The Baseball Notebook

April 8, 2010 2:36 PM

Boston's Bats

Yesterday's post discussing the Cubs' bullpen proved to be prophetic, as John Grabow coughed up a two-run home run in the eighth to Chipper Jones, resulting in a 3-2 loss at Atlanta. Today we'll talk about the Boston offense, which is going to be timely in a retrospective sense. The Red Sox have to be feeling the sting of disappointment, losing the series to New York after beating Sabathia in the opener. Offense proved to be the problem last night in a 3-1 extra innings loss, when the Sox had three frames to get the winning run off Chan Ho Park and couldn't do it. Was that just one of the inevitable disappointments teams deal with in the course of a long season or is it a harbinger of a long hot summer in Boston?

The reliables of the Red Sox offense are Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez. Youkilis is indisputably the best player on this team and

arguably the best pro athlete in the Boston market with the decline of Tom Brady and Kevin Garnett. He does everything well with the bat. As does Martinez, albeit not quite at the same level. In the same category you can include J.D. Drew, although with the all-important qualifier of his health. He played 137 games last year and a repeat of that would be enough to keep the Sox offense healthy.

Boston has table-setters at the top in Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Last season Ellsbury evolved into more than just a fast guy who could steal bases, and into a real on-base threat. Pedroia is the same. He also has respectable power. Whether he upgrades into more than that, depends on your view of his .493 slugging percentage of his MVP season in 2008. Was it an aberration or something he will repeat? My inclination is to the former. Pedroia is kind of a poor man's Derek Jeter, in that he's a genuinely good baseball player, but there's hype

surrounding him in his own market that goes well beyond what he does in the field.

With this core group the Red Sox have a good offense, one that would be the envy of most teams. But one of those teams wouldn't be the Yankees and that's what everything in the Hub is measured by these days. Whether the offense gets to that point depends on the rest of the lineup and that really rests on David Ortiz. Much was made of his 28 home runs in the last four months of last year, but something the big man has been lacking is his former ability to bang doubles of the Wall with consistency and to be a walk machine. His slugging percentag last year was .462, which isn't bad, for a guy with 28 HRs its low. And its the doubles that are much more likely to keep the offense churning on a nightly basis. The lineup rounds itself out with Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron. Scutaro and Beltre aren't likely to bring much. The shortstop had a good offensive

year last season, but it was the only one in his career. Beltre's bat has been sliding since a huge year in 2004 and he had become an offensively liability in Seattle by the end of last season. Both have value with the glove, but that's not the point of this post. Cameron struggles to get on base regularly, but he's got some nice pop in the bat, with slugging numbers that stack up favorably with Ortiz. Given that Cameron will hit low in the order, that's a nice supplement to the offense.

Prognosis: Just because the offense isn't as good as New York's, doesn't mean it isn't potent. It's better than most and more than enough to carry a team built on pitching.

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