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Sox may have best pitching in baseball:

Even though the Red Sox were unable to upgrade their offense with Mark Teixiera, they made the necessary moves in their rotation and bullpen to challenge for another World Series. This may be the best pitching staff ever assembled for the Red Sox. They have power in the rotation and in the bullpen. Josh Beckett will get the season started this Monday. Beckett can blow hitters away with his fastball or fool them with the curve. In 27 starts last year he averaged 8.88 k/9 innings. His total number of strikeouts(172) were down from 2007 but were still the second most of his career. Jon Lester is a pitcher who is probably still getting better and it is unclear how good he will be. What we know is that he was the Sox best pitcher down the stretch last year while throwing the most innings of his major league career. A twenty win season may be in his sights this year. Daisuke Matsuzaka had a tremendous year winning 18 with 154 strikeouts and an ERA below 3. As with Lester, he may still be getting better and a twenty win season is not out of reach, especially if he could add another inning or two per start. Daisuke could be this years biggest benefactor from the strong bullpen since he does not last past the sixth inning usually. Brad Penny is coming off a bad season riddled with injuries but in 2006 and 2007 he was one of the National Leagues best pitchers, leading the league in Wins in 2006. If he can continue in that manner he will be the Leagues best #4 starter. For the fifth spot, it looks like a combination of Tim Wakefield, Clay Buchholz and John Smoltz when he his ready. Wakefield is a steady pitcher, eating a ton of innings and generally keeping the Sox in every game. Buchholz, to me, is not ready yet and another year in Pawtucket would help him out. He has had a tremendous spring and I would like to see that translate to the minors before he gets a spot in the majors. Smoltz is the best option. Before he got injured last year he was among the leaders in strikeouts in 2006 and 2007. With this starting five the Sox are prepared to keep the opposition in check most games.
The bullpen has been greatly improved with additions of Takashi Saito and Ramon Ramirez. Both are power arms, especially Saito who struck out 60 batters last year in only 47 innings. Justin Masterson returns to the pen and hope to improve his control. He did a great job getting the double play last year but many of those runners on first were there on his own base on balls. Manny Delcarmen is up and coming, sometimes unhittable other times unable to throw strikes. The lefties Hideki Okajima and Javiey Lopez are very good . Okajima strikeout a lot of batters for a junk ball pitcher, 60 in 62 inning last year. Papelbon is one of the best closers in baseball. This year could be powerful one for the pitching staff.

Chris Allen

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