The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out: a Boston Red Sox preview

Much like you, Dustin Pedroia also enjoys slow pitch softball. - Hannah Foslien

A look at the wrong colored Sox.

Offense: Jacoby Ellsbury-CF, Shane Victorino-RF, Dustin Pedroia-2B, David Ortiz-1B, Mike Napoli-1B, Daniel Nava-LF, Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C, Will Middlebrooks-3B, Stephen Drew-SS. Bench: Ryan Lavarnway-C, Mike Carp-1B/OF, Pedro Ciriaco-INF, Jonny Gomes-OF.

Remember before the season how everyone thought Boston and New York would struggle this year? Man, we are all idiots. How we manage to get by, I do not know. Having a top 5 offense in the AL tends to help. Jacoby Ellsbury's contract year isn't going how he would have hoped. The bizarre power spike he showed in 2011 remains an outlier. But he still has impressive speed and is a good defensive center fielder. He'll need to figure out what's been wrong over the past season and a half sometime soon though. Shane Victorino is more or less providing a league average bat along with excellent defense in right field, which isn't the easiest of feats in Boston. Something different about the Flyin' Hawaiian this year though? His speed seems to no longer be a part of his offensive equation. It's almost June and he has not yet hit a triple and has stolen a mere three bases. Old age is coming for you. You're slowing down. You can't outrun the Black Flash forever.

Dustin Pedroia continues to be as good as he is annoying. There are no real flaws in his game, which is kind of maddening. He has good power for a malignant dwarf, great plate discipline, is a talented thief, and plays great defense. Not bad for the 65th pick in a draft. I wish I could enjoy the future Hall of Famer more, but nope. Just can't. David Ortiz hasn't been walking much for him so far this season, but when your BABIP is sitting at .351 I guess you're not really in dire need of drawing walks. He's still stronger than an ox and it just kind of seems unfair that his body hasn't given up on him completely yet. You say steroids, I say he's up to something far more nefarious. I'm not saying that David Ortiz steals organs and muscles from transient youths he abducts from Cambridge, but I'm not saying he doesn't.

Mike Napoli is no longer a catcher, which makes me kind of sad. Mike Scioscia finally wins that battle, mere months before he becomes unemployed. I'm sure it will keep him warm at night to know that. His bat is less impressive at first base, but he should still manage a wOBA in the .350s or so. He's taken to first base as his permanent home like a donkey to something that donkeys enjoy. I just wanted to talk about donkeys. Did you know they hate dogs with a passion? You do now and you are welcome. Daniel Nava is a silly man, which makes him likeable. Which is good, because it makes you want to root for his hot start to not just be a mirage. He platoons in left with Jonny Gomes and the platoon has been most agreeable with Mr. Nava.

I am really not talking much about baseball this time am I? Don't care! Brain is done learning about awful things like seborrhea (you're happier not looking up images of that one). I hate the fact that I can spell Jarrod Saltalamacchia without looking it up now. I'm going to die one day and I'll be able to spell his last name. It's a good thing Salty can hit, because he's kind of crappy defensively and that is being kind. Will Middlebrooks is the man who made Kevin Youkilis expendable. It's not working nearly as well this season. Striking out nine times for every one walk you draw is an odd hitting approach, but Middlebrooks knows far more about baseball than I do so far be it from me to say his plan of attack is moronic. But it's moronic. Stephen Drew is hitting well and playing plus defense at short stop. I guess he just needed to get across the river and into a more useful time zone. That's right Pacific and Mountain Time Zones, you are lies and how do you sleep at night? Drew will never live up to his former potential, but his current form is pretty useful.

Pitching: Jon Lester-LHP, Clay Buchholz-RHP, Ryan Dempster-RHP, John Lackey-RHP, Felix Doubront-LHP, Junichi Tazawa-CL.

I had this weird mental note made that Jon Lester had been doing poorly this season. Looking at his numbers, I realize this is nowhere close to being true and who was I thinking of? Also, if you've noticed that my numbers and stats are off a bit in this article, it's because I wrote it over the weekend. I'm currently on the road as you read this. Greetings from the future/past! Lester is having a pretty strong start the year, having yet to lose a game in nine tries. He's getting his strikeouts, limiting walks, not allowing homeruns, and just being overall effective. He throws a four-seamer in the low-to-mid-90s, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. And if you thought he was having a good season, you should look at what Clay Buchholz has accomplished. 13 runs allowed over 65.2 innings pitched! A mere two homeruns surrendered! An impossible 84.4% LOB%! He's managed to get his K/9 back to the impressive level it was when he debuted in the majors, which is making him a much more effective and useful part of the rotation. Clay has a four-seamer in the low-to-mid-90s, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.

Ryan Dempster is having a bit more luck in his second attempt at the American League, though being a league average pitcher isn't the most exciting thing in the world. It's also not bad, it's just kind of like grape jelly on toast. Gets the job done, but why are you regaling people with tales of the easiest breakfast of all? You should get out more. He's on pace for a career high in strikeouts, but he's also walking considerably more people than he used to. It'll be an interesting development to keep an eye on. Dempster's fastball now sits in the upper-80s, and he complements it with a slider and a splitter. John Lackey is back from injury and has been horribly unlucky so far. The peripherals within his control are looking pretty good (9.11 K/9 and 2.70 BB/9), but the ones that aren't (.341 BABIP and 66.1% LOB%) are responsible for his 1-4 record. Expect regression to the mean all around though as he's never been that kind of strikeout pitcher and while I have worlds of faith in Juan Nieves' teachings, he's not God. Maybe a lesser god, but not God. Lackey throws a four-seamer in the low-90s, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.

Felix Doubront continues the puzzling trend of Red Sox pitchers recording abnormally high K/9s. Strange days indeed. But much like Dempster, he's walking a lot of hitters to go with all the whiffs. And call me crazy, but that 0.48 HR/9 doesn't strike me as something that will last much longer. Doubront is currently a good backend starter with potential to become a mid-rotation guy in the near future. He has a low-90s fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a cutter. Junichi Tazawa is currently closing because Joel Hanrahan joined the eternally injured Andrew Bailey on the DL. Hooray promotion by attrition! Tazawa currently possesses an absurd 7.67 K/BB ratio, so yeah, I'd say he was ready for the promotion anyways. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he also uses a splitter, a curveball, and a slider.

Outlook: I had a professor in undergrad by the name of Dick Cobb. He was in charge of the sheep farm at the University of Illinois. Dick was from Massachusetts and in my mind I cannot talk about sheep without doing so in a Boston accent, especially when talking/thinking about Suffolks. This has nothing to do with baseball. Sox split Sox series 3-3. If you're at Tuesday's game, holler. I'm finally home.


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