Jed Lowrie is Crucial to Red Sox Success
By Brian Phair
Every Red Sox writer has put out a story about Jed Lowrie at some point this off-season. Some praise him and think he should have a serious shot at the starting shortstop role with Marco Scutaro being put on the trading block, while others believe Scutaro is the guy and Lowrie isn’t ready for an every day role. One thing is certain, Lowrie has caught the attention of Red Sox fans and the front office over the past year or so and when healthy, he is a valuable member of the roster. With the likelihood of beginning the season on the bench, his versatility and talent will be crucial to the team’s success as the season wears on and players need a rest or get injured. (more after the jump)
The most often overlooked aspect of a top tier, playoff-caliber team is the bench. No team has ever gone through a full 162-game season without injuries or the need for a strong support staff, yet they go unnoticed and are under-appreciated as a whole, with the exception of a crazy year like last season for the Sox. It is a perfect example of the need for a strong bench, because the Sox won 89 games with their bench and some minor-league players filling in for the mammoth list of major injuries. Without Bill Hall, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida in 2010, the Red Sox would have probably won less than 80 games and would not have been in contention in September. Hall was clutch and although Hermida didn’t last the whole season with the club and struggled with his batting average, he had a handful of critical plate appearances late in games to give the Sox some needed W’s.
When compiling a bench, a manager wants guys who have versatility and the ability to pinch-hit and come in as a defensive replacement late in games. A guy like Lowrie who can play virtually any infield position and could play the outfield in a pinch, allows Terry Francona options and makes the Sox a better team late in games. Even more important for the Sox is Lowrie’s ability to switch-hit, making him a bullpen match-up nightmare for opponents. He has all the intangibles to be successful in a bench role, or substitute starter role and if baseball history is any indication, he will get plenty of playing time if he stays healthy and plays at the level he began to show us last season. Theo Epstein believes highly in Lowrie’s ability as well, stating on Friday, “Jed Lowrie is someone who can play a good shortstop and can play a number of positions to help this team win. I’m sure he’s going to see some time at shortstop.”
Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Red Sox offense should be powerful and fast next season. Being able to plug-in a guy like Lowrie or Varitek in the lineup a few times a week doesn’t greatly weaken the overall effect of the team and in some cases, may improve the lineup. Spring training is just 1 month away. It will allow these players to show on the field what we all see on paper. This team is on the borderline of greatness, but can they push themselves beyond that fence and to a World Series title? We will find out soon enough.