Playing nine innings while trying not to get irrationally optimistic about Grady Sizemore …
1. Because so much went right for the Red Sox last season, the natural inclination this spring for many observers is to be cautious, to remind us that the 2014 Red Sox may not have the abundant good fortune and good health that they did a year ago. That’s fair, I think — I don’t know if you can expect, say, David Ortiz to stay healthy from April to October again. But I can think of one crucial player who could have an even better year this season: Dustin Pedroia. Oh, he was very good as usual a season ago, hitting .301 with a .372 on-base percentage and playing exceptional defense. But the effects of the thumb injury he suffered sliding into first base (do not do that anymore) on Opening Day could be found in his power. He hit just 9 home runs — his fewest since 2007, when he hit 8 — and his .415 slugging percentage was by far the lowest of his career. It’s more than reasonable to expect more pop from the Red Sox’ second baseman this season.
2. Count me among the growing herd of baseball writers to identify Felix Doubront as a breakout candidate (which to me means 180 innings, a 3.60ish ERA, and 13-16 wins). He became more efficient last year, had a superb October in relief, showed up to camp in shape, and is a 26-year-old lefty who has whiffed 8.4 batters per nine innings in his career. Pretty good (and unsung) asset to have.
3. Because it’s always wise to make predictions before the first spring training game has been played, here’s how I see the AL East shaping up in ’14: 1. Rays (so much pitching). 2. Red Sox (first wild card, 93 wins). 3. Orioles (a decent player at worst at every position). 4. Yankees (they’re full of holes, Mazz). 5. Blue Jays (where have you gone, Lloyd Moseby?).
4. I like fantasy baseball better than fantasy football. Having specific players to follow every day enhances the fan experience just a little bit more. I’m in three leagues and tend to do OK in them. But this … this stumps me. How can he possibly be rated the 11th-best player in a points league entering the season? What am I missing?
5. By the way, about that rumored six-year, $150 million for Trout? An absolute steal for the Angels provided he remains healthy, even if he isn’t going to hit free agency until 2018. According to Fangraphs, he’s already provided the Angels with $100.3 million in value during his two-plus year career.
6. Interested to see how the Andrew Bailey signing works out for the Yankees. He’s coming back from surgery for a torn labrum, and shoulder injuries are considerably more ominous than elbow injuries. But it’s a small gamble, and one worth taking. He did strike out 39 batters for the Red Sox last year in just 28.2 innings, and if his stuff resembles what he once had, he could still be of value.
7. Love the idea of Andrew Miller closing on occasions this season. He struck out 48 batters in 30.2 innings last season. While he struck out 24 of the 62 lefthanded batters he faced, he was actually better against righties, holding them to a .155/.319/.207 slash line in 73 plate appearances.
8. Jonathan Herrera, whose ability to handle shortstop has him locked in as the Red Sox’ chief utility infielder after coming over from Colorado for the exasperating Franklin Morales, owns just a .658 career OPS (.701 last year). But at least he’s consistent: During his five seasons with the Rockies, he put up a .266/.331/.340 slash line at home, while he went .265/.320/.325 on the road. So at least we know his offensive mediocrity is consistent.
.9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball card:
Because sometimes, it really is random.
Quick plug for a good guy and a great cause. If you’re a fan of the Red Sox with any sense of humor at all, surely you are familiar with Surviving Grady, the hilarious, creative long-running site run by your aliased friends Red and Denton. Well, it appears their writing chops extend beyond baseball and imagined by true-to-life dialogue between Brian Cashman and his headwarmer. Denton, under his real name, along with some writer friends, put together an anthology of short stories titled “Shades of Fear.” Denton wrote the story “The Beginning of the End” as well as the introduction. It’s available on Amazon, it’s awesome — even if there are no talking headwarmers — and best of all, 100 percent of the proceeds go to pediatric cancer research and patient care. You can check it out here.