Boston Red Sox: 5 Players Who Will Perform Better in 2013
The Boston Red Sox and their fans would love to forget about the 2012 season. The team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and is only half a game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the battle to avoid finishing last in the AL East.
Condemned to their first losing season in 15 years, the Sox now have to turn their attention to the future, while also trying to avoid their worst record since 1966. To do that, they must win five of their last 12 games.
But for now, let's look forward to next season. GM Ben Cherington has a lot of work to do in rebuilding this team, but we know many of the players who will be here next April—some of them have had a 2012 season that was either slightly disappointing or downright abysmal.
Going with the paradigm that the team's ace is the man who is given the ball on Opening Day, Jon Lester is meant to be this rotation's top guy. From 2008-2011, he had four straight solid seasons, with at least 15 wins, 190 IP and an ERA below 3.47.
This year, he is 9-12 with a 4.95 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. The recently-traded Josh Beckett is the only other Sox starter to pitch at least 60 innings and have a worse ERA this year.
If he can be the pitcher everyone thought he could be—or even something close—Boston would have a decent one-two punch again in Clay Buchholz and Lester.
Injury cost Jacoby Ellsbury almost the entire 2010 season. In 2011 he finished runner-up in the MVP voting. In 2012, injury struck him again, as he subluxed his shoulder on a clumsy accident at second base.
He started slowly in his return from the DL, perhaps due to some residual pain or rust, but has played better in September. He has hit .323 this month, but the power he exhibited so often last season is still notably absent. Still, there's no reason to doubt he can produce at a high level if he stays healthy in 2013.
Dustin Pedroia has had a mediocre season. He has not been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but this is not the Pedroia who won the 2008 AL MVP.
Every stat is down from a year ago, with his average, OBP, slugging percentage and wOBA all falling by between 20 and 40 points. He has six fewer home runs, 25 fewer runs, 29 fewer RBI and 10 fewer stolen bases.
He has had a great second half, though, batting .337 in August and September with five more home runs in 10 fewer games.
The experiment did not work. Daniel Bard made 10 starts in 2012, his first big league attempt at pitching in the rotation.
After a June 3 start against the Toronto Blue Jays in which he was so wild he could actually have killed someone, Bard was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. There he stayed for almost three months, but even on his return, he hasn't been the same guy he was in 2011.
On Wednesday night, the wildness returned. In a third of an inning, Bard allowed three walks and a single, throwing 16 pitches—of which only four were strikes. He was eventually charged with three runs to push his ERA to 6.33 on the season.
Since his August 31 return, his ERA stands at a sickening 24.30 mark. He has allowed a run in 15 of his 16 appearances this year.
There's no real evidence showing he is capable of a turnaround, but with a clearly defined role next season (standard middle reliever) and a whole offseason to work on things, one must be confident he can fix himself.
John Lackey will never be worth the $82.5 million the Red Sox invested in him before the 2010 season. Since he led the league in ERA in 2007, he has gotten progressively worse each season, culminating in a 6.41 mark in 2011.
Tommy John surgery sidelined him for the entire 2012 season, which was probably addition by subtraction for the Sox, who will be hopeful for a decent Lackey return next April.
Guys tend to throw a little harder when they come back from Tommy John, so his velocity might pick up a little. If he can get through 200 innings while winning 15 games, Boston would probably take that.