Here we sit, exactly 40 games in to the 2012 season and needless to say, the Boston Red Sox 19-21 record is not what many fans were hoping for.
The critics and media members alike penned this team to be good enough to finish the season in third place in the AL East, possibly contending for the second Wild Card spot heading in to the playoffs—not sitting fifth in the division.
That being said, the team has struggled through some significant adversity to start the season. Between injuries to their starting left fielder, center fielder, third baseman and closer, coupled with poor performances by the starting pitching staff, the Boston Red Sox have at times looked more like the Bad News Bears.
While there is still a lot of baseball left to play, it is appropriate to take a look at the season thus far.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has appeared in 31 of 40 games thus far. He owns a .283 batting average which is second among all American League Catchers having appeared in 30 or more games.
His .566 slugging percentage places him first.
The 16 RBI he has places him sixth both on the Red Sox and among AL Catchers.
Salty has been extremely rigorous this season behind the plate. He has offered solid defense and has proven to be somewhat of a clutch hitter for the Red Sox.
It is worth noting that his six homers places him fourth on the team.
What I have liked about Salty this season is his grit. He has persevered after a couple of hills and valleys at the plate, and is starting to look like the catcher that myself and many others thought he could be.
Adrian Gonzalez was brought in to Boston to be the next big slugger who would rack up 40+ home runs while destroying the Green Monster and compile doubles left and right.
So far, his .266 batting average is the lowest of the starting nine on the team and places him ninth among first basemen having played 30 or more games. 10th if you'd like to include Brandon Snyder in Texas and his 19 games.
His .339 OBP doesn't even have him in the conversation to top any charts, nor does his 21 RBI.
Gonzo has got to turn things around at some point.
He is a better player than what we have seen in 2012 (ranging back to post All-Star game in 2011.) There has to be some level of discomfort with things on this team, as he just has not looked as solid.
His power numbers and on-base percentage have been of major concern.
Gonzalez is being paid like a top-tier first baseman, but his results have not reflected that investment... yet.
Currently, Dustin Pedroia is tied with the New York Yankees Robinson Cano for first in batting average among AL second basemen at .302.
No surprise there, as these two players are often tied together in the conversation for best second baseman in the game.
Pedroia is second only to Kelly Johnson of the Toronto Blue Jays in OBP (.360 versus .367), but leads all American League second basemen in both slugging and OPS.
Only the Miami Marlins Omar Infante has a better batting line in either league.
Pedey has been everything you need him to be—awesome defensively and a monster, offensively.
If Josh Hamilton wasn't playing out of his mind, Pedroia could be making a strong case for himself as the American League MVP.
He is outspoken (obviously) and has become the true leader of this Red Sox team.
While I am never one to think any one player deserves to wear a "C" on their jersey, perhaps that prestigious honor should be bestowed on number 15 this off-season.
Kevin Youkilis has played in just 18 games this season due to injury.
That being said, he managed only a .219/.292/.344/.635 batting line before his stint on the disabled list. Not very "Youk"-like to say the least.
It is hard to gauge a player that went down injured before he really had a chance to heat up.
A "D" grading almost had to be applied because Youk came out looking stale and followed by going down pretty early into the season.
Now, the trade rumors are swirling. Who knows just how long Youk will remain a member of the Boston Red Sox after he returns from the DL—three, maybe four weeks?
Will Middlebrooks currently owns the third highest OPS on the Red Sox, having just played in 16 games thus far.
He has racked up an impressive five home runs, 15 RBI, 10 runs and two stolen bases in that short amount of time.
10 of his 18 hits have been for extra bases.
Middlebrooks came up playing extremely hot for the Red Sox.
While he has cooled off over the past week, his play has been very consistent and he still owns a batting average of .272. Sure, that's not like the monstrous .375 he hosted about 10 days ago, but he is still managing to drive in runs and help the team out.
Sending Middlebrooks back down to triple-A may have to happen, if only to keep him playing everyday upon the return of Kevin Youkilis. However, Middlebrooks will be back, and sure enough he will be playing big for the team.
On the Red Sox, Aviles ranks towards the bottom of the totem pole in terms of batting average and OBP. However, he has surprisingly added a bit of power to the lineup which they need in the slugging department.
His seven home runs is third best on the Red Sox and second best among American League second basemen.
His defense has been average, as expected. He does not really hurt the team, but he is not a major catalyst either.
What I love about Mike Aviles is how well he has transitioned into being the everyday shortstop for the Red Sox.
There were a lot of question marks surrounding the idea of trading Marco Scutaro away, but Aviles has moved in seamlessly.
While his .271 batting average won't win any batting titles, Cody Ross has been contributing in a big way for the Red Sox this season.
He currently is second on the team in RBI with 28, behind David Ortiz's 29.
That same 28 RBI places him second only to Josh Hamilton among all American League left fielders and fourth in all of Major League Baseball.
When Ross signed with the Red Sox, there were sighs from some (not this writer) and mixed appreciation from others.
Since arriving in Boston, Ross has been solid to say the least.
His eight home runs is second only to Ortiz on the team.
Now, fans have come to embrace Ross the way I figured they would.
With the Chicago Cubs, Marlon Byrd managed just a .070/.149/.070/.219 batting line with just two RBI and one run scored.
Since coming to Boston for the last 23 games, he has posted a .280/.291/.333/.694 batting line. Nothing to blow you away, but certainly an improvement over his time in the Windy City.
He has contributed 21 hits, six RBI and seven runs scored while being caught stealing on both of his attempts.
Byrd provides the Red Sox with outfield depth and a veteran presence, but that's really it.
While his bat is not mind blowing, his defense has been reliable. I haven't seen anything out of Byrd to convince me that he will be an important part of this lineup as the injured stars start making their way back up.
Ryan Sweeney leads all Major League Baseball right fielders with his .311 batting average.
That same .311 is second best on the Red Sox.
His .344 OBP places him second to only Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL.
Sweeney's 14 doubles is second best on the Sox as well.
Are you kidding me? Ryan Sweeney has been a pleasant surprise this year for the Red Sox, almost in the same fashion as Mike Lowell from the Josh Beckett trade.
Nobody expected Sweeney to amount to anything in Boston, yet here he is contributing in a big way for the team.
Sure, he very well could tail off to some degree, but for right now the kid is hot. When Crawford or Ellsbury comes back, it will be tough deciding to sit either Ross or Sweeney.
David Ortiz's batting line of .344/.412/.623/1.034 places him in the top five in all of the American League East in these categories—top 10 in BA, OBP and OPS, and fifth overall in SLG in the MLB.
In other words, he is having an MVP-caliber season.
As for the Red Sox, Ortiz leads them in hits, doubles, RBI and of course, batting across the board.
Big Papi looks like the Big Papi of about seven years ago.
He is having a career year and putting this team (offensively) on his back. It's a good thing he has big shoulders.
With each passing game, Ortiz is making a stronger case for a multi-year deal to be made with the Red Sox after this season ends.
So far, Josh Beckett owns a 3-4 record with a 4.97 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched.
He has 35 strikeouts with a 1.296 WHIP.
These numbers wouldn't be bad if Beckett were your fifth starter. However, he is arguably the "ace" of the Red Sox pitching staff.
His ERA places him fourth on the Red Sox and 41st in the American League among starting pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched.
It has been ugly, but he still is Josh Beckett.
What does that mean exactly? Beckett is capable of mowing down the competition if he feels like it, as we have seen in his last start.
The issue this season is gauging just how much Beckett wants to perform well. The results would either indicate a lack of effort or a strong desire. Fans obviously hope his mentality turns around.
Jon Lester's 3.95 ERA leads the Red Sox, but places him just 27th among his peers in the American League.
He has managed a 3-3 record in nine games and 57 innings pitched. Lester has struck out 37 batters and owns a 1.298 WHIP.
Lester has been okay this season, but certainly not great. He has not been the ace of the staff by any stretch of the imagination.
While he does lead the Red Sox in ERA, that is not exactly impressive considering the team has the 28th ranked ERA in all of baseball.
ERA: 7.77—The worst on the Red Sox starting rotation and most of the pitching staff in general. Buchholz is last in ERA among all qualifying starting pitchers, which places him 118th overall.
WHIP: 1.909—Again, worst on the Red Sox starting rotation and again, most of the pitching staff in general. Additionally, out of all qualifying starting pitchers, he hosts the league's worst WHIP.
When I say league, or overall—yes, I do mean in all of Major League Baseball.
The fact that Buchholz is 4-2 on the season is proof that luck does exist.
He has been terrible. To date, he still cannot get his curve ball over—his best pitch. Perhaps he didn't get the memo that the starting staff needs to shape up this season after the September collapse.
Then again, somebody has to fill in for John Lackey, right?
Bard finishes the first leg of the season with an ERA of 4.85 and a 1.547 WHIP. Not the best on the staff, and not the worst.
His 26 strikeouts is next to last among starters, which is somewhat concerning considering his K/9 ratio of 9.93 as a closer.
Bard is obviously still figuring things out. There have been games where he has blown me away early, but then, literally, blown the game late.
While his performance thus far has been okay, I do sense that he will settle down and finish the season strong—hopefully gaining his confidence back along the way.
It is obvious that he is realizing he cannot throw 100mph every pitch, so he needs to really work on developing a solid third and fourth pitch to be successful.
Felix Doubront has started off his first big league season as a starting pitcher quite solidly, posting a record of 4-1 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.547 ERA which is good enough for second and third respectively on this Red Sox staff.
While his name is not going to be in any Cy Young conversation, Doubront has silently been getting the job done, striking out 44 batters—the most on the Red Sox and tied for 19th overall in the American League.
Doubront falls in to that "pleasant surprise" category I mentioned in the earlier slides.
He fought hard and has proven that he is a big league pitcher and as a result, he is winning games. Of the two winning pitchers on this staff, only Doubront has truly earned his.
Darnell McDonald, Kelly Shoppach, Daniel Nava and Nick Punto. They have all played in 10 or more games, but less than 30.
The Red Sox have been fortunate to have a solid group of contributors on the bench. While none of the players listed above are going to be leading any statistical categories, what they have provided is stability in the lineup.
The biggest contributor comes from Kelly Shoppach, who has helped to spell Saltalamacchia every few games and add his .259 average and strong defense into the fold.
Daniel Nava has also apparently caught lighting in a bottle, having a .345/.500/.586/1.086 batting line in his 10 games, driving in nine runs off of his 10 hits.
Alfredo Aceves, Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Vicente Padilla, and Franklin Morales have shouldered a brunt of the workload.
As I wrote the other day, the Red Sox have had the best bullpen in baseball over the last few games.
They have gotten it done—pure and simple.
Alfredo Aceves has quietly racked up nine saves, which has him tied for fourth overall in the American League.
While the starting staff has struggled, the bullpen has really solidified themselves and have lowered their collective ERA to 3.70, which is eighth overall in the American League.
Not bad at all considering they were hovering around 16th about two weeks ago.
This is a question that can spark great debate, and it's a simple one—How do you think Bobby Valentine has done as manager of the Boston Red Sox?
On one hand, one can get angered by how he handles himself. He has come across as passive and somewhat of an apologist on behalf of his players.
As fans, we were sold this trailblazer that would supposedly come in, torch the earth and shake some things up. We haven't seen much of that.
On the other hand, he has come in here to a team of divas after being out of the game for 10 years. Now, he is getting his bearings and has started to show some life.
Please tell me you saw his jumping, literally jumping in the face of umpire Gary Darling after Darling declared Marlon Byrd out at first base on a play.
It was nice to see some life out of Bobby V.
I do very much like how he has been handling the bullpen. One has to, has to credit his management of the pitching staff for how well they have played as of late.
FINAL GRADE: C-
While the team has not played .500 ball yet, objectively and obtusely looking at the situation, the Red Sox appear to be figuring some things out (as Terry Francona used to say.)
Their pitching is obviously the key to their potential, long-term success.
The bullpen has corrected itself and the offense hasn't been an issue for several weeks. In 40 games they have scored 216 runs, or, 5.4 per game. Any time your batters can give you that type of support, you should not be losing games.
For the record, the Red Sox have scored the second most runs in all of baseball, behind the Texas Rangers.
Once the starting pitching can come together, there is no reason why this team won't go on a tear.
This requires the starting pitching to clamp down and just get it done, and until that happens, the team will have a real hard time racking up the wins.