The Boston Red Sox became the darling pick to win the 2011 World Series after acquiring slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres in December. They later snagged Carl Crawford away from divisional foe Tampa Bay, giving the Sox what looked to be one of the most formidable lineups in the league.
Instead, maybe they should have been in search of pitching.
All appeared well in Bean Town heading into the season, considering a rotation anchored by Jon Lester should have no problem holding opponents at bay. Many fans even presumed John Lackey's disappointing 2010 was a fluke, and he was sure to rebound with a strong 2011.
We may only be three games deep into the new season, but one thing is clear: The Red Sox pitchers look better on paper than they do on the mound.
We have all learned by now that Lester is a slow starter; granted, opening the season against a powerhouse of a lineup in the Rangers is no easy task. But Lester, who gave up 14 total home runs last season, or one per every 14 and two thirds innings pitched, appeared to be throwing batting practice on Opening Day as the Rangers knocked three out of the park.
In fact, after consecutive seasons of 225 strikeouts, Lester failed to strike out even one batter. On the positive side, he only issued one walk on the night, so it wasn't all bad. Lester will be fine as the season wears on, but for the Red Sox to stay in the AL East race, he better find his "mojo" sooner rather than later.
Will the Red Sox end the 2011 season with a sub-4.50 ERA?
Lackey, on the other hand, leaves more to worry about. His first season in Boston was unimpressive, to say the least. Maybe he was caught up in the bright lights of a new city, or maybe GM Theo Epstein didn’t do his homework before giving Lackey a bloated contract after the Angels watched their staff ace regress in each of his last two years in L.A. You can bet Angels owner Arte Moreno isn’t crying in his sleep over Lackey choosing to head to Boston.
After seeing him regress once again in his first year for the Red Sox, it gets even clearer by the day that Lackey’s better days are well behind him. Giving up 10 hits and nine runs, including two home runs in just over three innings, has got to be one of the worst opening weekend performances in Red Sox history.
To round out the opening series, 2010 breakout Clay Buchholz took the mound with an eye on keeping the Red Sox from beginning the year with three straight losses. Buchholz, who bested Lester last season by giving up only nine home runs for an astonishing one per 19 and one third innings, did not open his 2011 campaign with the same success.
Buchholz was tagged for four long balls in the series finale against the Rangers, making the Red Sox top three starters look more like punching bags than All-Stars. In all, Red Sox starters opened the season by giving up nine home runs while their bullpen joined in on the fun by giving up two of their own.
Giving up 11 homers and 26 total runs through the first three games isn’t the kind of start many would have predicted.
There is plenty of time to turn it around, but with the question marks surrounding Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, combined with Lackey looking like the long lost brother of Barry Zito, it’s safe to say Boston is no lock in the AL East. It will be interesting to see if they can turn it around.