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.

AL East Position Matchup: Second Base

Another day and another position ranking, today I will look into second basemen. First, I analyzed catchers, with Baltimore’s Matt Weiters coming out on top. Next, I analyzed first base, with the Red Sox MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez filling out the top slot. The AL East’s star position has to be second basemen. It contains 3 of the top second basemen, and two legitimate MVP candidates, who are becoming the face of their respective franchises.

The rankings are as follows:

1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
2. Robinson Cano, Yankees
3. Ben Zobrist, Rays
4. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays
5. Brian Roberts, Orioles

This has been by far the toughest decision to make in the position rankings. I know every Yankees fan will disagree, as any loyal fan would, but hear me out on this one. Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano have been very similar in terms of offensive impact in the past few years (barring Pedroia’s injury shortened season in 2010). While displaying virtually exact career AVG (Pedroia .305 vs Cano .308), Pedroia has consistently reached base at a higher rate (.373  Career OBP vs Cano’s .349). Cano may be able to put up more HR’s and RBI’s than Pedroia, but Pedey has consistently put up many more steals and runs. Cano’s extra RBI’s can mostly be contributed to his spot in the batting order. Last year, 94.9% of his at bats were taken from the 4 and 5 spots in the order, while 77.3% of Pedroia’s at bats were taken from the 2 spot in the order. Yes, Pedroia’s extra runs can be mostly contributed to his spot in the order, but his steals and baserunning are still much better than Cano’s. All offensive prowess aside, Pedroia definitely has an edge on the defensive side ( 2 Gold Gloves in four eligible seasons vs Cano’s single Gold Glove during his 7 seasons). Also, Pedroia has a better fielding percentage and zone rating. Perhaps the most telling fact is WAR (wins above replacement), in which Pedroia 8.0 2011 rating, clearly outshines Cano’s 5.6.

Despite this argument, it should be noted that if either team had the choice, they would not switch second baseman with the other team. Pedroia is a true Red Sox player, never afraid to get his jersey dirty, while Cano is a Bronx Bomber, provided unheard of power from second baseman position since the sloppy fielding former Yank Alfonso Soriano.

Next up is Ben Zobrist, who is a great player for the Rays, but overshadowed by Cano and Pedroia. Zobrist has the talent to fight for the top second basemen spot in any other division. He has the potential to contend with Cano and Pedroia, but his inconsistency gives him the third ranking. He displayed incredible numbers both last year and in 2009, but his steep dropoff in 2010 (.239 BA and a 63.0% HR decrease) leaves room for concern.

Filling out the fourth spot is Blue Jay second baseman Kelly Johnson. Kelly was acquired by the Jays from the Diamondbacks last year in a trade for Aaron Hill and John MacDonald. Johnson has been even more inconsistent than Zobrist, but should give the Jays a good option at second as long as his average stays up. I see him providing about a .275 average and 20-25 HR’s in his first full year at the Rogers Centre.

Lastly, the Orioles have the oft injured Brian Roberts slotted in as their starting second baseman. Although Roberts was once regarded as a top second baseman, those days are gone after only playing 98 games in the last two years combined. Whether he gets injured again and Robert Andino fills in for him remains the true question. Both will provide similar offensive output and show good speed on the basepaths. I don’t see the credentials to rate either one above any of the other second baseman in this stacked division though.

For Catcher rankings, click here.
For First Baseman rankings, click here.