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Lackey and Beckett must return to form in 2011
Before last year, John Lackey hadn't posted a season ERA over 4.00 since 2004. When Boston inked him to an $85 million contract, it was paying for the kind of production and consistency that the big righty put up year after year for the Angels: ERAs in the mid to high 3s, and WHIPs (walks plus hits per inning pitched) around 1.25.
Last year's 4.40/1.42 were definitely not what the Sox had in mind.
But perhaps it was a big adjustment, coming across the country and stepping into a high-intensity market like Boston. I'm willing to give Lackey the benefit of the doubt.
Former pitching coach John Ferrell is managing the Blue Jays and former Athletics guru Curt Young has taken over the Red Sox arms. Will that transition help? Hurt? Have no effect?
The Red Sox need Lackey to be a legitimate No. 3 or 4 guy, and for their purposes, that means keeping that ERA below 4.00.
Then there's Josh Beckett.
The 2010 season was the worst of his career, but despite the ugly 5.78 ERA, the Sox showed faith in their erstwhile ace by giving him a four-year, $68 million extension that has him under control through 2014. It's time for him to justify that love with a bounce-back performance.
In the regular season, and especially in playoff "short series," a team has to have a minimum of three reliable starters to feel comfortable. Right now, Boston is getting good stuff from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. After that pair is a large and frightening question mark.
Simply put, Beckett needs to get his ERA back into the 3s and lower his walk rate from last year's 3.2 walks per nine innings.
Assuming Lackey and Beckett can improve from last year's debacle, the team should be in good shape. Having Daisuke Matsuzaka and/or Tim Wakefield as the No. 5 guy in the rotation will be far more bearable if the front four are solid.