Mazz: What Is Dave Dombrowski Missing In Evaluating Pitchers?

BOSTON (CBS) — With all due respect to Dave Dombrowski, he’s missing the point. This has nothing to do with the shoulder maintenance program that the Red Sox require of their pitchers. It has everything to with Dombrowski’s decision-making with regard to talent – pitchers in particular – and whether he’s giving sufficient weight to all variables.

Simply put: is Dombrowski purely a “stuff” guy? Does he factor in a pitcher’s delivery and any accompanying risk of injury? Or does he just go with the stuff, plain and simple, everything else be damned?

It certainly feels like the latter.

Before we go any further, let’s get this all out there. A couple of weeks ago, on the Felger & Mazz show here at 98.5 The Sports Hub, we suggested that Dombrowski was having easily the worst spring of anyone in camp. (You can find the audio here.) A couple of days later, Evan Drellich of CSNNE wrote about Dombrowski’s early track with the Red Sox on pitchers. More recently, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald seemed to joust with Dombrowski, essentially on the same topic. Today, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe has Dombrowski defending his position.

These are the facts:

1. David Price, whom Dombrowski signed to a record $217 million contract, has an elbow problem and may be facing Tommy John surgery. He will be on the disabled list to start the season.

2. Carson Smith, whom Dombrowski acquired before last season, pitched in all of three games last year before needing Tommy John surgery. Smith’s delivery, which puts great strain on his elbow, raised flags with many (but clearly not the Red Sox) at the time he was acquired.

3. Drew Pomeranz, whom Dombrowski acquired last season, had an undisclosed problem at the time of the trade. The Sox elected to keep him. Pomeranz had a platelet-rich plasma injection over the winter in his left elbow/forearm and has a triceps problems this spring. His velocity is reportedly down.

4. Tyler Thornburg, whom Dombrowski acquired over the winter, has a shoulder problem at the moment. Like Smith, Thornburg had a questionable elbow at the time the Sox have acquired him. While Thorburg has said he has never had shoulder problems, Dombrowski claimed (to Shaughnessy) that Thornburg has had similar shoulder discomfort in the past.

Now, how about this whopper:

“I know it’s not diligence, and I’m not attuned to bad luck,’’ Dombrowski told Shaughnessy. “Unfortunately, pitchers have a history of getting hurt at times, and people tend to focus on guys that are hurt and don’t talk about the guys that aren’t hurt. … We’ve acquired a lot of guys that haven’t been hurt, either. … I don’t hear any comments about [Rick] Porcello [acquired by Ben Cherington] and what he’s done and [Chris] Sale and what he’s done. Sometimes it’s just the risk of dealing with pitchers.”

In the case of Sale, who has had a fabulous camp, Dombrowski is right. Still, it is also worth noting that Sale has a very unorthodox delivery that puts great strain on his elbow. He has always felt like a time bomb.

But Porcello? As Shaughnessy notes, Porcello was acquired by previous general manager Ben Cherington. What Shaughnessy didn’t mention is that Dombrowski is the man who traded Porcello to Boston in the first place, in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Watch Porcello throw. He’s not a traditional power guy, and Dombrowski himself told us he likes power pitching. Porcello also has a fluid delivery and a history of durability.

We’ll say it again. Not only was Porcello a guy someone else acquired, he was a guy Dombrowski traded away.

Does this mean Dombrowski is incompetent? Of course not. Certainly he’s having some bad luck here, too. But the Red Sox have mortgaged at least part of their future in the last 18 months for pitchers who should make them championship contenders through 2019, assuming they can stay on the mound and actually pitch.

And if these guys all end up hurt – and many of them are at the moment – Dombrowski might be wise to thoroughly examine the process by which they were evaluated in the first place.

Luck, after all, is only a part of the equation.

More from Tony Massarotti
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