2010 Boston Red Sox: Pitching and Defense Wins Championships . . .
BaseballEvolution.com 2010 Spring Preview
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
March 13, 2010
| Key Transactions |
| Acquired || Pos. |
| John Lackey|| SP|
| Adrian Beltre|| 3B|
| Mike Cameron|| CF|
| Jeremy Hermida|| OF|
| Marco Scutaro|| SS|
| Ramon A Ramirez|| RP|
| Boof Bonser|| SP|
| Bill Hall|| 3B|
| || |
| Departed || Pos. |
| Jason Bay|| LF|
| Takashi Saito|| RP|
| Billy Wagner|| RP|
| Javier Lopez|| RP|
| Rocco Baldelli|| OF|
| Casey Kotchman|| 1B|
| Paul Byrd|| SP|
The Boston Red Sox have had an interesting offseason, to say the least.
They lost perhaps their best hitter to free agency only to sign the best
starting pitcher on the market. That pitcher happened to be the longtime
ace of the Sox' recent postseason nemesis, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Sox defeated the Angels in three ALDS between 2004 and 2008 before the
Angels struck back in 2009, with Lackey throwing 7.1 shutout innings in Game
One. In perhaps their best Yankee imitation to date, Boston found a good
player who gave them trouble and solved the problem by throwing money at him.
The difference is that the Yankees are generally able to acquire
top free agents without losing any of their own stars. In Jason Bay, the
Red Sox lost their leader in home runs, RBI, and walks from a year ago.
Can the Bayless BoSox score enough runs for the acquisition of Lackey to matter?
Mike Cameron, a 37-year old who had a .235 average and .734 OPS after May
last year, replaces Bay in the Red Sox outfield. Even if you think that
Cameron will benefit from hitting at Fenway Park, this is about as big of an
offensive downgrade as you'll see from a team with the second-highest payroll in
Helpfully, the Sox do get a full season of Victor Martinez to help offset the
deficit. Unfortunately, V-Mart is 31, was inconsistent last year, was
injured and terrible in 2008, and would have a hard time throwing out Pat
Burrell if The Bat got a decent jump off first base. He is an upgrade over
Cap Varitek in every way except clubhouse leadership (apparently), but he will
be a disappointment if the Sox are expecting him to replace Bay's production in
the middle of the lineup.
|80 Stolen Bases Candidate|
The Sox will need to manufacture runs this year, so Ellsbury could be the first to 80 steals since 1988
A change of scenery may be just what this former 1st-round pick needed
The Sox' other key acquisitions on offense were Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro,
and Jeremy Hermida. Beltre had a .683 OPS last year, and clearly the Sox
are hoping that Fenway Park can do for him what it did for Mike Lowell in 2006.
Scutaro is 34 and coming off the only good offensive season of his career.
Hermida is just 26, and could actually be just what the aging Sox need. If
he re-discovers his stroke from 2007, the Sox' offensive dropoff may not be that
severe, although it's unclear how much playing time Hermida will get with Lowell
still unaccounted for on the team's depth chart.
Most of Boston's position player acquisitions were designed more to aid the
defense than the offense. Beltre has saved more runs than any third
baseman not named Ryan Zimmerman over the past three years. He replaces
Mike Lowell, who cost the Sox 18 runs at third last year despite playing fewer
than 900 defensive innings there. Scutaro saved a dozen runs last year,
and will surely prove to be a defensive upgrade over last season's three-headed
monster. Once a Gold Glove centerfielder, Cameron is just average
defensively at this stage in his career. Jacoby Ellsbury somehow cost his
team nine runs in center last year after being an above average defender the
year before. Although Cameron in center and Ellsbury in left is a
superior alignment to Ellsbury in center and Bay in left, Fenway's
cramped left field seems like the worst place to stick an all-legs, no-arm
outfielder. Martinez is a terrible defensive catcher, but doesn't figure
to be a downgrade from the Cap'n.
John Lackey plus this huge defensive upgrade turns an already solid starting
rotation into easily the best in baseball. Although Lackey has battled
some minor injuries the past two seasons, he hasn't posted an ERA over 4.00
since the Anaheim Angels became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim prior to the
2005 season. John Lester has been among the best southpaws in baseball
over the past two years and is only 26 years old. Over the past
three seasons, Josh Beckett has fanned 565 batters and walked just 129.
With all due respect to the Yankees, Braves, and White Sox, it is the Red Sox
who boast the best front three in all of baseball.
The depth ain't bad, either. Diasuke Matsusaka is just one year removed
from a season in which he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. Clay Buchholz, 25,
has shown flashes of brilliance, even posting a 2.37 ERA over a 10-start stretch
last year. Just in case one of those two disappoints, Boston can turn to Sixth
Starter Extraordinaire Tim Wakefield. You know exactly what you will get
from this knuckleballer over the course of a season, and any team would love to
have him as their fifth starter.
Unfortunately, the Sox may need the versatile Wakefield in their bullpen more
than they do in their rotation. This is hard to believe, as Boston had the
second best bullpen ERA in the American League last year. In absurd
fashion, they lost Takashi Saito, Justin Masterson, Billy Wagner, and Javier
Lopez from last season's pen and did not replace them with anyone of note.
No bullpen can absorb that kind of hit to its depth and come out unscathed the
Things are so bad that Yahoo! Sports lists Scott Atchison on their bullpen
depth chart for the Sox. The 34-year old Atchison is a former 49th-round
pick who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007. You can't make stuff
like that up. What happens if Josh Bard reverts to the control issues he
battled in the minors and Ramon S Ramirez repeats his 1.6 K/BB ratio from a year
ago? Suddenly Manny Delcarmen - the weakest link from last year's bullpen
- becomes Jonathan Papelbon's primary setup man. Hideki Okajima figures to
be used as a lefty specialist, as Dustin Richardson and his 4.11 career minor
league ERA are Boston's second best left-handed option.
The Red Sox have changed their identity from a slugging team with a rotation
just good enough to turn the lead over to a dominant bullpen into a team with a
dominant rotation that will mask its deficiencies on offense and in the bullpen.
This should still be a very good team, but will it be good enough to best both
the Yankees and the Rays, neither of whom seem to have suffered the obvious
downgrades that the Red Sox accepted this offseason?
No, it won't. While Boston still has some talent on offense, everybody
but Ellsbury, Hermida, and Dustin Pedroia is on the wrong side of 30, and some
of them are in a startling decline. The Red Sox are used to having several
major league ready prospects available to fill in for age, injuries, and
ineffectiveness, but there is a gap in the talent train this season.
Ultimately, the Sox do not have the Yankees' star talent nor the Rays' depth of youth, and
there's no reason to believe that the American League Wild Card won't come out
of the AL West, baseball's strongest division last year.
While I am predicting that the Red Sox miss the postseason for only the
second time in the past eight years despite having the best starting rotation
in baseball, if they do luck out on the injury front and squeak into the
postseason, this is going to be a hard team to defeat. Bullpen depth isn't
that important in October, and Ellsbury and Pedroia should be able to
manufacture enough runs for the stellar rotation to excel. Pitching and
defense can win championships... but they have to make it to the postseason
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