The 2011 Boston Red Sox are begging for us to examine who will be the better offseason addition—Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez? Which player will have a bigger impact in the Fens?
With the acquisitions of Gonzalez and Crawford the Boston Red Sox added quite a bit of talent to their starting squad.
Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron will no longer be starting and instead are replaced by Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury. Oddly enough both Youk and Ells will be moving back to the positions where they originally started, third base and center field respectively.
Youkilis and Ellsbury are an upgrade over Beltre and Cameron, two guys who were brought in as short-term fillers and while Cameron is no longer starting it is good to have him as added depth in an outfield that is certainly not immune to injury.
The shift in positions leaves first base and left field to be patrolled by Gonzalez and Crawford.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the Red Sox are now fielding the starters that were meant to be starting. One exception to this statement would be Marco Scutaro, however Jed Lowrie might very well take over starting duties at shortstop and if so the Fenway faithful will field nine with no temporary replacement plug-ins.
While both acquisitions are huge for Boston, Adrian Gonzalez was the bigger move and here are a few reasons why.
It would be tough to argue that Youkilis is not a slight upgrade at the third base position for Boston in 2011 and to thank for that, the Red Sox have the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez.
Beltre played extremely well for Boston at third base. He was an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award, and came in ninth place in AL MVP voting.
All of that said, in 2009, when Youkilis last had a significant amount of playing time at third base (63 games started) he too was an all-star, and finished sixth in AL MVP voting.
Plus Youkilis only had four errors at third—if you guesstimate that over a full season it would total around 10 errors while Adrian Beltre recorded 19 errors last year.
Another significant reason why Gonzalez was a more vital acquisition is his power behind the plate.
Over a 162-game season Adrian Gonzalez averages 32 home runs and 99 RBI. Carl Crawford, on the other hand averages 14 home runs and only 78 RBI.
Granted Crawford is a base-stealing machine and is usually higher up in the batting order, thus his RBI number should be lower than that of Gonzalez but Gonzo has the ability to change games with the swing of a bat.
He has the ability to do what David Ortiz has done so many times before—hit game-winning walk-off home runs.
The Padres haven’t made the postseason nearly as often as the Rays, but when Gonzalez was there he definitely made the most of the situation.
Maybe a long season is more draining on an outfielder due to the stresses of the position than that of a first baseman. If so that might explain Gonzalez’s better postseason numbers.
In the 2006 playoffs Gonzalez averaged .357 in the batters box.
Rest assured, the Red Sox will be making the postseason much more often than most teams, rendering that kind of power very useful.
Simply put, outfielders are much more plentiful than first baseman. To find a great first baseman like Gonzalez is a more difficult task than to find a great outfielder like Crawford.
This is an instance where fantasy baseball mirrors the MLB.
In most fantasy leagues getting a stud first baseman is one of the most important positions to fill. In addition to the provided plate power the first baseman touches the ball on almost every single play.
Outfielders are plentiful and therefore not nearly as important to the success of a team—fantasy or reality.
It would be logical to think that due to Crawford batting earlier in the order while with the Rays, his RBIwould be lower than that of Gonzo. True to form, they are. This statistic makes sense.
It would also be logical, therefore, to assume that Crawford gets on base more often and steals many more bases (which he absolutely does) than Gonzalez. These facts would suggest that higher runs would offset Crawford’s lower RBI number, but that is not the case.
Gonzalez is a run-producing machine even as a power hitter seated lower in the batting order. It’s Gonzo’s job to drive Crawford home but Gonzo also crosses the plate himself, quite often.
He averages 92 runs over a season while Crawford comes in at a nearly identical 100 run average. Both of these players’ numbers will increase as members of the Red Sox.
Pesky’s Pole is so close these lefties can practically reach out and touch it.
Let’s face facts: The home run is one of the greatest events in sports.
Fans love that at any moment a game can completely turn around with a single swing of the bat. It’s what makes every pitch in baseball exciting.
Even more exciting is when the player at bat is known for hitting dingers.
This is why people bring their gloves to games, why they buy tickets to seats where the ball has a good chance of being hit, and why they make target signs and “hit it here” posters, holding them up while sitting on the green monster.
The home run is a much bigger fan favorite and a much bigger draw to a team and to the game than is base-stealing. Both are needed in order to win games but it is the bat that draws the crowd.
Gonzalez provides Boston with such a bat.
Gonzo’s new home at first base puts the Red Sox in a good position to be able to trade away minor league prospects if, at any point, a void arises.
Prospects like Lars Anderson, a gifted first baseman, that will only be needed in a backup role now that Gonzo is on board, could prove to be excellent trade bait.
Crawford setting up camp below the green monster definitely allows Boston some wiggle room with Mike Cameron and minor leaguers Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick.
The difference however is that J.D. Drew is in the last season of his contract and Jacoby Ellsbury is coming off a huge rib injury.
The Sox are smart to keep all of those outfielders in the Boston system, as they will probably be needed more often than a replacement first baseman.
With Gonzalez sitting pretty in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, Terry Francona has made it nearly impossible to pitch around him or any other slugger for that matter.
Boston has such a hitter-filled batting order that the protection afforded to sluggers like Ortiz and Youkilis by the addition of Gonzalez will pay many a dividend as the season progresses.
Who would you pitch around if you faced Boston's lineup?
Gonzo to get to Youk or Ortiz? Youk to get to Gonzo or Ortiz? You certainly wouldn't pitch around Ortiz to get to Gonzo or Youk—at least not in the first month of the season.
Adrian Gonzalez offers lineup protection that Carl Crawford does not.
There are not many additional reasons pointing to Gonzalez being more vital than Carl Crawford, but one is that Gonzo is younger, if only by several months.
Playing first base is not as physically demanding as playing the outfield so Gonzo’s career and likelihood of injury is significantly reduced.
Add that to the fact that the stork dropped him off at his parents' house a year later than did Crawford’s and you have a player more apt to perform in the two sox uniform at a higher level for a longer period of time.
In summary, both Crawford and Gonzalez are welcome additions in Boston and both will provide plenty of reasons for Fenway fans to cheer. It’s going to be a wicked good time in Beantown this coming season.
In 1960 which Red Sox Hall of Famer hit his final career home run and how many men were on base?