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Playing Pepper 2011: Boston Red Sox

Posted on March 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM
Filed Under: Boston Red Sox | Playing Pepper
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Boston Red Sox (89-73, 7 GB and third in the AL East)

For the first time in quite some time, the Red Sox found themselves going home when the regular season concluded instead of pushing on into October.  That might have flown in the pre-Idiots days, when the team was still cursed, but nowadays, that kind of failure has to be fixed and fixed quickly, so the Sox plunged into the markets and came up with two big fish, Carl Crawford (via free agency) and Adrian Gonzalez (via trade).

So was that fishing expedition enough to push this team back into a deep October run?  I consulted a panel of Red Sox bloggers to get their opinion.

Christine E. writes for the blog Boston Red Thoughts, which will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, a major milestone in blogging terms.  Christine is also the president of the Boston BBA chapter and you can follow her blog on Facebook, though she's yet to jump into the Twitter stream.

Jeffrey Brown is over at Sox #1 Fan, proclaiming his thoughts on the Boston nine.  You can also find him on Twitter.

Allan is an old-school blogger.  No Facebook, no Twitter, just his thoughts over at Joy of Sox, where this will be his ninth season of writing.  Allan is also the author of Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox and was one of the first members of the BBA.

After the jump, we'll find out which free agent will make the biggest impact and where these bloggers expect the Red Sox to be at the end of the season.

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C70: What was your opinion of the Boston offseason? 

BRT: The activity and acquisitions of the 2010 Postseason were WAY more than I expected. I thought maybe they would pick up one or 2 small cogs in the wheel, but the fact that the Sox signed two HUGE players--both equally capable of being the face of a franchise, was surprising, and certainly welcome. This is the biggest off-season splash the Sox have made in a long time! I am very excited for the season to start...

S#1: IMO, the Red Sox off-season could not have gone better. Theo Epstein has addressed all of the weaknesses the 2010 exposed. He has upgraded the offense, replacing Beltre and Martinez with younger/better offensive performers in AGon and CC. Bobby Jenks' numbers suggest he has a lot left in the tank... he has plenty of potential and the slap-in-the-face he sustained from the CWS could awaken him. I love the addition of Andrew Miller, who could become a power arm from the left side - something I believe this team sorely needs (and has needed for awhile).

JS: It could not have been better. The Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford, and also added some potentially solid bullpen arms with Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. (Plus everyone that was hurt last year has healed.) At the same time, the Yankees floundered about, whiffing mightily on Cliff Lee, pissing off Derek Jeter, and completely ignoring Crawford. New York grabbed Rafael Soriano, but he could opt out at the end of the year, as could CC Sabathia.

C70: Which acquisition will prove more valuable, Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez? 

BRT: Actually, I think Carl Crawford. While Adrian Gonzalez is certainly impressive, and is the big bat this lineup has craved for several years, Carl Crawford is a game changer. When he gets on base, if he doesn't steal (which he does, more often than not) he can get into a pitchers head, which can lead to the picther making mistakes to the batter. Sometimes you need to be able to manufacture runs to win games--not just come up with the big hit, which I think is more Gonzalez's MO... 

S#1: I suspect CC will prove to be more valuable in 2011, but over the long-term the more valuable addition will be Gonzalez (assuming an extension is signed this season). AGon reports his shoulder is fine, but he has lost several months of strength training, swinging a bat, etc. It seems likely he will not be at full strength until some time in June... thus I think CC has more of an impact this year. 

JS: These guys have very different skill sets, but I'll say Gonzalez. I am really looking forward to seeing him hit in Fenway.

C70: What are the expectations for Josh Beckett this season? 

BRT: Bottom line: Josh Beckett needs to be better than his 6-6 5.78 record of 2010. And, with his offseason conditioning to help with the back issues, and the insight as to why he struggled last year, I think he will be. Will he be the 2007 or 2003 Josh Beckett? Probably not--but I don't think he needs to be. And who knows, maybe the fact that he doesn't need to be the staff ace anymore will take the pressure off, and improve things as well...I predict a 15 win season, with a 3.34 ERA for Josh--and many more starts than last year... 

S#1: I have got to believe Beckett will come back stronger this year. I don't think he'll be a 20-game winner, but I can foresee him winning in the vicinity of 14 or 15 games. He started relying more on a cutter last year... and as a result he lost a click on his fastball. He left it out over the plate far too often. Ditto the curve. He lost confidence in both pitches. And when that happened he didn't have anything left to rely on as an 'out pitch'. It was brutal to watch. 

JS: Well, he can't get much worse, can he? A 5.78 ERA, 1.535 WHIP, and .341 BABIP in only 21 starts should be easy to improve. Beckett battled back issues for most of 2010, leading to the lowest fastball velocity of his career. He relied on his cutter far too much last year, and avoiding pitching in the zone. But he had dropped some weight this winter and strengthened his back, so that's promising. He and John Lackey can fight it out for #3 starter.

C70: Is there a Red Sox prospect that will make a significant impact this season? 

BRT: I truly believe that JD Drew will have "THE injury" this year, and Ryan Kalish will be called up and he will have a monster season... 

S#1: Kalish, if you still consider him a prospect... otherwise, I am not sure they have one. J D Drew is already making excuses with respect to his hamstring. I suspect at some point he will end up on the DL and Kalish will be recalled to play daily for an extended period. A couple of years ago I asked a well-respected writer at ESPN what he thought of Kalish. He said he was a tweener - not fast enough for CF and without the power for a corner outfield slot. I wrote that I disagreed with his assessment - the lack of power was due to a wrist injury. I always believed he'd recover to hit for enough power to be a pretty darn good right fielder. I still feel that way. I see him as a Trot Nixon type of ballplayer. 

JS: No. Ryan Kalish might pop up as a 5th outfielder, shortstop Jose Iglesias could be a September call-up, and Felix Doubront might help out in the bullpen at some point, but no one will make a splash.

C70: What is your prediction on Boston's record and divisional finish? 

BRT: The Sox will go 108-54 and will win the AL EAST/ALDS/ALCS and meet the Phillies in the World Series, where I think they will win it all--but it will take a full 7 games to do it... 

S#1: A lot can go wrong, especially with injuries - as we saw last year. But even then they finished the season only a half-dozen games out of the playoffs. I expect they will win 101 games and win the division. I expect they will meet the Phillies in the WS. The world championship will be determined by the relative health of the starting rotations when the series gets underway. 

JS: 1st in East with a 102-60 record. And *lots* of fun in October.


1 Comment | Leave a comment

Lots of fish counting before the hatch going on there. Let's see how the season actually goes. Stranger things have happened.

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