Boston Red Sox Predictions
The Boston Red Sox look to bounce back from a nightmarish 2012 season, with a new manager, new players, and some key players returning from injury. Gone are Beckett, Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez dumped in a mid-season salary purge. Only Gonzalez will be missed. In are free-agents, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, and Ryan Dempster – all expected to contribute handsomely in ’13. Back from injury are position players Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Will Middlebrooks, and hopefully Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard from the pen. The only question mark is a rotation that had the 4th worst ERA in the league last season. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine, the Red Sox repeating the misfortunes of ’12, when they put 27 players on the DL. If they return healthy, and get some production from their starting rotation, this team has the ability to contend for a playoff spot in 2013.
Projected Starting Rotation
Jon Lester (L) – Lester’s (9-14, 4.82 ERA in ’12), skill-set has been in decline since the latter part of the 2011 season. Boston are hoping a reunion with old pitching coach, now, new manger John Farrell, will rekindle his 2010 dominating form, when he was a Cy Young candidate (19-9, 3.25 ERA). Red Sox backers lost 20 of his 33 starts last season for -13.95 units.
Ryan Dempster (R) – Dempster, 12-8, 3.38 ERA, between Chicago and Texas last season, has great movement on his fastball, but has to pitch ahead in the count, to put hitters away with his splitter. The jury is still out, if he can be successful, pitching in the AL East. He was 7-3 for the Rangers last season, but his ERA ballooned to 5.09 in 12 starts.
Felix Doubront (L) – Doubront was the only starter to net positive units in 2012 (+3.70 units). He is young (25) and talented (9.3 K/9), and proved he belonged in a big-league rotation last season. He has a 91-95 mph fastball with great movement, but still needs to improve his command and work on his secondary pitches.
Clay Buchholz (R) – Buchholz, 11-8, 4.56 ERA, -0.80 units in ’12, finished strong after a miserable start to the season. He has a low-90′s sinking fastball, a biting 12-6 curveball and a solid changeup. He is still young, but needs to improve his consistency, entering his 7th season with the Red Sox.
John Lackey (R) – Lackey is a big question mark coming back from Tommy John surgery. He is an intense competitor, and has a lot to prove after bombing as an expensive ($82.5M) free-agent signee. So far, he looks good in Spring Training, after losing 20 pounds in the off-season.
The bullpen could be the strength of the club with the addition of closer Joel Hanrahan, who saved 76 games for the Pirates the last two seasons. Andrew Bailey returns from injury, in a setup role, after saving 25 games per season for Oakland, prior to signing with Boston. The rest of the bullpen will battle for key setup roles, except for lefty specialist Craig Breslow. The wild card in the bunch will be Daniel Bard. If he can return healthy, a harness his lively arm, the bullpen will be in good shape for the upcoming season
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF) – Very talented but missed half the season last year with rib and shoulder injuries. If healthy, he is one of the best players in the baseball. In 2011, he led the league in total bases, while hitting 33 home runs and stealing 39 bases. He will be a free-agent after the ’13 season.
Shane Victorino (RF) – Victorino is a line-drive hitter with power to the alleys. He plays with a high OBP (.341), and has averaged 32 stolen bases the past 6 seasons. He had a down year between Philadelphia and Los Angeles last season, but is expected to thrive in a full-season with the Red Sox.
Dustin Pedroia (2B) – Pedroia played hurt last season, but still managed a .290 BA, 15 HRs, 39 doubles, 65 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. He is the unquestioned leader and heart and soul of the team.
David Ortiz (DH) – Ortiz, 37 years young, is the only reliable power-bat in the lineup. He hit .318, with 23 HRs and 60 RBIs in ’12, before injuring his Achilles tendon. He hit .309, with 29 HRs, 102 RBIs in 2011. As a result, he is under contract for two more years and looks healthy to start the season.
Mike Napoli (1B) – Was set to sign lucrative free-agent contract, but had to settle for 1-year deal, after physical revealed a degenerate hip condition. If healthy, Napoli is good for 25-30 home runs and 75+ RBIs per season.
Will Middlebrooks (3B) -Only 24, Middlebrooks is a raw talent with tremendous upside. Has enough talent to make Boston favorite Kevin Youkilis expendable in ’12. He hit .288, with 15 HR, 54 RBI in 267 AB’s last season. Boston are hoping he can parlay his ’12 numbers into a full season in ’13.
Jonny Gomes (LF) – Is a great role player that punishes left-handed pitching. He has a knack for important hits, and is a great pinch-hitter as well. He hit 18 HR’s, 47 RBI’s in 279 AB’s with Oakland last season.
Stephen Drew (SS) – Drew, a former highly touted talent, is a part-time fix until Jose Iglesias or Xander Bogaerts are ready for primetime. Pedro Ciriaco will get some at-bats at shortstop as well.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) – Salty will share time behind the plate with new acquisition David Ross (FA; Braves). Ross is the better catcher, and thrives on left-handed pitching.
Inside the Betting Numbers
Boston were a league worst -37.50 units verses the money-line in ’12. This was in large part because they were over-valued for the first two months’ of season.
They also were an abysmal 43-67, 39% -32.10 units verses right-handed starting pitching in ’12. Plus, they failed miserably verses the AL East with a 26-46, 36% record for -23.50 units.
As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox repeating the misfortunes of ’12. Hence, I’m predicting a correction in the betting markets for the ’13 season. However, I would take a wait-and-see gambling approach to start the season, in order to gauge the quality of their starting pitching.
I’m predicting the Boston Red Sox will finish third in the AL East with a 82-79 record. Most Sportsbooks have the Red Sox +575 to win the AL East, and +1150 to advance to the World Series.
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