2014 Record and Finish ——- 71-91, 5th place in AL East
Last Year: Two years ago the Red Sox became just the 11th team in MLB history to go from worst to first. However, last season Boston became the only team to ever go worst to first back to worst. That’s the way life goes in the extremely competitive AL East. The Red Stockings played .500 baseball through their first 40 games before going on a nine game losing streak. That streak kept them from eclipsing the .500 mark the rest of the year. Pitching and hitting both let down Boston as they finished 10th and 11th in the AL, respectively. As you can imagine very little went right for the Olde Towne Team. Last year only three Red Sox reached double digit home run totals (David Ortiz, Xander Bogarts, Mike Napoli). Second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia had perhaps his worst season as a pro. Clay Bucholz saw his ERA balloon to a 5.34. Bright spots included the play of Rusney Castillo (only 10 games), Mookie Betts, and the back end of the bullpen. It was also fortunate that management saw the writing on the wall, took a punt on the season, and jettisoned some high profile pitchers to make way for the future.
Departures: RHP Ryan Dempster, LHP Burke Badenhop, C David Ross, RHP Alex Wilson, RF Yoenis Cespedes, 3B Will Middlebrooks, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, RHP Allen Webster
Acquisitions: 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Hanley Ramirez, RHP Rick Porcello, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Justin Masterson, C Ryan Hanigan, RHP Zeke Spruill, RHP Anthony Varvaro, RHP Alexi Ogando
Outlook: The above list of departures hardly tell the true story of the roster turnover for Boston. At a glance it appears as though not much was lost. When looking back at players traded in the middle of the season last year though, you see very high profile names. Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy were all dealt before the trade deadline. As such, the Red Sox have totally revamped their starting rotation from last season. But is there improvement? Let’s take a blind look at last season’s numbers for both the 2014 BoSox staff and the projected 2015 rotation.
IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB
Staff A: 801.1 4.55 1.39 7.03 3.16 2.23
Staff B: 892.2 3.82 1.28 7.55 2.49 3.03
If you had to make a choice, Staff B is clearly the way to go. Unfortunately for present day Boston fans, Staff B are the numbers for the 2014 rotation. Of course the 2014 numbers aren’t guaranteed to be the same for Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, and Joe Kelly. I expect a tough adjustment to the AL for Miley. Kelly for a full season will be intriguing but I would expect an ERA in the area of 4.00. Many believe it could be a breakout year for Porcello on his contract season, and we should see bounce back years from Masterson and Buchholz. Even if all these things happen though there is no ace on the staff. Teams can win that way (see 2014 Baltimore O’s) but it won’t be easy.
Following a splurge in spending, the offense is the point of excitement. Sandoval will be an upgrade at third over Middlebrooks. The Panda is fairly overrated however due to his post-season heroics. He will turn in a solid regular season both offensively and defensively but don’t count on an MVP caliber season. He struggles mightily against left-handed pitchers, against whom he posted a .199 batting average. The Green Monster will be his best friend in that regard though so expect improvement.
I also saw a report that he spent his entire offseason practicing from the right side. The other major pick up was Hanley Ramirez. HanRam is an absolute beast at the plate. There is a pretty large question mark next to him heading into the season though as he will be switching positions to LF. We really don’t know how his defense will be and how it will affect his performance at the dish. Leftfield generally puts a little more strain on the body as well. I anticipate a couple of trips to the DL for Ramirez. Fortunately for Boston they have the deepest outfield in the MLB. Their second outfield might start for some teams. I wish luck to manager John Farrell in doling out at-bats between Ramirez, Betts, Castillo, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava. Should they be in contention around the deadline a couple of those guys may get dealt to help the staff. Filling out the rest of the infield with Bogaerts, Pedroia, and Napoli will make for a formidable line up. The real question is at what point does David Ortiz stop catching up to fastballs?
Prediction: The Red Sox will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the 2015 season. Do the offseason moves translate into a division title? Or will a questionable staff lead the Sox to another last place finish? I’m inclined to lean towards the latter. Look for a finish in the middle of a tough AL East.