We tapped into the blogosphere to randomly solicit a few voices on how the Red Sox will fare in 2011. There’s a lot of giddiness about Boston’s chances, but when Sports Illustrated, among others, is saying 100 wins, it’s obviously not unique to the online world.
We start not so randomly with one of our favorites, Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com. Usually, Mike traffics only in how the Sox kids are doing, but he steps out of his usual milieu to weigh in on the big boys.
• Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com: While 100 wins seems to be the benchmark that is being thrown around lately, I think the Sox will fall just short of that mark at 98, which should be more than enough to secure the division by a good margin. I expect that the offense, defense, and pitching should all be more than solid this season, but to me there are still concerns over whether Josh Beckett can bounce back from his subpar 2010 campaign, and whether Jonathan Papelbon can turn around his recent decline. One additional strength should be the club's depth -- there will be major league ready options at Pawtucket at nearly every position should injuries affect the big club in 2011.
• Chip Buck, Fire Brand of the American League and It's About The Money Stupid: After a disappointing season in which the Old Towne Team won “only” 89 games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Red Sox front office set out to make major changes to their aging, flawed roster. Interestingly enough, the biggest upgrades will likely come from players who were on last year’s roster. After missing significant portions of the 2010 season due to injury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Cameron all figure to provide a significant value boost over their replacements. While the Yankees will mount a much stronger offensive than most anticipate, I’m predicting the Red Sox will pull away from their chief rivals in late September on their way to 97 wins.
• Ernie Paicopolos, FenwayNation: Expectations are high for the 2011 Red Sox -- and with good reason. Theo Epstein scooped two of the biggest prizes on the offseason market in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez and if other key players can stay even remotely healthy, they should get to the postseason. Nevertheless, there are some question marks:
-- Jarrod Saltalamacchia's spring has been impressive, but the jury is still out (offensive and defensively) on whether he can carry the load of 130 plus games.
-- While spring stats shouldn't matter, multiple shaky outings by Beckett and Buchholz suggest that the rotation may not be all it's cracked up to be;
-- While this is always a crapshoot, forging the "bridge" to Bard and Papelbon will likely be a challenge again -- and what's at the end of the bridge is still iffy.
The Yankees are older and have serious pitching issues. The Rays lost almost their entire 2010 bullpen and Crawford. So, even with their flaws, the Red Sox should end up winning the AL East by a narrow margin (one or two games over New York).
• Christine E., Boston Red Thoughts: With the impressive offseason acquisitions of speedy Carl Crawford and big bat Adrian Gonzalez, it’s hard not to be super excited about the Boston Red Sox in 2011.
However, I have some major concerns with regard to Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Both struggled in 2010, and neither has done anything in spring training to make us believe their troubles are behind them. The Sox need both of them to get themselves right for this team to be successful.
Fortunately, it seems that Daisuke and John Lackey have turned a corner, with Daisuke finally healthy again, and each having a good spring. Hopefully that trend will continue into the regular season.
If all goes well (this is baseball after all), and the Sox can stay healthy, I can see this team winning 100-plus games, winning the AL East, and making their third World Series appearance in 8 years.
• Cyn Donnelly, Toeing the Rubber: When the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez in December and Carl Crawford signed on two days later, I have to admit that my mind went wild with the possibilities. If this team can stay healthy, we’ll see many high-scoring wins, especially against the other AL East teams. The Sox offense will dominate the East’s pitching. As far as the Red Sox go, their rotation will surprise folks. Lackey and Beckett definitely have the talent but need to show they still can still pitch to win. This will be the year they take out their frustrations of past seasons on the rest of the league. Lester and Buchholz will tear up the league as well and I have faith Matsuzaka will be as effective as the team needs. I expect the Red Sox to make the playoffs easily this year by ending the regular season with 100 wins.
• Brian Phair,: I am cautiously picking the Red Sox to win the AL East. I think this season will result in a two-team race for the division, with the Rays falling out as the season wears on. As the rosters stand now, the Red Sox are the best team, but I have a feeling Brian Cashman will go after a starting pitcher not too long into the season, making them a much stronger team. Also, the Baltimore Orioles got better this offseason, making the numerous head-to-head match-ups tougher, not to mention the always powerful Toronto Blue Jays, who are poised for a strong season with their new manager, and former Red Sox pitching coach, John Farrell. On paper, there does not appear to be a true basement team in the division this season, making the road a lot tougher for every team, especially the few fighting for the division title.
• Rob Munstis, The Bottom Line: The 2011 Red Sox may be the most talented team in baseball. They'll lead the AL offensively, but the key to their overall success will be the pitching staff. Jon Lester could win 20 games, and I’m projecting: Buchholz (14-8, 3.33), Beckett (15-9, 3.75), Lackey (15-10, 4.10) and Matsuzaka (11-8, 4.04). You get 99 wins, an AL East title and a trip to the World Series.
• Because I’ll always have a soft spot for the Sons of Sam Horn, I invite you to check out their discussion thread entitled “improper predictions for the 2011 season.”
Here’s a post from “dbn”:
1) CC Sabathia will be the only Yankees starter to record a win against the Red Sox.
2) One of the underappreciated but important aspect of the season is that opponents BABIP for balls hit to the outfield is much improved, especially when the outfield is Crawford, Ellsbury and Cameron.
3) The Red Sox fall just shy of scoring 1,000 runs.
4) The Red Sox have 7 All Stars.
5) Dustin Pedroia says something funny.
6) The first bench-clearer is against the Orioles.
7) The Red Sox make no deadline trades.
8) 2011 World Series Champion Red Sox
9) Kevin Youkilis goes the entire season without injuring a Red Sox outfielder.
• We also reached out to one of the better known Yankee blogs, River Avenue Blues, to get their take on the division:
Michael Axisa, River Avenue Blues: I expect the Red Sox to win the East, though I don't think it'll be a landslide. My biggest concern is their pitching depth. If Beckett's back continues to be a problem and Dice-K is ... well Dice-K again, are Doubront and Aceves and Wakefield going to be enough? If they have to go out and make a trade, is there enough ammo in the farm system? Probably, but there are some kinks in the armor. The Rays will stay in the hunt because of their rotation, and the Yankees have a great lineup and bullpen. They'll make a trade at some point, and then you're looking at Sabathia, Pitcher X, and Hughes with that bullpen in short playoff series. I think there's three 90-win teams in the division, but Boston is just a little bit ahead of the Yankees and Rays right now.