Ten Red Sox Predictions for 2012

Jon Lester might win 16 or 17 games again this season, but no other starter will come close to his numbers. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Some definite patterns are emerging with the 2012 Boston Red Sox. What has and hasn’t worked so far could easily continue through the entire season. So after five games, here are 10 predictions for the upcoming season.

1) The starting pitching will combine for 60 wins or fewer. So far, no starting pitcher has recorded a win, and none have even left in position for a win. While Jon Lester will probably finish the season with decent numbers, no other starter inspires any sort of confidence. Whether it’s Josh Beckett‘s attitude, Clay Buchholz‘s health or Daniel Bard‘s inexperience starting, the Red Sox will probably be winning a lot of games in the last couple of innings.

Speaking of which…

2) The Red Sox will record at least 15 late-game-comeback victories. In four of their first five games, the Red Sox have combined for 10 runs in the ninth inning and later. This team’s experienced, big-moment hitters never cower before opposing setup men and closers, and that should mean lots of late-game heroics.

Which is good, because…

3) The bullpen will finish with an ERA over 4.50. This bullpen is terrrrrrrible! Alfredo Aceves rocked a perfect ninth Monday, but the day before he gave up a three-run home run. And he’s supposedly their best!

Unless, of course, you count…

4) Daisuke Matsuzaka will be named as a solution to the Sox’s pitching problems no fewer than four times in the month before he returns. I’ll let Watchmen address the this prediction:

5) Mike Aviles will start under 120 games at shortstop. Aviles has batted a whopping .200 in four games. While that’s better than some previous shortstops (Alex Gonzalez, for example, didn’t reach the Mendoza line until May 22 in 2009), Aviles has to deal with the highly touted Jose Iglesias lurking down at Pawtucket. Iglesias is only batting .097 right now, but it’s only a matter of time before either a) Iglesias’ average picks up, or b) Aviles starts to struggle so much Bobby Valentine has to bring up Iglesias, just to try something new.

While we’re on the topic of new people…

6) Ryan Sweeney will out-hit Cody Ross, but fans will still like Ross more. Sweeney has already shown a decent ability to hit in the clutch – something few knew before the season started. Ross, meanwhile, has singled twice in 12 at-bats. Doesn’t matter – Ross plays with the “dirt dog” attitude Red Sox fans love. He reminds us of Trot Nixon. Sweeney, meanwhile, reminds us of J.D. Drew.

Of course, Drew did deliver some big hits in the playoffs, which takes us to…

7) The Red Sox will lose in the ALCS. I don’t see the Red Sox doing well in the AL East – not enough pitching, too many competing teams. But with the new rules, they should have no trouble earning a spot in the one-game wild card playoff, played by the top two non-division winners. If healthy, their rotation can get them through the ALDS, but unfortunately they’ll get no further. Their myriad flaws will all coming together to doom them in the seven-game ALCS.

As for multiples of seven…

8) Adrian Gonzalez will lead the offense once again. I just don’t see Jacoby Ellsbury repeating his near-MVP 2011, and I expect Gonzalez to fill the offensive void. He has the most consistently successful track record of any hitter on the roster, and a year of practice against AL pitching can only drive his numbers higher. Expect to see him in the top five in average, power numbers, and possibly MVP voting.

9) Jarrod Saltalamacchia will handle the extra catching responsibilities just fine, but the press will keep asking. Claiming “comfort,” Lester and Beckett both used Jason Varitek almost exclusively last season, seriously limiting Saltalamacchia’s development. Every pitcher will now have to use Saltalamacchia unless Valentine gives him a day off. There won’t be an issue with this, but that won’t stop the media from asking over and over again anyway.

10) Boston won’t make a move at the Trade Deadline. This is a transitional year for the Red Sox – new manager, new GM, a bunch of new players. Transition years typically result in teams coming up just short of a ring, and everyone on the team knows it. They’re going to be extremely wary of giving up future opportunities to bolster a season already with two strikes against it. Fans may want another World Series, but management just wants to see if this new group can even function together.

If so, they’ll try to win it all next season.

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