Suppose back in April I told you that at the All-Star break, Jon Lester would have an ERA of 4.58, Clay Buchholz would miss over a month, Ryan Dempster was mediocre and the pitching staff had to rely on John Lackey and Felix Doubront as their saviors.
Common sense would tell you that the Boston Red Sox would be dragging up the rear of the AL East as usual. Luckily, there is nothing common or sensible about the 2013 Red Sox pitching staff.
The fact that the Red Sox sit at 58-39 is nothing less than a miracle. Yes, Buchholz’ 9-0 record certainly has helped towards that, but the bigger contributions have come from Lackey and Doubront. These two guys were essentially chumps going into the year. Lackey was someone the Red Sox were contractually stuck to for another year, and Doubront was the fifth starter until some younger pitching came along.
The two of them are the primary reason the Red Sox are where they are right now though.
Although they account for just 13 wins, it’s been their performances during Buchholz’ injury that have kept the Red Sox afloat. They are two of the hottest starting pitchers in MLB right now, but is this Boston pitching staff good enough to hold on for the rest of the season? And what can we expect from the pitching staff going forward?
The answer to the first question is probably yes. You don’t have to be Clayton Kershaw when your offense scores more runs than any other team in baseball. When your bullpen has reliable guys like Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey, most leads are considered safe.
It appears that Lackey in particular is showing no signs of slowing down. He could and should continue to produce for the rest of the season.
As for the rest of the staff, it can’t get any worse, right? Lester is too good of a pitcher to be in the rut he is in right now. We saw what he can do when he hits his spots at the beginning of the season. Buchholz is a question mark. We know what he can do when he’s on, but his durability is a liability.
It’s not fair to expect Doubront and Lackey to keep saving him. Dempster has the potential to be a lot better. No pitcher on this staff has the ability to be as bad and as good on any given night.
My biggest concern has been the reliance on guys like Alfredo Aceves, Brandon Workman and Steven Wright. All of those guys have contributed in a handful of wins this year. However, none of them are reliable options and can’t be counted on to do that on a regular basis. Eventually the well will run dry and the Red Sox will have to lean on Lester and Buchholz.
Let’s hope for Boston’s sake that they will live up to their billings.