With opening day just five days away, the Boston Red Sox are getting ready to make amends for one of the biggest disasters in club history. After last year’s well-documented 69-93 season the team can only get better. The biggest area the team can improve on is starting pitching. Fear not though Red Sox Nation, your starting rotation is going to be phenomenally better than last year, even though it consists of most of the same guys. The biggest reasons? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Lester was a disaster last year. His biggest accomplishment was not getting injured. Lester finished the season 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA, a ridiculously high 1.383 WHIP, and only 166 K’s in 205 innings. Nothing to see here though. This was simply a bad year. Baseball, more than any other sport, is filled with sensitive guys who let outside influences affect their performance. The Red Sox have been a freak show the 13 months. As the team has gone, so too has Lester. In 2011 his ERA was under 3.00 through August, but jumped to 5.40 as the team imploded in September.
Last year’s 4.82 ERA was not a sign of decline (he’s only 29), but rather a statistical anomaly. Prior to 2012 Lester was the model of consistency, never having an ERA over 3.50 or under 3.00. Reports out of spring training are promising. Lester’s ERA is under 1.00 with 20 innings pitched, which included six perfect innings against a Tampa Bay Rays lineup with Evan Longoria playing. Compare that to last spring training when it was 3.50. According to catcher David Ross, Lester’s pitches have more movement and he’s pitching with confidence.
Buchholz has less of a track record of success. Last year he was the “ace” of the staff with an ERA of 4.56 and an 11-8 record. He has pitched over 100 innings only twice, including last year. He had an atrocious spring training in 2012, compiling an ERA of over 5.00. This year, like Lester, he has also been lights out. In 19 innings he has given up just 2 earned runs and has struck out 16. He is looking like his 2010 self, a year in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA.
Spring training is not always an accurate predictor of a player’s expected performance, but it can give you some insight. It’s not a coincidence that the decline of these two pitchers began when pitching coach John Farrell departed to manage the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, Farrell is back and so is the confidence of Lester and Bucholz. Expect both of these players to be All-Stars and lead the Red Sox back to the playoffs where they belong.
Aidan Kearney also blogs for his own website, aidanfromworcester.com. You can follow him on Twitter @aidanfromworc.