A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 9/3-9/5 @ Boston, 9/27-9/30 at home
Offense: A potential lineup: Marco Scutaro-SS, J.D. Drew-RF, Victor Martinez-C, David Ortiz-DH, Adrian Beltre-3B, Mike Lowell-1B, Daniel Nava-LF, Darnell McDonald/Ryan Kalish-CF, Jed Lowrie. Bench: Bill Hall-UTIL, Yamaico Navarro-INF.
Next up on the Manny Ramirez Returns tour is Boston. Even though we play the Red Sox seven times this season, somehow our first game against them doesn't happen until September 3rd. Strange days. Remember how Marco Scutaro had that monster season last year, and no one really thought he'd repeat it? Congrats everybody! Unlike thinking Chone Figgins would succeed in the Emerald City, you nailed this prediction. Scutaro is a below-average defender at short with a league-average bat at best. The next time you read an analyst give the White Sox shit for batting Juan Pierre (.352 OBP) leadoff, maybe mention Marco and his .331 in the comments. J.D. Drew is having a bit of a down year, but that will happen when your BABIP is .027 below your career norm. It is concerning to see his walk rate drop down to 11.5% though. He is still an above-average outfielder and has more pop than most two-hole hitters. Victor Martinez is also hitting a little worse than normal, though this could be due to his broken thumb from earlier this season. V-Mart is also drawing less walks than normal, but his power output is pretty much exactly where you'd expect it to be. His arm isn't so hot, not like that would stop Ozzie from sending the runners anyways. Expect Juan and Alex to have permanent green lights this weekend. While Big Papi is no longer the terrifying figure he was mid-decade, he is still an above-average DH that should not be taken lightly (insert fat joke here). The 34-year old Ortiz is doing his best to outswing the Grim Reaper after his horrific season last year (.8 WAR). Don't expect to see his BB:K ratio back over .7 ever again, Papi is swinging harder than ever and will set a new career high in strikeouts before Tom Brady throws a meaningful pass.
Adrian Beltre and Scott Boras are the happiest people in the world about his contract year. He won't get a chance to play in the post-season this fall, but should cash in quite handsomely this winter thanks to the second best season of his career. Beltre is one of the best third basemen in baseball with the glove, and moving from Safeco to Fenway has agreed very well with his bat. Adrian walks only slightly more than he wears a cup, which is really the only knock on his playing style. Mike Lowell has to feel uncomfortable still playing for Boston. They shipped him out to Texas this winter, only to have him sent back for failing a physical and pretty much told him to enjoy being a bench player when they signed Beltre. If not for Kevin Youkilis getting injured, Lowell would be just that. He's had a nice career, but should seriously consider retirement come November. He is a mere shadow of his former self, and the future looks fairly damn bleak for a baseball player that's been roaming the earth for three dozen years. He is a non-factor. Daniel Nava made big news earlier this season for hitting a grand slam on the first major league pitch he ever saw. Not too bad for a 27-year old rookie. Unfortunately, he hasn't hit another one over the fences since. Nava is a decent fourth outfielder, but without injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury none of us would be reading his name. He isn't a viable prospect, and is most likely doomed to become a AAAA player. Beats the hell out of never making it to The Show though. Darnell McDonald and Ryan Kalish have been splitting time in center. It feels like Boston has the anit-Hermie as their trainer. Only Adrian Beltre is going to pass the 145 games played mark this season. McDonald is the faster of the two, with Kalish being the better all-around player. McDonald is also a decade older than Kalish; so once Terry Francona gets the okay to officially throw in the towel, expect Kalish to take over in center damn near full time. Jed Lowrie was supposed to become the shortstop of the future for the Carmines, but forgot how to play good baseball along the way. He's returned some luster to his career so far this season, but it's hard to take 93 plate appearances at anything more than face value. When Dustin Pedroia returns next season, expect Lowrie to assume his rightful place as a utility man.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Josh Beckett-RHP, Jon Lester-LHP, John Lackey-RHP, Clay Buchholz-RHP, Daisuke Matsuzaka-RHP, and Jonathan Papelbon-CL.
Josh Beckett, I loathe thee. The aging frat boy is having his worst season since 2006, and potentially 2002. His walk rate is up a bit, but the main culprit here is BABIP. A .341 BABIP is going to result in a bad season for any pitcher. Thrown in the fact that he's as fragile as a glass menagerie and it starts to look like Theo Epstein made a huge mistake with the four year extension. Beckett throws a mid-90's fastball, a curve, a cutter, and a change. In the past, the heater and the curve have been plus pitches. Not so much this year. Meanwhile, Jon Lester is the man. The lone southpaw in the rotation has beaten both cancer and most of the American League. He strikes out a hitter an inning and manages to keep his K:BB right around three, which is great for a starter. He also keeps the ball down, and as a result gives up very few homeruns. He has a mid-90's fastball, a cutter, a change, and a curve. All are good, but his cutter is his money pitch. John Lackey is another expensive and underachieving arm that calls Fenway home. Quick rule of thumb: if Boston is paying a lot for the pitcher, they over-paid. Lackey had a great stretch in the middle of the decade, but injuries and age are catching up to him. He'll end the season around 3.5 WAR, but you hope for more with his contract. His K/9 is down while his BB/9 is up. Bad recipe. He throws a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curve, and a change. The fastball has been his go to pitch, but is failing him this year. Clay Buchholz is the true ace of this team right now. Until you look at his xFIP (4.19) and realize he's pitching a bit over his head. His K:BB is 1.84, which is being saved completely by his .260 BABIP. And there is no way in hell that his 5.9% HR/9 is sustainable. You might as well call him Newton, because Clay Buchholz will be The Man Who Fell to Earth. I do not like Daisuke Matsuzaka either. I really do not care for the Red Sox in general, as if that hadn't been made apparent. Matsuzaka was a giant overpay. He walks too many hitters. And I'm still waiting for this gyroball. He has a low-90's fastball, a cutter, a slider, and a change. Jonathan Papelbon is not as good as he used to be, which can't be a good feeling for someone turning 30. He's getting less strikeouts and walking more people, while his price tag continues to climb. This will be an interesting offseason for the River Dancer, as he could very well be leaving Beantown. He throws a mid-90's fastball, a splitter, and a slider. The fastball is his best.
Outlook: Let's add up all the factors. We are still in somewhat of a playoff chase. Boston is not. I love the White Sox. I do not love the Red Sox. Throw in the four games at home and you get my scientific prediction of a 5-2 record.