Rob Bradford joined WEEI.com after serving as a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Herald and the Eagle-Tribune (Lawrence, Mass.). Prior to manning the Red Sox beat, he spent several years at the Lowell Sun. He has written two books: “Chasing Steinbrenner,” following the front offices of the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays through the 2003 season, and “Deep Drive: A Long Journey to Discovering the Champion Within,” which he co-authored with Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.
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Baseball Analytics: You are well known for your indepth analysis of the Boston Red Sox and you've seen the highs and the lows over the last ten years. What are your thoughts on their moves this off season and the direction of the team in 2013?
Rob Bradford: I think the success and failure of the Red Sox for the coming season will depend more on their preexisting core players performing at their highest levels than if the offseason acquisitions can live up to their salaries. The plan is seemingly to be better across the board, spreading out the money (as seven players averaging $9.5 million in '13 -- fourth-most in the majors -- would suggest). But while each acquisition has targeted specific needs, the biggest need for this team is for Lester, Buchholz, Ellsbury, Ortiz, Middlebrooks and Pedroia to stay on the field and be the 'best team ever' type of core they thought they had. I've said this before, but one of the biggest failings for last season's team was the fact that -- due to injury and under-performance -- an argument could be made that not one of the top 10 paid players on the Red Sox lived up to expectations, where all but one or two of the Yankees top 10 contributed in significant ways.
Baseball Analytics: There appear to besome very interesting story lines in the American League East this year. What stories fascinate you the most?
Rob Bradford: The Blue Jays are fascinating to me. I think the initial reaction in these parts was to discount the Dickey move because of the knuckleball and National League factors. But it is very difficult to see him falling off so much that he doesn't represent a significant factor in the American League East. When you don't have to rely on your Opening Day starter of the year before (Ricky Romero) in any sort of role other than No. 5 starter entering the season, that suggests tremendous potential in spots 1-4 (whether it's with Buerhle's innings, or Johnson/Morrow glimpses of excellence). Other stories in division that are of interest: 1. Rays filling in for Shields' innings; 2. Can Orioles live with a No. 2 starter pitching just 130-something innings while leaning on the bullpen -- a model I can't see repeating; 3. Can Hughes/Nova emerge to take pressure off Sabathia/Kuroda; 4. Contract years of Youkilis and Cano.
Baseball Analytics: Outside the city of Boston, what sports media personality do you most admire and why?
Rob Bradford: I have to go with Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and Buster Olney of ESPN.com. I just really admire the way they go about their business and the respect they've garnered from the world of baseball. And I know you said outside of Boston, but there is really nobody I respect more in the baseball-writing business than my colleague at WEEI.com, Alex Speier. It's a fascinating (albeit exhausting) time to be in this business, and it gets legitimately more intriguing every single year. There's so much you can do and so much that needs to be done on a minute-by-minute basis. (Thanks a lot, Twitter!)