By Eriq Gardner
Clay Buchholz was one of the best prospects coming into the majors back in 2008. The fact that he’s been successful isn’t shocking. But considering his troubles in the early portion of his major league career, nobody was expecting a 17-7 record and 2.33 ERA.
John Lackey clearly hasn’t been worth his big free agent payday. In retrospect, his disappointing year in 2010 didn’t come out of the blue. His ability to strike out batters has been on the wane for several season. This year, his K/9 rate dipped all the way down to 6.53. That was the lowest mark since his rookie season, and bad news when a pitcher is facing strong AL East lineups on a regular basis.
2011 Keeper Alert
Jon Lester was a Cy Young candidate coming into the season. He’ll enter next season as one of the top few pitchers overall again after going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and a stellar 9.74 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s only 26 years old. …Meanwhile, Daniel Bard is an intriguing option, depending on what the Red Sox decide to do with Jonathan Papelbon in the off-season. Should Bard inherit the closer role, he’ll immediately become one of the top few closers available, given his excellent peripherals.
2011 Regression Alert
Back to Buchholz. He’s still young and up-and-coming, but few pitchers in baseball enjoyed better luck in 2010. His 2.33 ERA belied the fact that he’s not striking out enough batters and not keeping enough batters off base via walks. His xFIP, a measure of ERA based on peripherals, was nearly two runs higher at 4.20. If Buchholz doesn’t improve his underlying skills, look for him to give up more home runs next season and get lesser results when his strand rate normalizes.
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