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Posts Tagged ‘John Smoltz’


In the midst of juggling my 3 jobs, I’ve decided to come up for air and talk some Boston Red Sox.  Many commentators are focusing on their offense, as if it won’t get it done.

Let’s look back at last season.  We had a less than healthy Papi, a nearly crippled Mike Lowell, an injured Josh Beckett and an absent Wakefield.  Turns out our starting shortstop had a fracture in his wrist too.  Both our hitting and pitching were in trouble.  And we were one win away from the World Series.

This was because Dustin Pedroia continued to improve, and Youk had a career year.  Jon Lester discovered how to pitch deep, and strong.  Dice-K was one lucky guy with a big WHIP and low ERA to garner a good win total.

I’m not as pessimistic about this season as some people.  Yeah, no Money-Ramirez.  That also means far less drama. Jason Bay, while not the one man wrecking crew that an interested Man-Ram can be, is a very good hitter and a better defender who will give you a good effort night after night.  Papi no longer has to worry about his wrist, and Lowell will be healthy.  I don’t expect the 2007 Lowell, since he’s 2 years older, but he should still put up respectable offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman.

What excites me about the 2009 Red Sox is the pitching staff.  We seem to be witnessing a return of Beckett 2007, which means he could be a dominating pitcher now that he’s healthy again.  He has been that guy in Spring Training (yeah, it’s only Spring Training), which he wasn’t last year. 

Although we aren’t sure what we are going to get from Penny and Smoltz, if they flounder we could have Buchholz 2007 to step in.  He seems to have regained a good arm slot, and his confidence.  He’s not the tentative pitcher who was giving up runs like a 2-for-1 special was going on.  Lester has offered us no reason to doubt he’ll continue his domination of hitters.  He’s confident and strong.  With Penny and Smoltz, the Red Sox can occasionally rest Lester, Beckett, and especially Wakefield.

The bull pen should be better (though bull pens are tempermental things).  Masterson was the key to making it steady last year.  If Delcarmen can be consistent (which he seemed to be after Masterson joined the pen), and Saito can set-up and occasionally close, we can have a healthy, aggressive Papelbon for the playoffs.

Pitching wins championships, and the Red Sox have a championship caliber pitching staff.  While their offense will not reach the heights of the 2003-4 Red Sox, it should be more than sufficient to provide the runs this staff needs to be very successful.

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The Red Sox have signed a bunch of people to 1-year deals.  In the last few days they have reached agreements with pitchers Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Takashi Saito.  They have also signed OF Rocco Baldelli and OF/1B Mark Kotsay.  All but Kotsay are coming off seasons in which they have had injury or illness problems.  What is going on here?

The Red Sox are putting together a roster that has the ability to compete with the Rays and Yankees THIS year.  They are not locking themselves in to any long term contracts, so if any of these guys doesn’t recover, it is not a huge hit.  Particularly in terms of the pitching, these moves allow their prospects to develop and they won’t have to trade someone at a discount (like they did Coco Crisp) if/when the particular prospect is ready.

For instance, let’s say Bowden or Buchholz shows he is ready to take up a spot in the rotation in 2010, they won’t have to trade Smoltz or Penny.  However, if Brad Penny has a great year the Red Sox could decide to commit to him long term.  I like the flexibility this provides.  Unlike the Yankees, they have not locked themselves into anything for the next 4-8 years.  They can adjust on the fly.

These guys have all shown they have major league tools.  All we actually need from Rocco is to start against lefties and be ready to pinch hit in the late innings of tight games.  We lose nothing when it comes to defense with that late substitution.  The guy can also hit and run the bases.

If he can’t bounce back as well as hoped, we have the insurance of Mark Kotsay should Drew or Ellsbury suffer an injury.  We aren’t having to dip into the minors like last year and bring up guys who either can’t hit or can’t field.

In the case of Saito, we have a proven closer just in case something happens to Papelbon.  Redundancy, or insurance, depending on how you look at things.

They Red Sox will also have the salary flexibility, as Gammons noted, to pursue a player another team deems too expensive as the trade deadline approaches.  Imagine one of our starters in the outfield gets injured.  He notes that Detroit may decide to dump some salary.  They could pursue Magglio without entering luxury tax territory.  Financial prudence in these tough times, with a commitment to win.

Yes, they didn’t get the big bat they wanted.  But they have the bats needed to ‘protect’ Big Papi.  The problem was injuries, not talent.  If Papi and Lowell are healthy we have a line up to compete with any other AL team.  I don’t buy this fear about being unable to produce runs.  Lowrie can hit, he slumped after an injury to his hand.  The only weak link in the line up will be catcher.

Theo provided some solid depth without breaking the bank or tying up resources for years to come.  He’s sticking to the plan to develop prospects.  All we need now is a catcher.

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