The Boston Red Sox rotation fell apart last season, much like everything else in a lost season. Coaching changes failed, the lineup stumbled, and injuries derailed the season before a trade sent most of their high-priced talent to the National League. At the heart of their struggles were disappointing performances from established starting pitchers.
With Josh Beckett departing from the top of the rotation, the Sox have a lot of questions to answer this year. Jon Lester looks to rebound from a terrible season in which he went 9-14 and had an ERA approaching five. John Lackey finds his way back onto the roster, while Ryan Dempster looks to find success in the American League after a dominant season in the NL last year. Clay Buchholz, after a phenomenal spring, looks to rebound from a similarly miserable campaign last year.
With Lester and Beckett struggling all season, the Red Sox were caught off guard as one of the deepest and most talented pitching rotations in baseball collapsed. In short, Boston’s pitching was the downfall of their season last year, and the rebuilding efforts were limited. Most of the same arms return, and if they fail to produce again the Red Sox are in serious trouble.
This year, it will be up to Lester and Buchholz to anchor the rotation and prove last year’s disappointment to be an anomaly. Both pitchers are talented, but they cannot struggle again or the Sox are out of options on the mound. Dempster will need to prove himself against deep lineups in the AL East, which will be a new endeavor for an elite National League arm. The rest of the rotation is as questionable as the established names, and a deep bullpen may not be enough to make up for lackluster starting pitching.
In the end, Boston simply may have too many “ifs” to compete in the toughest division in baseball.