This is the man we need coming up big.

Gonzalez finished 2011 with 27 homers, a quite respectable total. He also had 45 doubles and 117 RBIs. His OBP was .410, and his slugging was .548. His average was .338! At the All-Star Break, he was odds-on favorite to be MVP.

But he cooled in the second half. He never slumped, really, but his production was merely ordinary. Sorry, AG, we need extraordinary -- and you can do it.

Kevin Youkilis hit .258 last year -- the lowest average of his career. His OBP was .373, the second lowest of his career. As many have said, the key is his health.

Incredibly, David Ortiz finished 2011 with 29 homers, more than Gonzalez. But if you track Ortiz's numbers historically, and I did once, the decline is really evident. Again, the production is good, but with Ortiz we've become accustomed to great (and I'd wager the Sox have too). This could be the year the decline really accelerates. Ortiz seems to have found his stroke in the last week or so, so I hope I'm wrong -- but I have a bad feeling.

If these three guys do what they're capable of, just forget it. Chances are we have to back that off a bit, but add in Pedroia and Ellsbury having Pedroia and Ellsbury average years, and the lineup is as good as anyone's.

And the bench is pretty solid.

Despite the gloomy predictions out there, some of which is a reaction to the "Sure thing" predictions from last year, this team looks loaded to me. Not to mention that, for the first in several years, they have something to prove.

There is one X factor, of course. We'll get to that next.

Jim Corrigan 4/01/2012 07:40:00 PM Edit
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