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Springtime Storylines: Are the Boston Red Sox the best team in baseball?

Mar 30, 2011, 8:20 AM EDT

Adrian Gonzalez

Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season. For in-depth previews of all 30 teams, check out the HBT Preview. In this edition: the Boston Red Sox.

The Big Question: Are the Red Sox the best team in baseball?

Man, it’s hard to pick a better one. Offensively they’ve traded Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. I think 2011 wins that battle, and I think Gonzalez might be a nice MVP candidate in his new ballpark.  Add a healthy Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia to the mix and you’re talking about a better overall offense this year than last, and last year the Sox finished behind only the Yankees in runs scored in the American League.

The rotation is less formidable though. Like the Yankees’ rotation, it certainly looks nice at the top with Jon Lester figuring to, once again, be among the elite in the league and with Clay Buchholz poised to build on an impressive 2010. Beyond that are three guys looking to regain past form in Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. I’m less optimistic about Dice-K than I am Lackey and Beckett, but it seems silly to me to assume that all three of these guys are toast. Figure at least one and probably two of them bouncing back. Also figure that if the back end of the Red Sox’s rotation does come through, its upside is considerably higher than the potential upside of the back end of the Yankees’ rotation.

Finally, the bullpen, where the addition of Bobby Jenks and the maturation of Daniel Bard will complement the maligned yet still highly effective Jonathan Papelbon to make the final three innings of any game fairly miserable for Red Sox opponents most nights. And don’t sleep on Dan Wheeler who — at least judging by superficial bullpen depth charts — is one of the better fourth options out of the pen in all of baseball.

Where does that leave us? I’ll get a little more reflective about their chances below in the “So how are the going to do” section, but for now I’m going to give a guarded “yes” in response to that question. I think the Red Sox are the best team in baseball in 2011.

So what else is going on?

  • Jacoby Ellsbury has been raking this spring. I don’t spend too much time mucking about the Boston press, but the fact that he could add something major to the Red Sox lineup seems like one of the more underreported stories of the spring. If Ellsbury shines this year, that guarded “yes” above turns much more emphatic. Same goes for J.D. Drew who, unlike the vast majority of baseball fans, I am not inclined to sleep on. He’s good. He’s always been good and at times he’s been great. He could still turn in an All-Star caliber season, even if no one is all too eager to acknowledge it as such when it goes down.
  • How much rope does Marco Scutaro have? He toughed his way through injuries and ineffectiveness last year to play in 150 games, but how much of Terry Francona’s loyalty was based on true confidence in Scutaro’s skills and how much was based on the fact that, with Dustin Pedroia gone, he could use both Scutaro and Jed Lowrie in the lineup? If Scutaro struggles again out of the gate, will Lowrie get a chance to build on a promising 2010?
  • I have yet to talk to anyone — not a single person — who knows a thing about about baseball who believes that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going to last the whole year as the Red Sox’ starting catcher. It’s his age-26 season now, and no, he hasn’t managed to put it together anywhere he’s been. At least not compared to his promise as a Braves’ farm hand. Of course, that promise was based mostly on one great year in high-A ball in 2005 and his second go-around at AA in 2007. If Saltalamacchia fails he won’t be the first former Braves prospect to bite the dust once he reached the majors. I’m kind of rooting for him because of where he came from, but this is probably his last shot at being a starting catcher in the majors, wouldn’t you agree?
  • I have no personal interest in David Ortiz‘ performance, but I really would like to see him hit well in April and May just so we can avoid a third straight year of questions about the guy and testy responses from Ortiz himself. There’s nothing more tiring than “Is Big Papi done?” talk.

So how are they going to do?

It’s easy to look at Gonzalez and Crawford, add in the Fenway Park effect that people tend to overstate when a big new bat comes to town and to crown the Red Sox AL East champs right now, But let’s not get too crazy. I think that yes, on paper, the Red Sox are the best team in the division. Which, by definition, makes them the best team in baseball. But they’re not invincible. They face a substantially similar rotation problem as the Yankees do and their offenses profile pretty similarly as well.  The Red Sox are not kings only temporarily lacking a crown. They are not an inevitability.

But I do think they’re a bit better as we kick off the season. That may mean diddly squat once the games actually start, but for now I’m tasked with picking the winners. And in the AL East I pick Boston.

  1. uyf1950 - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Craig – I guess that’s why they make teams play the games. I can honestly say the only fault I find with your piece is your comment on Papelbon and I quote “the maligned yet still highly effective Jonathan Papelbon”. Come on do you honestly believe that “still highly effective? He hasn’t been highly effective in over a year. His walks and Whip have increased the last 3 years, as have his HR’s allowed and not to mention an ungodly ERA of 3.90 in 2010 for a closer. Highly effective? I don’t think so, especially not against the Red Sox chief opponents the Yankees.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM

      ERA is probably the worst stat by which to judge a relief pitcher’s performance. A small handful of bad outings can skew it tremendously. In September last year, as the season was winding down, Papelbon was lit up for four runs a couple of times. Before that his ERA was under 3.

      His strikeout rate was his highest in several years. His walk and BA against only ticked up slightly. There was some bad luck and a few bad outings in which Francona just let JP “wear it,” as they say. I think you’re underselling the state of his game.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:56 AM

        Craig, his K rate was just a smidge above his previous two seasons – there’s little difference between 10.21 and 10.06 or 10.00. On the other hand, his walk and HR rates jumped up to full-season career highs, which also lead to highs in his FIP and tERA, while he posted lows in WAR and WPA. You’re right, we shouldn’t use ERA to judge relievers in a single season, but his peripherals more or less supported that ERA.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:59 AM

        May be you’re right but with that being said even a 2.91 ERA at the end of August isn’t anything to brag about coupled with 8 blown saves for the year. One or 2 stats might be a poor judge of his performance, but it’s more then just 1 or 2. In any case he has this year to prove if 2010 is going to be his norm or not.

      • professorperry - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:07 AM

        The real issue with Paps is that he’s not worth the huge payout that’s coming to him, so this will be his last year in Fenway. There’s no reason to think he won’t be an effective 9th inning guy this year. There’s PLENTY of reason to think he might not be the best reliever on the team, but that’s a good thing. Bard as the relief ace in the 8th is grand.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM

        I’m okay with the idea that we should expect him to be effective this year. I’m not okay with the claim that he was still highly effective last year.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Just because he’s not putting up historically dominant season anymore doesn’t mean that he’s not still highly effective. Whether you consider a 3.51 FIP and 3.72 xFIP reliever highly effective or merely effective is up to you. But most projections have him as being fairly undeniably highly effective next year.

        Just looking at the Fangraphs projections for FIP:

        James: 3.01
        Marcel: 3.46
        Fans: 3.27

        Marcel tends to be the harshest evaluator and James the most optimistic, but anywhere in that range is definitely stll highly effective.

        Having a highly effective reliever as your third or fourth best reliever is fantastic, regardless of how much he’s costing you (on just a one-year deal) or how dominant he used to be.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        Like I said, no problems with the claims that he’ll be highly effective this year. But he wasn’t that effective in 2010.

    • fatcatt - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:45 AM

      I agree 100%. I was wondering if i fell asleep in a drunken stupor and missed the season. Whats the over/under on Pap in how many games before hes replaced this season. Now if you would have worded the story a bit differently like: “Are the Red Sox the team to beat this season” then you may have something here. But you also forgot about injuries, injuries, and injuries. How often have we seen that derail a team over the years the red sox a prime example last year and it was a few of their young players at that. So lets see them make it to Sept. healthy and a 10 game division lead before you go making them the champs before opening day.

    • fatcatt - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:55 AM

      Mariano,heath bell,Brian Wilson, Soriano, Soria. Those were highly effective pitchers last year. I’ll give Pap effctive. Even if at times erratically effective.

  2. thinman61 - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    “The team to beat” maybe. As an old-time Sox fan I’m not about to tempt the baseball gods by declaring them winners of anything before the first game has even been played. We generally try and leave celebrating World Series championships in March to our pinstriped brethren 206 miles to the southwest.

    • spudchukar - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      Were it only true.

  3. proudlycanadian - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Drew? Scutaro? Salty? Beckett? Matsuzaka? Papelbon? Lackey? Ortiz?

    There are too many question marks on this team to anoint them.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      There are too many more questons on every other team not to.

  4. BC - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    If both teams are healthy, the Phillies trump the Red Sox. Big “if” though.

    • Jonny 5 - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:03 AM

      If both teams are healthy It would be an epic showdown of Offense Vs. Defense imo. It would be akin to a battle of the Gods. These two face each other during the season and I can’t wait. The Phills can shut down the RS bats anytime, the question remains, “Will they?”.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:13 AM

        If both teams are healthy It would be an epic showdown of Offense Vs. Defense imo.

        Echoing this, the Phils staff is far better than the Sox, with less question marks, but the Sox offense trumps the Phils. When do they play this year? May have to find a local sports bar to watch some of these games. Only hope is that the top starters matchup so we don’t end up with a #3/#4/#5 three game series =\

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM

        Last week of June in Philly. It should be insane.

      • macjacmccoy - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        IF both teams are healthy I dont see how the Phillies offense isnt as good or better. 1st Base Howard vs Gonzalez = Howard averages 100+ runs 140+ rbi 45+ hr .279 ba since becoming an everyday player Adrian isnt close. 2nd Base Utley vs Pedroira= Utley the consensus best 2nd basemen in the league until injured last year. If Healthy he’ll be right back on top. SS Rollins vs Scuturo= Rollins not even close last 2 years injuries have killed him but if healthy like you guys are saying hes top 5 SS. 3rd base Youkiliss vs Polanco= Youks who is more of a traditional 3rd basemen hitting wise the Placido. C Ruiz vs Saltamacchia= Ruiz he hits for better average and run production is slightly better. LF Ibanez vs Ellsbury = Push when healthy Rauls rbi n hr totals dwarf Elsbury while Elsbury averages about 15 more runs and alot more steals there averages are about the same. CF- Victorino vs Crawford= Crawford . RF- Fransico vs Drew = Drew but a healthy Dominico Brown would probably get the edge .

        Personally I would prefer a 162 game lineup of Rollins,Victorino, Utley, Howard, Ibanez, Polanco, Francisco, Ruiz then Ellsbury,Pedriora,Youkiliss,Gonzalez,Crawford,Scuturo,Drew, Saltamachia.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        IF both teams are healthy I dont see how the Phillies offense isnt as good or better. 1st Base Howard vs Gonzalez = Howard averages 100+ runs 140+ rbi 45+ hr .279 ba since becoming an everyday player Adrian isnt close.

        It’s not close, but not in the way you think. 3 year fWAR total:
        Gonzalez – 15.6
        Howard – 9.9

        And Howard has declined steadily the last four years (BB% and ISO) whereas Gonzalez is going from a terrible pitchers park to a great hitters park. Huge edge here to the Sox

        2nd Base Utley vs Pedroira= Utley the consensus best 2nd basemen in the league until injured last year. If Healthy he’ll be right back on top.

        Agree, except Utley is hurt again, and Pedroia is the consensus #2 when healthy. While Pedroia’s injury was a fluke (broken foot off a batted ball), Utley has has problems staying healthy. Slight edge here to Pedroia until Utley gets on the field.

        SS Rollins vs Scuturo= Rollins not even close last 2 years injuries have killed him but if healthy like you guys are saying hes top 5 SS.

        1 WAR separates the two over the last three years, Scutaro plays more but if Rollins is healthy, give the edge to Phils.

        3rd base Youkiliss vs Polanco= Youks who is more of a traditional 3rd basemen hitting wise the Placido.

        Depends on how Youk’s defense transitions. Polanco is all glove with a subpar bat. If Youk is as good a defender at third as he was at first, heavy edge to the Sox.

        C Ruiz vs Saltamacchia= Ruiz he hits for better average and run production is slightly better.

        Not even worth discussing, Salty is terrible.

        LF Ibanez vs Ellsbury = Push when healthy Rauls rbi n hr totals dwarf Elsbury while Elsbury averages about 15 more runs and alot more steals there averages are about the same.

        Crawford is playing left, not Center. And Crawford’s numbers dwarf Ibanez’s. Heavy edge to the Sox.

        CF- Victorino vs Crawford= Crawford .

        Ellsbury replaces Crawford here, and the production was similar until last year due to Ellsbury’s injury. Edge to the Phils here

        RF- Fransico vs Drew = Drew but a healthy Dominico Brown wouldprobably get the edge

        JD Drew is far better than both those guys, heavy Sox edge.

        Phils have the edge at CF, 2nd and SS with a glaring edge at C. Sox have the edge at 1b, 3b, LF and RF with 3/4 being glaring edges.

  5. yankeesfanlen - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I’ve heard a few times now about the AL East being the toughest division in baseball. Also about the Jays and Os reviving and the Rays noit losing too much of a step. A big bullfeathers is in order!
    This year it will be Yanks and Sox coming to a draw as usual. Then we come to the season split, and because the Jays and Os are better, there will be a couple more wins vs. them, which will come back as wins against the Rays. All’s stable.
    So what happens? The rest of the AL is going to suffer mightily against the Universe and the Nation.A couple more net wins for the Yanks, maybe up to 10 for the Sox.
    Result: Wild card from the East, as always.

  6. phukyouk - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    I honestly believe that as it stands right now the Sox are the better team. I believe that as it stands right now they have the 2011 AL Cy Young award winner. I believe that as it stands right now they are the AL East champs with the Yanks in the WC. but as we know alot can change overnight. an injury to Lester or Youk or A-Gon and they are instantly switching places. i do NOT think that the phils will be the best team in baseball this year i think is coming out of the AL east.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:19 AM

      I’d say the Sox are less likely to win the Cy Young than the MVP. I’d still pick the field, of course, but Boston has four legitimate candidates in Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, and Youkilis. Especially the latter two, since people always underrate defense and non-HR offense.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:23 AM

        Gonzalez also gets the superficial ballpark effect boost and the newcomer leading the team to the playoffs (should they make it) boost. Lester (and Beckett or Lackey, depending on how high you think they rebound), on the other hand, has (have) a much smaller field to go against.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      My Cy Young prediction would go:

      Felix
      Verlander
      Lester
      Sabathia
      Liriano
      Price
      Haren
      Weaver

      I could be convinced to move a number of those guys up or down, but Felix has to be the way-too-early favorite, doesn’t he?

      • spudchukar - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        Price is biting at King Felix’s heels.

  7. Jack Marshall - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    There’s a real anti-Red Sox pro-Yankee bias here, which I would have expected you to take efforts to temper. You make a Becket-Lackey-Dice-K sequence sound like the rough equivalent of Burnett-Colon-Somebody, when they aren’t even close.

    If either Becket or Lackey return to form (I think the odds are that they both do) , the Red Sox have 3 #1 pitchers and a #3 quality pitcher as a #4, with Dice-K still being better than almost any #5 starters, including whoever the Yankees have in that slot.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      The comparison was pretty clearly Lester and Buchholz to Sabathia and Hughes, not the back three. Leave it to a Red Sox homer to read bias into somewhere it wasn’t.

      • Jack Marshall - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:01 PM

        Really, Kevin? Then what does this sentence mean:
        “They face a substantially similar rotation problem as the Yankees do.” My point is that it is NOT substantially similar, not at all, and that it takes a biased view to say or think that.

        The Red Sox have money in the bank at #1 and #2 with Lester and Buchholtz…only Sabathia is a sure thing in the Yankees rotation. The Yankee #2 and #3 are total question marks, and greater question marks than the Sox #3, #4 and #5, two of whom had strong 2009 seasons and the other who had decent years in 2007 and 2008. In contrast, the Yankees are seeking to fill their last two starting slots with cast-offs and prospects.

        If you think those situations are “substantially similar,” you are wishing and hoping, Yankee style. Like Craig.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM

        Having a similar problem (questions at the back end of the rotation) does not mean that they are equivalent staffs. You’re taking words out of context and not looking at the meaning of the whole, my friend.

        It’s clear that Craig is more down on the back end of the Sox rotation than you are, but he doesn’t think it’s precisely as questionable as the Yankees’.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 22, 2011 at 9:50 PM

        It’s been explained to you why that sentence was only referring to the top two in the rotation (and the fact that you think Buch is more bankable than Hughes only reinforces your own bias). I can easily explain why you would see an anti-Sox bias where none exists – it’s called fandom, and it’s hardly unique to Boston. Can you give any realistic reason why Craig would write with a pro-Yankee bias, or are you willing to admit that maybe your reading comprehension just isn’t up to snuff?

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      I’d say that Craig said pretty much exactly what you said when he said:

      “…it seems silly to me to assume that all three of these guys are toast. Figure at least one and probably two of them bouncing back. Also figure that if the back end of the Red Sox’ rotation does come through, its upside is considerably higher than the potential upside of the back end of the Yankees’ rotation.”

    • dan1111 - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:27 AM

      Or, as Craig put it: “if the back end of the Red Sox’ rotation does come through, its upside is considerably higher than the potential upside of the back end of the Yankees’ rotation.”

  8. Travis Reitsma - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    I’m having a hard time thinking that Lester-Buchholz-Beckett-Lackey-Matsuzaka is as troubled as Sabathia-Hughes-Burnett-??-??

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM

      Well, why are you thinking that? The author of this article certainly isn’t.

      • phukyouk - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        Lester-Clay = CC-Hughes
        Beckett-Lackey is SLIGHTLY better than AJ-Nova
        Dice-K = or < Colon or Garcia.

        yes the sox have a slight edge in the rotation right now but a slightly better AJ and a worse Beckett and all of a sudden you got a race.

        please dont start throwing all the past numbers here cause for right now they mean sh*t. Beckett is nothing close to what he was a few years ago and Dice-K is a shadow of his former self. as i said earleir if everything holds up as it is right now then the Sox win the division. but we all know that will not happen.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        Numbers from ’09 aren’t quite as important as numbers from ’10, but we’re not talking ancient history heret. Given that Colon didn’t pitch at all last year and Nova is young but not exactly a top prospect, I’ll take the guys who have been dominant most years but struggled last year over the guys who have never been dominant.

        Beckett and Dice-K project better than Nova/Garcia/Colon, and that’s in large part because they have the same downside but considerably more upside.

  9. uyf1950 - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    The way I see it in 2010 the Yankees won 95 games and even I will admit that was with a poor last 6 weeks of the regular season. Of the 95 wins the primary starters for the Yankees in 2010 accounted for 70 wins (CC 21, Hughes 18, Pettitte 11, Burnett 10 and Vazquez 10). Now let’s assume CC and Hughes still account for 39 combined wins in 2011. I know what some fans will say. They will say you can’t count on Hughes winning 18 games again. My response would be Hughes has just as much chance of winning that many games again as those Sox fans that think Beckett and Lackey will return to some form that exceeds their 2010 history and that for some reason Beckett, Buchholz and Dice K won’t be on the disabled list for any prolonged time like they have been. So if you will allow me my post. CC and Hughes still win a combine 39 games in 2011. That means in 2011 the Yankees have to replace the 31 wins from of Pettitte, Burnett and Vazquez in 2010. Burnett I believe will win at least 13 games in 2011 just my opinion but let’s go with it, it’s not significantly more then his poor 2010 numbers. That means for the Yankees to win at least the same amount of games in 2011 as they won in 2010 (95) they have to replace 18 wins. I have absolutely no doubt, none at all that the #4 and #5 starters for the Yankees in 2011 be it Nova and Colon or some trade deadline player that they will win at least 18 games. With the Yankees much improved bullpen this season in my opinion 95 wins for the Yankees is the least fans can/should expect. Obviously there are ifs and assumptions in my post as there are in every single post by every single poster here. None more or less valid then any other.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

      Some assumptons are better than others, though. It’s called probability.

      Yes, if you assume the same performance/run support combination from the two winningest starters on your team and assume another pitcher bounces back and assume (without saying it) that you have the same high number of bullpen wins as last year, and all of those wish-assumptions come true, the Yankees will win 95 games. But you could do make assume several things break their way about many contenders and get them up that high.

      That’s not forecasting. It’s wishcasting.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        Most of my assumptions,forecasting/wish casting or whatever you would like to call it are just as reasonable if not more so then most of the posters comments here about other teams. For example, the Yankees offense is expected to be every bit as explosive as it was in 2010 may be more so in my opinion. Tex, Granderson, A-Rod and even Jeter have hit very well this spring. Will it continue who knows, but at least it’s a good sign/indicator. Hugues should benefit from another years experience and as far the bullpen they should be even better this year by all accounts. So they should prevent more runs from other teams while still racking up as many if not more wins themselves. You’re right I have made several assumption, estimates, guesses, etc… but I don’t think any of them unreasonable since I tried to take a common sense approach to what the Yankees and Yankee fans can expect in 2011 based on what we know today.
        But since none of us is Michel de Nostredame (not even the so called experts) and we can’t see into the future we will just have to wait until Sept./Oct. to see how the season plays out.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

        It’s not that any of your assumptions are wild (although obviously Hughes won 18 games due to having insane run support, that run support will likely go to someone this year, or spread evenly). It’s that they all have to come true to get your scenario. When your scenario relies on several independent probabilities, the probability of the whole goes way down.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:37 PM

        Like I said we’ll see.

    • spudchukar - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      I hope both the Yanks and Red Sox players have as little regard for the Rays and the Jays as those I read here. I’m looking at a 4 team race with no one winning 90 games, and the O’s only finishing 10 games under .500. Unfortunately for them their April schedule is brutal. Look for both the Yanks and Sox to struggle around .500 early as they try to sort out their starting staffs, a sorting the Yankees have more work to do than the Sox, but not by much. This will only be compounded by their incomprehensible joint decisions to disregard the importance of a defensive catcher.

      Young, emerging, power arms of the Rays (Hellickson, Davis, Price, and Niemann) and the Jays (Romero, Morrow, Drabek, Cecil and Lisch) supplant the aging Universe/Nation’s ones as the division’s best. With the defense, speed, timely hitting, and experienced Rays besting all with 89 wins. Yanks second with 88, Jays third with 87 and the Sox a disappointing fourth at 85.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:44 PM

        My GOD would I love it if you put some money on no one winning 90.

      • cur68 - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        I think its a good bet Ari. Factor in the O’s and Jays being better and that’s what I see. The AL East is going to be ridonculous this year. Dunno if I got the stones to call the Sox last, like you, but I definitely see Rays and the Jays as dukeing out out for 2nd. Sox will be 1st, I think. Too good a team in too small a park.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:14 PM

        The last time no AL East team won 90 was 2000.. It wasn’t because there were too many good teams, it was because no team was all that great. If every team in your division is good-to-very-good, they’re not going to bring each other down all that much. They’re just all going to have good to very good records.

        Seriously, find me the division in the past that has had so many good teams that they haven’t had any win 90. I would take that bet every day.

      • phukyouk - Mar 22, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        and twice on a sunday. seriously. i will be shocked if noone in the AL east wins 97-98. i actually think that you will have 3 90 win teams in the AL east if the Jays are at least as good as last year.

        my prediction for AL east as it stands today is

        Sox – 96-97
        Yanks- 95-96
        Jays -90-92
        Rays 85-86
        O’s – 82

        Yes i think we have all 500 or better teams in the AL east this year.

  10. macjacmccoy - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Im tired of all the best team in baseball talk. 1st it was the Yankees before free agency because everyone figured they were gonna get Lee and others and dominate baseball then it was the RedSox bc they traded for Adrian and signed Crawford. Then it was the Phillies after they got Lee. But then a couple of minor injuries and all the sudden 1 of the best offenses in baseball in 1 of the best hitters ball parks cant hit. And then its there starters are old, they havent proven anything as a team, and they have bullpen troubles. Even though except for Roy Oswalt everyone of the Phillies other 4 pitchers are in there prime and they have pretty much the same bullpen they had in 08 which was the best in the game. And as for they havent proven anything yet I dont see how that matters. For 1 thing no teams have proven anything yet everyone is still in spring training. And another thing as a pitcher it doesnt matter who else is in the rotation all that matters is you and your catcher. All 5 of the Phillies pitchers have proven that they can pitch and pitch well with Ruiz behind the plate and at Citzens bank park. Maybe for a infield you cant really tell what they are going to be like until the get out there but thats not the case for pitchers. All you gotta do is look at there history and that gives you a pretty good idea what you have on the mound. Then there is the Yankees all you here about is the horrid rotation and how they will struggle. But they have just as much pitching as most teams in baseball. They have CC who is 1 of the best then Burnett who is a good pitcher but didnt live up to it last year Phil Hughes is an up an comer with 2nd starter potential You got Nova at 4 who is just as good as most 4ths in the league and Colon, Mitre and others trying for the 5th spot. That sounds like a decent rotation. But what there missing there they make up for in spades with the bats and there bullpen. There isnt a more dangerous lineup in baseball and they have the best bullpen in the league imo. They you have the red sox who are the sexy pick now. Yes they will be good but they have just as many holes as the Phils or Yanks. I think there rotation is the most over hyped in baseball. Lester is a beast but then you have Bucholtz who has shown some things but doesnt have over powering stuff or great location and is likely to regress now that batters no what to look for. Then Beckett who has been a lot more inconsistent then Burnett over his career and really hasnt lived up to the hype. Lackey hasnt done anything in Boston and there just as much chance of him staying that way then improving. DiceK is a mess and is the most irritating pitcher to watch in all of baseball. I dont see that rotation as much better then the Yankees. Offensive wise they have just as many holes as philly. They lost there catcher and replaced him with a far less player, right field they have an old injury plagued mike cameron, Ellsbury is coming off a very dissappointing year, Pedroira is coming off of injuries and isnt the player he was a few years ago, they got scuturo as there ss who is 1 of worse starters at his position, an old Youkliss and David Ortiz who has nothing left, and there big trad Adrian Gonzalez is coming off of injury. In the bullpen there good but Papelbon showed last year that hes in teh decline and bobby Jenks is a ticking time bomb. I look at that and wonder why this offense is getting so much praise and why the Phillies are supposedly in trouble. They have just as many guys coming off of bad seasons and injuries with less of a pedigree. For example if every Philly and every Red Sox batters hit for there career averages in every stat the Phillies woudl come out as the better team. . . . . Any way my point is its pointless to talk about which team is the best in baseball bc which ever team is getting the most attention at that time is usually the one every calls the best. People get caught up when something exciting happens with a team that all they focus on is the good and then it keeps building and building until the point where its been talked about so much that every one starts to think of that team as something special. But as soon as 1 negative thing happens it kind of kills the buzz and thats exciting to bc its something new thats contrary to what they have been hearing about that team and then people start to look for the negatives and it keeps building and building until everyone believes that the team that was suppose to be so great is falling apart. Then everyone stats to look for the nest “it” team and the cycle begins again. But during this whole time there is probably another team that no one is talking about bc nothing interesting has happened, that is probably the real best team in baseball.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:41 PM

      Wow. Now that is a Wall of Text, right there. You should start your own blog. And use paragraphs.

      • phukyouk - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        i was unable to get through all of it. my brain started hurting. whats the jist of it?

      • cur68 - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        Uh…I think the gist is that we all suck as pe-season commentators and we don’t know nuthin so why don’t we shut up and wait for the season to start. Or something. I think, ultimately, what that all meant is that macjac has his grumpy pants on this morning and they have bunched his panties. Or something.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        I’m pretty sure it boils down to, “You can’t call anyone the best team because all that means is who is getting the most media attention.” But even after skimming it I need to go lie down for a while.

      • spindervish - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        That and a whole bunch of wrong information, e.g., “Buchholz doesn’t have overpowering stuff” and “Youkilis is old.”

  11. largebill - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Craig,

    Good review. I hope this will be followed by a similar review for the rest of the teams.

  12. monsieurbear - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    It is not axiomatic that the best team in the best division is also the best team in MLB.

    • cur68 - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      Well no, but it’s a pretty powerful indicator that it is so, isn’t it? If you win the best division, you gotta be some good and, since you arguably beat the best, so you are the best.

      • monsieurbear - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:58 PM

        My comment was in response to Craig’s two sentences in the story:

        I think that yes, on paper, the Red Sox are the best team in the division. Which, by definition, makes them the best team in baseball.

        All I’m saying is that the best team in the best division is not, by definition, the best team in MLB. I’m not saying that the best team in the best division is not a good team.

        Similarly, the best player on the best team in is not the best player in MLB. Otherwise, Pujols would seldom be in the running as the best player in MLB.

    • JBerardi - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      No, but in this case, it’s true.

      • tjmwp - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        No, but it is a great example of East Coast Bias.

      • JBerardi - Mar 30, 2011 at 10:39 PM

        Bias? The AL East is the best division in baseball every year. Deal with it.

  13. psousa1 - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Lackey will rebound he was just saying in an interview how in the AL East you are pitching against one good lineup after another. Put Toronto in the Central and they win it. I think he will be a 16-18 game winner. Dice K will do the job. He will bounce back. Beckett is toast. He is paid like a top of the line starter but last year and this year in spring training he will be lights out for 3-4 innings and then completely lose it. His future is being a closer. He can air it out for one inning and be done with it. The sox are going to have a problem in the closer dept anyway. I keep reading Papelbon is throwing 90-91 mph. Daniel Bard is fantastic set up guy and their is no doubt he could supplant Papelbon by June.

  14. tominma - Mar 22, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Dumb question!!! We’ll know that about the first week in Nov!

  15. beantownsports247 - Mar 22, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    spudchukar you are an idiot , enough said , you must not watch baseball if you think that is how the division will play out , no one winning 90 games ? Sox in 4th . AL East goes Red Sox , Yankees , Blue jays , o’s , rays . You say young emerging arms , but you forgot to put (unproven arms) . Not even close to enough offense to keep up with the yanks and sox . Keep Wishing lol

  16. phukyouk - Mar 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    i cannot see the Rays finishing last.. not even with their recent fire sale/ Exodus. the crazy thing is that and injury to ONE of the sox or Yanks major players and they are looking at 4th place as opposed to the Jays/Rays/O’s who really dont have much to lose. its going to be very interesting and i would not be the least bit surprised to see either the Yanks or the Sox stumble out the gate and panic hitting the media. 1 week 2 days! ‘Nuff said

  17. cleareye1 - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    The Red Sox are good. So what? Lot’s of teams are good. Currently, the Giants are the best or have you forgotten last October?

  18. cleareye1 - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    By the way, have the Dodgers been sold yet?

  19. arbornicer - Mar 30, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    anyone saying the red sox are the best team are not going out on a limb whatsoever so just stfu all of you ad accept the ass kicking that will be coming from botson this year.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Apr 2, 2011 at 3:16 AM

      Good luck with that average startng pitching and NO closer problem you have. And yes dont worry, Carl will strikeout Plenty for ya, trust me, LOL LOSER

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