Monday, August 16, 2010

Reduced Expectations for the 2010 Red Sox

Granted the baseball regular season still has seven weeks to go; however, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Boston Red Sox will not make the playoffs this season. It’s just not happening. The starting rotation has been inconsistent, the closer, Jonathan Papelbon has had his worst season, most of the relief pitchers have performed poorly, and there have been too many injuries to overcome.

Despite this, the 2010 Boston Red Sox have vastly overachieved. In terms of starting players, they’ve played significant chunks of games without Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, and Josh Beckett. In three games back in June, the Red Sox starting outfield consisted of Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Bill Hall.

Josh Beckett has been atrocious all season (think Theo wishes he hadn’t extended that contract back in April?) and John Lackey has been at disappointment. More often than not, Lackey has pitched like a number five starter. He has allowed a career high 1.52 WHIP. In a rare case where ERA doesn’t accurately reflect the performance of the pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon’s ERA of 3.20, is very good, but his 6 blown saves have been killer. The 6 blown saves are a career high.

However, the season has been worthwhile to watch for a number of reasons. There have been several nice surprises on this team, none more than the offensive season Adrian Beltre has put up. Beltre leads the team in RBI and batting average. His defense hasn’t been as good as advertised, but he’s still very good at 3B. Darnell McDonald was called up in April to fill in the OF due to injuries. McDonald, a career minor leaguer, proved himself worthy of being in the majors with a hot start and playing steady ball. He’s hit .263 with 7 HR and 29 RBI – excellent numbers for a fourth outfielder.

Bill Hall has filled in at several different positions, and has 15 HR in a reserve role. Clay Buchholz has emerged as the ace of the pitching staff with a 13-5 record with a 2.49 ERA. Back in April there was media discussion that David Ortiz might be released after his horrid April. However, Big Papi put it together and has 26 HR and 77 RBI and is hitting .261. Daniel Bard has been lights out as the setup man, putting up a 2.01 ERA.

Looking forward for the rest of the season, it’ll be worth watching newly acquired catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s got a strong arm and in his two games so far, has received compliments for his work behind the plate from starters John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. It will also will be fun to watch Buchholz continue to build on his success, whether Ortiz can get on a tear and get to 40 HR, and Jed Lowrie, now back from injuries and mononucleosis, to try and play up to his potential. Lowrie has looked very good since returning.

Some say that this is Terry Francona’s best job managing, yet. I’m not about to say it’s better than 2004, but he’s done a fine job plugging holes, managing to get veterans like Ortiz, Wakefield, Lowell, and Varitek to consider diminished roles without tearing up the team, and showing faith in struggling players.

So despite the likelihood of being on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, the 2010 Red Sox have overcome a lot of adversity and performed beyond most folks’ expectations.

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