Is History On Bobby Valentine's Side?

Feb 21, 2012; Fort Myers FL, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine during spring training at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Roy Oswalt's not pitching for the Red Sox, or not soon anyway. Will the Sox miss him? Not much, if you believe Bobby Valentine's history lesson.

Roy Oswalt, as I'm sure you've heard, has evinced little interest in pitching for the Boston Red Sox. At least not for a salary they're willing to pay. Which does seem to leave manager Bobby Valentine at least a touch short-handed as he tries to put together a five-man rotation good enough for his squad to win 90-some games and avoid missing the postseason for the third time in four years.

Not that Valentine sounds too concerned. From WEEI.com's Alex Speier:

"I would just think that history is a great teacher. Recent history showed me that the team that won our division last year had no fourth and fifth starter coming into spring training last year," Valentine said, referring to a 2011 Yankees team that had an open spring training competition for the back of the rotation that yielded Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, both of whom proved year-long rotation mainstays. "That’s as comfortable as I am. It’s not like I’m so comfortable. Roy Oswalt, he’d be maybe more comfortable, but I wouldn’t be totally comfortable. What did he pitch, [139] innings last year?"

I'm not sure why 139 is in brackets there. If Valentine said 139 -- the actual figure, by the way -- you wouldn't need the brackets. If Valentine said "shit-all" or something, we need an indication that he's got a potty-mouth.

Anyway, yeah: Oswalt threw 139 innings last season because he missed a chunk of the summer with a back injury. He did return to the rotation in August and pitched effectively down the stretch; essentially, his post-DL numbers were in line with his career numbers. Which, as you know, are pretty good. But backs are balky, and I suspect some of the apparent apathy we've seen is tied to concerns about Oswalt's durability.

I appreciate Valentine's interest in history, which of course I share. But there's a lot more to baseball history than two guys who started games for the New York Yankees in 2011. In fact, I think history would suggest that the Yankees were exceptionally fortunate to get what they got -- 311 innings, 20 wins, and a 3.82 ERA -- from those guys. Not to mention Ivan Nova's 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA, both far better than we expected, based on history.

Of course, history would also have suggested that A.J. Burnett wouldn't be quite so terrible, and that Phil Hughes would win more than five games all season. On balance, the Yankees' starters were probably a little better than history suggested -- their 4.03 ERA was fifth best in the league -- but not a lot better. As they so often do, things just sort of evened out in the end. But they didn't have to. Freddy Garcia could have gotten hurt and Bartolo Colon could have been terrible.

As things stand today, the Red Sox have two reliable starting pitchers, or three if you believe Clay Buchholz is going to pitch more than 92 innings for just the second time in his career.

It's quite possible that the Red Sox, right now, have their own versions of Garcia and Colon in camp. It's just not all that likely. If you believe history is the teacher, anyway.

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