Red Sox Debate: Does Lester or Buchholz Deserve the Opening Day Start?

Jess LanderContributor IIIMarch 21, 2013

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Red Sox manager John Farrell hasn't yet named his Opening Day starter. Still, it's pretty much assumed that, barring injury, the ball will go to Jon Lester

Lester's spring training performance has been a complete 180 since his utterly disappointing 2012. But the Red Sox's likely No. 2 starter, Clay Buchholz, has had quite the spring himself.

When you look at the numbers, the two pitchers are neck-in-neck in the race for the No. 1 spot. While Lester is supposed to be Boston's ace, Buchholz may be getting a bit overlooked.

Let's break it down.

Lester has pitched more innings. He's been in for 20 innings over five starts and sports a nice .90 ERA. He's allowed six hits, just two earned runs, struck out 16 and walked only four.

Buchholz, on the other hand, is one start behind Lester and has pitched 13.1 innings. His ERA is a lowly .68, better than Lester's. He's allowed seven hits, only one run, collected 11 strikeouts and also walked just four batters. 

Sure, Lester has the advantage of extra innings, but the numbers are so close that if this was an actual race, only instant replay could determine a winner. Both pitchers have performed beautifully.

This, of course, is great news for Boston.

But is it fair to rule Buchholz out of the starting job? After all, he was the lesser of the evils in last year's Boston Massacre. His 11-8 record and 4.56 ERA was the best of the rotation, and on closer observation, a poor start makes those numbers deceiving.

Lester, on the other hand, went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA and had the lowest winning percentage of any major league pitcher with more than 200 innings.

On Sunday, Lester went through six perfect innings, earning his right to start the 2013 season on the mound. On Monday, Buchholz allowed his first hit of the spring (though it was a home run) in five innings of work.

Farrell's decision has all but been said aloud. And before you jump all over me, I'm not saying that Lester, who had four 15-win seasons before last year's step backwards, doesn't deserve the start. But if history wasn't a factor and if the choice was made based off what we've seen this spring, would the decision still be so clear? Or would it be a race to April 1?