Why are the Red Sox not ranked higher? There are two teams I would be more scared of in a short series in October. But the Red Sox still meet the Yankees more than 15 times, which means ample opportunity for one team to bury the other in the standings. Let’s not talk any more about the Sox’s terrible start. They have gone 8-4 since and are now within striking distance of the Yankees.
Boston had the talent all along. We know what their lineup can do. Even an aging David Ortiz can still hit 30 home runs. Even a brittle J.D. Drew can still be an elite on-base threat with pop. Jed Lowrie could steal Marco Scutaro’s job sooner rather than later and the Sox would be better off for it. But I haven’t even mentioned the guys I’m excited about.
Last year this Red Sox team was hit harder by injuries than any team I can remember and they still won 89 games in this division. This year, they could still win 95 as far as I’m concerned. I do believe that they can still win the division.
Three big questions plague this offense and I’ll answer them all right here.
Q: Where’s Adrian Gonzalez’ power?
A: Who cares. He’s hitting fine. The home runs will come but be happy they aren’t being replaced with strikeouts. Remember, Gonzalez is a guy who hits to all fields. In Fenway, I expect somewhere between five and 10 potential homers to go for doubles.
Q: Wasn’t Kevin Youkilis supposed to be one of the best hitters in the game?
A: Again, he fell victim to the small sample size. He’s second on the team in OBP (.390) and could lead the team in that category by season’s end.
Q: Is Carl Crawford Boston’s Barry Zito?
A: No, the hits will come. Unlike Zito, Crawford has the peripherals that suggest continued success. He’s only striking out a little more often than he has in years past, he’s only walking a little less often. The hits just aren’t falling in for him (BABIP=.188) but his line-drive rate will rise in time, leading to at least a .270 average by season’s end.
Boston’s pitching has been poor, to say the least, but I still think it will wind up being better than the Yankees’. Jon Lester has pitched like an ace a month before he usually starts to do so. Josh Beckett has rediscovered his dominance. I still don’t know whether I would rather have Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes as opposed to John Lackey and Clay Buchholz in the short term. Jonathan Papelbon has been his old self and Daniel Bard has looked alright. By all accounts, the Red Sox are not a severely inferior team to the Yankees if they are, in fact, actually worse. Expect a long, hard-fought division race and expect Boston to be the Yankees’ biggest obstacle to the division title.