Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: Boston

In what was a decade of incredible parity, the winners of the most World Series titles in the past ten years was the Boston Red Sox, with titles in 2004 and 2007.  That 2004 championship-winning club is almost entirely dismantled, and the 2007 club is fading away, with Tim Wakefield moving to the bullpen (or worse) and Mike Lowell retiring.  They also lost Adrian Beltre’s .321-28-102 line during the offseason, leaving a big hole to fill in the lineup.  However, the Red Sox rebounded by revamping their offense in a big way.  Hit the jump to see how:

For most teams, losing their top RBI man would be a catastrophic loss that would hamstring them for the entire upcoming season.  The Red Sox, however, took advantage of the salary freed up from the departures of All-Stars Beltre and Victor Martinez to upgrade their team while also getting younger.  I’m not sure which acquisition for the Sox was a bigger coup, so I’ll just go chronologically.  On December 6th, the BoSox replaced Beltre with an even more prolific slugger, trading for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  Gonzalez has three career All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves to go along with a .298-31-101 line last season in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park.  Just as significantly for the Red Sox, who were decimated by injuries last season, Gonzalez has played at least 156 games in every season since 2006.  Though he has only had nine at-bats this Spring so far, his past durability suggests that Red Sox should not worry about the first base position for a long time.

Only two days after trading a reasonable package of prospects for Gonzalez, Boston beat out the Angels and others for the services of speedster Carl Crawford, signing him for 7 years and $142 million.  Crawford has had a mediocre Spring thus far, but he’s brought his wheels with him to Beantown, stealing three bases in only ten times on base.  What the Red Sox are really looking forward to, though, is Crawford’s presence at the top of their lineup on a daily basis.  Crawford is another durable player, which the Sox need in their outfield after Jacoby Ellsbury missed almost the entire 2010 season.  Last year, Crawford (see left) stole 47 bases, drove in 90 runs, and scored 110 more at the top of the Rays order.  Now, Crawford will be in an even better lineup in an even better hitters’ park.  Expect his numbers to get a big boost this season in Boston.  And expect the Red Sox to get a big boost from Crawford, since he’ll be taking the roughly 500 at-bats that were wasted last year on Mike Cameron (.259/.328/.401 in 180 PA) and Darnell McDonald (.270, 9 HR, 34 RBI).  Last offseason the BoSox significantly upgraded their rotation by signing John Lackey and letting their young talent develop; this offseason they’ve done it on the offensive end.  That combination makes the Red Sox a force to be reckoned with in the AL East – and maybe even the favorites.

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