Red Sox Rundown: Boston At The Break

Scott Gaskill@scottgaskill247Contributor IJune 27, 2009

BOSTON - JUNE 11: Jason Bay #44 of the Boston Red Sox makes contact against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on June 11, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

If you've begun to read this article, I probably don't need to tell you that the Boston Red Sox are going to be in first place at the MLB All Star break. With that in mind, the Red Sox have had their ups and downs and we're going to take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Red Sox.

Jason Bay has been the most significant piece of the puzzle for the Red Sox in the first half, and it doesn't take a genius to realize thats not going to change. Bay has shown timely and consistent hitting with his league leading 69 RBI in the midst of an otherwise inconsistent lineup. Youkilis has been great when healthy, Pedroia is having some trouble in the leadoff spot, and we all know far too much about the slump Big Papi waded through.

The good news is, most of the Red Sox troubles in the first half have either fixed themselves already or are quite uncharacteristic and can't be expected to continue after the break.

Take David Ortiz for starters; Big Papi managed to finish the month of may with a .185 batting average, the lowest average he has ever finished with in six previous seasons with the Red Sox. Papi's June numbers show that he is definitely not in a slump as both his .672 SLG and .388 OBP are better than his career numbers. Look for Ortiz to lead the Sox to more Yankee thrashing in the second half.

The pitching staff seems to have righted the ship as well. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Brad Penny all had ERA's north of 5.00 during the month of April. It seems that the Japanese national team's ace is the only one who isn't mowing down opposing hitters at the end of June.

Do I need to even mention that we have John Smoltz and young phenom Clay Bucholz are ready to step in and win games at any time?

It is amazing that we have gotten this far without bringing up the best bullpen in the world. The fact that young flamethrower Daniel Bard throws in mop up duty for the Sox shows just how deep the bullpen is. Bard could close for many teams in the league, and he is just a small part of the reason the Red Sox have been great in the late innings.

With all the good news, there are a few chinks in the armor for the team from Fenway Park. Watch out for these weaknesses.

First, the Red Sox are counting on some older ailing players who are probably past their prime. John Smoltz, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek are all key parts of the plan to take the Sox back to the World Series, but good health could be hard to come by.

Second, the Rays are getting hot and they might be even better than last year. Iwamura getting hurt could be a blessing in disguise the way Ben Zobrist has been phenomenal filling in, and if things start to click for David Price, the Red Sox could have their hands full.

Lastly, the Red Sox finish the year with a difficult schedule. Boston will have to run the gauntlet in August and September to come out on top of the AL East. In those two months the Sox have three series against the Rays, three against the Yankees, two against Toronto and match ups with the Tigers and Angels.

Red Sox fans, stand confident. Big Papi is still clutch, Josh Beckett is throwing bullets, and Dustin Pedroia is the reigning AL MVP. 

All Star Break Prediction: Red Sox win the AL East, defeat the Rays in the ALCS by beating Matt Garza and David Price, and then duke it out with the Dodgers for the World Series. Hopefully, for Dodgers fans, Manny has stopped taking estrogen by October.