Dempster chasing Pedro's prodigious shadow

photo Matthew West/Boston Herald

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

This is one of those classic “You want the good news first or the bad news first?” type of posts.

Okay, fine. Bad news first:

Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster got shelled like a Maine lobster at a church dinner against the Blue Jays on Sunday, serving up seven hits, six runs and three long balls in just five innings of work. Prior to that, Dempster hadn’t allowed more than one home run in a game all season.

Easy, now. Here’s the good news: Dempster entered the game with 55 strikeouts over the span of his first seven games, which ranks second-most in a pitcher’s first seven games with the Boston franchise only behind some guy named Pedro Martinez, who recorded 66 Ks in his first seven games in 1998.

Dempster and Pedro are also the only two hurlers in Red Sox history to record seven strikeouts or more in their first five starts. Dempster and Clay Buchholz are also the first two Sox starters to post back-to-back 10+ strikeout performances (Buchholz with ten on April 25 and Dempster with ten on April 26, both against Houston) since Pedro and Hideo Nomo accomplished that feat back in 2001.

Only eight games logged in his Red Sox career to date, Ryan’s rubbing shoulders with some pretty select company.

Here’s a quick comparison: Through eight games this season Dempster has 61 strikeouts (including his six against Toronto in the loss Sunday) over 48 innings and an ERA of 3.75. Pedro recorded 72 Ks over 57.1 innings with a 1.88 ERA in his first eight games in 1998. Pedro only allowed three homers in his first eight games as opposed to Dempster’s nine over the same stretch. At the end of the ’98 campaign Pedro was 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 233.2 innings of work. Currently, is projecting Dempster to finish the year with a 9-17 record, 3.75 ERA and 260 strikeouts over 205 innings.

Wins and losses aside, Dempster has a shot at one-upping one of the greatest Sox pitchers ever in the Ks-per-season column.

However, even if Dempster accomplishes those projected totals, it’ll be a hollow victory inasmuch as it will pale in comparison to Pedro’s sparkling 1999 season, when he struck out 313 en route to the first of his back-to-back American League Cy Young awards.

While Dempster is only 2-4 so far on the season, he entered Sunday’s game boasting a strikeout rate of 11.44 batters per nine innings — an improvement over his 2012 numbers, when his K/9 rate was 7.69. Over the course of his 15-year career, the 36 year old has been a prolific purveyor of the Whiff, setting down 1,979.

Ryan Dempster is chasing Pedro's prolific Ks-per-game streak this season
To keep him humble, however, we respectfully submit Pedro’s lifetime record of 3,154 strikeouts over the course of 18 seasons.

Another area where Pedro tops Dempster is in the run-support column. In ’98, Pedro received an average of 5.14 runs per game from the Sox. Dempster currently can only bank on 3.38. On Sunday the run support was absolutely abysmal, with Boston going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. 

Dempster didn’t mention the dearth of support from the Boston offence after the game on Sunday, saying only that he couldn’t locate his pitches the way he had hoped.

“I just didn’t have the slider I normally have,” said Dempster, who signed a two-year, $26.5-million deal with Boston in the offseason. “I was missing up in the zone a lot, more than I normally do. For whatever reason I couldn’t really pinpoint it. I’m just trying to get the ball back downhill and be consistent. I’d be good for a few hitters and then I’d get the ball up. I tried to work hard, but it just wasn’t good enough today.”

So, in summation: some good news, and some bad news.

Call it a silver lining. A small ray of sunshine.

With the Red Sox having dropped eight of their last 10 games and hitting .163 with runners in scoring position — leaving a staggering 86 men stranded on base during that spread — that’s what it’s been lately: a surplus of bad news, and only the faintest glimmer of good.

Twitter: jan_doh