Forecasting the 2013 Boston Red Sox Rotation

Aashish SharmaCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2013

Forecasting the 2013 Boston Red Sox Rotation

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    In 2012 the Red Sox suffered their first losing season in 15 years and fired manager Bobby Valentine just one year into his tenure with the organization. 

    Injuries, poor play, and attitude problems have plagued the Red Sox since September 2011, when they suffered an epic collapse, going from being the best team in baseball to missing the playoffs entirely. 

    The turmoil surrounding the team manifested itself in several ways, but nothing was more noticeable than the underachieving starting pitching staff which combined for a 5.19 ERA in 2012, ranking 27th in league. 

    That ultimately led to the departure of former ace Josh Beckett in a blockbuster deal including Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Entering this year Boston will attempt to rectify the shortcomings of last year's pitchers. 

    Let's take a look at what the new season has in store for the 2013 version of the Red Sox starting rotation. 

Jon Lester

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    2012: 33 GS, 9-14, 4.82 ERA, 166 K, 205.1 IP

    After enjoying four straight seasons (2008-2011) of 15-plus wins with a sub 3.5 ERA, Jon Lester posted career worsts in 2012.

    His nine wins were the fewest he has logged in a season since 2007 when he started just 11 games on his way back from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His 4.82 ERA was the highest of his career, and his 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings were the fewest since 2008.  

    One of Lester’s most pressing issues in 2012 was his lack of command, specifically with his cutter – his deadliest pitch (especially to righties). As a result his walk numbers increased significantly.

    The 29-year-old southpaw is now entering a potential contract year with the Red Sox holding a $13 million club option for him in 2014.

    What to expect in 2013:

    Jon Lester has a solid rapport with manager John Farrell, who served as the Red Sox pitching coach from 2007 to 2010. During that time two-time All-Star compiled 54 wins to just 23 losses – an astounding .701 winning percentage.

    In 2010 he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League, going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.

    If Lester he can regain his ability to paint the corners, get ahead of hitters, keep his walks down and stay healthy, he can be expected to return to form as the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff and one of the best left-handed pitchers in the American League.  

Clay Buchholz

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    2012: 29 GS, 11-8, 4.56 ERA, 129 K, 189.1 IP

    Clay Buchholz had a breakout year in 2010, going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, earning an All-Star nod and finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Since then he has been inconsistent in large part due to injuries.

    Despite logging career-highs in starts (29), innings (189.1), complete games (2) and strikeouts (129), Buchholz struggled in 2012 going just 11-8 with a 4.56 ERA.

    His 2011 campaign was marred by an atrocious April, in which he allowed 28 earned runs in 29 innings (an 8.69 ERA).

    However he showed flashes of brilliance–from June 1 to July 30 he went 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA averaging roughly 7.1 innings per start–but it was wasn’t enough to overcome a season of peril.

    Although he registered a 3.03 ERA in the month of September, Buchholz lost his final five decisions in 2012, including a disastrous outing in his final start at Yankee Stadium in which he lasted just 1.2 innings (the fewest in his career as a starter) and surrendered eight earned runs.

    What to expect in 2013:

    Clay Buchholz’ biggest concern the past few seasons has been injuries. In June 2010 he left a game against the San Francisco Giants after tweaking his knee running the bases and missed about a month of action while on the DL. Buchholz was once again placed on the Disabled List in June 2011 after developing a stress fracture in his lower back, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

    Based on his recent history, it would not be surprising to see him spend time on the DL in 2013. However if he can avoid injuries and the rough stretches that plagued him in 2012, he should resurface as a solid number-two pitcher behind Jon Lester.  

Felix Doubront

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    2012: 29 GS, 11-10, 4.86 ERA, 167 K, 161 IP

    Making his debut as a permanent fixture in the rotation, Felix Doubront was one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox in 2012. Through June 2 he compiled an impressive 6-2 record with a 3.75 ERA and 66 strikeouts.

    Although he got off to a fantastic start, Doubront began to lose steam midway through the season and limped down stretch going 1-6 with a 5.48 ERA in his final 11 starts.

    What to expect in 2013:

    Although Doubront battled inconsistency, he put together a respectable year in 2012.

    His numbers are slightly misleading due to his pattern of three to four solid outings (6-7 IP, 3-4 ER), followed by a couple poor ones (4-5 IP, 5-7 ER).

    Ultimately it was his first full season in the big leagues, so he earns a mulligan.

    Doubront will continue to build on his numbers and should head into Spring Training as the projected third starter.

    He can be expected to emerge as one of the best strikeout pitchers on the team, striking out 167 batters in 161 innings last year – an astounding 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. 

John Lackey

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    2011: 28 GS, 12-12, 6.41 ERA, 108 K, 160 IP

    Since his arrival in Boston three years ago, John Lackey has struggled to make a lasting impact as a force in the rotation. He missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery.

    In 2011 (the worst season of his career) he was a lightning rod of controversy.

    His horrendous play on the field was magnified by off-field distractions such as the infamous “beer and fried chicken scandal,” as well as marital problems with his wife Krista, who was entrenched in a battle with breast cancer.

    Perhaps the most frustrating part was Lackey’s apparent indifference to the issues surrounding him.

    Lackey was originally signed to a five-year $82.5 million deal in December 2009, but a clause in his contract (due to his surgery) extended the length of the deal to six years – he will make the league minimum $480,000 in the final year of his contract.

    What to expect in 2013:

    While expectations will be considerably low in 2013, it is difficult to imagine him performing much worse than he did in 2011. The hope is John Lackey will return to his 2010 form when he won 14 games and posted a 4.40 ERA.

    Lackey’s 2010 season was far from elite, but a slight resurrection of his career might be enough to boost his trade value enough to generate interest among teams in need of starting pitching depth.  

    If the Red Sox succeed in trading Lackey, they will likely be forced to eat the majority of his remaining salary (over $30 million), but the organization will achieve its goal of ridding itself of the 34-year-old pitcher. 

Ryan Dempster

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    2012: 28 GS, 12-8, 3.38 ERA, 153 K, 173 IP

    Ryan Dempster will be the new face in the Red Sox rotation, signing a two-year $26.5 million deal in December 2012. Last year he began the season with the Chicago Cubs–a team he was with since 2004–and was traded to the Texas Rangers at the deadline.

    Dempster’s first-half performance with Chicago was brilliant – he went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA and 3.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After being dealt to Texas he went 7-3 but did so with a 5.09 ERA.   

    What to expect in 2013:

    Sure, it was a somewhat puzzling move when the Red Sox signed the aging Dempster (35) to a contract worth an annual value of more than $13 million.

    But he showed last year that he can be a reliable fifth starter. Yes, he supposedly struggled after joining Texas–his second-half woes being defined largely by four isolated games in which he allowed 26 runs in 17 innings. But what is lost are his seven quality starts in 12 games pitched for the Rangers.

    Dempster will try to replicate the success he had in 2012. If he does, the Red Sox may have struck gold with their fifth starter.


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