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Hanrahan Hopefully Likes Pressure - Sox Pitching 2013

So, as I'm sure you remember, I promised to talk about the pitching with this post.  So let's start with first base. 

Really, a quick update about the lineup as my last post assumed Cody Ross in RF and knew nothing of Napoli at first.  Kudos to the front office team for putting together a major league line up.  If everything bounces right, they might be good.  There are conceivable avenues through which it could even be very good (e.g. Middlebooks doesn't slump, Napoli is 2011 Naps, Victorino loses a few years, and Stephen Drew hits like his brother while acting like Johnny Gomes - who hits like Kevin Millar and avoids any defensive comparisons to Wily Mo Pena).

The problem with this line up primarily is the lack of real depth.  Most teams lose at least one player from their expected every day lineup for a significant period of time.  Only with catcher and shortstop, and maybe left field, would that not result in a massive talent drop off for the 2013 Sox.  Most worrisome: there's no thirdbasemen to back up Middlebrooks.  Ciriaco is awesome but not an every day answer if something happened to the kid.  It might be Brock Holt, but really?  Likewise, firstbase seems like a canyon behind Napoli and his iffy hips.

That brings me to pitching (in my head, that was actually a segue).  The Red Sox are a pitching team in 2013.  In order to win, they need great pitching and decent hitting - and very solid defense.  In order to have great pitching this year, they need the best bullpen in baseball.  They might have it.

A great bullpen would take pressure off the starters to eat every inning they can.  Free up Dubront to dominate for 6 innings rather than focus on an efficient seven.  Ditto Rubby De La Rosa when he explodes into Boston sometime this summer.

I'm not saying starters shouldn't go deep into games, but having a lights out bullpen frees starters to focus on giving the best innings they can rather than taking on one extra inning.

There's a good chance that Jon Lester returns to ace status.  There's a good chance that John Lackey and Ryan Dempster give solid, consistent outings and earn our love.  Clay Buchholz may even put it all together.  The starters are good and, with an ace and some big time young talent, could be very good.

The bullpen is the lynchpin of this team.  Failure of the pen results in a pretty bad 2013.

The middle relief is deep and talented.  Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow are sure to be solid.  Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller, and Junichi Tazawa should be outstanding power arms.  There's reason to believe Daniel Bard might revert back to excellence.  Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Bailey seem like trade bait, but if they stay, they both bring value.  There's no one better in baseball at long relief than Aceves.  But he also seems kinda Carl Everetty.  If they trade him, Morales and Clay Mortenson should be able to fill that gap.

The big question to me is the closer.  Is Joel Hanrahan an elite closer?  I really have no idea.  The stats look good but I've heard interpretations of them that alternately say he regressed last year in finding the plate and that he's one of the elite power shortguys in the game with a great closing track record. 

If Hanrahan succeeds, the Sox might content for a playoff spot.  If not, the failure cascades (esp. if they do trade Bailey).  If he falls flat, they try Tazawa or Bard at closer, then that forces us to rely on minor leaguer Alex Wilson as a set up guy, that gets Felix Dubront freaked out about efficiency and his strikeouts plummet and he's hammered, so Middlebrooks tries to hit a couple homers every game and ends up hitting 8 all year with Mark Reynold-esque strikeout numbers, and we end up with Brock Holt at third and a sub-.500 record.  Yikes.

Did I mention though that I think Hanrahan will succeed?  Well, I do.  And if he does, it's all flowers and cake for the Red Sox nation this year.  No worries will creep into the club house or talk radio.  It'll be like a big hug for New England.

One of those two things will certainly happen.  But no pressure Joel.  Welcome to Red Sox Nation


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