Alright, so we're guaranteed a post-season spot. It's time to start thinking about personnel.
Our starting rotation looks pretty good, until you get to the four-slot, where we hit a couple of x-factors.
First, Daisuke Matzsuzaka. He hasn't received a winning decision since Sept. 3, taking a loss and two no-decisions in his last three games. In one of those games, the Orioles shelled Daisuke and forced him to leave before finishing the third inning.
Outside of that, his innings pitched have been falling, his ERA has been rising, and he's overall not having a great autumn. I think he'll do better next year, but for the moment I'd like to see him sit down.
That leaves the problem of who fills out the rotation's four and five slots. The top three - Beckett, Schilling and Wakefield - are pretty obvious, but if we remove Matsuzaka from the equation, that leaves Buchholz, Lester and Tavarez to fill out the end.
I know Bucky has cut himself an impressive beginning, with three wins in four decisions, but I worry about the rookie's nerves in the October pressure cooker.
The same goes for Lester. He's returned on the white stallion of a four-game winning streak, but he spent most of the season out of the majors. To go from the DL to the minors to pitching under October skies in as little time as Lester did... I don't know. It feels like a stretch.
That leaves Tavarez. The seasoned veteran is probably better suited to relieving than starting, as reflected by his 6 and 10 record as a starter this year. He may not have raw ability displayed by the young starters, but I'm not so worried about him crumbling under the pressure.
I say cut the rotation to four, with Lester in the bottom slot. Keep Bucky as plan-B, and Tavarez as the fall-back plan.
Beckett can handle pitching on short rest if he needs to, and Wake seems to never fatigue. If Schilling needs an extra day riding the pine, Francona can pitch Bucky or Tavarez.
But we'll see what Francona does. He knows these players far better than we ever will. Who knows? Maybe the young pitchers will have nerves of steel.