Spring Postcard: Retooled Red Sox looking for balanced approach
The Red Sox players have, and they're not too keen on the label. "Run prevention" is supposed to mean an emphasis on good pitching and defense, but all the Sox seem to hear is what's unspoken: a supposedly weak offense. That's because middle-of-the-order hitter
"It's a way to put something negative on this team, to say that we won't score that many runs," first baseman
By at least one metric, Baseball Prospectus'
In addition, more than a third of Boston's starts (55, to be exact) last season were made by pitchers whose season ERA was 5.60 or higher (a collection of seven pitchers headlined by
The organization's broad goals include being among the league's best in each of the three main areas of hitting, pitching and defense and to win 95 games -- a lofty but realistic total that typically guarantees a playoff berth. Boston has won 95 in six of the last seven seasons after having done so only once in the previous 24 years. The changes, Epstein says, "weren't a wholesale shift [in philosophy]. It was just an attempt to restore balance and fix some of the issues from last year's club."
The downgrade from Bay to Cameron in the lineup is significant, even if the latter has hit at least 20 home runs in four straight seasons. Otherwise, replacing Lowell with Beltre is essentially a wash, and there are significant offensive upgrades at catcher (
On June 5 of last season, Ortiz, the venerable designated hitter for the Red Sox, had just one home run and a .188 batting average. He had been dropped from third to sixth in the lineup two weeks earlier. From that point forward Big Papi smacked 27 homers, the most in the AL, and batted .266 -- still below his standards, but far more respectable than to that point. Ortiz arrived in camp this spring looking more fit, perhaps motivated by the $12.5 million 2011 club option that's at stake. So far this spring Ortiz has only one hit in 11 at bats, not counting his homer against the college kids. That's a troubling lack of results, but the encouraging sign was that the one hit was an opposite-field single. Ortiz didn't go the other way much last year, so that could be a sign that he's more comfortable at the plate.
While it's hard to consider an All-Star closer a sleeper, Papelbon's save and ERA stats (38, 1.85) masked some troubling trends. In 2009 he walked a career high (24, three times as many as in '08) and posted his highest WHIP since his rookie season (1.15). His season ended by blowing a save in ALDS Game 3 against the Angels, allowing his first postseason runs after throwing 26 scoreless innings to start his playoff career. A key reason for those declines was his reluctance to throw anything but his high-90s fastball. But this spring Papelbon has announced a renewed commitment to his splitter, a pitch whose use
The first decision made by Kelly, 20, a first-round pick in 2008, was whether he was going to play football or baseball; in July of that year he signed with the Red Sox rather than accepting a scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee. His next decision, made a year later, was about a position. He was such a talented pitcher and shortstop that the Sox allowed him to play both in his first year of pro ball, but in December he decided to focus on pitching. He has only thrown three innings this spring (and one of them was against Northeastern University), but he's allowed only one baserunner and made quite an impression in his last outing. "Even the umpire, between innings, was like, 'How old is that kid?'" relayed Francona. "He's very mature. He stays in his delivery, uses all his pitches and he stays down. It's a good combination." Kelly is expected to start the season in Double-A.