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.

3 thoughts on “Boston Red Sox First Half Assessment”

  1. I would agree with most of the assessment, but the only thing I would further expand on is Jon Lester. Earlier in the season, Lester had back-to-back games where he threw over 120 pitches. While that’s fine for a player like a Curt Schilling or an old-school Roger Clemens bull-dog pitcher, Tito wasn’t nearly as vilified as I thought he’d be. That early-season overwork kept the Sox in the mix, but I believe it had something to do with Lester breaking down this year.

    My only other comment is on Carl Crawford. The offense has been absolutely great, but Crawford is a $20 million black hole. Even when healthy, he wasn’t producing, and for that price tag, it’s safe to say everyone should be as hard as possible on him. He was brought in because he had 30-30 potential and was deserving of that contract. Since coming here, he’s been unable to put wood on the ball consistently, steal bases, or stay healthy.

    Other than that, the bench has been horrific (short of Varitek whose not really a bench player but more of a platoon). Jed Lowrie started out pistol hot, then went into arctic freeze mode after April. Mike Cameron played his way right out of town, and Darnell MacDonald isn’t hitting much better. Josh Reddick and Drew Sutton have been revelations, though. They’re great options right now, and you can make a case to play Reddick over Drew right now.

  2. One could make the case JD Drew should be traded or released before the season ends. Either way, the Red sox will be paying the remainder of his contract.

    Crawford is too good of a player to continue to play the way he was early in the season. He batted .304 in May with 15 RBI to go with three home runs and hit a decent .278 in only 14 games in June before going on the shelf by beating out an infield hit, a run that showed most Boston fans that Crawford isn’t one to saunter down the line on a ground ball. In those 14 games, Crawford also knocked in ten runs. Overall he raised hi batting average from .155 at the end of April to .243 by the time of his injury. An 88-point rise in batting average over the span of less than two months is significant, and it’s unfortunate Crawford got hurt in the midst of warming up.

    As for Lester, how can one say he’s not a “bull dog” type? He’s a horse and has been one for a while. In 2006 he threw over 100 pitches in seven of the 15 games he pitched. In 2007 he only threw one game over 100 pitches, but he was coming back from cancer treatment. Chemo will tire anyone out. How he was able to get back to form as quickly as he did is amazing. In 2008, Lester’s first full season in the Majors, he threw 17 games of over 100 pitches (over half of his starts). In 2009, 26 out of Lester’s 32 starts saw him throw over 100 pitches. Last year, 2010, it was 23 out of 32 starts. So far in 2011, Lester has thrown over 100 pitches 14 times in 18 games. If Lester wasn’t built for throwing deep into games, he would have already faded instead of sporting a career mark of 71-29, which is good for a .710 winning percentage (tops among active players with at least 100 starts) as well as a 3.52 career ERA. Lester’s issue this year has been location. Whether is was a nagging injury or just an off-year remains to be seen, but there’s no reason to question Lester or Terry Francona on letting Lester throw well into triple-digits.

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