The Boston Red Sox have been one of the most dominant teams in the Major Leagues in 2011. And while they have enjoyed some bright performances from their starters, their success is in large part due to the run production from their stellar lineup.
Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have been the lone bright spots in the Sox' rotation, contributing a combined 23 wins to the team, and 2.46 and 3.16 ERAs, respectively.
Their performances throughout the regular season will likely translate to success in the first and second spots of the rotation in the playoffs.
However, to win a five or seven game series in the postseason, Boston will need to see some consistency from the bottom of the rotation.
The aging Tim Wakefield has been just that in 2011: an aging Tim Wakefield.
His mediocre career ERA of 4.40 is sitting at an unacceptable 4.97 in 2011, with only six wins.
However, it isn't necessarily his ERA that would cost the Red Sox crucial postseason wins, as Wakefield has allowed a .267 batting average to his opponents this year.
Against the strong hitting lineups of New York, Texas, or Detroit, that .267 opponent batting average could inflate in a seven game series where they could potentially see him twice.
The second candidate for the third spot in the postseason rotation, John Lackey, has fared even worse than the breaking down Wakefield.
Lackey has been a massive disappointment in 2011, and has posted an ugly 6.02 ERA and .301 opponent batting average.
While Fenway Park offers a luxury to right-handed power hitters to begin with, allowing hitters to hit pitches the way he has been all season also has the potential to work against him in the postseason.
Clay Buchholz would be the ideal third starter for Boston, but seeing as how his back injury will likely keep him out of at least the rest of the regular season, the Sox' best options will lie in the less efficient Wakefield, and the underachieving Lackey.