Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is Curt Young The Most Important Member Of The Red Sox This Year?

Bahtendah Wisdom - Pay Attention!

For those of you not yet fully immersed and living and dying with the Sox these days, Curt Young is the new pitching coach for the local nine.  I'm here to tell you that he just might be the most important man in Camp Tranquility this Spring.  With the offseason acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and with better health expected from the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Veritek, Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron, the offense looks to be one of the better lineups in all of MLB.  The Nation has visions of the 1927 Yankees, with baseballs flying all over Fenway Park while the speedsters turn every walk or single into a triple.  Defense shouldn't be much of an issue either, especially in the outfield.  I'm not picturing a lot of balls dropping in the gaps given the speed of Ellsbury and Crawford.  Plus. for all the complaints about J.D. Drew, there's no doubt that when he plays, the dude can throw some leather around right field.  And how about a healthy Mike Cameron as your fourth outfielder?  Not too shabby.

In the infield, Gonzalez is outstanding at first, Pedroia is above-average at second, the tandem of Scutaro and Lowrie should suffice at short, and Youk is a beast at the hot corner.  For you stat-geeks, the Red Sox UZR should be looking pretty good this year.

So it all comes down to pitching.  We all know about the failings of the bullpen last year - Papelbon wasn't himself, Okajima was a serious bummer and the rest of the 'pen was put together with baling wire and masking tape.  The one consistent bright spot was Daniel Bard and there's no reason to think he shouldn't have a repeat performance this year.  As far as starting pitching goes, Lester and Bucholtz were terrific, but the rest of the staff left a lot to be desired.  Beckett battled injuries and ineffectiveness all year, Lackey was lacking in the first half (his second half was a little better), the Dice-man missed a good part of the year and Wakefield was all over the place.  The additions of Jenks and Wheeler look like they'll shore up the bullpen on paper, but I'll withhold judgement until I see a few outings.

Pundits across the sports landscape are predicting anywhere from 95 to 100 wins for the BoSox this year, but there's no way that happens without a significant up-tick in the performance of the pitching staff.  Enter Curt Young.

Who is this guy?  Well, he's a fifty-year-old baseball lifer who's spent the last 23 years in the Oakland organization as either a player or coach.  He's been the pitching coach for the A's since 2004.  During his tenure, his staffs have performed well, and last year, the Oakland staff had the lowest ERA in the league and also led the league in shutouts with 17.  Pretty impressive stuff given the youth of the pitchers he was working with, and let's face it, the budget constraints of the A's.

He could be just what the doctor ordered.  If not, the doctor is going to be prescribing some mid-season acquisitions, and that will mean that all is not well with the Nation.  There's a lot riding on you Mr. Young.  Pay attention!