Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opportunity Knocks; Are We Ready?

Baseball and life. Sometimes the season doesn't turn out the way you thought it would. As we approach the halfway point in the season, the Red Sox have the second best record in baseball. How the hell is that possible?

David Ortiz has only recently begun to hit, while the offensive core of the team, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia has fallen off a bit lately. The only players who have outperformed expectations offensively are Jason Bay and Nick Green. Jason Varitek had a great start, and now the jury has gone out offensively.

Among starting pitching, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny have overachieved, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have resumed their expected trajectory, and Daisuke Matsuzaka has suffered through any player's worst nightmare.

The obvious answer becomes the excellence of the bullpen. They have held leads, closed victories, and allowed the team to stay close in others. Recently, with short starts, the bullpen has shown a little fraying around the edges.

Management's overarching direction remains drafting and developing pitching, with bargain/risk oriented acquisitions like Penny and John Smoltz. The Sox have top-flight pitching prospects in Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly, and Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden are not far behind.

Unfortunately, the acquisition and training of the next generation of power hitters hasn't proven as consistent, making some nameless signings and/or power trade essential.

But we ask, the 2009 Sox, how good are they? In the post-steroid era, we're seeing a falloff in the overall speed and power throughout the game. Maybe the games haven't been quite as volatile, but I'm ready for a return to pitching and small ball, supplemented by an occasional three-run homer.

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