Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Non-Prognostication Declaration

Making predictions about baseball standings is difficult, since comparing team's rosters doesn't give you enough data -- you need to know which players are going to get injured throughout the season.  Which, of course, nobody knows.  So predictions become très dificile.

Looking at the current roster for the 2013 Red Sox, I'd say they can fight for third place in the AL East and be in the hunt for he second wild card spot until the end.  Toronto has too much talent to beat over a 162 game season, and Tampa Bay is good for second place and, likely, the first wild card spot despite trading away James Shields.  The Rays are relying on their tried and true strategy of going to the farm -- the Royals farm system, this time, getting Wil Myers.  The Rays also have a RHP in the minors with 500+ innings of experience to replace James Shields in their rotation.  In the AL East, that leaves the Yankees, Baltimore, and the Red Sox.  The Yankees got older, lost Swisher, have a very old Youk at third for who knows how long, and have to worry about whether career ending injuries find Jeter and Mariano.  Baltimore lived off their bullpen and batters last season, and they lost offensive pop while not upgrading their starting rotation -- I wouldn't be surprised to see them occupy the basement.  And then there's the Red Sox.

But this 2013 Red Sox team is full of question marks.  To digress for a second, it seems that there's a fashion among some General Managers right now that you can take players who have been part-timers for years, but have shown some promise, and suddenly make them full time players.  This mentality was most recently displayed in the A's trade for Jed Lowrie.  Lowrie was a top prospect for the Red Sox, and given ample chances to play full time from 2008 - 2011, but injuries found him.  Ben traded him to the Astros, and injuries found Lowrie there, too -- he only played 97 games.  He hit 16 homers in those 97 games -- thus the taunting promise of him being a great player -- but he's never avoided injury.  I'm not sure what Billy Beane is expecting out of Lowrie, a full season?  Because he's never done it.

This trend of trying to make part time/platoon players full time players has hit the Red Sox, too.  The Rangers tried making Mike Napoli a full time player after acquiring from the Angels, where Mike Scioscia relegated him to being a part time player.  The Napoli experiment worked for the Rangers in 2011, but it crashed in August of 2012 when Napoli's body couldn't handle the rigors of a second straight season as a full time player.  And now, Ben has continued the Napoli experiment by placing him at first base.

Whether it's Napoli or Lowrie, I don't understand why some General Managers are partaking in these risky experiments.  Ben also signed Jonny Gomes, who has only had one season with over 500 plate appearances (in 2010), and he's never had even over 400 plate appearances in any other season.  He's not a full time player, is Ben suddenly expecting him to become one?   And where in the outfield will he play?  Gomes' primary position is left field, but Ben signed Shane Victorino, a center fielder with no range at all, so he'll need to be shifted to left field.  Guess Gomes must patrol Fenway's vast amount of real estate in right field.  So Ben just signed two outfielders to play out of their comfort zones, one of which has always been a part timer player, and the other -- Victorino -- who relies on his speed but he's getting older and didn't have a great effort in 2012.

There's a lot of room for regression there, and we still haven't considered the Stephen Drew experiment at shortstop yet.  His last good season was in 2008.  And on the mound, we're depending on Farrell to make Lester and Buchholz into aces.  Lester might follow suit, but, here's the skinny on Buchholz:

He is, well, pretty fucking skinny.  Buchholz has ace stuff, and he's had plenty of chances to bring himself together to be that ace we're all told he can be.  But when he comes close to 200 IP, he's succumbed to injuries -- most likely because, well, he's skinny. We're depending on a guy with that body to be a staff ace through 162 games and the playoffs.  At this point, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Buchholz hasn't fulfilled the lofty expectations foisted upon him by the organization, but the fact that Red Sox continue to place him upto this task is getting ridiculous at this point.  So, once again, a General Manager is depending on a player doing too much.  

I'd have more confidence in the Red Sox chances in 2013 if they placed Buchholz at the bottom of the starting rotation, promised to skip him for a few starts this season, and got the best out of him by giving him the most relaxed scheduled a starter can receive -- limiting his injury risk.  And, also, if Ben signed Kyle Lohse instead of Ryan Dempster.  C'est la vie

Between whatever injury the Sox have Buchholz pitch himself into this season, Dempster bringing his 5.09 ERA from his stint in Texas to Fenway, and whatever Lackey does, we might be seeing what kind of stuff Rubby De La Rosa has sooner than we think.  One bright spot here, unbelievably enough, is a healthy post-surgery Lackey, and the first pictures coming out of Ft. Myers do show that he's hit the cardio machines hard this offseason.  He definitely has less of a paunch in the middle. 

Ben upgraded the bullpen as well.  The addition of Joel Hanrahan to take over for closer from Andrew Bailey is a plus, since Bailey is great but [ahem] an injury risk.  Anyone [ahem] seeing a pattern here? 

So, before pondering all of these injury issues, the Red Sox have a roster stacked to make a run at the second wildcard spot.  Other teams have injury considerations, too -- Yankees may not have a SS, 3B or closer by the end of 2013; and A's just traded for an experiment, for two examples -- but it's not good for a GM to load a team with injury risk, then say "Go get'em, boys".  On the bright side, seeing some of the prospects play at Fenway is more exciting than watching washed up veterans play anyway. 

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