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Red Sox 2008 Report Card

The Red Sox season is over, sooner than we all would like to have seen it end. It was an up and down season, with the Manny Ramirez saga captivating the Nation for a couple weeks in July. The Sox had key injuries to the likes of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell. They also had some disappointments and surprising contributions from rookies and veteran injections from Jason Bay and Paul Byrd. We all know that the Red Sox fell short of the Rays for the East title, settling for another Wild Card berth. And we all know that the Red Sox fell short of a chance to win back-to-back titles, falling to the Rays in the ALCS after beating the Angels again. In the coming weeks, we will look back in detail on the infielders, outfielders, starters, and relievers in more detail, but here we will grade each grouping and look at what was good and what was not so good.

Infield

  • Catcher: Jason Varitek
  • First Base: Kevin Youkilis
  • Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
  • Shortstop: Jed Lowrie
  • Third Base: Mike Lowell
  • Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
  • Reserves: C Kevin Cash, 1B Sean Casey, SS Alex Cora, SS Julio Lugo
  • This unit was ravaged by injuries from Big Papi’s wrist issues early in the season, which seemed to affect him all year to Lowell’s hip which flared up late in the season, costing him valuable time in the playoffs. Jason Varitek, in his contract year, had his worst offensive season of his career, however, he is still a team leader and manages the staff very well, something that was very important with all the new faces on the mound this season. Lowrie and Cora combined for nearly a season’s worth of games, far more than I think anyone expected we would see them and they did an adequate job filling in. Sean Casey filled a valuable role off the bench as Francona’s primary pinch hitters and was a late inning and day off fill in at first base. Youkilis and Pedroia were the stalwarts on the diamond all year for this team. Youk continued his upward progression, having his finest season in the bigs and played well defensively at two positions, first and third. Pedroia improved as well and and while not putting up the same all around numbers as Youkilis, he always seemed to step up when Papi, Manny, Drew, or others were not. He provided many late inning heroics and was a good “glue” guy for this team.
  • Grade: B+. The top guys made great contributions, but Ortiz and Varitek were less than expected and Lowell’s late-season injury contributed to the end of season issues.

Outfield

  • Left Field: Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez
  • Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury
  • Right Field: J. D. Drew
  • Reserves: Coco Crisp, Mark Kotsay
  • The story of this unit was clearly the Manny Ramirez soap opera to force the Red Sox hand and drop the option years. The ploy worked for Manny in that he got his options dropped and elevated the Dodgers in a walk year, but it took its toll on the team for a good couple of weeks. Jason Bay hit the ground running, contributing immediately. While Red Sox Nation will not forget Manny (and how could we with his highlights on SportsCenter every night) any time soon, Bay did his best to push him to the back of our minds. Ellsbury provided phenomenal speed on the basepaths and was a defensive spark. J.D. Drew carried the team on his back the first half of the season, but the team weighed on him and the back flared up near the end of the season. Crisp, in a platoon with Ellsbury provided speed and defense and was a respectable on-base guy. Kotsay played a fair amount at first for the Sox, but played more in the outfield this season. He was brought in for his veteran bat and defense and was an underrated cog in the late season and playoff push.
  • Grade: B+. Had Manny stayed focused and been a part of this team, things could have turned out better. All of the guys filled their roles well, but the outfield as a unit did not stick out as a force aside from Drew’s strong first half.

Starting Pitching

  • One: Josh Beckett
  • Two: Daisuke Matsuzaka
  • Three: Jon Lester
  • Four: Tim Wakefield
  • Five: Paul Byrd
  • Others: Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Bartolo Colon
  • This was the strength of the team most of the year and the main reason the Red Sox never lost more than five in a row in the season. With consistency by and large from the rotation, it was hard to beat the Red Sox day in and day out. Lester emerged as the most reliable front man while Dice-K led the team in wins and earned run average. Dice-K, however, had the fewest quality starts of the big four and had a lot of trouble with walks, never seeming to go deep in games while running high pitch counts. Josh Beckett seemed to be more bothered by the injuries than he let on as he was not his sharp self at the end of the season and especially not in the playoffs. Surprisingly (I thought), Wakefield had his best season in three years, though his record did not show it. Byrd was a good veteran fifth starter that they picked up at the deadline, but was a non-factor in the playoffs. Buchholz was a disappointment while he was up with the club early in the season before being demoted. I hope for his sake, he did not find too much success too soon with his no-hitter last season. Masterson, in his brief time as a starter, had more good than bad outings before they converted him into a solid reliever. Colon was an all upside guy based on his signing. Unfortunately, he hurt his back on a swing and was never seen in a Sox uniform again.
  • Grade: A-. It took a while for the Red Sox to settle on a fifth starter, an issue no team is immune from. The top three rate favorably to anyone’s in the majors and had Dice-K gone deeper into more games and Beckett been better at the finish, the grade could have been even better.

Relief Pitching

  • Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
  • Setup: Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez
  • Middle: Mike Timlin, David Aardsma
  • Papelbon continues to be one of the top closers in baseball with a K-rate above one per inning and a WHIP below that mark. He had many quick outings of fewer than three pitches per out. Okajima’s numbers ended up looking good at season’s end, but he was anything but consistent. Delcarmen and Lopez seemed to be out there every day and like Okajima, have good numbers, but each had a spate of poor outings as well. Timlin had his worst season by a good margin. Aardsma was very effective early on, but after returning from the injury, he was far from effective. Masterson turned into one of the better arms out there and was called on when a groundball was needed or in longer situations after he was converted into a reliever. The relief corps seemed to be on or off as a unit: when one pitcher had a bad outing, the result seemed to snowball. The bullpen crew looks better than they were, as they allowed inherited runners to score frequently, so someone else took the stats hit.
  • Grade: B-. If not for Papelbon’s consistency and dominance, this would have been worse. The bullpen had its stretches of ineffectiveness and was a big factor in the loss to the Rays.

Overall

The Red Sox were one of, if not the favorite, in the American League. Making it to the seventh game of the ALCS was an accomplishment, (despite the fact that we may have seen it as a disappointment for not reaching further). The playoffs were frustrating with the Red Sox being so dinged up, but injuries are part of the game. The Rays won the season series, won the division, and completed the trifecta with the ALCS victory. They were no fluke, but I think most fans would have taken that matchup before the season started. The strength of the team, especially after Manny’s departure, was the starting pitching. The offense lacked the power of recent seasons, but was about as clutch and certainly could score enough. The defense was slightly above average and the team as a whole was well-rounded. Jon Lester’s no-hitter was one of the memorable moments of the season and really showed that he was back.

Grade: B+. Overall, the team was what we expected and was a team we could root for. I was surprised how good they looked against the Angels and impressed by the comeback against the Rays. There were a lot of things that went wrong for this team, but they still achieved a 95-win season and deep playoff run.

MVP: Jon Lester. I was not surprised that he had success, but was surprised by his emergence has a go-to guy. I think he brought a lot of stability to an already strong rotation and was the best starter on balance the entire season. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jonathan Papelbon deserve honorable mentions.

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Discussion

9 comments for “Red Sox 2008 Report Card”

  1. Like the grades, well done.

    Who would you say was the teams MVP and who was the biggest flop?

    Posted by Josh | October 28, 2008, 1:31 am
  2. Josh, thanks for the feedback, glad yoy enjoyed it. At the bottom of the column, I named Lester as the MVP, so you can see my reasoning there. As for the flop, Mike Timlin maybe, he had a huge dropoff. Injuries really limited Papi’s production, so he’s a choice as well. Lugo might qualify, but he did miss half the season (not sure that helps or hurts his case). What do you think?

    Posted by Mike | October 28, 2008, 6:01 pm
  3. With the outfield I’m suprised it’s a B+ with JD Drew being the star. JD only had one good production month in June. Yes he did carry the team then. The rest of the time though he just used his OBP to stay valuable. Also he only managed 368 AB’s this year.

    The best asset in the outfield was our LF’ers who combined had 29 HRs, 105 RBI. Also Bay finished well in the playoffs by hitting .341 with .471 OBP and .634 SLG. While no one here could of counted on Manny to hit .520 in the playoffs like he did for the Dodgers.

    Finally, Coco Crisp needs respect. This was his best offensive year in three years in Boston and he did it seamlessly in a back-up role. Not to mention, he hit .417 in the playoffs when and where no else could.

    Posted by Dan | October 31, 2008, 2:37 pm
  4. [...] Sports of Boston has a very detailed Red Sox 2008 Report Card. [...]

    Posted by SportsBlogNet Friday Linkage | Union: The Most Collaborative Sports Blog on the Internet | October 31, 2008, 5:35 pm
  5. Dan, great comments. I do agree on Crisp, I think he played his best ball when it counted most (how awesome was that at-bat against the Rays). I think I was a bit down on them because the Manny drama took the whole team down for a week or two and Drew carried the team in the first half and then disappeared and was of course hurt, as you noted.

    Posted by Mike | November 1, 2008, 8:06 am
  6. [...] Featured, Red Sox, Top Story ⋅ November 12, 2008 at 5:16am ⋅ Post a comment In my report card, I gave the Red Sox infield a B+, citing the key contributions of some as a big positive, but the [...]

    Posted by Red Sox 2008 Infield Review | Sports of Boston | November 12, 2008, 5:16 am
  7. [...] November 19, 2008 at 7:40am ⋅ Post a comment When I handed the Red Sox their 2008 report card, I judged the outfield to be a B+.  This group could have been an A+ unit if not for a number of [...]

    Posted by Red Sox 2008 Outfield Review | Sports of Boston | November 19, 2008, 7:40 am
  8. [...] Featured, Red Sox, Top Story ⋅ November 26, 2008 at 5:27am ⋅ Post a comment In my report card, I graded the bullpen a B- and ranked them as the worst of the four units of the team.  Jonathan [...]

    Posted by Red Sox 2008 Bullpen Review | Sports of Boston | November 26, 2008, 5:27 am
  9. [...] the starting rotation, the rock of the 2008 Red Sox.  These five received the highest grade in my report card with an A-.  The biggest plus for the rotation was its stability: four players made 27 or more [...]

    Posted by Red Sox 2008 Starting Rotation Review | Sports of Boston | December 3, 2008, 5:47 am

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