MLB: Mid-Season Report Card for the Boston Red Sox
But before we get to that, let's take some time to reflect on the first half of the 2011 season.
That's right, it's time for the Red Sox midseason grades.
I’m a tough grader, so there are only a handful of A’s, a few B's and plenty of C’s, D’s and F’s.
Let's break out the red pen, here we go!
Since arriving in Boston Adrian Gonzalez has been a man on a mission.
Heading into the All-Star break, Gonzalez leads the league in average (.354), RBI (77) and extra-base hits (49), is second in OPS (1.006), third in OBP (.414) and is tied for 10th in home runs (17).
As of right now he is the clear-cut favorite for American League MVP.
Gonzalez has had an unusual amount of success through the first half of the season considering it is his first year on a new team, in a new league and on a different coast. Gonzalez has displayed his ability to hit in all fields with immense power, and has shown his ability to work the count and hit for average.
Coupling his offensive output with his steady defense, it's safe to say Adrian Gonzalez is probably the best overall player in the American League right now. He scores a straight "A" for the first half of the season.
Had this been three weeks ago, Dustin Pedroia would have easily received a "C" or worse.
Since breaking his foot in San Fransisco last year, Pedroia has endured a very long road to recovery. It manifested itself in a grueling offseason regimen that included his normal workouts, as well as hours of rehab.
Pedroia is still not 100 percent, and it is evident in his play. On June 4, he was batting just .239 with four homers, 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBI.
But since then (just like last year and 2007) Pedroia has worked himself out of a prolonged slump relatively quickly and is back on track.
In a little over a month, he has raised his 2011 averages to: .284, 11 HR, 44 RBI, .395 OBP. And despite having a down year, Pedroia has been outstanding defensively, committing just four errors in 393 chances (.990).
Pedroia has been on fire recently, going into the break with a 12-game hitting streak and five homers in his last 11 games. For that he earns a B- for the first half of the season.
One of the major storylines during Spring Training 2011 was the battle for the starting shortstop job between Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.
Although Scutaro was declared the starter by Terry Francona just before Opening Day, he struggled and was sidelined by a strained oblique in mid-April.
Lowrie seized the opportunity to get more playing time in Scutaro's absence, going 25-for-68 (.368) with three homers, five doubles, 12 RBI and a .962 OPS for the month.
But as hot as he was in April, he got equally cold in May, hitting just .261 for the month with no homers and a .689 OPS.
Right now Lowrie is on the DL with a shoulder injury, and there is still no timetable for his return. His season line is .270/.319/.403 with 3 HR and 25 RBI. Lowrie got off to a fast start to begin the season, but was not able to maintain it; as a result he gets a C+.
Marco Scutaro was handed the starting shortstop job right out of the gate, but he struggled to make an immediate impact, hitting just .189 in 18 games in April.
His role quickly diminished as he began platooning with then-red-hot Jed Lowrie. Scutaro was placed on the DL in May with an oblique strain and essentially lost his job to Lowrie. He was activated in June and soon won his job back after Lowrie went on the DL with an injury of his own.
Scutaro is currently hitting .259 with four homers and 15 RBI.
It's been a long year for Youk.
He is banged up, nicked and bruised, but is still delivering the goods after spending a majority of the offseason recovering from a torn ligament in his thumb.
Although Youkilis hit five homers and drove in 15 runs in April, he was hitting just .218 with 26 strikeouts.
He has since battled back, raising his average to a more respectable .285 with 13 homers, 63 RBI and a .911 OPS, along with his third All-Star game selection. Youkilis has also been hit by 10 pitches already this season, passing Mo Vaughn as the all-time franchise leader in HBP's.
Defensively, Youkilis slid across the diamond, becoming a regular third baseman for the first time since 2005.
Just before the All-Star break, he hit safely in seven of his last eight games, collecting multiple hits in four.
Carl Crawford was signed to a seven-year, $142 million deal during the offseason, and so far this season he has given Boston fans little reason to believe he was worth the dough.
Crawford has played in 67 games this season and has been on the DL since June 18 with a strained left hamstring. He is currently hitting just .243 with six homers, 31 RBI and a .659 OPS. Before going on the DL, Crawford showed signs of heating up, hitting safely in 12 of his last 15 games with two homers and 10 RBI.
He gets a C- at the break because it has been a relatively disappointing season for Crawford, considering the mammoth expectations people had for him before the season. However, he has a chance to raise his grade, as there is still a lot of baseball to be played.
Around this time last year, Jacoby Ellsbury was being heavily scrutinized by the Boston fans, media and even his teammates.
Ellsbury was limited to just 18 games last year after suffering several fractured ribs when he collided with Adrian Beltre down the left-field line when both went after a pop-foul ball. Many questioned his toughness and his ability to play through pain.
This season has been a completely different story; Ellsbury has silenced all his doubters by putting up career numbers so far this season. In addition to being a speed demon (he leads the league with 28 stolen bases), Ellsbury is hitting .316 with 11 homers, 49 RBI an OPS of .867.
Ellsbury has transformed himself into one of the best lead-off men in the game and was selected to his first All-Star team.
J.D. Drew is having arguably the worst season of his 13-year career. It is almost like he's checked out (Drew is in the final year of this five-year, $70 million contract) and is more concerned with retirement than helping the team win.
Drew has played in just 72 of the first 90 games and has seen his role reduced to a platoon between himself, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald. A career .254 hitter against lefties, Drew is hitting southpaws at a pathetic .209 clip. His total batting average for the year isn't much better at .229. He also has four homers, 21 RBI, a .329 OBP and .317 slugging percentage (.646 OPS).
J.D. Drew could easily be failing, but the only reason he is clinging to a D- is his stellar defense, having not made an error in 132 chances, as well as three outfield assists.
After getting off to slow starts in April the past two seasons, many people in Boston suspected David Ortiz was done, and talks of his release from the club seemed imminent. The glory days of Big Papi became nothing but a distant memory.
However, Ortiz was able to bounce back from both his slow starts to put up relatively good numbers by the end of the year.
Fast forward to 2011.
David Ortiz silenced all talk about a third straight slump out of the gate by homering on Opening Day in Arlington, Texas.
On May 24 in Cleveland, Ortiz raised his average to .302, marking the first time since 2007 that Ortiz's average has been over .300 (minimum 50 ABs).
At the All-Star break Ortiz is hitting .304 with 19 homers, 55 RBI and a blistering .965 OPS (fourth in the AL). Ortiz' resurgence earns him a grade of A-.
After trading for Jarrod Saltalamacchia in 2010, Theo Epstein envisioned the backstop would be a reserve catcher to Victor Martinez.
When Martinez signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, it quickly became evident that Salatalamacchia would become the everyday catcher for the Sox.
He struggled early in the season, failing to put up consistent offensive numbers, while also drawing minor criticism for pitchers' bloated ERAs in games he caught.
Additionally, Saltalamacchia hasn't been solid defensively, allowing 20 passed balls and 49 stolen bases with just a .246 caught-stealing rate.
As a result, the catching situation became a platoon between him and Jason Varitek. Saltalamacchia is hitting .251 with six homers and 24 RBI.
At the end of last year, it was unclear whether or not Jason Varitek would be returning for his 15th year in a Red Sox uniform.
The Red Sox had Jarrod Saltalamacchia and were making a strong push to re-sign Victor Martinez.
But the 2011 season rolled around, and the captain was back.
Considering his age, Varitek was brought back to serve as a mentor and backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. After Saltalamacchia got off to a slow start, the two began splitting time behind the plate, with Varitek becoming Josh Beckett's regular catcher.
In 42 games, Varitek is hitting .252 with five homers and 18 RBI.
Josh Beckett was one big question mark heading into the 2011 season.
Coming off a disastrous year in 2010 where he started just 21 games, going 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA, the Boston media were questioning Theo Epstein's decision to extend his contract through 2014 at the end of the 2009 season.
However, Beckett has put up gaudy numbers so far in 2011, forcing his way into the Cy Young conversation. In 171 starts (11.0 IP) he is 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA and a .95 WHIP.
Beckett is easily having his best year in a Red Sox uniform (better than 2007) and was selected to his third career All-Star game.
The one knock Jon Lester has always had is his inability to pitch well in the month of April.
In 23 career starts during April Lester is 6-7 with a 4.12 ERA. His April struggles last year potentially cost him a Cy Young award (Lester went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 225 strikeouts).
This year was a different story for the southpaw; he went 4-1 in with a 5.50 ERA in April. While his ERA was nothing to get excited about, it was inflated because of one bad outing on Opening Day. He followed up that outing with five straight quality starts, finally conquering his April woes.
After enduring a rough stretch in May where he allowed four runs or more in four of five games, Lester settled back down in June. Posting five quality starts, he finished June 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA.
Lester is currently on the DL, but has a 10-4 record with a 3.31 ERA and 110 strikeouts over 114 and 1/3 innings. He was selected to his second straight All-Star game.
I have boycotted all John Lackey starts. If there is any game I will miss for whatever reason, it would be one where he takes the hill.
Honestly, the man gives me a heart attack every time he pitches.
I really don't think there is anything more I can or will say. Lackey is currently 6-8 with a 6.84 ERA and 1.54 WHIP.
After a break-out season in 2010, Clay Buchholz seemed to regress a bit at the beginning of 2011, still trying to adjust to his new battery-mate, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Buchholz went 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA and allowed six home runs in April, but he settled down in May and developed a comfort zone with Saltalamacchia.
Since his rocky start, Buchholz is 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA. He has been on the DL since June with a lower back strain, but was pitching admirably leading up to his injury. He is currently 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 82 and 2/3 innings of work.
I don't know where to start with Daisuke Matsuzaka—the man is a total enigma.
Daisuke had only started seven games (one relief appearance) this season, but was placed on the 60-day DL at the end of May when he required season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Matsuzaka endured his worst performance in a Red Sox uniform on April 11 against the Tampa Bay Rays. He lasted just two innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits (two homers) and walking two.
The only reason Matsuzaka isn't failing (he's literally hanging by a thread), is because he put together back-to-back one-hitters. In those two outings, he combined for 15 innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits, while walking four and striking out 12 (lowering his ERA from 12.86 to 4.09).
He is now 3-3 with a 5.30 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP, but we may very well have seen the last of Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Boston uniform.
Coming into 2011, Tim Wakefield's role was a long reliever and a spot starter out of the bullpen.
After a series of injuries to John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and most recently Clay Buchholz though, Wakefield got his chance to become a regular starter again.
Since re-joining the rotation on May 22, Wakefield has been solid, going 5-2 with a 4.99 ERA. Although his ERA is a little bloated, he has pitched deep into many of his outings, often giving the Red Sox a decent chance to win.
On the season, Wakefield is 5-3 with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
Andrew Miller made his Red Sox debut on June 20 in place of an injured Clay Buchholz. He pitched well, allowing three runs over five and 2/3 innings, and received a no-decision.
Since then Miller has gone 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA, establishing himself as a deserving back-of-the-rotation starter. He is 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his four total starts for the Red Sox this season.
Darnell McDonald got consistent playing time due to injuries in 2010 and quickly became a fan favorite.
This year he has been limited to 37 games and has given the team little-to-no production offensively. He is hitting .143 with two homers, nine RBI and an anemic .457 OPS, and is on the brink of being designated for assignment.
Before getting designated for assignment in late June, Mike Cameron's production was among the lowest on the team. With JD Drew's role getting diminished due to his own struggles, Cameron joined a right field "rotation" that included himself, Drew, and Darnell McDonald. In 33 games this year, Cameron hit .149 with three homers, nine RBI, and a .478 OPS.
Josh Reddick was called up on May 26 and has made an instant impact ever since.
Reddick has been consistent with Crawford on the DL, and J.D. Drew and Darnell McDonald struggling. In 23 games this year, Reddick is 24-for-61 (.393) with two homers, 15 RBI and 1.101 OPS.
Yamaico Navarro was called up to Boston on June 30 after Mike Cameron was designated for assignment.
Since then he has played in seven games, going 4-for-17 with a double, a homer and two RBI.
However, he has not played in enough games this year to receive a grade.
We got a glimpse of future Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias in May when he was called up for a brief stint in the majors. He played in six games (starting just one), mostly as a defensive replacement in the late innings.
In his very short time with the Red Sox at the Major League level, Iglesias went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two runs scored.
Drew Sutton has been a pleasant surprise.
He made his Red Sox debut on May 20 as a defensive replacement. Filling in as a utility infielder, Sutton is hitting .311 with seven RBI and an .821 OPS in 25 games.
Matt Albers has been one of the few bright spots in the Red Sox bullpen this year.
In 29 relief appearances (35 and 1/3 innings), Albers has gone 3-3 with a 2.55 ERA, while collecting seven holds and striking out 34.
By the end of the season, he could usurp Bobby Jenks as the seventh-inning bridge-man to Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Alfredo Aceves has been the every-man for the Sox this year.
In addition to being a long reliever out of the 'pen, Aceves has made numerous spot starts, posting an overall record of 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA, one save and seven holds.
It has been a frustrating year for Scott Atchinson, who has shuttled back and forth between Boston and Pawtucket.
Appearing in only nine games this season, Atchinson has a 4.70 ERA and one save in 15 and 1/3 innings of work, giving him a grade of C-.
Kyle Weiland made his Major League debut in the last game of the unofficial first half of the season. He went just four-plus innings, allowing six runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out two.
He did get the distinction of getting ejected in his first Major League start (how many people can say that) after hitting Vladimir Guerrero in the elbow with a pitch.
Hideki Okajima has had a rough year.
He didn't make the cut for the Opening Day roster, instead starting the season in Triple-A Pawtucket. He was called up midway through April, making his 2011 debut on April 19 in Oakland. Okajima got shelled, giving up three runs over 2/3 of an inning.
After the Red Sox acquired Franklin Morales from the Rockies, Okajima was designated for assignment and ended up getting reassigned to Pawtucket, where he is now.
In seven relief appearances this season, Okajima is 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA.
Until he got hurt on June 1, Rich Hill was phenomenal, allowing no earned runs on three hits and striking out 12 in nine relief appearances. He also recorded three holds and held opponents to a .115 batting average.
Before his injury, Hill was the best middle-reliever on the team. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June and was promptly placed on the 60-day disabled list.
A Rhode Island native, Dan Wheeler signed a one-year deal to play with his hometown Red Sox.
Although he fulfilled his dream, his numbers have resembled more of a nightmare.
In 28 relief appearances, Wheeler is 1-1 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.
Bobby Jenks was brought to Boston to be a reliable seventh-inning reliever who could serve as a bridge to Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
A former closer for the Chicago White Sox, Jenks' success hasn't carried over to Boston.
In 19 relief appearances Jenks is 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA, a 2.23 WHIP and two blown saves. In addition to his struggles, Jenks has also had two stints on the DL.
Daniel Bard has been nothing short of phenomenal this year.
With Jonathan Papelbon set to become a free agent at the end of this season, Bard has proven he is capable of taking over the closer role by being one of the best setup men in the American League.
In 42 appearances (44 innings) Bard has a 2.05 ERA, a .80 WHIP and a jaw-dropping 21 holds.
Jonathan Papelbon is having his best season since 2007, probably due to the fact that he's in a contract year.
He currently has 20 saves in 21 opportunities and is sporting a 3.93 ERA with 51 strikeouts. Pap is on pace for roughly 35 saves in what could be his last season with Boston.
Considering the horrendous 2-10 start the Red Sox got off to in April, it's incredible that they have battled back to become the best team in the American League at the All-Star break.
The team has had its ups and downs with various injuries to players such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Rich Hill and Carl Crawford, as well as other issues that include John Lackey's and Bobby Jenks' inconsistent performances.
Interleague play raised another problem; with nine straight games in NL ballparks over an 11-day span, Terry Francona was forced to toy with the idea of using Adrian Gonzalez in right field to compensate for David Ortiz.
One of the best managers in the game though, Tito is even-keeled and doesn't overreact during tough times. For that reason, the Red Sox are currently in first place in the AL East, and that earns him a grade of B+.