Home > MLB > What’s the worst that could happen?

What’s the worst that could happen?

Or the best, I suppose, though it’s no secret that I’ve been pessimistic about the Red Sox’ dealings this winter and their chances for 2012. Let’s take a look, position by position, and analyze the best and worst (semi-)realistic outcomes for the 2012 season.

CATCHER

Best: Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s thoroughly acceptable 2011 (.235/.288/.450) was just the first part of him realizing some of the potential he had as a prospect. (Fun fact: I once advocated trading Clay Buchholz for him. Let’s not talk about that.) Still fairly young, Salty actually takes a step forward in 2012; the power’s real, the OBP gets over the lofty heights of .300, and he becomes a certifiable weapon behind the plate. Meanwhile, Kelly Shoppach does what he was brought in to do (hit lefties) really well, and everything’s groovy.

Worst: Rather than being a step in the right direction, 2011 turns out to be an aberration for Saltalamacchia, and he returns to his previous history of being completely terrible. Meanwhile, Shoppach undergoes an early season slump, causing Bobby Valentine to abandon the idea of a platoon and only play him in the traditional backup catcher role of “one start a week plus every day game after a night game.”

FIRST BASE

Best: Having had the winter to recover, Adrian Gonzalez’ shoulder is able to handle a full season’s load without sapping his power as it did at the end of 2011. Fully healthy for the first time in Boston, Gonzalez hits 40 home runs and wins the MVP everyone thought he would win last year.

Worst: Despite having had the winter to recover, Gonzalez’ shoulder isn’t able to handle a full season. And unlike last year, he isn’t able to adapt and become a line drive machine that you still want hitting in the middle of your order; instead, he begins a long, expensive decline that will have people saying “We have him for how long?”

SECOND BASE

Best: Dustin Pedroia plays like Dustin Pedroia, which means he’s awesome at everything and in the MVP discussion.

Worst: Um…he gets hurt? He plays like 2006? I dunno.

SHORTSTOP

Best: Despite trading Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon and Marco Scutaro for the opportunity for John Henry to pocket a few million dollars, the Red Sox somehow get decent contribution out of the most important position on the infield. Mike Aviles hits pretty well for the position and manages to stay healthy, while Nick Punto provides fine defense and doesn’t completely suck with the bat (127 OPS+ in 2011!). Jose Iglesias is traded for a better return than Scutaro, i.e. something that might someday approach being worth anything.

Worst: Aviles, who has never been a good defensive shortstop and is always getting hurt, stinks on defense and then gets hurt. Punto remembers that he’s Nick Punto (77 OPS+ career), which means he’s terrible with the bat and also gets hurt. The job falls into the lap of Iglesias, who wows people with his defense but is still a sub-replacement player because he isn’t half the hitter that Rey Ordonez was.

Alternately the team just gives Iglesias the job out of spring training because apparently that’s still on the table. Meanwhile Marco Scutaro puts up an OPS+ somewhere between 90 and 110 in Colorado while also being just fine on defense, and people there don’t act like he’s some horrible albatross that needs to be shipped out of town to make room for a platoon of suck and a non-prospect.

THIRD BASE

Best: Now 33 years old, Kevin Youkilis manages to stay healthy for a full season at third base for the first time in his career. Having dropped weight to become more agile and mobile as a third baseman, he loses some power but rediscovers his calling as the Greek God of Walks, and puts up a .400+ OBP again.

Worst: Youk goes full Mike Lowell, meaning that he’s bad at the plate and worse in the field, and is obviously injured but refuses to take himself out of the lineup until it’s too late and doesn’t get called on it because he’s been such a great contributor in the past and the media likes him. So basically what happened last year.

LEFT FIELD

Best: Carl Crawford comes back quickly from his wrist surgery, and does so with a clear head and no pressure. While he doesn’t replicate 2010, he does play up to the standard he set for himself from 2005-09: An OPS+ around 115 built on decent on-base skills and good slugging, with a ton of triples and stolen bases. Fans still don’t like him because he’s paid a lot and doesn’t walk on water, but he’s a damn good player and becomes my new JD Drew.

Oh, and Darnell McDonald doesn’t suck so much. I don’t want to think about him.

Worst: Crawford takes a long time to come back, causing fans and the media to turn on him even harder for lollygagging or something. When he does come back, he does so with no power, little speed, and no hope of reclaiming his former glory. Basically Jacoby Ellsbury circa 2010.

Darnell McDonald plays 100 games and doesn’t replicate his high-BABIP September, meaning his overall line is every bit as bad as it should be because Darnell McDonald is terrible.

CENTER FIELD

Best: Jacoby Ellsbury really did become a faster Josh Hamilton overnight. It doesn’t make sense, but who cares? He goes 40/40 (and doesn’t get caught stealing 15 times in the process), wins the MVP, cures cancer, and convinces Heidi Watney that she’d rather stay in Boston than work for the Lakers.

Worst: He didn’t become Josh Hamilton overnight. Instead he goes back to what he was in 2008 and 2009: A decent but massively overrated hitter who plays decent but massively overrated defense, and he gets a contract extension that makes Crawford look like a bargain.

RIGHT FIELD

Best: Another platoon works out for the best. Ryan Sweeney hits righties well, Cody Ross hits lefties better, and everyone gets along swimmingly. People say it’s the first time the Sox have had a decent right fielder since Trot Nixon, and I only need a couple of stitches from biting my tongue too hard.

Worst: Despite mashing lefties for most of his career, Ross initially replicates his reverse-split 2011. Valentine, like all managers, doesn’t realize that there’s such a thing as a reverse split, and just benches Ross. Sweeney plays every day, has a terrible overall line because he really is atrocious against lefthanders, and Josh Reddick plays well in Oakland.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Best: David Ortiz continues being a fantastic hitter, while Ryan Lavarnway comes up and contributes against lefties and lets Papi stay fresh all year long.

Worst: Papi gets hurt, or actually starts declining now that he’s 36 years old. Worse yet, he could mysteriously turn into the worst hitter in baseball for a month and a half again. Lavarnway could get more time at catcher than DH, thereby destroying his trade value by making other teams realize that he’s not a catcher.

STARTING PITCHERS

Jon Lester

Best: He’s Jon Lester. 200 innings, low- to mid-3’s in ERA, FIP and xFIP, and he gets a bunch of wins so he wins the Cy Young.

Worst: He gets hurt. Okay, that’s the worst with every pitcher. Lester’s flukishly bad September turns into a downward spiral, I guess.

Josh Beckett

Best: He breaks the silly “even year curse” thing by being just as awesome as he was in 2011 with the bonus of not missing any starts.

Worst: The curse manifests itself as injuries and dingers, making him look like a bad pitcher when he really isn’t. He also never gets in shape and looks like fat Roger Clemens.

Clay Buchholz

Best: He makes more than 28 starts for the first time in his career, and does so while keeping the ball on the ground and outperforming his peripheral stats for the third year in a row. Dave Cameron gets really angry when he wins the Cy Young over King Felix.

Worst: He still can’t stay healthy, and when he is on the field he’s getting the results that his mediocre K and BB rates say he should be. He’s still the third-best starter cause everyone else sucks so much.

Daniel Bard

Best: When he bombs, he gets moved back to the pen quickly and picks up as a dominant relief ace. Everyone agrees to never mention this experiment again.

Worst: When he bombs, he stays in the rotation so the organization doesn’t have to admit a mistake. He walks a batter an inning, allows two home runs a game, and then blows out his shoulder and is never the same again.

(Bard being a competent fourth starter? Come on; I’m trying to be at least semi-realistic, people.)

The Rest

Best: One or two of Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, or any of the other has-beens and never-weres that the Sox have in spring training are able to cobble together some decent outings. Daisuke Matsuzaka arrives in June to provide a boost, and by hook or by crook the back end of the rotation is at least competent enough to let the offense win some games.

Worst: They all suck, just like they’ve always sucked. A desperate Larry Luchhino begs Tim Wakefield to come back in May, and Wake just laughs. Roy Oswalt refuses to sign because he has the crazy notion that players should be given money for their service.

BULLPEN

Best: Melancon, Andrew Bailey, and the rest of the new-look bullpen all have pretty good seasons, cause they’re good relief pitchers.

Worst: They all have bad seasons, cause they’re still relief pitchers and that kind of fluky crap happens.

TEAM PERFORMANCE

Best: With a healthy Youkilis, a rejuvenated Crawford, and MVP-caliber years from Ellsbury, Pedroia and Gonzalez, the Red Sox boast one of the best offenses in the game. The top three starters all stay healthy and effective, and the back end does just enough to get them into the playoffs. They ride their bats and horses all the way to the World Series.

Worst: Just like last year, it turns out that having three good starters in a five-man rotation only works when all three stay healthy. Buchholz misses significant time, Beckett hits the DL, and the bats can’t score ten runs a game. Youk’s decline continues, Crawford’s collapse continues, Ellsbury turns back into a pumpkin, and they can’t even make it to the one-game Wild Card playoff.

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  1. March 18, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    What about Papi?

    • March 18, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Um…whoops. This happens to me whenever I do a fantasy draft in video games, too: I’ll go through each position and move on, forgetting that I need a DH too.

      Anyway with Papi the best case is that he’s still awesome, and the worst is that he randomly turns into the worst hitter in the world (yes, worse than Iglesias) for months at a time again.

      I also listed Lavarnway under DH, because that’s his natural position.

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