05 January 2008

2007 Red Sox Offense - Starters

Here's my review of the 2007 Red Sox Offensive Starters.
Stat set is AB/BA/OBP/HR/RBI/2B/SB.

Catcher - Jason Varitek (435/.255/.367/17/68/15/1)
I'm not sure any traditional analyses of Varitek, el Capitan, could do him justice. At this point of his career, his batting stats are merely passable - sure, he's not Brad Ausmus, but his days of being really productive at the plate are behind him. This leaves us to wonder about those intangibles and semi-intangibles like his ability to call games and his defensive prowess. He's never been a Howitzer when it comes to throwing out baserunners, so that is hard to judge. However, in watching the Sox run through the 2007 playoffs, I was struck with the fact that Varitek seems to call a lot of fastballs for all his pitchers in many situations. I can remember quite a few times when I would see Gagne, Delcarmen or Beckett pitching and screaming "throw a knee-buckler" only to get another fastball off the plate. Now, is that due to Varitek's game-calling, knowledge of the batter or just stubbornness of the pitcher? It is hard to tell. That being said, 'Tek is still probably marginally worth his money for 2008. Now as for an extension? I suppose its inevitable to keep 'Tek here for the rest of his career (especially with no apparent heir) and maybe beyond (can anyone say Francona's replacement?), but much worst catching situations exist out there.

First Base - Kevin Youkilis (528/.288/.390/16/83/35/4)
For a first basemen, Youkilis' numbers aren't all that exciting, but when you add the fact that he didn't commit a single error all season over 1094 inning at 1B, well, then we might be onto something. And before you say "well, maybe he has no range!", his range factor was 8.88, which isn't too shabby. Youkilis also gets points for looking like a rabid Viking throughout most of the season. I like the fact the Sox are willing to take a bit of a high production-wise at 1B to keep Youkilis in the lineup, but I suppose the production of Lowell and Ortiz make up for the lower run-production of the God of Walks.

Second Base - Dustin Pedroia (520/.317/.380/8/50/39/7)
How glad am I that Pedroia won Rookie of the Year? Sure, it helps that he's from right up the road from my current location, but even so, I've been a fan of his as he's worked his way up the Red Sox minor league ladder. He seems to be rather sure-handed defensively, at least based on the games I saw on TV - he seems to pull some rather tough balls out of the dirt. His offensive stats speak for themselves, with the .380 OBP and the fact he was rather tough to strike out, he looks like he could be a solid 2B for the Sox for years to come (and rather cheap for a few more years as well).

Third Base - Mike Lowell (589/.324/.378/21/120/37/3)
In a season where the two offensive juggernauts of the Red Sox - David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - had less-than-stellar season (OK, well, Ortiz's was stellar, just not 50+ HR stellar), Mike Lowell might have been the team batting MVP. Not only did he set career highs in BA, OBP and RBI, but he was was consistent all-season, without his usual second-half swoon (or at least his perceived second-half swoon). Now, I'm not sure if his new contract for 3 more years will pay off overall, he will be 34 in 2008, but even if he hits at 80% of his 2007 numbers, something like .280/20/95, he should be a solid 3B for the Sox.

Shortstop - Julio Lugo (570/.237/.294/8/73/36/33)
And then there is Julio Lugo. I feel, sometimes, Theo Epstein is brought down by the man-crushes he has developed on certain players throughout the years, leading to signings like Renteria, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Joel Piniero and other duds. The fact that Lugo made it as the starting SS for most of the season with an OBP under .300 and didn't get his defense together until late in the season speaks volumes for the Sox faith in their 4 year investment in Lugo. Hopefully Jed Lowrie will light a fire under Lugo because I'm sure the Sox won't have much problem with jettisoning Lugo the further into the deal current deal we get. I expect that Lugo will rebound some in 2008, at least to passable offensive numbers, maybe an OBP ~.330-.340, but I'm not holding my breath, either.

Right Field - J.D. Drew (466/.270/.373/11/64/30/4)
Another one of Theo's mancrushes, J.D. was well below expectations. Sure, he stayed mostly healthy and put up a .373 OBP, but beyond that, what did we get for the millions bestowed upon Mr. Drew? 64 RBI? 11 HR? Alright, he did put on a display in the playoffs, especially with his dagger-in-the-heart grand slam against Cleveland, but we expect a lot more from J.D. in 2008. Maybe he'll feel more comfortable in Boston now that he's had a year to get used to playing in the pressure cooker. Maybe there will be less attention on him. Who knows. All I know is I hope that he can at least crawl his way back to 20 HR and maybe 80-90 RBI to get a respectable, Trot Nixon like production out of RF.

Center Field - Coco Crisp (526/.268/.330/6/60/28/28)
You have to feel for Coco, to an extent. He tried to win the heart's of New England with his stellar defense and Arroyo-like cornrows, but with the wunderkin Jacoby Ellsbury waiting in the wings, he would have had to have had a stellar 2007 to keep our attention. Now, after Ellsbury wonderful run through the 2007 Playoffs solidifying him as the Sox #1 CF, you wonder how long Crisp has on this team. He is attractive to other teams thanks to his aforementioned defense and his relatively low cost, the question is whether any other teams will offer the Sox enough for Crisp that Theo will pull the trigger - he isn't going to just give away Crisp. Good luck to Coco no matter where he ends up.

Left Field - Manny Ramirez (483/.296/.388/20/88/33/0)
Well, the ride had to end sometime. Manny had his first true "off" season in 2007, falling well below his career averages in HR, 2B, and RBI. It didn't help that he spent a month on the DL, but he did at least come back refreshed for the postseason and seem to hit like the Manny we all know and love. In theory, 2008 could be Manny's last year with the Sox - the team holds options for 2009 and 2010 and could let him walk after the season, but my guess is that Manny has a few more top 10 hitting seasons left in the tank and strikes me as the sort of guy who will want to go out on top. Not counting for incidental injury, I'll guessing he'll bounce back to something around 30-35 HR and 120 RBI in 2008 and the Sox will pick up his options.

Designated Hitter - David Ortiz (549/.332/.445/35/111/52/3)
What can be said about Big Papi that hasn't already? Sure, he wasn't as dramatic as he was in 2003-2006, but for a guy playing on bad knees all season, he put up monstrous numbers. Sure, 35 HR was almost 20 fewer than 2006, but did anyone notice his 52 2Bs? 52 doubles. Yikes! Add some of his power back in 2008 after offseason knee surgery, and we could see Ortiz back in the 40+ HR range easily - and add a few more seasons like that, Papi could be looking at a Hall of Fame career. Not bad for a guy non-tendered by the Twins.

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