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Team Preview - Streaking Red Sox bring the Bats

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This Red Sox team is talented but these days they not only have to deal with the New York Yankees but with the young, and talented Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have been chasing both teams since the start of the year. On May 23 they were 8.5  games out of 1st place but have closed to only 2.0 games with a scorching run. The total record is  40 - 28.

Pythag backs up the record:

Scored 373 runs, Allowed 315 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 39-29

Home record of 23  - 15 (.605 Win %)

Since a tough April in which they played less then .500 ball they are 29 - 16. We are the third leg of their homestand in which they have gone 5 - 1 so far. 

Plenty of injuries have hit the Red Sox so they are not playing with all their parts. The ace of the staff Josh Beckett was pretty much the worse pitcher in the AL before he went down with an injury. He is not expected back until after the all-star game. Dice K missed the first few weeks of the year and then has been hit and miss. He suffered a mild forearm strain and hit the DL for the 2nd time this season. Their starting LF Jacoby Ellsbury  has only been able to play in nine games this year. His backup Jeremy Hermida recently joined him on the DL.

Even with the injuries the Red Sox are playing the best baseball in the AL in June. Overall they lead the league in hitting with a wOBA of .359 and in June that has climbed to .398. They are 2nd in the league in home runs with 88 and runs scored 373. They need the hitting because the pitching has not been upto normal Red Sox standards, but that is to be expected with their best pitcher either ineffective or not pitching at all. Just in case you missed this while the Dodgers were struggling in April, Josh Beckett made eight stats and had an ERA of 7.12 before he was mercifully put on the DL. When your ace is Haeger like, it is hard to compete but the Sox have plenty of arms and have made do.

On the DL : Josh Beckett,  Jacoby Ellsbury, Junichi Tazawa, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jeremy Hermida

Old Friends : Adrian Beltre, JD Drew

Position Breakdown

1st Base- Kevin Youkilis continues to be one of best 1st baseman in the AL.  The one time Greek God of Walks has turned into the complete ballplayer. His wOBA is sitting at .442 which is not fluky since he's had an wOBA over .400 since 2008. The man can simply rake, and his defense is always above average.

2nd Base- Dustin Pedroia has fallen from the heights of his MVP season but he's having a solid season. The wOBA of .354 is fourth in the AL for 2nd baseman, and it is a huge drop after him. The defense is above average so while he does not do everything as well as Youkilis for a 2nd baseman he is well above average.

SS - The Red Sox have the best SS in baseball in Hanley Ramirez  Ha, what could have been. Instead of Hanley they have Marco Scutaro and while that might have been a joke two years ago, Marco has now established himself as an above average major league SS. The one time utility player got a nice pay day from the Red Sox, and he has not disappointed putting up .337 wOBA.

3rd Base -Ex Dodger Adrian Beltre is doing something he's never done. Knocking the shit out of ball in the first half. He was nagged by injuries in 2009, but finally healthy he is stroking while providing his normal excellent defense. Other then his near MVP season in 2004 this is the best that Beltre has ever hit. His wOBA is at .389 and he's just behind Longoria as the best 3rd baseman in the AL in the first half.

CVictor Martinez can still hit putting up a TSL of .294/.344/493. Jason Varitek in limited duty is smoking the ball with a .263/.341/.592 TSL. Rest agrees with Mr. Varitek.

CF - Not everyone is hitting. Mike Cameron missed quite a bit of time with injuries and has only played in 22 of the 68 games. When he has played he has none of the power that was a major part of his game. His TSL is .254/.338/.324. For a man whose career slug % is .447 that is a far cry from his normal excellent self.

RF - The much maligned JD Drew has been able to shoulder the workload by playing in 64 of the 68 games this year. He's not having a great year but he is contributing to the tune of .272/.357/.451.

LF - With Ellsbury and Hermida on the DL the Red Sox have turned to Daniel Nava who is one of the great stories of the 2010 season. Nava hit a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw in the major leagues and has not looked back. He's only played five games but has five XBH in those games and has the crazy line of .444/.474/.833.


 "My story goes back to getting out of high school and walking on at Santa Clara," explained Nava in a 2009 interview for Boston Baseball Magazine. "I ended up getting cut my freshman year, which was 2000-2001, and when that happened, I thought I was done playing ball. I wanted to stay in the game, so I became the team manager, doing things like washing laundry and all of the things that a clubby does in pro ball. After those two years, I couldn’t afford to go to [Santa Clara] anymore, so I left. Then I ended up running into a buddy who said that I should come to his junior college and try out for the team. I said, ‘Why not’ and ended up making the team and having two really good years. From there, I actually got a scholarship back to Santa Clara and played for one year, which is all of the eligibility I had left. I didn’t get drafted, so I tried to get another year of eligibility back, but that got denied, so I basically ended up taking a whole year off between my year at Santa Clara and indie ball. I was going to tryout camps, trying to get picked up, but nobody signed me until the Chico Outlaws called the day before [their season] started and said, ‘Hey, if you want to play independent-league ball, come up here right now.’ So I packed my stuff and drove up there, and the funny thing is that the only reason they called me is that one of their guys had decided to retire; another guy deciding to stop playing is what actually gave me the opportunity."

To cap off this incredible story, fast forward to his first game last week. Before the game Joe Castiglione the Sox announcer tells him "

Swing at that first pitch, because you’ll never get a chance to hit a homer on your first pitch in the big leagues."

He not only hit a home run on his first swing in the major leagues, he hits a bloody grand slam.

DH - The demise of David Ortiz was greatly exaggerated and after a tough start has moved his OPS up and over .900. In June. Most of that work was done in May where he compiled a 1.228 OPS after an April OPS of .533. There is a reason why veteran sluggers get plenty of time to work out the kinks.

Bench - Darnell McDonald, Mike Lowell, Bill Hall, and Jason Varitek are the main components. You won't be seeing much pinch hitting. Varitek will probably catch at least one game.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game One -The Dodgers get to face the debut of Felix Doubront.   Here is the Baseball HQ scouting report on him:

Felix Doubront (LHP, BOS)
The 22 year-old will make his Major League debut with a spot start on Friday, June 18. Doubront is lean and athletic and finished second in the Double-A Eastern League in ERA in '09 thanks to improved fastball command and a solid sinker. He's continued to improve in other areas of his craft in '10, most notably his curveball and maintaining his release point. His whip-like arm action gives solid movement to his pitches which lead to groundballs and weak contact. Doubront's fastball sits between 89-94 mph and he has a curveball, slider, and changeup in his big of tricks. A deceptive delivery enhances his changeup, which often serves as his strikeout offering. Doubront's future success may be predicated on his ability to command his secondary offerings.
STATS: Pawtucket (AAA) - 4 gs, 2-1 1.08 ERA, 16.2 IP, 3.2 CMD, 2.7 CTL, 8.6 DOM, 0 HR, .250 oppBA
Portland (AA) - 8 gs, 4-0 2.51 ERA, 43 IP, 2.2 CMD, 3.6 CTL, 7.9 DOM, 0 HR, .250 oppBA

Game Two - Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will try to baffle us with the wafter. We can only hope he goes Haeger on us. Wakefield has an ERA of 5.72, but a FIP of 4.74. Wakefield had lost his spot in the rotation but with the injuries he is back where he's been for the last 15 years. He's now nine wins shy of 200 and will go down as one of the top five knuckleballers in history behind such HOF as Wilhelm, Niekro, Wood, Niekro.

Game Three - The Red Sox waited patiently for top prospect Clay Buchholz to develop and it has been worth the wait. Buchholz has an ERA of 2.67 supported by a FIP of 3.42.He threw a complete game shutout on June 4th then was hammered in his next start. He split the different the in his last start.

Bullpen: Jon Papelbon is not as dominant as he was in 2008 but he still gets the job done. Daniel Bard seems to pitch every game, and does an excellent job in getting the game to Papelbon. Bard has an average fastball of 97.9 MPH so when he comes in, he brings the heat. Hideki Okajima is still the main LHP, and he's still very effective. The rest of the bullpen is compiled of Ramon Ramirez, and Manny DelCarmen. Anyone else and we are either leading big or losing big.

Coming into Fenway after the huge Laker/Celtic series is huge. Beating the Celtics in a great game seven will probably put most of the city in a bad mood. As with any Red Sox team, this team can hit, but we are lucky to miss Lester and Lackey. A pitchers debut is always exciting so first game will be extra interesting as we invade Fenway.

Many have discounted the value of interleague play, but when they sit their butts down tonight to watch this game, as baseball fans, I expect that to dissolve as they marvel at the Dodgers playing the Red Sox in Fenway Park.