This is an interesting team to preview, especially because I think everyone had a little too much fun mocking some of its draft picks (Chris Ray, anyone?) to notice that there’s the makings of a good team here. But first, an authorial mea culpa: I didn’t get the new team name until a google search 30 seconds ago flipped the switch. Of course! Dr. Rumack from Airplane! Played, of course, by Leslie Neilsen, creating a lovely through-line to this franchise’s Enrico Palazzo era. Jesus, I am losing my touch for not getting that sooner.
above: Don't call his team 'Don't Call me Shirley'.
ANYWAY, like I said, this is a fun team which faces an interesting dilemma. The team’s hitting is likely to improve as the season goes on, because of an important positional eligibility change. Unfortunately, the team’s excellent pitching could decline as the year goes on, because they have exactly zero backups rostered. The team’s success will ultimately turn on whether the first trend can cancel out the second.
It is pretty much the Island of Misfit Toys up in here right now. Brian Roberts is still hurt at 2B, Juan Uribe is still Juan Uribe at 3B, and Stephen Drew is still one of the infuriatingly underperforming Drew brothers (or, as I like to call them, the “White Uptons”) at SS. Paul Konerko and Buster Posey are both coming off tremendous seasons last year. But I can’t figure out where the hell Konerko’s season came from, and am expecting some decline. There’s also not really anyone on the bench, unless you’re excited about Carlos Lee as a 1B option. (Note: you should not be excited about Carlos Lee as a 1B option.)
A lot of questions marks, then. But this group will be improved a few weeks into the season, when Kevin Youkilis gets his 3B eligibility, and is liberated from the DH slot. Youks will replace Uribe at 3B, and one of the team’s current bench OFs (probably Magglio Ordonez) will slide in at DH. Magglio > Uribe. So the goal early on will be to persevere until the real offense takes the field in May some time.
Despite a poor spring, Carl Crawford still seems like a good #1 option. Although there’s a chance he’ll lose some SBs playing in Boston’s homer-heavy lineup, his power numbers could spike in Fenway. I think you can pretty much cut-and-paste the Paul Konerko comment onto Alex Rios (it might just be that there’s no power hitter New Comiskey can’t save). The last OF spot will be taken by one of Ichiro, Adam Jones, or Denard Span, at least one of whom ought to be able to provide SBs without tanking in the other categories. A good group, even if Rios comes back to Earth.
Tasty! In these previews, we usually start at the top of the rotation and work our way down. Here, though, it’s more instructive to start at the bottom by trying to identify the worst SP on this team. Is it Hiroki Kuroda? Tim Hudson? Ted Lilly? Those are all above-average pitchers. There aren’t many teams who can straight-facedly say that their worst starter is a good bet to be above average. That depth in the active rotation gives the Rumacks a legit advantage heading into the season.
The problem, though, is that there are exactly zero starters behind the active rotation. That means that if any of the pitchers get injured, one slot is going to get handed over to waiver-wire guys, who are necessarily coin flips. Some bad luck could damage the team’s rate stats. But that’s a problem for another day—right now, this group is a real strength.
Well, er, um . . . yeah. Skipping lightly over the Chris Ray sighting, Jordan Walden and Joel Peralta seem relatively unlikely to emerge as top-shelf closers this season, and could well de-merge into middle inning guys. Plenty of work to do here.
The bullpen is a real problem right now—this team is looking at no more than 2 points in saves based on the guys he has currently rostered, and it’s real hard to hit the board while punting one category that badly. (For comparison’s sake, the fewest points any of the board teams got in any category last year was 5.) So these guys are basically rooting for their offense to hold together early and for one or more of the megapen teams to crater so that some closers become available. That is certainly a viable possibility. However, the presence of multiple “ifs” leads us to put these guys more in the second tier of possible contenders than up there with the league favorites.