Boston Red Sox Last Year: 95-67 2nd in AL East, Lost in ALCS to Tampa Bay This Year: 2nd in AL East
The Red Sox have gone from a team of lovable losers to an almost dynasty in this decade. Last year they fell just short of winning their 3rd title in 5 years. They have also done a beautiful job of slowly transitioning from the team of Manny, Ortiz, Pedro and Schilling a problem that the Yankees are facing. This question is if they have fully transformed into another title team or if the younger players still need more seasoning.
Opening Day Lineup w/Projections CF Jacoby Ellsbury .294 11 HR 53 RBI 55 SB 2B Dustin Pedroia .312 17 HR 78 RBI 23 SB DH David Ortiz .274 27 HR 103 RBI 1B Kevin Youkilis .303 24 HR 108 RBI RF J.D. Drew .284 21 HR 68 RBI LF Jason Bay .282 30 HR 97 RBI 3B Mike Lowell .281 17 HR 70 RBI SS Jed Lowrie .263 5 HR 54 RBI C Jason Varitek .231 10 HR 42 RBI
Rotation RHP Josh Beckett 18-11 3.78 ERA 183 K RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka 18-7 2.72 ERA 188 K LHP Jon Lester 18-8 3.09 ERA 148 K RHP Brad Penny 13-9 4.17 ERA 130 K RHP Tim Wakefield 10-13 4.75 ERA 112 K
CP RHP Jonathan Papelbon 2.56 ERA 39 SV 80 K
Best Case Scenario: Pedroia and Youkillis repeat career years of last year. Beckett and Dice-K stay healthy and dominant. Penny gets healthy and pitches like he cares again. Ortiz gets healthy and has a last hurrah hitting 35-40 home runs. Varitek still is a major league catcher. Ellsbury fully blooms into the Johnny Damon player he is supposed to be. This team wins the AL East and cruises to a 3rd World Series in 6 years.
Worst Case Scenario: Ortiz and Lowell struggle to contribute all year. Drew is an injured disappointment once again. Dice-K still has an aversion to throwing strikes and continues to throw 5 shutout innings with 110 pitches. Beckett gets a blister on every finger. Pedroia and Youkillis don't perform as well as last year. Prospects aren't ready to fill in for injuries. This team finishes third in the AL East and misses the playoffs.
Player Most Important to Success: David Ortiz. Ortiz could be considered the main reason for the two World Series titles. Manny helped for sure but Ortiz was an absolute force in the middle and had multiple huge clutch hits. He has struggled the past two years with injuries hitting 58 home runs in the past two year while he had hit 54 in 2006. He is only 33 years old so it isn't as if the sun has set on his career. He still possibly has another 40 home runs season left in him. This team has a good lineup 1-9 but they need Ortiz to be the slugger and fear-inducer of 2006 for this lineup to truly sing and make those around him even more effective.
Outlook: The Red Sox are built for years to come. They have integrated studs Ellsbury and Pedroria into the lineup and Lester and Papelbon into the pitching staff easily. If a couple pitchers go down this year, no problem they have Clay Bucholz (who has a MLB no-hitter) and Justin Masterson waiting in the wings. If Youkilis or Ortiz goes down they have sluggers Lars Anderson or Chris Carter ready to step up. The question is not whether this team is built for the long-run but whether this will be a special year. They have the best pitching rotation in the Majors, a shut-down closer in Papelbon and the lineup is very solid. The only thing holding them back is they don't have a certain 30-40 home run guy in the middle of the lineup and Lowell and Varitek have seen better days. If Ortiz can return to his old self it may be different but those minute differences will cost them the AL East title but they will still be very difficult in the playoffs. Given that pitching staff they have, they are very dangerous come October to win another World Series.