Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

The plan for the next group of posts that I do is that they are all 2005 team previews. I plan on doing them either in alphabetical order, or by division even, but since this is Red Sox nation that is where I will begin.

I'll start with the new additions to the Sox lineup:

Dave Berg, IF: Brilliant strategy by Theo Epstein…keep Dave Berg from hitting against you! .297/.352/.500 against the Sox over the past 3 seasons…coming from a guy with a sub-.300 OBP. He’s hit 11 homeruns the past three seasons, and 3 against the Sox. I’m not bitter ok?

Matt Clement, SP: I like this signing. I think Clement is undervalued somewhat (not $$ wise, just ability wise) and I hope to see him perform well in Boston. Boston needed to get him after missing out on Pavano and Pedro too. I would rather have Clement than Pavano to be honest. Hopefully I look smart for saying that in a few years.

Lenny Dinardo, RP: I like Lenny Dinardo, I wish he hadn’t mysteriously got an arm injury because he was a Rule 5 draft pick…not that this sort of thing happens in baseball. I hope he succeeds. For those of you who don't know, Rule 5 picks have to stay on the major league roster or else they have to be given back to the original team. If the team wants to keep him but not have him on the roster, additional compensation must be handed out to the original team. So Rule 5 picks often get "injured" midway through the season.

John Halama, SP: Halama will be playing the role of Curt Schilling this April. Hopefully he is half as good. Good signing; means more now that Schilling might not be recovered in time for the start of the season.

Matt Mantei, RP: I like this signing because it was for $750,000. If he gets hurt, hey guys it was only $750,000. If he isn’t hurt, then hey look Matt Mantei for only $750,000!

Doug Mirabelli, C: Resigning Belli is obviously a good thing for the Red Sox, even if he does come in as expensive for a backup catcher. Then again, he hits better than most starting catchers and is capable of handling Wakefield.

Edgar Renteria, SS: When the Red Sox and Cardinals were trying to outdo each other on ESPN.com's Insider Rumor Page, I was overjoyed when the Cardinals topped the Sox offer of 4 years $32 million with a 4 year $36 million offer. Then the Red Sox had to go and offer 4 years for $40 million. I'm thinking Renteria looks more like the very first part of his career and 2004 than he does 2002-2003. Extremely overrated defensively (never trust Gold Gloves!) and not much of a slugger outside of 2003. I'm kind of leery of this deal, but I guess the Sox have the money to spend...hopefully it doesn't hurt them. Renteria is most likely an upgrade over Cabby though.


Jason Varitek, C: Why was it ok to give Varitek this much money? Because when you’re the Red Sox you are able to overpay for one or two players and find deals with everyone else (Miller, Mueller, Mantei, Wells, etc.). So as long as Theo can overpay for Varitek and hand over 3 rotation spots for the cost of one Pedro Martinez, then the Sox fans can breathe easy about the amount of money given to their aging catcher.

David Wells, SP: 41 years old, bad back, incentive contract. If he gets hurt, we aren’t paying him. Well unless he gets hurt at the end of the year, than I will just curse often. If Wells is going to get hurt hopefully its midseason so we can replace him on July 31st. Considering Kris Benson got his $7.5 per season, Wells is a complete steal.

Wade Miller, SP: Miller has had some injury history and was let go by the Astros, who did not want to deal with paying him through arbitration. A one year, $1.5 million contract with $3 million in incentives. If Wade Miller is healthy for the Sox there is no reason why he would not be successful.

Jeremi Gonzalez, SP: Gonzalez has been decent (at his best) in the past for Tampa Bay, and with nobody really sure about Schilling's condition it does not hurt to have someone else on the roster. Of course, I would rather that John Lester and Jon Papelbon were ready for 2005 rather than possibly 2006, but thats just me.

Roberto Petagine, 1B: Petagine has played since 1999 in Japan, and his last two seasons were affected by injuries. Petagine is a stat head favorite, and I am kind of excited about signing him if only because he is a good hitter. Will he be as good as his prime in Japan? Of course not, he's past his prime. But he was signed dirt cheap and is still capable of producing effectively when healthy. His stat line from Japan:

YEAR G AVG OBP SLG 2B HR BB SO
1999 134 .325 .469 .677 23 44 116 91
2000 136 .316 .432 .601 30 36 97 116
2001 138 .322 .466 .633 27 39 120 89
2002 131 .322 .438 .649 23 41 85 106
2003 100 .323 .457 .683 17 34 77 72
2004 117 .290 .409 .560 17 29 75 76

The walks are making me druel. According to Clay Davenport's translated statistics, players coming from Japan seem to lose out on their power while other stats such as average and on-base seem to stay pretty consistent. So if Petagine is healthy, he is capable of producing greatly for the Sox. I also saw a comparison of Petagine's numbers to Hideiki Matsui's in Japan and they were very similar. Granted Petagine is older so he will not have the same success as Matsui in America, but it just shows what he is/was capable of.
A shame no one gave him a real chance beforehand.

Via trade: Acquired Jay Payton, Ramon Vazquez and prospect David Pauley and $2.65 million for Dave Roberts.

Payton is better than his 2004 allows you to see…he went from Colorado to one of the worst hitter’s parks in the NL, so he was obviously affected somewhat. Good fourth outfielder considering he could start on a few teams.

Ramon Vazquez takes over Pokey Reese’s job as utility infielder. Difference being Vazquez’s worse case hitting scenario is Pokey’s best, but Pokey has the defensive edge. Also, Vazquez is capable of playing 3B, short and second. Our bench is somehow better than last year's after this.

David Pauley is a good pitching prospect; not one who is going to be ready for 2005 but one who should be good enough when his time comes.

Acquired through Rule 5 draft: John Sickels says:
Boston selects Adam Stern (OF, Atlanta). A University of Nebraska product, Adam Stern hit .322 with 27 steals for Double-A Greenville this year. A line-drive hitter, Stern doesn't have tremendous power but will hit some doubles. He is a very good defensive outfielder and could slot in nicely in a reserve role. A severe 2003 hamstring injury slowed his development, but he has fully recovered.
There is the fifth outfielder option and defensive replacement. Beauty of free talent.

The Sox rotation actually looks better this year than last year. Instead of two aces and complementary pieces the Sox now have one ace with 4 guys capable of being strong #2's or #3's. I think that the Sox rotation, in order of effectiveness and success this year, will go as follows:

Schilling - Clement - Arroyo - Miller - Wakefield - Wells. I expect Wakefield to be moved out of the rotation when Wade Miller is ready, simply because he has been in the bullpen before, and I cannot picture Wells relegating himself to that role. Miller's place on the list assumes that his injury has been rehabilitated and he is capable of pitching effectively; obviously if he is hurt this will not be the case.

The lineup is better than last years:

1) Damon
2) Renteria
3) Ramirez
4) Ortiz
5) Millar
6) Nixon
7) Varitek
8) Bellhorn
9) Mueller

I expect decline from Johnny Damon, who while finally earning his paycheck probably played over his head (damn you and your expensive signings Dan Duquette!). Renteria should improve from last year, but not reach his 2003 MVP caliber performance. More of the same from the rest of the group, with possibly decline from Nixon based solely on his injuries.

The Sox have a great chance, better than last year even (yes even with the Yankees adding Randy Johnson) to win the division. With the division win comes a chance at defending the World Series title. Of course predicting who can win in the playoffs is almost as improbable as winning 8 consecutive playoff games...oh wait.




Comments:
if anything the berg singing scares me as it reminds me of the days where daughbach could make the team, when butch huskey, bob stanley, and troy oleary were the heart of the lineup, when offerman was our speed threat, the only difference being is that berg wont see the field as often as dauber im only bringing this up because i would take last years bench over a few starting lineups in the majors...pavano/clement as of right now in the purgatory of spring training where the real games have yet to start the two young guns are the same animal both are elastic arms with electric stuff but the switch from the nl to the beer chugging softball league that is the everyday al lineup is a hefty one, instead of facing casey fossum now youre facing former batting champ bill mueller...i sincerely hope you are off the mark in terms of schilling progression in his rehabilitation only because i have tickets to opening night at the stadium and all that i have heard from camp is that he is on his way to being fully ready for his matchup vs johnson but i am fully aware that next week his condition could change, wasnt nomars ankle injury only going to be about a two week rest last march?...mantei is a less expensive scott williamson both pitchers can flat out gas when theyre healthy yet neither have been for some time now, i am banking on mantei to extend the success timlin and embree have had over the past years, when i think about it i am amazed how well embree and timlin still perform both at their advanced age and how overused they were last season all you have to do is look about 300 miles south for an example of older but still effective set up men who were worn out by the end of the season in quantril but ill give it to him lesser in the case of flash...i am glad they re-uped doug although i wouldnt go as far to say that i would have been pleased if they had let tek walk with mirabelli or kelly shaupach (is that the catching prospect, sorry marc im just too lazy to fact check ill let you do it for me)waiting in the wings to take over and another point to make is that i think it is easy to predect that both mirabelli and damon will have the biggest drop offs from their production a season ago...marc why are you looking ahead into the future of the red sox ss position, the future has arrived! renteria wont steal the hearts of the new england female population as nomar did but should replicate nomar's production at his prime, we will worry about hanley ramirez when renteria's contract is up...varitek is no mike piazza, he still has serious gas in his tank for the years to come and even if his offense drops off, he is still indespensible when it comes to tending to the pitching staff (the most exhausted trait about tek, everyone forgets about his bat and consistant percentage of throwing out runners)...i am hoping for the best when it comes to boomer but i could easily see wells pulling a john burkett where he twirls a all-star caliber first half only to break down come the playoff stretch, a positive for him is that the sox wont rely on him to be the ace eventhough he still will take on more stress here in a less crucial roll than he did as san diegos horse a year ago...outside of renteria, wade miller was the most exciting pick up of the offseason for me, he is a proven winner when healthy and the only reason he is not still an astro is that they didnt want to gamble on an unsure thing, i think miller is going to make them wish they had and put up numbers that will make theo look once again like a prophet...payton is a more well rounded version of dave roberts, can lead off and play all outfield positions if need be, great speed coming off the bench as well...i would love to see wakefield spend the entire season in the rotation not only because of his success last season but also because i think it maximizes his worth to the team (wakefield's worth-rotation v. bullpen is probably one of the greatest red sox debates over the past five years) this year i expect arroyo to have a break out year and step up as a consistant seven inning performer and possibly outpitch clement, clement is the wild card out of what you will get out of him, with wells and miller the only question will be whether of not they are healthy...i dont agree that nixon will be effected by last years injury, francona has to look at nixon in 2005 as a free agent pickup...last year the yankees proved that winning the division isnt the overall goal of a season (red sox, marlins, angels) i think the yankees will win the division with the same finish as last years al east finish: yankees, sox (wild card), orioles, d-rays, jays
 
Well its not that Schilling is behind in his rehab, it is just that I am not sure how it is going to hold up over time. I expect him to start Opening Day, but then if it turns out he was not as ready as we planned him to be I'll be slightly disapointed...but at least we have those new options. Warm bodies beat nothing sometimes.

I speak of the future because I feel Renteria has already hit his prime and we are paying for his past. By the way, Hanley Ramirez is not going to play SS when he comes up...Damon's contract is running out and Ramirez, being a SS, is athletic enough to play CF...not to mention cheaper than Damon. With the market shift (paying high price for past performance) I can see Damon getting a raise from another team even though he is currently overpaid. That is not something even the female Boston fans can convince Theo to do. Hanley in center in 06' is a distinct possibility, and Dustin Pedroia is my SS of the future for the Sox. Maybe I am critical of the Renteria signing only because I was excited to be rid of Nomar and leave the position open for one of the kids.

That SS to CF thing is something I feel the Yankees should explore by the way. They should move Jeter to CF, where his defense won't be as much of an issue due to his great athleticism and instincts (not to mention no more errors at SS) and shift A-Rod to SS where he has higher value. Then you could sign a new 3B, which would keep them from overpaying for an aging Johnny Damon next offseason. Meh...what do I know.
 
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