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Boston Red Sox Analysis: The Main Concern Down the Stretch

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Boston Red Sox Analysis: The Main Concern Down the Stretch
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox are 17 games over .500, hold the best record in the American League, and are 8-0 this season against their bitter rivals, who also happen to hold the next best record in the AL—the New York Yankees.

So, is there anything that could prevent them from their third championship of the decade?

Possibly.  The ironic part is that it is the same trait that has led them to where they are now.

That trait being depth.

I challenge you to come up with a deeper and more versatile team in baseball today than the Boston Red Sox.

Kotsay, Baldelli, Green, Lugo, and even Kottaras have all produced at high levels in whatever timeshare they may be involved in.  Those first four, along with Youkilis, Ellsbury, and Lowrie (when he comes back) are all more than capable of playing multiple positions.  

Beckett, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz, Masterson, Matsuzaka, and Bucholz are all quality Major League starting pitchers.

The bullpen boasts names such as Papelbon, Okajima, Ramirez, Saito, Delcarmen, Masterson, and Bard and all have been lights-out thus far.

It has been beautiful to watch; each and every man doing their job when called upon to create one, big, seamless Boston Red Sox team.

Terry Francona has quite the life as a Major League manager.  It is almost like when you're given an essay topic in school and the teacher says there are no wrong answers.

Tito has 25 possible buttons to push, and there are no wrong answers.  

This awesome depth has been the biggest reason for the Sox' success in '09; however, it could be their Achilles heel come October.  

On the surface, it may seem like the Red Sox are the deepest team in baseball, but that is the crude trick that the regular season plays on teams.

The whole year, Francona has been plugging guys in and out of the lineup like running backs in a Mike Shanahan offense and has been pitching guys out of the bullpen to "give them their turn" rather than basing it on the game situation.

And who could blame him? As long as they continue to produce like they have been, he is doing his job.  I'm not trying to knock Francona or the way he has managed, I just have my doubts as to how this style of play will translate over into the playoffs.  

It may be easy to pitch Takashi Saito in the seventh inning of a close game in the regular season, but will Francona be as loose in the playoffs? Will Julio Lugo be getting spot starts in the ALCS?

These are my questions.

And if the answers are "no", then the style of play that has brought the Red Sox so much success in the regular season will be non-existent in the playoffs.  

Look at the rotation.  I named eight capable starting pitchers, but how many of these guys would you trust in the playoffs?

Beckett and Lester.

After that, there are some huge question marks.  

Sure Wakefield is throwing well, but there's no chance I trust him starting a game against the Angels or Yankees in the playoffs.  

What about Brad Penny? Where does he fit into the equation?  Does he come out of the bullpen, or is it realistic to think he could start a postseason game? And even if he does, a team with Brad Penny as their third playoff starter doesn't appear to be so deep to me.

There is still time for both Smoltz and Matsuzaka, but as of now, the Red Sox don't exactly know what they are going to get from either one of them.  To me, one or both of these two guys emerging as a good postseason starter would be the biggest news for the team.  

The Yankees do not have close to as deep a rotation as the Red Sox, but as of now, they appear to be more prepared to pitch in the postseason with four solid options: Sabathia, Burnett, Chamberlain, and Pettite.  

Having lots of options is great in the regular season, but when it comes down to playoff time, I want to have nine great hitters, four great starting pitchers, one or two great set-up guys, and a lights-out closer.  

Depth is great for winning regular-season games, but unless the Red Sox take advantage of it to secure a better playoff roster, they may not turn out to be the heavy favorites they appear to be now.

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