In my last installment, I did my best to break down the Red Sox' starting lineup from a hitter's perspective. Now it's time to offer my best educated guess on the starting pitchers entering Boston's 2010 campaign.
We will begin at the top of the rotation with the Boston beast, Josh Beckett. Last season, the Texas native carried the brunt of the workload for the local nine, going an impressive 17-6 with a respectable 3.86 ERA. This season, however, I foresee much more production out of the big righty. I don’t see JB making it all the way to 20 wins, but a 19-8 season mark with a 3.25 ERA sounds realistic, in my opinion.
Next up, it’s the most underrated lefty in the game, Jon Lester. 2009 was a breakout season for Jonny L, and in 2010, things will only improve for him. I truly see Lester having the best season of all the Boston hurlers. This may be going out on a limb, but lets figure at least 17 W’s with six losses.
But here's the big number: a 2.95 ERA.
Like I said, it may be a stretch, but if anyone can make it happen, it has to be Lester.
The third man in Boston's bolstered rotation is an import from the left coast, John Lackey. Last season, it was Big John’s Halos who dealt the Sox an early exit from the postseason, but the tides have turned and Lackey is now a Red Sox representer — and with that in mind, Lackey remains the same with the Sox. Big John Stud was 11-8 a season ago, and being in the mix with five to six stellar starters, the Abilene, Tex., product will be steady with 12 W’s and just five losses.
Lackey will have more starts with the opportunity to rack up additional wins and losses, but I foresee the bullpen bailing him out of a jam or two and one of the relievers getting a win or three for Tito and Co.
Here's where the prognostication can get tricky: the bottom three in the “rotation." Clay Buchholz's maturity has grown by leaps and bounds in just one offseason, and if you listen to him, this is the season when he will pitch up to his potential. He came up just short of reaching 100 innings in 2009; this season, you can pencil in the lanky youngster to log at least 130 frames with an ERA in the neighborhood of 3.50, a vast improvement over last season's 4.21.
Tim Wakefield — what more can I say about the Sox' elder statesman? He went 11-5 last season, with all of his victories coming before the midsummer classic — and this season, although Father Time is working against him, I can really see Wake racking up at least 10 wins if the knuckleball dances to the right tune.
It's time for me to wrap up this transmission, and of course, I have yet to touch on Daisuke Matsusaka. Given the stuff he has, he needs to be more assertive when he works major league hitters. I'm no John Farrell, but if I had the Dice Man on my staff, I would make it a point to have him attack every hitter like he's the best pitcher in the world.
Watching Matsusaka pitch makes me wonder if he ever has any confidence in his arsenal. The injuries keep piling up for him, which, in my opinion, could stem from his training routine. Any time a pitcher gets close to the 30-year-old mark, he has to scale back some of the things he did when he was younger, something Dice-K doesn't appear to be doing. Extra throwing in the bullpen after throwing at least 85 pitches in a game does nothing positive for a pitcher's bumps and bruises, unless you're Cliff Lee — who is a freak of nature and can throw extra side sessions (though even he is starting to feel the backlash) and will exit a game without icing down his wing.
Dice-K needs to accept reality and realize that he cannot and will not be able to train as he did in the past, when he was younger and healthier. If he can turn the corner and stay healthy, I can see him maybe getting nine wins — but given Boston's talented staff from top to bottom, only time will tell ho many innings he will actually toss.
So there you have it: my predictions for the Sox starters. These in no way, shape or form are accurate; it's just my opinion on how I think things will shake out. And with a more-than-adequate lineup paired with a strong staff, I see the Sox putting the pressure on the Yankees for the AL East title. It’ll be a race to the finish, with the Sox edging out the pinstripes for the division crown — I think they’ll take it by a game and a half.
I could be wrong … but I could be Wright. We will see, won't we?