Why the Boston Red Sox Will Not Win the AL East in 2011
Major free agent pickups will not be enough
The Red Sox were one of the biggest players in the offseason battle over star free agents. They looked especially victorious considering how little their rival Yankees managed to do, which is the first time in a decade the Yankees haven't made any major free agent signings in an offseason. Let's take a look at who the Red Sox picked up and how it will help them improve on their third place finish from last season:
Adrian Gonzalez - The Red Sox signed him away from the Padres, where Gonzalez averaged about 35 home runs and 100 RBI a season while also earning Gold Gloves at first base. This was especially impressive considering how massive the Padres home park is and how hard it is to hit home runs there. Gonzalez's wins above replacement for the past two seasons was 7.0 and 6.3, which is MVP territory. The general consensus is that he'll do even better in Boston, as Fenway Park is more favorable to him and he'll have a better lineup around him, including Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Kevin Youkilis hitting in front of him and David Ortiz hitting after him. That should provide a lot of RBI opportunities.
Carl Crawford - Crawford is a multi-tool player. Last season he had a career best 19 home runs and led the American League with 13 triples. Expect him to hit more triples thanks to Fenway's quirky dimensions. Crawford also won a Gold Glove last season. One of the overlooked benefits of the Crawford signing is that the Red Sox will no longer have to face him. He has destroyed the Red Sox on the basepaths, stealing 26 bases against them just in games at Fenway Park. In fact, Crawford has only been caught stealing once in his career at Fenway!
What the Red Sox lost
The Red Sox did not re-sign third baseman Adrian Beltre. This was expected, as the Gonzalez signing moves Kevin Youkilis over to third base and there was no longer room to play Beltre, but his bat will be missed in the Red Sox lineup. People may not have recognized it, but he was one of the top 5 most valuable players in the American League last season. He hit .321 with 28 home runs and 49 doubles, and he was an above average fielder.
If Adrian Gonzalez has the huge season people are expecting of him, he'll just manage to cover the loss of Adrian Beltre.
Why Carl Crawford is Overrated
Carl Crawford is one of those guys who people think is great because he appears to be good at all facets of the game. The truth is, he's got some major faults. For one, he doesn't get on base nearly enough. His career on base percentage of .337 is terrible for anyone who doesn't hit 45 home runs a year. His best skill is his speed, but he's got to get on base to use it. He's a great player, but he isn't worth what the Red Sox are paying him.
Red Sox pitching - a bunch of has-beens?
The Red Sox starting rotation includes Jon Lester, the ace. He's solid, and I expect big things from him this year.
#2 is John Lackey. He's overrated. He used to be an ace, but only on teams that didn't have a real ace. He's never been a great pitcher, despite the hype.
#3 is Clay Buchholz. He's good enough to be an ace on some teams.
#4 is Josh Beckett. He was a great pitcher... about 7 years ago. He's been inconsistent and battle injuries in recent years. Don't expect him to do much better than .500 pitching this season.
Dice-K was dominant for a season or two, and since then he's been consistently inconsistent. Remind you of anyone? Oh right, every single Japanese starting pitcher who has ever played in the major leagues. I guess hitters just get used to the wacky windups after a while.
Daniel Bard is the best guy we've got in the bullpen and he's entering the prime of his career.
Jonathan Papelbon was better than Mariano Rivera for about a 4 year stretch. That's saying a lot. Unfortunately, he started to really flake out last season. I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't the Red Sox closer by the end of this season.
Who will win the AL East?
I hate to say it, but the Yankees are going to win the division this year. They are looking more and more like that rag tag bunch that dominated in the late-1990's. The back end of their pitching rotation is suspect, but they make up for it with good fielding (with the exception of Derek Jeter, who has zero range) and a lineup that is an excellent mix of speed and power.