Projection: .298, 41 HRs, 130 RBIs, .994 OPS
Reality: .264, 23 HRs, 89 RBIs, .876 OPS
TATB's take: Papi lost all of June to a wrist injury, but just when we worried he might be heading into the Mo Vaughn portion of his career, he rediscovered his power stroke in September. He could be poised for a typically memorable postseason -- if Sox opponents are foolish enough to pitch to him, that is.
Projection: .290, 15 HRs, 78 RBIs, 38 doubles, .852 OPS
Reality: .312, 29 HRs, 115 RBIs, 43 doubles, .959 OPS
TATB's take: Not even Billy Beane, back in the days of his "Greek God of Walks" man-crush, could have imagined Youkilis would turn into this, a legitimate masher and lineup anchor on a playoff team. Pedroia is getting most of the national publicity, but Youuuuuuk might be the club's most valuable player, especially when his defensive versatility is considered. He's just a terrific player.
Projection: .276, 26 HRs, 91 RBIs, .872 OPS
Reality: .286, 31 HRs, 101 RBIs, .895 OPS
TATB's take: Bay won over the Manny-jilted fans quickly since coming over from the Pirates at the trade deadline, driving in 37 runs in 49 games while carrying himself like the consummate professional. Now comes the hard part for the postseason novice -- producing steadily and in the clutch under the October spotlight. We're not in Pittsburgh anymore, Toto.
Projection: .282, 17 HRs, 81 RBIs, .809 OPS
Reality: .274, 17 HRs, 73 RBIs, .799 OPS
TATB's take: While the 34-year-old's fall off from his sensational .324-21-120 season of '07 was predictable (it was a contract year), he remains a dependable-to-dazzling third baseman as well as an integral part of the lineup, and the Red Sox' championship hopes will take a significant hit if his creaky hip hinders him from playing up to his usual level.
Projection: .278, 20 HRs, 78 RBIs, .857 OPS
Reality: .280, 19 HRs, 64 RBIS, .927 OPS
TATB's take: The ultimate tease, he carried the Sox when Ortiz was out, walked off with the All-Star Game MVP award . . . and just when we got our hopes up that he was going to live up to his immense talent, a mysterious back injury cost him most of the second half. But as frustrating as he can be, you know what? He earned his $14-million salary in June (.337-12-27) alone, and he adjusted OPS for the season was an impressive 139. I no longer consider his signing a black mark on Theo Epstein's record.
Reality: .258, 2 HRs, 46 RBIs, .739 OPS
TATB's take: Looked like a combination of Bill Mueller and Mark Loretta in the early going, but lately has been whiffing at an alarming (yes, Bellhornian) rate. Such are the trials and tribulations of a young player, but to his credit, his ups and downs at the plate haven't hindered his better-than-expected defense. It remains to be seen whether he is the long-term answer, but for now he gets extra leeway simply for not being Julio Lugo.
Projection: .253, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, .767 OPS
Reality: .220, 13 HRs, 43 RBIs, .672 OPS
TATB's take: Guess I won't be eating any shin guards after all, suckers. The captain still gets plenty of credit for his supposed intangibles, which inevitably happens when a popular player's production no longer meshes with his reputation. From the left side, his bat has slowed to Bob Bailey-in-'78 levels, and as far as his defense is concerned, I'll leave you with Keith Law's snarky take: "[He] is no longer an average thrower but gets lots of credit for his handling of pitchers and his ability to call for fastball after fastball." Ouch.
Tune in Wednesday when, time permitting, we'll look at projections for the pitchers, and perhaps also some other contributors, role players, and suspects.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.