Commentary

How offensive output affects pitchers

Not scoring consistently could take its toll on Red Sox starters, relievers

Updated: April 8, 2010, 10:36 AM ET
By Curt Schilling | ESPNBoston.com

Editor's note: New ESPN baseball analyst and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling will contribute frequently to ESPNBoston.com. Below is his first column.

Yes, the Red Sox lost Jason Bay, and it is likely they won't score as many runs as they did last year. They added a top-of-the-rotation starter and three Gold Glove-caliber defenders, so the argument goes those additions will neutralize the smaller offensive output.

It might, but even if it doesn't the Red Sox could still win 95 games for a second straight season.

One of the problems a lack of offense could bring about isn't always apparent or obvious. Let's say you average six runs a game. That's 972 runs in a season, which would have far and away led all of baseball in 2009. During the course of the season you are going to have some blowout wins, meaning you'll outscore an opponent by five or more runs in a game more than most teams. You will have some blowout losses as well, but with that much offense you should win a lot more of these than you lose.

If you average five runs per game (which projects to 810 runs for the season), you will have far fewer blowout wins and probably a few more blowout losses.

[+] EnlargePapelbon
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBlowout victories mean more rest for key relievers like Jonathan Papelbon.

Why does that difference matter so much? The team scoring more and having more runaway victories is going to have a more rested pitching staff come September and October.

If you could guarantee yourself a 3-1 lead in every game, while it would be obviously awesome, it begs the question: Who pitches those last three innings? Your big guys can get you deeper, leaving your bullpen to get fewer outs, but you certainly aren't going to have a setup man and closer with 162 appearances each, right?

The point I am trying to make is your offense directly affects your pitching staff and its "stamina" over the course of a season. You can't just burn through arms and get more from Triple-A or through trades each time you "Proctor" a guy. To be "Proctored" is to overwork a reliever by sending him to the mound on a nearly everyday basis, a la Scott Proctor with the Yankees in the mid-2000s.

As a starting pitcher during the 1990s in Philly, I had far more starts and games in which I knew every baserunner from the first inning on was the potential losing run. I approached every game with the mindset of never giving up a run, but when you are pitching for a team challenged to score you are in a "game-winning" situation from inning one through inning nine. In Arizona in 2001 and 2002, and in Boston every season, that was never the case.

I hated giving up early runs (for obvious reasons but also because you could also take teams out of games by dominating them early as well) but I knew in Arizona, and in Boston, the offense behind me was going to score, and usually score a lot.

Throwing 85 pitches in a 1-0 game was far more draining and tiring to me than 125 pitches in a 9-2 game. I always used to feel I could "go to the well" twice in a game and still have a chance to complete the game. That third time was it for me. Going to the well means different things depending on your offense.

I think the Red Sox can score, and score a lot, but if they don't the effects of that are going to be felt across that staff, especially in that bullpen. You notice both the Red Sox and Yankees seem to break camp each year with 15-16 man staffs, often times holding two to four guys who might make other teams as middle bullpen guys or fifth starters in Triple-A because they understand the war of attrition that is AL East baseball.

However, if they are offensively challenged, you can feel that as a starter and you begin to grind in a game far earlier than you would with an explosive offense behind you. That might not show in April, but after 100 games it does, in the rotation and in the bullpen.

Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, as well as encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation and recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Curt Schilling, a three-time World Series champion, pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08. Curt and his wife Shonda have raised money to fight ALS (www.curtspitch.com), encouraged awareness for sun protection (www.shadefoundation.org) and announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England (www.aane.org) after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

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