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Last year the Red Sox endured a multitude of injuries and won 89 games anyway. Now, one should be careful when predicting a bounce-back after an injury-plagued year, because the thing about injuries is that they come back, but the nature of the 2010 Sox' specific ailments is such that I don't expect much recurrence. And by adding a couple of superstars to an already potent and now-healthy line-up, the Sox have assembled an absolutely fantastic team.

Let's see what ZiPS has to say about the offense (line-up order is my own guess).

Wow. Throw in the base-stealing prowess of Ellsbury and Crawford and you have a seriously impressive offense. The Lineup Analysis Tool projects the 2011 Sox to score about 920 runs, which would best last year's mark by a cool hundred. You could knock 60 runs off that to account for injury time and it would still be a higher total than any team managed in 2010. Of course, a cursory analysis such as this is only a starting point. Let's look at the cast individually...

Jacoby Ellsbury is coming off a year in which he only garnered 83 plate appearances due to a recurring injury. Fortunately, the nature of his ailment (cracked ribs) is one that, I assume, isn't likely to rerecur barring another collision, and shouldn't affect the best part of his game (speed). Ellsbury will lead off, to be followed by Boston's newest superstar...

Carl Crawford just keeps getting better. Since becoming a full-time player at 21, Crawford has done nothing but rack up hits, steal bases, and play gold-glove defense. And last year he showed more power than ever before, nearly slugging .500. A 134 OPS+ may not come anywhere near Pujols level, but combined with his speed and defense, Crawford is one of the most valuable players in the game. He's replacing a combination of Daniel Nava, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall, so yeah, it's a big upgrade.

Another victim of the Great Red Disaster of 2010, Dustin Pedroia was limited to 75 games because of a rogue foul ball that found its way to his foot. The former MVP is healed and ready to go.

It seems like Adrian Gonzalez has been a Red Sox for years given how long the rumours have been flying, but he won't get his first at bat as a Bostonian until later this week. And man, look out. Adrian has 137 home runs in the last four years playing half his games in Petco Park, but he isn't just getting out of the most extreme pitcher's park in baseball - he's also moving to one of the best hitter's parks.

Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and J.D. Drew have been consistently productive hitters for the last few years, and even though they're all getting on in age, none has fallen off a cliff. Ortiz looked like he might last year, then he caught fire. Drew always misses a handful of games, but has basically been worth his contract, and the numbers suggest he's still average or a bit above on the defensive side. Youk missed time with a thumb injury, but is healed and ready to take over at third.

Marco Scutaro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia form a "meh" 8-9 behind the "holy f$#%@( and $%#% behind the %^$^@'s ^^)#%" 1-7. Scoots will play good defense and steal second on a walk every now and then, while Salty (is there a better 8-9 tandem nickname than Salty and Scoots?) will kinda suck.

The bench features Jed Lowrie, Darnell McDonald, Mike Cameron and Jason Varitek.

The Red Sox are a model organization, and nowhere is that more evident than in the starting rotation. There are a couple of young, cheap, homegrown pitchers - ace Jon Lester and developing ace Clay Buchholz - and the solid veterans, acquired through trade (Josh Beckett), free agency (John Lackey) and the posting system (Daisuke Matsuzaka). Now, it's an expensive rotation, and it's unreasonable to point to the Sox as a model for what every team should be doing given their financial capability, but even big budget teams don't cover all aspects of player acquisition and development like the Red Sox do.

There is some cause for concern in the rotation. Beckett had an awful year, and Lackey wasn't nearly the pitcher he was during his Angels tenure, and both are locked up expensively for four more years. Both pitchers, though, are still in their prime years and have been aces in the past. It's easy to forget this looked like an absolutely formidable rotation just a year ago. And, in fact, ZiPS projects the worst member of the rotation to be Dice-K - with a 4.19 ERA. That would be formidable.

The Sox's bullpen actually wasn't that great in 2010, so they went out and signed Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. With Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard at the back (and it's only a matter of time before Bard takes over closing duties), this could be an above-average bullpen, but let's just call it average for now (the only safe bet when projecting bullpens). Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront (Boston's #6 prospect) could be the first replacement starters called upon.

This is a great team, probably the best in baseball - the Yankees' starting pitching is a mess, the Rays are a little too green, the Phillies too old - but there's still a significant chance the Sox don't even make the playoffs, given the nature of the division.

Prediction: What I just said could happen in fact doesn't, and Boston easily wins the division with 97 wins. I think Mick will have something to say tomorrow about who's taking the wild card...
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Mick Doherty - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 01:05 PM EDT (#231755) #

Indeed I will, Dave, tho I think my actual prediction will ... surprise most people here. Suffice to say, I think your designation of the Yankee rotation as "a mess," while accurate, is actually kind.

More tomorrow!

Oh, and nice job on this preview. "Scoots and Salty' (or "Salty and Scoots" depending on how they appear in the lineup) could make some tee-shirt manufactuer in Beantown a ton of dough!

Mike Green - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 01:34 PM EDT (#231758) #
I'll take the "under" on the Adrian Gonzalez projection, and I am not so fond of the Sox' starting pitching.  I still have them at 93 wins and a division championship, and as the best team in baseball.  I just don't think that they're miles and miles ahead of the rest of the best division (by far) in baseball.
Mylegacy - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 01:37 PM EDT (#231759) #
Good piece Dave.

Boston has brains - money - and a coherent system. They will be the expected winner of the Glory this year and look solid for years. Ugh. Having said that - Beckett and Lackey both have a serious chance of never being what they were. Short of bombing their cars - Lester and Clay look to be Co-Aces for some time to come. Youk may age much faster at 3rd - I hope. The twin speedsters Crawford and Ellsbury look like can't miss everyday threats. Speed never takes a holiday.

It'll be interesting to see what Mick has to say about the Spankees tomorrow. As usual - the Al East is going to be a very hard place for our Jays to win enough to get to the post season. Oh well - even if we fall short this year (...when we fall short...) we'll have lots of strut about us.

92-93 - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 01:39 PM EDT (#231760) #
MLB Network had an interesting graphic for Adrian Gonzalez - they were showing highlights of opposite field fly balls he hit in Petco, and while the ball was in the air, they digitally recreated the Green Monster in Petco to see what would happen to those balls in Fenway.

Adrian Gonzalez has hit .310/.390/.599 on the road over the last 3 years in a very weak lineup. I'll take the over on his OPS projections.
Flex - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#231761) #
To keep this on topic I'll start by saying Rosenthal has the Sox winning the AL East this year. No surprise there.

But, he has the Jays finishing last, citing "Too much talent lost from last year's club"

He does have Brett Lawrie winning the Rookie of the Year.

The link:
uglyone - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 03:14 PM EDT (#231766) #
I'll preface this by saying that the Sox are a very good team and could easily win this division, but I'm having a hard time digesting their worshipful preseason reviews.

The Red Sox won 89 games last year, and did nothing to improve their team.

First the roster changes - Crawford and Gonzo are gonna have one helluva time outperforming what Beltre and VMart did last year. Salty is forced into a fulltime role and he'll have a tough time matching what Hall did in LF for them last year. As far as "in and out" roster moves, I definitely don't see an improvement over what the players they lost did for them last year.

They are a team who is expected to improve into what many are calling the best team in baseball, almost entirely based on a large number of players "bouncing back" from seriously injured and/or "down" years.

And that's usually not the greatest formula for success, IMO.

Lester is gold, but Buchholz will almost certainly regress to closer to his FIP numbers, Lackey is ok, but Beckett looks scary bad (a 2 pitch pitcher really can't afford to lose his best pitch), and DiceK will be more of his inconsistent mediocre self.

In the 'pen, Paps has been in a steady decline, the love of Jenks is based mostly on a belief he's been "unlucky" as his overlying numbers have been fairly mediocre, while Bard is in his 2nd year and has struggled this spring. Wheeler is a good ROOGY, but behind him they've resorted to taking flyers on Dennis Reyes and Matt Albers to start the year in the 'pen, and that's hardly encouraging. Wakefield just isn't very good anymore.

In the lineup, you've got Youk, Gonzalez, Pedroia, Ellsbury trying to return from major injuries. Youk is going to lose plenty of value making the move over to third, while Gonzo is in a major baseball market for the first time.

You've got the chronically injured and diminishing Drew in right and Ortiz at DH, the epically mediocre Scutaro at SS, the replacement level Saltalamacchia at C.

The only guy in the lineup who isn't a major question mark is Crawford - but even he is a question mark because he most certainly will not play well enough to justify being the highest paid player on that team, and he's going from a lifetime of playing in a non-baseball market to playing in THE most pressure-packed baseball market in the world. We'll see how things go with him when he's posting his usual .800ish ops for $20+ mil.

This is a good, even very good team, but IMO they're riddled with serious question marks and the preseason reviews on them have been a little TOO glowing, I think.
greenfrog - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 03:18 PM EDT (#231767) #
Nice start by Drabek against Boston today: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.
ComebyDeanChance - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 04:16 PM EDT (#231768) #
There may not be a god, but judging from today in Dunedin there is still divine justice.

At the end of last month I had a good online pout about the Blue Jays having already sold out the Feb 28 game to the tour companies which bring busloads of jersey-clad Red Sox fans to other peoples' parks. It was impossible to get a single one month before the game.

As it turns out, today is by far the worst weather of an otherwise beautiful month. Rainy and windy with lots of thunder.

Just down the road from me, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is full of wet cold Red Sox fans. And I'm inside, listening to the thunder.
Mike Green - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 04:28 PM EDT (#231769) #
full of wet cold Red Sox fans

I see that the Sox first visit Toronto on May 11-12.  A perfect time for a surprise blizzard and a dome malfunction...(pace Justin Timberlake)
Mike Green - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 05:33 PM EDT (#231771) #
I checked out the ZiPS projections for the Jays, in the latest build, and man, are they unfriendly.  The Jay starting pitching is projected to be mediocre or worse, with the aid of a sub-standard defence.  The offence figures to be bad, with only Bautista noticeably above average and several players to be much worse.

I have the Jays at 75 wins, and ZiPS makes me look like an optimist. Other projection systems are much more friendly to the home nine.

ComebyDeanChance - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 07:52 PM EDT (#231773) #
"a team who is expected to improve into what many are calling the best team in baseball, almost entirely based on a large number of players "bouncing back" from seriously injured and/or "down" years.

And that's usually not the greatest formula for success, IMO."

Well, I think anyone wagering their own money would feel more comfortable gambling on Dustin Pedroia's return from injury than on Aaron Hill or Adam Lind's return from sucking. It's unfortunate but apparently true that Pedroia has returned with a slash line of .315/.373/.519 this spring. If he was an older player returning from injury, there might be more to say for your assessment, but as it is I'm resigned to expecting a good season for Pedroia.
christaylor - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 07:56 PM EDT (#231774) #
uglyone have you been listening to WEEI? You sound like many of the callers to the radio station here. Not that I entirely disagree, I think at least one of the question marks you raise will rear its ugly head.

The Sox will win the division, I am sure, but I have a hard time seeing them winning it going away. Low 90s win total seems a good bet with the over under at about 93.

Also -- there's no way the Yankees rotation will be the same on April 1st as it is on August 1st.
ayjackson - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 08:03 PM EDT (#231775) #
I think the Red Sox will push close to 100 wins.  I doubt anyone else in the division wins 90.  Tampa has a chance depending on Manny and Damon, and on whether they can get lucky in close games.
ComebyDeanChance - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 08:11 PM EDT (#231776) #
I have the Jays at 75 wins

Has there been a thread on projected wins? I half expect that there was and I've forgotten. Comes with the demographic territory.
Mike Green - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 08:15 PM EDT (#231779) #
Tell me about it. I didn't remember either, but I now see a poll up.
Mick Doherty - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 08:37 PM EDT (#231781) #

Also -- there's no way the Yankees rotation will be the same on April 1st as it is on August 1st.

You'er too kind, sir. Preview tomorrow doesn't say this flat out, but there's no way the Yankee rotation is  the same on MAY 1 as it is on April 1.

Alex Obal - Monday, March 28 2011 @ 08:38 PM EDT (#231782) #
Hasn't been one recently, outside of the league-wide over/unders, though I'm sure it'll be one aspect of the coming Jays preview thread. And the poll was inspired by Mike's offhand comment.
TamRa - Tuesday, March 29 2011 @ 01:26 AM EDT (#231790) #
yglyone's (excellent) post provokes a thought. Perhaps next year the team previews for the AL East should be a "point/counterpoint" format. half telling us why the team will be good and half telling us why it will be disappointing.

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