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Reason for Optimism in the Hub of Hardball

Blood on the Diamond
with David Bloodsworth

Spring has sprung in the Hub of Hardball and while many Boston sports fans have been focused on the historic demise of the Bruins and the surprising resurgence of the Celtics, the Red Sox have put together their best baseball of this young season during the month of May.

You may have noticed that it takes some fans awhile to become fully immersed in the 162-game marathon that is the Major League Baseball season (and for Pink Hats on Toucher and Rich, it may take a lifetime). If your city's NHL and NBA entries are making playoff runs it may take even longer for you to notice what's going on with your Local 9.  In case you haven't been paying attention, the 2010 Red Sox look impressive.Red Sox team highlights in May included a 7-3 stretch at the beginning of the month and an 8-1 stretch against the cream of the MLB crop (Yanks, Phils, Rays), culminating in a 3-game sweep of the AL East-leading Rays.

Despite some very early and perhaps somewhat unwarranted criticism, Big Papi hit 10 HR in May with 27 RBIs, a .363 BA and a very healthy 1.211 OPS.  Big Papi in May 2010 gave us a glimpse of the Big Papi of old. The ever-fascinating, frustrating and unfathomable Daisuke Matsuzaka almost pitched a no-hitter, and Clay Buchholz and John Lester, each with "no-nos" on their respective resumes, have emerged as Red Sox Staff Aces if not two of the best pitchers in baseball.  Simply put, their stuff is nasty!

Since the end of the 2009 season it seems that pitching, defense and "bridges" is all anyone can talk about when it comes to the 2010 Boston Red Sox.  We were sold a bill of goods and after signing John Lackey in the off-season we had every right to expect this to be, top to bottom, one of the best Red Sox starting rotations in recent memory.

One tough blown-save aside, Red Sox pitching has begun to perform as many fans expected at the beginning of the season and starting pitching in May gave us all a reason to believe that our expectations may, in fact, be realistic.

Of course, we all expected Beckett and Lackey, with their combined $30.8 million in salary for 2010, to be leading the way with Lester, Buchholz and a combination of Wakefield/Dice-K following closely behind in the rotation.

Now, with Beckett on the shelf and Lackey performing underwhelmingly, if not admirably, it has been Lester and Buchholz, the two 26-year-olds with their combined $4.2 million in salaries, that have risen to the top of the rotation.  For the record, Lester celebrated his 26th birthday in January, Buchholz in August. Lester will make $3.75 million this season and Buchholz is on the books for a relatively paltry $443K.

The case has been made that Lester was the number one starter on this club even after the Lackey signing and prior to the start of the season but if you've been listening to 98.5 The Sports Hub – and there is no good reason why you shouldn't be – you would know by now that Clay Buchholz has statistically been the best pitcher in baseball over the last 4 months of the regular season (since August 2009).  Of course, you didn't hear many people making the case for Clay Buck as your Opening Day starter.

I often hear Felger and Mazz say, "stats are for losers." So I'll keep this brief…

After two months and a couple of rocky starts to begin the month of May, Buchholz's win total and ERA are both in the top ten among AL starters. His 7-3 record and 2.73 ERA is a result of going 5-1 in May after an April in which he was 2-2 with a 2.19 ERA.  His seven wins are tied for the most in the AL and are only second in the majors to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez's 10 wins.  You may be asking, "Ubaldo who?"  But I guarantee you that fans in Colorado are saying the same thing about Clay Buchholz.

Lester is being Lester. After getting off to a typically slow-start in April, Lester continues to establish himself among MLB Elite.  He is in the top ten in the AL for wins (6), WHIP (1.128) and Ks (77).  His K total is the 3rd highest the Majors.

Buchholz and Lester, Lester and Buchholz?  The season is young but the Sox can't seem to go wrong either way, especially when their 3rd and 4th starters are Josh Beckett and John Lackey.

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