He may not be posting as often...partly because we're scared of being sued, and partly because his work has banned him from reaching any websites (he reached the end of the Internet twice recently)....but TMurph is still very much in the background of ITM....providing us with stupid movie quotes and irrational banter on a daily basis. Recently, ITM was contacted by C70 At the Bat, a Cardinals blogger and fellow Baseball Blogger Alliance member to provide our perspective on the Sox, and the upcoming playoffs......TMurph chimed in with the following:
C70 At the Bat: What are the Sox Strengths going into the playoffs?
ITM: The strength of the Red Sox heading into the playoffs is its' starting pitching. Many across baseball, in especially here in Boston, believe we have two number 1 starters in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. There has been questions about each players' health after Beckett was scratched from his last start and Lester took a line drive off his knee/quad in NY last weekend. Lester will start tonight and Beckett on Saturday, presumably meaning Lester will start game 1 of the ALDS. Couple that with Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching well down the stretch and one would assume this team goes as far as their starting pitching takes them.
I would also consider the bullpen a strength of this team with 3 power arms in Bard, Wagner and Papelbon. Lastly the veterans on this team and playoff experience can't hurt. The majority of this team went to game 7 of the ALCS last year, and another high percentage of those players won the World Series in 2007. Players like Ortiz, Becket, Pedroia and Youk have been around the block in October before.
C70 At The Bat: A few things worry you about this Sox team?
ITM: First is their lineup's ability to hit good pitching. The addition of Victor Martinez in the middle of line up definitely makes them more formidable, however in game 7 of the ALCS in 2008 they scored 1 run and lost 3-1. Matt Garza shut them down in that game and Zack Greinke shut down the Sox last week in KC. The Angels pitching staff doesn't worry me as much, but pitchers like Sabathia and Verlander can definitely quiet the Sox bats.
Secondly, the health of some key players worries me. Mike Lowell got a cortisone shot in his hip yesterday and Josh Beckett had a back spasm which was reported as minor but still kept me up for a few nights.
C70 At the Bat: Any roster moves or surprises expected with October changes?
ITM: I'm not sure that there will be any surprises either way if someone is added or left off the Red Sox playoff roster. The veterans on this team and the stars will all be there. The way Manny Delcarmen has pitched lately it wouldn't be shocking if he's left off the roster in favor of Paul Byrd being the emergency long man out of the pen. Delcarmen has been able to get left handed batters out, but that is about it. The last positional spot would probably go to Joey Gathright or rookie Josh Reddick. Gathright offers more speed off the bench (the Dave Roberts comparisons have been unavoidable here in Boston) but Reddick is probably better overall and gives Terry Francona an extra outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury was instrumental in the Sox winning the 2007 World Series as a rookie.
C70 At the Bat: Who is the one key player for the Red Sox, the player that if they don't go well, the Red Sox will be home quickly?
ITM: If Josh Beckett isn't healthy or continues to pitch more like he did in August then he did in June and July then the Red Sox will be lucky to beat the Angels. If he pitches like he did in 2003 or the 2007 playoffs the Sox could very well be celebrating their third championship this decade.
C70 At the Bat: What are the expectations for this team? Is anything less than the Series a disappointment?
ITM: The expectation every year in Spring Training is for the Red Sox to compete, if not win the World Series. I believe this team has the talent to win it all this year, but I'm not sure I would call it a disappointment if they didn't win the Series. If the Angels sweep them out of the first round that would be considered disappointment in my book, but any kind of success in October is something to hang your hat on. We've become very spoiled here in the New England area this decade and have come to expect championships year in and year out; but these things are as much luck as they are talent.