Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sox Starters Unpredictable at Best

When I look through the Sox starting rotation, I know that I should feel pretty good about the guys they have. Look at the names: Beckett, Lackey, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka. Throw into the equation that spring training starts literally mean nothing, and what are you left with? Gut feeling and that is all.

Having Matsuzaka as your number 5 guy is impressive. Was he good last year? For a number 5, he was fine. You'd like to see more innings from him, but 9-6 with a mid-4's ERA is not terrible. Again...for a number 5. And does last year's performance mean anything this year? Not really. The Sox have made some tweaks in his regimen. Now it is wait and see.

Lester has developed into one of the premiere left-handers in the game. He's the one guy the Sox can hang their hat on.

Buchholz emerged last year as the clear number two in the Sox rotation. But, like Dice-K, he is still an unknown.

The clearest part of this puzzle is that the Sox need more from Beckett. Lackey, despite local criticism, had a typical Lackey year. I think, with his associated price tag and previous playoff hype, Sox fans expected a number 1 when he arrived. But, Beckett's season last year was abysmal by Beckett standards. He hasn't had a great spring training, either. But, as stated above, spring training means nothing. The Sox can't have another year of 6-6 with an ERA near 6 if they expect to make a series run. The need a healthy Beckett.

This rotation could go either way. It has the potential to be the deepest in the majors. It also has the potential to be middle of the pack.


  1. I think Grieves has a point and has a reason to be worried. Between Lackey and Beckett I think we'll get about the same as last year. I expect a slight improvement on Lackey's behalf and continued decrease from Beckett. (Man this is starting to sound like Sox banter pre-2004). I think Beckett is hiding an injury. If nothing else, he is showing signs of hitting the wall. He can't rely on blowing past guys and without a new approach he'll be serving up HR balls on a regular basis.

    If we had one more ace in the minors who we could bring up mid-season I would feel a whole lot more comfortable about everyone's World Series predictions.

    Otherwise, I think we live or die based on Beckett's fastball. GULP.

  2. I pretty much agree with all of this. With the added caveat that the rotation is just one component of a three headed beast – offense, rotation and bullpen.

    “This rotation could go either way. It has the potential to be the deepest in the majors. It also has the potential to be middle of the pack.”

    Lester and Bucholz were great last year. Dice-BB and Beckett were awful. Lackey overall looked like he struggled, but his numbers after the ASB were much much better – ERA 2.97 and 1.22 WHIP. If he can do that for a full season, that’s a huge improvement. Hopefully it just took him half a season to adjust to Boston. So if Lester, Bucholz and Lackey are solid 1-3, then its just 4 and 5 we are quibbling about. Beckett almost has to be better than last year. If he struggles to the tune of 5.75 again, then I think they will mix things up. And we know Dice-BB will be Dice BB. 180 maddening innings of 4.8 – 5.0 ERA.

    Last year. Starters were 70-50 with a 4.17 ERA (6th in league). I think they will be pretty close to that this year. Maybe a tad better. We know they offense is going to score the most or second most runs in the league. So the difference from last year is the bullpen. I posted earlier:

    “Pen was 19-23 with a 4.24 ERA (third worst in AL). For comparisons, TB was 3.33 and NY 3.47. Not including inherited runners scored. We're talking about 50 runs. And probably in high leverage situations.”

    It would almost be impossible for them to pitch that poorly this year. They have some different options and closer. And a stable of arms in the organization. Even if they are mid pack in bullpen performance, that would be the difference between last years 89 wins and no playoffs and 95+ wins.

    And once you get to October….anything can happen.

    And if you want to talk about rotations being unpredictable, let’s have a classic MVN run down of the Sox versus Yanks rotations – head to head, 1-5.

  3. Here’s another way to think about it. If the Sox got exactly the same starting pitching performances as last year, would that be okay?

  4. No, that wouldn't be ok. They had two great pitchers and "meh" for the rest.

    Lackey's best year was '07. He went 19-9 with a 3.01. LAST year for Lackey was a typical Lackey year. His numbers were only slightly down.

    He has a career 58.6 winning percentage and a 3.89 ERA. Adjust the ERA for the starts at Fenway and facing a LOT more AL East.

    I wouldn't expect more than last year from Lackey.

    I would expect less from Clay. The same from Lester. The same from Dice-K. Beckett is the unknown...he probably also isn't thrilled about being the #4.

    The bullpen should be better. However, I think Paps is toast. Thus, Theo bringing in a slew of potential closers.

    They will be better offensively, but offense wasn't their big issue last year. They were #2 in the bigs in runs scored.

    I am not convinced they run away with anything. And just to prove it, I will be doing my AL East pitching comparisons soon! Grieve-style.

  5. I completely agree. They won't run away with anything. And as much as the Yanks are playing the underdog card (with the $215 Million payroll - yes, you scrappy little underdogs just like the Pirates and Royals), Ny is going to be tough. And that is before they make some in season moves.

    The goal, as always, is to get to the playoffs. And then hope you have the hot hand.

    I'd take last year's starters and head into Oct with Lester - Clay - Lackey against any teams 1-2-3.

    I do think beckett has some serious issues. But I'm holding out hope that lackey will be above average (Not great, but solid 17 wins, 3.86 ish). He showed signs of that in the second half.

    3.86 - that's a perfect number for lackey. 7 innings, 3 runs. that's about right for him.