When 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies to boost an already stacked starting rotation, many people started handing them the 2011 World Series championship.
Not so fast though. Another very good team has also made some huge moves this offseason. Of course, I am speaking of the Boston Red Sox, who traded for All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signed All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford.
Keep in mind that despite having a very banged up team all year and missing the postseason, Boston still won 89 games. With these additions they are going to be much, much better in 2011. In fact, I think they’re going to be so good that they should easily be the favorites in the MLB.
For starters, they still have a great pitching rotation. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were both great last year, anchoring the staff. Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka all had their struggles last year, though.
I can almost guarantee that Beckett and Lackey will bounce back next year, and put up very good numbers. You never know what to expect from Daisuke, but he could also deliver a great year.
You could make a very convincing argument that Boston’s rotation is better than Philly’s, and quite frankly, I think it is.
Sure, Halladay and Lee are a better 1-2 punch than Buchholz and Lester, but not by a lot. I do believe that Beckett, Lackey, and Matsuzaka is a better 3-5 part of the rotation than Oswalt, Hamels, and Blanton.
This is partially because I look at Oswalt as a great National League pitcher, but if you put him in a big game against a great American League lineup, I don’t like his chances. After that, Hamels is good, but I think both Beckett and Lackey are better. I also like Matsuzaka over Blanton in the 5 spot, which could be very important.
As far as the bullpen goes, this is obviously in Boston’s favor. The Phillies' entire pen is shaky. The only guy you can count on to deliver solid numbers is set-up man Ryan Madson. Brad Lidge is one of the most inconsistent closers there is, and the rest of their bullpen is really just a mess.
Boston’s bullpen is anchored of course by Jonathan Papelbon. Sure, Lidge had a better ERA last year, but Papelbon had 37 saves, 10 more than Lidge. I’d much rather hand the ball over to Papelbon in a one run game. Daniel Bard is also an excellent set-up man, posting an ERA under 2 last year, with 32 holds.
Now, to the lineups of these two elite teams. As far as the Phillies lineup goes, I really think they lost a huge piece of the puzzle when Jayson Werth decided to sign with the Nationals.
Sure, they still have Utley and Howard as power presences in their lineup, but they no longer have a big power threat right handed bat. This means they’ll either have to slide Polanco up to fifth or will be forced to bat three consecutive left handed hitters in the middle of the order, which will be much easier for a bullpen to manage.
The Phillies still have Rollins, Victorino, Howard, and Utley, but I think the loss of Werth could be very costly.
The Red Sox lineup, however, is very balanced.
They now have great speed in their order with Crawford and Ellsbury, and will be running all over teams next year. The middle of their lineup is also going to be stacked, with power threats Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youikilis, J.D. Drew, and David Ortiz.
You also can’t forget about possibly the best all around player on the team in second basemen Dustin Pedroia, who should be able to hit well over .300 and drive in a good amount of runs.
All this comes from a Yankees fan. While most people will consider Philadelphia favorites, I think it will be Boston holding the trophy come next early November.