Four Real? 4 Things the Red Sox need to do to win the AL East

For this season to be a successful one, the Red Sox will need a bit of luck, a lot of pitching, and timely hitting to win one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Here are four things they must do if they want to hoist the AL East banner in 2013.

1) The Jon’s need to show up. Last year, Jon Lester won only 9 games and finished with a 4.82 ERA. After winning an average of 16 wins a season from 2008-11, Lester’s ERA jumped over 1.5 runs per nine innings, his WHIP increased .12, and he struck out 30 less batters this year based on his average. Needless to say, 2012 was not Lester’s year. At 29 years old, he still has a couple years left in the tank to regain form and pitch like an ace again. John Lackey, who owns a 26-24 career record with the Red Sox, is looking to put 2012 behind him. Lackey pitched 5.2 innings last year for Pawtucket but did not record a single pitch in the big leagues in 2012. While many pitchers have shown that they can rebound nicely after Tommy John surgery, John Lackey has to prove to himself and his doubters that he “is who we thought he was!”

John Farrell returns to Boston and has potential to right the ship and improve the pitching staff. Farrell was the Red Sox's pitching coach from 2007-10, a period in which his staff held opponents to an American League-low .254 batting average and led the league in strikeouts with 4,771. Farrell will need to lead the troubled pitching staff back to the promised land if Boston wants to see a successful 2013.

If both Lackey and Lester can put up an average personal year, we are looking at 29 wins, 300 Ks and an ERA around 4 for the two of them. If Lackey and Lester can perform a bit better than average and compile 33 wins, 320 Ks and an ERA of 3.80, Boston will be on top of the leader board in the East.

2) David Ortiz needs to lead again. Remember when things were pretty, Sweet Caroline rang loud and the Evil Empire was getting doused with a cup of El Gigante? Back then, David Ortiz was the emotional and outspoken leader. Lately, he has been a bit of a whiner, saying things like
Playing here used to be so much fun, and now every day it's something new not even related to baseball.I don't get no respect… from the media [or] from the front office.
Look, we all know Ortiz plays hard every day. We may never know why things went sour last year, whether it was because some of his pals got traded, or the team fell quicker than a fat lady out of a plane, or because he was really hurt and it wasn’t worth getting hurt worse with the team in the basement. But like it or not, Ortiz is the conductor, El Maestro, and it’s his coal that gets the train steaming. Papi needs to rake this summer if the team wants to win. And when you have 401 career HRs and 1326 career RBIs, stand back, Ishmael, this whale is about to blow!

3) The 2013 Red Sox need a vaccine to be immune from the Injury Bug. Last year’s Red Sox had 24 players go on the disabled list 34 times. Thirteen of those players were former All-Stars. In total, the Red Sox players missed 1,495 games because of injuries. That is ridiculous. They played 75 games this year with a short roster because of injuries. All in all, the 2012 Red Sox were the most disabled team in baseball history. Do I feel that this will happen again this year? Not at all. Injuries are flukes and bad luck. Of course when the season starts, all the players will hint that they have never felt better and that they are in the best shape of their lives (No one, however, will act like Johnny Damon and say he trained in the off-season by hiding behind the bushes and chasing after cars to stay in shape… ahh, don’t we miss him?). If the Sox can stay relatively healthy, look for bounce back years from Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Will Middlebrooks to jump start last year's stagnant offense.

4) The new talent needs to rise higher than the Green Monster. The off-season signings did not raise national attention like the Blue Jays , Angels or Nationals, but the Red Sox did add some decent talent for not much money. Pitchers Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara add stability to the late innings, and hitters Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes are your Dirt Dogs who would have fit in well with the 2004 group of Red Sox. All three boys play the game the right way;hard, dirty and balls-to-the-wall. If Victorino can produce from the top of the lineup and Napoli peppers the ball off the Monster like Adrian Gonzalez was supposed to, the lineup should produce numbers which put the 2013 Red Sox in the top 5 of the American League in offense.

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