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Series Preview: Boston Red Sox (April 14-15)

2007 At-A-Glance

Run Creation AL Rank
Runs 3rd
BA 5th
OBP 2nd
SLG 3rd
Run Prevention AL Rank
Runs Allowed 1st
Walks Allowed 5th
HR Allowed
Def. Efficiency

As you can see, there wasn't much the Red Sox didn't do right. The offense wasn't as prolific as in past seasons, but that was made up for by excellent pitching and defense. Manny Ramirez had a down year by his standards, but Mike Lowell had one of the best seasons of his career. Free agents JD Drew and Julio Lugo underperformed, but Dustin Pedroia posted a 112 OPS+ in his rookie year.

The strength of the 2007 Red Sox was, however, the pitching staff. Josh Beckett rebounded from a horrible first season in Boston, striking out 194, walking 40, and more than halved his home runs allowed. Curt Schilling, in what probably was his last full season, gave Boston 151 122 ERA+ innings. Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't as dominating as promised, but he was pretty solid behind Beckett and Schilling. And Tim Wakefield continued to eat innings, making his customary 31 starts.

In the bullpen, Jonathan Papebon and HIdeki Okajima headlined a dominant back-end group of relievers. Papelbon allowed just 45 base runners in 58.1 innings pitched, and Okajima was actually more effective against right-handers than against lefties. The depth was very good as well, including young flamethrowers (Manny Delcarmen), free talent (Kyle Snyder), and old standbys (Mike Timlin). Aside from Eric Gagne and perhaps Joel Pineiro, everyone in the bullpen met or exceeded expectations.

Important Offseason Transactions

11-2-07: Exercised 2008 Options of RHP Tim Wakefield and RHP Julian Tavarez

11-6-07: Re-signed RHP Curt Schilling to a 1-year contract

11-20-07: Re-signed 3B Mike Lowell to a 3-year contract

12-7-07: Re-signed RHP Mike Timlin to a 1-year contract

1-28-08: Traded RHP Willy Mota, et al, to Chicago (AL) for RHP David Aardsma

2-5-08: Signed 1B Sean Casey to a 1-year contract

2-25-08: Signed RHP Bartolo Colon to a 1-year contract

The Red Sox were relatively quiet this off-season, content mainly to re-sign their own free agents. The biggest retention was Mike Lowell, who was coming off perhaps his best season as a pro. Curt Schilling was brought back, but he probably won't pitch much this season thanks to a shoulder injury. Casey will be a role player, and Colon a rehab project.

Strengths and Weaknesses

As mentioned above, Boston doesn't have many weaknesses. Julio Lugo, at least in his first season, wasn't much of an upgrade from Alex Gonzalez. With Schilling's injury, Boston's experienced pitching depth took a hit, though they have several young and talented alternatives waiting in the wings.

In addition to their major-league talent, Boston has several young players ready to fill everyday roles. John Lester and Clay Buchholz both should hold down rotation spots this season, and it's only a matter of time before Jacoby Ellsbury supplants Coco Crisp in center field.

2008 Outlook

Boston will be contenders yet again, and have a great shot to repeat as division champs over the Yankees, though the AL East perennial also-rans (especially Toronto and Tampa Bay) are much tougher than in years past.