Note: I haven't a shred of dislike for the Red Sox, so please don't think this is a biased post meant to disparage the Red Sox. Rather, think of it as a plea for you all to savor every moment of this season, and enjoy the fun while it lasts. Please, take the time to read this and leave me a comment!
Well folks, we've reached the magical time of year known as Soxtober. I know you're all as excited as I am. I can see big things happening this season.
Unfortunately, mankind, especially those of the sports community, are quite a pessimistic bunch. Not one to miss an opportunity to conform, I took some time to contemplate the framework of next season's team, and established that it is not going to be quite the same team we've had the pleasure of watching here.
So, let's take a look at some things that are going to go on in the offseason.
The Good News:
Multiple returning veterans
The Bad News:
Many of the key pieces set to, and likely to, leave.
"What?", you say? Yes. An intact rotation is both a strength in weakness. There's an obvious strength in that this team's chemistry was something to be envied; any amount of turnover is a great one.
But while all of the pitchers in the starting rotation have seen flashes of brilliance, each has a significant weakness. For Jon Lester, it's long periods of inconsistency. Clay Buchholz, weakness/low pain tolerance. John Lackey, road ineptitude. Peavy, start-to-start inconsistency, diminished velocity. Felix Doubront, that pesky 160 inning wall.
No, I'm not forgetting somebody, bear with me.
Let's weigh pitching for a moment.
Jon Lester, LHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP
John Lackey, RHP
Jake Peavey, RHP
Felix Doubront, LHP
Ryan Dempster, LR
Franklin Morales, MR
Craig Breslow, SU
Junichi Tazawa, SU
Koji Uehara, C
As you can see, there's a glaring hole in MR, and another possible MR/SU guy. I don't expect to see many of the guys we saw this year. However, I believe Morales, if he can stay healthy, will be a fantastic weapon. Breslow, if he can continue to be quietly dominant, will be great in the setup role. Taz, however, is where it gets interesting.
If we see the same issues with Junichi Tazawa that we saw this year, I could see him dropping to middle relief and having Morales move to the 8th inning.
"Ryan Dempster as a long reliever, you say? John Farrell specifically said that he wouldn't be." Yeah, well, the offices said that Jose Iglesias was the shortstop of the future. And he is... just not where we thought. Things change.
Now I would agree that paying nearly $14 million for a long reliever is ludicrous, and a trade to a low-mid level NL team could be effective and realistic.
That, however, would follow the one egregious oversight that has been consistent amongst fans this season. You cannot forget that this team is not built on talent.
Which brings us to next year's lineup...
Now, I love a great lineup as much as the next guy, and this year's Sox have provided us with just that.
But then, when you take a deeper look at this lineup, you notice something...
Stephen Drew has provided extremely underrated defense (8 errors all year) and WMB's Isolated Power is hilariously high. Yes, they've contributed to this team in different ways.
But let's be realistic. Look at these two players' offensive WAR. The Red Sox had the most prolific offense in baseball this year, with two barely above average offensive players in there.
This is the benefit of having a lineup with 6 players all around the .300 mark. (Ells, Vic, Pedey, Papi, Nava, Carp)
So there's been a large call for change here. Now, I'm a big Drew guy. Love him as a player. And he's gonna be wearing a red jersey next year...
..,only it'll have a bird on it.
Taking this all into account, let's look at Free Agent Departures (okay, I lied, that last segment wasn't on next year's lineup quite yet):
Jacoby Ellsbury. I'm sorry guys. I have an enormous man crush on Mr. Ellsbury. I love him as a player, and he's gorgeous. But realistically, this team is not going to dish out the contract this guy wants, especially since he contributes absolutely nothing to the character of this clubhouse. In fact, he may be a detriment, in that he plays for himself only.
Mike Napoli. If I had said this a month or two back when he was striking out in, oh, approximately 1403% of his at-bats, there wouldn't be too much tumult. But now that he's hit his stride again, and the news that he has a fairly serious foot injury that is a big detriment to baseball players has garnered some sympathy, it seems that Nap's a fan favorite again. Take that into account, along with the fact that he is one of the biggest character guys in Boston, and this will prove a costly loss.
Their replacements? This is where it gets fun.
This is a Red Sox office that wants to create the team of the future, the next great Red Sox team. And we all know what that means...
The entire Pawtucket lineup gets to start next year!
...okay, so it's not quite that dramatic...
But Ellsbury is going to be succeeded, unfortunately, by Jackie Bradley Jr. I say unfortunately because while JBJ is a great talent, he's really not ready to be here. Granted, his defense is fantastic, his baserunning instincts are fantastic, and his hitting has been much better as of late. But he's still raw. He's not going to hit .300, and he's most certainly not going to steal 52 bags with a 90+% success rate, nor any semblance of that.
First base? Say hello to Jose Dariel Abreu, kiddies. There are problems with going from Nap to Abreu. These would include going from the statistically best defensive 1B in the American League and a proven hitter who is also extremely clutch, powerful, and fun to be around to a player whose fielding is an enormous liability, is unproven facing Major League pitching, and has no previous indication that he can be successful at the ML level, despite his gaudy numbers in other leagues.
So, let's take a REAL look at the 2014 lineup!
Shane Victorino, RF (note: I originally typed RG as Shanf's position. I missed the NFL.)
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Daniel Nava, LF (I expect another Nava/Gomes platoon with occasional Carpage, however Nava is the guy)
David Ortiz, DH
Jose Dariel Abreu, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Don't kid yourselves. This guy loves Boston. Isn't going anywhere. Know what? Good.)
Will Middlebrooks, 3B (If he doesn't get back into the .300 hitter we saw after his return from the minors, I want him out)
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Xander Bogaerts, SS (Yeah... let's take a look at his average ever since his first home run. Not positive, but strong feeling that it may be .000 with a 100% whiff rate)
So look at this lineup. Kids galore, a fresh face smack in the middle, and tumult up top.
Yeah, I'm not too confident that this team can succeed at the rate this year's team did.
The big character guys on this year's team are Nap, Gomes, Peavy, Ross, Demp, Shanf and Drew (both supremely underrated in their clubhouse contributions.)
Welp, in this realistic scenario, Nap and Drew are out, possibly Demp. That's a big chunk of the core of character that made this team.
Tl;Dr (to which I wouldn't for a second blame you... got a little carried away):
Don't expect a 97 win team next year. Too many issues, and too much ignorance of the fact that character made this team what it is.
That said, go Sox, forever and always. I hope to see you all sporting your Soxtober gear come the Fall Classic.