The 2007 Boston Red Sox.
The offseason began a few days ago, and rather than talk about the Yankees like everyone else is, I will give my take on each player that helped the Red Sox achieve greatness this season. And of course I am doing this for no apparent reason.
Dustin Pedroia led off for this Red Sox team (towards the end at least), and what more can one say about the guy? He plays his heart out, and plays well to go along with that. Down the stretch and in the playoffs he was the most reliable/established leadoff hitter that we used. Sure, he was fairly slow for a leadoff man, but he had a .380 OBP and didn’t seem phased by having the bat in his hands before the first pitch is thrown. He also played a decent second base, although the stats don’t really back it up. But put it this way, he is a good enough defender to get the job done. OPS+ 112
Kevin Youkilis was a pitch taking machine. He saw 4.27 pitches per AB and finished sixth in that category amongst AL candidates. He reached base 28 times in the postseason, and did not make an error all season long, postseason included. Not to mention the best "Revised Zone Rating" among qualifying first baseman. OPS+ 117
David Ortiz by seasons end was the best hitter in baseball. I’m sorry ARod but when you started off kind of slow, against good pitching, Ortiz was mashing and continued mashing throughout the playoffs. I have never personally seen anything like what Ortiz and Ramirez did during this postseason. Ortiz was on base 31 times in the postseason. OPS+ 171
Manny Ramirez. I thought he was losing some of his bat speed at times during the year. But it seemed to reappear in the playoffs. Reached base an astounding 32 times during the postseason. Sure, he might be the worst left fielder in baseball defensively. But he can still swing the bat well, and one more year of him is perfect, because after that he may start a "real" decline. OPS+ 126
Mike Lowell. The thing about Lowell is that he is a great intangibles guy. And I believe it played a role in helping this team win. Unfortunately, intangibles cannot be measured. But statistically, he was good anyway. Lowell is a better player at Fenway though, and if he went to a team in the offseason that had a larger park, his stats are probably not going to be as good. But wherever he plays he will bring a good glove and those aforementioned intangibles. And he was possibly the smartest hitter on the team. He could drive a fastball over the monster or push a breaking ball in front of the right fielder. I would rather have Lowell for 3 years at $13 million a year, than ARod at 10 years and $270 million. And those are really the only options that I know of. OPS+ 124
JD Drew was ridiculed and mocked by Red Sox fans everywhere, all year long. Except on my blog. I knew he was a better player than this. And going into the season, knowing he was overpaid I might add, my biggest concern was him getting hurt. But he stayed mostly healthy, and was an average player. So no, he was not worth the money. But he wasn’t a [terrible] player either, as some seem to think. And with his kryptonite on his back (2 outs RISP/bases loaded) he gave the best moment of the year, for me personally. That huge grand slam in game six off of "ace" Carmona. People say that ball kept carrying. I actually felt as soon as it left the bat, there were going to be runs scored. And Drew really stepped up in the postseason. He IS an above average player, when on the field. But this year was only average. OPS+ 105
Jason Varitek. Some say game calling skills are overrated, and cannot be measured. And in a sense, they cannot be measured, at least accurately. But Josh Beckett generally leaves it to Tek. Jon Lester after game 4 said "I just listened to Tek." Maybe game calling skills don’t matter as much with Curt Schilling on the mound. But with young pitchers it is an important skill. And the Red Sox by seasons end, had three starters that were younger than 27. And their three best relievers were either young, or new to the league. And he was [decent] with the bat too. OPS+ 103
Coco Crisp was an excellent defensive player this season at an important position. And there is no doubt in my mind that he can help a team in the future, just not this team necessarily. Sure, at times he is a liability with the bat, but he isn’t terrible at the plate either. And I love his energy and heart. But Ellsbury deserved to start by seasons end. Of course if Coco wants to be the utility OF then even $3 million isn’t all that bad for the Red Sox front office. But he will probably be traded. OPS+ 83
Julio Lugo. Over the course of the season, he was a bad hitter. Started hitting near the end, but still the entire season must be looked at. But defensively Lugo surprised me. He made some nice plays in the postseason and was fifth in "Revised Zone Rating" for AL SS’s. And his bat should get a little better. But still, he probably will not be any better than average overall. OPS+ 65
Jacoby Ellsbury was very entertaining in his short, but important stint. And he is the CF of the future, and I am happy to say that. OPS+ 131 (33 regular season games)
Josh Beckett. Put it this way…Is there anyone in baseball that [any] of you would rather pitch a big game than Beckett. Talking about active pitchers of course. He was awesome, and if Johan did not have so many good years under his belt, I would appoint Beckett to "Best pitcher in baseball." But it is still a little early for that I think. ERA+ 145
Curt Schilling. Who doesn’t believe in clutch? I believe in at least some sense of the word. He didn’t have very good stuff by seasons end, but still performed well. I almost want him resigned just for the playoffs. ERA+ 122
Daisuke Matsuzaka. My Dad and I were talking about this during his visit. Both of us agree that he will be better next year than he was this year. However, my father thinks a little more of him than I. I think his ceiling is, on average, a number 2 starter. I don’t think he will be the "ace" we thought he would be. But that is just my opinion of him. And the other thing that my Dad and I agreed on was that he was exciting to watch. Sure he may not have been worth the money [this] year, but he was fun to watch. One more thing, the Yankees not signing Matsuzaka may not be a bad thing for them, but had they signed Dice-K and we signed Igawa, than we would have finished second. So the signing meant something right? They do play in the division and were the biggest threat. ERA+ 108
Tim Wakefield was a Cy Young candidate. Oh wait, no he wasn’t. But some analysts/announcers mentioned this earlier in the year because of the amount of wins he had. Here is the thing, Wakefield was good for us because he was our fourth starter. Statistically he was average. And when a team’s fourth starter is average then the team probably has a pretty good rotation. I would resign him if he wants to be next years Taverez. But even if he is the fifth starter, it is still pretty good. And Tavarez will be their next year anyway, and I doubt that at this point in Wakefield’s career he will want to be demoted to spot starter/reliever. ERA+ 100
Julian Tavarez/Jon Lester. Tavarez was ok at times as a starter. But the Red Sox just found a way to not be terrible in games he started. He serves a purpose but is really not all that good.
Lester, coming off cancer, was average. But after having this year under his belt, and winning a big game. Not to mention another year removed from being treated for cancer. He will be an above average starter. Maybe not this year, but definitely in a few years. And I don’t see him being any worse than average next season. And seeing him teary eyed after game 4 was pretty emotional for any fan.
Manny Delcarmen was a good reliever this season. This was the guy I thought should have been thrown into the role of closer while Papelbon was in the rotation (during the offseason). I would rather have had one guy with good stuff try out the role, then three or four journeymen. But he ended up pitching well in a different role.
Hideki Okajima was awesome this year. He fatigued some, and maybe opponents caught up to him a little. But he was awesome. And was even better compared to what the Red Sox thought they were going to get out of him. And an average reliever had to be the most they thought they would be getting.
Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in baseball. Well, there are a few others that are in the conversation. But he is great. Has great stuff. And it is nice to have someone finish off the game that is capable of doing so. I mean that "Game Over’ feeling I get when he comes in with the lead cannot be replaced. And only a few relievers in baseball could probably give me that same feeling.
Terry Francona. During the regular season there may have been 5-8 managers that I would rather have. I question some of Francona’s decisions. But I do like the Red Sox philosophy in not bunting too much and stealing bases only when they are almost guaranteed. But come playoff time I have agreed with Francona almost entirely. And not just because the players seem to come through. There hasn’t been as much second guessing going on. He manages well in the postseason. And while I believe there are better managers in the game, and that he has as much as almost any manager to work with, he almost has to be given an extension. He has two rings in four years since arriving in Boston.
And this team was the [best] team in baseball. I defended them even when they were playing .500 ball for much of the season, because I truly believed they were the best, or at least that no one was better. And they won it all, nothing more one can ask for in sports right?