There will be a ton of questions about Boston going into spring training: Can Jon Lester
become a front-line starter again? How will John Farrell juggle his
array of catchers and first basemen? What will the Red Sox get out of Jacoby Ellsbury,
who has been plagued by injury in two of the past three seasons and was
merely the best position player in his league in the other? Is there
going to be regression in the 37-year-old David Ortiz, given his injury issues last season?
But this is what we do know about Boston: The Red Sox are going to wreck left-handed pitching. Let's assume that their talks with Mike Napoli conclude with an agreement, and consider the meat-grinder of right-handed hitters that will await CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Price, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero, et al:
OPS vs. left-handers in 2012
Will Middlebrooks: .906
Dustin Pedroia: .848
Shane Victorino: .906
Jonny Gomes: .974
David Ross: .712
Mike Napoli: .706
There are some very fearsome lefties in the AL East. I love that the Sox are building a lineup to combat that. But when you look at how these same guys fare against righties, while by no means are they terrible, the numbers aren't quite as impressive:
Middlebrooks: .798 Pedroia: .775 Victorino: .627 Gomes: .715 Napoli: .861 Ross: .818
Assuming he eventually does sign, you can probably expect a much higher OPS for Napoli against lefties. In 2011, he had an OPS of 1.049 against southpaws, with a career .911. That's just one of the many reasons I hope the two sides can come to terms.
While it's nice to see Olney ranking the Sox lineup as high as he did, I don't think anybody has any worries about the bats. The Sox are going to hit the ball. They may not lead the league in runs scored, but they'll cross the plate plenty. It's the other half of the game that we're worried about.
And, to Cherington's credit, one of half of the pitching game looks to be top-notch. The bullpen is stocked with talent. It's the rotation that could derail any postseason hopes. Every guy has huge questions marks surrounding him. Can Lester regain his form? Can Buchholz stay healthy and consistent? Can Doubront build upon a solid year? Can Dempster pitch in the AL East? Can Lackey not be awful?
And if one or more of those guys gets hit with an inju--- STOP! I don't even want to think about it.
Rest of the links:
ESPN - Ellsbury headlines arbitration-eligible Sox | Herald - Bronx tale for opener | WEEI - Alex Cora offers a scouting report on Javier Vazquez | Epstein: Sox 'going in a great direction' | CSNNE - Five things the Red Sox need to do | Yahoo! - Red Sox, Mike Napoli in contract stare down; Adam LaRoche appears Plan B for Boston