If there was one player that benefited from Ryan Dempster’s departure from baseball, it was Doubront. Both players, along with Brandon Workman, were going to see increased work in Fort Myers to determine who would grab that last spot and who would start the year working long relief out of the bullpen.
Make no mistake, the chances of Doubront or Workman going back down to Triple-A Pawtucket were slim, even if Dempster earned the last spot. Workman can work an inning or two if needed and Doubront could have pitched a couple times a week waiting for the inevitable injury to another starter that would have seen him slide back into the rotation.
With Dempster out of the way, Doubront—who arrived in camp in much better shape than he did last year—now can concentrate on getting his work in and get ready for the long season ahead.
The improvement between Doubront’s first two full seasons in the rotation were noticeable, even if fatigue pulled him out at the end of last year.
Pitching to roughly the same amount of batters—709 in 2012 compared to 704 last year—Doubront pitched an inning and a third more, gave up nine fewer earned runs and nine less home runs. That gain in efficiency saw his earned run average drop from a below-average 4.86 two years ago to 4.32 last year.
No, that is not a stellar number in general, but from a back of the rotation guy, you will take that in a heartbeat.
You expect your fifth starter to win about half of his starts and pitch into the sixth inning most nights, and into the seventh on his better nights. Doubront went 11-6 in 2013 and pitched an average of 5.76 innings a start. His starter’s ERA, by the way, was 3.87. More than acceptable numbers.
If Doubront was feeling uneasy coming into the season competing with Dempster for a job Doubront has held down the last two seasons, he, for now, can relax.
The main knock on Doubront coming into this season was his stamina. He did admit to hitting the proverbial wall last fall after 27 starts and had two disastrous appearances out of the bullpen to close the regular season before doing yeoman’s work mopping up in the playoffs.
He has already addressed one of the things that held him back his first full season by cutting down on the amount of home runs allowed. By not relying so heavily on striking hitters out, his ability to let his fielders do some of the dirty work behind him made him a better pitcher.
The drop in his strikeout rate from 9.3-per-nine to 7.7 should also mean he is throwing less pitches per batter. If his ceiling is going to be between 170-180 innings a year, not relying so heavily on the strikeout—as he did last year—is going to help the transition what every strikeout pitcher goes through. The one between being a thrower and being a pitcher.
If injury pushes Doubront into the middle of the rotation, he will handle that just fine. If he remains the fifth starter all year, you would be hard pressed to find a better one in the American League.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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