With opening day less than a week away, it is time to really take a look at this Sox team...as an impartial observer.
It would be difficult to not expect a lot out of Schilling, Beckett, and Daisuke. Barring any injuries, it is not a stretch to think that each of them could pitch well enough to get to 15 wins. By the way, Daisuke was ticked about his last spring training start despite not giving up a hit. That's what I like to see...
Wakefield will probably be Wakefield. He'll go through streaks when he is untouchable, and get lit up at other times. 10-12 wins...That isn't unreasonable.
Tavarez. Definitely an unknown. He claims not knowing what his role was last year really threw him off. But if he pitches at .500 with a 5 or so ERA, would that be ok for a #5 starter? Probably.
Papelbon's move to the pen helped to solidify this bunch. While weakening the starting rotation, it took the bullpen from a mess to fairly strong. Donnelly should be good as a setup guy. Romero has been very good this spring. Okajima has been very good this spring. Probably the most consistent of the bunch, and Piniero has seemed to settle in to a good stretch. That's 5 solid arms out there. Snyder makes the club to start the season as the swing guy, and should probably remain out there. However, Timlin's return is coming and it looks like Snyder will be the odd man out.
In terms of depth...Bryan Corey has been great this spring and Hansack was very good as well. They will both be in Pawtucket. Delcarmen will be there, too, as will Lester. Hansen, by the way, could probably use some AA time.
I would say that if this team has a lead in the seventh, that they should be in very good shape to close it out.
This is the area where most people have said they are most improved. But does that mean it is a good lineup?
Lugo and Youk should be productive as table setters.
Ortiz is Ortiz.
Manny is Manny.
And if Drew continues hitting like he has this spring, no pitcher will want to face the 1-5 in this lineup.
But it falls apart from there.
Sorry, that ain't gonna cut it. Tek has looked awful in camp at the plate sporting a .108 batting average. Lowell isn't much better at .184, only to be slightly outdone by the .188 Pedroia. Crisp isn't crisp at .167.
Of course, one could make the argument that Ortiz is only hitting .188 so far, but that isn't a very good argument. Why? Because you know Ortiz will tear the cover off the ball this season.
The bottom of this lineup is very weak and will be exploited. Not exactly sure what can be done to fix it (Hinske?). There just seems to be a lot of built in 1-2-3 innings for other pitchers throughout the season.
Just to magnify this a bit...Think about when Wake pitches and Mirabelli is now in the bottom of that lineup. Yikes!
The bottom of the lineup needs another bat.
Pretty strong defensively.
Crisp and Drew cover a lot of ground in the outfield. Crisp has a weak throwing arm. Manny is average in LF.
Youk is good enough at first base, Lowell is a vacuum at third, new double-play combo should be fine.
Hinske is a good option off the bench. If Crisp struggles, I wouldn't mind seeing him play some RF while moving Drew to CF.
Pena...after a strong start in spring, the holes have appeared again in his swing. Can he correct them?
Cora...always works the count. No pop. Tough at-bat, but no late inning heroics.
Mirabelli...don't even consider him as a pinch-hitting option.
So the overall analysis...
Strong starting rotation
Fairly strong bullpen
A step above average defense (will be fine)
Very weak bottom of the order
Prediction? 91-71 as they are right now...
IF the bottom of the order is average (meaning Lowell has a year close to last year, Tek rebounds to .255 15HR, Pedroia hits .260, and Crisp hits .270) then I give them 95 wins. I don't think Crisp and Pedroia do that, though.