Here’s to the Red Sox and arguably baseball’s best pitching staff
To the tote board we go:
- Red Sox pitchers lead the majors with 218 strikeouts and need 14 more to break the franchise’s all-time record of 231 in September, 2000.
- They lead the majors with 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and have 14 games of 10+ strikeouts. The Reds are next with 10.
- Boston’s rotation is second in the American League with a 3.10 ERA, trailing only the Rangers (3.09). They lead the majors with 143 strikeouts and 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings.
- The Red Sox are 10-0 in games started by Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and 3-0 when Felix Doubront gets the ball.
- Opponents are hitting .225 against the Red Sox, lowest in the American League and third-lowest in MLB.
If you’re looking for a reason to believe in the Red Sox, this is it. And it’s not like it’s going to vaporize overnight. Lester has a dazzling track record. No pitcher on earth has better pure stuff than Buchholz. Doubront is a big, hard-throwing lefty who has a chance to be a dominant performer. If John Lackey is still capable of pitching at a high level—and there’s no reason to think he can’t—then the Red Sox will have a championship-caliber rotation. Even without him, they’ve got a rotation good enough to dominate in October.
All that remains is getting to October, and that’s the problem. The Orioles and Rays are both good enough to win a World Series, and the Yankees could be depending on what they get from Jeter, Tex and A-Rod in the final two months of the season. If that sounds confusing, check out the landscape of the rest of the American League.
Okay, there’s the American League West. The Rangers probably are the AL’s best team. The A’s are plenty good enough to make the playoffs. The Tigers are better than they were last season. The Royals are going to be in contention until the end, and the Twins are on the verge of being really good.
Welcome to the age of parity. At least 20 teams believe they’re going to the playoffs, and when you throw the Pirates, Royals and Twins into the mix, that number is larger. The NL may have four teams—Cardinals, Reds, Giants, Braves—better than any AL club, but the Nationals, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Brewers clearly have a chance.
As for the Angels, Dodgers and Blue Jays, who were a lot of peoples’ World Series picks, they’ve got issues with injuries and poor play in some areas. But we’re just getting started, and what looks flawed today could look completely different on August 15.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington did a tremendous job changing his club’s environment and personnel last off-season. At the moment, it’s easy to see them winning a World Series. But it’s also easy to see them getting edged out by the Orioles and Rays in the AL East and then having the A’s or Royals or some other team grab the final playoff berth. Wasn’t life simpler when he looked at the payrolls and were able to decipher the standings?