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It's Baseball Season, Officially.

Celebrate good times...c'mon.

Football season is over. Excluding the overhyped Pro Bowl(least meaningful all-star game in professional sports, including curling and badminton), no more football. No more first downs, no more offensive holding, no more delays of game(well, none that are penalized anyway). And the hope of no more disappointing young arms.

Spring Training is right around the corner. I've been excited for this year's ST since 1989. It's going to be historic. It's going to be meaningful. Our rotation is set and the bullpen has plenty of competition, but I just wanted to ask if anyone else wanted to go and compete for a spot in the Nationals rotation. John Patterson is fairly promising, but who's this TBA guy and how can he pitch four days in a row?

Other than these questions posed by Randy in January, what issues face our Sox?

1. Will Wily Mo see enough PT?

This may be a self-correcting problem. None of our OFs have the best injury history, whether recent(Crisp/Manny) or long-term(Drew). I think he needs to see 400 ABs next season. This might rest on Tito utilitizing Cora as a defensive replacement after Mo hits for Lugo or Pedroia in an RBI spot. His defensive development is a potential issue, and backing up all three spots might not be the best solution. Also, let us know if you think WMP learning 1B is actually a viable option.

2. Can Youkilis develop some more power?

As a leadoff hitter, it was easier for us to overlook the fact that Youkilis is a below-average 1B offensively, by traditional measures. He doesn't hit for a lot of power. This could "hurt" us as a #2, as he will probably see more RBI opportunities with Lugo ahead of him and future OBP machine Pedroia at the very bottom. However, digging a little deeper shows us that Youkilis did just fine with RISP. His BA in those situations was 6th among qualified 1B, just above AL "MVP" Justin Morneau. Still, it couldn't hurt us for Youk to become at least a 20 HR threat. (By the way, while you're at THT, check out that sweet 'Clutch' stat. Behind only Konerko in the AL)

3. Can Beckett get control of his demons, curveball?

We're all thinking it. I'm just voicing it in a pretentious way. We saw the success Beckett had when he mixed his pitches and we saw the rest. It wasn't so much the prevalence of his breaking ball, but the factors of count and situation. As of now, according to the poll, OTM readers have shown the least faith in Josh Beckett. As if I didn't love FanGraphs enough, they decided to add 2007 projections to their season stats pages. Beckett's projections range from a bit too optimistic(Bill James) to a little more realistic. Marcel(4.30 ERA/180.IP) seems about right, with improvement to CHONE-level(4.02/186) in 2008, and so on. As a side note, I've come around a little more to the CHONE projections. Seems intelligent /prudent to not predict stats that are greatly influenced by team play(i.e. wins).

Either way, I think Beckett rebounds a moderate amount. How about you?

4. Will Helton eventually join the Sox?

The Denver Post. Rotoworld speculates:

Could such a statement motivate the Rockies to do the deal with the Red Sox without getting a quality prospect in addition to Mike Lowell and Julian Tavarez? Talks are dead now, but they could be revisited if that's the Rockies' desire.
Could be completely idle speculation, but it seems like it could be more pressure on the Rockies to make some sort of deal.

5. Could Joel Pineiro be a 'replacement-level' closer?

Check out this diary. The point Drugs Delaney and I both make is that backhanded compliments toward Todd Jones are fun. No. Wait. The point was that Pineiro doesn't need to be Papelbon/B.J. Ryan/Mo to be successful. If he saves 35 games with a 3.50-4.25 ERA, is that enough? A quick check to Pineiro's stats and projections shows us two things.

  • Since I love BABIP, I think it's important to note that Pineiro wasn't especially unlucky last season. .329 is close enough to the norm, especially given his overall ineffectiveness last season, to take it as some measure of his ability.
  • The news didn't come quickly enough for most of our projection...ers. CHONE comes up with a realistic set of stats for Pineiro as a reliever. 4.45 ERA, 85 IP, 60 K, 25 BB. That doesn't bode well, but I think it could be a baseline to start from, especially assuming that he is actually better as a reliever.
6. No longer his final season, will a contract or lack thereof affect Schilling in 2007?

I have to assume the answer to this ends up being no, but there are some disturbing parallels between this situation and the Pedro situation in 2004. I'm not too concerned. Two things could happen, in my opinion.

  • We give Curt an extension. He's happy, plays drinking games with Matsuzaka on their off-days, and pitches his ass off to show Matsuzaka/Beckett/Papelbon what being a flame-throwing ace is all about.
  • We don't give Curt an extension. He's unhappy, but also calculating and intelligent enough to know that he'll be pitching for a nice big one-year payday from someone(could still be the Sox). Thus, he pitches his ass off to show Matsuzaka/Beckett/Papelbon/potential suitors what being a flame-throwing ace is all about.
Unlike the awkward Bernie Williams situation in NY, my gut tells me that Schilling will still be a starter with #2 production and an ace mentality at the end of the season. These facts could make a possible departure even more awkward.

That's it. You all might have your own questions. Post them here and you'll surely get a response.