Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Season Wrap-Up Pt. 1

I have not been posting much because the last month of the season has been very hard. Boston quite simply played like shit the last month and it is extremely upsetting. With the payroll that this team had, it is unacceptable that they did not make the playoffs at all. Some changes need to be made and it sounds like that change is that Terry Francona will not return next year. Francona had a nice run and was the longest-lasting Red Sox manager since Joe Cronin, but the way this team finished has to have a root cause, and I think it's management. I think Theo Epstein should be on a short leash too right now. His big-money acquisitions have not worked out, and the team has not been able to develop much pitching beyond Papelbon, Bard, Lester, and Buchholz.

There were some nice things to develop out of the season. The biggest one was the development of Jacoby Ellsbury into a legitimate superstar. His motivation was called into question last offseason, but he took things to the next level this year.

Let's look at each of the regulars today and spread this wrap-up out over the next couple of days. Tomorrow will be the pitching staff and principal relievers, then the next post will cover the bench players and short season players.

Saltalamacchia proved that he was basically ready to be a full-time player. He also proved that he will always be just a little bit inconsistent. I hate using that word because of Joe Morgan, but there is no other way to describe it. Salty was terrible the last month and his numbers really suffered because of it. He is not a particularly good catcher at stopping the running game, but that may be more due to the pitchers on the mound. He really struggled defensively the last month. His offensive numbers were decent: .235/.288/.450 with 16 home runs, but they would have looked better had he done ANYTHING in the last month. I think he will be on a short leash moving forward as Ryan Lavarnway looks ready to take over.

Gonzalez had a nice season and nearly won the batting title. He should win a Gold Glove as he was a great defensive first-baseman. I was personally a little disappointed with his season, despite nearly winning the batting title and being among the league leaders in RBIs and hits because his home run numbers were down significantly. After the All Star Break, he simply had a power outage. He finished the year with only 27 home runs, his lowest total since his first full season in 2006. Apparently he had some nagging injury in his left shoulder that sapped his power. If that is the case, he should be back to full strength next season. He is only 29 right now, so it is too early to start the decline phase of his career and his numbers were impressive otherwise.

It is hard to imagine but Dustin Pedroia may have had his best season of his career this year. He has already won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his young career and he just keeps getting better. This year saw him increase his power and base-stealing numbers. He hit a career high 21 home runs with 91 RBIs and stole 27 bases. I made a prediction earlier on this blog that Pedroia would soon join the Red Sox 20/20 players and he did do that. Pedroia's slash line was an impressive /307/.387/.474 and he contributed with some outstanding defense. Pedroia should be in line to receive his second Gold Glove this year.

Scutaro was one of the few players who actually improved his numbers over the last month of the season. Early in the year it looked like he would play out his contract and leave unceremoniously as he battled injuries and the Red Sox looked to replace him with Jed Lowrie, Mike Aviles, or Jose Iglesias. But Scutaro played his heart out over the last month and finished the year at .299/.358/.423, and yes those numbers are better than Derek Jeter's numbers. He was also an impressive defensive player. I have no idea whether Scutaro will be back next year or not. Lowrie has more upside as an offensive player and Iglesias will be better defensively but both players are limited on the other side.

One of the most damaging injuries of the year was the one that limited Kevin Youkilis to 120 games. Youkilis's overall batting numbers were down most of the year, particularly his batting average. Despite that, he turned in a decent line of .258/.373/.459 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs. Not his best numbers, but nothing to get too worked up over. Youkilis was not a great defensive third-baseman, but he was decent enough. If he returns to full strength next year, there will be nothing to worry about. Otherwise Will Middlebrooks is lying in wait to take over.

J.D. Drew had his worst season ever. He was bothered by frequent injuries, which is not unusual, but this season was particularly bad, even for him. Drew has definitely played his last season in a Red Sox uniform. Drew played only 81 games in 2011 with a line of .222/.315/.302, horrible numbers for a corner outfielder. It is time for him to leave Boston. He had some nice moments, but his salary was probably too high for his production over the course of the contract. I am a Drew apologist as he was pretty damn good a couple years, but this year was horrendous.

Jacoby Ellsbury has become a star. He made his first All Star Game and has a shot at the MVP award. I do not think he will get it, but his overall numbers are incredibly impressive. Ellsbury became the first Red Sox player ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. He hit .321/.376/.552 and lead the Majors in total bases. He also had more than 200 hits, more than 100 RBIs, and more than 100 runs. Ellsbury also played very well in center field and should give the Red Sox three Gold Glove awards. It is time for Boston to lock up their young star for years to come and hope that this is the player he truly is.

Crawford had an absolutely miserable year in his first year in Boston. He was my biggest disappointment personally because I was absolutely thrilled when he signed as a free agent. His line was a terrible .255/.289/.405 with only 18 stolen bases. He also played uncharacteristically bad in left field, just one season removed from a Gold Glove himself. Let's hope that this is just a bad season and not a downward trend. Crawford will only be 30 next year, so he should not be entering his decline yet and he still has several years and a lot of money left on his contract. I genuinely like Crawford, I hate seeing him play like this.

Ortiz is a free agent this year as well and I honestly do not know whether we have seen the last of him. He hit well down the stretch, but not for nearly enough power. He finished the season just shy of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He improved his batting average significantly and for once actually hit left-handers well. Ortiz will also be 36 next year. He can not keep this up forever. I would like to see him back next year at possibly a reduced cost. There are not a lot of great DH options out there, unless Boston decides to go with a committee. Still Ortiz has been the heart and soul of the team for awhile. I think he should retire as a Red Sox.

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