After being eliminated in the playoffs two years in a row the Red Sox went into the offseason trying to figure out just exactly what they needed to take the next step.¬† What they did was make their pitching even better, and that probably isn't enough since they really needed a big bat too.¬† With the departure of Jason Bay what happened was that the offense took a step back.
2009 Regular Season Record: 95-67
Rank: Second in the AL East - 8.0 Games Back
Winner of the Wild Card - Swept in the ALDS by the Angels
Home Park: Fenway Park
Joining the Nation:
3B - Adrian Beltre (Free Agent from Mariners)
Can David Ortiz still be a force in the middle of the lineup for Boston?
IF - Tug Hulett (Trade with Royals)
IF - Marco Scutaro (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
UT - Bill Hall (Trade with Mariners)
OF - Jeremy Hermida (Trade with Marlins)
OF - Mike Cameron (Free Agent from Brewers)
LHP - Brian Shouse* (Free Agent from Rays)
RHP - John Lackey (Free Agent from Angels)
RHP - Boof Bonser (Trade from Twins)
C - George Kottaras (Waiver Claim by Brewers)
1B - Casey Kotchman (Traded to Mariners)
SS - Alex Gonzalez (Free Agent signed with Blue Jays)
SS - Nick Green* (Free Agent signed with Dodgers)
OF - Brian Anderson (Free Agent, signed with Royals)
OF - Jason Bay (Free Agent, signed with Mets)
OF - Rocco Baldelli (Free Agent, unsigned)
LHP -Hunter Jones (Traded to Marlins)
LHP - Billy Wagner (Free Agent signed with Braves)
RHP - Paul Byrd (Free Agent, unsigned)
RHP - Takashi Saito (Free Agent, signed with Braves)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:¬† Pitching, Balance on offense.
You can make a fairly compelling argument that the Red Sox possess the best rotation in the AL East, and maybe in baseball, but the Yankees and Rays will put that to the test.¬† Still the team features a rotation that any team in baseball would be happy to trot out.¬† In any other division in the game because of guys like Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz and Matsuzaka the Sox would be prohibitive favorites to win the division, but in the AL East the only question is, "is that all you've got?"
The answer is no, the BoSox feature an elite relief corps and a solid offense which 2-9 are capable of helping put runs on the board.¬† They aren't as scary, or as powerful, as some of the other lineups in the game, and they lack those big boppers capable of carrying a .300 average and 35 home run statistical lines.¬†¬† They'll need a bounce back season from David Ortiz and solid seasons from J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis to make up for that lack.¬† They probably won't get it all, which is why they brought in Adrian Beltre and the low batting average of Mike Cameron because both of them can provide power and the Red Sox badly need it.¬† The question is if the cost will prove too high.
Weaknesses: No big power threat in the center of the lineup.
As mentioned above, the team lacks the punch that the Yankees get from A-Rod and Teixeira and the Rays get from Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria in the centers of their lineup -- and both of those teams have offensive depth which matches well with the Sox.¬† And the Sox have cut some corners, mainly defense at the third base corner to try to match that firepower.¬† It's a dangerous game and one that will likely cost them a few games as the season progresses.
Aside from that, the Red Sox are a very solid team, but if they are one of championship caliber still waits to be determined.
LF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B - Dustin Pedroia
1B - Kevin Youkilis
C - Victor Martinez
DH - David Ortiz
RF - J.D. Drew
3B - Adrian Beltre
CF - Mike Cameron
SS -Marco Scutaro
One question that need answering:
How much can the Red Sox pitching make up for the lack of power in the lineup? ¬†Since the Red Sox don't have enough of those center of the lineup guys who can change a game with a single swing the Red Sox pitching will have to avoid giving up those kind of hits themselves.¬†¬† That's a tall order, because both the Rays and Yankees have good pitching, plus more firepower.
The Red Sox are contenders, make no doubt about that, but the AL East is no longer a two team race and that makes things tough for a team that seems to be a perennial also ran when it comes to division titles.¬† They'll battle for the Wild Card, and they have a good shot of making it, as the Yankees could be derailed by age, and the Rays by youth, but the Wild Card is the most the Red Sox will likely be playing for this season.