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Thursday, 23 May 2013 15:30

Red Sox Riding Stellar Pitching

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Editor's Note: CLNS Radio welcomes guest columnist Kevin Doyle. Kevin is an award-winning Editor/Writer with over 37 years of experience, including 27 as Sports Editor of the Daily News of Newburyport and as the chief feature/profile writer for Hockey Night in Boston since 1990. He can be followed on Twitter @kdoyle40.

  The Boston Red Sox have been a pleasant surprise this season, their 28-19 record wholly unanticipated but altogether appreciated by a hard-boiled fan base wounded deeply by the putrid performance of 2012 and the shameful shenanigans that derailed the 2011 season.

Regardless of how they fare for the remainder of this season, there seems little doubt a sense of order, professionalism, and I daresay faith in the team has been restored by the performance of this year’s club. It has shown the grit and tenacity to succeed that folks in these parts admire and appreciate.

How and why have these Red Sox been successful? In a word, pitching.

Pitching has always been and will continue to be the overriding determinant of success in this sport. It is the great equalizer, the X factor that offsets other deficiencies. Truth be told, this is a flawed Red Sox team that strikes out far too often, possesses a pedestrian team batting average (.262), has mediocre power numbers (50 HRs), and plays only slightly better than average defense.

On the other hand, their pitching has been exquisite, posting a staff ERA of 3.72 while averaging a tick better than nine strikeouts per nine innings — this despite the inconsistencies of Felix Doubront and horrendous performances by the now-injured Joel Hanrahan, the volatile Alfredo Aceves and the absolutely lost Daniel Bard.

Look no further than the New Age WHIP statistic for the best indicator of how well this team has pitched. Clay Buchholz (1.045, 7th AL) and Jon Lester (1.065, 10th AL) have been remarkable, John Lackey (1.223) and Ryan Dempster (1.309) both dependable. The combined WHIP of the top four relievers — Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller — is a sparkling 1.065. Those four have yielded only 19 walks while striking out 99 in 65.2 innings. The return of Craig Breslow brings depth and flexibility to that unit.

Thanks in large part to their pitching the Red Sox have a shot to exit May with half of the total number of wins accumulated all of last season. There is no way of knowing how long this ride will last but this much is certain: A healthy pitching staff will be paramount to continued success.

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