Red Sox Update

The Boston Red Sox celebrating one of their 20 wins this season.
Picture Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Sensational Sox- After an absolutely astounding start to the season, the Boston Red Sox were swept over the weekend by the red hot Texas Rangers. Boston finished the month of April at 19-8 with the best record in the big leagues.

In this month of May though, things have not been so merry for the Sox, as they are 2-3 in their last five games. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at what’s brought Boston to a 20-11 overall record thus far:

Pitcher Perfect- Ok, so some of the Sox pitching hasn’t exactly been perfect, but Clay Buchholz’ certainly has. Take a look at his April numbers: W/L Record: 6-0 ERA: 1.01 WHIP: 0.96 SO: 47. Buchholz is pitching like a man possessed, more importantly, it would seem he has finally tapped into that potential the Red Sox clubhouse saw in him a few seasons ago.

Jon Lester has also been a monster on the mound this year with a 4-0 record, a respectable ERA of 3.30, a WHIP of 1.17, and 40 SO. Anchored by both Lester and Buccholz, the Sox rotation finds itself ranked in the top ten in the majors at eighth overall.

Boston starting pitcher Clay Buchholz has been on fire this year for the Sox.
Picture Courtesy of usatoday.com

The Red Sox have a solid team ERA of 3.60 and rank second in the MLB in strikeouts with 287. Boston also ranks fourth overall in batting average against with a .233. While those numbers are impressive, the back end of the rotation and the bullpen need to improve if the Sox want those stats to stick around.

Side Note: I claimed before the season started that Boston’s bullpen would be a strength. Boy was I wrong…dead wrong. However, that’s not to say the pen hasn’t had bright spots in the form of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, (say both their names five times fast) but improvement is important moving forward this May.

Breaking Out The Bats: The Sox have been simply slugging the baseball so far this season. Boston ranks in the top five or higher in the MLB with a .269 team average (5th), 149 runs (5th), a .347 OBP (3rd), and a .443 SLG (3rd) which lands them fifth overall in team batting.

Newcomer Mike Napoli has had a big impact on Boston’s lineup this year. Nap is currently batting .268 with six home runs and ranks third in the majors with 31 RBI. Meanwhile, the regulars: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, have all been contributing as usual.

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia (Left) high-fiving C Mike Napoli (Right). Both have had big bats for Boston this season.
Picture Courtesy of sports.inquirer.net

Ortiz is batting for a .440 average with four home runs and 17 RBI in 13 games this season. Pedroia is putting in another fine season batting .294 with 12 RBI and a team high .396 OBP. Ellsbury is batting .279 with 12 RBI and leads the team in hits with 38.

Also, second year stud Will Middlebrooks continues to shine as he is tied with Napoli for a team high six home runs and has 12 RBI on the year. Middlebrooks batting average of .195 could see improvement, but with “great power comes great responsibility”. The young-gun thirdbaseman just needs better plate discipline.

Side Note: Even more surprising than the Sox stellar start to the season, is the at-bats by Daniel Nava. Nava has spent the majority of his time with Boston as a platoon-type player in the outfield.

This season though, he has been one of the better bats in the lineup. Nava has posted a .286 average, which ranks him second for team average behind Pedroia. He also has five home runs with 19 RBI, which ranks him second in team RBI, right behind Napoli.

Final Thoughts: Despite the recent sweep by the Rangers, Boston remains in first place in the American League East with a game and a half lead over the New York Yankees. More importantly, it would appear after an amazing April, the Red Sox have put the past (2012) behind them and are playing towards a bright future. How do you feel about the Sox start? Where do you see room for improvement? Can they keep this up all season? Leave a comment below.

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Boston Red Sox 2013 Season Preview

With pitchers and catchers meeting in Fort Myers, FL this Sunday (Feb.10th) baseball season is officially back!! Well alright, “technically” it’s not back until Feb. 21st when the Red Sox  play Northeastern in their first scheduled Spring Training game. Nevertheless, with the season, and spring, right around the corner; I thought I’d give the Fenway Faithful a preview of what 2013 should look like for the Bo-Sox.

Likely Lineups:

1.OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 2B Dustin Pedroia

4. DH David Ortiz

5. 1B Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. 3B Will Middlebrooks

8. SS Stephen Drew

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Granted this is just a rough draft of what the lineup “could look like”. Only John Farrell will truly be able to assemble a proper lineup when spring training is complete. For now, the above lineup is my take on where Farrell may go with the batting order.

The lineup could very well have Ellsbury and Napoli batting Cleanup at 3 and 4 which would then likely shift Dustin Pedroia to bat 2nd in front of Ellsbury and have Papi batting 5th after Napoli. Also, Farrell may choose to have a healthy Ellsbury be the lead-off hitter, which Ellsbury has certainly had success at in seasons past. However if Ellsbury puts up 2011 numbers this season, having him 2nd or 3rd could be more beneficial for the Red Sox as far as RBI production is concerned.

Lastly, the bottom of the order is subject to change as well. Middlebrooks, Gomes, and Drew could all bat lower or higher based on their spring training results. Salty will stay at the bottom of the order until he can prove he’s the switch hitting prodigy he was supposed to be. Only time will tell what the everyday batting order will eventually look like.

5 Man Rotation:

1. Jon Lester. 2. Ryan Dempster. 3. Clay Bucholz. 4. Felix Doubront. 5. John Lackey

While the pitching rotation isn’t exactly terrifying to many teams in the majors, this assembly of arms can get the job done for Boston. Lester and Bucholz will have to bounce back, Dempster will have to pitch more consistently than in seasons past, Felix Doubront will have to prove he wasn’t just a one year wonder baller, and John Lackey will have to return to his prime if the Sox want to get the most wins out of this group.

The rotation may change throughout the season, as it often does, as the Red Sox have options should one of these guys fold. Boston can bring up the likes of Rubby De la Rosa or Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket if those two show they are primed for a big league day job.

Also, Boston could add to the Rotation if they choose to sign still-free-agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals). Again like the lineup above, only time will tell what is working, and what needs to be worked out.

The Pen:

Relievers: 1. Andrew Bailey 2. Koji Uehara 3. Daniel Bard 4. Craig Breslow 5. Alfredo Aceves

Closer: Joel Hanrahan

The Red Sox Bullpen as it stands right now is the strongest weapon Boston has entering this season. While the 5-man rotation could use some re-tooling, and our lineup is still missing a big bat or two, the pen looks to have great promise in 2013.

Boston went out in the off-season and added the likes of relievers Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow, and new closer Joel Hanrahan to sure up the 7th,8th and 9th innings for this year. All of which were inexpensive upgrades that should ultimately pay off for the Red Sox.

Win-Loss/ Post-Season Projections:

Though I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan to my very core, I must blog with a sense of realism in making these next few predictions.

Win-Loss Record: 85-77 (I didn’t just come up with this record out of thin air just so you know. I went through the entire schedule and chose game by game what I thought were wins and losses for the Red Sox.)

AL East Finish: I sadly have the Red Sox finishing third this year just ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by a few games. I see the Toronto Blue Jays meeting everyone’s expectations and winning the east with the Yankees somehow frustratingly finishing in 2nd place. The Orioles return to their usual spot, in the AL East’ cellar in last place.

Postseason: With the Sox finishing third by my count, there will be no post-season play for this Red Sox group. I have the Blue Jays clinching a spot with the division crown and the New York Yankees beating out Boston for the final of two Wild Card spots by a few games.

Final Thoughts: I whole heartedly hope I’m way wrong about my season predictions for the Red Sox. I hope some how, some way, the Red Sox can bring back some of that 2004 magic and sneak into the post-season. Realistically though, I only foresee a minor improvement for Boston as this is a rebuilding year. I look at it this way, ANY results this season should be better than last seasons 69-93 last place finish. How do you see the 2013 season going for Boston? Leave a comment below.

Throwback Thursday: Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series Champs

ImageTo start this Throwback Thursday off right we must first go back a bit before the 2004 World Series, and relive “The Comeback” that was the 2004 ALCS.

The Boston Red Sox finished the 2004 season in second place in the American League East Division behind the New York Yankees to earn a wild card birth. The season was riddled with uncertainty as injuries plagued the roster, young gun general manager at the time Theo Epstein made bold trades at the deadline (shipping Nomar Garciaparra away for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, later trading a minor leaguer for Dave Roberts) and they had a terrible mid-season slump falling more than eight games back of the Yanks at one point.

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However, despite things looking dreary, the 2004 Boston Red Sox turned things around just in time to make the post-season as they won 22 of their last 25 games. Cabrera, Roberts and Mientkiewicz all played crucial roles in the Red Sox clubhouse during that stretch, and would continue to contribute in the postseason as well.

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After sweeping the then Anaheim Angels in the ALDS the Sox looked poised to finally overthrow the “Evil Empire” as they entered the ALCS against their arch nemesis. As you might remember the series didn’t exactly start the way we had hoped. Boston fell into a 3-0 hole the size of the Grand Canyon and it looked like there was no way out.

But just when the Fenway Faithful thought all hope was lost…something miraculous happened. The Boston Red Sox came to life and roared back into the series. Over the next four games minds were blown, sports writers and analysts were baffled, history was being written right before our very eyes, but no one could even begin to believe it.

Game 4 had the Sox season all but over. Going into the bottom of the 9th Boston trailed 4-3 and The Bronx Bombers had star closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. After Rivera walked Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts came in to pinch run and made the steal that would start the improbable comeback. Roberts would score on a Bill Mueller single to tie the game, and an extra innings two-run blast by David “Big Papi” Ortiz would clinch the first of four victories for the Sox.

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Game 5 was long and grueling, and was again capped off by Papi as he hit an extra innings RBI to score Johnny Damon. Game 6 had Curt Schilling and “The Bloody Sock”, in which Schilling put on an a brilliant pitching performance to capture another victory. Finally, Game 7 featured a grand salami from Johnny Damon which helped seal the crazy comeback, as the Sox won 10-3 and propelled themselves to their first World Series appearance since 1986.

To illustrate just how improbable this comeback was, it should be noted that only four teams in the history of sports with a seven game playoff series (MLB,NBA,NHL) have came back down 3 games in a championship series to win (the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL, the 1975 New York Islanders NHL, the 2004 Boston Red Sox MLB, and 2010 Boston Bruins NHL, No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit).

After doing the unthinkable against the New York Yankees the Red Sox didn’t spend anytime relishing in defeating (and embarrassing) their rivals, but instead continued the calamity and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.

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I’ll never forget the final out made by then closer Keith Foulke. With two away and the Sox up 3-0 on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, you could certainly cut the tension with a butcher knife. We all remember where we were in that moment. The batter was Edgar Rentaria, who coincidentally donned the number 3 on his uniform, the very same number worn by Babe Ruth. Foulke got Rentaria to ground right back to the mound and the rest is history. Foulke flipped it over to Doug Mientkiewicz and those famous words, uttered by esteemed announcer Joe Buck, rang out on household televisions and sports bars across the country “Red Sox Fans have longed to hear it; The Boston Red Sox are World Champions”.

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This wasn’t just an 86-year-old curse being broken, this wasn’t just our first World Series title since 1918, this was so much more. This was what generation after generation of Red Sox fans had spent their whole lives waiting for, this was bigger than baseball, this was the one night that washed away decades of pain and suffering, that overshadowed all the spring training whispers of “this could be the year”. There was no catch, no hold up, no disappointment, only joy, celebration, and triumph.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox were unlike anything the sporting world had ever seen. They wrote their way into the history books one game at a time, in the cold nights of October, winning baseballs fall classic and the hearts of millions.

What was your favorite 2004 ALCS/World Series moment? Leave a comment below.

AL East Position Matchup: Designated Hitter

Today, I will conclude my rankings of all the players in each teams’ starting batting lineups. This will be the easiest ranking for me to do in terms of evaluations, considering it will be solely based from an offensive production standpoint, rather than offense and defensive skills like the other positions. The Red Sox DH position was one of the question marks over the offseason. After David Ortiz’s contract was up at the end of the 2011 season, Big Papi made several remarks about how he’d like to join the Yankees to leave all the drama in Boston. During the offseason, he was constantly working with the Red Sox for a new contract and finally settled on a 1-year contract for $14.58 million to avoid arbitration. I’ll be the first to say the Sox paid too much for the greedy Ortiz here, who wanted $16.5 million, a significant bump up from the $12.5 he received in 2011. Despite paying too much, the Red Sox were basically forced into needing the 36 year old Ortiz in their lineup because they wouldn’t have been able to find anything close to a replacement in the free agent market this year.

Just as a quick update on Spring Training, Varitek is set to retire at 5:30 today and the Sox are getting prepared for their first “game” vs Northeastern at 2:35 in Fort Myers on Saturday. This game will be the first leg of a double header, with Boston College playing the night cap.

Anyways, here are the rankings:
(Once again, for previous positional rankings click here: C1B2B3BSSLFCFRF)

1. David Ortiz, Red Sox
2. Raul Ibanez, Yankees
3. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
4. Luke Scott, Rays
5. Wilson Betemit, Orioles

Ortiz has surprised many fans in Red Sox Nation that were ready to kick him out of town in 2009. After struggling the two years after the Sox second championship in four years, Big Papi has revitalized his career. He has hit 61 Home Runs with 198 RBI’s in the last two years combined. The biggest turnaround was his .309 AVG last year. It looked like Papi had no idea how to hit against the shift, but last year was a great sign for him. Adrian Gonzalez was said to give Ortiz a lot of confidence in hitting the ball with power to the opposite field, instead of trying to pull it to the right field or finnessing it against the shift, as Ortiz had tried in years prior. I’m predicting another solid year from Papi, but a little bit of dropoff considering his age. I’m thinking a .285/27 HR/ 95 RBI line from Ortiz in possibly his last year in a Red Sox uniform.

Next up is the massive upgrade from the Yankees. Jorge Posada was a great catcher throughout his career for the Yankees, but they were hurting from the DH spot last year. When the Yankees dumped AJ Burnett’s salary a month ago, they were able to sign Raul Ibanez to be their Designated Hitter and backup outfielder. Although Ibanez at 39 years old is nearing the end of his career, he is a very big upgrade from Eduardo Nunez, the Yankees other apparent option for the DH spot. Assuming Ibanez can get his AVG back up to career norms (.270-.280) from last year’s .245 average, he should be able to provide consistent pop (20 HR, 84 RBI last year) in the back end of the Yankees lineup.

Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays is the third ranked DH. Last year, Encarnacion made big strides at the plate, showing much more consistency with a .272 BA (.244 in 2010, .225 in 2009). Edwin will most likely hit around his usual 20 HR, but his main issue since 2007 has been his ability to hit with runners on base. Every year since 2007, he AVG has dropped significantly with runners on base, hovering around the Mendoza line (.200) each year. This has been the main reason for his low RBI totals and he needs to improve this AVG to contribute more to the Blue Jay lineup.

Luke Scott is known by many Sox fans for being an outfielder/DH for the Orioles, but he upgraded this year and switched over to the Rays. Scott had his season cut short last year and underwent shoulder surgery to fix a torn labrum. If Scott can return successfully to his numbers of 2010 (.284/27/72), he could end up ahead of Encarnacion and Ibanez in these rankings, but I don’t see that happening. That year was a career year for Scott and I see him returning to a .250 BA with around 15 HR and 60-70 RBI’s.

Last in the rankings is Wilson Betemit of the Orioles. Wilson’s now joining his 7th Major League team and is mostly remembered by Red Sox Nation for his forgettable years with the Yanks. Not much needs to be said about Betemit, although he was fairly successful in limited AB’s in the past two years. At 30 years old, Betemit has never had a season with more than 412 AB’s. If he can provide numbers similar to his .297 AVG of 2010 and .285 AVG of 2011, he should be able to get a full time shot for the Orioles this year.

Stay tuned for pitching analysis throughout the next two weeks.

For previous positional rankings click here: C1B2B3BSSLFCFRF

Now that I have concluded all offensive output for the AL East teams, I want to leave the readers with this question: