Tuesday, June 05, 2007
One of the many things I learned in Business School was the S.W.O.T. analysis. It was a good way to organize your initial thoughts on an organization by grouping them into four categories Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Below is a S.W.O.T. of the 2007 Sox after a third of the season.
LINEUP: The offense is clearly a strength for the Sox. It also stands a reasonable chance of getting better with many vets under performing through the first third of the season. Even though I have been doubting Manny, he appears to be gettin’ his grove on at the plate. J.D. Drew, when healthy, has hit his entire career. These two will get it going, which should offset the likely drop off from Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.
Lowell is a mistake hitter, albeit better than Kevin Millar, and they go hot and cold. Youk and DP may not slip as much as Lowell. Regardless, this is a real opportunity for the best and most well-rounded Sox offense in the John Henry era, if Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp can end the year posting OBPs around their career averages. It would give the Sox a lineup that could hit for average, power, manufacture runs and without an automatic out. It can be a thick sick scorin’ machine.
STARTERS: The rotation analysis is similar to the lineup. Josh Beckett’s performance is probably going to fall off over the second half, but Dice-K’s with his strong K/BB rate should improve and even thing out. The opportunity for improvement is when Jon Lester replaces the slightly above replacement level producing, highly entertaining weirdo named Julian Tavarez. With Lester’s less than stellar control, it is not a sure thing that he will be an improvement over Tavarez, although he is unlikely to be much worse. The starters are a strength, which if healthy is likely to continue.
RELIEF: The bullpen has been a strength to date with Okajima and Papelbon pitching outstanding baseball. Donnelly (solid middle relief) and Lopez (getting lefties out) have performed as expected. (The rest are somewhat irrelevant since they pitch in low leverage situations.) The key question and threat is: Can Okajima continue to fool hitters with his funky head-down delivery and two off-speed pitches the second time around?
The Sox do have internal options starting with Mike Timlin. He showed good command last week in RI. If he can get that pop back with the fastball, he could give Tito another choice pre-Papelbon. Clay Buchholz is also a possibility come August. Since the Sox likely want to limit his innings to around 150, putting the prospect in the Sox pen would accomplish that while giving him experience in the Show.
The continued dominance of the back of the pen is the biggest threat for the Sox. Fortunately, they have internal options if Okajima goes south.
BENCH and MINORS: Eric Hinske and Alex Cora’s solid play and versatility can weather most routine injuries. The duo along with the outfield depth in Pawtucket gives the Sox an opportunity to shop Wily Mo Pena. WMP is not going to bring in Eric Gagne from Texass, but he can be a part of a package to an A.L. club (Oakland, LAA, K.C.) for a strikeout/power reliever. (Anyone who has watched WMP play the OF understands he is not a full-timer in the field). Other than OF, the Sox do not have sufficient position prospects in the upper minors to bring in an impact player and a top minor league pitcher getting traded is highly unlikely.
S-trengths: the lineup, rotation, back end of the pen
W-eaknesses: middle/long relief
O-pportunities: top notch offense
T-hreats: pre-Papelbon pen
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