Tuesday, March 27, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Picture via - mlblogs.com

30 in 30 – Boston Red Sox - 2012 team preview

I love the above picture for several reasons.  First Jason Varitek was the face of this franchise for over 15 seasons, and one of my favorite players because he was a leader and played hard each game.  Also the tears represent their epic collapse of September 2011.  The above link also mentioned this about Varitek –
  • Only player to play in Little League World Series, College World Series, MLB World Series, Olympics, and World Baseball Classic.
  • Played in more post season games than any other player in Red Sox history.
  • Only player in MLB history to catch four no-hitters.
OK, now onto the rest of the Red Sox 

Key Additions: Mike Aviles (SS), Andrew Bailey (CL), Mark Melancon (RP), Ryan Sweeney (RF), Cody Ross (RF), Nick Punto (SS)

Subtractions: Jonathan Papelbon (CL), Josh Reddick (OF), Marco Scutaro (SS), Jed Lowrie (SS), J.D. Drew (RF), Jason Varitek (C), Tim Wakefield (SP), Erik Bedard (SP)

2011 Record: 90-72

2011 Highlights: This time last year, no one would have thought that Jacoby Ellsbury would lead the team in home runs (32), but his numbers exploded all over the stat sheet – finishing with 119 runs, 32 HR, 105 RBI’s and 39 stolen bases.   Dustin Pedroia also finished with a 20-20 season and 102 runs and 91 RBI’s for good measure.  In his first year as a Red Sox, Adrian Gonzalez hit the least amount of home runs in over 5 years, but had the most runs in his career and just 2 RBI’s off his career mark.  Both Josh Beckett (13-7 with 2.89 ERA and 175 K’s) and Jon Lester (15-9 and 182 K’s) had great season’s.  Jonathan Papelbon had the lowest save total in his career (31) but the highest strikeout total (87) in his career.

Offseason Moves: Once Jonathan Papelbon signed with Philadelphia, the Red Sox needed to sign or trade for a closer.  Daniel Bard managed to put up 9 losses and 5 blown saves, while posting a WHIP under 1 (0.96).  Weird numbers, but the Red Sox wanted to go CJ Wilson on him (not by posting his phone number on twitter but by turning a reliever into a starter) and make him the #4 starter.  Andrew Bailey should put up good numbers, but can Mark Melancon match Bard’s good numbers (34 holds and 74 K’s) from last year?  Only other positional changes are Mike Aviles at SS and Ryan Sweeney in Right.  Both Varitek and Wakefield retired.

2011 Rewind – For the second year in a row, a team won 90 games but failed to reach the playoffs.  In 2010 the Padres did it.  In 2011 the Red Sox managed this feat.  We can’t feel too bad because the Red Sox managed to let the postseason get away from them.  On September 3rd, they were 9 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, (with a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs) and then lost 18 (75%) of their final 24 games.  On the last game of the season, they blew a save to the Baltimore Orioles, and the Rays won (but were down by 7 runs in the 8th inning) in extra innings against the Yankees. 

In May and June the Red Sox lost both Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tommy John) and Clay Buchholz (back) for the rest of the season.  John Lackey was also on the DL and ended the year with an ERA of 6.41 and is now out for 2012 with Tommy John surgery.  The Red Sox were 2-4 against the White Sox and were 6-12 against the Tampa Rays.

To go along with their historic collapse in September, they had their fare share of controversy in 2011.  The option on Terry Francona’s contract was not exercised.  GM Theo Epstein was essentially traded to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later (the other Chris Carpenter) and their two aces – Lester and Beckett were in the news.  They had been eating fried chicken, drinking beer and playing video games, in the clubhouse and dugout during games when they were not pitching.  New manager Bobby Valentine will be cracking down on such activity this year. 

2012 Outlook – With 90 wins in 2011, it’s going to be hard to improve in 2012, with an improved American League.  Teams like the Yankees, Angels, Rangers, and even the Blue Jays have all improved going into 2012.  Mike Aviles is the only upgrade in the offseason.  The rest of the moves were replacing guys who left or retired.  Ellsbury and Crawford help to form what should be a great outfield again.  Pedroia and Gonzalez on the right side of the field will once again be great, but the left side has question marks.     

Lester and Beckett should be solid at the top.  Although Beckett is in a year that is even and should have an inflated ERA once again.  Sounds like crazy talk – I know – but look it up.  Over 2006, 08 & 10, his average ERA is 4.89.  A healthy Clay Buchholz back will be just what the doctor ordered – sorry couldn’t resist.  But after that what will their 4 & 5 starters do.  Andrew Bailey has averaged 25 saves over his first 3 seasons in Oakland and should get 35 if he can stay healthy as well.      
Question Marks: The Red Sox are full of question marks heading into 2012.  Bobby Valentine is a legendary manager, and he better have some answers because I don’t.  Carl Crawford did not live up to expectations in 2011, hitting .255 and stealing only 18 bases.  He will start 2012 on the DL and I doubt if he will ever get back to the 2010 numbers, but at least he cashed in those numbers with his nice contract. 

Can Saltalamacchia improve his numbers and get into the 70 Run and RBI marks?  Mike Aviles has never played more than 110 games; can he stay healthy and put up good numbers in 2012?  With the JD Drew era finally over, how will Ryan Sweeney fare in Right?  Sweeney had a solid 2009 (68-6-53 .293), but will need to do better in 2012 with the Sox.  Right now Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves are the 4 and 5 starters, both were relievers in 2011, that could go either way. 

Projected Lineup – Here’s how I would construct the Red Sox batting order;
  1. Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
  2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  3. Adrian Gonzalez (1B)
  4. Kevin Youkilis (3B)
  5. David Ortiz (DH)
  6. Carl Crawford (LF)
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C)
  8. Ryan Sweeney (RF)
  9. Mike Aviles (SS)

Last year the Red Sox led the league in runs scored, and should once again be at the top of that category in 2012.  The Red Sox still managed to win 90 games and if a few things go their way, they could win more this year.  With the extra wild card team being added, it will be harder this year for the Red Sox to make the postseason, but should be right at the cusp of October ball once again this year.  Getting off to a good April will sure help put September to bed in a lot of Red Sox minds.  At BlueJaysPlus, we see the Red Sox winning around the 90 win mark once again. 

The Final Count: 89-73 – 3rd in AL East  

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