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2011 Boston Red Sox Predictions

2011 Boston Red Sox

With Major League Baseball’s opening day looming just two weeks away (March 31), it’s time for my 2011 Boston Red Sox predictions. Following an offseason highlighted by the signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, I think that NESN has said it best with their slogan for the Sox 2011 campaign — “We’re all in.”

The Offense — Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox had plenty of offense last year — they finished second in MLB in runs and slugging percentage. This year’s offense is that much more dynamic — Carl Crawford essentially gives us a second Jacoby Ellsbury on the base paths, in the body of a much better hitter. A left-handed Adrian Gonzalez should bring Fenway’s right field fence to its knees, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are just hitting the stride of their primes, and David Ortiz is  coming off a good season. There will not be a more fun offense to watch in baseball, with the Sox combination of speed and power.

The Pitching — Critics like to poke holes in the Red Sox pitching staff. I look at it like this — John Lester has been just about as good as anybody the last few seasons. Clay Bucholz has finally lived up to his potential, following a 17-7 season with a 2.33 ERA. And my Red Sox pleasant surprise of the year is going to be John Lackey — I’m expecting a big season out of him. Clearly frustrated with his performance last year, Lackey arrived at camp 15 pounds lighter and ready to roll. I’d look for 16-10 or so out of him this year. That leaves us with the Red Sox perennial question marks — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett. These guys both have fierce stuff, but get lit up more than your average patron at a Grateful Dead concert. Who knows what to expect out of these guys — if either of them give us a season substantially over .500 we can consider it a bonus. As for the pen, Papelbon is obviously a bit of a question mark. No pitcher has ever saved 35+ games in a season to more criticism. The likes of Daniel Bard and newcomer Bobby Jenks should help sure up the closing roll.

The Question Marks — The Sox have 3 questions marks in my eyes. The first is middle relief, where the Sox did do some substantial offseason work. That said, I’m not as sure of the bullpen as the rest of Boston seems to be. I am always leery of relievers — a few closers aside they are usually just pitchers not good enough to be starters. I’m not predicting anything terrible here, I’m just not quite sure who is going to emerge as the backbone of the middle relief crew.

The second question mark I see is the shortstop position, which I consider to be the 3rd most important position on the field. I’m not buying into Jed Lowrie, and I never bought into Marco Scutaro. I was a big Nick Green fan myself and saw big things for him. Even so, every team has to have a weakness somewhere and I don’t think this is a big deal.

The biggest question mark in my eyes, by far, is at the catcher position. Jason Varitek is valuable in his leadership and the experience he brings working with the pitching staff, but he’s a glaring weakness in all other ways and likely won’t be able to play too many games. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is young, unproven, and inexperienced — not what you’re looking for in the catcher of a World Series contender. I think that the Sox will miss Victor Martinez much more than any player that they lost — Adrian Beltre included.

2011 Season Prediction – I’m not going out on a limb here at all, but I think the Red Sox will meet the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. While the Phillies’ starters are undoubtedly superior, I think that the Red Sox offense will be dynamic enough to score the runs needed to beat a lackluster Phillies offense. I hereby predict that the Red Sox will win the 2011 World Series — and don’t call me a homer — I predicted that the Yankees would win the last two seasons.

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The Red Sox Player Missed Most

Bill Hall

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

I’ve made it pretty clear by now that I don’t think this off-season could have gone much better for the Red Sox – I may or may not have called my father after midnight in the middle of the week to inform him that we had landed Carl Crawford. His response – grumble, “great,” click – whatever, he goes to bed at 9:00pm these days. That said there is one player that I’ll be missing come April. Bill Hall.

Psych! I bet you thought I was going to say Adrian Beltre – No, I’m all about Youkilis at third base and prefer not to have Sox left fielders systematically taken down over the course of the season. Surprised? Yeah, me too – because I spent the entirety of last season ripping on Bill Hall. His name became an adjective; you totally blew something, you “Bill Hall’d” it – how’d the interview go? Oh man, I Bill Hall’d it. It’s similar to the expression “I dropped the ball,” because it seemed throughout the course of last season that all Bill Hall did was botch routine plays. In reality, he didn’t play that badly – it’s hard to catch the ball all the time when you’re playing every single position on the field – at the same time. That’s an exaggeration, but at times it felt like Bill Hall was the only healthy player on the Red Sox squad. The night he came in and pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning (the only pitcher that night to do so) I felt like David After Dentist: “Is this real life?”

Upon hearing that the Red Sox had not resigned Bill Hall for the 2011 season I felt oddly disappointed about it – my initial reaction was: How could we not resign this guy! He was our entire team! Obviously resigning Hall wouldn’t make sense for the Sox or Hall himself but hindsight is 20/20 and the reason I hated on him so much is because he was stepping in for players whose shoes were hard to fill. When you’re used to Dustin Pedroia, Bill Hall is just not going to cut it, even if he plays solidly. I didn’t know what I had with Bill Hall ‘till he was gone and now that he’s the regular second baseman for the Houston Astros he’ll probably bat .356 or something, rock Hideki Okajima every time he faces him, and I’ll start hating on him all over again.

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Carl Crawford To Boston? You Kiddin’ Me?

Carl Crawford

Theo Epstein made a statement yesterday, saying loud and clear — “We’re here to win in 2011.” You gotta give it to the guy, every time I start to question him he answers. You also got to love his sneakiness, stating after signing Gonzalez that his focus was now on the bullpen. He made moves in a major way, and he made them early. Gotta love it. After signing Crawford to a 7-year $142 million deal, the Red Sox have the best team in the Bigs. Here’s a look at my new proposed line-up for the Sox.

1) Carl Crawford, L, LF

2) Dustin Pedroia, R, 2B

3) David Ortiz, L, DH

4) Kevin Youkilis, R, 3B

5) Adian Gonzalez, L, 1B

6) JD Drew, L, RF

7) Marco Scutaro, SS, R

8)Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, S

9) Jacoby Ellsbury, L, CF

Yes, that is going to be 6 left-handed hitters if need be. This line-up has it all in my opinion, minus a good catcher (which is the second most important position in baseball). That said we’ve got a gold glove infield, an incredibly fast outfield, power, and two of the best on the base paths in the league. Coupled with our starting pitching and a bullpen that Theo is trying to add to — watch out.

Now now now. Shut up for a moment Yankees fans. I’ve already started to hear it. “The Red Sox sold out, the Red Sox are the Yankees.” Frankly, New Yorkers, you’re just making yourself look pathetic by saying these things. Your showing us Boston people that our comments get to you. Because if you sit back and look at the numbers, well, how about we do that?

Players making over $30 million in 2011 — Yankees 1 (A-Rod), Red Sox 0

Players making over $20 million in 2011 — Yankees 3 (CC, A-Rod, Tex), Sox 0 (Crawford may, but his contract likely increases by year)

Players making over $15 million in 2011 — Yankees 6 (AJ, Mo, CC, Jeter, A-Rod, Tex), Red Sox 2 (Lackey, Crawford)

As far as signing players to long-term, big deals I gave the Yankees hell for signing AJ Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Texiera in the same offseason to the tune of $441 million. The Red Sox have really only signed Crawford, although it does seem very likely they will give Adrian Gonzalez a contract extension early in the season. Even if they pay his 150+ million over many seasons, that brings Crawford and Gonzalez’s signings to about 2/3 of the Yankees spending that off-season.  Which seems about right. Boston’s payroll will be less than the Yankees, significantly, as it always is.

Oh, and that’s not to mention the deal the Yankees will likely sign Cliff Lee too. That makes those numbers look even worse. Frankly, they have no option other than to get him now — they’ll need another lefty arm to pitch the Red Sox lefty-happy line-up.

Bring on the spring.

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Bengals Versus Red Sox….You Make the Odds

Chad Ocho Cinco, Terrell Owens

Here we go, you’re making the odds…….

What are the odds that the Boston Red Sox make the playoffs this season, versus the newly retooled Bengals making the AFC championship game? The Red Sox are finally beginning to get some of their injured players back, although they are still missing two crucial pieces in Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. They are currently 4.5 games behind the wild card leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Bengals now have Carson Palmer throwing the ball to either Ocho Cinco or Terrell Owens — if he’s not handing it off to Cedric Benson. How do you defend against that?

I’d say the odds of the Sox making the playoffs are 45% — I expect them to get key players back soon and make a significant push. They still have the best pitching in baseball, have not been known to quit on seasons, and I think they have plenty of time still. Everyone in Boston seems to be writing them off, but come on people, they still have more than two full months. That’s plenty of time to make up 4.5 games. Best of all, they are ending the season playing the Yankees (who will be in the playoffs for sure). You know that if the Sox are in a do or die situation, that series will have amazing electricity.

As for the Bengals, I have no idea how you defend against them. But honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about their defense. I give them a 33% chance of making the AFC title game.

Advantage, Red Sox.

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Ortiz Wins Home Run Derby Crown — A Beast As Always

It has long been known to Boston fans that David Ortiz eats babies — and he proved last night that despite unwarranted criticism from New York fans trying to make themselves feel better about A-Rod, he’s got as much power as ever. Ortiz slugged 32 home runs to win the 2010 Home Run Derby crown, displaying  power that has led him 18 home runs, 57 RBI’s, and a .263 average this season. As for A-Rod, he’s at .269, 14 HR’s, and 70 RBI’s. A-Rod’s numbers have also come while playing 8 more games and earning $20 million more than Ortiz — this season.

Let’s now take a look at a comment from a New York fan (there are many), in response to my David Ortiz vs. A-Rod post in March.

“as an avid yankee fan, a reasonable one of course, i think Papi’s “off” year last year was due to the fact that he took steroids came out and he there fore was no longer on the juice. As everyone knows last year was also A-rods first year playing after being outed as a steroid user and he seemed fine. We will see this year if this plays a part in Papi’s drop in performance.”

Looks like we’ve seen, looks like you were wrong. Sorry.

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Red Sox Woes — Another Man Goes Down

In my life as I baseball fan, I am hard pressed to remember a string of injuries happening to a team with the breadth and speed of the current Red Sox string of injuries. Players on the Red Sox roster are falling apart faster than Tiger Woods’ marriage. The most recent victim is Jason Varitek, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a foot injury. That wouldn’t be too big of a deal, except starting catcher Victor Martinez is already waiting for him on the disabled list. The Red Sox have managed to play well despite their injuries thus far, but with the loss of both the starting and backup catcher (not to mention Varitek’s the captain), I’d look for the Red Sox to go on a pretty significant slide. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

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Red Sox All Beat Up

As well as the Red Sox have been playing, their recent tear may be put on hold — all of a sudden Clay Bucholz, Dustin Pedroia, and Victor Martinez have gone down to injuries. Same as ever with Bucholz, I hate him, but it hurts to lose a pitcher who has had so much success this year. In Martinez you lose your day in and day out catcher, as well as a huge bat in the Red Sox line-up. Honestly, I’m least concerned with this loss as I am confident in Jason Varitek playing well in Martinez’s absence. At this point in his career I think that Varitek knows his role — and as team captain especially, I think Varitek knows this is his chance to step up and shine for the Red Sox this year. Good play out of Varitek, especially if Martinez is to be out for a bit, may be crucial to Boston’s season. As for Pedroia, well he’s the most costly loss. He’s arguably our best hitter — in my eyes he is — as well as a crucial clubhouse personality.

At the very least, this will give some younger players a chance to step up and get in some valuable big league experience before the playoffs roll around. Time to step up, gentleman.

Check out www.chrisross91.wordpress.com.

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