MLB Boston Red Sox

Five Reasons Why the Boston Red Sox Can Win the A.L. East

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Boston Red Sox

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The so-called “experts” are coming out in droves to predict that the Boston Red Sox will finish dead last in the American League East. Who knows? They may be right. On paper, the Red Sox are indeed the underdogs in the division. But even the experts know that games aren't played on paper.

We all saw what the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles did last season. Two teams that had no business being in the postseason shocked the league with impressive runs that resulted in playoff berths. Who’s to say that the Red Sox can’t duplicate the feat?

The injury bug has already hit the team hard this spring. David Ortiz, the projected cleanup hitter, is expected to miss substantial time as he heads into his ninth month of recovering from an Achilles problem. Starting shortstop Stephen Drew will start the season on the disabled list as he tries to overcome lingering concussion symptoms.

Injuries will be the biggest factor in whether or not any team competes for a division title. The Red Sox are no exception. For the team to enjoy any success in 2013, they’ll have to avoid any further devastating-type injuries. But if they can do that, they have the necessary pieces in place to compete in the A.L. East.

Any team that makes the playoffs will need a few lucky bounces along the way, but in the end it all comes down to talent and chemistry. Here’s five factors that could play an important role in the Red Sox’ 2013 success.

(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site:

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5. Mike Napoli and Will Middlebrooks

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have been notorious through the years for signing free-agent lefties (Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, etc.) to enormous deals, but over the winter they actually went after some right-handers. Playing 81 games at Fenway Park, the Red Sox will finally be able to take advantage of the “Green Monster” in left field. No one hits better at Fenway than Mike Napoli, and the Red Sox will also have Will Middlebrooks for an entire season. Add in the powerful swing of Jonny Gomes and the Red Sox should be able to score a good amount of runs at home

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4. The Competition

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Taking advantage of the struggles of others will be key to the Red Sox season. Their arch-rivals—the New York Yankees—are a train wreck right now, with injuries all over the field. The Blue Jays have a completely restructured roster and are bound to experience some growing pains as they try to get everyone on the same page (see the 2012 Marlins). The Rays have no offense, and the Orioles are a long shot to repeat last season’s performance. The winner of the East will likely have less than 90 victories, so the Red Sox should be able to stay in contention all season.

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3. The Bullpen

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The Orioles and Athletics rode their strong bullpens all the way to the postseason last year. The current Red Sox relief corps is better than what those teams had in 2012. Their success will hinge on new closer Joel Hanrahan, who will get plenty of save opportunities throughout the season.

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2. Dustin Pedroia

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Why hasn’t Dustin Pedroia been named captain yet? This guy represents everything good about the game of baseball. His effort alone will strike fire in his teammates, and the former MVP could be headed for his best season yet as he bats in the three-hole.

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1. The Starting Pitching

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The weakness of 2012 seems to be the strength of the 2013 Red Sox. The team will only go as far as the starting pitching takes them. The rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey were close to unhittable this spring, posting an amazing 2.39 ERA. Lester and Buchholz together gave up only four runs in 47 innings. If they can carry this success into the regular season, then the division title will be well within the team’s reach.