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Re- and Preview

The regular season is done, complete with 95 wins. Let's have a quick look back then a look forward toward the playoffs. In the 2009 regular season, we saw:
  • Papi's career was erroneously pronounced dead twice this year. Once for a remarkably bad start to the season. And a second time when he slumped dramatically following the revelation that he used a "banned substance" - probably, maybe, according to an anonymous source illegally leaking court documents. It really shouldn't surprise us that Papi's productivity so closely relates to his mental state (slump one snowballed under massive pressure and slump two he was accused of cheating). I'm just glad he's usually so jolly and thus productive.
  • There were points when it looked like Gil Valazquez might be our starting shortstop. Anyone's list of team MVP should include Nick Green for not being an easy out and making a few plays at short. He stepped up pre-Gonzo after Lugo (surprise!) sucked and Lowrie (surprise!) watched his wrist implode.
  • Jason Varitek proved he really can't throw or hit anymore. He's basically done. He might be back next year if he picks up his $3 million player option. But the Sox shouldn't pick up their $5 million team option. The team would be better off with Dusty Brown playing good defense as V-Mart's back up.
  • Lester showed he's the real deal. Remember, this was only his second good year really. I can't believe he's only 25.
  • We all fell in love with V-Mart. He makes for a lineup with tough outs 1-8.
  • It appears we've seen the last of Wake. With his age (43) and back issues, I don't see him coming back next year. He went out with an all-star appearance and a first half of the season during which he saved the team. I wish he could pull a Willis Reed moment but I sort of doubt it's in the cards. Regardless, Wake will be missed and he'll be one of the hardest Sox legends to describe to future fans ("he was great and bad, started and closed. He was left off playoff rosters and pitched key key innings. Gave up the Aaron Boone homer and saved the 2004 champions by getting crushed for 3 1/3 innings of 'relief'... got it?" )
Looking to the playoffs:
  • In what feels like opposite world, I'm more concerned about the bullpen than the starters. Lester and Beckett can win 3 of 4 games against any opposing duo. That will rely on Buchholz and Dice-K to be good enough to win only a couple games. I like our chances with this math equation.
  • My concern is with the bad Sept. pitching of bullpen stalwarts Oki, Ramirez and Delcarman. Meanwhile, Bard is a rookie and Wagner is fragile. For the first time this year, I worry about getting to Paps.
  • This is a different Angels team and the patience of Bobby Abreau and the emergence of young power-hitting Kendry Morales really gives them a new look. I worry that their new patience will force more reliance on the Sox middle relief than is past years, something I wouldn't have feared in August when Delcarman could get someone out.
  • Our lineup is confusing. It's very deep and will wear out a pitcher. However, it seems that good pitching can shut it down more so than a great lineup. To win these games we'll need Ellsbury to create a few runs with his legs and we'll need homers from Bay and Drew. I expect solid production from Peddy, Youk and V-Mart - but not necessarily homeruns.
  • Our defense is really excellent right now. When your weak link is Jason Bay's arm and Mike Lowell's mobility, you're doing well. With one massive exception...
  • V-Mart is not a whole lot better than Tek in throwing people out. This is part talent, but more so a Joe Kerrigan-esque, wanton disregard for holding runners on from our pitchers. This will be improved by the fact that neither Wake nor Brad Penny will pitch, but still it's scary. I fully expect Chone Figgins to steal home from second base sometime this series.
  • At the risk of jinxing us, I don't think John Lackey is very good. We have a much better starting four than they do. My biggest worry is that Scott Kazmir could probably shut down the Sox with his right arm - and he's a lefty.
  • The roster: good move to put Lowrie on the roster. Even if Green were healthy, Lowrie is a better fielder and better hitter righty. He's shown he physically can hit lefty even though they'd rather he didn't right now because of the wrist. Also, the rules let them take him off the roster if he breaks down (which would make him ineligable for the following series I believe). Delcarman shouldn't make the roster because he's been bad and he's hurt from a car accident. Joey Gathright and Baldelli or Brian Anderson will be the outfield backup. I don't think they'll go with 3 catchers. Lastly, looks like Byrd will get the long relief duty rather than risk the mental health of Bowden if you made him clean up some disasterous game.
  • Prediction: Lester and Beckett will dominate. Bay and Drew will crush the ball. Pedroia, Youk and V-Mart will be on base constantly. Chone Figgins will score half the time he gets on. Angels' closer/firestarter Brian Fuentes will blow a couple saves. The Sox will beat the Angels in five.
You can see the playoff schedule here. First two games start at 9:30pm on Thu. and Fri. night. I'm tired already. Matchups: Lackey vs. Lester, Weaver vs. Beckett, Kazmir vs. Buchholz, Saunders vs. Dice-K (probably).

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