FEATURE - Everyone's got an opinion on the playoff starting rotation

Jim Monaghan
Contributing writer

With the regular season completed, and home field advantage now a lock for the Red Sox through the World Series - should they make it that far, of course - the team now turns its attention toward getting ready for the postseason.

photo courtesy of NESN
One of the biggest discussions centers around the starting rotation, something manager John Farrell has been very tight-lipped about so far. The good news is that he has four proven starters in Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy to throw at opposing teams.

RedSoxLife asked a group of writers, former players, broadcasters, and fans what they think the starting rotation will be for the first round of the playoffs, and just how far they expect the Red Sox to go.

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MICHAEL WALLACE - originally from Sciuate, MA, Michael is now one of the morning co-anchors on WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York City. His youngest son is a Pirates fan, but we're not holding that against him.

Rotation: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy. Conventional wisdom seems to have Lackey starting Game 2, because he has been much better at home than on the road. But I prefer Buchholz at #2. Just call it a hunch.

Predictions: Detroit and Tampa's pitching scare me. Hopefully Cleveland can keep Tampa out of the postseason. I'll keep the faith, and say the Red Sox meet the Dodgers in a dream World Series for MLB. Sox in 6. @MichaelDWallace

JARED CARRABIS - Jared writes SoxSpace for the website and is the author of "One Fan's Story: If This Hat Could Talk."

Playoff rotation: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy. My belief is that whoever wins the American League Championship Series (ALCS) will win the World Series. I think the Red Sox will make it that far, and I'm expecting one hell of a series for the AL pennant. @Jared_Carrabis

JOE COSGRIFF - Joe is Assistant to the Assistant VP - Latin American Scouting (except Venezuela) for the BLOHARDS, a group of Red Sox fans operating out of New York City.

My hope and expectation is that the Sox go with a rotation of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Jake Peavy.  My elevation of Lackey to #2 is due to his solid work at Fenway this season, where he was 6-3 with a sub-2.50 ERA, compared to ten losses and an ERA two runs higher on the road.

Sox can re-think flip-flopping Lackey and Buchholz for the ALCS and World Series (WS) should Lackey’s Fenway magic not carry into the postseason. But with the Sox on the verge of clinching home ice through the WS, Farrell should be thinking about an early roll of the dice on Lackey at home, based on his significant home and road split differential.

The advantage of winning the AL East would be having to face David Price or Yu Darvish only once in a five-game series. But with Tampa it’s a short drop to Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, or Chris Archer. I fear the Rays more than the Tigers or A’'s.

I expect the Sox to pitch well. Sox four starters and the back end of the bullpen are more than enough to get us to Halloween. But the Sox need to come out hitting right away in the short series, particularly if their American League Division Series (ALDS) opponent is Tampa Bay, a persistent and resilient team whose 162-game lack of depth goes away in a best-of-five sprint. @gogogophers

C.J. NITKOWSKI - CJ was a first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds in 1994. He made his MLB debut for the Reds a year later, and played for the Reds, Mets, Tigers, Astros, Rangers, Braves, Yankees, and Nationals. He also had a featured role in the movie "42" about Jackie Robinson. Currently, he is a host/analyst for and CBS Sports. He can be found on the Internet at

1) Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy would be how I'd set the rotation assuming everything goes well for Buchholz through the end of the season.

2) The Sox are the deepest team in the AL. Barring a strong run by Tiger pitching they are a World Series team. Only the Dodgers can give them a run in the WS. If any other NL team makes it to the WS they are easy winners. @CJNitkowski

BRIAN MACPHERSON - Brian is the Red Sox beat writer for The Providence Journal. He incorporates statistical analysis into his work and presents it in a way that doesn't make you feel as if you're in a calculus class.

Rotation - Lester, Lackey, Buchholz and Peavy.
Playoff prediction - I really have no idea. The playoffs are so unpredictable. If I had to guess, I'd say they get bounced in the ALCS when their middle relief fails them. But they're well-positioned to make a World Series run given their strong starting pitching, their relentless approach at the plate and their versatile bench. @brianmacp

OBNOXIOUS BOSTON FAN - Obnoxious, or Billy as he sometimes answers to, writes his observations "from the couch, not the press box." He grew up in Greater Boston, though he now makes his home in Florida. He is a frequent contributor to the sports blog section of

What I think the rotation will be: Lester, Buchholz and Lackey.

If it were my decision, I'd go with a four-man rotation, but have Lester pitch every fifth day regardless of whose spot was up on that day.

This way, he's available for a potential Game 5 in the ALDS after pitching Game 1. A potential Game 7 in the ALCS [after pitching Game 3] and a potential Game 7 in the WS [after pitching Game 3]. Lackey, Peavy and Buchholz have all shown this year they benefit from an extended break between starts, especially Buchholz.

Screw it, I think they can win it all. There are no dominant teams in either league. It's complete coin toss. But they have the lineup and rotation and have everyone healthy - which is a factor many have overlooked. @realOBF

JEN ROYLE - Jen is an Emmy-award winning reporter who has covered Major League Baseball for more than a decade. She is also the owner & editor-in-chief of, and her dog Truman is one of the coolest canines on the planet.

Rotation - Well the good thing about the ALDS in terms of the Red Sox starting rotation is that they have four viable arms but will technically only need three in the series. It's fairly obvious the rotation will be Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. You know you have a good team and a good pitching staff when you can have Jake Peavy, a guy who prides himself on being a bulldog and work horse, sit this one out. Peavy will be available, of course, which is another bonus for Boston in the ALDS.

Prediction - Well it depends on who they play. Their biggest obstacle is Detroit, who they would face in the ALCS if both teams advance past the Division Series. While they took two of three from Detroit earlier this month at Fenway Park, you can't really go off that. Game 2 was the highlight of the series when Jon Lester out-pitched Max Scherzer denying him of his 20th win. That was pretty incredible. But Lackey took the loss to Doug Fister to open the series. And sure they beat the crap out of Rick Porcello in the final game/rubber match, but he's no Justin Verlander, who the Sox were lucky to have missed.

It was a great series for Boston and it certainly played a role in the team locking up the division and home field advantage, but anything can happen in the postseason. Anything. It's difficult to predict October baseball but the Red Sox have one major thing on their side: team chemistry. Don't laugh... it goes a long way. It's gotten them this far and I truly believe it will play a role this October. @Jen_Royle

CHRIS WERTZ - Originally from the Bay State, Chris is the New York State Governor, Red Sox Nation, and is the former owner of Professor Thom's, a well-known Red Sox bar in New York City.

Looks like to me that the rotation will be Lester, Buchholz, Peavy and Lackey. It's nice that they have quality starters ready to fill in if there are any problems.

As far as October goes, I think they will go as far as Jonny Gomes Gnomes says they will go. There is obviously some odd magic involved and I can't begin to predict what will happen next. @GovChrisWertz

EVAN DAVIES - originally from Lincoln MA, Evan is now living "behind enemy lines" in New Jersey. He is a DJ on WFMU in New Jersey.

For the playoff rotation I'd be surprised if it isn't Lester, Lackey, Buchholz and Peavy -- probably in that order, but maybe not.

As for how far I think they'll go, like many at the start of the season I never expected them to win the division so my prediction skills are already in question. That said, I think they're going to make it to the World Series and win it. They match up well against pretty much every likely postseason opponent, and while we all know that anything can happen in a short series I feel like they have a very good shot at winning it all. @efd

MATT PEPIN - Matt is the Sports Editor for

What I think rotation will be: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy
What I think rotation should be: Lester, Buchholz, Peavy, Lackey

I think the Red Sox will at least reach the ALCS, and they certainly could win it all. Their ability to take on the best and win -- the Dodgers series in August and the Max Scherzer game in early September convinced me of this. @mattpep15

MICHAEL RUTSTEIN - Michael is the publisher of Boston Baseball magazine, sold via subscription and outside Fenway Park.

Right now the order is Lester-Buchholz-Lackey-Peavy. They've all pitched very well at home this year, so starting the ALDS at Fenway probably wouldn't persuade manager John Farrell to change it up. And while the Sox might be tempted to tailor the the rotation based on who they're playing, the fact that they won't know their opponent until Wednesday night, 48 hours before the ALDS opens in Boston, makes that unlikely. I won't be surprised if Farrell just sticks with the current order, and Lester takes the ball next Friday night. But with four off days, the Sox can do pretty much anything they want.

I think that if the Red Sox are able to secure home-field in the AL, they have to be considered the odds-on favorite to go all the way. I expect home field to be critical in the ALCS, especially if the Red Sox face Oakland, since that park is essentially the anti-Fenway.

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As for my personal picks, I would go with Jon Lester as the #1 followed by John Lackey (his home/road splits simply can't and shouldn't be ignored), Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy. Manager John Farrell could opt for just a three-man rotation in the first round, but I'm thinking he'll go with four with Ryan Dempster and possibly Felix Doubront as his first options out of the bullpen, although Doubront didn't do himself any favors with his performance yesterday.

How far the Red Sox will go in the postseason depends greatly upon how deep into each game the starters go. If some of the more "challenging" members of the Boston middle relief get exposed, getting the ball to Koji Uehara might be a difficult task. Taking one series at a time...and still not knowing who Boston will be facing in the ALDS...I'll say Red Sox in five games. Let's talk again after the Wild Card is settled.

What do you think? Comment below, or hit me up on twitter - @Monaghan21.

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Click here to find more by Jim Monaghan on Red Sox Life. Follow him on twitter - @Monaghan21
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