2011 Boston Red Sox: Five Necessary Changes to Their Starting Lineup
Terry Francona has been given a Ferrari and is expected to drive it into the winner's circle. But to maximize the potential, he will need to take good care of it throughout the rigors of a 162-game schedule.
It would be hard to really screw up this lineup, as stacked as it is, but there are some changes that need to be made to make sure the team runs like a well-oiled machine. He's got the pieces, now its time to put them in the right places.
Bat Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford 1-2
These guys could combine for .300, 30 HR, 150 RBI, 200 runs scored, and 100 stolen bases. There have been discussions of batting Ellsbury ninth, but Crawford has said before that he doesn't like leading off.
Meanwhile, Ellsbury is one of the top-5 leadoff men in the game. He already has a 70-steal season under his belt, and is 100% healthy. Terry, let your horses pull the carriage.
Jed Lowrie Starting at Shortstop
In 171 at-bats, Lowrie posted a .907 OPS. That would have been 13th among ALL players last season. The top shortstop was Hanley Ramirez at .853. He batted .287 with nine home runs, and only made one error at shortstop, for a .986 fielding percentage.
Meanwhile. in 632 at bats, Marco Scutaro batted .275 with 11 home runs and .721 OPS. Scutaro also had a .965 fielding percentage.
Ryan Kalish over JD Drew
In 163 at-bats last season, Kalish batted .252 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases. He was a career .284 hitter in the minors. In 2009 he had 18 HR and 21 SB and in only 293 at-bats in AAA last year he had 13 and 25.
Meanwhile, 13 years older, JD Drew has played 110 or less games in five of his 13 seasons. He has played over 140 just twice, and never since 2006. He hasn't stolen more than five bases since 2004. He hasn't batted over .280 or had or had 70+ RBI since 2006.
He will make for a great bat off the bench, and that should ensure he's available when October rolls around.
Jonathan Papelbon in the Eigth, Daniel Bard in the Ninth
Ignore the saves category, because those are result of opportunity, not necessarily a gauge of the best pitcher.
In 2010, 74.2 innings, Bard had a 1.93 ERA, 1.004 WHIP, and struck out 3.6 per walk. In 2008 and 2009, after they moved him to the bullpen in the minors, Bard had ERAs of 1.51 and 1.12. He had WHIP of .927 and .688 and he had K/9 of 12.4 and 16.3.
Meanwhile, Papelbon in 67 innings last year had a 3.90 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and only struck out 2.71 per walk. He also had seven losses in 65 games. Bard had two in 73 games.
Jason Varitek Catching More
Unless the Red Sox swing a trade, you're not going to get a ton of offense out of either catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's average has gone down four straight years (in part time roles), his OPS has gone down as well.
The veteran, Varitek has never been an offensive force either.
But Salty has thrown out 20% of base stealers in his career. That would have been 79th among all catchers in 2010. Meanwhile, Varitek has thrown out 24%.
The last, and most important thing is handling the pitching staff. Varitek has been working with most of these pitchers for several years, and there is safety in experience. He knows exactly how their pitches move, and can anticipate many mistakes to keep balls in front of him.
Neither can be relied upon to catch 100 games. But, if Boston can't trade for a catcher, Varitek is LESS of liability.