Thursday, March 13, 2008

Getting to Know a Rival: Boston Red Sox

Next up, are the Boston Red Sox, who like the Yankees, will not be an imeadiate threat to the Mariners, but could and should pose a threat in the Wild Card race, if that's what it comes to.

Manager: Terry Francona
2007: 96-66, 1st in ALE, World Series Champions
Coming In: 1B Sean Casey, RHP Dan Kolb, RHP David Aardsma, RHP Bartolo Colon
Packed Their Bags: 1B Eric Hinske, INF Royce Clayton, Doug Mirabelli

Projected Lineup:
C: Jason Varitek
1B: Kevin Youkilis
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Mike Lowell
SS: Julio Lugo
LF: Manny Ramirez
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: JD Drew
DH: David Ortiz

Projected Rotation:

1. Josh Beckett
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka
3. Jon Lester
4. Tim Wakefield
5. Clay Buchholz/Julian Tavarez/Kyle Snyder

Projected Bullpen:

LRP: Kyle Snyder/Clay Buchholz/Julian Tavarez
LRP: Javier Lopez
LRP: Manny Delcarmen
MRP: Mike Timlin
SU: Hideki Okajima
CP: Jonathan Papelbon

Offensive Outlook: With Manny, Ortiz, Drew and Lowell in the middle of the lineup, it should be one of the best. Manny and Ortiz are both 40 HR guys, while Drew probably could hit that Manny of he was healthy to get enough at bats, and Lowell has turned into a solid hitter, power and contact wise. Pedroia and Ellsbury will provide pretty much the only speed in this lineup, and both are developing in to solid MLB players, Ellsbury especially, because since being called up last late summer/fall, he has stolen the starting CF spot from Coco Crisp, who isn't a fourth outfielder on most teams in the MLB. Varitek and Youkilis are both solid hitters, and will produce some pretty good numbers. Julio Lugo is the only wariable in the lineup not regarding health. Lugo was a big acquisition last Winter, and hasn't panned out. Lugo isn't really that good of a hitter to be honest. He is an okay defender and has some speed, but overall, he isn't that great of a player. This lineup is amazing. If Manny and Varitek can last through the season, and Drew can come to his $15M form, not that he ever was, and everyone else does what they need to do, then this lineup will be like I said, one of the best.

Rotation Outlook: The rotation would look better with Johan Santana there, but it is a solid rotation. Josh Beckett finally emerged from his cucoon and won 20 games for the first time in the MLB since 2005. Dice-K pitched well in his first year here, or there. The rest of the rotation is a bit of a question mark though. How much does Wakefield have? More importantly, what are the Red Sox going to do now, after releasing Doug Mirabelli? The Sox got Josh Bard, and then traded him to the Padres to get Mirabello back after he signed with them in the offseason. He's a good pitcher because of his knuckleball, but after about six innings he's done, and if one of his 80 MPH fastballs is over the plate, it will be crushed. Jon Lester has made some huge strides, and found his way on to the rotation. Just a sidenote, I was at the game when the M's played the BoSox and Lester made his return from cancer in 2006. He has got the stuff, but the Mariners still won that game I think. The fifth spot is a wild card. Buchholz is a great pitcher, but is he ready for a big league role yet? Tavarez hasn't been much more than a good reliever. As for Snyder, I haven't heard much about this kid, but he looks like he could get the job done. It's hard to call the Red Sox's rotation anything except for solid after two World Series wins over the past four years.

Bullpen Outlook: The Red Sox have one of the best 8/9 inning combo in the league. Okajima also came over from Japan and was an All-Star in his rookie season. Jon Papelbon continued to impress as he was also an All-Star last season. Timlin and Delcarmen are good mid-relievers that should do alright this season, although Timlin's age is starting to catch up with him a bit. The rest of the bullpen will be determined by what happens with the rotation. Snyder, Buchholz, and Tavarez could find themselves in some kind of a rotation between starting and long relieving, but overall, this bullpen looks pretty good.

Prognosis: The World Series Champs of 2007 are pretty much exactly the same, but with some players a year older, and others a year more experienced. It would be very hard to not see this team in serious competition for the World Series again. Health in the middle of the lineup could become an issue, but there shouldn't be too many problems for the Red Sox in 2008, except maybe too many wins? I hope not.

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