Wednesday, March 29, 2006

2006 Boston Red Sox Preview

With Opening Day less than a week away, its time for the Wide, Wide World of Sports to preview the upcoming baseball season. More specifically, the hometown Boston Red Sox. The Sox open up on the road against Texas next Monday, April 3rd. This year's squad really won't bear much resemblance to the 2004 World Championship team or last years successful, but ultimately disappointing team. There are many new faces on the roster, and many of the fan favorites of years past have moved on. Before we get into the lineup and rotation, lets take a look at the additions and subtractions.

The first noticable thing about the Sox roster this year is who's not on it. Kevin Millar, Doug Mirabelli, Bronson Arroyo, Bill Mueller, and of course, Johnny Damon, all play for different teams now. Every one of those players were important to the Sox recent success, and in general they will all be missed. Unfortunately we have to see Damon in pinstripes about 20 times a year, but that is another story for another day. The new additions to the lineup include Coco Crisp, Mark Loretta, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Dave Riske, Julian Tavarez, Rudy Saenez, Josh Bard, J.T. Snow, and Wily Mo Pena...I think thats everyone. Damn thats alot of turnover from one season to the next. Anyway, now you know who is here and who is gone. Now lets see who will be missed, and who won't.

(Coco Crisp w/ Milk)

Here is my starting lineup for the 2006 Red Sox, along with my predictions for their stats this year, and a little extra something they bring to the table:

Position Name Avg./HR/RBI (Important Attribute)
1. CF Coco Crisp .315/20/84 - Speed
2. 2B Mark Loretta .320/15/85 -Doubles
3. DH David Ortiz .302/50/148 -Clutch
4. LF Manny Ramirez .312/44/145 -Manny
5. RF Trot Nixon .282/22/87 -Attitude
6. C Jason Varitek .280/16/77 -Consistency
7. 3B Mike Lowell .270/18/75 -Questions
8. 1B Kevin Youklis .300/12/66 -On Base %
9. SS Alex Gonzalez .255/15/60 -Web Gems
The lineup this year should still be really, really good. Anytime you have David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez hitting back to back, you aren't going to be starved for runs. Coco Crisp is going to make people forget about Johnny Damon. Crisp is 26, and coming off a year that saw him increase average, home runs, and total bases. He is fast and has quick hands and some good power, along with the speed to be a menace once on base. He hit better last year as a #2 hitter, but he should be comfortable in front of all the big bats that Cleveland didn't have last year. Mark Loretta came over from San Diego, and he could be one of the steals of the offseason. He is solid in the field, and he has shown he can be a dominant hitter in the majors. Last year his numbers were way down due to a thumb injury, but in 2004 he hit .335 with 47 doubles. If he and Crisp hit over .300 in Boston, the rest of the league is in trouble because...David Ortiz is next in the order. I'm sure I don't need to talk about Ortiz much. Last year he was easily the MVP of the league, but because he doesn't play the field, the baseball writers didn't feel he was deserving. He is the most clutch hitter in the game, and his presence in the lineup will force pitchers to throw better pitches to the first two batters (pitchers don't want to walk two guys before Ortiz and Ramirez come up.) Manny bats after Ortiz, and together they form one of the best hitting duos in the league. Manny has hit over 30 HRs 10 of 11 seasons, had over 100 RBI 10 of 11 seasons, and failed to hit .300 just twice in his career, when he hit .294 and .292. The top four hitters in the Red Sox lineup figure to be just as potent as ever.
Let's take a look at the rest of the lineup. Against right handed pitchers, Trot Nixon will be getting the start in RF, batting 5th (Wily Mo will play vs. LHP). When he is healthy, Trot is capable of a .300/30/100 season. The last two seasons, Trot has been injured often, missing most of 2004 and about a quarter of the 2005 season. This spring Trot has been hitting well, and is supposed to be in very good shape, so I look for him to do well this season. Varitek is up next, and while he is pricelessly valuable to the pitching staff, he has the bat to go along with it. 'Tek is a switch hitter with power from both sides. He is a bit streaky, but catchers notoriously are due to the rigors of their positions. All signs point to VTek having another solid year at the plate and behind it. Next up is the enigma, Mike Lowell. Lowell was a necessary aquisition in the Josh Beckett trade due to his $9 million salary. Last year he was horrible at the plate, but won a Gold Glove. He is a .272 career hitter, but does have power. He is capable of hitting 30 HRs. The problem is that if he gets off to a slow start, Boston fans won't ease up on him. If he comes out the gate hitting, look for a good season. If not, he could be gone by June. Rounding out the lineup are Kevin Youklis and Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez was aquired for his defense. He is one of the best defensive short stops around. Think of him as Orlando Cabrera, with more power but a lesser average. Youk is finally going to get a chance to play, and he deserves it. He could hit second in this lineup no problem, as he is adept at getting on base and making pitchers work. He will be platooning with J.T. Snow, which could hurt his numbers, but I believe he will get many rallies started at the bottom of the lineup.


OF Wily Mo Pena
OF Adam Stern (Willie Harris)
IF Alex Cora
IF J.T. Snow
C Josh Bard

The Sox bench should be really good this year. Each player on it is capable of playing everyday in the majors. I will start with Wily Mo Pena. This beast is only 24 years old, and even though he strikes out a lot, he has tremendous power. He was aquired for Bronson Arroyo, and while I think the Sox fucked him over, he knew it was a possibility. Also, anyone named after Charles Bronson is ok in my book. Pena will most likely platoon with Trot, and hit against lefties, who he demolished last season. Even if he doesn't get to play much this year, he is an asset to the Sox future. The other outfielder is Adam Stern, who starred for Team Canada in the WBC. Stern can hit for average, field and run. He is a great guy for the bench. I put Willie Harris in parentheses because he is similar to Stern, but can play IF as well, and will be an option down the road depending on injuries, etc. Snow and Bard are strictly backups, with Snow filling the Olerud/Doug M. role this year, and Bard catching Wakefield and backing up VTek. Alex Cora is a whiz with the glove, can play the middle infield, and I believe could have a solid stick if he got playing time. Now that you know about the Sox fielders, lets look at the pitchers.

Starting Rotation

1. Curt Schilling
2. Josh Beckett
3. Tim Wakefield
4. Matt Clement
5. David Wells

The Red Sox pitching staff, barring injuries, will be one of the best in the majors. That barring injuries part is the tough part, as the staff consists of 3 old men, a head case, and a young stud who can't keep off the DL due to blisters. I'm an optimistic Sox fan, so lets pretend there won't be much breakdown of the staff. We all know what Schilling can do when he is healthy. He has been working on pitching inside this spring, and if he can do that it can really help him. Beckett could end up being the ace of the staff. Most remember him for beating the Yankees in the World Series in 2003, or for dating Alyssa Milano. But Beckett has been on the cusp of his breakout year since the World Series. Every year he gets blisters that, while it may sound whimpy, makes it tougher for him to pitch and get movement on his pitches. If he stays healthy, he could approach 20 wins. Wakefield could pitch forever since he is basically playing catch when he throws. Over the past 4 years or so, he has really mastered the knuckle ball. Most importantly he can adjust when he loses control of it, and avoid prolonged slumps. The only question is how the departure of Mirabelli will effect him. Clement will follow Wake, and this year I think Clement will play well for both halves of the season. Last year he was an all-star in the first half, and an all-star piece of shit in the second half. He was firebombed by the White Sox in the first game of the playoffs last season, setting the tone for the Sox to get swept. This year he says he feels comfortable, and I hope he is. Rounding out the staff is David "I Can't Just Play without Talking Shit" Wells. Look, if Wells stays out of trouble and wants to play, he will win 15 again. If not, he will be shipped out of town. I like Wells, but enough is enough. Just play or retire, we aren't trading you.


Lenny DiNardo
Dave Riske
Julian Tavarez
Rudy Saenez
Mike Timlin
Jon Papelbon
Keith Foulke

The Sox bullpen depends a lot of Keith Foulke. If he can return to his 2004 form, or something close to it, the Sox are going to be really tough to beat. Timlin and Papelbon will be used as setup men, and both guys will be really good. Papelbon is basically a rookie, and he can move into the rotation if one of the starters gets hurt. He is young, and eventually will be a fulltime starter. Tavarez is a fucking mental case, and he looks like he went bobbing for french fries. But he is a quality pitcher who has played in big games for good teams. I don't know much about Saenez or Riske. Saenez had a good year last year, and Riske came over with Coco Crisp. DiNardo will be a long reliever and spot starter.

(Jonathan "Don't Call me Jon" Papelbon)

So there you have it, a run down of the 2006 Boston Red Sox as we start the season. I have a good feeling about this year. The defense and offense should be stellar, and if they can avoid injuries, the Sox have a good chance to be playing for the title again. I am looking forward to seeing the new aquisitions play and how they adjust to playing in Boston. I predict that Coco Crisp will become a fan favorite at Fenway immediately, as will Josh Beckett. Manny could be in line for a monster year, and I think Ortiz will finally get his MVP. Overall, I predict the Sox will finish with 96 wins, and even if they don't win the A.L. East, they will make the playoffs. This is shaping up to be either a great season with a lot of wins, or a long season full of bullshit and controversy. PLEASE don't ruin my summer with that shit bout you just win?


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