A.L. East Prediction: Boston Red Sox
A couple of unicorns wouldn’t hurt.
Garrett Richards has a great mustache, which makes him Boston’s second-best pitcher. Wait. What? What does have one have to do with the other? Good point. I should have said, Garrett Richards is probably the Red Sox’ second-best pitcher.” This is where you would say, “Who the hell is Garrett Richards?”
Great point. The same question can be asked about Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck. To sum up: Richards has been around awhile and has the best chance to be solid for the Sox. Perez has been around awhile too and has the best chance of being bounced in favor of some kid. Pivetta is still wet behind the ears and trying to figure out what he needs to do to get hitters out on a consistent basis. Houck could be the next wunderkind. His numbers were great last year (0.53 ERA, .88 WHIP in 17 innings). And then you have Nathan Eovaldi who saved their bullpen in the epic World Series extra-innings game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, and then couldn’t stay healthy. He’s good (3.76 career ERA) but will his body hold up?
So the bullpen will bail them out until they can figure it out, right? That would be a “Negative, Ghost Rider. Besides Garrett Whitlock (rookie, good numbers in low minors) Phillips Valdez (no relation to Wilson Phillips. I checked) and Hirokazu Sawamura (33-year-old “rookie” from Japan, the Sox have a bunch of guys who give up one run every two innings. Valdez has only been in 34 games total but had an ERA around 3.50. Sawamura could be the closer… or long relief… or their number one starter. He’s had experience at everything: 100 decisions, 64 holds, and 75 saves in Japan.
So that leaves the offense. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are gone. Dustin Pedroia had been gone for a long time but finally officially retired. But they do have some threats. You’ve got JD Martinez, Christian Arroyo and catcher Christian Vazquez . Vazquez is probably good for .260 and 13 to 14 home runs. Marwin Gonzalez had a horrific 2020 season. The odds are pretty good he won’t hit .211 again. He provides protection for whoever will be in the third or fourth spot in the lineup. Those two spots should be occupied by Martinez and Alex Verdugo. If Verdugo can put a full season together the Red Sox will know if they have an every day player or a guy who needs multiple days off to protect him from injury. He had back issues at the end of his rookie year with the Dodgers. Martinez is 33 and no doubt scared Red Sox management last year when he hit .213.
But as we know last year was not a typical year and players typically don’t drop 80 points off of their career average. I expect Martinez to Regina’s form this year. Rounding out the offensive threats is shortstop Xander Bogaerts. In the outfield Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe don’t seem to be long term quality offensive options. I know 2020 was a weird year but Renfroe hit .156. The Red Sox will benefit from Enrique “Kike” Hernandez who adds a clubhouse presence and versatility. He also kills left-handed pitching. He’s the perfect guy to help reset that culture.
Bottom line: they were not as bad as they appeared last year. Correction. They were as bad as they appeared last year but I don’t think all of that awfulness was permanent. You can’t have six guys hit 50 points below their career averages and not have that be a problem. There is still a lot of might in the batting order but there’s a lot of might on the mound, too. They might have four starters and they might have one dependable reliever and they might have a closer.
Too many holes. Not enough noodles. This is a .500 club in a tough division. 81 WINS.