With a snowstorm apparently imminent (quick, run to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and Dinty Moore!), and with Mark Texeira talk burning up the WEEI airwaves, baseball has been on my mind a bit lately.
When we last left off, the Red Sox had lost Game 7 of the ALCS, sending the Rays to their first World Series. Why did they lose that series? Well, two items jump out. First, their 1 and 2 starters, Beckett and Lester, combined for 1 win and 3 losses, averaging under 6 innings a start with an ERA of 6.95 and WHIP of 1.41. Pretty much you could stop there, but their big bat, David Ortiz, put up a batting average of 0.154 and an OPS of 0.698, while another major bat, Mike Lowell, wasn't even on the roster. So let's start with these four players...
1) Beckett was clearly hurt, suffering from an oblique strain. The good news is that such an injury is unlikely to be a problem in the future (i.e. it is not an elbow or shoulder problem). So let's assume that Beckett, who'll be 29 next year, contributes what we're used to.
2) Lester was the Sox best pitcher in the regular season, pitching over 200 innings and going 16-6 with an ERA of 3.21. This wass the first year he'd ever pitched >200 innings in his career, so perhaps hitting the wall in the postseason was to be expected. At 25, Lester is still a baby so I think it reasonable to assume that you'll get another solid season out of him in 2009.
3) Ortiz... well, if there were a body type that were to age prematurely, it is the Big Papi. He played in only 109 games this year, but if you extrapolate that performance over 162 games, he'd have hit 34 homers and knocked in 132, so it is not like the played poorly when he was able to go. At 33, he is unlikely to post numbers that are better than previous years, but I'm not expecting him to be Mo Vaughn with the Mets either. His wrist bothered him during the year, but what no ones knows is if that is an injury that can ever fully heal, or if it is more of a chronic problem. Of these four, Ortiz is probably the biggest question mark; I would not be surprised if he hit 0.260 or .310, 20 homers or 45.
4) At 35, Mike Lowell isn't what he used to be, but he is not as old as he looks and he had a very good year in 2008 before getting hurt (extrapolated to 162 games, 24 HR and 105 RBI). Certainly he is a better hitter than those who filled in for him during the ALCS (some combo of Mark Kotsay & Alex Cora, when you got finished moving around Lowrie and/or Youk). Lowell's defense is above average, and in the lineup at this point, he'd be a good #7 hitter or a below-average #5.