First reported on Boston Sox Journalism
As the Red Sox 2009 campaign had come to a horrific end in the ALDS against the Angels, Red Sox Nation looked forward to the next season with many concerns, but nobody could have imagined that there would be trouble amongst the starting rotation for the 2010 regular season. We anticipated the rotation to include Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield. That rotation itself is solid, but the Sox took another step up when they signed premier pitching free agent, John Lackey.
Lackey immediately joins Beckett and Lester as the strongest 1-2-3 starters assembled today. All three are capable of being number one starters for any other team they played for and having Beckett or Lackey pitching third in a starting rotation is a dream. Granted, as long as all three avoid injuries and remain consistent, the Sox could have the most dominating staff in quite some time.
At the end of the rotation are a rebounding Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and the always unpredictable Daisuke Matsuzaka. All three took steps up from their previous years/stints with the Red Sox in the past and all proved as to why they belong in the starting rotation. Let's take a look at their 2009 numbers.
GS: 12, W-L: 4-6, ERA: 5.67, WHIP: 1.87
Though these numbers are very unimpressive, you must remember that Matsuzaka was shaky in the first half of the season. He caused some havoc in the front office, but as the season neared to a finish, Daisuke proved he still can pitch like he did in 2007-08. In my opinion, Daisuke failed this past season because of his injuries, lack of focus, and his focus around pitching in the WBC. If Matsuzaka wants to prove he's worth his wealthy contract, he needs to step it up in Spring Training and follow the training program. So far he's been reportedly doing that, but let's hope he can keep it up and show some passion like he did in Japan.
GS: 16, W-L: 7-4 ,ERA: 4.21 , WHIP: 1.38
After an absolutely horrendous season for Buchholz in 2008, Red Sox Nation thought we had seen the last of Clay for quite some time. Unfortunately though, the Red Sox rotation, most notably John Smoltz and Brad Penny were busts (plus Wakefield got hurt) so the Sox needed to bring Buchholz in to fill-in. Luckily at the time, Clay was maturing and tearing it up in the AAA level, so the Red Sox had hoped he'd help turn the team around and that's exactly what he did. Buchholz came into form in 2009 and proved he may be worth all the hype he has been given all these years. Though his ERA has a lot to be desired, he did put up a decent record as well as a very solid WHIP. In my opinion, Buchholz is a lock in the rotation in 2010 as he has set his expectations to a whole new level.
GS: 21 , W-L: 11-5 , ERA: 4.58 , WHIP: 1.44
It was really upsetting how the knuckleballer took a slide in the 2009 season. In the first half of the season, Wakefield had put up terrific numbers and was the true ace of the rotation at the beginning of the season as Beckett and Lester heavily struggled before they found their way last season. The veteran also went as far as to be named an All-Star for the first time in his long career. Though he didn't play, it was a dream for Wakefield to be called to the ASG after many years in his past where he was snubbed of the calling (2002, 2003, 2007). Shortly after, Wakefield succumb to injuries and when he returned, he did not pitch quite the same. Wakefield believes he deserves and has earned a guaranteed spot in the rotation and hopefully that is what they give him. Wake does not have many years left, but he has proved that he can still hang in there and be a huge asset for the Sox pitching staff, especially as a tutor for the younger arms in the system.
Who's In? Who's Out?
Now down to the big question: who is in and who is out? In my opinion, Clay Buchholz will be joining Lackey, Lester, and Beckett in the rotation without a doubt, but some may believe he needs to earn his spot. Although some may think that, I on the other hand think Buchholz has earned his spot from last season and really matured. The competition to me is Daisuke vs Wakefield. Although that is not much of a competition in my eyes.
Once again I'm thinking as if all six pitchers remain healthy and with the injuries in the pasts of Beckett, Lackey, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield this may be hard to predict, but I still feel as though Wakefield is superior to Daisuke. The Red Sox will not openly accept that due to Matsuzaka's hefty contract, so there will be competition, but Daisuke needs to prove a lot more than Wakefield. All Wakefield needs to do is prove he's healthy because he's always been consistent in his career.
In my eyes, Daisuke just needs to bring his A game to Spring Training and hope for an injury. If that's not the case, you may be looking at the highest paid relief pitcher in the game.
First reported on Boston Sox Journalism