30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageIt sure has been a tumultuous few years in Beantown. Once the toast of the league after two world championships in 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox’s brand has gone down a few notches following a massive September collapse in 2011, accusations of fried chicken and beer gluttony in the clubhouse under Terry Francona, and, of course, the failed (and short-lived) tenure of Bobby Valentine.

Enter 2013, and also enter John Farrell, who returns to Boston after two average seasons as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox’s pitching coach from 2007-10, Farrell is expected to improve what was a terrifyingly bad unit in 2012. After their first 90+ loss season in nearly 50 years, can Farrell take command of Boston’s clubhouse, ignore the criticism of an often malicious media, and please the “pink hats” enough to stay around longer than his predecessor? Time will tell.

Five Year Review
2012: 69-93
2011: 90-72
2010:
89-73
2009:
95-67
Lost LDS to Angels, 3-0
2008: 95-67
Lost ALCS to Rays, 4-3

2012 Team MVP: DH David Ortiz: It is like finding a diamond in a sea of turds. When your franchise enjoys their worst season in nearly half-a-century, there are not often many bright spots. For Ortiz, half-a-season of MVP type production at the plate was enough to earn him team MVP for 2012. In 90 games, the eight time All-Star raked .318-23-60 with an astounding .415/.611/1.026 slash line. How is that for production from an aging veteran? Ortiz deserved an extension even though he missed most of the second-half. The slugger has played less than 145 games just twice since 2004. 

2012 Team LVP: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka: There were plenty of candidates in the Fenway Park clubhouse for least valuable player. The team traded Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford because of how detrimental they were to the payroll and the team on the field. After being acquired from Oakland for Josh Reddick (who emerged as a 30+ HR threat), RHP Andrew Bailey missed most of the season and then was erratic upon his return. His replacement, meanwhile, RHP Alfredo Aceves ,was 2-10 with a 5.36 ERA in his stead. Still, I cannot blame Aceves for those struggles. He should not have been closing in the first place and Bobby Valentine’s poor management of him was well-documented.

So, it must be Daisuke, who came over from Japan to much fanfare and fervor in 2007. The right-hander’s first two seasons were quite strong, including an 18-win campaign in 2008 in which he nearly threw a no-hitter in the ALCS. But, people even knew then that Daisuke was one of the luckiest pitchers alive. Despite those impressive ’08 numbers, Matsuzaka led the AL in walks (94) and was right near the top in GIDP.

Then, the injury bug hit. Matsuzaka was apparently overused in the 2009 World Baseball Classic en route to a tournament MVP award (3-0, 2.45). It was all downhill from there. He reported to spring training just 12 days before opening day and got shelled early before going on the DL and being replaced by Justin Masterson. The rest of the campaign was one-big injury after another. He has never been able to regain his footing. In 2012, it hit rock-bottom with a 1-7, 8.28 mark. His movement is gone and the velocity is down, leading to a meteoric rise in his contact rate (58 H in 45.2 IP). It was not long ago that Daisuke led the AL in H/9. Now, he is just a shell of his former self. The former All-Star signed a contract with former manager Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians this offseason. Hopefully, Progressive Field will “progress” his career better than Boston ever could.

Key Acquisitions:

C David Ross (Atlanta)
1B/C Mike Napoli (Texas)
OF Jonny Gomes (Oakland)
OF Shane Victorino (Los Angeles)
RHP Koji Uehara (Texas)
RHP Ryan Dempster (Texas)
SS Stephen Drew (Oakland)
RHP Joel Hanrahan (Pittsburgh)

Key Departures:

C Kelly Shoppach (Seattle)
1B James Loney (Tampa Bay)
SS Mike Aviles (Cleveland)
3B Kevin Youkilis (New York Yankees)
OF Cody Ross (Arizona)
RHP Aaron Cook (Philadelphia)
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (Cleveland)
RHP Scott Atchison (New York Mets)
RHP Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.292-15-61)
RF Shane Victorino (.275-12-64)
2B Dustin Pedroia (.295-16-79)
DH David Ortiz (.288-24-82)
1B Mike Napoli (.262-26-72)
3B Will Middlebrooks (.267-23-77)
SS Stephen Drew (.256-9-48)
LF Jonny Gomes (.250-15-49)
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.235-17-50)

LHP Jon Lester (12-9, 4.00)
RHP Ryan Dempster (11-10, 4.14)
RHP Clay Buchholz (10-7, 4.22)
LHP Felix Doubront (10-8, 4.33)
RHP John Lackey (7-8, 4.82)

2013 Outlook:

Count me in as someone who likes the Red Sox’s chances to at least contend for one of the Wild Card spots in 2013. The moves that GM Ben Cherington made with the lineup were fantastic. They may have overpaid for a few of the bats (most notably Shane Victorino). But, their lineup is littered with veterans with championship experience and pedigree. Their most inexperienced player might have been their best last year, 3B Will Middlebrooks.

However, for all the good changes to their lineup, the Boston rotation took a nose-dive over the past 24 months. You win in this league with pitching, and I am just not sure that the Red Sox have enough of it to win the pennant in 2013. After Jon Lester, whom I expect will bounce back from a disappointing ’12, the cupboard is rather bare. Ryan Dempster is an aging veteran who pitched in the NL his entire career before struggling with Texas in the second-half. Who knows what you will get from Buchholz and Lackey, two walking injuries waiting to happen. Doubront was a pleasant surprise in 2012. But, he is hardly the model of consistency and pedigree. The bullpen should be better with Hanrahan and Uehara. I just cannot find it in me to say that they will be surging back into the postseason this year. I do, however, like Boston to win between 80-86 games. In a weaker division, I might expect more. For right now, the offense is going to have to carry them past the finish line.

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