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If you’re a fan of fine defense, you will enjoy this infield unit in 2010. A quick recap of what went down this offseason:
OK, so that last one doesn’t really make a difference, but this infield unit could be regarded as the best in the AL if not in all of baseball. While the offense is nothing to gawk at, it is still solid and with a full year of Victor Martinez in the lineup, it should be good enough, especially with the upgrade in starting pitching and defense. Let’s take a look at the positions and see how this year’s team shapes up.
Red Sox fans have been forced to watch Jason Varitek struggle to the tune of a .215/.313/.374 line over the last two seasons, so a full season of Victor Martinez in the lineup will do wonders for the offense. After being traded to Boston, Martinez batted .336 and hit eight home runs in 56 games. Moving from a sub-.220 batting average to a .300+ one is not a small upgrade and it will show as Martinez cements himself as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup behind Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury or Marco Scutaro.
There’s nothing different at this position as Youkilis, who played 78 games at first base last season, will start the majority of games there this year. At this point, we know exactly what Youkilis brings to the table, and that’s a .300 batting average with 28 home runs and 100 RBI. Where the real difference will be is on defense because Youkilis is a much better defensively at first base than third base.
Much like first base, this position is rock solid with Dustin Pedroia, who is just one year removed from an MVP season. In that season he hit .326 with 17 home runs, 118 runs and 20 steals and there is no reason to think he can’t duplicate those numbers again. Last year, Pedroia faced a lot of off-field issues with his family, which definitely bothered him at the plate. Along with very solid offensive numbers, Pedroia brings gold-glove caliber defense to the position.
The Red Sox went out and signed arguably the best free agent shortstop on the market in Marco Scutaro. Sure he isn’t a top 10 player at his position, but for what the Red Sox need him to do he will work just fine. Most likely, Scutaro will bat leadoff or at the bottom of the order and will be required to get on base, which he did at a .379 pace last season. Over the last four years, Scutaro has hit for a .270 batting average and compiled a .354 on-base percentage. He also walked a career-high 90 times last season and if he can return just a fraction of that production, the Red Sox will be better off.
A lot has been said about the Adrian Beltre signing this offseason, but the bottom line is that the deal is about as perfect as it can get for the two parties involved. Last year, Beltre was hampered by a shoulder issue and failed to reach 20 home runs for the first time since 2005. Fenway Park should be more friendly to Beltre than Safeco Field so you can expect a small spike in his offensive numbers. Then again, he’s going to be batting seventh or eighth in the order, so I would even take his Safeco numbers.