Boston Red Sox: Do the Sox Have Enough Pitching to Compete in the AL East?

Adam MacDonaldAnalyst IIFebruary 9, 2012

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1st inning at Fenway Park September 21, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

There are two adages about pitching: "You can never have enough," and "It wins championships."

Taken together, they go a long way in explaining why woeful starting pitching saw the Red Sox collapse and miss the playoffs in 2011.

The rotation was simply woeful in 2011. If you're putting Kyle Weiland on the mound in a pennant race, something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Sure, Josh Beckett had one of the best seasons of his career, but he was a rare highlight. Jon Lester was great, but you still expect more from a pitcher who is always picked as a Cy Young favourite. He was never dominant and that's what we expect from him now.

Clay Buchholz lost most of the season to injury, and Tommy John surgery ended Daisuke Matsuzaka's year.

The loss of John Lackey to Tommy John is a blessing in disguise. Statistically, Lackey in 2011 had one of the worst seasons a starting pitcher has ever had. Not having to trot him out every fifth day in 2012 will significantly improve the rotation.

So where are we in 2012? Beckett is coming off a great year, but the five worst seasons of his career were 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2002. He needs to find a way to break that trend in 2012. We know Buchholz can be spectacular when healthy, but his health is a major concern.

Daisuke could be back after the All-Star Break, but he hasn't been effective even when healthy for the last few years.

Boston will be forced to rely heavily upon Lester, Beckett and Buchholz again. One's terrible every second year, one's often injured and they have nothing but question marks behind them.

Daniel Bard worked his way through the minor leagues as a starter and is poised to be a part of the rotation for the first time in the bigs. He has the stuff for it, even though he doesn't have the pedigree, but it will be a few months before we have any idea how he'll fare.

The acquisition of Andrew Bailey from Oakland is a great move. With Bard moving to the rotation, Bailey will replace Jonathan Papelbon as the closer. Setting up for him will be Mark Melancon, another good offseason addition. His biggest upside is his age. With only one year of MLB service time, Boston will have the 26-year-old under control until 2017.

The rest of bullpen will be a crapshoot again; the Sox don't have sure-fire hits coming in from the 'pen like the Texas Rangers do. However, retaining the services of the reliable and versatile Alfredo Aceves is a huge boon for both the relief corps and the rotation.

Whichever way you cut it, though, the Red Sox are a few arms short, either in the rotation or in middle relief. But they have enough to succeed if things go their way. Beckett needs to break a trend that has defined his career, Buchholz and Bailey need to stay healthy, Bard needs to prove himself and getting anything out of Daisuke will be a great boost down the stretch.

The Sox might well have enough pitching, but can one really be optimistic when you have questions about almost every pitcher?