So the trade deadline passed, and now it’s August. There are 58 games left in the schedule with the Sox holding to a slim one game lead over the Yankees. It will be an exciting month of August to watch.
STARTING PITCHING: This aspect of the team will either make or break the season. The front is strong with Schilling and Beckett. Lester is still very impressive, although we’ll see how he endures a pennant race. Wakefield needs to get healthy to fill the No. 3/4 hole, and all the best wishes to him. The 5th starter is the question all season long. Wells looks old, Clement is done, and Snyder really hasn’t lasted more than 5 innings. That is the Sox’s biggest need still unaddressed and we’ll see how the waiver month pans out. Will the Sox be able to get Clemens? That is still interesting and up to grabs.
RELIEF PITCHING: Papelbon brings a comforting anchor to the bullpen and is certainly a blessing this year. The following months will be big and let’s see how Papelbon survive the fire. Timlin is still good and a reliable setup for Papelbon. It gets murky beyond that. The youth movement definitely has given good products in Delcarmen and Hansen. The kids cannot shoulder all the responsbility. The veterans nonetheless are horrible, with Tavarez and Seanez walking on fire. I’m surprised Theo didn’t tinker the bullpen, but the Sox do have options for the stretch.
OFFENCE: The lineup is still scary although not like the previous years. It has good balance with Youk getting on base, Loretta good in the 2-hole and Ortiz/Manny doing their thing. The back end is still a question. Trot is hurt and looks like on decline, Varitek looks old, and Coco has had a disappointing first season. Lowell is bouncing back well and Gonzalez is a marvel. The lineup just needs to be more consistent and have better tweaking esp. in No. 5 hole.
DEFENCE: The defence has really made a difference this year. The infield is perhaps the best in baseball and the outfield is a boon too with Coco’s range and Manny being Manny still. The team leads majors with fielding and it has saved many games for the Sox. This part can be a major difference down the stretch in the races.
BENCH: The bench has a few quality players. Wily Mo will be less a bench player and more a regular to complement Trot, and he has done a great job offensively. Kapler gives an additional defensive replacement. The infield has Cora, a very good subtitute in the infield when others need rest and speed. Mirabelli, although can’t hit anymore, is filling in well and needs to have a bigger role with Varitek hurting. The bench can still be enhanced with maybe another infielder and a hitter who can hit lefties.
How is the outlook for the rest of the season? The Blue Jays we know are not winning the division, and will finish 2nd at best for all their pitching problems. The Yankees are now the faves to win the division with the additions of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. It won’t give them a big advantage because the pennant race will boil down to pitching and winning games with defence, which the Sox are not much lacking. It will be interesting stretch but to win the East, which is of course possible, the Sox need to start winning games with pitching, and winning all games they need to win (TB, Royals, O’s) and can’t depend on Ortiz to deliver a walk-off each time.