The Red Sox have worn a variety of labels through the years, ranging from slugging station-to-station baseball to the more recent mantle of champions. Only recently have they become a team focused as much on balanced run generation and run prevention.
The acquisition of Curt Schilling became a landmark for that transition and the Hanley Ramirez trade for Josh Beckett marked the next step. The posting for Daisuke Matsuzaka continued the process and the development stage continues with the potential evolution of frontline starters (in particular) among Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Justin Masterson.
Effective starting pitching mandates disrupting hitters timing (changing speeds), altering where they 'sight' the ball (e.g. high or low in the strike zone), and controlling both sides of the plate. Lester has improved his ability to come inside to right-handers using his cut fastball, similar but not as effective as the way Ron Guidry used his power slider. Buchholz moved to Pawtucket to work on his fastball command to complement his offspeed armamentarium. Masterson's sidewinding delivery gives him an innate advantage to righthanders yet has left him vulnerable to left-handed swingers in the absence of consistent offspeed stuff.
The biggest asset on the horizon for the Sox is also the biggest question mark. We can't know where David Ortiz's recovery stands, and replacing him net-net with the likes of Coco Crisp or Brandon Moss clearly hampers the Sox' chance to repeat.
So far tonight the Sox have struggled against James Shields, mustering only three hits and a walk against the Rays' second best starter, an inauspicious start against the Fish.