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Boston Red Sox: Power Ranking the Team’s Top 10 Players

The Boston Red Sox season is officially half over and with a 47-34 record (third best in all of baseball) the club is second in the AL East behind the New York Yankees.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Red Sox, but after a disastrous start this group of 25 has emerged to be just as good as everyone thought they would be.

Let’s take a look at which 10 Boston players are most responsible for carrying the team the team through the first 81 games.

Dmitriy Ioselevich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for all your MLB news and updates. 

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Boston Red Sox on Fire, but Can They Get Even Better?

The Boston Red Sox pounded the Chicago Cubs into submission, 15-5, yesterday to win their seventh straight ball game. The Sox have now won 10 of 12, 13 of 18 and 22 of their last 32. They have the best record in baseball since April 16 and, more importantly, they sit just a half game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East.

How did this happen?

It was just two weeks ago that Red Sox Nation was ready to call it a year and go back to rooting for the Celtics and Bruins in the playoffs. But much has happened in those two short weeks, including Rajon Rondo almost single-handedly beating the Miami Heat with one arm (try getting your kids to believe that one in about 20 years).

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have come together as a team and started playing like the club that everyone and their uncle picked to win the World Series.

The good news? They’re going to get even better.


Carl Crawford

Much of the blame for Boston’s poor start was placed squarely on the shoulders of the $142 million man, otherwise known as Carl Crawford. In reality, at least half the lineup was struggling. The Red Sox hit just .243 as a team in April and Crawford finished the brutal month hitting .155.

Since then, however, the star outfielder has really turned it on. He opened May with an 11-game hitting streak and has his batting average up to .212. He’s hitting .294 so far in May and has a couple of nice game-winning hits on his resume.

He’s still stuck in the eight spot in the lineup and will remain there until further notice, but this is still a perennial All-Star who’s only now beginning to play like one.

Crawford’s worst season in his 10-year major league career was in 2008, when he missed over 50 games and finished with a .273/.319/.400 line. He’s currently at .212/.247/.282. Crawford averages 13 home runs and 53 steals over 162 games. Right now he has one and six, respectively. Clearly there’s room for improvement.

It’s only a matter of time before Crawford unleashes a string of multi-hit games and gives the Red Sox offense yet another weapon.


John Lackey/Daisuke Matsuzaka

The Red Sox felt pretty confident with what they were going to get out of the top of their rotation, and the trio of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz has certainly delivered so far this season. But the same can’t be said for the back end of the rotation.

Matsuzaka somehow rolled off two consecutive scoreless starts in mid-April, but the rest of the season has been a disaster. He hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in five of his eight starts and has almost as many walks (23) as strikeouts (26). He’s been so bad that the Red Sox couldn’t wait to get him off the field, putting him on the disabled list with a sprained right elbow. He’s not expected back until July, if ever.

Remarkably, Lackey has been even worse. The big righty has a 8.01 ERA and is getting smacked around like he’s playing T-ball. In 39.1 innings he’s surrendered 53 hits and 18 walks. In other words, an opposing batter has a better chance of reaching base than he does recording an out. Lackey’s crap fest earned him a spot on the disabled list alongside Matsuzaka, with what the Red Sox call a sprained right elbow.

It’s almost inconceivable that the two of them can continue to pitch this poorly, but even if they spend the rest of the season sitting on the bench (a trade is impossible at this point) the Red Sox can still take solace in that they have other options.

There’s the ageless Tim Wakefield, who’s already made two serviceable starts this season. There’s Alfredo Aceves, the former Yankee with starting experience. There’s lefties Rich Hill and Felix Doubront, just waiting for their shot to get back on the mound. There’s even the recently signed Kevin Millwood!

If the Yankees can make it through the first quarter of the season with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon in their rotation, then odds are the Red Sox can find a competent pitcher somewhere. 



The Bobby Jenks signing has been a disaster. The supposed seventh inning guy has a 9.35 ERA in 11 games and is currently on the DL with a strained right biceps. Dan Wheeler has been even worse with a 11.32 ERA in 11 games, thanks in large part to the four home runs he’s given up (tied for fourth on the team, including starters). Denys Reyes didn’t even make it through a week with the big club, earning his release after just 1.2 awful innings.

But there is hope on the horizon.

The bullpen has been anchored by Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and newcomer Matt Albers, but they’ve gotten positive contributions out of other pitchers. Scott Atchison is back after a strong year in 2010 and he pitched three scoreless innings last night against the Cubs. Ditto for lefty Rich Hill, who has yet to give up a run in 4.2 innings.

The Red Sox also recently acquired Franklin Morales, a lefty reliever who has a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings pitched for the Colorado Rockies. And don’t forget former prospect Michael Bowden, who was lights out in AAA Pawtucket and is now just waiting to get his name called.

It’s going to take some time, but the Red Sox have the resources to build a great bullpen.

This may sound like a collection of if’s, but every team in baseball has question marks. The biggest question for the Red Sox early in the season was could they get out of their slump? The answer, of course, was yes.

Now the question turns to guys like Carl Crawford, John Lackey and Bobby Jenks. History suggests that all of these guys will turn it around, but even if they don’t the Red Sox have Plan B already in place.

It’s going to be a fun season.  

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MLB 2011 Exclusive: Interview with Baseball Prospectus Editor Steven Goldman

Steven Goldman is the editor-in-chief of and the New York Times bestseller of “Baseball Prospectus 2011: The Essential Guide to the 2011 Baseball Season.”

Now in its 16th edition, this book offers “deadly accurate PECOTA projections” for more than 1,600 players and scouting reports on teams, players, prospects and managers. It’s considered an industry leader in the rapidly growing field of baseball statistics and is read by front offices across the country.  

Goldman recently took the time to speak with me about the new book and what fans and scouts alike can expect for the upcoming season.  

What got you into sabermetrics in the first place? How did you come to be the editor for Baseball Prospectus?

SG: “I first got into sabermetrics as a young teenager reading Bill James (the father of sabermetrics). I picked up his 1985 abstract and for me that unlocked a whole hidden game within the game made up of numbers and history.

It was fascinating to me that there’s a long continuity of players and that they’re all somehow interrelated, so I devoured every baseball book I could find. I realized that what gives numbers meaning is not just what players are doing, but what comparable players have done before.

I started off doing sports writing for the New York Sun and the YES Network. I grew up in New Jersey so I was always a big Yankee fan and decided to also start the ‘Pinstriped Bible’ blog and wrote about the Yankees and sometimes the Mets.

In 2005, I wrote a biography on Casey Stengel and for whatever reason it got the attention of some guys at BP and they contacted me and asked me to be their Rob Neyer (a disciple of Bill James). I told them ‘I can’t be your Rob Neyer, but I can be your Steven Goldman.’ I co-edited the 2006, 2007 and 2008 BP annuals and now here I am.” 

What’s the point of this book?

SG: “Baseball Prospectus is something that is read in every front office in baseball. It’s read by fantasy baseball fans and casual fans and pretty much everyone in between.

But we don’t want this to just be a dry reference, something you read once and throw away. We want it to be something people hold on to and look back on. We want it to be something people can argue with—not an end-all, be-all for baseball statistics but at least a major part of the conversation.”   

What are some of the differences between this year’s version and past versions?

SG: “We changed the way stats are presented so the book is a little more condensed this year. Past editions were massive, so we wanted to make the book trimmer without reducing content. So we increased the amount of writing we do on players by about 10 percent, and reduced the amount of stats we offer by about 10 percent.

We eliminated some pitching stats because we had better ones that were more accurate and because we wanted a streamlined product. It’s an ongoing process, though. Colin Wyers is our statistical guru and he’s in currently reevaluating all our stats to see what we can improve.”  

What are some of the current challenges facing sabermetrics?

SG: “The big issue is with how we evaluate defense because there’s a lot of bias in the data we have, particularly with each ballpark’s scorer. Until we get a system like PITCH f/x to track how fielders position themselves and move, defense is going to remain very subjective.

Right now, most defensive metrics rely on assumptions of what would have happened to the ball and where the fielder should be, rather than what actually happened in the game. So what we tend to do is look at several different defensive systems to try to get an overall picture of what’s happening.

Two other areas that need some work are bullpen building and managing. For relievers, there’s very little predictability because typically we’re dealing with such a small sample size. For managers, we’d like to be able to gauge how much impact on team performance a manager actually has.”

How does PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) work and what are some of its strengths and weaknesses as a metric?

SG: “PECOTA, invented by Nate Silver in 2002, works by running comparables to predict a player’s future performance. The system knows every player who has ever played baseball and the context in which they did it (their age, weight, size, etc). So we use this information and look at a player’s career arc to see how they progressed to determine both a short-term and long-term outlook.

Most projections give you just a snapshot of what a player might do, but PECOTA gives you percentiles on the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario and where in between the player would likely end up. So what we present in the book is actually a weighted mean projection (one right in the center) that we feel is the most likely scenario.

However, it’s a conservative program because it’s looking for regression, so when a player has a peak season the system assumes that it’s a fluke and not an actual upgrade. This leads to some players being underrated.”    

Is Albert Pujols really worth the kind of money (10 years, $300 million) that he’s asking or do the projections say otherwise?

SG: “Players of his stature have maintained their value really well to an advanced age, so he’s less of a risk with that kind of contract. However, you can’t bet on that. It’s still a huge financial risk. It’s not smart to be on the hook for that much money to a player that old.

Teams today rationalize spending that kind of money by eating the last three or so years of the contract and prorating the early years, but either way it’s not a smart business decision.”

How much of a difference will playing at Fenway Park make for new Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez?

SG: “Moving to anywhere but Petco would’ve given him a huge boost. Adrian should’ve been an annual 30-HR guy. Playing in a harder division may hold his numbers down a bit, but you can’t underestimate the impact Fenway can have.” 

Derek Jeter had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2010 and still roped the Yankees into giving him $51 million. What’s in store for Jeter in 2011 and long-term?

SG: “Jeter projects to perform roughly the same as he did in 2010. The problem he had last year was a reduction in bat speed that prevented him from being able to lift the ball off the ground, so he hit nothing but grounders. Not all players can play well into their 40’s and it would be a big surprise to see him maintain his pre-2010 production.

As far as defense, he really struggles going to his left. He’s never been a particularly strong defender and he’s only going to get worse at this point. He could shift position, but his bat won’t be good enough to carry him at anywhere but shortstop. I think he’ll retain enough of his value this year, but the Yankees are going to have to face the issue of where to put him sooner or later.”

Does the addition of Cliff Lee give the Philadelphia Phillies the best rotation in the history of the game? Who’s the X-factor?

SG: “It’s hard to compare their staff against other eras, but obviously on paper they look really, really good. Cliff Lee still has to show that he can come back from that injury and Cole Hamels still hasn’t peaked yet. Roy Oswalt also has some work to do if he wants to legitimize his Hall of Fame candidacy.”

The Kansas City Royals traded away their best player (Zack Greinke), but the return they got gave them the best farm system in all of baseball. Could they actually be good one day?

SG: “The problem with prospects is that they don’t always perform the way you expect. But there’s every chance that if they can give some of those guys a shot at the jobs then in a year or two the Royals could be a reasonably credible team. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer both look like potential All-Stars.”

Give me one player or team that is going to surprise people this season.

SG: “The Orioles could be a .500 team if their pitching is consistent. They really improved their offense. I’m also excited to see what Adrian Gonzalez does outside of Petco and what Carlos Santana can do in a full season for the Indians.”

One player or team that will disappoint?

SG: “The Blue Jays aren’t quite ready to make the kind of noise that people think they will. The Rays are also going to fall off because they lost their entire bullpen in free agency. But they have some great pitching prospects and outfielder Desmond Jennings, so they have a chance to surprise some people.

Josh Hamilton won’t be the same ‘Superman’ kind of player, especially since he’s so injury prone. Also, a lot of people are assuming Jeter will bounce back, but he won’t.” 

What is the future of sabermetrics?

SG: “Before everything was about working with an imperfect or incomplete set of tools to infer what happens on the field. But now with special tools like PITCH f/x and HIT f/x we can know exactly what happened.

That’ll open up a whole new world for sabermetrics. The numbers can’t be disputed anymore. The future will be objective, with a realistic description of what’s happening as opposed to just interpretation.”  

For more information on Steven Goldman or the book, please visit the official Baseball Prospectus website

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MLB Spring Training 2011: Top 10 NL Position Battles To Watch For

Football season is over, basketball season is at its midway point and the NCAA Tournament is still a month away.

Yup, it’s almost March and that means it’s finally time for baseball spring training.

After an exciting offseason, fans everywhere are eager to get the 2011 season going.

Pitchers and hitters are scheduled to report to their respective spring training facilities in Florida or Arizona over the next few days, and games will begin in a couple of weeks.

But as fun as it is to see a dozen different players you’ve never heard of share the field with MLB superstars, most eyes should be planted squarely on a handful of players who will be playing for their baseball lives.

Spring training is usually just a time to get back in the habit of playing the game, but for these few players, it’s a chance to prove they deserve a starting spot on the roster.

Check out the 10 biggest position battles in the AL this spring training, and see which player has the early lead.

Click here to read about AL position battles.

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MLB 2011: Power Ranking the Best Leadoff Men in Baseball

What makes a great leadoff hitter?

Getting on base at a high rate is a good start, but everyone in the lineup is expected to do that. A good eye always helps, but he shouldn’t be afraid to swing. Speed is a bonus, but some of the fastest players in baseball hit at the bottom of the batting order.

The truth is that there’s no formula for the perfect leadoff hitter. Every player approaches the game differently and every team has a different offensive style.

But, that doesn’t diminish the importance of the leadoff man.

These 30 hitters are their team’s respective table-setters, responsible for getting their club off to a good start and rallying their teammates to victory. They may not get the attention of the star slugger or the ace of the pitching staff, but a good leadoff hitter can be the difference between a postseason berth and an October date with the couch.

So here are my rankings of baseball’s top leadoff men and what to expect from them next season. As always, share your thoughts below. 

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MLB Spring Training 2011: Top 10 AL Position Battles To Watch For

The football season is over, the basketball season as it is midway point and the NCAA Tournament is still a month away. Yup, it’s almost March and that means it’s finally time for spring training baseball.

After an exciting offseason, fans everywhere are eager to get the 2011 season going. Pitchers and hitters are scheduled to report to their respective spring training facilities in Florida or Arizona over the next few days, and games will begin in a couple of weeks.

But as fun as it is to see a dozen different players you’ve never heard of share the field with MLB superstars, most eyes should be planted squarely on a handful of players who will be playing for their baseball lives. Spring training is usually just a time to get back in the habit of playing the game, but for these few players it’s a chance to prove that they deserve a starting spot on the roster.

Check out the 10 biggest position battles in the AL this spring training, and see which player has the early lead.

Click here to read about NL position battles.

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Boston Red Sox: 10 Ways Kevin Youkilis Is Their Most Important Player in 2011

Adrian Gonzalez is the new big name in town, Carl Crawford is the high-profile free agent signing and Jon Lester is an early Cy Young favorite. Not one of these players is the key to Boston’s success next season.

No, that honor belongs to Kevin Youkilis, the big, burly right-handed slugger who enters his eighth professional season with the Red Sox. See what the Red Sox will be counting on him for in 2011 and what might happen if he doesn’t deliver.

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MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Most Clutch Hitters in Baseball

Baseball purists and new-age sabermetricians have argued about the existence of “clutch” hitting ever since statistical evaluation became possible. But whether you believe in the advanced metrics or not, you can’t deny that certain players have a penchant for coming through when it matters the most.

Here are the 10 last hitters than an opposing pitcher wants to see in the bottom of the ninth inning with the winning run on base.

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MLB Free Agency: 15 Players Teams Will Regret Not Re-Signing

Being a baseball general manager is a thankless job. Every move that you make is second-guessed, critiqued and analyzed to death before a new player even steps out onto the field. Then there’s the separate issue of what to do with your hometown players, some of whom have evolved into local legends or fan favorites.

Every player has to become a free agent eventually, but the gut-wrenching question facing every general manager is when is the right time to let those players go? In the case of these 15 players, their GM’s let them go too soon.

For the sake of this list we’ll eliminate players who had no chance of resigning with their former teams (Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford) and players that teams made an effort to sign but were outbid (Cliff Lee).

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MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Former Winners of Major Awards Who Could Be Traded

Winning a major baseball award is typically a big step towards fame, riches and potentially a place in the MLB Hall of Fame. But not every MVP, ROY, Cy Young or Rolaids Relief award winner is destined for greatness. Some of them simply become trade bait.

With the baseball off-season wrapping up and Spring Training just around the corner, here’s a look at 10 major award winners who could be changing teams this year.

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