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Can We Be Confident In The Red Sox' Pitching?

Confident in Daisuke? Is it possible? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Confident in Daisuke? Is it possible? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Over the last nine games, the Red Sox have been the benificiaries of an unreasonably good stretch of pitching. Starting with Josh Beckett's shutout of the Blue Jays, the Sox have gone on a two week tear, baffling the lineups of the Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, and Los Angeles Angels along the way.

Obviously, this isn't going to last. No, I'm not trying to rain on anybody's parade here, but I think we can all agree that the Red Sox aren't going to suddenly have a rotation and bullpen filled out completely by clones of Pedro Martinez in his prime. The real question for me isn't "can the Red Sox keep this up," but "how far can we expect them to fall."

Here are the facts:


  • Over the past nine games, opponents of the Red Sox have scored an average of 1.78 runs per game.
  • Including the games against the Sox, their opponents over this period average a .313 wOBA, which would rank twentieth in the majors.
  • Red Sox pitchers in that period have allowed 25 walks in 82 innings while striking out 67 batters.
  • They have also allowed just three homers, despite giving up more fly balls than ground balls.
  • Finally, their BABIP has been under .250


So the Red Sox have definitely been lucky of late. Normally, in fact, you could expect seven more home runs just based on the fly balls--that's about 12 runs' difference, which would put the Sox up to around 3.11 runs per game by itself, even without counting any baserunners that would have scored on their own.

In fact, the Red Sox have probably been pitching to about the skill level of a staff with a 3.70 ERA. That would be good for sixth in the majors.

But then you have to consider the stronger opposition the Sox will face, and the park they will usually play in, and things turn bleaker. And, of course, nobody expects at the very least Daisuke to keep up a 12:4 K:BB ratio anytime soon. Should we, then, expect the Red Sox to drop even further beyond that point?

In some ways, yes. Daisuke will fall off some, and John Lackey may not be far behind. Of course, at some point we also have to expect Clay Buchholz will be back to striking out more batters than he walks. So there's that too.

But perhaps the single biggest reason we shouldn't expect the Sox' numbers to drop off a cliff is this: the defense is coming around. After coming out of the gates very average--even slightly below--some numbers are finally starting to normalize. Carl Crawford, who started in a truly terrible hole, seems to be coming around both at the plate and in the field. Meanwhile, between Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, the right side of the infield has been showing just exactly why they're deserving of their gold gloves. J.D. Drew isn't doing too badly behind them, either.

Eventually, this crazy streak of pitching will end, and the Sox will give up a 10-run game, or something to that effect. Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey will fall to earth, and Clay Buchholz will remember that he can pitch, if perhaps not as well as he did in 2010. But if Josh Beckett's return is as real as it seems to be, and Jon Lester is Jon Lester, then there's plenty of reasons to have confidence when the Sox are on the mound.