Mar
29

2011 Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

By

(Charles Krupa/AP)

Stop me when this sounds familiar. Big market team invests tons of money into a team, but suffers from key injuries. The three-team nature of the AL East puts them out of the playoffs. Then, the following off-season they make a big splash by spending tons of money. That’s exactly what happened with the 2008 Yankees, and it more or less happened again last off-season with the Red Sox. They added two key players in big money deals (just wait for Adrian Gonzalez’s extension announcement) and appear to have a team just as strong as, if not stronger than, the Yankees in 2011.

Let’s just hope the parallels end there.

Strengths

(Charles Krupa/AP)

As has been the case for nearly a decade, the Red Sox draw great strength from the starting lineup. The only time in the past nine seasons that they’ve finished outside the top four in runs scored was in 2006. They might not be the powerhouse that led the league in runs scored from 2003 through 2005, but they’re going to give the Yankees a run for their money in 2011. Their lineup is just that deep.

While batting Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup might not be the best use of the team’s best bats, it makes little difference. It just slides everyone down a spot, meaning last year’s top DH, David Ortiz, hits sixth, and J.D. Drew, who even in a down year had a .341 OBP, seventh. Even at eight and nine they have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who we know has talent, and Marco Scutaro, who is better than most No. 9 hitters.

Then there’s the heart of their order, the two-through-five that rivals any team in the bigs. It starts with Dustin Pedroia, who, with Chase Utley likely to miss a decent portion of 2011, figures to be one of the top two second basemen in the league. Following him is Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis. I suppose they could flip Youkilis and Gonzalez, but it matters little. That gives the Red Sox two excellent on-base and power guys in back of the speedier Crawford and Pedroia.

The Red Sox bullpen, at least the back end, has become a strength, too. Last year the Sox lost a few games due to Jon Papelbon meltdowns, but that could be just a blip on the radar. He has been one of the league’s elite closers for four years now, and it will take more than one season with a few blown saves to downgrade his status. Last year Dan Bard was the only reliable setup man, but during the off-season the Sox added Bobby Jenks to the mix. The rest of the bullpen is full of question marks, including Matt Albers, but the Sox have a few arms on the farm — Al Aceves and Felix Dubront — who can step in if someone falters.

The bench, too, can be considered a strength, even if Jason Varitek again serves as the backup. Darnell McDonald produced a quality 2010 season and could be of use to the Sox as a fifth outfielder. Ahead of him is Mike Cameron, who would start on most teams and will probably take some at-bats from Drew or Ellsbury against lefties. Jed Lowrie, too, could eventually take over as the starting shortstop. That’s a clear sign of a strong bench: the presence of players who could start for decent teams.

Big Question Marks

This section didn’t appear in Mike’s Orioles preview, because this is something unique to the Red Sox. In rating the Sox, I couldn’t decide whether to put the rotation in strengths or weaknesses. It has strengths for sure, and with a few lucky breaks the entire staff could become a strength. But as it stands they’ve got an ace and a bunch of question marks. It sounds like some other team we’ve come to know.

Jon Lester remains one of the game’s premier pitchers. Last year I picked him to win the AL Cy Young, and he really wasn’t that much worse than the winner, Felix Hernandez. This year Dave Cameron of FanGraphs rode my coattails with the Lester pick, and I don’t think it’s any less likely to happen than last year. If he puts it all together this year — high strikeout, low walk, low homer, and high groundball rates — he could be the pitcher we hate to love.

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Behind him, though, the Red Sox have little certainty. Clay Buchholz was the best pitcher behind Lester last year, but he greatly outperformed his peripheral stats. Is he due for a regression, or will he progress similarly to his teammate? Lester, remember, had a below-average strikeout rate in 2008, but experienced a huge jump in 2009. If Buchholz follows his lead he could be in for another excellent season. But if he doesn’t, I would expect his 2011 to look something like Phil Hughes‘s 2010.

Then there are Josh Beckett and John Lackey, who were disappointing for different reasons last season. Beckett pitched poorly and got hurt, and it stands to reason that the two are interrelated. At 31 he’s no sure thing to bounce back, but his track record demonstrates that it is entirely possible. Remember, he had a rough 2006 season when he came to the AL and then came to dominate in 2007. We’re four years removed from that, but it can still happen. It’s just a little less likely this time around.

John Lackey was a disappointment during his first season in Boston, with a reduced strikeout rate and inflated walk rate. Yet he underperformed his peripherals, a 4.40 ERA to a 3.85 FIP. As with Beckett, he’s a bit older and so a recovery isn’t guaranteed. I have a bit less faith in him to recover than Beckett, but that’s mostly a stuff argument — i.e., I think that Beckett’s pure stuff can help him produce another top-flight season, while I’m not as big a believer in Lackey’s stuff.

Weaknesses

(David Goldman/AP)

While the Red Sox are strong up front, they’re a bit week when we move deeper into the roster. That includes the bench, bullpen, lineup, and rotation. Some are a bit weaker than others, but each has a chink in the armor.

In the rotation the Sox have Daisuke Matsuzaka holding down the fifth spot. His track record has been unimpressive during his time in the states. This can even include the 2008 season, when he finished with a 2.90 ERA. his 5.05 per nine walk rate indicates that he got a tad lucky — there is no way he can sustain an 80.6 percent strand rate. The last two years have seen him spend time on the disabled list and in general pitch ineffectively. The Sox have a few pitchers who can come up and take his place, but they’re not exactly high-upside options.

In the bullpen the Sox might be strong in the late innings, but their other options do not inspire. Dan Wheeler has a quality track record, in the AL East to boot, so we might even count him as a strength. I don’t think we can do the same for Matt Albers, Dennys Reyes, or Tim Wakefield. The Sox might get something out of these guys, and as previously mentioned they have a number of arms in AAA who can fill in should these guys falter. That’s what I expect to happen. Even Wakefield, a Red Sox mainstay, could find this is his final year. I don’t imagine the Sox will continue to use him if he’s as ineffective as he was last year.

The starting lineup looks solid at the top, but the last two spots are something of weaknesses. Marco Scutaro is a fine shortstop, but his track record suggests that he’s not any better than he displayed in 2010. Jed Lowrie figures to take his spot at some point during the season, at which point there’s a chance that the lineup spot turns into a strength. Until then it’s a weakness — at least relatively so. Jarrod Saltalamacchia represents the biggest chink in the Red Sox armor. This is not only because he’s completely unproven, but also because they don’t have a strong backup option. In one way it takes guts to put so much faith unto a 26-year-old who hasn’t done a thing at the major league level. In another, more accurate, way, it probably wasn’t the best idea on the part of management.

Overall Outlook

While the Red Sox have weaknesses and question marks, they’re still among the best teams in the league on paper. That’s no different than last year, of course. The big difference this year centers on health. As a team the Sox are in basically the same position as last year. They merely replaced departing players Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre with Crawford and Gonzalez. Their relative performances should roughly even out, though Crawford and Gonzalez will probably be a bit better overall.

The difference is that they’re starting fresh. Last year they lost Pedroia in June and then Youkilis a bit later in the season. If those two stayed healthy last year’s pennant race would have evolved much differently. If they stay healthy this year the Red Sox will be in a much better position, even if they didn’t make wholesale upgrades. If they all stay healthy this will be a powerhouse of a team. Then again, we can say that about more than one other team in the league. Bad breaks happen. The Red Sox are just hoping that they experience fewer of them this year.

Categories : Other Teams

95 Comments»

  1. Mister Delaware says:

    The lack of a secondary option behind Saltalamacchia could end up benefiting the Sox as they’ll be less likely to knee-jerk bench him making it more likely his talent can win out even with a slow start.

    (Of course, that assumes you still buy into his talent, which I do. Why? I’ve seen some spring training PAs and he’s looked like a really solid hitter. And everyone knows spring training performances perfectly translate to the regular season.)

  2. Big Apple says:

    I hate Papelbon with every fiber of my being but i think Sox fans fail to realize how important he has been to their success. He’s still a better option to close than Bard or Jenks and they will miss him when he bolts after this year.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      Disagree here. Management has started the Nomar treatment with him, probably started it last offseason, and its definitely taken off but its not totally unfounded. His stuff isn’t what it was a couple years ago and, worse for him/them, Papelbon knows it and pitches far more tentatively. What used to make him so tough to hit was the fact that he combined dirty stuff with constant strikes. Now, his zone% has been steadily dropping over the last 5 years (57.1%, 55.9%, 54.5%, 51.1%, 46.2%) and hitters have stopped getting themselves out. The elimination game against Anaheim in 2009 and the disaster against us last year both being major stage case-in-points.

  3. Mike M says:

    I’m glad you mentioned A-Gon and Crawford essentially replacing Beltre and V-Mart. Seems like everywhere I look people are glossing over the fact that the Sox lost their two best hitters from last year.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      But Youkilis and Pedroia replace their own combined full season missed. They’re still on the plus side, lineup wise, just not a +3 like some people make it seem.

      • Big Apple says:

        i’m interested to see how youk recovers…that’s a pretty tough injury with his stance and swing.

        pedroia will be fine.

        • Monteroisdinero says:

          I think Pedroia is a re-injury risk as well. Broken leg with his playing style is risky too.

          • Big Apple says:

            i sometimes wonder if the sox know these injuries are worse and that is why they spent more in the offseason. Its not like them to jump on a guy like crawford and give him a ridiculous 7 yr deal and it happened so quickly.

            • CS Yankee says:

              Werth is what happened.

              I likely thought a 4-5 year deal of 70-80 would net him & CC agent would of been a fool to have him sign for less.

      • Mister Delaware says:

        Although, on the flipside of that flipside, no one seems to mention just how good Ortiz was after a bad start last year (.286/.385/.558 from May 1st on). To count on a repeat of those numbers is probably expecting too much.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ says:

        That.

    • barry says:

      Well Beltre is easily replaced by A-Gon and a Youk shift back to third that they hope works. But loosing V-Mart was a big mistake, not to mention replacing his bat at a premium postion with Salt. I hated when he stepped up to the plate, now I look forward to seeing a Sox catcher flounder.

      • Big Apple says:

        i agree on VMart…i don’t see why it was such a smart move to let him go. All this talk about paying a DH that much, but VMart is a pretty good hitter and he can also play 1B and C…plus he’s a switch hitter.

        I thought signing him and letting Ortiz walk was a better idea.

        • barry says:

          Oh definitely, he played 110 games behind the plate last year for the Red Sox. 4 WAR is hard to come by at that position. Salty has accumulated .8 in his entire career. Talk about playing roulette.

      • MannyGeee says:

        yeah offensively I think you might be looking at a wash. however I have ZERO confidence that Youk will be 2010 Beltre defensively at third (or 2008 Youkdefensively at third, for that matter…)

        and +1 on the Salty thing. he could be a disaster back there, and I hope and pray he proves me right.

  4. teddy says:

    i disagree on Jon Papelbon, he was lucky in 09, his bb pers greated, whip was solid, no way he pitched to a 1.85 era in 09.

    i think he implodes, bard new closer, maybe jenks

    • Big Apple says:

      jenks is worse then paps and bard blew 7 of 9 save opps last year. some guys can set up but don’t have the mentality to close.

      paps is still a top closer. there aren’t many very good ones out there.

      • Zack says:

        Those BS are flawed for set up man. If Bard blew the lead in the 7th then that counts as a BS- it’s not like he had 9 9th inning fill-ins and blew them.

      • Mister Delaware says:

        Yeah, the flipside of a pre-9th inning BS is a hold and Bard had 32 of those. Far more successful outings than failures.

        • Big Apple says:

          but holds are different than saves and not all setup men turn into good closers. its a different mentality.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            Its far more narrative than anything else. Usually a guy who “proves he doesn’t have the closer’s mentality” is really just proving (1) he’s not a great pitcher or (2) the sample size argument. Like Brad Lidge had a closer’s mentality until he didn’t but then he did again but then he lost it again but then … Same with Wohlers and dozens more. If Matt Thornton has a down 2011 the MSM will go the closer’s mentality route when odds are any one of overanalysis of bad outings, standard regression, injury or increased exposure to RHB will be far more accurate explanations.

            • Big Apple says:

              i need to stop posting about what I hope will happen and stick to the basics.

              • Mister Delaware says:

                Hey, its what we all hope happens too and if Bard proves to be the exception who really is too frail for high-leverage work and the criticism that comes with the failures, I won’t be upset.

  5. Am I the only Kevin? says:

    As with the Yanks, the biggest question marks are whether the slotted 2-4 starters perform. The teams aren’t that different.

    • bakekrukow412 says:

      Part of the reason I feel Boston is getting so many rave reviews is because they basically did the same thing the ’09 Yankees did in terms of re-tooling, and that team one the Series. Now, everyone naturally expects Boston to do the same thing. Their offense, even though they did loose V-Mart and Beltre, will be better. Remember, in ’09 some people were grumbling that although we got Teixeira, we lost Abreu and Giambi. But we did fine. To me, it’s the starting pitching with Boston that is a huge question mark. Lester is the only sure thing. Dice-K sucks, Beckett will probably never approach his ’07 success again, Lackey is getting up there in age (bad signing to begin with) and Buchholz may not be as good as he was last year. I honestly don’t feel this team will be much better this year. They may make the postseason if only because Tampa is weaker.

    • chuck says:

      The teams aren’t that different?!?!!

      Are you kidding?

      The yanks have one brilliant starter. The rest are coming off terrible years or had one good year 6 years ago.

      This is the most lopsided article ever.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Get real, the Sox rotation is not that much better on paper.

      • MannyGeee says:

        CC was great, and Hughes only won 18 games despite having one rough month. sounds like a ‘Terrible Year’ to me…

        • barry says:

          I would take Hughes just turning into the new Mussina, and I think that’s well within the realm of possibility. Plus I take our #1 any day over their #1.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            I wouldn’t, especially once you factor in age and cost. And Hughes as a borderline-in HoFer is like the top 1% scenario.

            I’d say Boston’s rotation has no more guarantees than ours. Both have one ace plus one young guy with no indications of problems and some question marks, but their question marks have much more upside than ours. Good versions of Beckett and Lackey trump good version of AJ and … Freddy?

            • Ted Nelson says:

              Yankees are probably more likely to add pitching mid-season, though, between lots of prospects and the trade market (and Millwood and Colon…)… That’s an advantage in terms of depth and the potential to add another front-liner.

              • Mister Delaware says:

                Isn’t that like giving Boston the edge at catcher because they could add an All-Star while we’re “stuck with” Martin and rookies?

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  I think it’s pretty likely that the Yankees use prospects and/or trade for a starter at some point this season. Each team has 5 starting pitchers and 1 starting C, so I don’t think it’s totally comparable. Not many teams make it a full season with 5 starters.

                  I’m not giving the Yankees the edge, though. I’m giving the Sox the edge, just saying that the Yankees’ depth and ability to trade eat into that edge.

                  I’m saying that right now at this very moment, no acquisitions needed I think the Yankees’ depth is better: Colon, Millwood, Noesi, Phelps, Brackman, Banuelos, Betances, etc > Wakefield, Aceves, Doubront, etc. And that’s a real consideration. There’s a very high chance you’re going to use more than 5 starters in any one season.
                  The Sox don’t have a clear edge in C depth. Varitek/Salty is a good back-up, but who do they have behind them? No Jesus Montero or even Austin Romine that I know of.

                  I would call it more likely that the Yankees find a solid starting P via trade than the Sox find a solid C, because there are only a few decent C they might be able to add… Olivo they could have signed this offseason, perhaps the Rays would move Jaso if they fall way out or even the Cards Molina? Maybe the Orioles give up on Weiters… but then he’s sort of a younger Salty. And the Sox might not have the guns for a package to get Molina or even Weiters or Jaso.

                  Plus, if Martin/Montero/Cervelli don’t cut it, I think the Yankees would be as likely to be in on a short-term replacement as the Sox. Aside from the actual position of need the Yankees have deeper pockets and a deeper farm… again, both real advantages that have to be factored in somehow.

                  • Mister Delaware says:

                    “I’m not giving the Yankees the edge, though. I’m giving the Sox the edge, just saying that the Yankees’ depth and ability to trade could eat into that edge.”

                    Add that word and we’re basically on the same page. As it stands, their rotation is a better bet, but no one thinks what we have now is what we’ll have in Sept whereas they appear locked in unless they can find someone to eat Matsuzaka.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      I don’t think it’s really could, but does. On paper right not you can’t just ignore depth. It’s an advantage the Yankees have over the Sox. There’s a REALLY high chance guys on both staffs will miss starts. The Yankees are better positioned when that happens. You could ignore trade prospects… but I also think that’s unwise. You can’t credit is as in the bag they’ll add an ace or anything, but it’s another advantage the Yankees have: lots of prospects to deal and lots of money to spend.

  6. Monteroisdinero says:

    Why bother with the season? Let’s go straight to Phillies/Sawx best of 7. Nobody can compete with those two teams.

    /love being the underdog for a change

  7. Yank the Frank says:

    Health will determine it all for both the Yanks and Boston. The FA’s this year fit in nicely with what Boston needed just like the FA’s in “09 fit in well for the Yanks.

  8. Rey22 says:

    Assuming he’s healthy, I think A-Gon has a very good chance to be the AL MVP this year.

    That said, their pitching after Lester does not scare me.

    • barry says:

      Eh, Gonzalez is good but he’s not MVP good. Not the way I see it anyway. He’s a power guy that benefited from a lot of preferential treatment as being the only hitter on the Padres. I’d put more money on A-Rod to win an MVP than Gonzalez. He’s a great hitter, no questions there, but he’s not the best hitter in the game. And he’s not going to be playing in the NL west anymore, he’s with the big boys in the AL east. You could call A-Rod and Tex better hitters based off of career wOBA, and look at IBB inflating A-Gon, 35 last year to A-Rod’s one.

      • Big Apple says:

        i’ve thought the same thing. much is written about the lack of protection in the SD lineup but not much about how he would’ve been pitched to because the lineup had few threats outside of him.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          When they did pitch to him he hurt them, especially away from Petco: his wOBA was 60 points higher on the road in 2010 (.407 vs. .347) and his SLG was 138 points higher (.576 vs. .438).

        • chuck says:

          Saying that a lack of protection increases numbers is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard.

          If the SD lineup stinks, that means he has no protection and teams can pitch around him. Therefore his numbers are deflated. In the sox lineup, they have to pitch to him or they face youk/Ortiz who can drive him in.

          baseball 101.

          • barry says:

            The wild card is the level of competition he’ll face. I honestly see A-Rod or Tex rebounding and if A-Rod does return to like 85% of his pre-hip form he could put up better numbers. I mean I agree protection is important, but baseball 101 also says that the quality of competition he’ll be facing could offset the gains from being in a better line-up. What if Ortiz and Youk don’t perform as well as their past. Say Youk can’t play third, he’d have to DH, relegating Ortiz to the bench. It’s a catch-22.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              Again, where are you coming from on the quality of competition angle? The Orioles rotation should largely stink, the Yankees have plenty of questions in their rotation, and the Blue Jays have a solid staff. In the NL West the Giants have a sick staff, the Dodgers have a pretty strong one, Rockies are at least solid, and DBacks had some talent in-and-out of that rotation…
              I certainly don’t think it’s clear

              Also, look at his home/road splits the past two seasons… His wOBA is 60 points higher on the road. .407 in 2010 and .430 in 2009. Petco looks to have been killing his production.

              Certainly A-Rod, Tex, and Cano are all capable of big seasons as well, but I don’t see why you’re trashing AGone other than a subjective Sox hatred.

              “Say Youk can’t play third, he’d have to DH, relegating Ortiz to the bench. It’s a catch-22.”

              You could say the same thing about A-Rod and Posada if you want to…

              • Barry says:

                So you honestly think that the quality of competition won’t play a role? A-Rod has never shown any lack of ability to play third and he would not DH on the Yankees for an extended period of time. His OBA is .60 points different on the road yes; Petco is huge, thanks for the obvious point. I’m not trashing A-gon i said earlier he’s a great hitter. The fact is that they didn’t necessarily add anything with his acquisition because they lost two high-caliber player, forced a team veteran to try and make a position change by his acquisition, and that A-Gon is mostly unproven outside of the NL West. Ok the Orioles are bad right now, big deal… and thanks again for the obvious. But the 4th worst team in the east is the Jays and they are still a quality team with a good pitching staff. I’d be willing to say that the Jays would be a much higher win team out of the east. I’m not trashing Gonzalez, I’ve always liked him he’s a good guy and great player. I’m trashing Boston’s moves in an offseason where everyone said they were great without question. Am I really out of line to question his ability to hammer the AL East like he did the NL West?

                • Mister Delaware says:

                  I think you’re overrating a hitter going from the NL West to the AL East. Cain, Lincecum, 1/2 season of Haren, Billingsley, Kershaw, Jimenez … there was a lot of really good pitching in the NL West, probably more than he’ll face in the AL East this year. Stadiums lean in a hitter’s favor as well.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  Again, why is the AL East harder on hitters? You’ve provided no evidence other than the “because I say so” defense. I’ve listed all the top NL West pitchers… and I feel like it’s more impressive than the AL East, especially since AGone will not be facing Lester. The only lefties he’ll be seeing are CC and Price and Romero (great pitchers, but 3 guys) and Matusz and maybe Britton… otherwise all righties and a lot of mediocre ones at that. Yankees Stadium is also a dream for lefties, though I believe a lot of his power is to the opposite field… a dream in Fenway.

                  “Petco is huge, thanks for the obvious point.”

                  Clearly it is not obvious to you since you refuse to admit he is likely to have better numbers with Fenway as his home park and not Petco… Thanks for being a dick, though.

                  “I’d be willing to say that the Jays would be a much higher win team out of the east.”

                  The AL East has great offenses and is just murder on pitchers… but the NL West might have as good of pitching as any division in baseball. AGone is not a pitcher, he is a hitter. See why your logic fails? He will not be facing the top 3 offenses in all of baseball regularly like an Orioles or Jays pitcher had to in 2010. He will be facing their pitching staffs. Good staffs mostly, but not necessarily any better than NL West staffs.

                  “I’m trashing Boston’s moves in an offseason where everyone said they were great without question.”

                  I agree that people overrated their off-season. That doesn’t make them bad moves, though. Losing Beltre and VMart for CC and AG is not a great short-term gain… but the guys they added are younger and better… so long-term I think they were the right moves. Yes.

                  “Am I really out of line to question his ability to hammer the AL East like he did the NL West?”

                  Yes, I think so. The overall teams in the AL East has nothing to do with it. AGone is not a pitcher. We have to isolate the pitching staffs of AL East teams, as well as the parks he’ll be playing in more often… Moving from Petco should be an ENORMOUS gain for him… yet you continue to refuse to acknowledge it.

                  • barry says:

                    I still just see the level of competition as being greater in the East. You listed a plethora of good pitchers; however, those pitchers have the luxury of protecting themselves by pitching to what are fluffy line-ups. If all of those pitchers were pitching in the AL East they wouldn’t be as good as they seem. Exception guys like Lincecum. I understand that Gonzalez is a great hitter and a class act, I’ve thought so since he busted out and was feature in ESPN Mag a few years back. But only time will tell. However I do not think that AG/CC will produce many more runs than AB and VM(Btw I like how you started using those, saves the fingers haha). I still think he’ll post a ~.385 wOBA. I’m sorry if I sound “cause I said so” in my defense but I’ve been writing this stuff like on an off as I’m at and away from the pc so it’s difficult to construct a thorough argument. Here’s a tiny sample of how much easier it is to inflate your pitching greatness in the NL: Pitcher A posted a 1.65 ERA and 4.6WAR in 17 GS in the NL, Pitcher B posted a 3.83 ERA and a 3WAR in 18 GS in the AL. That was CC in his memorable ’08 campaign. I’ll say it right now, you take a mediocre pitcher and put him in the NL, and he gets better. Take a great pitcher and he becomes unstoppable. That’s how I see it at least.

            • chuck says:

              First of all, Look up Catch-22, b/c you obviously don’t know what it means. Second of all, NL west pitching is some of the best pitching in baseball, if not the best. The AL east is probably a close 2nd. So, no change in competition. If youk and ortiz don’t perform, they still have Pedroia, crawford and even JD drew to surround him. it’s a good line-up and his numbers are better off in it, regardless.

              The only question is whether A-Gon’s shoulder holds up, not who faces or who surrounds him. AROD can clearly have a bounce back year, even though his 2010 numbers were great (but not by his standards, I’m sure)

          • Ted Nelson says:

            I agree that it’s flawed, but the logic is that his OBP was increased by having no protection. 38% of his BB last season were intentional, so there may be some truth to this. Of course, there was a reason teams weren’t pitching to him: because they feared he’d hurt them with the bat.

            Anyway, I’ll guess that moving out of Petco will have a much stronger impact on his numbers than the line-up around him.

            Then again his numbers were down from 2009 and he had the shoulder surgery… plus his BABIP was above his career average last season so maybe that regresses. Between the two hopefully that eats into the out-of-Petco and line-up impacts.

            • Barry says:

              I honestly think he’ll level out as a .385 wOBA in the AL East; which is phenomenal. But is it really the smartest baseball move considering how much he changes the rest of the team and the fact that 1B is a much easier position to fill with a quality bat than loosing V-Mart and replacing him with a young scrub.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Hard to complain about a .385 wOBA, but I still think you’re underestimating how much Petco suppressed his stats. Again: away wOBAs of .431 and .407 the past two seasons.
                And AGAIN, why is the AL East harder on hitters than the NL West? He doesn’t even have to face Boston’s staff.

                They probably feel that Youk can play 3B, or wouldn’t have done it.

                Losing Beltre was a no-brainer, IMO. He’s coming off a career year and Texas overpaid… so they needed a 3B. They could have kept VMart, but he’s 4 years older than AGone, a worse hitter, and few people think he can C anymore… So, yeah, I think it was the right move for them.

                • barry says:

                  Oh I agree, Texas overpaid, but didn’t Boston for Gonzalez? He didn’t guarantee them any more years for all the players they dumped. And wasn’t the Boston farm a strength not to long ago? Now it seems a little depleted. I just don’t see the logic in pushing all your chips right away. Don’t you remember years ago RAB had the save the big three shirts?

      • bexarama says:

        That’s nuts. Yeah I think the IBBs are something he’s going to miss, but he’s also not going to miss hitting for 81 games in the Grand Canyon. He’ll get plenty of RBIs, too, hitting in that lineup, which means he’ll get MVP consideration. Right now, I’m taking him to win the MVP, definitely.

        • MannyGeee says:

          I’m taking the field… not 100% confident he will out-slug the Miggy Cabreeras and Josh Hamiltons of the AL.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Certainly the odds are against any one player winning the MVP before a season even starts… as far as candidates go, though, I’ll take AGone with anyone. MVP is usually going to come from a playoff team, and almost definitely from a winning team… rightly or wrongly. 2 of the last 10 MVPs came from non-playoff teams, and both of those were still 85 game winners. Since the Red Sox look like the best team in the AL on paper and have become a sort of media darling in recent years, I’ll take their candidates with anyone… AGone or Crawford has the added benefit of looking like their arrival is what put the Sox over the top… nice narrative, which is often what MVP comes down to as well.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Being the only good hitter in a line-up is going to get you walks, but it’s not going to get you pitches to hit.
        It’s also hard to just ignore that he’s moving from Petco to Fenway: his wOBA was 60 points higher on the road in 2010 (.407 vs. .347) and his SLG was 138 points higher (.576 vs. .438).
        As far as the big boys… in the NL West last season AGone had to go up against Lincecum, Cain, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kershaw, Billingsly, Haren, Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Jonathan Sanchez, IPK, Madison Bumgarner… not exactly a walk in the park.

        AGone is a trendy MVP pick, being picked by a whole lot of the MSM. There are reasons for that, though.

        • barry says:

          IPK just supports my argument, he simply wasn’t good enough to pitch in the AL East, now he’s the opening day starter in the west.

  9. Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James) says:

    Youkilis is a huge ? in my book. He’s never played a full season at 3B in his career. How will he hold up? Moreover, his defense at 1B has been declining each of the last four years.

    • barry says:

      And coming off a major injury.

      • MannyGeee says:

        and kind of a douche

        • Mister Delaware says:

          He’s grown on me since I moved up here. I hate Pedroia and Papelbon and Beckett more than ever but Youk comes off as no different than O’Neill.

          • Barry says:

            O’Neill only ever criticized himself. I have no childhood memories of him mouthing off at the media if he got buzzed by a pitch.

            • Mister Delaware says:

              Pretty sure we can nail over a quarter of the players in the majors if the standard is “had a whiny quote”. I’m simply saying from the off the field stuff and stories from people who’ve met him, he’s a douche on the field, not an actual douche.

              • Barry says:

                Right I agree, but I just don’t see the O’Neill/Youk correlation as well as you do.

                • Mike says:

                  I’ve got to agree with you on O’Neill & Youk. Both are pretty much hated by the opposing fan bases but generally play the game the right way. I wouldn’t mind him if he played for us.

  10. Brandon says:

    I think the biggest question mark for the sox are the injuries. It feels like everyone is assuming that Pedroia,Ellisbury,Cameron,Youkilus and even Adrian Gonzalez(offseason shoulder surgery)are going to come back from injuries the same players they were before. Its not like the injuries were minor either, most were season ending injuries. They need a bunch of players to rebound and their good players to lead the way.

  11. jsbrendog says:

    i just dont see youkilis staying healthya lll yr as a fulltime 3b.

  12. Tank Foster says:

    Count me in with those who think this article is Yankee-wishful-thinking. Saying the Red Sox pitching has question marks is true, but what pitching staff doesn’t? The difference between them and the Yankees is, if we assume Lester/CC and Buccholz/Hughes are a wash, that Lackey, Beckett, and Daisuke are ALL proven pitchers. If they have mediocre years, all of them, they are likely to easily outperform the Yankees’ 3-5, and if any of them have above average years, it won’t even be close. The Yankees can close the gap somewhat with a better bullpen, but not by much. Offensively, there are similarities, with both teams having a mixture of aging and career prime sluggers, but the Yankees’ aging players are a bit more advanced in age. Youkilis has had a few seasons with injuries, and he may be becoming a player who will battle them every year. Another question mark for Boston is how well Pedroia recovers from his injuries. If he’s lost a step and/or takes time to get his batting eye and bat speed back, it could make a very big difference in how effective he is.

    I know people who think Boston will win 100 games. I think they’ll need alot of breaks to be able to do that. But 93 is almost a lock, and the Yankees will struggle to win 90 games this season.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I’d give the Red Sox the pitching edge on paper, but I don’t think it’s at all a forgone conclusion the Sox are better pitching wise.

      The Yankees staff had a better ERA in 2010 than the Red Sox (4.06 to 4.20)… Yankees starters were only a bit behind Sox starters (4.35 in 973 innings compared to 4.17 in 1011 innings). Pettitte was lost, but he only had 21 starts and Javy, Moseley, and Mitre are also gone.

      Beckett could bounce back, but so could AJ. Nova could improve. Garcia crushed the combined ERA of Vazquez, Mitre, and Moseley by about a run in 2010.
      Yankees also have a bunch of prospects in the high minors and could acquire another front-line or at least solid starter via trade. Red Sox are probably less likely to acquire a $10 mill pitcher than the Yankees given the money they have committed to the rotation already and their thinned out farm system.

      “Lackey, Beckett, and Daisuke are ALL proven pitchers”

      I don’t see what makes them proven and not Burnett or Garcia…

      Offensively the Yankees will be the #2 offense in the league if they’re not #1. So… not too worried there.

      “the Yankees will struggle to win 90 games this season.”

      I think that’s a stretch. What are you basing that number on? Are you considering the possibility of in-season trades at all? Of one or two pitching prospects from the Yankees stable providing a solid impact?
      Every statistical model I’ve seen has the Yankees in the playoffs. I’ll take that.

      • Tank Foster says:

        I may be under-selling the Yankees a little. But here is how I see it. ARod is clearly in the decline phase of his career. He could have a great year, but I see him at best equaling 2010. Teixeira and Cano are in the plateau phase, and Cano is coming off a career year. Jeter is in decline of course, but since he had a bad year last year, any further drop he might have won’t make much difference. They got alot of production from Gardner for half a season last year, and if he turns out to be the .230 Gardner this year and not the .300 Gardner, that’s a big loss. Production should be solid from Granderson and Swisher, but Posada of course will put up less than last year. So offensively, I see the Yankees as declining from last season, at least by some. By contrast, Boston solidified their lineup by replacing VMart/Beltre, and they are getting two extremely productive hitters BACK. No guarantees anywhere, and they have their own decline issues with Ortiz and Drew, but the Red Sox managed decent offense last season and if anything they look a little better this year.

        You may be right about the pitching, but I think it is a distinct longshot to expect anywhere near the same level of innings production and quality from the Yankees 3-5 compared to Boston. There will be some surprises on both staffs, and pitching is so subject to injuries that of course it’s conceivable that either team’s staff could collapse. Beckett and Daisuke have had durability issues, but I really think it’s a stretch to believe that a retread like Garcia, a rookie, and AJ, who is a mediocre pitcher coming off a horrible year, are going to put up the same numbers as Beckett, Lackey, and Daisuke.

        I figured the Yankees would struggle to win 90 and probably finish third because of the strength of the division and the fact that the Yankees are probably not as good as last season on either offense or pitching.

        • Barry says:

          Just read your posts, then go on fangraphs, do some research, then come back and post again.

        • bexarama says:

          and AJ, who is a mediocre pitcher coming off a horrible year

          You could really, really, really easily say the same thing about Beckett. I know he has all the media hype as this great clutch god and the headlines are that AJ is an unreliable headcase, but seriously, check the stats.

          • bexarama says:

            Also.

            ARod is clearly in the decline phase of his career. He could have a great year, but I see him at best equaling 2010.
            I get the skepticism here, I do, but the news that his hip is finally 100% and the corresponding monster ST isn’t at least a little reassuring?

            Teixeira and Cano are in the plateau phase, and Cano is coming off a career year.
            He’s also right in his prime and there’s no indication he can’t do that again.

            Jeter is in decline of course, but since he had a bad year last year, any further drop he might have won’t make much difference.
            Sure. (he also had an at least above average OBP.)

            They got alot of production from Gardner for half a season last year, and if he turns out to be the .230 Gardner this year and not the .300 Gardner, that’s a big loss.
            I’m not totally writing off BA but BA, really? Also, keep in mind he was hurt. I’m more concerned about his ability to stay healthy than his ability to do what he’s good at, which is taking pitches, working counts, getting on base, and stealing a bunch of bases.

            Production should be solid from Granderson and Swisher, but Posada of course will put up less than last year.
            Why “of course”? He was really beat up last year and he’s moving to an easier defensive position.

            Sorry, I just think you’re going worst case scenario with all the Yankee offense AND pitching, while best case scenario with Boston. It’s not like the Yankees don’t have issues, but this is still a very good team.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I can see where those assumptions come from, but a player’s career is not always so linear. Decline doesn’t always mean a steady decline for players. A plateau rarely means the exact same production year to year.

          The majority of old players who have had an OPS+ drop as dramatic as Jeter’s have bounced back.
          Tex is all of 30 and had the worst season of his career in 2010.
          A-Rod likewise had a career worst season.
          No guarantees, but my money would be on those guys bouncing back. Same for CC who actually had his worst season in a while by some measures.

          Gardner still adds a lot with his patience, base-stealing, and defense even if his BA isn’t high. The wrist injury is a pretty easy explanation for the drop-off, too, it’s not like it was a random slump. He can be platooned with Jones or an acquisition if he stinks, or just outright replaced.

          “Posada of course will put up less than last year.”

          Why is that?

          Yankees were a better offense than the Red Sox last season… as I said: if they’re not #1 they should be #2 in the whole of MLB.

          “I really think it’s a stretch to believe that a retread like Garcia, a rookie, and AJ, who is a mediocre pitcher coming off a horrible year, are going to put up the same numbers as Beckett, Lackey, and Daisuke.”

          They pretty much did it last season… The Boston 3 had a weighted average ERA of 4.84 in 496.1 IP, while the Yankees 3 had a weighted average ERA of 4.97 in 380.1 IP… This with Nova only giving 36.2 IP as a starter at a 4.91 ERA.

          Just because one guy has a long-term deal and another has a minor league deal, by the way, says nothing about their pitching. Dice-K or Beckett, for example, wouldn’t be looking at big offers if they were 2010 free agents. They are basically retreads too, just with guaranteed money coming to them.

          3rd? I think you’re overestimating Tampa… If your approach is to say which players should improve and be worse… Tampa lost Carl freaking Crawford. They also replaced Hellickson with a rookie… and you don’t think rookies can do as well as the Sox “established starters.”

          Certainly the Yankees could finish 3rd, but I’d project them for 2nd and the WC personally.

          • Tank Foster says:

            Good discussion. My point about Gardner wasn’t batting average per se, but using BA as a proxy for his Jekyll-Hyde season. I know BA is a fairly empty stat, but BG declined in all offensive phases in the second half. I could have said “the guy who hit .302 or the guy who hit .230″.

            I would love to see the Yankees pitching come through. But last season, Ivan Nova couldn’t get past 4-5 innings, even though he was pretty effective. He hasn’t proven that he’s capable of it, let alone pitching 150 decent innings. Burnett v. Beckett? Yeah, career numbers are similar, I’ll give you that. But I think most managers and GMs would take Beckett.

            Anyway….great discussion, guys.

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