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Playing Pepper 2010: Boston Red Sox

Posted on February 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM
Filed Under: Boston Red Sox | Playing Pepper
Last year before the season began, I posed five questions to a blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball.  I focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can pass me by.  That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

So this year, I've brought 
Playing Pepper back, with a little bit of a twist.  Instead of five questions, I posed 10 questions, and this year every team got the same set.  Plus, tapping into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing that team in the BBA.

We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order, but things may change depending on responses.

Boston Red Sox
2009 Finish: 95-67, second in the AL East, AL Wild Card, lost in ALDS

Ever since the Sox took card of the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, I can't say that I've been a huge fan of the franchise.  I've got some friends that follow them, as does my brother to some extent, but I've just not been that interested in the non-cursed version.

That said, the BBA has some excellent Boston bloggers and a number of them took the time to humor me and answer the Playing Pepper Ten.  Inside, read the answers from Brian of BoSox Injection, Rob from The Bottom Line and Allan from The Joy of Sox.

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C70: How was the off-season?  What kind of grade would you give it?

BSI: The Red Sox had an excellent off-season by focusing on defense and pitching. They improved an already impressive starting rotation with the addition of John Lackey and revamped the left-side of the infield by signing Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. Also, the Sox improved their defense by adding Mike Cameron to track balls down in CF. The loss of Jason Bay will cost the Sox a small amount of power, but along with their other improvements, the club should have a strong 2010 campaign. Grade: A-

BL: I think we overpaid for Lackey, but I giving Bay 5 years would have been a bad move. I wish we had made a run at Matt Holliday, but he too was overpaid in the end. Overall, I like the Scutaro deal and the way the Beltre deal is structured is very smart. Given what we needed (defense, a big bat) I give Theo a B- overall.

JS: Grade: "B". Unwilling to commit the $$$ to sign either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, Theo Epstein inked John Lackey and tighten up the infield with Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre. Evaluating fielding is not yet well understood and thus under- or incorrectly-valued.

C70: What is the key to success for 2010?

BSI: The 2 keys for success are a consistent offense and a healthy pitching staff. The concern going into 2010 has been the de-emphasized offense, especially in the powerful AL East. If the lineup can manufacture runs on a consistent basis, which is a big if, they can compete with anyone. Consistent offense coupled with a relatively healthy pitching staff for 162 games would make the Red Sox a serious World Series contender.

BL:  The health of the pitching staff. If we lose one of the projected five starters for a significant period of time, I'm not sure this offense can make make up for mediocre pitching. David Ortiz is the other key... if he doesn't bounce back with 30 homers, 100 RBI and a better OPS, the offense will be in trouble.

JS:  As usual, good health. ... And the Yankees having bad health!

C70: What will be the team's strength?

BSI: Without a doubt the starting pitching staff is the team strength. As I mentioned in question 2, if healthy, they are arguably the best and most deep staff in baseball.

BL: Pitching. The bullpen is deep and talented, but Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Matsuzaka and Buchholz could be one of the best rotations in the history of the game. If they all log 25+ start, I expect 12+ wins from all of them and Beckett and Lester could approach 20 wins.

JS: Starting rotation, fielding (especially infield).
C70: What could be their Achilles' heel?

BSI: The lack of power for the Red Sox could be a real problem in 2010. Their HR leader last season (Jason Bay) is gone, leaving David Ortiz with the highest HR total of any returning player. Ortiz has come into camp in great shape and is ready to go, but is in his mid-30's, which is around the age when power-hitters begin to struggle. They did add Adrian Beltre, who has plenty of power, but only hit 8 HRs in 111 games last season with Seattle.

BL: A drastic drop in OBP. Beltre and Cameron might hit 15-20 homers a piece, but they don't work the count very well and that goes against everything the Sox have believed in since Theo's arrival. It could get very frustrating if the bottom half of the lineup continually struggles to drive in the better top half.

JS: Everyone and their brother is saying there will be a big drop in runs scored, but I don't see it. Most of the lineup that was #3 in MLB in runs scored is back. The solid rotation/bullpen and the better gloves should mitigate any loss in lineup production. Honestly, I do not see much weak areas on this team.

C70: Who will be the team's MVP?

BSI: I think Victor Martinez (V-Mart) is going to have a huge year. He put up impressive numbers in 56 games with the club last season after being traded from Cleveland (.336, 8 HRs, 41 RBIs). V-Mart is certainly capable of a .300+, 25+ HR, 100+ RBI season, especially in hitter-friendly Fenway Park.

BL: Jon Lester. I don't see one player winning more games with his bat that Lester will with his arm. He's going to be a stud this season and even if he only win 15 games, he'll keep the Sox in the game for 6+ innings every time.

JS: Victor Martinez.

C70: Will a rookie make a significant impact on the team in 2010, and if so, who?

BSI: Most of the Red Sox younger players are in their second or third year or are a few years away from contributing in the majors, so my gut feeling is no. A second year guy that will play a pivotal role is Daniel Bard. He pitched well last season in his rookie campaign, and will set-up Jonathan Papelbon this season. This upper-90's fastball and devastating off-speed pitches will allow him to be successful in 2010.

BL: The 6' 5" Dustin Richardson tore up the minors last year. He could give Brian Shouse a run for the "lefty-specialist" role in the bullpen, but of the Sox chose to develop him further in Pawtucket, he will be called up sooner rather than laster and could be a key member of the pen down the stretch.

JS: No.

C70: Who will be the breakout player for the team?

BSI: It's tough to call him a breakout player because of his great career, but I think Adrian Beltre will return to form in 2010 after a poor injury-riddled 2009 campaign. The change of scenary will help Beltre offensively and his defensive will continue to impress, as it has his entire career. He has the ability to hit .270 with 20-25 HRs, strengthening the middle of the Sox lineup.

BL: Jacoby Ellsbury is already a fan favorite, but I expect him to have his most complete season this year. He'll hit 10 homers, steal another 70+ bases and improve his OBP. My other choice is Adrian Beltre... He won't hit .300, but he'll fgeature more pop than he did in Safeco Field and his defense is going to amaze the fans.

JS: Clay Buchholz -- if someone with his experience still fits the description. Otherwise, no one.

C70: Which player will drop off the most from 2009?

BSI: J.D. Drew had a great year in 2009, hitting .279 with 24 HRs in 137 games. My concern for him in 2010 is with his health. Drew is injured more than practically anyone and is now discussing the possibility of retiring after the 2011 season. I think Drew will spend more time on the bench due to injuries in 2010 and his power numbers will be greatly effected. It is only a matter of time until his body completely breaks down.

BL: If Victor Martinez is forced to catch 100+ games, I fear that his production will drop. That said, I think Jason Varitek will benefit from a little less pressure and the two could post very good numbers out of the catcher's spot. My other guess is Daniel Bard. It only takes one or two bad games for an RP to go from king of the world to the dog house...

JS: While no player from the '09 team did so well that a significant drop off could be expected, I'll say Scutaro.

C70: Who is the most likely player to be dangled as trade bait?

BSI: In terms of major league players, Mike Lowell and Jacoby Ellsbury are at the top of the list. Mike Lowell is the obvious choice because he was traded to Texas this off-season, but the deal fell through when he failed his physical. Lowell will not bring much in return, but will, without question, be traded sooner rather than later.

Jacoby Ellsbury's name has cropped up in trade rumors for Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego. In order for the Sox to trade Ellsbury, they would need a big player or two in return, but he is a highly desired player in the league.

BL:  If Mike Lowell isn't moved during Spring Training, he's the obvious choice. After that it's Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard... unfortunately.

JS: Mike Lowell

C70: What will be the team's final record and divisional standing?

BSI: 95-67, 1st in the AL East - 2 games ahead of the New York Yankees

BL: 96-66, just ahead of the Rays for the WC spot, but second to the Yankees.

JS: 98-64, 1st in East.

My thanks to all of these guys for participating.  Love them or hate them, the Red Sox are going to be a force this season and, most likely, well into October!

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