Monday, March 21, 2011

Full Count Pitch - Don't Count Your Wicked Awesomes Just Yet

Many pundits think the Red Sox are a lock in the AL East, but FCP is here to give you some food for thought.

Listening to/reading ESPN or other media outlets you would think the Boston Red Sox would not have to play one game in 2011 to capture the AL East title. The experts see the addition of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a healthy lineup and think “1,000 runs scored and a dominant team”. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reported the other day that one AL Scout said, “I don’t see how Red Sox lose the AL East.”

Hang on, unnamed source; I can see a few reasons how they might lose and I’m going to tell you and everyone else. Let’s start with the Red Sox’ starting pitching. The quintet of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka looks pretty good on paper, but let’s take a closer look.

There’s no question that Lester is an ace, a #1 stud, who is easy to root for given that he conquered cancer. But he does struggle in April (16 starts 3-5 and a career worst 4.58 ERA) and that could have an overall effect on the team’s start. Lester will be fine as the weather gets warm, though, and is one of the most reliable starters in baseball. John Lackey, on the other hand, is not the same pitcher he was with the Angels. His ERA has steadily risen over the last three seasons from 3.75 to his worst ERA in six seasons (4.40) last year. The league average against him has also gone from .260 to .277 over the same time period, and his strikeouts per nine innings has gone from 8.6 in 2005 to 6.5 in 2011.

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