Yesterday we established that the 2010 version of the Red Sox performed at a poorer than expected level because of pitching, and not (exclusively) injuries. This was particularly surprising because the rotation was the one thing we all figured we wouldn't have to worry about: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka - and we even had Wakefield, who, despite his age and lack of consistency, is a hell of a sixth man.
However, there were injuries to Beckett and Matsuzaka, and Lackey was rather less productive than we'd collectively hoped (I suppose you could say he was LACKing - get it?!?). The bullpen was a volitile mess, especially if you look at their performance without counting the stats from Bard and Paps (who had his worst season, but still superior to most relievers).
So what's in store for next year? No one can know for sure, but the Bill James Handbook at least offers predictions based on math I don't really understand, rather than total guesses pulled out of thin air.
So, without further ado, here are James' predictions for members of the presumptive pitchers for the 2011 Sox (accompanied by their 2010 numbers):
Josh Beckett:2010: 6-6, 21 starts, 127.2 IP, 5.78 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 26 starts, 168 IP, 3.86 ERA
Beckett's lost season was a HUGE part of the reason the Sox missed out on the playoffs in 2010, and even a reasonable bounce back like the one James is predicting would give the Red Sox a fantastic edge.
Clay Buchholz:2010: 17-7, 28 starts, 173.2 IP, 2.33 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-9, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.54 ERA
I'm going to go on record here and guess that James is underestimating Clay. The dominance we saw last season was not a fluke, and I'm confident Buchholz can be consistent in 2011. There's a reason Theo hasn't accepted any trade offers for Clay, and what we saw last year was just the beginning.
John Lackey:2010: 14-11, 33 starts, 215 IP, 4.40 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-12, 33 starts, 227 IP, 3.89 ERA
When I actually saw Lackey's 2010 stats, I have to confess to being a bit surprised that he was such an innings-eater. If he can live up to these predictions as the third/fourth starter, I will be content.
Daisuke Matsuzaka:2010: 9-6, 25 starts, 153.2 IP, 4.69 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 27 starts, 173 IP, 3.85 ERA
Again, I'll take it. No, Matsuzaka has never been the ace we thought we were getting way back in the offseason of 2007, but (aside from his lost 2009) he's been more than adequate for the back of the rotation, and I expect he'll continue to be consistent(ly infuriating to watch).
Jon Lester:2010: 19-9, 32 starts, 208 IP, 3.25 ERA
2011 prediction: 14-9, 31 starts, 204 IP, 3.53 ERA
I think Lester will do better than this, especially if he can figure out how to avoid the awful April we've come to expect from him. James badly underestimated Lester in his predictions for 2010, and I think he's cut the southpaw short again this year.
Tim Wakefield:2010:4-10, 19 starts, 130 IP 5.34 ERA
2011 predictions: 6-6, 14 starts, 115 IP, 4.07 ERA
If Wake gets to start at all in 2011, it will be spot starts here and there. The knuckleballer's career is winding down, and though it's hard to say goodbye, this season will likely be his last.
I'm going to leave the relievers out of this equation for now, since roles and such will be in flux, and the Sox bullpen is likely going to see some serious revamping before Opening Day (which is MUCH too far away). But, if the members of the rotation listed above can match their projections (and if one or two of them *cough*Buchholz*Lester*cough* can exceed them), I think 2011 will be a much more productive year for the Sox, at least pitching-wise.