2009 Boston Red Sox: No Longer Chasing The Yankees
BaseballEvolution.com Spring Preview
| Key Transactions |
| Acquired || Pos. |
| Takashi Saito|| RP|
| Rocco Baldelli|| OF |
| Brad Penny|| SP|
| John Smoltz|| SP |
| Brad Wilkerson|| OF |
| || |
| Departed || Pos. |
| Curt Schilling|| SP |
| Bartolo Colon|| SP|
| Paul Byrd|| SP |
| David Ross|| C |
| Kevin Cash|| C|
| Alex Cora|| IF|
| Mike Timlin|| RP |
| Sean Casey|| 1B |
For years, the Red Sox have been known for their innovative
and efficient front office. In 2003, they were on the cusp of catching the
Yankees, and now they have recently blown right past them. This offseason, the
Red Sox responded to the Yankees’ spending spree by signing a trio of low-risk,
moderately high-reward arms. Those arms were Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and
Takashi Saito. All three are coming off injury plagued seasons. Smoltz is coming
off shoulder surgery that will most likely sideline him until June, while Penny
and Saito will be ready to contribute come April.
If there is a downside coming into 2009, it is that a
handful of players had career years in 2008, such as Dustin Pedroia, Kevin
Youkilis, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester, and it will be hard for them to
replicate those years.
This has been the third time I have written a Red Sox
season preview, and I essentially say the same thing about the Red Sox’
catcher ever year: he is a decent defender while his offense has been
hanging by a thread. Last season, however, appeared to be the straw that broke
the camel’s back. Captain Varitek batted .220/.313/.359, each of which were
career lows. That is entering Jose Molina territory, and Varitek is certainly
not the defender that Molina is. The Red Sox made the decision to re-sign him
with their heart, and not with their minds.
Last year Youkilis showed unprecedented power, hitting 29
long balls and slugging .569, which was 100 points higher than his previous
career high. The first baseman changed his game by taking fewer walks and
swinging for the fences more, which is indicated by an almost 7% increase in his
HF/FB ratio. The Greek God of Walks had suddenly turned into Zeus overnight. It
is possible that the change in Youkilis’ game is here to stay, however, a
slugging percentage approaching .600 is not likely.
Like Youkilis, Pedroia took a big step forward last season.
Unlike his teammate, however, Pedroia’s year was less “fluky.” Dustin’s BABIP
went up by only two points and his LD% went up by almost 3%, indicating that his
batting average is as real as it gets. Pedroia is also roughly 4 ½ years younger
than Youkilis, so a sharp increase in power at his age is not as uncommon as it
is in Youkilis’ case. Pedroia also stepped it up in the field, by saving 7 more
runs in ‘08 than he did in ’07, according to Ultimate Zone Rating. Even though
it is likely he will regress some in 2009, Pedroia has very quickly become one
of the best second basemen in all of baseball.
Manning third base for the third consecutive year
will be Mike Lowell, who recently turned 35 and is coming off hip surgery. With
Lowell, you basically know what you’re going to get: .275/.340/.460 coupled with
excellent glove work. Age might slow his bat down a bit, but he should still be
a valuable commodity in 2009.
Due to arthroscopic surgery, Lugo will be handing over the
shortstop job over to Jed Lowrie for approximately the first three to
four weeks of the season. Offensively, Lowrie leaves a bit to be desired. He has
shown good plate discipline throughout his professional career. Other than that,
he still has to prove himself. He has consistently relied on extraordinarily
high BABIP to keep his batting average afloat, and despite a .342 BABIP last
season, he only hit .258. Defensively, however, he does have good range to
compensate for his very mediocre bat.
A wrist injury caused designated hitter David Ortiz
to miss about six weeks last year, which shaved down his batting average
considerably. Ortiz did report yesterday that his wrist is pain-free and he is
worry-free. Ortiz is still 33 and doesn’t spend too much time in the field, so a
return to his 40 HR form is the plausible.
Wherever Jacoby Ellsbury played in the outfield last
season, he seemingly had no problem pocketing fly balls left and right. With
Coco Crisp now on the Royals, Ellsbury will be the mainstay in centerfield for
the upcoming season. Offensively, when Ellsbury got on base, he was a threat to
run. He stole 50 bases last year at 82% success rate. Unfortunately for Ellsbury,
getting on base was a problem. In the minors, he had no trouble drawing walks,
but in 178 career games in the bigs, he has drawn a walk at just a shade below
7% of the time. Patience usually comes with age, and if you combine that with
more playing time, he will be a threat to steal at least 75 bags in the near
Julio Lugo and David Ortiz
Jason Bay last year proved to us to 2007 was a fluke, and
in the process helped Red Sox fans forget Man-Ram. Bay is still in the prime of
his career, and will probably perform just as well as Ramirez considering their
J.D. Drew was solid offensively in 2008, but injuries held
him to only 109 games. Realizing that there is a better chance of lighting
striking twice than Drew playing a full season, the Red Sox went out and picked
up Baldelli to spell Drew. However, Baldelli has had an injury filled past
himself. If both right fielders wind up injured, it is possible that we will see
the Sox call up Jonathan Van Every.
Josh Beckett will anchor the rotation for a third
straight year, and if healthy, is primed for success. Beckett posted excellent
peripherals last season that equated to a 3.24 FIP. Unfortunately, lady luck was
not on his side, and he posted an ERA of 4.03. Speaking of peripherals,
Matsuzaka’s BB/9 went through the roof and his K/9 declined just a tad. What
goes up, must come down. Unless Matsuzaka fixes his control issues, there is no
way he keeps his ERA below four.
To be honest, I’m quite surprised that no one has mentioned
that Lester increased his major league workload by 140+ innings. This could
cause fatigue problems for him mid-season. Nonetheless, Lester got his control
together in 2008, which had always been a problem for him.
Rounding out the rotation will be Tim Wakefield, Penny, and
possibly Smoltz for the second half of the season. Wakefield will most likely be
Wakefield, and the Red Sox should hope that Smoltz will start when he returns.
Going from a moderate pitcher’s park in the NL to one of the best hitter’s parks
in the AL is not a good look for Penny.
The Red Sox may very well have the best bullpen in
all of baseball. To compliment one of the game’s best closers, they have the
solid Hideki Okajima, fireballer Manny Delcaremen, and the newly acquired Saito.
Very often, the Red Sox will be playing six and seven inning games.
The Red Sox’ core players are probably going to suffer from
slight regression, however it won’t be enough to knock them out of contention
for the AL East crown. The more often they have a lead after six innings, they
better off they’ll be.
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