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March 29, 2013

Baseball writers missing boat on Sox starters

Pitching has been outstanding in Florida

I don’t know if Boston’s baseball writing fraternity is woefully uninformed about what has happened this spring — of if the hot Florida weather has taken a toll on their collective brains.

But one thing is for sure. The Sox writers have missed something big things spring.

The Red Sox pitching rotation, from Day 1 of spring training, has ranged from very good to superb.

Through Wednesday, the Red Sox lead the American League East in almost every pitching category. Sure, it’s just spring training. But we’ve learned over the last few years that success — or failure — in Florida can carry into the regular season.

Consider the following breakdown of AL East starting pitchers from this spring:

Team Innings pitched by starting 5

ERA for starting 5

Rays 100 2.86

Red Sox 87 3.64

Jays 79 3.64

Yanks 78 4.18

O’s 74 4.88

There are major red flags for two teams that have been built on pitching, the Orioles and the Rays. Their top innings guys, Jacob Arrieta for the O’s and J.A. Happ for the Jays, spent their offseason rehabbing injuries. Yanks ace CC Sabathia has thrown just 10 innings because of elbow issues, and the Jays ace, R. A. Dickey has thrown only five innings after struggling for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

In contrast, all five Red Sox starters have gone at least five innings in their last two starts. Jon Lester went six perfect innings on March 17 and Clay Buchholz has only given up two runs all spring. Ryan Dempster is a strike-throwing machine, John Lackey got 12 ground ball outs in five innings against a loaded Phillies line-up, and Felix Dubront is averaging over a strikeout-per-inning.

In other words, the April Fools joke may end up being on the A.L. East.

Yes, this team has, and will continue to have, a very hard time scoring runs. But, if your starters are giving you a strong six or seven innings every time out, and the back end of the bullpen remains as solid as it appears on paper, you don’t need to score very many runs to win.

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