Here we are, less than a week from the start of the season, and I haven’t done my season previews yet. My humblest apologies for that gross oversight. (My guess is, nobody cared) In any event, here’s what I have to say about this year’s Sox…starting with the pitchers.
Josh Beckett: Clearly the ace of the staff, although it’s getting closer. He’s always had the skills needed to dominate. He has occasionally slipped from that during the season. I’d expect a return to his 2007 form this year. I’d look for numbers in the 18 win, 3.25 ERA, and 192 K range. Since Pedro left, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather give the ball to.
Jon Lester: Boy, what a transformation we’ve seen in young Jon. It looks like he may finally be figuring out how to consistently pitch in the big leagues. The ceiling looks might high this year. If Beckett doesn’t have the ball, I want it in Lester’s hands. It’s unfortunate that he had that one misstep in the ALCS last year, since he was off towards legendary status. I’ll go for 17 wins, 3.44 ERA and 168 K’s.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: I may never figure out what to make of Dice-K. On the one hand, he gets himself into so much trouble that it’s hard to believe he can keep getting out of it. On the other hand, he always seems to get out of it. When does it stop being lucky, and start being his skill? I don’t know. He still doesn’t go deep into games, so that hurts his effectiveness. But, I’d still see a 16 win, 3.63 ERA with 213 K’s. He may be the classic pitcher that Pedro ruined for Boston fans. Would other fan bases complain so wildly about a pitcher who gives up as few runs as Dice-K? Or, is Boston so used to Pedroesque dominance that we can’t see other ways to control the game. Maybe there’s the Pedro way, the Maddux way, and the Matsuzaka way.
Tim Wakefield: With all the young kids pushing their way towards the rotation, we may be nearing the end of the Wakefield train. He’s been with the Sox since 1995, and nobody embodies the Sox more. With his “lifetime” contract, he’s a great deal for the Sox. Plus, he can still pitch. He may not be competing for the Cy Young anymore, but for a number 4 guy, he’s perfect. Plus, his games are over in the blink of an eye. I look for 13 wins, 4.87 ERA and 114 K’s.
Brad Penny/Clay Buchholz/John Smoltz: Three pitchers for one spot. All three come with huge questions. All three have huge flaws, and all three have huge upside. What happens is as much of a toss up as Boston had had in a while. Both Penny and Smoltz are the injured vets. If either of them is healthy enough to give 75% of their best season, it would be amazing. Or, both their arms could fall off. Buchholz is the young up-and-comes with the great tools. So far, he hasn’t been able to put it together in a major league uniform. If he does, though, he’ll be a steal in the five-spot. Or, he could implode in spectacular fashion. So, if the #5 guy gets 32 starts, how about 10 for Penny, 12 for Smoltz and 10 for Clay? Combined, I’ll give them 11 wins, 4.13 ERA and 109 strikeouts.
Overall, an amazing rotation. I’d toss them up against any five guys in the league. And that includes the one they bought in the Bronx.
Watch out American League.
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