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Boston Red Sox End-of-May Report Card, Part II: The Hitters

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Boston Red Sox End-of-May Report Card, Part II: The Hitters
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After struggling through a brutal month of April, the Red Sox began playing up to their potential during the month of May, going 19-10 and temporarily pulling into first place before slumping as the month came to a close.

The month included a seven-game winning streak, an 11-0 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels and back-to-back wins in which the offense scored a pair of touchdowns. The offense hit .287 in May and produced 156 runs (5.38 runs per game), but the pitching staff wasn’t quite as successful, posting a 4.01 ERA in the month. The starting rotation won more games in May than it had in April (13, as opposed to 10 in the first month of the season) but saw its ERA increase by more than a quarter of a run (4.14, as opposed to 3.83 in April). On the other hand, the bullpen was dramatically better—posting a much better record (6-4, as opposed to 1-5 in April) and lowered its ERA by nearly a run-and-a-half (3.76, down from 5.13).

With the first weekend of June upon us, it is time for me to distribute my report card for the first two months of the 2011 campaign. This weekend, I am presenting my report card for the ballclub through the first two months of the 2011 season. Yesterday, I started with the pitching staff…today I take a look at the hitters:

The Lineup

Mike Cameron: D
The grade isn’t all his fault. Manager Terry Francona still has not used him to his highest usefulness. We were told in spring training he would get a lot of ABs against left-handed pitching, yet he has just 60 AB thus far. JD Drew has been brutal (hitting just .225), yet it looks like it is going to take an act of Congress to get Cameron some consistent at-bats.

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Carl Crawford: B-
Crawford has come a long way in a short amount of time. I have said all along that he did not suddenly forget how to play the game, and in May, he proved me right—as he hit .304, with three HR and 15 RBI. Recently, he has started to show a penchant for getting big hits in crucial situations.

J D Drew: D
If Cameron gets a D, then Drew gets a D. After hitting .269 in April, Drew really went into the tank in May, hitting just .188 with just five RBI in the entire month. Thank goodness this is the LAST year of his five-year, $70 million contact...next year, we will get to enjoy Ryan Kalish (or maybe Josh Reddick) in right field.

Jacoby Ellsbury: A-
In April, Jacoby sacrificed batting average in exchange for a little power (he hit .266 with four HR prior to May Day). In May, he reverted back to form, hitting .314, with two HR while he swiped 14 bases. He leads the AL in stolen bases (22) and trails MLB-leader Michael Bourn by a single steal. THAT is what the Red Sox have him. And if that isn’t enough, he has started to figure out how to get on base with consistency (his OBP this season is .356).

Adrian Gonzalez: A+
Do you remember when I told you A-Gon would struggle during the first half of the year due to his shoulder surgery and the fact he could not engage in his normal strengthening program throughout the winter? Well, that’s why I am not employed as a scout by Major League Baseball.

In my defense, he DID start slowly in April—he had only one home run during the season’s first month—so I feel somewhat vindicated in my assertion that Red Sox Nation should temper its expectations for the first half. But he has returned to form faster than anyone could have reasonably suspected.

After hitting .314, with a home run and 15 RBI in April, he exploded in May to thrust himself into the conversation for first-half MVP, hitting .341, with nine HR and 31 RBI for the month. Only he and Jose Bautista (TOR) should be mentioned in any legitimate discussion for such a designation. He has been everything we could have hoped he would be…and more!

Elsa/Getty Images

Jed Lowrie: B
Lowrie unexpectedly helped to shoulder the offensive load – as a part-time player – while the majority of his teammates struggled at the plate during April; but he has since cooled off considerably. An injury and poor performance by starter Marco Scutaro thrust Lowrie into a larger role, and the added burden and increased exposure have made the chinks in his armor very visible. He hit .261, with 0 HR and 9 RBI, in May… of particular concern were his 21 K in just 92 AB. It will be interesting to see what happens to his playing time once Scutaro comes off the DL. I have long believed he will be fodder for a trade if and when the front office decides it needs to make a move… nothing I have seen over the last two months has changed my mind. I think Lowrie’s upside is limited and the club should sell high while it can.

David Ortiz: B
April of 2011 was a LOT better than April of 2010, but it still wasn’t especially good, as Papi hit .267, with just two HR and 11 RBI—and no home runs after the first two games of the season. In spite of his tepid performance, there were positive signs (15 BB and a .379 BA v LHP) that caused me to end his April report card thusly: “(Y)ou have to think that he is just about to get untracked”. Call me prescient.

Big Papi had an excellent month of May, hitting a team-high .342, with a team-high 10 home runs, during the month. He may have only driven in 16 runs, but that fact cannot outweigh all of the good things he was able to accomplish during the month. In consideration of the struggles he has had during the early months of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, you have to feel REALLY good for the big guy!

Elsa/Getty Images

Dustin Pedroia: C-
I hated giving Pedey a C+ last month, so you can imagine how much I dreaded lowering it to a C- this month, but the grade has to reflect his performance — so it is what it has to be. He hit .255, with two HR and eight RBI, in 98 AB in April, then followed that up by hitting .227, with two HR and 10 RBI in 110 AB during May. Normally, you’d wonder whether he is experiencing any lingering effects of the broken foot he suffered last year…but he has tallied 12 stolen bases thus far, so I suspect his foot is just fine. His struggles beg the question: what is going on with Pedey?

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: C
There were misgivings across Red Sox Nation when the team announced it was handing Salty the starting role on the club, and those fears were reinforced by his performance in the first month of the 2011 season (.216, 0 HR, six RBI) and marginal defense behind the plate. As the calendar turned to May, several pundits openly speculated whether the front office would look to acquire someone like Pudge Rodriguez via trade…but Theo Epstein & Company stuck with Saltalamacchia, and their patience started to bear fruit in May.

It is true the job behind the plate has become more of a platoon than was originally intended, but that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. While Salty’s batting average was only marginally better in May than it had been in April (.220), he discovered his power stroke, belting four home runs and driving in nine runs in only 59 at-bats. It would be nice to see him raise his batting average to .250-plus, but at this point, we are seeing progress and that is a good start.

Elsa/Getty Images

Marco Scutaro: Incomplete
After hitting .189 in April, Scutaro started the month of May going 6-for-15 (.400) before landing on the disabled list. At this point, he has a total of 68 AB in two months, so it is only fair to give him an incomplete and revisit his performance at the end of June.

Jason Varitek: C-
Tek hit .111 with one ribbie in 13 games (11 starts) in April and earned an “F” in my first report card…he looked so bad at the start of the season that it seemed things HAD to get better as the season progressed. They did. The veteran backstop hit .333, with two HR and seven RBI, in May and has worked his way into a platoon with Saltalamacchia (14 games, with 12 starts in May). What can never be measured on the stat sheet are leadership and heart, things Jason has in abundance.

Kevin Youkilis: B-
As with many of the hitters on the ballclub, the month of May was much kinder to Youk than the month of April. He hit .293 in May (75 points higher than in April), and while he hit two fewer home runs in May (three), he managed to drive in four more runs than he had in the season’s first month (19). He still isn’t the same hitter we have grown accustomed to seeing, but he took a giant step forward in May. Let’s hope he’ll take another big leap forward in June.

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