Conor Frederick (@ConorJF1016)
The Red Sox open up the ALDS on Friday, marking a long overdue return to postseason action. A big reason for the success was the starting pitching, but how did each starting pitcher fare this season? I'll take a look at the season and give you my grades on each starter.
John Lackey (pictured, right): John Lackey was making his case for comeback player of the year in the first half of the season, but there was some drop off in the second half. In August and September, his monthly ERA went from 3.09 to 4.98 according to ESPN, which is not a good sign. Before that, though, his highest monthly ERA was 3.67 according to ESPN. His second half performance was not as impressive as his first half performance, but let's not forget that he suffered from what I call "No Run Support Syndrome." With a few more runs in his starts, he could easily be pushing 20 victories. Lackey gets a lot of credit for a strong first half, but he gets points off for a not so great finish. Grade: B
Jon Lester: Lester started bright, had a period where he struggled, then finished strong. He finished with a 15-8 record, a 3.75 ERA, and 177 strikeouts in 213.1 innings according to ESPN. A strong start impresses me much less than a strong finish and Lester has definitely finished strong. Post All Star game, he had a 7-2 record, a 2.57 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 87.2 innings pitched and a .242 average against according to ESPN. He's been pitching like the Jon Lester we all know and love. Almost forgot to mention he went toe to toe with the likely Cy Young winner and won. So extra credit for that.
Clay Bucholz: Speaking of Cy Young winners, Bucholz looked like one before he was injured for 3 months. I was anxiously waiting for him to come back like everyone else because he's going to be a big factor in the playoffs. He came back and just picked up where he left off. There aren't many who can do that. Bucholz finished with a 12-1 record, a 1.74 ERA, and 96 strikeouts in 108.1 innings and a .199 batting average against according to ESPN. That's pretty impressive, especially considering he had a long layoff and didn't miss a beat. I honestly believe that if he had stayed healthy, he would have gone win for win with Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. He's should be a lock in the rotation for the Sox.
Jake Peavy: Peavy was a big acquisition at the deadline. We could have used another bullpen arm as well, but that's irrelevant here and a completely different article. Peavy has been solid for us since coming over from Chicago. At least he was solid in August, posting a 3.18 ERA in 39.2 innings with 24 strikeouts, according to ESPN. That included a complete game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Remember that? Not so hot in September - a 5.18 ERA in 25 innings and 21 strikeouts according to ESPN. How will he be in the playoffs? Hard to say, but he was just good enough to get into the starting rotation.
Grade: B- Ryan Dempster: He may be in the bullpen now, but he started for most of the season, which is why he qualifies as a starter for this article. Dempster had some good moments this season at the beginning, but he's fallen off somewhat towards the end of the year, which is why he got the short stick and got assigned to the bullpen for the end of the season into the postseason. Dempster finished the season with an 8-9 record, 4.57 ERA in 171.1 innings and 157 strikeouts according to ESPN. So, while he had some good moments, he finished not so great and a move to the bullpen will probably be a good thing for him.
Overall: A good year for Red Sox starting pitching, even when they suffered injuries. Felix Doubront stepped up nicely for a couple of months in the middle of the season, but he was a fill in guy until Bucholz recovered from injury, which is why he doesn't get his own separate paragraph. The starting pitching played a big role in getting us this far, and the rotation will be important going forward.
Thoughts? Let me know on Twitter or leave a comment.