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It's Finally Baseball Season

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After a disappointing 27-13 loss by the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, it's officially baseball season. Let's not talk about the fumbles. Let's not talk about the bad calls by the referees. We'll get 'em next year.

Time to forget about the Tom Bradys, the Tedy Bruschis and the Vince Wilforks until next August. It's time for the David Ortizs, the Jason Variteks and the Trot Nixons.

I feel refreshed already. Baseball is great. I love baseball.

To get everyone's mind off of the Patriots game, let's talk about our new starting second baseman, Mark Loretta.

Loretta has only been the property of the Red Sox for a little over a month now, but I already like this guy and what he brings to the team. He's a true player who just goes out and does his job. He doesn't need to jab his mouth or wear his hat crooked to get attention. He's a true baseball player, just like our missed 3B Bill Mueller.

In this RedSox.com article, Jed Hoyer says "Mark didn't know this, but we've wanted him for a long time. Mark fits our style perfectly the way he grinds out at-bats." Is this true? Let's find out.

I decided to do some research on this matter. I went to Baseball Reference and found the most similar players to Loretta. I had some interesting results, even though my research really has no significance about anything at all. Here's what I found:

Ten Most Similar Batters to Mark Loretta:

1. Randy Velarde
Nothin'
2. Todd Walker
Red Sox 2B in 2003
3. Andy High
Boston Braves 2B/3B between '25-'27
4. Bill Mueller
Red Sox 3B '03-'05
5. Bobby Avila
Red Sox 2B in 1959
6. Mike Lansing
Red Sox 2B/SS between '00-'01
7. Odell Hale
Red Sox 2B/3B in 1941
8. Jerry Priddy
Nothin'
9. Bernie Friberg
Red Sox 2B in 1933
10. Eric McNair
Red Sox 2B/SS between '36-'38

Eight of the ten batters either played second base or were a Boston Red Sox. The majority being second basemen that split time with other infield positions. Another oddity: Avila, Lansing, Hale, and Friberg all played their last season in Boston. Like I said, though, this really has nothing to do with anything. It's just an interesting little fact that I was able to stumble upon. It's some random knowledge that you can add to your arsenal.

Back in May, Marc Normandin from Beyond the Boxscore said this about Loretta:

Let's observe his stats:

Mark Loretta (1995-2005)
Age 23: .260/.327/.380
Age 24: .279/.339/.318
Age 25: .287/.354/.388
Age 26: .316/.382/.424
Age 27: .290/.354/.390
Age 28: .281/.350/.406
Age 29: .289/.346/.352
Age 30: .304/.381/.410
Age 31: .314/.372/.441
Age 32: .335/.391/.495
Age 33: .286/.384/.328

What do we see from this? Mark Loretta has been the same player since roughly his age 25 season, except for with a slight power spike in 2003 and 2004. His batting average went up some, which made everyone go nuts over him, but the key to his game was and still is (as evidenced by a .384 OBP this year) walking. To put it an even better way, my buddy Andrew and I have fought over Loretta in fantasy baseball for the better part of 4-5 years now as a backup second basemen and utility hitter due to his average and OBP help. I italicized his age 26 season to show that he had success in the past that everyone seems to have forgotten about for the most part. 2004 had the biggest power spike of his career, as he hit 16 homeruns, besting his career high of 13 set in 2003, and also hit 47 doubles, which was very unlike Loretta. Here's an interesting Loretta tidbit from 2004 for you:

Home: .295/.373/.496
Away: .368/.406/.494

Loretta actually hit 11 of his homeruns in pitcher friendly Petco Park, and 23 of his 47 doubles there as well. His ability to hit singles was suppressed in Petco, and that is where the .295 home average came from. I find it interesting that Petco gave him his power spike but took away from what he has done his entire career, which is hit singles. At age 33 in 2005, he may just be cooling down what many think of as a two-year career, which we can see is not the truth.

Consistency is something the Red Sox need, and Loretta seems to be Mr. Consistent. He bats for average and enjoys hitting the two-bagger. He'll be doing a lot of that in a park made for extra-base hits. He should a few home runs, also. I'm predicting around ten, unless we see another power surge from his bat.

I'm expecting a great year from Loretta in Boston this season. He may not hit .350, but he's going to be a great addition to a lineup that has seen the loss of staples like Bill Mueller and Johnny Damon. He'll fit in like he's been a part of the team for ten years, and he'll play the same.