2013 Boston Red Sox: Breaking Down Team's Blueprint for Winning the Division
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Red Sox finished in last place in the American League East last season with a 69-93 record, their worst mark as a team since 1967. Having made a number of moves this past offseason, the team hopes they enter 2013 with the right blueprint to win their division.
The core of the team—including Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury—is returning and seeking redemption from the misery of 2012.
The American League East is traditionally known for its competitiveness, and this season will be no different.
Clearly, the Red Sox have their work cut out for them. Fortunately, they have a roster loaded with highly-paid talent and a minor league system boasting a bumper crop of prospects. By using such resources and having a few things go their way, getting back to contention is a strong possibility.
Click though for a breakdown of what Boston’s blueprint should be if they want to make a run at winning their division this season.
The resurgence of Boston's pitching will hopefully start with ace Jon Lester.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
There wasn’t a lot that went right for Boston last season, but their pitching really struggled. Their 4.70 team ERA was 12th in the American League, and the 190 home runs they allowed tied the 1987 Red Sox for the most in team history.
The staff will also get a major boost if ace Jon Lester can bounce back from a career-worst 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA. He’s been pitching well this spring and new Boston manager John Farrell told WEEI’s Alex Speier he can see tangible differences in the lefty from last year.
Veteran right-hander John Lackey is returning from Tommy John surgery and will be counted on to provide stability in the back end of the rotation, which was a black hole last year.
The bullpen may be counted on the most to contribute to a successful 2013 season.
In the span of one offseason the unit went from being filled with injuries and question marks to one that could rank among the best in baseball.
Boston’s deep pen will not only close out close games, but could have the ability to keep things close when the starters falter.
Teams can’t win without solid pitching, so the Red Sox really need their staff to step up this year. If that happens, they will have the best possible chance of winning their division and competing in the playoffs.
The team's overall health would get a big boost if DH David Ortiz can get back in the lineup.
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Although the Red Sox can’t control it, having good health in 2013 is a key component of their blueprint for success.
If they can avoid high incident rates of injuries, or injuries that keep key players out for long stretches, they will have the best chance to gel as a team and play well.
Last season, closer Andrew Bailey, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, designated hitter David Ortiz and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury each missed at least half the season because of injury.
Things on the health front have not started well for the Red Sox so far this spring.
The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported that left-handed pitchers Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales will likely start the season on the disabled list.
Fortunately, none of these early-season injuries have been deemed to be long-term concerns, yet. If the Red Sox can get these players back and avoid more calamitous situations, they will have a better chance of staying in the pennant race.
Contributions from Youngsters
Allen Webster impressed the Red Sox with his overpowering stuff this spring.
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in years, the Red Sox have a collection of prospects who are garnering major attention, according to the Boston Herald’s John Tomase.
The team could benefit greatly by incorporating some of these youngsters into the major league roster as needed and using their energy and enthusiasm as a catalyst.
Both pitchers, especially Webster, impressed during spring training before being optioned to the minors, where they’ll start the 2013 season. They could be plugged into either Boston’s rotation or bullpen at any point this year if the team needed a replacement or upgrade.
Another prospect who figures to factor into Boston’s plans in some way is outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Entering camp, it appeared he would start the season in the minors, but a hot spring has the Red Sox still debating where he will be in April, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
Bradley could be the best in-house option to replace designated hitter David Ortiz if he is out for an extended period of time with his heel injury. While the youngster isn’t a power hitter, he is an on-base machine and is extremely poised for a 22-year-old.
The Red Sox have been much more of a veteran team in recent seasons, but allowing some of their prospects to show their stuff could be just what is needed to help in the pennant race this year.
Avoid Internal Drama
Boston needs better team harmony in 2013 if they hope to compete.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The 2012 season was the one and only year of the Bobby Valentine managerial experiment in Boston.
The Red Sox not only lost 93 games under his watch, but suffered through an onslaught of drama that often focused on Valentine and ultimately led to his dismissal after the end of the season.
The media jumped all over stories like Valentine’s criticism of veteran Kevin Youkilis, his skewering at the hands of various players and a blowup with Alfredo Aceves that led to a three-game suspension for the pitcher.
Such distractions could not have helped during the trying season, and a repeat must be avoided.
Manager John Farrell returns to the team after having served as their pitching coach from 2006-2010. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo believes that his familiarity with the franchise, city and many of the team’s veterans is a good combination.
Boston also placed an emphasis this offseason on creating a positive clubhouse culture by bringing in experienced players known for their behind-the-scenes leadership.
Outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes and pitchers Ryan Dempster and Joel Hanrahan were among the new additions acquired in part because of their reputation as good teammates.
The best policy for the Red Sox if they hope to contend in 2013 is making headlines on the field instead of off it. If they can do that, they will accomplish a major component of their blueprint to success.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference