At 57-36, the Boston Red Sox are atop the American League East and look to be getting healthy for the stretch run leading into the playoffs.
With Carl Crawford returning from injury today, the Sox have their entire projected starting lineup healthy.
The starting rotation is still on the mend, but Josh Beckett and John Lackey, along with Andrew Miller and Tim Wakefield, have been holding serve well enough to keep the Sox afloat.
Dustin Pedroia provided most of the offense in a 16-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays (I managed to stay up for 15 innings, missing the only important one) last night. His 13 home runs from the two-spot in the lineup makes him a force on an already potent offense.
Here are the nine best players, along with Pedroia and in no particular order, from Boston's first half.
The NESN broadcast had an interesting info graph during Daniel Bard's appearance last night. I don't have the ability to pause TV, but the information wasn't hard to digest.
Daniel Bard has been one of the top five relievers of the past two seasons.
He's allowed just 26 hits in 46 innings so far this season, and his WHIP (walks plus hit per inning pitched) is a remarkably low 0.820, good for the best mark on the Boston Red Sox.
Josh Beckett has been the most consistent starter all season for the Boston Red Sox. I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me that at the beginning of the season.
In his last two starts against the Tampa Bay Rays, Beckett has allowed just two hits over 17 innings.
Beckett's 0.89 WHIP is the lowest in the majors among qualified pitchers.
It seems that the days of Jonathon Papelbon as an unreliable entity are behind us (funny how contract years work that way).
Papelbon has converted 21 of 22 save opportunities. Last year he had eight blown saves.
At 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings, his strikeout rate is the highest its been since 2007.
This one goes without saying.
The newly acquired first baseman is leading the American League in batting average (.342) and leading the majors in RBI (77).
Gonzalez is also providing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base.
On a team full of superstars, will he get the MVP attention he deserves?
Which brings us to...
Josh Reddick has been filling in for Carl Crawford in left field, hitting nearly .400 and providing at least one game-saving, wall-climbing catch. He's provided a spark at a position that could have seen its production tail off big time.
If that doesn't get him some time out in right field in place of a floundering J.D. Drew, what will?
Reddick deserves that starting spot. Drew can be great when he's hot, but he hasn't even touched lukewarm this season.
Drew is essentially untradeable, but the Boston Red Sox are better off having the most expensive backup outfielder than having Drew on the field.
Having already hit a career-high 13 home runs, batting .310 at the plate, and wreaking havoc on the basepaths, Jacoby Ellsbury is the sparkplug for the Boston Red Sox offense.
Ellsbury has picked up the slack where Carl Crawford was supposed to. If Ellsbury were having anything less than a stellar year, the Red Sox would not be getting much production at all from a very expensive outfield.
Kevin Youkilis swings at about one out of every ten first pitches. Even that seems high for "The Greek God of Walks."
Youkilis is giving the Boston Red Sox a typical, consistent season. What's impressed me the most is how he's transitioned back to third base after a few years primarily at first base.
But that's only because his hitting approach is so consistent that I'd be surprised to see him falter.
When expectations are already high, it's hard to impress.
Old Reliable, I'm sorry I ever doubted you.
Two seasons ago, I was one of the fans calling for David Ortiz to be benched. He's made me look like a fool this season.
Ortiz has hit 19 home runs so far this season, but the surprise is his .294 batting average. His career average is .282.
I wonder what his average would look like if the left-handed shift were illegal.