Let’s get this straight: once an MLB team makes the playoffs, whether it is by division championship or wild card berth, all is fair and any team can win a World Series. The San Francisco Giants certainly proved that in 2010, scratching their way to 92 regular season wins in the lackluster National League West with a starting nine full of misfit toys and cast-off veterans. Edgar Renteria, in the second year of a bad contract and coming off a bad year, was their World Series MVP. Simply making the playoffs gives teams a chance. Just ask the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, the 2005 Chicago White Sox, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2002 Anaheim Angels, or the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. You get the point.
With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the teams in 2011 that appear to be preseason locks for a playoff spot, ensuring the best chance at winning a World Series title. The first team we’re examining in our three-part series previewing World Series favorites are the Boston Red Sox.
Off-season Moves: No team did more to improve themselves in the 2010-11 off-season than the Boston Red Sox. Offering up both long-term financial commitment and prospects, the already-good Red Sox acquired two impact players in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Adding two centerpiece-type players like this would do wonders for any team, but with a core as strong as the Red Sox already had, this makes them a favorite for playoff success. They also bolstered their bullpen, adding Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks, to get the ball to Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Strengths: They excel in all of the key areas, featuring a deep pitching staff, dynamic, well-balanced offense (power/patience/speed) and good defense all around the diamond. One component I really look for, in evaluating a team during the preseason, is depth, especially in pitching. Injuries happen often and the average team will use ten starting pitchers in a season. Should anything go wrong (I’m looking at you, Daisuke Matsuzaka), the Red Sox have Tim Wakefield as their number six starter and prospect Michael Bowden waiting in the wings.
Weaknesses: The Red Sox have made themselves complete to the point that there are no major areas of concern. I will say that they are weaker up the middle, relying on Jarrod Saltalamacchia to catch, and expecting much offense from Marco Scutaro or Jacoby Ellsbury. Here again, depth comes into play: they potentially have Mike Cameron, Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek as backups.
Summary: This is the team to beat. And no, I am not a Boston homer — skill recognizes skill.
Check back Friday and Saturday for the other two 2011 World Series favorites.Google+