Are the Red Sox turning a new leaf, or is this just a minor victory on the long, slow, inexorable march towards the AL East cellar?
Dustin Pedroia is finally getting the bat off his shoulders and it’s paying off.
What is the first thing that you think of when Jed Lowrie’s name is brought up? ::crickets:: Is he a guy who has battled injuries and still yet to blossom or is Lowrie a guy that will turn out to be a first-round bust? Most Red Sox fans I talk to about Lowrie shrug him […]
There’s no doubt the Sox recent injuries have done a number on the club’s chances of winning the AL East. So we thought it would be interesting to uncover how bleak — or rosy — the those chances have become.
Prior to the slew of injuries that befell Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Varitek, Baseball Prospectus had the Sox at about a 99-win team with an 853-702 scoring differential. That team, with the current standings, would have won the division about 38 percent of the time — a solid second best to the Yankees’ expected title rate of 45 percent. The Devil Rays take the cake about 18 percent of the time while the Blue Jays and Orioles are almost nowhere to be seen.
But that was a different team. Injuries have decimated this club and with it, their chances at the division. So, we sought to quantify this question and see just how often the new lineup would win the AL East.
We’ll spare you the nitty-gritty details, but the essentials are this: based on the expected run production of the new lineup, we simulated 10,000 “seasons,” the end result being an AL East championship probability.
Further, we plugged in some of the club’s rumored trade targets and internal options to measure their effect on the team. Playing time estimates are rough estimates and are subject to change. Production estimates are based on Fangraphs.com’s CHONE projections. Below are the results.
It’s been another harrowing week for the Red Sox as yet another key starter has gone down to injury.
With Dustin Pedroia sustaining a broken foot, the second baseman is expected to miss an estimated six weeks – forcing the Sox to scramble for a replacement due to their lack of infield depth.
Elaborating on Pedroia’s importance would be superfluous. The former AL MVP is among the three most indispensible Red Sox on the active roster next to Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester – if not the most important of the three. Considering the absence of any semblance of a Major Leaguer middle infielder in Boston’s stead, he is as good as irreplaceable.
Still, the length of Pedroia’s injury is nearly as confounding as the injury itself. Assuming he returns along the proposed six-week time line, the Sox are in a purgatory of sorts when it comes to finding a replacement. On the one hand, they could trade for a replacement outside the organization – costing the team prospects in exchange for gaining about a win or two in Pedroia’s absence. On the other, they could tough it out with the inadequate options available.
The Sox lineup, as always, is a meat grinder. They have four players in the top 20 in the American League in pitches seen per plate appearance (P/PA) and Pedroia ranks seventh at 4.27 (behind Youkilis who is fourth at 4.36) through 217 plate appearances (Victor Martinez is 11th at 4.12, J.D. Drew 13th at 4.11 while Marco Scutaro is 33rd at 3.92). Pedroia is also second in the league in total plate appearances at 217, behind only Denard Span of the Twins at 218, and leads the league in total pitches seen. Factoring in the entire majors, Youkilis ranks ninth and Pedroia 19th in P/PA.
Sitting in the No. 2 hole in the Sox lineup, Pedroia pesky plate appearances have a ripple down effect. Take for instance last Thursday when Boston beat Minnesota 6-2 on the strength of Jon Lester’s nine-strikeout complete game. Pedroia was 0-3 with a walk and a run against the Twins and Francisco Liriano and was instrumental in knocking Minnesota’s wily lefty out of the game after 4.2 innings with five earned runs on five hits and three walks. Pedroia was in the midst of a 4 for 39 slump at the time that spanned from May 12 to 23 before putting up three hits against the Rays on Monday.
On a night when the Boston marketing department pulled out all the stops, the players on the field managed to match them every step of the way.
There was no shortage of excitement in this one. From Neil Diamond’s 8th inning appearance to Pedroia’s two-run bomb, this game had everything and more. Even Herb Brooks and Pedro showed up which, early on, seemed to be the only exciting parts of the game.
I, myself, was forced down the street to Buffalo Wild Wings before the game due to a blackout on MLBTV – missing the NESN broadcast – and jotting down game notes on a napkin. Though I try to avoid chain restaurants when watching the Red Sox, it was nice to see the Red Sox Faithful well-represented in Colorado – and just as intolerant as in New England of the crap Yankee fans will try to pull.
Nonetheless, it was a classic, back-and-forth matchup that had plenty of surprises, late heroics, and everything you could want in an Opening Day salvo.
Though cruising through the bottom half of the first inning, Beckett got roughed up early. Noticeably absent was his usual dominating stuff – which should have been an easy holdover from his strong spring. Having difficulty finding the plate and falling behind in the count often, he found himself “Yanked” after just 4.1 IP, walking three while striking out only one. Yielding five earned over his inefficient 94 pitches, the silver lining is that he wasn’t hit as hard as the overall line suggests. Other than two second inning home runs, many of the Yankees’ hits found holes or were just out of the reach of defenders – especially up the middle in the fourth…
Pedroia to Short?
Sometimes, the answer is so obvious that it was staring you in the face the entire time. Well, maybe Pedroia to short isn’t that obvious, but I’m surprised that it took this long for anyone to suggest the move at all, myself included.
There are risks here, though. Pedroia was moved off short for a reason. Even during the minor leagues, many scouts liked him at the keystone long term. Now, three seasons into his major league career at second base, there is no saying what his arm or his range will look like across the diamond. Though he’s got great fielding skills for a second baseman, there are differences in reading grounders, going to the left up the middle, throwing distances, positional defensive standards, and a litany of other concerns when changing positions…
If the results of our Red Sox Madness tournament tournament tell us anything, it’s that today’s start for Josh Beckett could be setting the tone for the season.
After matching up the sixteen most important players on the Red Sox 2009 roster in a head to head, NCAA tournament style bracket, Josh Beckett cruised to a 63-36 win in the finals over Dustin Pedroia.
In resounding support of the notion that top flight pitching wins championships, the Red Sox “Big Three” of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka went 7-2 in this tournament with the two losses being Lester’s and Dice-K’s to the eventual champion.
The rain may have postponed Opening Day, but I look at it as a blessing in disguise. I mean, how could you really expect to start the season without having properly named the 2009 Red Sox Madness Champion.
Votes will be tabulated tomorrow morning and a winner crowned before first pitch.
Whose success is more important to the overall success of the 2009 Boston Red Sox, Josh Beckett or Dustin Pedroia?