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Underrated this year or not?

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  • Underrated this year or not?

    Is it just me or does it seem that all the mags (Lindy's, Sporting NEws, etc.) are not nearly giving credit for the moves the Sox made off season. I think we have a pitching staff that is getting way too overlooked here. I know Schil has yet to prove he's back but we have more arms than his and damn good ones at that.

  • #2
    If everyone is healthy and at their peak, we have a great rotation. Of course, "at their peak" could apply to any team's rotation, so there you go.

    P.S. Welcome to BBF, MarkTiarra! Enjoy your stay!
    "Anything less would not have been worthy of me. Anything more would not have been possible." - Carl Yastrzemski

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    • #3
      I'd agree that the Sox this year have a great upside...they could very easily be a 95+ win team. At this point, though, there's questions...who will pitch where, and how effectively? Will Mike Lowell hit? Who's the backup catcher?

      That being said, every team has question marks this time of year, and I'm very excited about the moves the Sox made this winter, and I think they'll have a very competetive team this season.
      Visit my card site at Mike D's Baseball Card Page.

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      • #4
        Like everyone else has said, I think the Sox have a lot of upside but that there are a number of things that could easily go wrong with the team and derail. That being said, if most things go right, the Sox should have a very good team.

        Here's my analysis of the Sox going into the season, let me know what you think Sox fans (please keep in mind that I'm trying to be as impartial as possible ):

        Starting Lineup
        C - Jason Varitek: Like all catchers that are in their mid 30's, there are a couple of concerns due to wear and tear. The fact that Varitek has struggled more in the second half in the past few seasons show that the strain does affect his play. However, he is still one of the two or three best offensive catchers in baseball (his ranking mostly depends on the health of Joe Mauer). I think Varitek's numbers might decline a little, but that will still make him a very good hitting catcher, and his leadership qualities can't be underestimated either.

        1B - Kevin Youkilis: I'm actually pretty excited to see what Youkilis can do in a full-time role. He's unproven still, but this opportunity is overdue for him. At the very least, he should surpass Kevin Millar's '05 production and I can't imagine that he won't be better defensively than Millar. All and all, I'd call this an upgrade for the Sox, and given that Youkilis' ability at the ML level is still pretty unknown, this is one of those places that something could go very right for the Sox. Who knows, he might have 25-30 homeruns in him. I actually wouldn't be surprised.

        2B - Mark Loretta: This was a terrific trade for the Sox - a backup catcher for a starting 2Bman. Loretta declined a bit last year, but he's only one season removed from an All-Star campaign. He's very solid all-around and I suspect that playing at Fenway should help his BA and power go up a little, just as it did for Todd Walker in '03. I wouldn't call him a premiere 2Bman, but he's very solid and doesn't really have any deficiencies (though he won't really steal bases). This is certainly an upgrade for the Sox.

        SS - Alex Gonzalez: I'm still scratching my head at the logic of not only giving up on Renteria after one-season, but in paying for most of his contract while he plays for the Braves. Even with Renteria's errors last year, I'd rather have him as I think his play would have improved in his second season in Fenway as he becomes more comfortable playing in Boston (this happens all the time with players in New York). Gonzalez is good defensively, but he's an albatross at the plate. Won't hit for average, won't get on base (career .291 OBP), won't steal bases, and probably won't flash any power. Though there is hope, as two years ago he did hit 23 homeruns and 18 the year before that, but only 5 last year. So there is hope that playing in Fenway could make him look like a decent hitter. If he goes .260, 10, 50 with a .315 OBP, that would be a very good season for him. So this is a downgrade, IMO.

        3B - Mike Lowell: This might be the biggest "what if" on the Sox. If he plays like he did from 2000-2004, this will be a huge upgrade for the Sox and add another potent bat to the middle of the order, and that's saying something considering that Bill Mueller was very solid in his own right. However, last year he was abysmal offensively, to the point of suspiciously abysmal. I suspect that he'll bounce back at least a little from last year; his swing is tailored-made for Fenway. Regardless of how he hits, he is an excellent defensive 3Bman. So right now, this is an undecided for me. Mueller was a rock, but he didn't have the upside that Lowell has. On a sidenote, I'm not really sure why the Sox didn't make more of an effort to keep Mueller. He was very steady, he obviously fit in well with the team and with Fenway, and he could have platooned at 1B with Youkilis instead of signing Snow, and he could have stepped into 3B if Lowell's hitting stays like last year. Would have given the Sox good depth and some good options.

        LF - Manny Ramirez: Despite his sometimes interesting fielding, his bat makes him the best LFer in baseball and the Sox would be crazy to trade him. You can't recreate the type of 1-2 punch that Manny and Ortiz give the middle of that lineup, you have to keep that intact.

        CF - Coco Crisp: There are some questions about his ability to adapt to CF, but I think he'll be alright as he can cover a lot of ground and his arm is better than Damon's (though that's not difficult). This is another part of the "things that need to go right" equation, but I think Crisp will do well in Boston and I'm excited to see him play. At this point, Damon is still a better player than Crisp, but Damon has likely peaked while Crisp is still on his way up and the gap between the two is not that big. For this year, the Sox might be slightly worse off with Crisp than with Damon, but in the longrun, Crisp should be an improvement, and that could defintely happen this year. He also gives the Sox at least one player in the starting lineup that can steal bases - but this is a slow and stationary team. As for Crisp, I wouldn't be surprised if he puts up .315, 20, 75, with 20 SB, and that should definitely replace the loss of Damon.

        RF - Trot Nixon: He's had a pretty nice spring, but it's getting close to that time where he could be called a disappointment. Injuries have really derailed his career and he can't hit a lick against lefties. So he is another part of the "things that need to go right" equation. Can he stay healthy? Will he hit against lefties? Can he return to the level and promise he showed from 2001-2003? Like Lowell, the Sox need Nixon to be healthy and productive to really give some more punch to that middle of the order. If Lowell and Nixon can't kick it up from last year, that will induce teams to pitch around Ortiz quite a bit and thus minimize his effectiveness.

        DH - David Ortiz: It's remarkable how he's blossomed since coming to the Sox. With him and Manny, this team is always a threat offensively, just don't ask Ortiz to play the field.

        Bench
        C - Josh Bard: I guess this could also be Ken Huckaby or someone else, but I'm predicting Bard. This is the backup catcher, he's not going to play a lot unless Varitek gets hurt. I don't know much about him, but I think he could be a decent hitter if given a shot to play regularly, but he won't be asked to do that. But like I said, he won't be playing much anyway so it really doesn't matter who is occupying this spot in terms of the team's overall potential.

        1B - J.T. Snow: He's a nice guy to have on the bench who can come in as a defensive replacement and start in a pinch as he's still a good defensive 1Bman and in Fenway he can probably hit .275-.285. He has very little power and I wouldn't want him starting for long stretches at this point in his career. I'd rather have seen John Olerud come back as defensively he's about Snow's equal and his bat is much better so he'd give the Sox more punch off the bench.

        IF - Tony Graffanino: Good guy to have on the bench, can play 2B, SS, and 3B, can start in a pinch and contribute. But I wouldn't go further then describing him as a super-backup. Good guy to have on the team, versatile, good defensively and a decent hitter, but not someone I'd want starting for a whole year. Graffanino has struggled a bit this spring and Alejandro Machado has looked pretty good. Wouldn't be surprised to see Graffanino traded and Alejandro added to the big league roster for Opening Day. Also where is Alex Cora? Is he still with the Sox? I can't find any stats for him this spring. Enrique Wilson is also playing himself into the mix this spring. He's been pretty good this spring, he has defensive versatility, and he gets extra points for being friends with Manny, so I wouldn't be surprised if he works his way onto the big league roster.

        OF - Adam Stern: He looked pretty good in the WBC. Don't really know what else to say about him as he's had very limited ML experience (only 15 ABs). Looks like he has some speed and that he can field, so I guess we'll see what happens.

        OF - Dustan Mohr: This was a nice pickup and he's have a great spring. He provides a nice option off the bench and I expect that he'll see some significant time in RF this year. Don't know if I'd count on him as a regular starter as he's never really come through in previous opportunities, but he gives some options, was once a highly regarded propsect, so there is always the chance that he could break through. Other than Mohr and Stern, I don't really see anyone else who's a threat to make the Opening Day Roster as a Reserve OFer for the Sox. Willie Harris is probably in the best position, and his speed is certainly intriguing, but I don't see it happening, especially with his poor hitting so far this spring.


        Overall Position Players

        Lineup: With Manny and Ortiz in the middle of the lineup, runs will be scored, and I think Crisp and Loretta will do a good job of setting the table for them, and Crisp in particular could quickly turn into an All Star CFer. 1-4, this lineup could actually be better than the previous two years. Varitek will do his thing like usual and provide good production from the catcher spot. If Lowell and/or Nixon can bounce back, stay healthy, and produce, this lineup quickly becomes very scary. If not, this lineup becomes pretty weak after Ortiz (with the exception of wherever Varitek hits), and that will allow teams to pitch around at least Ortiz and somewhat mitigate his effectiveness. I think Youkilis will be steady, and who knows, he might have 30 homeruns in him, but again, he could founder as a regular. Gonzalez will probably be an albatross at the bottom of the lineup, but if everything else is clicking (Crisp taking off, Loretta being solid, Manny and Ortiz doing their thing, Lowell and Nixon bouncing back, Varitek doing his thing, and Youkilis breaking out), Gonzalez's offense is almost a moot point.

        Defense: The IF defense should be very good, OF will probably be closer to average, but could be noticeably better depending on Crisp's adapation to CF. The team has some good defensive options off the bench as well.

        Bench: I think the Sox have put together a nice bench that should give them some good options, especially in a pinch, and good versatility. I don't know if any of the bench players are guys I'd want to have starting regularly, but that's why they're on the bench.

        Baserunning: This is a slow team that won't be stealing many bases and won't often have runners scoring from 1B on a hit and will lose runners scoring from 2B on hits as well. Crisp gives some nice speed at the top of the lineup (not as good as Damon though), but that's about it for this team, and if years past are any indication, Crisp, like Damon, won't be asked to steal more than 20 bases anyway. Some people say that baserunning isn't that important, well baserunning produces runs and the Sox will lose some because they will have to be very conservative on the basepaths.


        Starting Pitching

        Curt Schilling: If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say Schilling's best years are behind him. I don't know if at age 39 and a career riddled with injuries, including last year, he still has it in him to be dominant for an entire season. And of course, that is if he can even stay healthy for an entire season, as he's been injured more often than not in his career. If healthy, Schilling will be effective and will be dominant for stretches, but I no longer believe he's a Cy Young contender, even if healthy. In this regard, he's probably similar to Randy Johnson at this point - can be dominant, but health and age will factor in throughout the season.

        Josh Beckett: Tremendous upside? Yes. A ton of question marks? Yes. He hasn't looked that great this spring, but you can't always put much stock into that. He's got great stuff, he's only 26, and he's got big game experience. If he can stay healthy and adapt to the AL, Beckett could be a stud pitcher for the next decade. As for the questions, there is first and foremost the health concerns. Since being called up in 2001, he's never pitched more than 178 innings. He seems to always be fighting something (what's with young pitchers nowadays anyway and constantly fighting injuries?). If he can stay healthy and pitch more than 200 innings for the first time in his career, then the question is how will he hold up over that much work? Can he still be effective in September and October after working more innings than ever before? Then there are the adjustment concerns. How will he handle the Boston media pressure and the Northeast exposure in general? How will he transfer to the AL in which he has to face the DH every game? There are also park considerations. In his career, he has been an excellent pitcher at Dolphins Stadium and an average pitcher on the road. Fenway is not Dolphins Stadium. Beckett puts quite a few runners on base in the form of hits and walks, and unless he cuts that down, Fenway will likely help a lot more of those baserunners turn into runs. Nevertheless, I still think it was a good trade for the Sox, as Beckett is young with a ton of upside (Lowell too could really be a boon for the Sox).

        David Wells: This is of course assuming that the surly Wells is not traded by Opening Day. Wells will have his moments, both good and bad, but he's pretty much an averagish pitcher at this point, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for a middle/bottom of the rotation guy. Of course, his attitude might affect his desire to pitch well. His age (43), and balky back are also concerns, so he'll likely miss a number of starts. But that again isn't necessarily a bad thing as the Sox have good depth with Arroyo and Papelbon.

        Matt Clement: Despite his bad second half last year, and questions about whether he can shake off the effects of that comebacker to the head, I think he'll still be a good guy to have in the middle/bottom of the rotation. At worse, he'll be about an average pitcher, at best, he'll be dominant like he was in the first half last year. I think it's reasonable to expect something in between and ERA in the low 4s, which is not shabby in the AL.

        Tim Wakefield: He's probably the most sure thing in the rotation. Even at age 39, durability isn't that much of a concern as knuckleballers seem as if they can pitch forever (Wihelm, Niekro, Candiotti come to mind). So I expect him to be a little better than the average starter, with an ERA in the low-mid 4s, and to befuddle the Yankees as usual.

        Bullpen

        Bronson Arroyo: I'm guessing his weak spring has all but assured that he will start the season in the bullpen. He gives the Sox good starting pitching depth, and with questions surrounding the health and durability of Schilling, Beckett, Wells, and even Clement, Arroyo will likely be relied upon to start quite a bit this year. I think he's a pretty decent pitcher, but with a ceiling. I don't know how much he contributes to the bullpen as he'll likely be mostly a long reliever, so his value is mostly in being there to step into the rotation when the inevitable call comes.

        Jonathan Papelbon: I've read in some places that he could be a good closer at this point. Given his youth, I'm guessing he'll begin the year as a long/middle reliever and be there to step in when the rotation starts to wear down. Regardless of what some people think, I don't believe he is the next Roger Clemens or Tom Seaver, but he certainly could be on his way to a being a very good starter. The real chance to be a fixture in the rotation might not come until 2007, but then again, with the durability questions in the current rotation, Papelbon could be asked to step-up for an extended stretch this year. Coupled with Arroyo, the Sox durability questions in the rotation are not as big of concerns as they might be as the Sox have two quality starters than can step right in.

        Mike Timlin: I like Timlin a lot. I'm guessing he'll be the closer to start the year since I can't seem to find any spring stats for Foulke. Given the injury questions surrounding Foulke, I think Timlin is the better option at this point anyway and I think he'll do a great job closing. If Foulke comes back and is effective, then Timlin goes back to setting up and giving more depth and strength to the bullpen.

        The Rest of the Bullpen: It's hard to say at this point how the rest of the rotation is going to play out for the Sox. Have Julian Tavarez and Keith Foulke pitched at all this spring? There seem to be a lot of guys out there that could fill the last 3-4 spots in the Sox bullpen. David Riske and Rudy Seanez both seem likely to make it, but there is also Matt Ginter, Crag Hansen, Mike Holtz, Cla Meredith, Abe Alvarez, Jimmy Serrano, Craig Breslow, and a few others. So the Sox have a lot of options out there to fill the bullpen. Most of the options, however, have very little big league experience, so it's tough to predict how the bullpen will shake out at this point. On the bright-side, most of these guys are young, so there is certainly potential there.

        Overall Pitching

        Rotation: As of right now, the projected 5 are old, with an average age of almost 36. Durability is certainly a question with all five, and certainly with the youngest member of the rotation, Beckett. However, with Arroyo and Papelbon the Sox can afford to have a couple of pitchers go down, and that's good, because it's likely that a couple will at some point. I imagine that some fans will almost be rooting for someone like Wells to go down so that Papelbon can show his stuff. If more things go right then not, say Schilling stays healthy, Beckett stays healthy and adjusts, Clement bounces back, Wakefield does his thing, Arroyo and Papelbon slot in nicely when needed, this rotation can be very, very good. But the questions can't be ignored, and the depth will only help to a certain extent, so we'll have to see how things play out on the field.

        Bullpen: Other than Timlin, this is the biggest mystery to me. The Sox seem to have a lot of options, but most of the options are unproven. So again, we'll have to see how things shake out. If Foulke comes back healthy and Timlin goes back to setting up, that will make the bullpen a lot stronger.

        Overall
        I think heading into the season, the Sox are one of the most enigmatic teams in baseball. I think the team has a lot of high risk/high reward players, and if most things go right, the Sox should be a team to be reckoned with. But there are a lot of risks and a lot of places where things could easily go awry, and if most of those things do happen, I think the Sox will definitely have a battle on their hands for second place in the AL East, and perhaps even third place. So it will be interesting to see how things shake out this year for the Sox.
        Last edited by DoubleX; 03-17-2006, 11:16 AM.

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        • #5
          ^ so well put...
          twitter.com/NewEnglandFans

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SoxSon
            If everyone is healthy and at their peak, we have a great rotation. Of course, "at their peak" could apply to any team's rotation, so there you go.

            P.S. Welcome to BBF, MarkTiarra! Enjoy your stay!
            I agree.


            :gt
            Red Sox...

            Red Sox Nation- Wily mo pena

            :gt

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