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2007 Boston Red Sox Team Preview

by Tony Aubry,
March 18, 2007

2006 Record: 86-76 (3rd Place AL East)
2006 Runs Scored: 820
2006 Runs Allowed: 825
Pythagorean 2006 Record: 81-81

This year's Red Sox team is filled with if's and health issues. If their rotation lives up to their expectations, they could be a 95 win team. If they can find a closer, they will compete for the Division Title once again. However, even if some of their question marks go their way, they still have major health issues. Two thirds of the Boston outfield was down for a considerable amount of time last year, and their newest acquistion to the outfield, J.D Drew, is notorious for his health problems. Red Sox fans need to hold on because it's going to be a bumpy ride.

2006 Starter: Jason Varitek
Projected 2007 Starter: Varitek

If you want to know how it feels to fall of a cliff, just ask Cap ĎTek. His OPS+ dropped an eye-popping 40 points and his defense is fading away as well. Also, he injured his knee in the summer, which is never good news for a catcher soon to be 35. Varitek should rebound somewhat, but his stretch of being one of the best offensive catchers around is most certainly done.

Prediction- .248/.339/.426

First Base
2006 Starters: Kevin Youkilis, JT Snow
Projected 2007 Starter: Youkilis

Youkilis, who already has a terrible nickname (Greek God of Walks), impressed many people last year. Youkilis, who turns 28 this week, drew 91 walks, which lead to a .381 OBP. However, if we take a walk through splitsville, we see that Youkilis benefited greatly from notorious Fenway Park. At home, he posted an .841 OPS, while only posting a .774 OPS away from Fenway.

Prediction- .290/.393/.445

Second Base
2006 Starter: Mark Loretta
Projected 2007 Starter: Dustin Pedroia

With Loretta gone after only one season, Pedroia, who was named Bostonís third best prospect by Scout, has his time to shine. The 23-year old struggled in 89 AB last year, hitting to the tune of .191/.258/.303. Itís not something that should really scare BoSox fans, but it was a full monthís worth of ABís. On the other side of the ball, Pedroia did not perform so well. In 2006, albeit in a limited amount of innings, Pedroia only got to 80% of the balls that were hit into his zone.

Projection- .260/.327/.409

Third Base
2006 Starter: Mike Lowell
Projected 2007 Starter: Lowell

I call him ďThe Cat in the Hat,Ē because if you look at him closely, he does kind of look like the Dr. Seuss character. Last year, Lowell had a bounce back year (how could he not?). He was solid on both sides of the ball, he did however tail off in the second half of the year, posting a paltry .739 OPS compared to his first half OPS of .875. Though most people believe Lowell is a wizard with the glove, he really isnít. Lowell is sure handed, and gets to a good amount of balls in his zone, but Lowell really lacks range. In the past three years, Lowell has ranked 2nd< to last, last, and 4th to last in Plays Out of Zone with a minimum of 1,000 innings per year.

Projection- .280/.333/.455

2006 Starter: Alex Gonzales
Projected 2007 Starter: Julio Lugo

I am one of the very few people who were in favor of this move, and hereís why:  Lugo has a career OPS of .742. However, in his career, he has an OPS of .880 at Fenway park. Small sample size? Sure. But with a minimum of 100 PA, that is his highest OPS anywhere. Lugo could post an OPS above .800, steal 25 bases, and play solid defense. Who wouldnít want that from the SS position?

Projection- .300/.365/.467

2006 Starters: Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, Trot Nixon, Wily Mo Pena
Projected 2007 Starters:  Ramirez, Coco Crisp, JD Drew, Pena

If player A had a .317 OBP, but with 22 SB, and Player had .381 OBP, with 5 SB who would you bat leadoff in 2007? How about if I told you that Boston was 24-31 when Player A lead off, and they were 55-40 when Player B lead off? Player A is Coco Crisp, and B is the Greek God of Walks. I would imagine, since Bostonís brain trust has sabermetric views on baseball, they would bat Youkilis leadoff. If Crisp can get on base a little more, he should be a very good number 9 hitter. With his speed, and Youkilisí ability to get on base, Bostonís 3-4-5 guys should have a lot of opportunities to knock guys in.

The only concern with Man-Ram and Drew is health. Manny is one of the best hitters in the game, and Drew is one of baseballís better right fielders in the game when healthy.

Projection- .295/.380/.486

Designated hitter
2006 Starter: David Ortiz
Projected 2007 Starter: Ortiz

Not much to say here. Papi is one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and I can tell you from experience, I certainly wouldnít want him up in a clutch situation if Iím the opposition.

Projection- .290/.425/.640

Starting Pitching
2006 Starters: Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, Jon Lester, Kyle Snyder
Projected 2007 Starters: Schilling, Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathon Papelbon, Tim Wakefield

This rotation is full of ifs. If all goes well, they could have the best front three in all of baseball.  But how often does that happen? Schilling is another year older, Beckett has to prove he can survive the A.L East, Matsuazaka has to prove a lot, and can Papelbon handle a totally different workload after a serious shoulder injury?

Schilling pitched better last year than his ERA would suggest. His FIP was almost one third of run lower than his actual ERA, and he posted an amazing K:BB ratio of 6.5:1.  Iím not a big fan of Beckett.  His BB jumped up and he used his fastball the 5th most of any pitcher in the league when he has a serious hammer. Iím also not a fan of Papelbon, at least not for 2007. Heís going to have to pitch 120+ more innings than he did last year, and he might even be forced back to the bullpen, which wonít be too kind to his shoulder. As for Matsuzaka, I think he should pitch well, but then again Hideki Irabu was supposedly the Japanese Nolan Ryan, so who knows? An ERA from 3.50-4.00 should be expected with 14-17 wins.

Projection - 68-44 4.25 ERA

2006 Top Relievers: Jon Papelbon, Keith Foulke, Rudy Seanez, Mike Timlin, Manny Delcarmen, Julian Tavarez
Projected 2007 Top Relievers: Timlin, Declarmen, Tavarez, Craig Hansen, Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, Devern Hansack

Ouch. It gets real ugly here. Real ugly. As of right now, Brandon Donnelly and Joel Piniero appear to be the top candidates for the closer. Pinieiro has been horrid the past two years, and Donnelly had his highest ERA, and worst K/BB ratio of his career last season. Even if Donnelly or Piniero somehow are productive in closing, how will anyone get the ball to them? Timlin has been declining, and Delcarmen and Hansen are clearly not ready for the big leagues. The bullpen is not going to be a pretty sight.

Projection - 21-28 4.99 ERA

Final Word:

The one thing that is going to cost Boston a shot at the division will be their bullpen. I do think the top 3 of the rotation will be solid, as well as their offense, but Papelbon in the starting rotation worries me, and Iíve never liked Wakefield. If the back end of their rotation is worrisome, their bullpen really scares the hell out of me. There is just no way they will be able to hold down lineups like Torontoís and the Yankeesí in close games. Keith Foulke wasnít a top notch closer, but the decision to let him go still makes me scratch my head.

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