Friday, April 5, 2013

At 2-1 Are the Red Sox For Real?

After taking two out of three from the New York Yankees in the opening series of 2012 most Red Sox fans are optimistic heading into Toronto.  Like many Sox fans though I am constantly asking myself are they really going to be improved this season or are the Yankees just destined to stink and finish last?  So are the new look Sox for real? Or are we being deceived because we just beat the worst team in the AL east two out of three?

After three games here is what I think is real and what still remains to be seen.

Real:
  1. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz will thrive under Juan Nieves and John Farrell
  2. The Red Sox defense is greatly improve (but will that change when Jose Iglesias gets send down and if Jackie Bradley Jr. gets sent down?) Even if they do at least they have a catcher who can throw out runners and a RF who can do the same. 
  3. The Red Sox will be aggressive on the basepaths and be able to "create" more runs than year's past.
  4. This team's "chemistry" is real.  The work that Ben Cherington and his staff did to find player's who have great character is paying off and will continue to pay off. 
  5. The bullpen will be a strength, maybe even more than we thought, if that's possible. 
  6. This coaching staff is the best the Red Sox have had since 2007.  
  7. The Red Sox need to stay healthy and they need to get Big Papi back to 100%.  The line up is really lacking pop.  I think they will hit for more power once the weather warms up, but they miss David Ortiz's big left handed power bat.
  8. A lot of players, coaches and front office personnel around this team have a lot to "prove". This means we will see a motivated team all year long.  
  9. Jonny Gomes is going to be the next Kevin Millar
Remains to be seen:
  1. The starting pitchers besides Lester and Buchholz.  Dempster was Ok but not great last night.  He still has to prove he can pitch in the AL. Lackey needs to prove he's healthy and Doubront needs to avoid the sophomore slump. 
  2. The offense needs to show that they can make the other teams starting pitcher work and drive up their pitch count.  They were able to do that vs. Sabathia, but not against Pettite.  The potential is there, but there are also a lot of free swingers on this team.  
  3. The offense needs to show that they can avoid long slumps.  The last two years they have been prone to long droughts. 
  4. Will Middlebrooks still needs to prove that he can be a #5 hitter and not a #7 hitter.  
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury needs to stay healthy and he needs to be consistent.  He doesn't have to match 2011 power numbers but he needs to be an on base machine.  
  6. Will Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli produce enough to be able to fill the roles that they were signed to fill.  
  7. Jackie Bradley Jr. Such an interesting situation.  His defense alone has been worth putting him on the team, but so far his offense has been a much needed spark. Can he keep it up? Will he get sent down when Papi is healthy? Stay tuned.  
  8. Will Jose Iglesias continue to hit like he has in the first 3 games? Whether he is with Boston or Pawtucket he needs to show that he can maintain this approach for a whole season.  Obviously he'll still have his slumps, but if he continues to make solid contact and mix in some small ball.  He will be the starting SS sooner rather than later.  
We will continue to learn more about this team with each game and with all these story lines I for one can't wait to see the answers.  This first Toronto series will go a long way in determining if New York is really awful or if Boston really has improved.  If they come home with a 5-1 or 4-2 record that will be very encouraging.  3-3 is acceptable, but if they come home 2-4 we will still have a lot of questions unanswered.  

12 comments:

  1. Good post Barry. Here are my two cents on your points:

    Real:

    Agreed
    1. Agreed whole-heartedly.
    2. The number one reason to keep JBJr in the bigs when Papi returns is the drastic dropoff in outfield defense from JBJr to Gomes or Nava or whoever.
    3. I love it. Twitter blew up on Victorino last night for trying to score from second, but I loved it. He was only out by a foot, not a mile. If he had made it, he and Farrell would have been credited for their RELENTLESS baserunning style.
    4. I love catching small moments that show the chemistry this team is building, like when Ellsbury called off Victorino for a fly ball, but then patted him on the butt and said something jovial to him as they ran towards the dugout together. Or when Aceves....nevermind.
    5. Kind of. I think the back end of our bullpen is indeed looking lights out. Even though we haven’t seen much of it, I think Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara, and Tazawa will be one of the best back ends in the bigs. However, our longer relievers have sucked - Fettuccine and the Mort Report gave up bombs to stiffs. Miller Time has looked wild as hell. I know that no major league team really has a good long relief core (or else they would be starters or back end guys), but our longer guys so far have looked like pus.
    6. Two thumbs waaaaaay up. I love the defensive shifts, as you can tell if you read my post on MLB defense on this site back in March. Brilliant dudes.
    7. There’s no doubt that Papi will help with power, but I think we’ll be fine regardless. We’ve been playing in 40 degree weather with cold hands and no carry to fly balls. With the exception of Cervelli’s dinger last night, nobody hit a blast all series long for either team.
    8. Agreed
    9. The next Kevin Millar, except with more athleticism

    Remains to be seen:

    1. I think Dempster looked better than his stats showed last night. He was unlucky - Overbay’s 2 RBI hit was a bloop shart, and Gardner’s homer would have been an out in about 28 other stadiums. Dempster still had 8 K’s even though his control was off. I still like Dempster. I agree that Lackey and Doubie need to prove it.
    2. Pettitte has always killed the Sox. I was not one tiny bit surprised that he mowed us down like bermudagrass. I would have liked to have seen us take more pitches against him, but he was pounding the zone.
    3. Agreed, but haven’t yet shown that they are going to have long slumps either.
    4. Agreed, but again I don’t think he’s shown that he’s a #7 hitter yet, either.
    5. I like Ells’ 2013 so far. Looks like he’s trying hard all around.
    6. Fair question. We all love what the Flyin’ Hawaiian has done so far. We new Mike Napoli wasn’t going to hit for average, and the power will come. Just hopefully sooner rather than later.
    7. I hope to Christ they keep him up and he keeps on producing. He doesn’t have to be Rookie of the Year (although I’d take it), he just has to play plus outfield defense, get on base, and be an all-around pest. Keep learning (like what it looks like to see a filthy backdoor cutter from Mo Rivera) and improving and there’s no reason in the world to keep him out of the everyday LF spot. Do we really want Gomes lumbering around out there?
    8. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that Drew is coming back to get his starting spot for now...but for how long? You have to think there’s no way Iggy can keep this up, and Drew offers potential for a nice season. I love the way Iggy has played though; I really had written him off as ever being a major league hitter after 2012.

    Can’t wait to invade Canada tonight! I would love to see Doubie fire a gem. Either way, the cold is no longer an excuse. Let’s heat up the bats fellas!

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  2. Here's tonight's lineup:

    Ellsbury CF
    Nava DH
    Pedroia 2B
    Napoli 1B
    Salty C
    Middlebrooks 3B
    Victorino RF
    Bradley Jr. LF
    Iglesias SS

    Doubront SP

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  3. Napoli goes yard! I believe I was the only one who picked Napoli to hit the first dinger of the year for the Red Sox in our poll during our live chat on Wednesday night. So, hurray for me.

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  4. Is it just me or is Felix Doubront as average as average can be. None of his pitches are plus pitches. He really seems to wear in down in innings 5/6/7 also. He's already given back the two runs from Napoli's homer with only one out in the 5th. He might need the early hook.

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  5. Good call by John (BOOOOO) Farrell bringing in Uehara in the 6th. Our best shot of getting out of this jam, while still leaving Bailey/Handy Man for the 8th and 9th.

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    1. I love me some Uehara! Three straight outs to protect the one-run lead, and he gets all kinds of fired up running into the dugout! How old is he again? He could pass for 18.

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    2. Jonny Gomes reaction in the dugout when Uehara came in all fired up was priceless. Just another glimpse into the window of this team's chemistry. I like it! Too bad I hate their ability to hit with RISP. If they lose this game tonight they'll have no one to blame but themselves and their inability to expand the lead.

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  6. This Red Sox/Blue Jays season series is really shaping up to be a doozy. Between the Farrell hate fest in Toronto and two improved teams trying to regain relevance, these two are going to have some battles.

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    Replies
    1. I already hate the 2013 Blue Jays immensely. I've had way more emotion watching this game tonight than I did at any point in the New York series. My how things have changed in the AL east!

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  7. This game tonight is an example of the type of game that they need to win. It's a one run game. They have their bullpen in to try and win it and they are into the Toronto bullpen.

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  8. Very gutty, battling victory for the Red Sox tonight. Kudos to the bullpen again. The Sox are now in position to win the series tomorrow.

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