The last time the media spoke highly of the Boston Red Sox, they crumbled and missed the postseason. This time around, though, things are different—and for the better.
Boston made major splashes during the 2011 offseason, signing Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal and also trading for Adrian Gonzalez, who signed a seven-year extension.
By adding two extremely talented players to an already exciting roster, many thought Boston would end up winning the 2011 World Series.
In fact, 33 ESPN analysts predicted that Boston would end up taking it all, while nine of the other 12 analysts had the Red Sox losing in the World Series.
Well, one thing led to another and things didn’t work out. The Red Sox were overhyped and although Boston played well for majority of the season, the team suffered a major September collapse. And then in 2012—during another disappointing season—Boston shipped both of the aforementioned stars off to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Red Sox finished off the season with what they had and entered this offseason will several major voids to fill. General manager Ben Cherington has done a top-notch job at filling those holes in order to create a team worthy of a postseason berth.
ESPN’s Buster Olney recently ranked the top bullpens in the league and despite leaving the Red Sox out of the top 10, he did give them a shot at succeeding:
The Red Sox and Yankees could have top-10 bullpens—if. That’s the key word for them: If. If Daniel Bard and Andrew Bailey bounce back to be what they were in 2011, Boston could have an excellent and deep bullpen.
Bard had a disaster of a 2012 between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket—pitching in the starting rotation and out of the bullpen at each level. Bailey, on the other hand, was restricted to just 19 appearances after a thumb injury kept him out for most of the year.
If those two can rebound, watch out for Boston’s bullpen. The Red Sox boosted the pen this offseason with the additions of Koji Uehara—who has been great over the past four seasons, and Joel Hanrahan—who will now become the team’s closer after being trading by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The bullpen will also still likely feature Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves and Junichi Tazawa, who all shined at points throughout last season—but weren’t mentioned in Olney’s piece.
The moves that many feel are more controversial—or dumber for lack of a better term—involve the offense.
Boston has spent a lot of money of bringing Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and quite possibly, Mike Napoli to town. But although many could contest that the Red Sox overpaid for a few—if not all—of these players, they do have their strengths.
ESPN’s Buster Olney put Boston’s lineup as the sixth-best in baseball and talked a little bit about these recent additions:
But this is what we do know about Boston: The Red Sox are going to wreck left-handed pitching. Let’s assume that their talks with Mike Napoli conclude with an agreement, and consider the meat-grinder of right-handed hitters that will await CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Price, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero, et all.
Now why would Olney think that Boston right-handers would “wreck” left-handers? As Olney references, it’s because of the OPS’s that they had last season against them. Take a look for yourself:
Will Middlebrooks (.906), Dustin Pedroia (.848), Shane Victorino (.906), Jonny Gomes (.974), David Ross (.712) and Mike Napoli (.706) all have great numbers.
Olney has questions surrounding the rest of Boston’s lineup, but if they can answer them, they could be in good shape.
Now even if you’re not a big believer in Buster Olney, maybe Bill James is a little more convincing.
As ESPN’s Gordon Edes writes, James has projected very good numbers for several Red Sox players:
Just taking a shot here, but I suspect most Red Sox fans would feel much better about the team’s 2013 chances if they thought they’d have a club with three 30-home run hitters, two 30-base stealers, four players with an OPS of .800 or better, and five—could ‘em—five starting pitchers with ERAs lower than the league average.
I know I certainly feel much better about their chances, don’t you?
Now James’ projections don’t necessarily mean that they’ll turn out to be true. The media is not always correct—and the 2011 offseason and 2012 season prove that.
But no one is predicting that the Red Sox make a run at a playoff spot in 2013 despite the praise I’ve relayed to you. Not one analyst will put the Red Sox as World Series champions, pennant victors, divisional winners, a wild card team—nothing.
And in this instance, no news—meaning World Series predictions—is good news.