Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz and the 5 Most Surprising Performances of 2011
The first half of 2011 was a somewhat surprising one for the Boston Red Sox.
A 2-10 start was shocking but leading the AL East at the All Star break was almost expected in the preseason buildup. The Red Sox are in the top three in the major leagues in almost every offensive category; that is hardly surprising. On the other hand, they rank 19th in baseball in starters' ERA.
Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury made the All-Star Game, which was at best unlikely, and JD Drew has been terrible, which was...okay, that one we figured.
Here are the most surprising Red Sox player performances up to the All-Star Game.
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David Ortiz has had a remarkable career. After an inauspicious start with the Minnesota Twins, he moved to Boston and became one of the greatest home run threats of the last decade. He is the all-time home run king for a DH, and is one of the most beloved players ever to don a Red Sox uniform.
However, 2008 was marred by injury and in 2009 and 2010, he got off to glacially slow starts, with horrific performances in April and May that would have seen any other player optioned to the Minors or DFA'd.
In 2011, then, people did not expect him to start the All-Star Game or have a .304/.391/.574 line with 19 home runs and 55 RBI. It has been an astounding renaissance for Big Papi but the most surprising statistic is that he is hitting an amazing .340 against left-handed pitching.
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2009 was a terrific year for Jacoby Ellsbury. He hit over .300 and set a new franchise record with 70 stolen bases. A year later, he was kneed in the ribs by Adrian Beltre in the second week of the season, forcing him to miss 144 games.
He was a fashionable pick for Comeback Player of the Year but his 2011 has been remarkable even for those who thought he would bounce back. Ellsbury has become the spark-plug leadoff man the Boston Red Sox have sought since Johnny Damon left in 2005.
After a great first half that saw him make his first All-Star team, he is on pace for a career high in average, OBP, slugging, hits, runs, RBI, doubles, walks and already has a career-best in home runs.
Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Before the season started, there was a lot of concern about the Red Sox catching situation. The tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek was not viewed very highly, with the latter too old to play every day and the former as yet unproven as a regular starter.
However, while neither has torn the cover off the ball, they have provided some solid production from behind the plate as a unit. Varitek has been instrumental in Josh Beckett's turnaround and Salty has been reasonable defensively.
With the bat, the Saltek tandem is hitting .251 with 11 homers and 42 driven in. Any team that does not have the likes of Joe Mauer or Alex Avila at catcher would take that any day of the week.
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Josh Beckett was signed to a four-year, $68 million contract extension at the start of the 2010 season. He rewarded GM Theo Epstein's faith in him with the worst season of his career. He was 6-6 with a 5.78 earned run average. Some said he was done; Beckett said he was injured.
In 2011, healthy again, Beckett has been a major factor in Boston's surge to the top of the AL East. In an All-Star first half, Beckett is 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA. He also has the third-best FIP of his career, at 3.17.
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We knew Adrian Gonzalez was a phenomenal player. Even Boston fans who exclusively watch the Red Sox and pay no attention to his former team, the San Diego Padres, knew he could rake. He had also won two Gold Gloves so he was pretty good in the field.
We also knew that Fenway Park was a better hitter's stadium than Petco Park is, and that the effect is compounded for a player with a swing like Adrian's. So Red Sox fans rightly expected a lot.
But no one expected he would be this good.
If the season ended today, Gonzalez would win the AL MVP Award. In the first half, he is batting .354 with a .429 wOBA, 17 home runs, 77 RBI and 29 doubles. He leads the majors in hits (128), average, wOBA, RBI and doubles.