Today, I am going to look at the main starters and relievers.
Beckett was possibly the ace of the staff this year as he had the most consistent year, other than his final two disastrous starts against the Orioles. Beckett was an All Star for the third time with the Red Sox and lead the team in ERA with 2.89. For a while, he was considered to be a Cy Young Candidate. However, his last couple of starts have more than likely taken him out of the running for any votes at all. It was a nice bounceback year after his awful 2010 though. Hopefully he stays motivated and comes back next year in shape and ready to pitch. Boston desperately needs him.
Lester took a little bit of a step backwards this year after contending for the Cy Young Award last year. Something just was not right with him parts of the year and he had a lot of trouble with his command down the stretch which lead to three awful starts in a row. Nevertheless, he lead the team in wins and strikeouts with 15 and 182 respectfully. Hopefully this year was not a sign of things to come for Boston's young ace and he gets back to his dominating stuff next year.
To say John Lackey was bad this year is a massive understatement. I still do not quite understand how this free agent acquisition turned out this badly. Lackey has not been the pitcher that he was with the Angels the entire time he has been in Boston. It is a shame because he could have given the Red Sox another ace-level starting pitcher. Lackey had an absolutely awful year, going 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA. I have no idea what it will take to get him back on track, but something needs to be done over the offseason.
At this point, Wakefield is just hanging on trying to get the Red Sox record for career victories. He has not been pitching very well and most teams run at will on him. He finally got career victory number 200 earlier this year and is six wins away from the Red Sox record. I do not really have a problem with him coming back for that record next year if he is pitching well in Spring Training. Otherwise, I just can not see how a team striving for the postseason can keep him around in anything other than a bullpen role. He finished the year a disappointing 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA. Not his best year.
Along with Youkilis, Clay Buchholz's injury was a crushing blow that the team could not overcome. They did not have the pitching depth to cover for the loss of their third ace. Buchholz struggled to start the season but was beginning to figure it out when he went down with a stress fracture in his back. He finished 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA. There was talk that he was ready to pitch in the postseason so he should be back to full health in 2012.
Another injury that Boston could not overcome, though on a lesser scale, was the one to Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka continues to disappoint in Boston ever since his 18 win 2008 season. He still nibbles at the corners way too much which leads to a lot of walks and he gets hit hard. It is about time to characterize his acquisition as a bust. He likely will not make it back until late in the year next year from Tommy John surgery and will be a free agent after the season. It is possible that he has pitched his last game for the Red Sox.
Bedard was acquired from the Mariners at the trading deadline in order to make up for the losses of Buchholz and Matsuzaka. It just did not work out that way. He had a few solid games, but came away with only one victory and an awful lot of questions. His strikeout numbers were good and his ERA was not bad for a fourth or fifth starter, but he was expected to be more than that. We have probably seen the end of Bedard in Boston and lost four decent prospects to get him.
Like Beckett, Papelbon had a very good bounceback season for the Red Sox in 2011. His season was even better and he dramatically increased his possible value on the free agent market this year. Papelbon became the first closer to save 30 or more games in each of his first six full seasons. His strikeout numbers were ridiculous, striking out 87 in 64 innings and his ERA was 2.94, which is not overly impressive, but he had one or two bad outings. Now the question is, will he be back next year?
Bard was being groomed to take over Papelbon's spot at closer should he leave, but it is important to have a good setup man too. Bard mysteriously struggled down the stretch but had some good games in the middle too. He is not as dominating as he was last year, but it may have just been a down year. I would not be comfortable going into next season with him at closer without any fallback options, but it is not my decision to make. Who knows, he could excel at the position.
The hero of the season from the pitching staff was Aceves, whose acquisition from the Yankees drew little notice at first. Some astute Yankees bloggers were a little upset that he was let go, but he was deemed expendable by the team. Boston's front office does not agree. Aceves finished 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA, and fit in a variety of roles. He started four games and even had a save. Next year, he should be groomed as a starter. That would go a long way to fixing some of the rotation issues. His stuff is that good.
Wheeler's overall numbers do not look that great, but that was more because of his disastrous first month. He was pitching much better later on until he too went down with an injury. If Wheeler had not been hurt, Aceves could have been moved into the rotation. He has an option and Boston should consider picking it up. A veteran bullpen arm is not always easy to come by, especially one as good as Wheeler.
He is only in this wrap-up because of the expectations at the beginning of the season. Jenks was acquired as a backup option at closer if Papelbon struggled and otherwise to be a co-setup man with Bard. He only pitched in 19 games though with an ERA of 6.32. His strikeout numbers were good, but he also issued a lot of walks. Hopefully his injuries are healed and he can be ready to come back next year, he is still under contract after all.
A shrewd pickup early on, Morales came in and anchored the pen from the left side. He had some struggles at various points, but by the end of the season, he was every bit as reliable as Bard or Aceves. Morales is another player who could be sent in to the starting rotation, his stuff is electrifying. He finished the season with a 3.61 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 32.1 innings, against 11 walks. Morales was once one of Colorado's top prospects and he started to show why this year.
Matt Albers looked like the under-the-radar pickup of the year for the Red Sox at one point when his ERA was below 2.00. It did not end up that way as he had a string of games in which he was hit all over the field. He was still a somewhat dependable arm out of the bullpen, with some good strikeout numbers, 68 in 64.1 innings. He should be back next year, just not in a setup role.