Carl Crawford and the Unstoppable Sox

Oct 26, 2008 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - 104th Major League Baseball's World Series between the winners of the American and National Leagues. The Fall Classic 2008 is between AL - Tampa Bay Rays and NL - Philadelphia Phillies. Game Four. PICTURED: Rays' CARL CRAWFORD hits a solo home run in the fourth inning Photo via Newscom

Forget for a few minutes the years and dollar amount of the Carl Crawford deal and bask with us here at Fire Brand in the brilliant light that is the 2011 Red Sox.

Things seemed to be winding down on a quiet-ish day at the Winter Meetings. No Cliff Lee deal to announce, no word on Adrian Beltre’s progress to report, nothing of much impact other than Paul Konerko re-upping with the White Sox. Then, literary minutes before I was about to write about something completely different, the Carl Crawford to the Red Sox talk intensified. Not long after, I read that the Sox had indeed landed the lightning fast left fielder. I took a few minutes to let things settle in my mind, then began to try and envision a scenario in which the Sox didn’t win the World Series.

OK, OK, so there are probably a ton of scenarios in which the Sox fail to win the World Series — in the playoffs, as evident by this past season, anything can happen — but looking at this team’s starting lineup and starting rotation, a Sox fan must feel the uttermost optimism right now.

There are still lose ends to be tied up in the bullpen and maybe adding a veteran catcher to pair with Jason Varitek would help, but as it is right now, this is as good a team as the Sox have had in years and perhaps the best team in baseball.

Here at Fire Brand, we’ve spent the past few days analyzing the impact that Adrian Gonzalez will have on this team. Now, add a baseline .300/.350/.450 bat to the top of the order with 50-60 stolen base potential. The team that ranked second in baseball in runs scored last season has a great chance to blow away the competition in that category in 2011.

Crawford, despite his tremendous speed, has never liked leading off or playing center field. Those two factors will be non-factors with the Sox. Pedroia looks to get back into the lead-off spot with Crawford sliding into the two-hole. This move also allows Jacoby Ellsbury to move back to center and forces a platoon situation in right field between J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron, which is probably a good thing. As the everyday left fielder, Crawford, who posted a terrific 18.5 UZR in 2010, should thrive defensively with even less room to cover. As the second place hitter in the lineup, Crawford should easily score 100-plus runs and the sky is almost the limit (as in 120-plus runs scored).

If there is any downside to Crawford, it’s his lack of above average plate discipline. He has averaged a 6.4 percent walk rate over the last three seasons and consistently swings at pitches outside the strike-zone over 30 percent of the time. That may be more of a concern as his speed fades, but for the next several seasons, Sox fans won’t need to worry.

At this point in his career, Crawford is who he is. He has power, but a move to Fenway won’t increase his home run output. He has hit over .300 for the past two seasons and that should continue in 2011 considering his lineup protection. With good stolen base success rates in recent years, Crawford should be given the green light the majority of the time and 50 stolen bases seems like the starting point for 2011 projections. However, we shouldn’t expect Crawford to turn into a .320 hitter or get on base at a .375-plus clip. The good news is that he doesn’t have to do either to be a huge part of this lineup.

The rest of the lineup will fill in accordingly. Adrian Gonzalez still projects as the third place hitter with Youkilis batting fourth and Papi filling in the fifth spot. Going back-to-back with left-handed hitters is not ideal, but the Sox would have to do it one way or the other between Crawford, Gonzo, Youk and Papi batting two, three, four, and five. Any which way the duo of Drew and Cameron works out, either would slide into the sixth spot with the combination of catcher, Ellsbury, Scutaro/Lowrie filling in the seven, eight and nine spots. My initial thought is that Ellsbury would hit ninth to add speed and decent OBP as a second lead-off man. Adding a catcher like Russell Martin or Mike Napoli to hit seventh would only make this lineup that much more dominant.

Of course, everyone needs to stay healthy for this “ideal” lineup to come to fruition. However, should the oft-injured Drew/Cameron combo fail, top outfield prospects like Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick will be fighting for the next call-up at Pawtucket. As it stands, Jed Lowrie will be fighting for at-bats with Marco Scutaro, who slated as the starting shortstop, which is not a bad problem to have. And we can’t forget about Darnell McDonald, who held his own defensively and came up with some big hits for the Sox in 2010.

The acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez and signing of Carl Crawford have done wonders for the depth of the Red Sox lineup. Both are signed to long term deals and while the years of each contract are significant, I’m not ready to look that far just yet, though I should. Not now, not today. There is too much optimism, too much excitement, too much dreaming going on inside my head.

The ingredients for greatness are on paper. Now all they have to do is play the games…and win…like we expect them to.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford

Charlie first started writing about baseball back in 2008 when he opened Fantasy Baseball 365. Since graduating college with a degree in English, he has spent time coaching baseball as well as working in several minor league front offices. He also writes for The Outside Corner and contributes to Project Prospect and ESPN's Sweet Spot. Writer from August 3, 2010 - May 6, 2012

9 Responses to “Carl Crawford and the Unstoppable Sox” Subscribe

  1. Darryl Johnston December 9, 2010 at 5:19 AM #

    As Tedy Bruschi says: Awwwwwwwww yaaaaaaaaaa!

  2. Mr Punch December 9, 2010 at 6:52 AM #

    Actually, Crawford's "lack of plate discipline" may be a plus. The Sox have had a tendency towards too much discipline – they had a lineup filled with selective hitters who'd take a strike (Youk, Drew) and mistake hitters (Ortiz, Lowell), which was fine unless they were facing very good pitchers who could throw those strikes and didn't make many mistakes. (By contrast, guys like Vlad Guerrero can't be pitched to.) That's why Theo brought in Beltre and Cameron, notorious free swingers, last year, I think.

  3. GreggB December 9, 2010 at 8:11 AM #

    I like the way you are arranging the lineup. Ellsbury ninth makes perfect sense; less pressure, maximizes the value of his steals, as he will frequently be on first with one or two outs. Pedroia would be a leadoff hitter with a little pop and high OBP, sort of like Jeter in his prime. My only change: give SS to Lowrie, make Scut the backup infielder.

  4. jvwalt December 9, 2010 at 8:22 AM #

    Lot of talk about the Sox' excellent lineup — and it's justified — but I like the defensive upgrade just as much. The Sox look to be above average at every position except catcher (which may change), and excellent in several spots. I'm especially excited about the outfield: with Crawford, Ellsbury, Cameron, and Drew, a lot of potential XBHs are going to turn into outs or singles. Not much room in the gaps.

  5. jeff December 9, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

    I personally like Ellsbury as a leadoff hitter. My projected lineup would look like this…

  6. Charlie Saponara December 9, 2010 at 1:42 PM #

    Edit note: "Both are signed to long term deals and while the years of each contract are significant"

    This, of course, is incorrect. Gonzalez has yet to officially sign anything, but there was an assumption that the deal was in place and the two sides were waiting until April to finalize for luxury tax purposes. Gonzo has apparently stated that he has not agreed to anything at the moment (see link below).

  7. Anon December 9, 2010 at 7:09 PM #

    Once again, I can't get through to the meat of your argument because of poor editing. Could you explain what "literary minutes" might mean?

    Your site has insightful commentary, healthy but not overbearing use of sabermetrics, and interesting talking points, but YOU NEED TO HIRE AN EDITOR.

    Maybe I should volunteer or something. Because you're losing readers.

    • Charlie Saponara December 9, 2010 at 9:15 PM #

      It was at 2:00 am for me. I was about to go to bed, but felt compelled to write about this particular moment in Red Sox history. So yeah, editor please!

      I meant literally…in case you couldn't figure it out yourself.

      P.S. I don't get paid to do this, so I can't hire an editor.

  8. Gerry December 10, 2010 at 11:32 PM #

    Thanks Charlie for some good thoughts. I'd like to take this further. There seems to be excessive concern about this "lefty" lineup. Fact is, only two of the lineup, Papi & JD, have issues with lefties, and one of them could bounce back, with JD most likely, which would leave only one player with lefty issues, and he can be sat in favor of a consistent 20-25HR lefty masher.

    Among the lefty hitters, Gonzo & Kalish rock lefties and Ells' splits are pretty even, which means pretty good results for a .300/.355 hitter.

    PD, Youk, Scoot, Cam, DMac are righties who mash lefties, and Lowrie, Tek, Salty & Nava are switch hitters, so we have 9 players who can hit from the right side and 3 lefties who hit LHP well.

    Off the bench at this time, Cameron, Tek, DMac, Scoot? do well against lefties, well on bases, and well on the field (Cam & Scoot … and Tek … are starters), so they will have no trouble playing for JD or Papi.

    In summary: The Sox are lefty heavy but in such a way that it's just not a problem in 2011.