A Look at the Red Sox’s Off-Season Moves
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 18:02
The Patriots lost to the Giants in an upset a short while ago, but despair not Boston fans because Red Sox Spring Training is underway. Since the last game of a historic collapse, Sox fans have eagerly awaited the 2012 season in hopes of brighter days and more wins. The Sox have made a few moves over the off-season to counter their competitors, but let's take a closer look at the new the offensive additions.
Let's start with the outfield. This year the Sox will lose their former—and not well-loved—right fielder J.D. Drew, and he will be replaced by a platoon of Ryan Sweeney and former post-season hero Cody Ross. Question: Is this an upgrade? Last year Drew continued a steady decline playing just 81 games while hitting .222 with a .315 OBP. Last year Sweeney hit .265 with a .346 OBP and Ross hit .240 with a .325 OBP. Doesn't sound very impressive, does it? Well, with the offense the Sox have, they can afford a lower output in the RF spot—especially when said low output is better than last year's— but then you need to factor in the platoon idea. Ross as a RH hitter hit .282 with a .349 OBP vs. LH pitching in his career and Sweeney as a LH hitter hit .296 against RH pitching. Those are some extremely productive statistics, especially at the bottom of the batting order. Take into consideration that both are very good fielders and suddenly our outfield becomes the best in the American League.
Now let's take a look at the infield, we lost Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro then gained Nick Punto and Mike Aviles. Scutaro hit .299 with a .358 OBP last season and was a force in September (he hit .387 in the last month of the season) when the rest of the team seemed to give up. Losing him is a devastating loss, especially considering his production came at the back end of the batting order. Lowrie seemed to be a fan favorite during his time with the Sox gaining a reputation as a power threat and a grinder. Punto on the other hand is a career .249 hitter and has never hit more than 4 homeruns in a given season. It seems like a big loss at the SS position but think about it this way: Scutaro has been in a steady decline for the past few years and his productive stats from last year—which were more luck than genuine improvement—won't continue much further in his career. Last season Scutaro had a .315 batting average for all balls in play, about 20 points higher than his career average; thus his knack for getting hits last year was more of a fluke than a genuine trend. Added to that, Scutaro is 36 years old and is facing the twilight of his career. Still, losing Scutaro will hurt the offense some, but losing Jed Lowrie won't prove as devastating a loss. Lowrie has yet to play more than 90 games in a season, and should he play a full 162 game season he is projected to hit only .252 with a .324 OBP drive in 74 runs and hit 12 HR. Not to poke fun, but that's less productive than J.D. Drew. Now am I saying Nick Punto is a godsend? No, his career stats are very similar to Lowrie's but he is a much better defender and more durable. Combined with Mike Aviles, who last year for the Sox hit .317 with a .340 OBP in 38 games, we've got decent offensive production coming from shortstop between the two players.
There you have it, overall our offensive upgrades pale in comparison to last year's blockbuster deals for Gonzalez and Crawford, but they do present an interesting upgrade and some youth to last year's lineup. I've got a feeling though that in 2012 the focus won't be so much on the already productive offense, but instead on the pitching staff and defense.