2011 Boston Red Sox

So let’s move on to the Sox. They will be your ALCS Champs, sweeping the Rangers in the divisional series and outlasting the Yanks in the AL Series 4-2.

This despite extraordinarily suspect starting pitching. Let’s start there, as the staff is Boston’s greatest weakness. You’ve got your aces in Lester (14-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and in Beckett (12-5, 2.54, 0.98). Very solid top two. It gets thin quickly after that. John Lackey is a train wreck. I winced when the Sox signed him, and his 2011 has done nothing to alleviate that concern. How does a 12-10, 5.94 ERA, 1.55 WHIP feel? Not good. Opponents are hitting .299 against him. Two years in Boston makes me an honorary Sox fan, and Lackey makes A.J. Burnett look good. To round out the rotation there’s either Timmeh Wakefield or Erik Bedard. I don’t envy Terry Francona this decision. You go with the ancient Wakefield and roll the dice on the knuckleball or you go with the unproven Bedard who has the better stuff. Either way the four-slot is a tossup.
The Sox bullpen isn’t a whole lot better. Yes, Papelbon has been solid all year and is very reliable in the 9th. Daniel Bard is one of the better set-up men in the AL. Aceves, Wheeler, and Miller do not, however, inspire confidence. The Sox will rise or fall if their starters can make it seven innings to get to Bard and Papelbon. Lester and Beckett, it’s on you to step up.
Offensively, the Sox are loaded 1-9. Jacoby Ellsbury is the most talented leadoff hitter in baseball. Without question. He hits for power, average, and runs. .313, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 36 SB, .895 OPS in the leadoff slot. Follow him with Dustin Pedroia, he of the AL MVP: only hitting .308, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 25 SB, .871 OPS. Then there’s Adrian Gonzalez, perhaps the best signing of the Epstein era not named Curt Schilling. If he loses AL MVP to Justin Verlander (which could well happen and which I’d support; sorry Adrian) he’ll go down as perhaps the most dominant hitter to lose out on the MVP. Numbers: .342, 23 HR, 103 RBI, .956 OPS. Beyond that, he’s established himself as the heart and soul of the 2011 Sox, capable of changing a game or series with one swing. At third, you’ve got Youk, who, in an off year, is still putting up a .264 17 HR 78 RBI with an .855 OPS line. At DH, Big Papi has rediscovered how to hit, to the tune of a .311, 28 HR, 88 RBI, .985 (!) OPS. That’s an MVP line. Varitek/Saltalamacchia have been solid behind the plate, Reddick seems reliable.
So yeah, the Sox will rise or fall based on their offense. If Lester and Beckett can shut down the opposition, the Sox hitters should be able to carry Lackey.
Prediction: AL Champs, losing 4-2 to the Phillies in the World Series.
Addendum: I did neglect mentioning Carl Crawford, who has since hit a grand slam today. After a dismal April and May, he’s rediscovered what hitting means, and if he gets hot is an extremely dangerous hitter. Defensively non pareil.
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~ by Benji on 3 September 2011.

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