Monday, April 2, 2012

Is Alfredo Aceves Going to Save the Red Sox?

Forget about my laughable Boof  Bonser prediction in 2010 and my unfortunate Tim  Wakefield prediction from 2011, this year, after hours of calculations and crunching numbers, I have finally determined that Alfredo Aceves is the key to the Red Sox 2012 season.  Quite a stretch, I know.  But forget about Ellsbury, Pedroia or the Bucket Boys, Alfredo Aceves is the most important player to the Boston Red Sox 2012 season. 

Yes, you throw it over there, Alfredo
How did we get to this point, where a journeyman making under a million dollars a year is the focal point of a $170 million roster?  Forget about that question for a moment.  More importantly, is he a starter?  Is he a reliever?  The season hasn't even begun yet, and Aceves has gone from competing with Bard for a spot in the rotation, to being ordained the 4th starter to being relegated back to set up man.  Honestly, I'm not sure of the thinking here. Aceves was an effective starter last year and Bard was a very effective set up man, so why change?  In the infinite wisdom of Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and Bobby V., Bard for some reason does not have the mental make up to be a reliever and Aceves is versatile enough to start or relieve, without the diva requirements of his more successful pitching colleagues (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Daisuke and John.)  So Bard is installed as the fifth starter and Aceves is put into the set up role.  Who cares if it really doesn't make sense, it's Ben Cherington getting his way!  No matter how they use him, he is now the most important pitcher on the Red Sox roster and maybe the most important player on the team.

And you know he will be starting on May 1.  You know either Bard or Felix Dubront are going to falter at some point.  Or Buchholz or Beckett (or both) are going to go down with injuries.  This is in an even year for Josh Beckett, so we might as well throw a broken mirror at him (it does have the ability to thin one out, after all), and hope he does not either 1) stink this year or 2) get seriously injured.  But you know he's going to miss some starts due to ineffectiveness or due to a stint on the DL.  Aceves is the 6th starter right now, but he will likely end up with more starts than everyone but Jon Lester this year.

His statistics bear out his importance to the team.  Unbelievably let go by the Yankees after the 2010 season, Aceves, in four years, has a 24-3 overall record.  He had a staggering (for a set up/middle relief pitcher) 2.9 WAR last year for the Red Sox, behind only Beckett and Lester (and ahead of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard).  His WHIP is barely above 1 for his career, and he has put up a 2.83 ERA in 240 innings pitching in one of the toughest divisions in baseball for 4 years.  I cannot stress this enough - Alfredo Aceves needs to have a GREAT year, or the Red Sox hopes of making it into the playoffs will be dashed.

But back to the first question I posed.  How did we get here?  Aceves was drafted 10 years ago by the Blue Jays, but ended up pitching in the Mexican League for 6 years before having his contract bought out by the Yankees in 2007. After putting up some decent numbers for the Yankees in 2008-09, Aceves went down for the year with a shoulder injury and subsequently broke his collarbone riding his bike.  Those kinds of antics don't sit well in New York and was released before the 2011 season.  The Red Sox picked him up and became one of the team's most (or only) reliable pitchers down the stretch.  Coming in to the 2012 season, I certainly thought he was going to be the fourth starter.  But what do I know? 

Now we are faced with the dilemma of a 30 year old (we think) journey man pitcher being jerked around while at the same time deciding the Red Sox's fate in this the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park.  I try to put aside the comparisons to Ramiro Mendoza, but they are there.


photo courtesy of Zimbio

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