How good is the Red Sox rotation?
Just how good is this Boston rotation? Currently four of the starting five pitchers have earned run averages under 3.00, a feat only the scintillating St Louis Cardinals rotation can better.
Coming into the season there were question marks about each member of the rotation; Would Jon Lester get back on track? Who was the real Clay Buchholz? Can Ryan Dempster really be successful in the American League? How would John Lackey perform post Tommy John surgery? Will Felix Doubront be able to take the next step?
It’s only May, but we’ve had some answers to these questions.
Jon Lester was given the ball on opening day by John Farrell, a vote of confidence in the pitcher who performed so well while Farrell was the pitching coach in Boston. Lester was coming off a down year in 2011 where he lost double digit games for the first time in his career. Farrell’s confidence has been admirably repaid; Lester has won 5 of his 8 starts so far and he’s keeping the offence in games, giving up 3 or fewer runs in all but one start.
Clay Buchholz has outperformed even the most optimistic of pre season predictions. In eight starts, he has earned six wins while posting a 1.69 ERA, which is second in the American League only to Felix Hernandez. Both pitchers have completed 58.2 innings, and surprisingly Buchholz has more strikeouts than King Felix. Buchholz’s current SO/9 rate of 9.20 is the highest of his career. The only negative I can find is that he remains obsessed with pick-off throws to first, something that certainly affected his rhythm in 2011. It’s not proving very successful as base stealers are 6 for 6 against him despite the attention.
Outperforming expectation is a common theme here, with Ryan Dempster providing performances beyond those of a number three starter. In his age 36 season Dempster has increased his SO/9 rate to elite levels, currently at 11.5, which ranks him 4th in the Majors behind only Yu Darvish, AJ Burnett and Max Scherzer. Dempster doesn’t have the wins of Lester and Buchholz, but he hasn’t had the same level of run support either, so his 2-3 record is not a reflection of how well he has pitched.
The frame of John Lackey on the mound may cast a smaller shadow than in previous years, but his performance this season has been as imposing as only Angels fans remember. Two disappointing years and Tommy John surgery are all Lackey had to show for his $82.5 million deal, but this season the slimline Lackey is out to prove he was worth that investment and he’s pitching as well as he ever has.
I left discussing Felix Doubront until last as his performance has been a stark contrast to the rest of the rotation. He reportedly turned up to spring training out of shape, and while he may have been indulging in the off season, opposing offences have been feasting on his diet of sub par deliveries in the regular season. His bloated 6.40 ERA may be exaggerated by a .420 BABIP, but the reduction in fastball velocity has made him eminently hittable.
Only time will tell if the rotation continue to perform at this high level, but if they do you can be sure that the Red Sox will be contending come September.