March Madness- 30 teams in 30 days. 2012 MLB Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

Team: Boston Red Sox

Manager: Bobby Valentine

2011 Record: 90-72

Playoff Result: No playoffs

Top Player: Jacoby Ellsbury (9.4 WAR)

What happened last season: 2011 was supposed to be a historical season for the Boston Red Sox. Many believed that they not only had the talent to win it all, but also establish themselves as possibly the greatest team ever assemble in baseball history. Indeed, the offseason additions of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford created all the hype in Boston, and many felt they would easily run away from the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.

After a horrid 2-10 start to the season, the Sox would grab the AL’s best record by the end of May, and led the AL East in front of the Yankees for much of the summer. The offense was the best in baseball. Adrian Gonzalez easily lived up to the hype, finishing with a .338 average and 117 RBIs. CF Jacoby Ellsbury had a big time breakout year, hitting 32 HRs, batting .321 and finishing with a .928 OPS and was the runner-up for American League MVP,

However, leaks were shown throughout the season. The pitching staff was too top heavy and had little depth, as John Lackey had the worst season in Red Sox history and Clay Buchholz was sidelined for much of the year by a back injury. A deadline deal for lefty Erik Bedard was for nought, as the pitching staff continued to struggle. This glaring weakness in the battle station would ultimately lead to their demise, as they famously blew the division and a nine game lead over the Rays for the wild card in a 7-20 disaster which many call the worst September collapse of all time.

What they did in the offseason: The Red Sox went under a complete overhaul in management. Manager Terry Francona was immediately let go and GM Theo Epstein resigned to take a similar job with the Chicago Cubs. Francona was replaced by former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who quickly attracted attention by declaring his hatred for the New York Yankees. Epstein was replaced by former Dan Duquette protégé Ben Cherington.

The team itself made several minor moves to prepare for 2012. Former set-up man Daniel Bard was promoted to the rotation to replace the Tommy John-bound Lackey. After closer Jonathan Papelbon departed for Philadelphia, the Sox traded for former A’s closer Andrew Bailey, who has 75 saves and 206 ERA+ in a three-year major league career.

Projected starting lineup:

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

Third Base: Kevin Youkilis

Left Field: Carl Crawford

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury

Right Field: Cody Ross

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz

Rotation:

LHP Jon Lester

RHP Josh Beckett

RHP Clay Buchholz

RHP Daniel Bard

RHP Alfredo Aceves

Closer Andrew Bailey

Outlook for 2012: The Red Sox are undoubtedly a very talented team, one of the more talented teams in the majors. However, there are gaping holes at very important spots, and the rotation in not strong enough to be a serious World Series contender, especially if Buchholz is not healthy and Beckett reverts to the mediocre even year trend. They could easily win it all or miss the playoffs yet again. That’s how bipolar this team is.

Regular Season Prediction: 87-75. 4th in AL East

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