69-93, 5th in the AL East
Characterizing the 2012 Red Sox is a difficult task. They won less than 70 games with a big payroll and moderately high expectations. But they had also come off one of the worst September collapses in history and told Terry Francona not to come back in favor of Bobby Valentine. Players got hurt and old and disgruntled. All of that sounds really bad. And it was. But late summer and fall shined brighter. Valentine is gone. Big contracts have been shed and Ben Cherington may have wrestled control of the franchise away from the drunk at the wheel ownership.
On the field in 2012 a number of hitters performed well. Dustin Pedroia led the way (4.5 WAR) and was backed up by David Ortiz (3.0 in 90 games), Adrian Gonzalez (2.8), Cody Ross (2.4), Will Middlebrooks (2.1), and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2.0). Heck, I almost spelled Saltalamacchia correctly without looking it up, so that’s something in itself.
So while the offense was respectable, the pitching struggled. Jon Lester was good (3.3), but not nearly the ace he needed to be. When Felix Doubront (2.1) is second on your staff in WAR, that should say a lot. Clay Buchholz (1.9) and Josh Beckett (1.8) disappointed and a lot of starts went to Aaron Cook (0.2), Dice-K Matsuzaka (-0.1), and Daniel Bard (-0.4), so that should also say something about your team.
The bullpen didn’t impress, but they had some nice pieces. Nothing to overcome the poor starting pitching, but nothing that caused a great downfall on their own.
In general, the team performed poorly. Every other day, clubhouse gossip came out about people not getting along and the manager fighting off mutinies. It was a supremely silly affair and it is unsurprising that the team played poorly in its wake. Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett, and Youkilis were all sent packing in the hopes of starting over.
It looks like they will have that chance. With the additions of Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and David Ross among others, the Sox should be a leaner fighting machine in 2013. Their pitching should bounce back to some degree and John Farrell should offer a better environment than Bobby V.
This will likely be a year of transition for the Sox. They dumped a lot of heavy contracts on the Dodgers, so they will have flexibility to build a better team going forward. Those fixes aren’t all in place, so the immediate prospects aren’t great, even if the long term prospects are solid. This is a club rich in dollars and fan support and lacking in any serious long term commitments.
September 2011 was the fall from grace. Early 2012 was rock bottom. By September 2012, the Sox were back on track, even if it will take a while to get back to the promise land.
2012 Grade: D
Early 2013 Projection: 78-84