It would be an understatement to say that the first half of the Boston Red Sox 2011 season was unpredictable. From an 0-6 start to the top of the American League, it seems that the term "unimaginable" is more appropriate.
With the All-Star game in the books, and the second half underway, here are 7 outrageous predictions that will all somehow come true.
If it weren't for Adrian Gonzalez' utter dominance of American League pitching, Jacoby Ellsbury would be receiving much more acclaim from the Fenway Faithful for his brilliant 2011 season.
It's not that Red Sox fans don't appreciate Ellsbury, but when you have a guy like Gonzalez who is on pace to hit .350 with 150 RBI, it's tough to share the love.
Adrian Gonzalez is an early favorite to win the AL MVP award, but Jacoby Ellsbury is not far behind him in several important statistical categories. Both rank in the American League's top 5 in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, total bases and runs created, and Ellsbury is quietly leading the American League in stolen bases too.
No one sees Gonzo falling outside the top 5, but if Jacoby Ellsbury can stay healthy, don't be surprised to see him right up there too.
108 wins may sound like a lot, but after their horrendous 2-10 start, the Red Sox went on to win 53 of their 78 remaining games before the All-Star break. Since the tough start, their winning percentage has been roughly .680, and if they can maintain that clip for the rest of the season, they are on pace to win 104 games.
However, the ease of their schedule offers the Red Sox the opportunity to win even more games. 32 of their 90 (roughly 35.5%) first half games were played on the road against teams that currently sit above .500. Including their rubber game against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, only 11 of the Red Sox 70 remaining games (roughly 15.7%) are away from Fenway against teams that are above .500. With less than half as many games on the road against good teams, the Sox should be able to take advantage of an easier schedule.
Maybe it's faith in the starting rotation, or maybe it's confidence that the lineup will continue to produce. Perhaps it's even symbolic for the void that LOST has left in my life, but regardless, 108 seems like a pretty good total.
The Red Sox have been an offensive juggernaut this season, leading the majors in nearly every statistical category. What's equally as impressive is that they're doing it all without consistent offensive production from players like Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro.
It may require a bit of luck, but 20 runs can certainly happen. If the Sox upgrade their offense before the trade deadline, and several players get hot at the same time, two 20-run games is a surefire possibility.
The Red Sox currently sit in first place in the AL East, and it is likely that they are there to stay. With an easier schedule and several key players coming off of the disabled list in the near future, the Sox look primed to continue their winning ways. The question then becomes, will either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays be able to catch them?
Unless the Yankees make some significant moves before the trade deadline, they are in serious jeopardy of falling out of contention in the AL East. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon had outstanding first halves, but at 35 and 38 respectively, they aren't going to be able to maintain those impressive numbers.
The Bronx Bombers have hit their fair share of home runs this year, but with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list and an under-performing Derek Jeter, their lineup has some serious holes. The Yanks won't be able to win as many games if no one can get on base for Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.
In fact, I see the Red Sox having more difficulty with the Tampa Bay Rays than the Yankees. Though the Red Sox are 8-1 against the Yankees this year, they have struggled against the Rays, going only 3-4 so far.
The Rays have arguably the best young pitching staff in baseball, and at just six games back, are within striking distance of first place. However, with 24 games against the Red Sox and Yankees remaining this season, the Rays have minimal room for error. It is certainly possible that their stellar pitching will lead them down the stretch, but it more likely that an unproven offensive core prevents them from catching up.
Expect the Rays and Yanks will battle for the Wild Card as the streaking Sox pull away for the division title.
Right-handed reliever Daniel Bard's league leading scoreless streak currently sits at 20 2/3 innings, and it doesn't show any signs of ending. Sure one bad pitch could end the streak, but Bard looks to be in complete command of his game right now, allowing only seven hits over the last month and a half.
35 innings seems about right, as the streak will inevitably come to an end at some point. But, who knows? With a healthy starting rotation, a consistent role in the bullpen and the 2012 closer job at his fingertips, the sky is the limit for the hundred mile-per-hour hurler.
The Red Sox started off the month of July with a bang, winning 9 of their first 10 games heading into the All-Star break. Though they're only 1-1 so far in the second half, the Sox are in a great position to go on a run during the month of July.
To reach 20 wins, the Sox would need to win 10 of their 14 remaining games this month. This is a distinct possibility especially when one considers that their current series with the Rays is the only series this month against a winning team.
If the Red Sox offense continues to produce, look for the Sox to finish July with at least 66 wins.
This is really the only achievement that matters. Though an American League victory in the All-Star game would have helped, the Red Sox have set the table for another World Series Championship.
To be frank, none of the contending teams in the American League have pitching staffs that can stop the Red Sox offense. If the lineup can continue to produce, the rotation doesn't have to be perfect, and the Red Sox should be able to cruise right through the first two rounds of the postseason.
In the World Series, the Red Sox would ultimately play a team with a better pitching staff. National League contenders such as the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, and most notably the Philadelphia Phillies have stellar staffs that some believe could quiet the Sox bats.
However, we mustn't look further the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox and their league leading offense swept the St. Louis Cardinals and their dominant pitching staff.
Sure, last years San Francisco Giants team proved otherwise, but the fact is that good hitting can beat good pitching. Not to mention that aces Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay all have career ERA upwards of 3.50 against the Red Sox.