General Red Sox

Optimism …

… is when David Ortiz walks into camp.

I'm very excited about this season. I'm positive. My focus point right now is do some damage.

We'll see how it goes, but this affable Dominican may hold the keys to the Red Sox' season. Let's hope he's more .265/.357/.533 and less .186/.282/.284.

19 replies on “Optimism …”

I think it’s over for Big Papi. Ever since his jersey was dug up from the concrete at El Nuevo Estadio de los Yankees, he just hasn’t been the same.
Youkilis taking walks doesn’t mean a whole lot when there’s only JD Drew there to drive him home.

I think if Ortiz can just establish that he’s not the early season out that he was last year for the first half, pitchers will respect that.
He’ll be fine. I hope.

Is he going to be on a short leash you think? I mean, if he starts out really cold will they pull him? I have to think this is his last year in Beantown regardless?

Paul hits the nail on the head, Ortiz really does hold the keys to the Sox season, in my opinion. If he doesn’t establish himself as a middle of the lineup presence this offense might just be average rather than it’s normal above average. This current Sox team was built around defense and pitching and fortunately enough for them there might be enough of both to make up for an average offense, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on the pitchers and defenders. Basically Ortiz just needs to establish that he has something left in the tank. If he’s the shell of himself that he was for parts of last season and teams start picking up on this it could spell trouble, fast. Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury, even Drew are all excellent hitters, but when you take that big bopper out of the middle, a pitcher can most certainly change his approach. Without Ortiz this lineup is a very long, talented lineup with average power.
*The wild cards here could be Cameron and Beltre. I do believe a move to Fenway will benefit Beltre and his swing. If he or Cameron can get that HR stroke going, they could (somewhat) offset any struggle Ortiz may have.

If Ortiz is the first-two-months guy for the first two months again, I think the Sox will do what it takes to acquire a hitter, so it might be a moot point; I don’t think he’ll be given the opportunity to hit so poorly for so long again.
I was probably hyperbolic in saying that Ortiz holds the keys to the Sox’ season, given that the Sox are good enough that no single player’s lack of production is going to doom them — they got zero production last year from shortstop, catcher, their No. 3 starter and their DH/third baseman (DH for the first two months, 3B for the next four) last year… and won 95 games.
when you take that big bopper out of the middle,
The Red Sox in 2009 finished second in slugging. Kevin Youkilis had a higher slugging percentage than Miguel Cabrera, Tony Pena, Jason Bay and Alex Rodriguez. He finished with the second-highest OPS in the AL. So the Sox have the big bopper.
Losing Bay means they won’t have that formidable 1-2 punch (unless Ortiz rebounds), but they will be much deeper. We seem to forget that the Red Sox’ most used lineup last season featured Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Nick Green at the end. The second-most-used, which occurred post-Victor, still had Varitek and Gonzalez because Lowell was out. The third-most-used had Casey Kotchman and Gonzalez at the end, and the fourth-most-used was Varitek-Kotsay-Green.
The Sox are replacing Varitek with Martinez (who outslugged Tek by 117 points in a Boston uniform, Green/Gonzalez with Scutaro, whose career slugging is 30 points higher than what Sox shortstops provided last season, and Kotsay/Kotchman/Lowell with Beltre, whose slugging while playing half his games in a pitcher’s park has been on par with Lowell’s, who was playing half the time in a hitter’s park.
Replacing Varitek with Martinez really can’t be understated. If we’re talking slugging only — the “big bopper” argument — the Sox’ month-by-month ranking in the AL in slugging went from fourth-sixth-fourth (tie)-eighth to second-second. Some of that came from replacing Green with Gonzalez (who is now being replaced by an even better offensive shortstop), and some came from Ortiz’s continuing revival (which started in June), but the most significant change between July and August was the inclusion of Victor Martinez in the lineup. Having Martinez for a full season over Varitek is arguably more of an upgrade than the downgrade from Bay to Cameron on offense (and obviously both moves are upgrades on defense).

“Without Ortiz this lineup is a very long, talented lineup with average power.” – Me
So I am not disagreeing with you.
I started to write the same thing Paul in Re: to a hitter, but didn’t want to start up the whole Adrian thing again. But I agree, if he’s a shell of himself they definitely go out and try to get that big bat to fill his void.
Sometimes you need to look deeper than just the stats though. Look where Youk played 1/2 his games. Is it your opinion that pitchers in the AL fear the power of Youkilis and Miggy or A-Rod the same way? I would venture to say that’s not true. Sure the Sox lineup is longer, deeper and better in spots they were last year, but other than Youkilis where is the guy that pitcher’s fear? Who protects Youkilis? What stops pitchers from pitching around him, not giving him pitches to hit? I know you guys don’t feel Bay was that guy, but to other teams he surely was. He was a presence. Even without Ortiz being Ortiz, you still had Youkilis and Bay, two very good hitters. For the same reasons the Yankees offense sputtered (in AL East terms, not as compared to others I am sure) to some degree last season while A-Rod was on the mend, without Ortiz (or a trade, or Beltre or Cameron getting their Fenway power stroke down) the Sox could face the same issues. Manny/Papi, Tex/A-Rod, Utley/Howard, Pujols/Holliday…big boppers are best when they have protection and in my eyes unless one of those 3 things happens as listed above then the Sox are short in this area.
I agree this lineup is talented. I agree it’s better than last year’s. I also agree that the defense and pitching should be better. What I don’t agree with is that they don’t (right now, unless Ortiz is Ortiz or see above) have that big bopper 1-2 punch that makes pitchers change the way they attack the lineup.
As for them winning 95 games last year, what does that really have to do with how many they win this year? In theory sure your team got better, but that doesn’t take into account the progression or regression of other teams. There are too many variables that go into the winning or losing of games to simply say we are better, we should win more games.

Look where Youk played 1/2 his games. Is it your opinion that pitchers in the AL fear the power of Youkilis and Miggy or A-Rod the same way?
OPS+, which adjusts for ballpark: A-Rod, 147, Youkilis, 145, Cabrera, 142. I don’t know if AL pitchers fear them all the same way, and I’m not sure it matters.
As for pitching around players, Cabrera was walked intentionally 14 times, Teixeira 9 times, Rodriguez 7 times, and Youkilis 6 times. (Bay was walked intentionally 4 times). Rodriguez saw a 3-0 count 21 times in 2009, Youkilis saw one 15 times.
What does that mean? I have no idea. But it doesn’t seem to point to an idea that Youkilis is pitched around more, which may mean that Youkilis isn’t as “feared,” which means he might see more pitches to hit, and the numbers indicate he’s just as good a hitter as any in the league.
big boppers are best when they have protection
Ortiz’s own career does not indicate this is true, as his stats were just as good when he was batting fourth, providing protection for Ramirez in 2003-04, than when he was batting third. In the final month of 2006, when Ramirez was out with a knee injury, Ortiz posted a 1.143 OPS. Ramirez was also out for most of September 2007, and Ortiz posted a 1.341 OPS. Small sample size, of course, but I think the idea of “protection” is overrated. The best protection Youkilis can get is to have Ellsbury, Pedroia and Martinez getting on base in front of him.
As for them winning 95 games last year, what does that really have to do with how many they win this year?
Well, it is a base from which to measure improvement (or not) of your team. More accurate would be to use Pythag record (92 wins), but how would you suggest we determine how well a team should do in a season if we don’t look at how they did the season before?
Other than those two items, I think we are — and have been — in agreement, and I’ll readily admit that I trend toward the optimistic side before the season starts, but I also don’t think it’s unwarranted optimism either.

It’s a little odd to say but Ortiz is probably the most replaceable starting player on the Sox. If you think about what his expected performance is this season, he might be the least valuable starting Sock. DH’s are, of course, generally easier to replace than other positional players since one half of the equation doesn’t matter. But peak Ortiz was basically irreplaceable. This version of Papi is a different story. I think the Sox are very prepared for a worst-case-scenario from Big Papi, more so than any other starter.

By protection I mean this:
A pitcher approaches each batter with a game plan. That game plan is based both on that particular players ability and who will follow him in the lineup. Not just 3 hitter, 4 hitter, but so on down the lineup. To your point, the longer the lineup, the more a pitcher loses in his ability to be careful. Not intentionally walk, but to be careful with. Pitchers fear hitters that can change an inning on one swing. Sure guys like Ichiro, Crawford, Jeter are feared, but not in the same way. In most cases the worst one of those guys can do is get into scoring position with a 2B or 3B and in which case you still have a chance to get out of things with minimal damage. Guys like Tex, A-Rod, Howard, Utley, Pujols, AGonz, etc…can all change an inning in one swing and drastically change a pitchers game plan. It’s my opinion that you need 2 of these types of hitters to really screw up that approach. I am not saying you are wrong, it’s just my opinion. Power scares pitchers and sometimes it’s even the threat of power that scares pitchers. Last year Alex was not nearly the player he’s been in the past, especially right after he came back, but still pitchers approached him carefully because of the threat of power. Again, just my opinion, but I think the best offensive teams are the teams that have a big guy and a guy to protect him. (I know the ballpark may have something to do with this, but look at David Wright. When you have zero protection, your power numbers will suffer. Granted his overall lineup was terrible, so it’s not the best example)
A. I agree that there is really no reason to believe that Ortiz can’t be that hitter again. Totally do not blame you for being optimistic. If he struggles this year then obviously the optimism is now gone.
B. I just think a better way to determine your particular teams outlook for this season would be to assess the other teams in the division, league, etc…not look at what they did last year. I suppose you can say well that team won 95, why can’t this team, but I just think from year to year there are too many variables to make that statement. I don’t disagree with you that the Sox are better though and it should show in the #’s. Like I said above.

I agree with Nick. I don’t think Ortiz is even remotely the key to the Sox’ season – I just don’t think seasons rest on one player – at the least it’s two or three players not performing to expectations that ends up crushing seasonal hopes (and that’s not snark). The Sox better be able to weather the hit to the team a lesser Ortiz might be – they cannot have gone into the season counting on peak Papi, that’s totally unrealistic. If this season rests on Ortiz then I am very scared. But I don’t think that, and I cannot imagine to front office thinking that either.

“Basically Ortiz just needs to establish that he has something left in the tank.”
I don’t know who said anything about him being “peak Papi”…but it wasn’t me.
It just seems odd, and I am not attacking by any means, to say that Ortiz isn’t remotely the key to the Sox season. This is a man that will probably bat where? 4th or 5th for this team correct? If your 4th or 5th hitter isn’t a key, then maybe he shouldn’t be your 4th or 5th hitter. Is he the only key, no way. I think with the way the Sox are expected to pitch, they are still very good regardless of what Ortiz does, but the difference between very good and great could lie in the balance of this offense. All Ortiz has to do is prove he’s not Giambi-ish empty (not using him for any other reason than he was a middle of the lineup thumper that disappeared overnight) at the plate and that he can still thump when he needs to and pitchers will pitch the rest of the lineup different. I am not being outrageous or claiming that the Sox suck, just being honest.

they are still very good regardless of what Ortiz does
I guess that is all I am saying. Ortiz wasn’t great last year, and the Sox won 95 games. As Paul said, a lot of other things changed for the better, and if Ortiz isn’t even as good as he was in the second half I think the Sox will be better than they were.
I am just not inclined to place that much importance on Papi, particularly not after last year in which he underperformed his career averages and the Sox still did quite well and after the offseason changes. The changes made Papi’s presence even less important, at least to me.
Do I hope he bops? Of course. Why wouldn’t I? But personally, after last year, I am just not counting on him to improve, in fact I expect a further decline. And I think the Sox still contend.
Even more to the point, in 2008 the player who singlehandedly most damaged the Sox’ regular season (and it wasn’t even wrecked, as they came within a game of the Series) was their part-time fifth starter, Clay Buchholz, who was horrific. Papi, however large a figure he might be, just does not hold the key to this season as far as I am concerned.

by the way, is there any chance they’re going to platoon Ortiz and Lowell at DH? Ortiz was awful against lefties last year and Lowell mashed them. It would be an expensive way to fill out the DH spot and it might cause too much anger for 2 veterans. I’m guessing Lowell doesn’t play another game for the Sox, but what if they can’t move him? Do they just waive him?

Wait, so if the Sox are depending on Ortiz, then why were they ready to trade Lowell for a weak hitting 1B?
The Yankees in 2008 missed the playoffs primarily because Posada got hurt and there was nothing behind him. That was the biggest difference on the team. Considering that V-Mart hasn’t caught 120 games since 2007, and Varitek is a shell of his former self, they easily could be primed for a similar collapse.
They’re also depending on Scutaro to have another career year, Cameron not to fall off a cliff in the AL, Ellsbury and Pedroia not to regress further, Beltre to find himself, and Drew to stay healthy. That lineup is far from a sure thing. I see many more questions than obvious performances. But at least the defense will be good.

Look around at every team in the Major Leagues – which team doesn’t have speculative question marks at nearly every position?
The exercise of blanketing a very good team with question marks everywhere (“what if CC Sabathia chokes on a hoagie!? what if Jorge Posada’s ears finally block his view of oncoming pitches!?”) is hollow. Every player has legitimate question marks, no matter how dependable they have been, no matter the career year they have had prior to signing a big contract. It isn’t that questioning the expectations of certain players isn’t legitimate – it is – but the manner in which some commenters here always belittle the debate by carpetbombing the discussions with “what-ifs” gets tiresome.

The Sox are depending on one and two-year contracts for a reason – so they can let players go if they don’t work out. Besides, who are they playing that’s established and in their prime – i.e. worth having around for the next four years?
I count Youkilis and Pedroia, and maybe Drew depending on how you view his health history.
After that it’s all questions marks. Martinez is excellent, but if he continues to have trouble throwing out 20% of runners, he’s not a solution at the dish. That would be fine, if they weren’t already overly clogged at 1B/3B/DH.
So, more than half the lineup is a question mark. The Rays certainly don’t have that problem. Nor do the Yankees. And that’s the Sox direct competition.

This from David Ortiz and the
“Well, protection, in baseball, for a guy like me, is always going to be an issue,” Ortiz said. “No question about it. Whoever knows baseball, knows that. If you look at the Yankees last year, [Mark] Teixeira when did he start raking? When Alex [Rodriguez] came back. Manny [Ramirez] and me, we did the same thing. If I’m a pitcher and I had to face Papi and I gotta face any other guy, in a tough situation, I’m not sure I’m not gonna shoot for the guy that I feel is not gonna be a tough guy in a dangerous situation for me. That’s how baseball goes. And everybody knows that. So everybody needs protection in baseball…At one point you need someone behind you to see pitches.”

I’ve seen that quote, John. Papi has always thought he needed Manny, and I was among those last year pointing out the same numbers I pointed out above — Ortiz himself has shown that he does not need Manny-style protection, beyond how not having that protection might affect him psychologically.

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