel like wasting a Lester start on a game they weren’t going to win anyway. Even Lester needs a run or two to win a game. That actually makes sense. It’s a move I always wondered why teams didn’t do more.

I always thought of it during playoff series when the Sox had Pedro. Take 1999, for instance. The Sox were in the playoffs thanks to a rotation of Pedro…and four other guys. If I’m the Indians, and my rotation is Bartolo Colon and four other guys…is there merit in not pitching Colon in game 1? He’s not going to win anyway, so why waste him? Save him, and pitch him in game two against Saberhagen? (I know. Not the best example since Pedro was hurt in that game 1, but you get the idea.) So, if you’re Francona last night, you know the Rays lost. The damage is controlled. The worst that can happen is you only pick up half a game. So, why waste Lester? Throw Wakefield to the wolves, and hope you get lucky. In this case, it also lines up your best going down to Tampa. Pretty much a win-win. Hopefully the Sox score more than two runs on Friday, and make the move work out.

After all, the Sox need wins in the Tampa series.

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