With the Preseason in full swing, Diamond Hoggers will attempt to forecast several aspects of each team in baseball. Before Opening day we plan to have a pretty good outline of what you’ll be seeing in 2007. Today we take our hacks at the Boston Red Sox:
Predicted finish: 88-74 (3rd in AL East)
Predicted stats: Ortiz (.309, 45 HR, 138 RBI), Ramirez (.298, 34 HR, 91 RBI), Masuzaka (10-10, 4.23 ERA), Beckett (14-9, 3.60 ERA), Pena (24 HR, 70 RBI), Schilling (18-7, 3.12 ERA), Crisp (.280, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 29 SB), Papelbon (12-6, 3.80 ERA), Youkilis (.290, 18 HR, 83 RBI), JD Drew (.274, 27 HR, 85 RBI)
Biggest storyline: It’s already a forgone conclusion that the Red Sox will allow Curt Schilling to walk after the 2007 season. They haven’t came out and said it but they believe that Schilling is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career. Sound familiar? It’s hard to believe that the Red Sox could make this blunder twice, but look for Schilling to have a huge year proving to everyone including himself that he has a lot of baseball left in that right arm. Just ask him. After he does he’ll break free of Boston, and head back to the girl he took to the dance, Philadelphia.
Strengths: 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.