Like almost everything else with the Red Sox, the projections for the rotation have a rather high degree of variance. The upside is a very solid rotation. Not the best in baseball by any stretch, but one that can throw a decent pitcher out there every day. The downside is, well, ugly.
Jon Lester: If there is to be an ace on this team, it is almost certainly going to be Jon Lester. Prior to 2013 he’d had four consecutive seasons of an ERA lower than 3.50 with about a strikeout per inning. Thing is, the strikeouts have been going down and 2013 saw a rise in hit rates and homer rates. It stands to reason that his 2013 is likely to be more like 2010-2011 than it is 2013 but that’s only true if there’s nothing we don’t know about. The drop in velocity and overall performance could be a simple mechanical flaw that will be corrected with judicious application of video review and work with the guy who was his pitching coach during his best seasons.
Clay Buchholz: He had a miserable April and May, then an outstanding June and July before a good August and a poor September. It’s precisely the kind of thing one would expect from someone coming back from a major injury then pitching more innings than ever, and a hundred more than the year before. Of course, that’s precisely what Clay Buchholz did, and while that suggests that his 2013 will more closely resemble the healthy Buchholz, the fact remains that he is entering his age 28 season and has never pitched 200 innings.
Felix Doubront: He pitched like a rookie. Very well at times, a lot less well at times. If he makes the adjustments one expects of a second year pitcher, he can be a better than average pitcher.
John Lackey: He’s the enigma. He was once an excellent pitcher, came to the Boston and turned in a mediocre season followed by an execrable one and Tommy John surgery that cost him his third. One would imagine the injury woes contributed mightily to his poor seasons and that should have been corrected by the surgery. That said, he is entering his age 34 season. I get the sense that Red Sox fans are expecting very little from Lackey. My gut tells me he’ll be quite a bit better than that. Sometimes my gut is an idiot.
Ryan Dempster: He’s thoroughly mediocre. His job is to make it possible for the Sox to bring Rubby de la Rosa along a bit more slowly without being terrible. He’ll probably do that.
The depth comes from Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster. De la Rosa has been a highly regarded prospect and one of the teams organizational goals for the season has to be to work him into the rotation. While the Dempster acquisition means they don’t have to rush him, it shouldn’t be allowed to stand in his way.