New Years Wishes for the Red Sox
Just past the offseason equinox and with the new year upon us, it’s as good a time as any to put the 2011 season to bed, if you haven’t already. The collapse will go down in Red Sox lore. Game 162 as part of the greater last day of the regular season will forever reside in Major League Baseball’s canon. Despite the best efforts of some beat writers, chicken and beer will fade in our memories and all of Red Sox Nation will, in time, learn to put the tenures of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, the recently departed, in to perspective. Let’s ring in the new year and dream of 2012! That in mind, we’ve compiled a list of new year’s wishes for the 2012 Red Sox.
- May Carl Crawford regress to the mean.
A career .293/.333/.441 hitter (AVG/OBP/SLG), Crawford saw the ugly side of batted balls in play wreck havoc on his production in his first season with the Red Sox. A .299 batting average on balls in play (career .328) pulled down Crawford’s numbers across the board. He hit just .255/.289/.405. Not only did his base stealing opportunities diminish to a career low of 24, but it ultimately affected his approach at the plate. Evidenced by a 4.3% BB% and 19.3% K%, career 5.3% and 14.7%, respectively, his confidence was clearly dashed.
As his BABIP (batting average in balls in play) regresses to his career mean, Crawford will return to the player that terrorized the Red Sox when with the Tampa Bay Rays.
- May Josh Beckett avoid the curse of the even year.
- May Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, and Rich Hill (but really, all players) avoid an extended trip to disabled list.
Since 2004, as a starter with the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jay before, shortstop Marco Scutaro barely sniffed the disabled list. In 2011, Scutaro lost 26 games to a left trunk sprain. Kevin Youkilis has missed substantial time in each of the last two seasons; in 2010, 56 games to a torn tendon in his right thumb, and in 2011, 20 games to lower back tightness. A sports hernia in the second half of 2011 crippled the third baseman’s production. Ultimately, he was forced to miss a crucial September stretch and undergo the knife.
In Mike Aviles, Jose Iglesias, and Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have quality reserves ready at the helm, but no mix can match the combined offensive and defensive contributions of Youkilis and Scutaro.
Rich Hill, whom the team just resigned to minor league contract, will likely begin the season on the disabled list. Though if he can return, there’s reason for hope. Prior to injury, Hill he was dominant to start the 2011 season. Over eight scoreless innings of relief, Hill struck out 40% of the batters he faced, with a WHIP of 0.75. A small sample, but with Franklin Morales as the team’s current designated LOOGY, if Hill can return, the job is there for the taking.
- May the organization take inspiration from Voltron/Megazord when filling out each day’s lineup.
Career OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) splits:
|v. LHP||v. RHP|
|v. LHP||v. RHP|
- May Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves win the tag-team championship.
The acquisitions of Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey make it clear that the Red Sox plan to give Daniel Bard every opportunity to succeed in the rotation. Bard hasn’t starter since his time at low-A ball in 2007 and hasn’t worked more than 80 innings in his career. To date, we’ve heard no projected inning limits for Bard, but it’s probably unreasonable to expect anything far beyond 25-30 starts and 150-175 innings. Alfredo Aceves, super-reliever, and rotation candidate himself, may better serve the club as the bridge in Bard’s starts to the back of the bullpen. In addition, Aceves could provide Bard occasional days off throughout the season by spot starting for him.
Linking Aceves to Bard would restrict his usage in the days leading up to Bard’s starts, but may maximize the return on both pitchers.
- May expectations for Jacoby Ellsbury be realistic.
It doesn’t take much of a decline in production for the claws to come out of fans and sportswriters alike. Jacoby Ellsbury will be following up arguably the greatest season by a center fielder in Red Sox history. As noted by an unnamed scout in an article for Baseball Prospectus by John Perrotto, “[In 2011, Ellsbury has] become a force at leadoff. He’s improved his plate discipline, he’s learned how to handle off-speed pitches, and he’s starting to turn on pitches. He’s also playing a very good center field. He’s been one of the 10 best players in the major leagues this year.”
Even with an improved plate approach, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be able to sustain an ISO (isolated power) of .230, 78 points higher than his career average of .152. A quick search on Baseball Reference shows us that just twenty players maintained an aggregate .230 ISO over the last two seasons (minimum 1000 plate appearances). Notice the lack of speedy leadoff hitter types. In 2011, Ellsbury found himself in the company of middle of the lineup sluggers that man the corner positions. The average, doubles and steals will remain, but the home runs will take a nose dive. It won’t, however, stop Ellsbury from being one of the best center fielders in the game.
- And may the Red Sox win the 2012 World Series!