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2011 Red Sox Season Preview: They May Be The Best Team “On Paper” But They Still Have To Play The Game
Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Apr 1 2011 @ 1:42 pm In Boston Red Sox | 47 Comments
It’s been a brutal winter here in New England (it is snowing right now), but the sure way to get me out of hibernation is the Boston Red Sox. In fact the only good thing about this winter was the Red Sox off season. Unless you were living in a cave, you know the Red Sox won the off season war. Their blockbuster moves put them in the driver’s seat of the entire league. They made two monster deals trading for first basemen, Adrian Gonzalez early in December. Five days later, they signed free-agent outfielder, Carl Crawford. This bolstered their lineup adding some much needed power and speed. So much for Theo’s “Run Prevention” theory.
Today, the Red Sox open their season on the road in Texas. They will begin their long awaited chance to live up to the extremely high expectations set out by all of America. Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series amongst many other magazines, websites (33 of 45 espn experts picked the Sox to win it all), writers and fans. Do I disagree with them? No. But I don’t expect anything more from them this year than I did any other year in the past. Every year they are expected to finish at the top, but “shit happens.” Look at last year, the Red Sox dominated 11 out of 14 offensive categories but they failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They finished third in the AL East (89-73) making last year one of the most disappointing seasons in a long time.
1st: Total Bases (2546), Doubles (358)
2nd: Runs Scored (818), Home Runs (211), RBIs (782), Slugging % (.451)
3rd: On Base % (.339)
5th: Walks (587),
6th: Hits (1511), Batting Avg. (.268)
26th: Stolen Bases (68) Expect this number to greatly increase with the addition of Carl Crawford and having Ellsbury back full time.
Why was it such a disappointment? Because “on paper” few could compete. But when fluke injuries plagued almost the entire team all the hopes and predictions went down the toilet. Fractured ribs (Jacoby Ellsbury), broken bones (Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek) and torn muscles (Kevin Youkilis and Josh Beckett) prevented the Red Sox from making predictions a reality. By the time the All-Star break hit, Red Sox players had missed over 400 games on the DL.
I am not high on making predictions but my only prediction: They couldn’t possibly have a repeat of 2010. It looks like last year’s nightmare has turned into this years “Dream Team” season and people expect nothing less than a World Series Championship. Besides, the Duck Boats in Beantown are getting restless. It has been 3 whole years since a Boston team has brought home a championship.
The exciting part about this season is I expect this new and improved lineup, to surpass those stats mentioned above. For example: They led the league in Doubles but Boston’s “Double King”, Dustin Pedroia sat out half the season.
If I know Tito, this line up will fluctuate many times because many of these hitters are interchangeable in the line up. There are three hitters that could easily lead off and three hitters that can bat clean up. Great position to be in. When things aren’t jiving, Tito likes to tinker
Last year he only played 18 games after colliding with Adrian Beltre and fracturing multiple ribs. While I defended his slow recovery because I know what it’s like to come back from a rib injury, I feel he alienated himself from the team and turned into a “whiny baby.” If he can stay healthy and toughen up a bit he will be a terror on the bases. He was originally slotted to hit 9th in the order but he swung the bat so well this spring (Avg .358, OBP .388, and SLG .565) they decided to have him lead off. I am happy to see him back in center field. He, has the speed to track down any ball, can play the wall, and in 2009 he only committed 2 errors in 818 chances. As long as Mike Cameron does not set another foot in center, I will be a happy camper. I am still leery about Ellsbury, but we’ll see what happens.
I don’t have much to say other than he is “THE MAN.” He can do no wrong in my eyes. Dustin is the reincarnated Trot Nixon, an absolute “dirt dog” and the true meaning of a ball player. Playing second base my entire life I hold a soft spot for him, and we share the same number: #15. Last year he broke his foot and only played 75 games. When he went down, that was the beginning of the end. In order for the Sox to be successful we need him in the lineup. I missed the laser show!
Crawford signed a 7-year deal and will quickly become a fan favorite. He is one of the best left fielders in the game, he can beat you with the long ball, on the bases, and take note on how many runs he prevents in the field this season. The only drawback is he has so much range, he will be confined in left field at Fenway. If Ellsbury can’t stay healthy and/or consistent, I smell a switcheroo coming this season which I fully support. He is also coming off a career high 19 home run season and he has a great shot at improving those numbers at friendly Fenway. The one thing I know for sure is Crawford WILL NOT be stealing 6 bases against the Red Sox this year Therefore, they should drastically see the stolen bases against them reduced.
A torn muscle and season ending surgery limited Youk to 102 games last season. He is fully recovered and his willingness to relocate back to third base made the Adrian Gonzalez trade possible. He has one of the highest OPS% (.964) in the league over the past three seasons (Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez are the only two higher). There is no doubt he is going to drive in a ton of runs and get on base, which might be why Tito chose to put him in front of Adrian Gonzalez. Either way, I am sure the 4th and 5th spot will be switched up quite a bit this year.
The Sox have high expectations to live up to and so does potential AL MVP Gonzalez. He is one of the best hitters in the league with a sweet inside-out swing that should pepper the Monster all season long. He is 28 years old, a two time gold glove winner and in his prime. Now I don’t feel so bad about missing out on Mark Teixeira who is two years older than Gonzalez. 2010 with San Diego: Runs (87), HRs (31), RBIs (101), Avg (.298), OPS (On Base + Slugging) (.904). San Diego is a “pitchers” park so he should demolish these numbers being at Fenway (a hitters park). It should be fun to watch.
In his 15th season, hitting in the 6-hole is not something Big Papi is used to. He has over 6,000 plate appearances hitting in the 3-4-5 spots but only 422 appearances in the 6-hole. It just goes to show how deep this lineup is. We all know how things started off for him the past two seasons. Many “so called” fans turned their backs on the Boston legend. Not me. I stuck by my man and he finished the season with 32 HRs and 102 RBIs. Although he is on the back 9 of his 18 holes, he has shown he still has plenty of pop in his bat. I hope for his sake he shows it sooner than later this season. I can’t take any more “Ortiz-bashing” from fair weather fans.
Interesting fact: Ortiz leads the majors with 305 HRs as a DH and only needs four RBIs to break Edgar Martinez’s DH record of 1,003. Not too shabby!
Cameron: I don’t have much to say other than I am glad he is in right field where he belongs. I cringed at the thought of him playing center field and not being able to run down deep shots in the crease when Ellsbury makes it look effortlessly. I like Mike Cameron as a person, respect his many years in the league, but he does not have as much pep in his step as he used to.
Drew: Although Drew is known for his countless injuries and his passive personality, I give him credit last year for escaping the season unscathed. During a year of so many team injuries, ironically “Mr. Injury” dodged the bullet and I thank him for toughening up during times when his tight hammy may have led him on a trip to the DL. He is entering his last year with the Sox and will probably platoon with Mike Cameron. I think Drew is an excellent fielder so hopefully he can stay healthy because I would rather him at the plate than Cameron when the game is on the line.
Salty: This is the only “wild card” the Red Sox have. He hasn’t lived up to his potential so far while playing with Texas and has been quite injury prone but hopefully that is behind him. So far the pitching staff is confident with him and to have your own personal catching coach (Jason Varitek) beside your side, I would say he is in the right place and en route to stepping up this year. He is 25, the same age as when Varitek arrived, and according to Tek, he is more advanced technique-wise so let’s sit back and watch this kid grow. If he steps it up, this lineup is unstoppable. Time will tell.
Varitek: Time will tell on how well Saltalamacchia does. Varitek is as good of a back up catcher you can get. His defense and knowledge of running a pitching staff is invaluable. And don’t forget there is nobody that “can call a great game” better than Tek The bullpen is going to be better off having Varitek with them on a daily basis.
Scutaro: He stuck out last season playing through injury. He is a dependable player and will most likely platoon with Jed Lowrie. Hopefully this year they can find a way to cut down on the errors. Right now, Tito is loyal to Scutaro but he will switch things up plenty this year.
Lowrie: Lowrie was well on his way to becoming an everyday short stop until wrist injuries and mono sidelined him over the past two seasons. He managed to get in 171 at-bats last year and drilled 9 HRs. At this point, Scutaro is the full time short stop and Lowrie will have to settle for utility man. But we all know an injury will pop up eventually shifting the infield around. They will also rest Pedroia more often to avoid stress on his surgically repaired foot which could give Lowrie more time at second.
One of the feel good stories of 201o was that of Darnell McDonald. Check out my blog from last season The Red Sox Welcome Darnell McDonald . McDonald is 32 years old, and was taken in the first round of the 1997 draft by the Orioles. He had played in only 68 major league games with the Orioles, Twins, and Reds prior to last year, and in 1,328 minor league games. He had just two big league home runs in his 13 year career and last year he hit 9 home runs. I am VERY happy to have him back on the team. He certainly earned his spot and came up clutch when needed.
I was planning on covering the entire team but I am tired of writing and I am sure you are tired of reading. I will wrap things up and write about the stealth pitching staff soon.
I am very excited about the season. There is great potential to not only go all the way but possibly break some individual and club records. They certainly have what it takes to really get our hopes up. Let’s not get too unrealistic folks, you can be the best team in the world “on paper” and I say this all the time but, “That’s why they play the game.” Yes, the 2011 Red Sox might look the best they have ever looked “on paper,” but let’s face it, anything can happen in a given year. Look at this year’s March Madness, there are 3 teams in the final four that most of America never expected to be there. The one thing I am not looking forward to are the unforgiving and impatient Boston fans. Expectations are so high and Boston fans have been known to be extremely hard on their hometown team. When things are going great, the Red Sox are their best friend. When things gone wrong, they jump ship quicker than Ellsbury stealing home against the Yankees. Stick by your team folks, take it from me, the reward at the end is much more fulfilling. And what about that reward?
Are the Red Sox expected to win the world series? Yes.
Will they? Tune in over next seven months to find out. It’s going to be a wild ride.
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