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State of the Nation


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On the night of President Bush's State of the Union address, I thought it would be interesting to assess the state of Red Sox Nation.

Defense
The 2006 Boston Red Sox will be a much better defensive team. Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Mike Lowell, and Coco Crisp will all be defensive improvements over last year's Sox. Kevin Youkilis is yet to be proven at first base but will be platooned with gold glove winner J.T. Snow. Manny will be Manny; Trot will be Trot; and Varitek will be Captain. The Sox will be an elite defensive team next season.

Offense

Last season, the Sox were MLB leaders in runs scored (910), hits (1579), doubles (339), RBI (863), batting average (.281), OBP (.357), and OPS (.811). Those are simply crazy offensive numbers and frankly, offense isn't what makes world champions! Take the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox as an example. They only cracked the top ten in MLB in one offensive category last season (5th in the majors for home runs). The Red Sox are going to take a step back offensively next season. Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez will most likely not provide the offense that Johnny Damon and Edgar Renteria provided. Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis are question marks. With this said, the Sox can afford to lose a little pop from their bats next season and still be quite fine.

Pitching
On paper, Red Sox pitching has improved all around. First of all, we have an abundance of starting pitchers (Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield, Clement, Wells, Arroyo). This depth is a great advantage, especially considering Schilling's & Beckett's health concerns and Clement's drop in performance in the second half of last season. Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez and David Riske are nice, experienced additions to the bullpen, providing some solid set-up men for the 6th & 7th innings. A healthly Keith Foulke is an important part of a successful Sox team, especially with the expected drop in offense. Let's hope that the successful mantra of "Timlin in the 8th; Foulke in th 9th" is revived in 2006. The lack of left handed pitchers is a bit worrisome (the only lefties on the roster are Abe Alvarez, Lenny DiNardo, and David Wells), especially since they gave up two of our left-handed specialists in Myers and Bradford. Ultimately, it will all come down to pitching next season. A healthy staff will propel this team into the playoffs.

The offseason has been very busy for the nation. "Tonight the state of our union is strong." It's going to be an exciting 2006!


3 Responses to “State of the Nation”

  1. Anonymous Michael L 

    Jon,

    I agree with your assesment for the state of the Sox. We look good for offense. I am excited for the middle infield. Pitching is looking better, starting and depth of the bullpen.

    My question is: Do you really think Coco is going to be a drop off in offense? I actually think it'll be the other way around. He's younger than Johnny with potential for growth. Last year his average at home was only .275 with 4 HRs & 30 RBIs, but on the road he was .323 with 12 homers & 39 RBIs. Jacobs field is a pitcher's park. You can't say the same for Fenway. I think Fenway may be really great for Crisp and he may be able to match Johnny's production. Not necessarily in RBI's but elsewhere.

    JD's stats in Fenway were .334 AVG 39 RBI 3 HR

    That's the only point of disagreement.

  2. Anonymous Joanna 

    Nice analysis of the 2006 team, Jon, although I'm not as sanguine about Riske as you are. I do agree with your reader Michael about Coco Crisp. He might even have a breakout year much as Bill Mueller did in 2003.

  3. Anonymous Jon 

    I definitely hope that you guys are right about Coco!
    My argument is that I don't think it is fair to EXPECT Coco to replace the leadoff offense that Johnny Damon provided. Last year, Damon hit .317 in the leadoff position, leading all of baseball. He is consistently in the same company as Ichiro and Jeter among elite leadoff hitters. Now, I don't want to sound like I'm talking trash about Coco. I really think he's a great player with a lot of upside. He'll thrive in the high pressure Boston sports market and has a great demeanor to gel with fans. It would be great to see him come into his prime while during his time at Fenway and tear up the bases this season. But having the expectation of increased offense from the leadoff position is not fair to Coco or the team. (And frankly, the Sox offense will be just fine will a little less production at the top of the order.)

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