|2007 Team Previews: The Boston Red Sox||| Print |||Send|
Written by Frank Bundy III (Contact & Archive) on February 25, 2007
Regular Season Record: 86-76
3rd in AL East – 11 games behind the New York Yankees
Home Park: Fenway Park
Looking For Greener Pastures Elsewhere
The Skinny: The Skinny on the Boston Red Sox this year is simply this, they are the "new" New York Yankees. They are now the team that spends money with reckless abandon and doesn't care what others think. Like many have said in years past about the Bronx Bombers: "With the amount of money these guys have spent there is no reason they shouldn't make the playoffs." It as clear, concise, and simple as that. This team dedicated more than $150 million this season to Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Say hello to your "new" New York Yankees.
Strengths: After ranking only 6th in the AL in Runs Scored in 2006 (after ranking 1st in 2003, 2004 and 2005) the Red Sox went out and bought Julio Lugo, and J.D. Drew to try and "move up the charts." These moves should help out quite a bit as both new-comers are definite offensive upgrades over their 2006 counterparts. Last season ex-Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon (8.0), and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (3.2) posted a combined VORP of 11.2 in 881 total PA's while their replacements, right fielder J.D. Drew (34.9) and shortstop Julio Lugo (21.0) posted a combined VORP of 55.9 in 1080 total PA's. These, though, aren't the only offensive upgrades Boston should see in 2007. They will most likely see rebound seasons from center fielder Coco Crisp--as I chronicled here-- and, even though he is clearly no longer the offensive weapon he once was, Jason Varitek should be better than the 2.8 VORP he posted last season.
Couple the new free agents acquisitions with Crisp and Varitek's rebound seasons, throw in Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and on-base machine Kevin Youkilis and just like that, the Red Sox have an offense that should easily finish in the top three in runs scored in the American League--if not first. The biggest question mark on the offense is rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia. But, the rest of the offense should more than make up for his presense.
Weaknesses: The Red Sox biggest weakness is it's bullpen. With 2006's Closer, Jonathan Papelbon, moving to the starting rotation the Red Sox truly do not have a relief "ace." But, they sure tried to find one during the offseason signing four relievers to big league contracts - Donnelly, Okajima, Pineiro, Romero -two more former big-leaguers to minor league contracts - Bernero and Hernandez - and selected another in the Rule Five Draft - Nick DeBarr. The Red Sox are hoping one or more of the new faces works out, and that some of their young arms in the 'pen (Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen) will mature. Then maybe, just maybe, they can have a decent relief corps. Until those scenarios work out, though, this is clearly the biggest weakness of this team.
Don't believe that starting pitching isn't a weakness for this team either just because they signed Daisuke Matsuzaka. It is--just not as big as it's bullpen. Last season the Red Sox ranked 11th in Starting Pitchers' ERA (5.00) in the American League and even though Josh Beckett most likely will rebound from his disasterous 5.01 ERA in 2006, and Tim Wakefield should be his relieable "every fifth day" self; the fates of Papelbon and Matsuzaka are both speculative, and Curt Schilling will be 40 next season and posted a 4.58 ERA in the second half. This is, in no way, a strength going into 2007. That's not to say that the potential isn't there to be one of the leagues' best rotations, but until some sort of results are seen, it is only reasonable to say that the Red Sox have only somewhat improved thier horrible 2006 staff--which would then only make them mediocre.
Keys to Success: The Red Sox need three key "rebound" seasons in 2007, from Crisp, Beckett, and Varitek, for them to be one of the top teams in baseball. Fortunately for them, two of those three players are still young (Beckett-26, and Crisp-27); and barring good health, both can be expected to rebound as needed so that shoudln't be a problem. That leaves the only barrier to a playoff season for the BoSox the unknown entities that are Jonathan Papelbon moving into the rotation, and this off-season's biggest story "Dice-K" Matsuzaka. While both are unknown, it's not logical to say that either will be horrible. Meaning...
Prediction: this team should be playoff-bound in 2007. They've spent too much money not to. When asking yourself if the Red Sox will make the playoffs in 2007, substitute the words "Red Sox" with "Yankees," and the word "2007" with any year between 2000-2006 and you'll have your answer: "Of course they will."