Clay Buchholz missed the majority of 2011 with a back injury but he looks healthy and ready to go in 2012-His health will play a big part in the success of the Red Sox. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Red Sox Pitching Could Be Better Than We Think

 

While its highly debatable whether or not spring training stats mean anything, its still interesting to evaluate the stats and see how the Red Sox faired against their opponents. The shuffled lineups and vast number of minor league players competing in the spring make it hard to judge anything from the stats but lets look at some encouraging signs from the pitching staff anyways, for the hell of it.

Red Sox Spring ERA

Perhaps the most important part of the Sox’ success in the 2012 season will be their pitching. Offense shouldn’t be a problem with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez anchoring the lineup but 2011 served to remind us that all that offense can be rendered useless with inadequate pitching.

Red Sox pitchers posted a combined ERA of 3.98 in 31 spring training games compared to a 4.20 combined ERA for the ’11 season. The 3.98 ERA Sox pitching posted ranked 10th in the majors this spring, a large upgrade from their 22nd place finish in 2012.

The small sample size makes it hard to predict that the Red Sox will match or better their 3.98 mark from the spring but there is reason for optimism.

First, Clay Buchholz looks healthy-with some rust understandably-but most importantly healthy. If he can stay healthy, this could be the year he could get back to ’10 form and compete for a Cy Young award.

Second, Felix Doubront looks primed for a breakout year, giving the Red Sox something they didn’t have last year-An effective starter at the back of the rotation and a second lefty to boot.

Third, Jon Lester is entering his prime at the age of 28 and appears ready for a big year. If he can get his control issues in check he might finally win 20 games.

Fourth, John Lackey won’t pitch an inning in 2012-Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the Red Sox rotation.

The biggest concern in regards to pitching is the bullpen. It seems the tables have turned on ’11 when the Sox bullpen was a strength. Andrew Bailey‘s thumb injury will test the Red Sox’ depth in the ninth inning but they do have capable arms. It’s my prediction that Daniel Bard will be back in the bullpen by May 1 and Aaron Cook will take the fifth spot in the rotation. In doing this, Bobby V would be strengthening his ‘pen and rotation at the same time-No brainer right?

Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon and Daniel Bard in the bullpen would be a very effective trio but beyond those three the water gets muddy. Can the rest of the bullpen hold their own and get the ball to the closer-whoever that may be-in the ninth?

Matt Albers was very good for a large chunk of ’11 but-like many other Red Sox-he suffered a sharp decline in the second half. I’m inclined to think that we’re gonna see more of the second half Matt Albers-his career numbers suggest his first half was an aberration.

Franklin Morales has the stuff to be a top lefty out of the bullpen but he’s yet to put it all together-can he this year? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. His control has been and will likely remain an issue.

Michael Bowden put up a 2.45 ERA in 11 Innings this spring but will it translate to the regular season? There’s a chance it could. In three trips to Ft. Myers before this year Bowden never posted an ERA under 4.35-maybe he’s finally ready to make the leap?

As you can see, the Red Sox have some question marks in their pitching but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Can Daniel Bard/Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront really be any worse than Kyle Weiland, Tim Wakefield, Erik Bedard and the rest of the pitchers that filled out the rotation last year?

 

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Tags: Aaron Cook Clay Buchholz Daniel Bard ERA Franklin Morales Jon Lester Josh Beckett Matt Albers Michael Bowden Pitching Red Sox Spring Training

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