Saturday, March 22, 2008


I've been gone a while (as Chevy Chase says, I've been in a facility), but I'm back, baby. Its time for the season to start and I'll be here commenting on the games, the rumors, the players, the owners, the yankees, and whomever/whatever else I feel like. So check back here and see whats going on at FPE. Thanks! --MM


The 2008 season started the day after the 2007 World Series. Unlike the off season following the ’04 World Series win, Theo Epstein’s team didn’t experience a massive turnover. In fact, in stark contrast to that once-in-a-generation team, the Sox essentially stood pat. They resigned Mike Lowell to man third base for another three seasons, and they resigned Curt Schilling to what was thought to be a team-friendly one year deal. They also brought back the entire bullpen including side-armer Javier Vazquez and the semi-ageless Mike Timlin. They even resigned back-up catcher extraordinaire Doug Mirabelli, who they then cut.

So, the ’08 team is essentially the same as the ’07 team. Only the questions are different. “Can Papelbon pitch out of the rotation” has been replaced with “Can Curt Schilling get healthy enough to help this team at some point this year?’ “When will Lester and Buchholz be ready?” has been replaced with “Can Lester and Buchholz throw 180 innings a piece this season?”

Of course there are many more questions than that. Most of the questions center around the ages of the Red Sox players. Most of the important Sox players are either under 26 or over 32. This means that most of the players are either improving (i.e. not at their best yet) or declining. Manny, Big Papi, Varitek, Schilling (should he actually, you know, pitch this year), Wakefield and Lowell have all likely seen their best years go by. Ellsbury, Buchholz, Delcarmen, Papelbon, Lester, and Pedroia are all under 26. Generally that’s a good thing if you are trying to compete in a few years, but the Sox are trying to compete now.

Baseball Prospectus’s forecasting machine (yes, I know its not really a machine) puts the Red Sox at 91 wins this year. That might be enough for a Wild Card, but it won’t catch the 98 win Yankees. Other forecasters aren’t even that sanguine on the Sox, seeing them as a sub-90 win team.

Of course, other teams have their questions as well. The Yankees aren’t any younger than the Sox and are also trying to integrate youth into their team. The Blue Jays have their typical mediocre offense and if-they-can-only-stay-healthy-they-might-actually-be-good pitching staff. The Rays are too young with not quite enough pitching (though BP says 88 wins for them this season – we’ll see). The O’s… well, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

So, it’ll be competitive in the AL East, but when is it not? If the Sox play up to their potential, stay healthy, and their young pitching comes through without too many problems, this can be another AL East winner. If injuries slow the team down, and too many players have down years, then this could be a third place team.

So, without further ado, here’s my player by player breakdown of the 2008 Red Sox.

The Outfield

JD Drew

Drew had some well-documented problems last season. However, if you forget his salary for a second (difficult as that may be), he turned in an above average season last year. First of all, he was healthy. If he stays healthy this year there is every reason to believe that he will turn in a better year. Secondly, Drew’s on-base skills keep him useful in the lineup even when he isn’t hitting. (This is why plate discipline is such an important skill.)

However, among the problems last season, Drew’s power disappearing was the most problematic. For Drew to be more than an above average player, he is going to have to hit more than ten or eleven homers as he did last year.

While its pretty clear at this point that Drew isn’t going to be worth the money he will be paid, that ship has sailed. Drew is still a good player with important skills that help the Red Sox win.

Jacoby Ellsbury/Coco Crisp

Crisp turned in one of the great defensive years in center field last year. It’s a shame it was combined with one of the more anemic offensive years I’ve seen in a while. Crisp didn’t get on base much, and didn’t hit for power or average. Still, his defense was so good that he won the Sox two games (not an insignificant amount) with his glove alone.

Ellsbury is in many ways like Crisp, but with upside. This season there is likely to be little difference in their final stats. Crisp will likely be better on defense while Ellsbury will be a bit better on offense. Still, Ellsbury is the future in center for Boston. He has the ability to improve his power and on-base numbers, and if he can do either he’ll be a legit above average center fielder for many years. If he can do both, he’s an all-star. If he does neither, he’s Coco Crisp.

The Sox have been looking to deal Coco this off season, but there was a glut of center fielders on the market, and so a trade hasn’t materialized yet.

In either case, for 2008 the Red Sox will have a good defensive center fielder who probably doesn’t hit enough.

Manny Ramirez

Manny had a down year in 2007. Of course it didn’t hurt the Sox much as they won the World Series (did you hear about that?). For the Sox to be successful this year, they will likely need Manny to return to his old Bad Man self. Whether or not he can do that is the question. BP says he can’t. Manny says he can. In fact, Manny dedicated himself to working out all off season to make sure he would be good enough to have his $20M option exercised. We’ll see. Manny’s slugging percentage dropped about 130 points between ’06 and ’07 and his on-base percentage dropped 50 points. That’s not something you want to see out of a guy entering his age 36 season.

Still, if anyone can bounce back after last year, its Manny. If Manny fulfills Pecota’s prediction and hits slightly worse than last season, then its time for the Sox to say good-bye. As a Sox fan, I have to believe that last year is the anomaly, but you never know when someone is going to hit the wall. Age always wins in the end. Hopefully Manny has a few more seasons of ass kicking left in him.

The Infield

Mike Lowell

Lowell had a great year last season, but theres little question he was playing over his head. The increase in Lowell’s rate stats was driven by an increase in his BABIP, something which isn’t likely to continue in ’08. Of course, Lowell’s swing is made for Fenway Park like few others, so its unlikely he’ll fall off the table completely, but don’t expect another 2007 season from Mikey Doubles. That said, Lowell’s steady defense and his doubles power mean he’ll likely continue to be a productive player going forward. Just think 2006 Mike Lowell.

Julio Lugo

Lugo is a prime example of the dangers of the free agent market. The Sox weren’t able to develop a starting shortstop of their own, so they had to go buy someone else’s. Of course, like Drew, if you forget his salary… wait, that doesn’t work here either. With the caveat that defensive numbers aren’t exact, Lugo had a bad year in the field to go with his atrocious year at the plate. A sub-.300 on-base percentage this season is going to bring Jed Lowrie up from Pawtucket. For some reason, BP thinks Lugo is going to improve both offensively and defensively. That’s not anything I’d put money on. The four year deal that Lugo signed is going to end with him playing somewhere else, and the Sox are going to have to eat some money to get that done. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if Lugo finished this season elsewhere.

Dustin Pedroia

I’m in the tank for DP. This guy is the real deal. He gets on base, hits for power, though at least some of that is Fenway Park, and plays a good second base. Also, he’s completely crazy. And who doesn’t love having a crazy guy (as long as he isn’t, you know, sacrificing donkeys in the clubhouse or something) on their team? Pedroia is going to be the Sox second baseman for a long time, and he’s going to make some all-star teams in the process too. This guy is better than Cano in NY, and he’s better than Brian Roberts in Baltimore. But then, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, because I’m in the tank for DP.

Kevin Youkilis

Youk is a great Red Sox. He fields excellently, and gets on base. But he’s not an all-star. In fact, this may be Youk’s last year in Boston. I’m not advocating getting rid of him, but, believe it or not, he turns 30 next season, right about the time when he’ll be getting expensive. But that’s (probably) an issue for another time. For 2008, Youk will be fine. He’ll field well, hit fine, and get on base well. He’s perfectly adequate, if not all-star material.


Jason Varitek

Varitek is going into the last year of his contract. Again. The 4 year $40M deal he signed after ’04 looks like it was money well spent. But what are the chances that Tek has four more good-to-above-average years left in him? Probably not good, but the Sox don’t have much choice.

For ’08, as long as Tek stays healthy the Sox will be above average at catcher. If he gets hurt, more than any other position, the Sox will be in big big trouble.

Kevin Cash?

Know this about Cash: he can’t hit. I don’t mean he can’t hit like he’s a bad hitter for a major leaguer, I mean he can’t hit like you can’t hit. Like I can’t hit. This guy simply can’t hit. He’s a fine fielding catcher, but (did I mention) he can’t hit. There is no way the Sox are going to run this guy out there more than ten times before they find another option. I simply can’t believe it. Some teams are dumb enough to torpedo themselves from within, but the Sox aren’t one of them. Someone will replace Cash, but I have no idea who.

Designated Hitter

David Ortiz

Big Papi is getting older, but don’t forget he is coming off his best (yes, best) offensive season ever. If he can stay healthy, he’s one of the top five hitters in the game.


The Sox offense should be solidly above average again this season, but how much above average is going to depend on injuries (duh) and aging. Is’07 the standard going forward for Manny and Drew? Can Varitek stay healthy? Will Lugo improve or will the Sox be forced to look elsewhere at shortstop?

The Rosey Outlook

The Sox mostly avoid injuries while Manny and Drew reemerge as the all-stars they were before last season. Pedroia and Ellsbury build on last year’s performances, while Lugo rebounds and Youk keeps his steady pace. Papi replicates last season. The Sox score 850 runs and with their plus defense and great pitching they win the division again.

Piles of Poop

Injuries over-take Varitek. Lowell falls back to earth hard. Lugo, Manny and Drew replicate their ’07 seasons. Pedroia and Ellsbury aren’t able to improve on their last seasons. The Sox offense falls into middle-of-the-pack-ness and isn’t enough to push the team into the playoffs.

Da Truth

Last year the team was charmed, not in terms of performance, but in terms of injuries. The team will likely have to deal with more injuries this season (they already are, in fact), but the depth they have accumulated will help them, as long as the injuries don’t mount to an August ’06 level. Improvements from Manny, Drew, and Lugo should offset drops from Lowell, Varitek, and (God forbid) Papi. Overall, the Sox offense should be able to replicate last year’s level of play.

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