Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's gonna be a long season...

Swept by the Rays. Ouch.

More seriously, this years' Sox are an odd case. Definitely a team in transition. There's a very good crop of starters coming aboard from the minors (Buchholz and Masterson), Beckett isn't quite up to his '07 form but still the best starter on the staff, and both Matsuzaka and Lester have made huge strides. Plus Wakefield is still Wakefield. They've upgraded at their backup catcher position, have the same infield as last year (for a change), and still have arguably the best closer in the game today. Plus this year we're finally getting a taste of what JD Drew can do - he was just player of the month for June.

Why are they in trouble, then? Well, first of all the injury bug. Dice-K missed a few starts, Bartolo Colon is on the DL now with back problems, and Beckett missed the first couple of weeks and isn't quite back to form. Combine that with Mike Lowell's stint on the injured list and the 6+ weeks that Ortiz will have missed by the time he comes back, and that's a lot of consistency gone. But there's more.

First of all, Lugo is a huge weak spot. He is hitting better right now than he did at this point last year, but at this point last year he was below the Mendoza Line. You can't suck more than that. Combine mediocre offense with horrid defense and he's a huge liability. You can take a weak-hitting shortstop if he is a vacuum in the field, but not when he just sucks.

The biggest problem this year though is the combination of a slumping Varitek (every year he has a longer offensive slump - this year he looks more overmatched than ever) and a middle relief group that has just been awful as a whole. Each one has had a good streak, but as a group they've been horrid. The best thing I can say about Mike Timlin is that he's rehabbing in the minors. Manny Delcarmen seemed like he was going to make The Leap this year, but he's regressed. Craig Hansen just may never quite get there. And Hideki Okajima seems to not have the command he did last year - he used to be able to hit spots with his fastball and use it to set up his offspeed stuff. He isn't doing it this time around.

The Sox have so much offensive firepower that they can't help but stay in the race (even assuming 0-for-3 perfomances every night from Varitek and Lugo), but I don't think we'll be spoiled with another Series this year. I hope to be proven wrong, though.
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