Spring Training 2011 Question Of The Day: Boston Red Sox

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Infielder Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox throws over to first for an out against the Minnesota Twins during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Hammond Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Everybody's picking the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, which will look smart if they can just get through this season somewhat healthier than last year.

There are questions surrounding all 30 MLB teams during Spring Training, and Rob Neyer intends to answer them with his 30-part Question of the Day series. Today, he takes a look at the Boston Red Sox.

Quick, how many games did the Boston Red Sox win last year?

If you said 89, you get a gold star sprinkled in fairy dust. Because considering the perennial expectations surrounding the Red Sox and how many things went wrong for them in 2010, it's not easy to remember that they finished with the fifth-best record in the American League.

It should be said that some things did go well for the Red Sox last season. Adrian Beltre played out of his mind. Victor Martinez played in 154 games and hit like Victor Martinez. Despite his early-season funk, David Ortiz finished with highly respectable numbers.

And it's Beltre and Martinez that might give people the wrong impression about this team. If the Red Sox play well this season, newcomers Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez will probably get much (or most) of the credit. Which will be fair ... but only to a point. The difference between last year's Red Sox and this year's Red Sox will not be Crawford and Gonzalez, who will (at best) merely replace Beltre's and Martinez's value.

No, the difference between last year's Red Sox and this year's Red Sox will -- if there is a difference, and a positive difference -- be fewer days on the Disabled List. Many fewer, probably.

First let's consider just the outfield, which a year ago was supposed to be anchored by Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, and the famously injury-prone J.D. Drew.

  • After averaging 149 games per season in 2008 and '9, Ellsbury answered the bell only 18 times in 2010.
  • Cameron, another 150-games sort of guy, played in only 48 games.
  • Shockingly enough, J.D. Drew was the Red Sox' healthiest outfielder.
  • 27-year-old rookie Daniel Nava hit a home run -- a grand slam, no less -- in his first MLB plate appearance ... and went utterly homerless in his other 187 plate appearances.
  • 31-year-old Darnell McDonald, who entered the season with 156 plate appearances in the majors, racked up 363 with the Red Sox.

Bill Hall, Ryan Kalish, Eric Patterson, Jeremy Hermida ... All of those guys saw more time in the outfield than they were supposed to, or should have. Essentially, two-thirds of the outfield was an unmitigated disaster ... and that was only the half of it. Because something like two-fourths of the infield was disastrous, too.

Actually, when you do the math it wasn't quite that bad. 

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia played only 75 games. But one of Pedroia's replacements was Jed Lowrie, who hit even better than Pedroia.

First baseman Kevin Youkilis played only 102 games, but when he played he was brilliant. Unfortunately, his replacements, led by Mike Lowell in his swan song, didn't fare nearly as well.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox lost more than 1,100 days to the DL. Which seems like a lot, especially considering that Ellsbury, Cameron, Youkilis and Pedroia had never before demonstrated any particular penchant for injuring themselves.

Granted, baseball players do get hurt, sometimes even baseball players with no penchant for it. But four generally healthy players in one season? All with catastrophic, season-killing injuries?

More than anything, that's just really awful luck.

Today's Question, then, is this ... Will the Red Sox luck turn around just some? It doesn't have to turn all the way around. They don't need great luck, good luck, or even average luck. They just need, when it comes to injuries to their hitters, luck that isn't unfathomably execrable.

Their chances at that sort of luck (or better) are really good. Which is why almost every projected standings you'll see show the Red Sox finishing atop the American League East.

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