The Red Sox and Yankees have been battling for the AL East so long it is hard to remember anyone other than Tampa Bay Rays actually competing with them. This year has been no different. Honestly, no one outside of Boston or New York particularly cares who wins the division. Both teams are going to the playoffs again and that is all that matters.
Theo Epstein has abandoned his principles some in the past couple of seasons. He added Carl Crawford for a huge sum of money this season and added John Lackey last season. Neither lived up to his advanced billing, but in the new economic order, Boston doesn't have to worry about bad contracts as much as they used to.
Team Payroll: $161.7 million (3rd)
Starting Rotation: 10.1
Composite Ranking: 6.8
Analysis Score: -3.8
The Carl Crawford signing was significantly out of character for Theo Epstein. For one, his style of play doesn't fit the mold of the player the Red Sox typically go for. Most of their players have great plate discipline, and Crawford isn't that player. Moreover, the contract itself seemed really foolish. Crawford is a versatile player who brings a lot of value to the table when all things are considered.
Unfortunately, most of that value is tied up in speed. Speed tends to leave when players start getting into their early 30s. So, we can't hold Crawford's bad season against Epstein, but we can hold the bad contract against him. Otherwise, this is a very good lineup with a lot of patient hitters. Adrian Gonzalez was a stroke of genius, but again, the contract seems a bit bloated.
Red Sox haters were pointing and laughing about Josh Beckett's extension at the beginning of the season. His first two starts were on the rough side. Epstein has the last laugh for now, as Beckett sports a 2.49 ERA over the whole season. He is "only" 12-5 despite the low mark, but this has been his best season as a Red Sox.
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been as good as advertised when healthy. If both are healthy they will settle in as the second and third starters in the playoffs. Buchholz should be back by playoff time, but might not have enough strength to start. That will leave either the ageless Tim Wakefield and/or the struggling John Lackey as the third starter.
Looking at Lackey's numbers, it is hard to fathom how he has a 6.00-plus ERA this year. At any rate, they may have to bite their lip and let him get a start in the ALDS.
We almost forgot the artist formally known as Dice-K. He has been Boston's most famous disappearing act since Harry Houdini. He is out for the season with right elbow surgery, but he still has another year on his contract. Andrew Miller is taking his spot for the time being, but with $10 million on the books, Matsuzaka will likely get another chance.
Epstein tried to make the Red Sox bullpen the deepest in baseball. He already had Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. He turned around and added Dan Wheeler, Bobby Jenks and Matt Albers. So far, none of them have exactly lived up to advanced billing, but at least Wheeler and Albers have been productive. Howry has been yet another disappearing act.
In fact, a look up and down the 2011 roster is a veritable who's who from the past several seasons. Franklin Morales also appears on the list. His numbers have actually been pretty good. Alfredo Aceves might be the biggest surprise of the campaign and all playoff teams have at least one player in each phase that surprises.
Response to Crisis
The injury to Dice-K and the ineffectiveness of John Lackey put the Red Sox behind the eight ball in terms of starting pitching depth. They were able to maintain for awhile, but when Clay Buchholz went down with a stress fracture in his back, Epstein had to act. He had a deal worked out with the Athletics for Rich Harden, but Harden failed his physical. So, he turned to the Mariners and acquired Erik Bedard. Somehow, he passed his physical.
Bedard made six starts as a Red Sox and actually was productive before he went on the shelf. He is officially listed as day-to-day (aren't we all), but he may not make another start this season. The Red Sox will keep him on the postseason roster as a situational lefty. He did bridge the gap between Buchholz and Andrew Miller though.
Analysis Score: -3.8 (22nd)
There is no way that Theo Epstein ranks this low in reality, but when you spend as much money as the Red Sox there is no way you can get bang for your buck. A number of players on the roster have either been ineffective or hurt. In the lineup alone, you have J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford. The mound has more names on that list.
On the other hand, if the AL MVP doesn't go to Jose Bautista, it will likely go to either Adrian Gonzalez or Jacoby Ellsbury. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have also been excellent when healthy.