With the Yankees making a sudden surge of offensive power and solid pitching, Sox fans are thinking that their seemingly average team will have to contest for the American League Wild Card.
Not so fast.
Not only are the Red Sox in first place, but they are leading the division, despite one home run from David Ortiz, a starting pitching ERA over 5.00, and no everyday short stop.
In terms of Papi’s struggles, the Red Sox offense has been doing fine without his presence, as they are in the top five in almost every offensive category, including batting average and home runs.
Whether or not Ortiz will hit 30-plus home runs is yet to be determined, but I know that he is a competitor and will continue to battle out his situation. He will hit at least 15 homers this season.
The starting pitching for Boston started off absolutely horribly, with the exception of Tim Wakefield. Wakefield has continued to make quality starts, while Brad Penny is becoming more comfortable in Boston.
Josh Beckett has shown his dominant self, as he has gone 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA over his last four starts.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is back from the DL and he figures to give Boston five to six innings of solid pitching on a consistent basis, similar to what he did last year. As he continues to develop, he may start going deeper into games.
Jon Lester has had trouble thus far in the season but he will climb out of the rut he’s in and get into a groove, similar to what he did last year.
At shortstop, Julio Lugo figures to be the starter, but missed a significant portion of the season. He is putting up good offensive numbers so far, and his speed on the base paths is an added bonus. His defense has been bad, but he should get more consistent.
As you can see, the Sox are in first place despite three major problems. However, these problems are fixing themselves, and if the Red Sox can continue the season with consistent offense and a dominant bullpen (3.03 ERA, best in the majors), their starting pitching will right itself, as will struggling players.
Also, Mark Kotsay and John Smoltz will soon be thrown into the mix, adding depth and skill at their respective positions.
Not only is Smoltz on the pitching horizon, but so is Clay Buchholz, who threw a near perfect game at Triple-A Pawtucket two days ago.
When the team is fully straightened out, it will be dominant, and if the Yanks continue to have problems with Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera, and Chien-Ming Wang, they don’t have enough depth to fix their problems.
I had previously believed that New York would take the AL East, but with the teams playing the way they have, I now believe the Sox will hold them off.
The Red Sox are deeper than New York, with a better bullpen, starting pitching, and defense. Good pitching always beats good hitting, and the Sox have enough offense to stick with the best teams in the league.