Boston Red Sox First Half Assessment
By Andy Lindberg
Offense: A. It’s hard not to give Boston the high grade when they have finished the first half with a .278 team batting average, good for first in the majors. The 107 home runs the Red Sox have hit are tied for third in the league behind the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox have scored the most runs (482) and have accumulated the most hits (872) in all of baseball. Boston’s batters have also proven to be very patient while leading the majors with 345 walks on the season, which has contributed strongly to their league lead in on-base percentage at .354. This mix of OBP and batting average has thrust the Red Sox into first place in the American League after a horrific April start. Adrian Gonzalez, the major league leader in batting average (.354) has been astounding to watch at the plate and in the field. His sweet swing is tailor made for Fenway Park, utilizing the Green Monster in which to deposit pitches that are over the outside part of the plate. David Ortiz has been revitalized and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are now both batting over .280 (.284 and .285, respectively) after slow starts. One wonders what the average could be if not for JD Drew’s .229 clip. The numbers don’t lie, Boston is the premier offensive team in the Majors, and remains so without a productive or healthy Carl Crawford in the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury (28 stolen bases) has set the table very well for the Red Sox while the platoon situation behind the plate with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek has been surprisingly effective for what the Red Sox desire of them. There’s no way Boston misses the postseason if they continue the offensive output they have produced thus far.
Defense: A. Shockingly, the Red Sox are tied for first place in the Major Leagues with six teams in terms of fielding percentage (.987). The Red Sox are in a three-way tie for first in errors as well, with only 44; a statistic that is only matched by Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox. For a team that hits the lights out, it is surprising to see a Red Sox team field so well when in recent years, they have not. Between Varitek and Saltalamacchia there is one error. Kevin Youkilis only has six at the hot corner and Adrian Gonzalez seems to be able to do it all with only two miscues on the season, good for a .997 fielding percentage. Tops in the league deserves a top first half grade.
Pitching: B-. What seemed to be the big strength heading into the season for the Red Sox could turn out to hurt them the most. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are both on the 15-Day DL while John Lackey is as inconsistent as can be. Josh Becketthad a knee scare, but he seems to be well while earning an All-Star berth. Daisuke Matsuzaka is likely done in a Red Sox uniform. All in all it could be worse, as Boston is 14th in baseball with a 3.92 ERA. The Red Sox are 12th in strikeouts and are tied for fifth in batting average against at .239. They are also eighth in the league in WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) with a 1.26 mark. Boston is still having issues closing games. While the blown saves from Jonathan Papelbon are not as glaring as they were in 2010 (Papelbon has only blown one save this year), he has a 3.93 ERA and has allowed 36 hits in 36.2 innings pitched, a poor statistic for a closing pitcher. Rich Hill was lights out until suffering an injury that led to Tommy John surgery, and both Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been poor to this point as bullpen additions. The surprises are Matt Albers (3-3, 2.55 ERA) and Alfredo Aceves (4-1, 3.41). Aceves has been doubly valuable as Boston has been able to plant him in the starting rotation four times due to injuries to other starters. Also as a replacement, Andrew Miller (3-0, 3.57) has been nothing short of outstanding in his four starts for Boston this year after being inserted into the Rotation for Buchholz and Lester. Should Boston regain their pitching health and keep it, coupled with the offense we may be looking at a very serious contender for a World Series appearance.