THE WORLD…AND EVERYTHING IN IT: 2011 Boston Red Sox Preview

Posted: March 2, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
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Last October in Fenway Park’s executive offices must have been something to see. Allow me to quote the great ETrade Baby to describe the mentality there. Apparently, underachieving “IS FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!!” (my Dad will like that one), because the Red Sox went into the winter with an agenda and they not only achieved it, but they set themselves apart from the pack in the toughest division to do so in the game. Their 2010 was characterized more by injuries and frustrations than any of the winning mentality that was expected to keep them in the race for the postseason yet again. By the All-Star break, they were securely locked into third place and watched from a distance as the Rays and Yankees battled it out all season. This year could have easily been a reset season, where they went after attempting to regain the success they avoided last year with the same roster, which largely never got a chance to play together last year. Instead, they made two of the biggest moves of the offseason, and not only pulled even with their rivals in New York and superiors in Tampa, but shot past them and became the early class of the entire MLB on paper. However, how will that play out on the field, and will the restricted lineup be able to hold off its still talented foes in the AL East jungle? Let’s look at how that can and couldn’t happen.

89 wins were only good for a third place finish. Theo Epstein went to work like no other GM to fix that.

THREE UP

1. LET’S GO CRAZY: For a few years now, the Red Sox name had surrounded both Carl Crawford’s impending free agent status and the most popular player on the Major League Rumor Mill, Adrian Gonzalez. This isn’t unusual, as they are tied to every rumor about every player on both All-Star rosters every year. However when they actually landed not one, but both of them this past December within the span of one week, it became a scary reality for virtually every other fan base in baseball. They add two of the most complete players in the game to an already tough lineup to create the most versatile starting nine in the game. Crawford can hit anywhere from leadoff to third comfortably, and his presence on the base paths (10th most steals in AL history) be a huge distraction that Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz will no doubt feed on. Speaking of Gonzalez, he hit 30 home runs or more for the past four years in the biggest ballpark in baseball. Boston’s short porch in right field could launch him well over 40 long balls once again.

2. DEFENSE LIVES: Much of what failed the Sox last year can be attributed to defensive shortcomings. Despite having one of the game’s best third base gloves in Adrian Beltre, they suffered in the field. While the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez as hitters takes the headlines, they are just as big of additions in the field and are two of the best at their positions in the game, a total of three Gold Gloves between them. While he is a downgrade from the departed Beltre, Youkilis will move back to third base from first, where he is more comfortable and Jacoby Ellsbury’s return and move to center field will boost the outfield’s range as well.

In addition to his work at the plate & on the bases, Crawford is the premier defensive left fielder the game as well.

3. STORE’S CLOSED: On a smaller note, the bullpen’s potency was boosted as well by the signing of exiled former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. He will pair with Jonathan Papelpon, who had his worst campaign of his career in 2010, but was still among the best in the game, to end games. With Daniel Bard and Hideki Okajima in the mix as well, beating the Sox early may be the only way to get them.

THREE DOWN

1. SOX ON THE MEND: Jacoby Ellsbury could only get on the field for 18 games last year. All-Star Kevin Youkilis season was ended after 102 games. Dustin Pedroia was limited to 75. Josh Beckett and J.D. Drew experienced their usual assortment of injuries. Beckett has already had health issues in camp this year, and this is before his usual blister issues find him around midseason. Each of these guys is extremely important to the big picture for Sox, and until they take to the field and show they can stay healthy, the Red Sox are still at risk to not maximize their potential again.

Ellsbury stole 120 bases from 2008-09, and his presence changes everything about Boston's offense.

2. DO-OVER: John Lackey was a big coup during the winter of 2009, but never found his stride during his first year in Boston. He still finished with 14 wins, but his 4.40 ERA was the highest total in the last four years. In anticipation of more missed time from Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Lackey has to get more consistent and be the matchup problem he was signed to be a year ago in the middle of the Boston rotation. How he performs can give Boston a strong advantage over other AL rotations that are susceptible in their bottom halves, and give a ton of easy wins to the Sox that could payoff in the always tight AL East race.

3. SIX PACKED: Marco Scutaro played good, dependable ball last year in his Boston debut as starting shortstop. However, there is a glut of talent at shortstop here, with Jed Lowrie (who he took the starting job from last year) being assured a place on the Major League roster this year, and the organization’s top prospect Jose Iglesias looming as well. Although he has been given the vote of confidence to start the season, can he turn in a better season with the club’s two long-term solutions looming over him all year?

LINEUP/PITCHING with 2010 stats/info (Impact Players in BOLD)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury-CF: He hit .192 with 7 steals in 18 games in ’10, but went .301 with 70 steals in 153 games in ’09.
  2. Dustin Pedroia-2B: .288 avg/12 HR/41 RBI/24 doubles
  3. Carl Crawford-LF: .302 avg/19 HR/90 RBI/47 steals
  4. Adrian Gonzalez-1B: .298 avg/31 HR/101 RBI
  5. Kevin Youkilis-3B: .307 avg/19 HR/62 RBI/26 doubles
  6. David Ortiz-DH: .270/32 HR/102 RBI
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C: .233 avg/9 HR/34 RBI in 2009
  8. J.D. Drew-RF: .255 avg/22 HR/68 RBI
  9. Marco Scutaro-SS: .275 avg/11 HR/56 RBI
  1. Jon Lester-LH: 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 225 K’s
  2. Josh Beckett-RH: 6-6, 5.78 ERA, 116 K’s
  3. Clay Bucholtz-RH: 17-7, 2.33 ERA, 120 K’s
  4. John Lackey-RH: 14-11, 4.40 ERA,
  5. Daisuke Matsuzaka-RH:

Closer: Jonathan Papelpon-RH:

Rundown: The sky is the limit here. There’s really no one place that this team is weak. On its high end potential it is the most talented team in baseball. However, even with a few injuries (which are bound to happen), this club is STILL better than most of the league. Seven (check this) of their starters have made All-Star appearances, and has so many different types of bats that it can be deployed in several different ways. In their pitching staff as a whole is the most balanced in baseball as well, with two high end starters in Lester and Bucholtz, and still have Beckett and Matsuzaka, who have much more potential to add to the mix. The only thing that can stand in the way of this team is if they can’t carry the weight of the expectations that came from them. The Yankees still deploy a lineup that is every bit as good, if not better, than the Sox overall. The Rays have the best pitching staff in the American League. However, it’s going to be hard to catch this team on a day where everything isn’t working, and if one part isn’t clicking, the other probably will be. If they keep their health up and stay hungry for the long haul, they have what it takes to get the whole job done.

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Comments
  1. Terrell Whitener says:

    Nice article> I still think that their pitching is a little thin. However I do concede a couple of career years from their everyday guys will make it tough. Francona will have them ready to play, but not a lot of room fro error in this division.

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