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A rejuvenated John Lackey could be a huge asset for the Red Sox rotation
Now we get to Boston’s biggest potential weakness: its starting rotation.
It is true that the Red Sox starting rotation could be one of the worst in baseball judging by recent performances by the likes of Jon Lester, John Lackey and others. However, Boston's rotation has as much talent as any in baseball.
Let’s break down, pitcher by pitcher, why I feel this rotation has so much potential for greatness.
Jon Lester: One of the most exciting players to watch, we’ve seen Lester go from a young thrower to an ace strikeout artist to a hittable mid-rotation starter in the span of about six years. Despite his statistical disappointment in 2012 and parts of 2011, Lester’s stuff has not regressed. His curve is still a hammer, and his fastball routinely sits in the mid-90s deep into games.
Lester’s problems stem from inconsistent coaching, a lack of confidence and no longer having Jason Varitek to call his games. With John Farrell returning to the team and with experienced veteran David Ross available to catch for Lester, I see Lester returning to his former glory in short order.
Ryan Dempster: Dempster is a different animal entirely. He’s not an ace, and he won't be posting an ERA in the 2.00s as he’s done on occasion in his career. He is instead going to do what he does best: eat innings. I expect him to make more than 30 starts, pitch around 200 innings and post an ERA in the 3.75 range.
The Red Sox should be very happy with that, especially considering how injury prone their pitchers have been lately.
Clay Buchholz: Ahh, Buchholz. Boston’s ace-in-training who can never find consistency.
Ever since being drafted, Buchholz’s electric stuff has been a point of excitement for scouts. He has three plus pitches, all of which he can throw for strikes. He’s always been built to lead a rotation.
His biggest problem has been inconsistency. Last season, Buchholz posted a horrendous 7.20 ERA through the first two months of the season before proceeding to put up a marvelous 3.06 ERA for the rest of the year.
Buchholz's struggles mystify a lot of coaches, but the potential is there for him to build on his success and ascend to the top of the rotation.
Felix Doubront: Doubront has a great arm and good deception in his motion. He has strikeout stuff, most notably featuring a curveball and two-seamer that have served him well since his entrance into the majors.
However, he needs to vastly improve his efficiency and command if he wants to stick in the rotation.
But he’s still young, so he has plenty of time to work out the kinks.
The best-case scenario for Doubront is a high walk rate with a proportionally high strikeout rate that keeps his ERA down in the mid to low 3.00s. The worst-case scenario is that he can’t find his control at all and ends up in the bullpen, or gets demoted to the minors.
I expect Doubront to settles somewhere in the middle and post pedestrian numbers.
John Lackey: Love him or hate him, Lackey is Boston’s best option to pitch fifth in the rotation.
To be honest, Lackey is Boston’s X-factor. If he returns to the All-Star caliber pitcher he was with the Angels, the Red Sox will have another ace on their hands with a team friendly contract. That right there could spell a postseason berth for Boston.
Of course, if Lackey does not revert to his former glory he’ll continue to be Boston’s most hated baseball player. (Let’s all hope for the former option.) Regardless, you have to give the guy credit for not giving up.
So there you have it, folks. A starting rotation with all the potential for greatness, but very few people believe they can get there. Whether the starting rotation can achieve that greatness will be the deciding factor in Boston’s playoff hopes.