The Boston Red Sox's offseason moves gave them one of the most formidable lineups in baseball. The hype surrounding the acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford is overshadowing the return of a rotation, led by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, that should rank among baseball's best.
The Red Sox really have six bona fide starting pitchers: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Jon Lester is an ace, plain and simple. The lefty power pitcher had 19 wins and 225 Ks last season, in addition to a 3.25 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Put him on the mound, and there is no doubt he will put up similar numbers in 2011.
Clay Buchholz has the potential to be at Lester's level by the year's end. Last year, he had 17 wins in 28 starts with a 2.33 ERA. While Buchholz does not have the same track record as Lester, another solid season can jump into the "ace" category.
It is an odd numbered year. Josh Beckett will be good. Strange logic, but it has been consistent throughout his career. Since his last year in Florida (2005), here are his ERAs year-by-year: 2005-3.38, 2006-5.01, 2007-3.27, 2008-4.03, 2009-3.86, 2010-5.78. It's a strong trend that doesn't make any sense, but it's hard to find a reason it wouldn't continue.
John Lackey struggled in his first year with the Red Sox, but he still pitched a team-high 215 innings. Regardless of his effectiveness, Lackey is a horse and will eat up innings for the Sox. Lackey has sounded sick and tired of discussing last season's struggled. 2011 is a new year, and one where Lackey will try to prove himself effective once again.
Although Tim Wakefield might be among the best five pitchers the Red Sox have, he will likely spend time in the bullpen this season. This will be nothing new to a pitcher who has closed, pitched in middle relief and started for the Red Sox over his 15 years with the team.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has been an enigma in his time with the Red Sox. Despite some of the best pure "stuff" on the team, he often can't find his way out of the fifth inning. High pitch counts and injuries have derailed his career thus far, but it only takes one season to put it all back together.
The Red Sox certainly have one of the best lineups in baseball, but don't forget about their rotation. When pitching and hitting align, great teams emerge.