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Sports of Boston is continuing its week-long preview of the Red Sox starting rotation with its projected #4 starter:
John Lackey (14-11, 4.40 ERA, 215.0 IP, 156 K, 72 BB): Lackey didn’t deserve the $18.7 million he got last season. He was the best of a weak free agent list of pitchers, and the Red Sox needed an off-season deal to build interest in the team after getting swept by the Angels in the 2009 ALDS.
Now the Red Sox are stuck with a pitcher whose ERA has gone up every year since 2007. Lackey’s primary strength is his durability. He’s started 32+ games six times in his career and pitched over 200 innings five times. For a #4 or #5 pitcher, this is great, because it means a fresher bullpen for the #1-3 starters, where low-scoring pitching duels are more likely.
Lackey is also a far better pitcher at home than on the road, going 11-5 at Fenway Park. If the Red Sox have to start a playoff series on the road, his position as a #4 starter means he would likely make his start at home, making this slot even more ideal for him. Lackey brings less to the table than Lester, Buchholz or Beckett, but his pitching experience and predictability keep him from the bottom of the rotation.
The Red Sox rotation went 65-39 last season, which means a little over a third of their games were decided by their inconsistent-at-best bullpen. This resulted in an 89-73 record, their fewest wins since 2006. Experience should generate a few more wins for the starters, and the bullpen has been much improved. This should all translate to another season in which the Red Sox win over 95 games.
It all starts in 11 days.