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Some would say that Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels is the best one-two punch in baseball. Others would argue that Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee will lead the Mariners to the post season. The there are some who say C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are two of the best starters in the American League. I mean they did just win a World Series. However, is there a starting rotation that has ever been as deep as the Boston Red Sox?
During the offseason, the Red Sox made a huge splash by landing John Lackey. He was the guy who helped the Angels defeat Boston last post season. According to the Red Sox official depth chart, he is now the teams third starter. It is absurd that he is joining a rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, with Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield battling for the fifth spot. Boston has six guys who can go out any given night and take over a game, so let’s see any other team compare to that.
He is the last Red Sox pitcher to throw a no-hitter, back in 2008. Since then, he has had seasons going 16-6 and 15-8 with an ERA of 3.31. Last season he had a career high with 225 strikeouts. Lester earned a five-year contact before last season and now has the lead as the Red Sox’s go-to guy. As long as his four-seam fastball is averaging in the low-to-mid-90’s, he will be the Boston ace.
Last season, Beckett had two significant milestones. He pitched in 212 innings, a new career high. It was also the third time he went over 200 innings with Boston, a feat he never reached with the Marlins. Beckett also won his 100th career game in a season where he went 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA. The former World Series MVP opened the regular season last year for Boston in a win over Tampa. He will still fight for that right again this spring training, but fans cannot complain when he is the team’s No. 2.
The last time the Red Sox saw Lackey on the field, he pitched the Angels to a 5-0 win over Boston in the ALDS. The win sparked a three-game sweep and propelled the Angles past the Sox for the first time in postseason play. Then in the offseason, he was the best free agent pitcher available. The Red Sox signed him, even though they were stacked. Still, you can not overlook a guy who has ten or more wins in seven straight seasons. He received his 100th win last season, going 11-8 on the year. He comes in as Boston’s third starter. He is rarely placed on the DL and could be huge for the Boston rotation.
Last season saw major ups and downs for Matsuzaka. He led Japan to the World Baseball Classic Championship for the second time, winning his second MVP. However, he could not get going with the Red Sox. Undisclosed injuries, recovery complaints, and bad outings hurt Matsuzaka’s image and he was no where close to the dominant 18-3 season he had in 2008. In 2009, he only appeared in twelve games, going 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA. There are reports that Dice-K is back and better then ever and could be the most dominant fourth starter in baseball.
2009 was a redemption year for Buchholz. In only his second start in 2007, he pitched a no hitter. He struggled in 2008 and began 2009 in the minors. He was brought up after the All-Star break only to be discussed in potential trades for Roy Halladay. When the talks subsided, Buchholz came out blazing, going 6-1 in his final seven starts, including a win over Halladay on August 19th. He finished the season with a 7-4 record and had a career high with 92 innings pitched. He is expected to come out strong in 2009, showing the Red Sox he can be the future of the rotation and not just mid-season trade bait.
Going into the All-Star game last year, no one was better then Tim Wakefield. He had an 11-3 record and made his first All-Star appearance at the age of 42. After, injuries cut his season shot, appearing in the fewest games since his rookie year in 1992. Now he is looking to become the most decorated pitcher in Red Sox history. He is 17 wins behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the most wins by a Red Sox pitchers. Also, he needs four wins at Fenway Park to over take Roger Clemens for most wins in the stadium. The long time knuckleballer might not get the most starts this season, but should he remain healthy, he will have the opportunities to prove that the beginning of 2009 was not a fluke.
The Red Sox might have the deepest rotation in the Majors. Lester, Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka all have the ability to win 15 games. Expect huge seasons from Dice-K and Lackey now that they will be playing other teams third and fourth best pitchers. Most likely, Buchholz or Wakefield will be moved into the bullpen, but both will have their opportunities to shine. Boston has done all it can to win another World Series and if they don’t make it, they shouldn’t have their starting pitching to blame.