For the Boston Red Sox, the 2012 season was a long forgettable disappointment. They played below their talent level for half the year, then played without much remaining healthy talent for the second half. Bobby Valentine displayed an uncanny knack for getting the least out of his players and virtually every aspect of the team underwhelmed. But now the Red Sox can rebuild properly. Valentine and a hefty set of salary obligations are gone, and while the 2012 season was a disaster on the whole, it still yielded some breakout performances and building blocks for the future.
Before a wrist injury ended his season in August, Middlebrooks gave the Red Sox a capable middle of the order power bat to replace Kevin Youkilis at third base. Along with David Ortiz, Middlebrooks was one of only two Red Sox regulars to slug better than .500 in 2012. He'll need to improve his plate patience, but the Red Sox appear to have an impact bat at the hot corner.
Given his first shot at regular innings in the majors, Tazawa excelled and looked like a very capable high-leverage reliever. He showed improved velocity, averaging 92.2 mph on his fastball and peaking over 96. His control was outstanding as he put up a 9.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio and with a strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings in 37 appearances.
Starting pitching was generally nightmarish for the Red Sox in 2012, but Buchholz was one of the few bright spots. After missing the second-half of 2011 with a back injury, he got off to a brutal start to the season and had a 9.09 ERA through six starts. As he regained the feel for his off-speed pitches, his performance improved drastically. From his seventh start of the season on, he posted a 3.62 ERA, 2.42 K/BB ratio, and .688 opponents' OPS in 156.2 innings. The Red Sox should be comfortable with Buchholz entering 2013 as one of their top starters.
Doubront finished 2012 with an ERA nearly identical to Jon Lester's. Unfortunately, that said more about Lester's year than it did about Doubront's. Still, it was a solid first year for Doubront who finished the season with the sixth highest strikeout rate among pitchers with at least 150 innings. He showed a quality arsenal of pitches throughout the season, and if he can improve his stamina and consistency, he could become more than just a low cost option for the back of the rotation.
A fresh start:
The blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers cleared a fortune of salary and gave the Red Sox a package of young talent and a mulligan to rebuild with financial flexibility. Carl Crawford's skill set was a terrible fit for Fenway Park and his contract was a bloated burden. Josh Beckett lost his velocity and struggled to remain effective in the AL East. Over the next few years, the Red Sox can now redistribute that salary space to rebuild their pitching staff, replace Adrian Gonzalez, and restore the lineup to one that works the count and gets on base at a high clip.
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
More from this contributor: