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The mixed bag that was the starting rotation received a B+ in my report card. If the Red Sox could pitch Josh Beckett and Jon Lester every other day, they would have earned an A+, however, that’s just not possible. Numbers 1 and 1A each started 32 games and Clay Buchholz, who was mostly strong, added 16 more. Some quick math indicates that leaves 82 starts for the rest of the staff, who were not “A” material.
Beckett may not have put up all the best numbers, but he is the ace. He was 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.43 K/9, 199 strikeouts, four complete games, two shutouts, and 212.1 innings (bold indicates career best). He also posted 20 quality starts, combining with Lester to register more than half of the team’s in that category. Arguably, the definition of “ace” in baseball vernacular includes being the stopper, which Josh Beckett was. He was 7-1 when taking the mound after a Red Sox loss, delivering dominating performances when the Red Sox needed him the most.
The lefty put up some of the best numbers on the team, going 15-8 with a 3.41 ERA (fifth in AL), 1.23 WHIP, 9.96 K/9, 225 whiffs (third in AL), and two complete games. His total number of 225 strikeouts was a near 50% improvement from last year in seven innings fewer and he did it without sacrificing any control (two fewer walks, 16 fewer hits). If he finds a way to improve himself like that for 2010, he will be downright scary. He and Beckett combined to provide a one-two punch that very few teams can boast.
Buchholz had to settle from tearing up the minors while waiting for something to give in the rotation on the big club. When it finally did, he was immediately thrust into a start against the Blue Jays with rumors swirling he was the centerpiece of a deal to land Roy Halladay. He started 16 games and his youth still shows now and again, as he was lit up for six or more runs in four of those starts, none against a great offense (Baltimore, Chicago, Toronto, and Cleveland). On the other side of the coin, he allowed no more than three runs in any of his other 12 starts. He should be up with the big club next season and if he can minimize those bad outings, the Red Sox have an amazing three-man front.
Wakefield finally made an All-Star team on the strength of his 11-3 start. Wakefield’s back prevented him from making all but four second half starts, but with the low-impact knuckleball and low-risk contract, he will likely be back as the Red Sox know what they will get from him. This year’s 4.58 ERA and 1.44 WHIP are right in the ballpark for his recent career.