One of the driving reasons behind the Red Sox acquisition of Adam LaRoche was most likely his career 1st half/2nd half splits.
1st half career: .252 avg, .326 obp, .447 slg, .773 OPS
2nd half career: .296 avg, .357 obp, .544 slg, .901 OPS.
Clearly a case of 2 different hitters. The Red Sox are banking on him repeating his 2nd half surge.
In addition, his career OPS against righties is .847 and vs. lefties its .743. So he is expected to see most of his time against righties. Mike Lowell has hit righties at a .797 clip and lefties at a .851 clip (OPS). Lowell’s lob-sided OPS splits are even more extreme in 2009 (.758/.903).
So expect to see much less Mike Lowell in the line-up, specifically against righties. This will serve Lowell well as it will allow him more time off to heal his hip and it will serve the Red Sox better because you’ll have a near-platoon like situation at the corner infield positions that will be the best offensive line-up possible given their pieces.
While no official announcement has been made, I assume Mark Kotsay is gone. He provided nice flexibility with his glove, but isn’t much of a hitter these days. His last decent offensive season was 2005. That’s a long time ago. It’s nice to say a player can play multiple positions, but if all he can do is field, then not so much. A guy like Kevin Youkilis is great because he can handle both 3rd and 1st well and still put up a .950 OPS.
It is being reported that the Pirates are sending some cash along with LaRoche to offset his cost.
Obviously the Red Sox feel Rocco Baldelli is healthy enough to be the sole back-up outfielder.
A few overdue notes, with Tim Wakefield on the DL, Clay Buchholz is back up. Good I say. It seems so suspect that a spot would open for Buchholz this close to the deadline as I think the Red Sox will use his next 2 starts (after a successful start last week) as a means to gauge his potential in 2009. If they like what they see, they will likely get rid of Brad Penny and/or John Smoltz. Let’s face it, Penny has received far too much positive press for a guy with a 5+ era and Smoltz just hasn’t been sharp now with a 6+ era.
The Red Sox need to figure out if Buchholz will help them this year and now is the time to find out so they can react accordingly at the trade deadline.
My bets: Buchholz wins a full time spot in the rotation and Penny is gone. And if Matsuzaka can get healthy, Smoltz might get released. Although I suspect Smoltz has a better chance of figuring things out than does Matsuzaka in 2009.