30 Teams in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox Preview

Boston Red Sox – American League East

2009 Record: 95-67, 2nd Place in the American League East, 8 Games Back

2009 Review: The Red Sox finished eight games behind the Yankees in 2009. After winning the 2004 and 2007 World Series, any year that the Sox do not win the Series in considered a failure. However, winning 95 games during a season is not a failure. On the offensive side, the team hit .270 (fourth in the American League) led by Jacob Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkalis. David Ortiz started off the season very slow, but ended up with a batting average of .238 with 28 home runs and 99 runs batted in. They were second overall in doubles, third in home runs, fifth in stolen bases and second in walks in the American League. Their offense was strong throughout the season.

Their starting rotation featured Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Brad Penny, Clay Buchholz, Dice-K and also had Tim Wakefield pitching. The top two in the rotation, Beckett and Lester had a combined record of 32-14. Those two pitchers also had an era under 4.00 and a WHIP under 1.250. They had an excellent bullpen as well, anchored by closer Jonathon Papelbon. He had 38 saves during the season and his set up men, Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima, had a combined 13-4 record, both having earned run averages under 3.39. The pitching staff also included 24 year old Justin Masterson, who was traded for Victor Martinez before the end of last season.

The Red Sox had an excellent first half of 2009, with the second best record in baseball, three games ahead of the hated Yankees. After the All-Star break, the Sox faltered. They started by losing five of their first six games and made trades to try to bolster their lineup, including trading for Martinez from the Indians. However, after beating the Yankees eight straight to start 2009, they ended up losing nine of the last ten, falling into second place.

In the playoffs, the Red Sox lost to the Angels in the Divisional Round. The were swept by the Angels, 3-0.

Key Transactions since 2009:
Rocco Baldelli – After spending the 2009 season as the 4th outfielder for the Sox, Baldelli declared his free agency. In 62 games, Baldelli hit .253 with 7 home runs. His salary for 2009 was only $500,000 which is a bargain for a veteran extra outfielder.

Jason Bay – In his only full season with the Red Sox, bay hit .269 with 36 home runs and 119 runs batted in. His home runs and runs batted in led the Sox and he scored the second most runs during the season, 103. He does strike out a lot, averaging once per game (162). He was an All-Star in 2009 and declared free agency at the end of the season. He was offered a contract by the Sox but he declined; he eventually signed with the Mets.

Alex Gonzalez – Gonzalez declared free agency after 2009 and is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The infielder, obtained during the season, played shortstop for the Sox and batted .284 in his short time with the Sox. He is a light hitting infielder only made one error with the Sox. He had a 2009 salary over $5 million dollars.

Nick A. Green – The other shortstop for the Sox, Green, is now with the Dodgers. An even lighter hitting shortstop played over 100 games for the Sox at shortstop and was outrighted to the minors at the end of the 2009 season and was declared a free agent. He had only 6 home runs and 35 runs batted in over 300 plate appearances.

Casey Kotchman – Traded to the Sox during the 2009 season, Kotchman had very little impact upon the Sox during his time with the team. He was traded to Seattle after hitting only .218 for the Sox in only 39 games.

Takashi Saito – After the 2009 season, Saito refused his minor league assignment and became a free agent. In 2009, he had appeared in 56 games and had a 2.43 era. He had a WHIP of 1.35, while striking out 52 in 55.2 innings.

Billy Wagner – Coming back from surgery, Wagner came on at the end of the season as a set up man for closer Papelbon. He pitched in 15 and had an era under 2.00. The former closer who averaged over 30 saves per seasons for over a decade wanted to be in that role again. That would not happen with the Red Sox, so he signed with the Braves in the hopes of closing once again.

Other Losses from the 2009 team includes: Brian Anderson, Jeff Bailey, Paul Byrd, Joey Gathright, Enrique Gonzalez, Hunter Jones, George Kottaras, Javier Lopez, Jonathan Van Every, Chris Woodward

Adrian Beltre – Beltre was signed after the 2009 season to take over as the starting third baseman. In this career, he has averaged over 20 home runs per season. He hit only 8 home runs in 2009. The Sox are hoping that Beltre can return to the days of 20+ home runs. He is a former Gold Glove winner, and will take over for Mike Lowell, who the Red Sox are still attempting to trade.

Boof Bonser – The right-handed pitcher was obtained in a trade from Minnesota. In 2008 he started 12 games and appeared in 35 others for the Twins. He did not pitch in 2009, after surgery for a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff. He is a serviceable pitcher who does not make a large salary and is worth a shot on a team that can absorb a roster spot for a pitcher like Bonser.

Mike Cameron – Cameron was signed as the replacement for Bay in the outfield. He is considered an excellent outfielder, with a propensity for striking out. Last season, he had a .250 batting average with 24 home runs and 70 runs batted in. He did strike out 156 times, over one per game. The 37 year old will not only serve as a starter in the outfield, but the Sox also hope that Cameron can serve as a mentor for center fielder Jacob Ellsbury.

Bill Hall – This player that can play many positions was obtained in the trade for Kotchman. He split the 2009 season between the Brewers and the Mariners. He finished the season with a combined .201 batting average with only 8 home runs and 36 runs batted in. During his career, he is a .250 hitter and had hit as many as 35 home runs in a season.

John Lackey – The top free agent pitcher at the end of the 2009 season signed with the Red Sox to bolster their rotation. In his eight seasons with the Angels, he has won 31 more games than he lost in his career, with a 3.81 career era. He has won as many as 19 games in a season (2007) and has pitched over 200 innings in a season five times in his career.

Marco Scutaro – The potential starting shortstop for the Red Sox hit .282 for the Blue Jays, with 12 home runs and 60 runs batted in, in 2009. He had an on-base percentage of .379 during the 2009 season ranking seventh in the American League with 90 walks. He is considered a very good fielder, and the Sox hope that his defense will help shore up an infield that was considered at time “porous”.

Other Gains for the 2010 season include Scott Atchison, Jeremy Hermida, Tug Hulett, Robert Manuel, Ramon A. Ramirez and have signed the following players to minor league contracts; Fabio Castro, Darnell McDonald, Gustavo Molina, Edwin Moreno, Joe Nelson, Chad Paronto, Angel Sanchez, Brian Shouse, Jorge Sosa

2010 Preview: The Red Sox come into 2010 ready to challenge for the American League East Championship. They are hoping that Cameron, Beltre and David Ortiz return to the form they had in previous seasons. They have given up their best power hitter to free agency and are hoping these players can all pitch in to make up for the lost home runs and runs batted in. However, they are also hoping that by adding Cameron and Beltre, they will decrease the amount of runs opponents score as well. They will have five new starters in the field and hope that the decrease in runs allowed will offset the decrease in runs they will score.

In addition to defense, the Red Sox may have the best pitching staff in the American League by adding Lackey to a rotation that includes Beckett and Lester. They have more starting pitchers than pitching slots and have to figure out what to do with Tim Wakefield. Clay Buchholz will be in the rotation and that will leave one spot for Dice-K, Wakefield and anyone else who fights for that role. Wakefield, who could theoretically pitch every night, is more effective as a starter and was an All-Star in 2009. The bullpen is just as strong as it was in 2009 also. If the worst problem a pitching staff has is too many starters, they have very few problems.

The question that concerns Red Sox Nation is “Did we do enough to overtake the Yankees?” Besides the Yankees, the Rays have improved and will fight for a division title as well. Manager Terry Francona has a long season ahead of him, and the Sox should once again make the playoffs and 95 wins is a strong goal for this team to achieve.

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