MLB: Adrian Gonzalez and Why the Red Sox Are Heading to the World Series
After a 0-6 start, the red hot Red Sox have bounced back to have one of the best records in the MLB. Boston was preseason favorites coming into the season, and midway through June they are proving why.
Looking to play in their first World Series since 2007, Boston received a major facelift after acquiring slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signing former Tampa Bay Ray star Carl Crawford to a heavy contract. While Gonzo has proven to be great, putting up MVP numbers, Crawford is still trying to find his place in the stacked Boston lineup.
This is a team that has been in contention over the past decade, but this year looks to be the most promising in recent memory to the Fenway Faithful.
Leading the MLB in runs, batting average, and RBI, the Red Sox look poised to be playing in October.
The Resurgence of Josh Beckett
At 31, Josh Beckett is on his way to completing his best season in the Majors and helping the Red Sox fight for the AL East.
After a bad year of being injured and putting up terrible numbers in 2010, the right hander looks to have rebounded with a little bit of fire in him. Beckett posted his career worst ERA last year, and is on his way to having his career best in 2011.
Closing in on the All-Star break, Beckett is a prime candidate for the coveted Cy Young award, posting a career best sub 2.00 ERA and a 6-2 record. While the win numbers aren't dazzling, he has still pitched in three dominating games against the rival New York Yankees.
He is on pace for over 160 strikeouts, and has also had an impressive WHIP of .094.
His great numbers have made up for a Boston rotation that has been less than stellar. As long as he can remain healthy he should be able to anchor the Red Sox into the post season. Even better, he has shown how clutch he can be in capturing two career World Series championships.
David Ortiz Isn't Done
After putting up lackluster numbers for a few seasons, Ortiz has bounced back the last two years, and is on his way to his second straight All-Star game.
Big Papi is on his way to batting over .300 for the first time since 2007 and his RBI and power numbers are still very impressive. Hitting .300 with 35-plus home runs, and 125-plus RBI is looking like a real possibility for the aging DH.
While being considered a fan favorite in Boston, his leadership and off the field contributions are vital to the teams success.
Adrain Gonzalez Is the Early Favorite for AL MVP
Gonzo has been instrumental since landing in Boston. So far this year he has crushed opposing pitchers, and is the favorite to win the MVP coming to the All-Star break.
Adrian Gonzalez has been a great on field leader for the Red Sox, and is keeping a great composure off the field as well. While many questioned how he would do on a big market team, he is answering critics with powerful numbers.
Leading the AL by a wide margin in batting average and RBI, he has led the high powered Boston line up to contention. Don't forget he also has 15 home runs.
The two time Gold Glove winner is also putting together another good year at first with a fielding percentage of .997.
If Gonzalez can put up a 30-plus home run, 100-plus RBI and .300 batting average year, he will have a high possibility in completing his first MVP season.
Youkilis & Pedroia
Two of the center pieces of the 2007 World Series team, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia will be crucial to the Red Sox success.
After a injury cost the Red Sox third baseman the end of his 2010 season, he has bounced back only missing five games so far this season.
Youkilis is one of the better defensive third basemen in baseball, and his hitting isn't too shabby either. He will threaten for 25-plus homers and 90-plus RBI this year. While his average isn't as good as it has been over the past few years, the two time All-Star is primed to get it going sooner than later.
Former Rookie of the Year and MVP winner Dustin Pedroia also had his 2010 campaign cut short due to injury. He comes back this year looking to put the Red Sox back into the playoffs.
While Pedroia isn't the biggest power threat in the league, he is always trouble at the plate. This year he has increased his walks total significantly, and he has always had an impressive strikeout total. He is truly one of the hardest outs in baseball.
If both can stay healthy, they will play maybe the biggest role in helping their team win games. Both are also top five candidates to win another Golden Glove this year as well.
Jon Lester Is Winning Games
It doesn't seem like Jon Lester is putting up his best season in the MLB, but he does have a team high nine wins.
Through 16 games, the lefty's strikeout numbers are slightly down from the last two seasons, and his ERA is slightly higher. But Lester gets better as seasons progress, so this can still end up being his best campaign yet, maybe a 20-win season.
If he keeps winning and lowers his ERA, he will be right there with Josh Beckett in the race for a Cy Young award.
Carl Crawford Will Find His Place
Great hitters can hit anywhere they go. Unfortunately, it's taking outfielder Carl Crawford a little longer than expected. Most recently he has found himself on the DL with a hamstring injury.
While having an on base percentage of under .300 for the first time since his rookie year, Crawford has not been able to show his effectiveness on the base paths this year. But if he can worry about raising his average and having a better eye at the plate, he can still threaten for 30-plus steals this year.
Look for him to comeback from the DL and make a statement. If he does, he will give opposing pitchers a fit.
They Are Battering the Yankees
To be 8-1 on the season against a team is impressive, but against the New York Yankees it's a statement. Boston has dominated baseball's greatest rivalry this year, spanking them eight games out of nine, and seven straight.
Slugger David Ortiz continues to be a thorn in the side of New York, most recently having words with Joe Girardi over the bat flip. If you continue to give him motivation, he will continue to crush you.
While New York has a powerful lineup, it's no secret that their rotation is not solid.
C.C. Sabathia is the only All-Star caliber pitcher that can put together a full, solid year, and the Red Sox have put three losses on his record this year. If you can't get the anchor of the rotation to have great games in important series, odds are no one else will.
If you want to win based on the long ball, the Yankees are the team to look at, but the rotation and shaky bullpen the have will be there downfall come playoff time.
Anyway you put it, this team is dangerous. The Red Sox do have a few obstacles they should pay attention to however.
The short stop position has not been filled successfully since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra. Jed Lowrie showed a lot of promise earlier this year before faltering and landing on the DL. Marco Scutaro isn't a franchise short stop, although you don't mind him as a back up. Is it possible that young Jose Iglesias is the answer for the club this year?
The bottom of the rotation has struggled as well.
A Cy Young candidate last year, Clay Buchholz has not put up numbers to his potential and recently been placed on the DL. If the Red Sox want a great rotation, Buchholz could be the key if he gets it going.
John Lackey has been utterly terrible every since arriving in Boston. Posting an ERA over 7.00 could land the once ace in the bullpen.
Right field is also a concern that should be looked into. J.D. Drew is someone who never lived up to his potential and this year he is showing why. Batting .232 to this point in the year, the injury plagued J.D. Drew is someone the Red Sox should look into replacing in the line up. Could one of the young outfield prospects the Red Sox have be ready to shine the the big leagues?
While these aren't issues that will keep them away from the World Series, they are the most complete team in baseball. A lot would have to go wrong for this team for them to miss October baseball, but things have been falling their way as of late.
Boston will bring a World Series trophy to Fenway for the third time in eight years in 2011.