With half of the Red Sox' season in the books (give or take a game or three,) I figured it would be as good a time as any for the second report card of 2011.
Couple of things before we get started:
Grades are heavily based on expectations heading into the season. If Adrian Gonzalez had the same stats as Marco Scutaro he'd be looking at an F, for example.
(All stats are through July 4)
Adrian Gonzalez (A+)
I always thought that if Keith Hernandez were a 40-HR guy he would have been the best player in baseball in the 1980s. He did almost everything else -- hit for average, a million walks, was the top defensive first baseman of his generation -- but never put up even a 20-homer season in his 17-year career. Well, Adrian Gonzalez is Keith Hernandez on steroids (bad choice of words, but you know what I mean). He leads the American League in batting average, RBI, hits, extra-base hits, total bases, doubles and assists. My preseason pick for AL MVP and right now I think he'd be the runaway winner for the award.
Josh Beckett (A)
It's not often you see a pitcher with a significant track record have a career year at age 31, but that's what it looks like we are going to see from Beckett in 2011. He's way ahead of his career bests in ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings. Remember, he stunk in spring training and was OK but just in his first start of the season in Cleveland. At that time, there was no one who thought that Beckett would be on the Cy Young shortlist at the halfway point of 2011.
Josh Reddick (A)
Look, Terry Francona has told us what we already know: Reddick is going to come back to whatever he really is eventually. But until he does there is zero reason for him not to be in the lineup. None. I don't care if it's a tough lefty or if Darnell McDonald had some good swings or if J.D. Drew is really close to breaking out. Once Reddick turns into the guy hitting .240 in Triple-A, fine. But until we see that, he has to be a regular.
Daniel Bard (A-)
Opening Day: Four earned runs in 0.2 innings (54.00 ERA).
Since: Six earned runs in 39.1 innings (1.32 ERA).
Jacoby Ellsbury (A-)
"Front and back MRI this time Jacoby. You pu--y."
The Twitter page of Gresh & Zolak, Saturday August 14, 2010.
There is nothing worse than a solid piece of professional journalism -- hundreds of hours of research must have been put in before that was posted -- being proven wrong.
David Ortiz (A-)
What's it going to take to keep him, and by that I mean keep him away from the Yankees? You think two years, $22 million would do the trick?
Jonathan Papelbon (A-)
The difference between the Papelbon of 2006-08 and the pitcher we saw in 2009-10 was walks. That was it. He walked a total of 36 batters in 192 IP from 2006-08, and 52 in 135 IP the last two years. This year? Six walks in 32 2/3 IP. His K numbers hadn't changed the last two years -- always right around 10 per nine innings -- and they've actually jumped to 12.1 per nine this year. If he keeps his walks down over the next three months there's no reason to think that his last season in a Red Sox uniform won't be a terrific springboard into free agency.
Jon Lester (B+)
Perfectly acceptable numbers (10-4, 3.43) but so far not the breakout season we were all looking for. From a big picture perspective, Lester remains exactly where he was a year ago -- on the outside looking in whenever any serious list of candidates for the title of best pitcher in baseball is being compiled.
Matt Albers (B)
Could even be higher, I guess. Take out his one undeniable stinker (five ER, six hits without recording an out on May 21) and his ERA for the season is 1.48. Albers should be just a supporting actor in the bullpen, but the reality is that he has contributed much more to this team than Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler combined.
Alfredo Aceves/Tim Wakefield (B)
Why not throw these two guys together? The truth, of course, is if you alternated Aceves and Wakefield every five days -- give 'em each 16, 17 starts -- at the very worst you would get numbers equal to a full Dice-K (remember him?) at half the price.
Clay Buchholz (B-)
If you buy into the idea that Buchholz's 2.33 ERA last year was a little flukey -- and you should, because it really was, his walks per nine innings stayed the same as it was in 2009 (his 2009 ERA was 4.21), and his strikeouts per nine actually went down -- then his 2011 season is not really a step backward at all. If I'm a Sox fan I'm happily signing for a 3.48 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP from Buchholz at the start of every season. Again, his walks per nine and K's per nine are almost exactly the same as the past two years and guess what? His 2011 ERA is just about in the middle of his 2009 and 2010 ERA. With the Lackey Situation now at Level 5 there is no question the Sox need a healthy Buchholz in the second half.
Kevin Youkilis (B-)
He's 32 years old now, so I think we can all get together and turn the lights out on the 30-100 expectations that some still hold out for Youkilis. Most of us get that he can be hugely valuable without the numbers that were once a must-have to be considered a "slugger." But to be fair, Youkilis -- while still getting on base at a .392 clip, seventh in the AL -- has a slugging percentage of just .476 this season, 88 points lower than his 2010 total (he was at .548 in 2009, and .569 in 2008).
Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek (B-)
Not Johnny Bench circa 1970 (and as a quick Bench-related aside, my favorite "Baseball Bunch" will always be the episode that saw Tim Raines lecture the kids on the importance of sliding headfirst so not to break that vial of cocaine in your back pocket), but not a weakness, either. Since May 1, both guys are hitting over .300 and have an OPS over .900. On the current list of red-flag concerns for the Sox, production from the catching position is maybe at a two or three out of 10, not on the same planet as right field or The Worst Use of $82 million Since Jonah Hex.
Dustin Pedroia (C+)
The good: He's walking a ton. He has 60 walks on the season, third in the AL (he's never been in the top 10) and he's sixth in OBP (again, never in the top 10). The bad: He's currently 23 points lower than his career batting average, 47 points lower than his career slugging percentage and 23 points lower than his career OPS.
Jed Lowrie (C)
Look, he's hurt too much and he's already 27 years old, so at best the jury is out when we talk about Lowrie as a potential everyday player. But there will always be a spot for a guy who can play three or four positions while battering left-handed pitching (career line of .342/.401/.567 vs. LHP, his OPS vs. lefties this year is 1.026).
Marco Scutaro (C)
Save for the 2009 season -- career highs (by a lot) in OPS and OBP (as we pause and remember that Scutaro walked 90 times that year) -- the Marco Scutaro you've seen in the first half is pretty much right where Marco Scutaro has been in his career (2011 line: .267/.327/.370 and his career line is .267/.336/.384).
Dan Wheeler (C-)
He's been paired with Bobby Jenks as the two big-name bullpen flops, but to be fair Wheeler was very good in June (7.2 IP, two ER, six K's and just a walk) and gave the Sox at least a shot to rally on Monday with 2.2 scoreless innings following the Lackey disaster.
Carl Crawford (D)
I know he was starting to turn it around before getting hurt (though his OBP in June was just .298), but we are looking at the first half as a whole here, and Crawford has underwhelmed. I thought he was overpaid by half, but I sure didn't expect him to be 63rd in the AL in batting average, 79th in OBP (he has just nine walks in 263 at-bats) and 62nd in OPS.
Bobby Jenks (D)
Notice anything here?
Walks per nine innings
Hits per nine innings
Daisuke Matsuzaka (D)
The Red Sox spent $206 million in 2007 to lock up Matsuzaka, Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew. Yup, inking J.D. Drew to a $70 million contract is the gold standard of that group.
J.D. Drew (D-)
He's been totally useless against left-handed pitching this season, with a .194/.256/.333 line in 36 at-bats (plenty telling that Francona has completely punted on the idea of playing Drew against lefties). His slugging percentage is actually worse against right-handers (.319, just seven extra-base hits in 193 plate appearances). Drew has done nothing to motivate the Sox not to make a move for a right fielder.
Mike Cameron (F)
Swell guy (there's a reason no one wrote about just how bad Cameron was in his year and a half in Boston -- he treated the media like a human being, which can be a rare thing in a locker room) but an unmitigated stifferoo on the field for the Sox. A complete wipeout at $15 million.
John Lackey (F)
As always, let's preface the Lackey bashing with the understanding that A) he did not walk into Theo's office with a gun and demand $82 million and B) there are probably physical and personal factors that have played a significant role in what we are seeing. But that doesn't change what we are seeing, and that is the worst pitcher in major league baseball. Could it turn around? I guess. But as of right now this is an all-time whiff by Theo, no other way around it.
Darnell McDonald (F)
This is what it looks like when the clock strikes midnight.
Incomplete: Andrew Miller, Tommy Hottovy, Scott Atchison, Dennys Reyes, Michael Bowden, Franklin Morales, Hideki Okajima, Felix Doubront, Jose Iglesias, Yamaico Navarro.