Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

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Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHOENIX -- It's the All-Star break, and you know what that means: time for first-half grades for the Red Sox.

There's a wide variance here for a first-place team. While there are several players headed for the Honor Roll, some others are in danger of flunking.

Of course, there's time to bring those grades up. Here's hoping there's plenty of homework being down over the break.

Without further ado:

POSITION PLAYERS:

Adrian Gonzalez - A
Simply put, Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox hoped he would be when they
traded for him last December. He leads the majors in a host of offensive categories (RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits, doubles) and has played a superb first base. About the only deficit in his game is speed, of which there is none and accounts for his eye-popping 20 GIDP. Other than that, however, he's been virtually flawless.

Dustin Pedroia - B
For the longest time, Pedroia couldn't seem to get untracked, with a batting average hovering around .250. Then, Pedroia got his ailing knee checked and received an injection and his game began to take off. His defense has been as good as ever and quietly - if such a thing is possible with him - he's become a real stolen base threat (16-of-19).

Jed Lowrie - B
Just when it seemed like he finally make good on his potential, Lowrie got hurt. Again. In April, when no one else was producing, Lowrie hit so well that he took the starting shortstop job from Marco Scutaro and for a month and a half, had an OPS of better than .850. But then he collided with Carl Crawford in late May, injuring his shoulder, and his offense began to spiral. Also troubling: his limited range to his right, even when healthy.

Marco Scutaro - C
Scutaro began the season as the starting shortstop, lost the job, then regained it. He hasn't produced much with the bat, but he's played a solid shortstop. The last season and a half may have revealed that Scutaro isn't necessarily an everyday player, but he is a valuable one. And tough, too.

Kevin Youkilis - B
Like Pedroia, Youkilis started the year slowly but has recently come around. He's second on the team in RBIs and third in slugging while reaching base at a near .400 clip. One negative: his defense, which has been only slightly better than average, a reminder that the transition from across the diamond hasn't been a seamless as some projected.
David Ortiz - A-
No slow start this season, or, for that matter, no struggles against lefthanders. This may not quite be the Ortiz of 2004-2007, but for the Red Sox purposes, it's plenty good enough.

Carl Crawford C-
His first half season has been a mixture of disappointment sprinkled in with occasional high points. He's won a handful of games with walkoff hits but mostly, he's dramatically underachieved. It took him weeks to get his average over .200 and his speed hasn't been much of a weapon. Sidelined with a hamstring pull, Red Sox fans everywhere are asking themselves: "We're going to see a much better player when he's healthy again, right? Right?"

Jacoby Ellsbury - A
If not for Gonzalez, Ellsbury could lay claim to first-half MVP. Whether his first half is the result of a player motivated to put last season and its attendant controversies behind him or simply his skills naturally evolving and maturing doesn't really matter. Ellsbury has developed into an elite center fielder.

J.D. Drew D-
At the halfway point, Drew is on pace to finish with fewer than 40 RBI and recently went more than 90 at-bats between extra-base hits. He looks, frankly, disinterested much of the time, as though he can barely muster the energy to play. His lone saving grace: he remains a good outfielder.

Darnell McDonald - F
It's July and McDonald has 10 hits. Ten. The hope had been that he could provide some righthanded pop. Instead, he's played like an overmatched 4A outfielder.

Mike Cameron - F
Perhaps Cameron can salvage the season - to say nothing of his career - in Florida. For now, however, Cameron, a terrific competitor and teammate, sadly appears to be done.

Josh Reddick - A
Had it not been for a shoulder injury to Ryan Kalish, Reddick likely wouldn't have had this chance to contribute in Boston. But he sure has made the most of it with improved play in the outfield and a far more disciplined approach at the plate.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
On that fateful April night in Anaheim when he couldn't find a pitch that eluded him and literally looked lost, Saltalamacchia was a day or so away from being returned to the minors. After that, he gradually looked less overwhelmed and everything seemed to improve - from his throwing, hitting and handling of the staff. Moreover, as often happens with catchers, it appears as though he's still improving.

Jason Varitek - C
The Sox seem to have stumbled upon just the right amount of playing time for the 39-year-old catcher. He's still streaky at the plate but has plenty of value, not the least of which is his mentoring of Saltalamacchia.

Incomplete: Drew Sutton, Jose Iglesias and Yamaico Navarro.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Josh Beckett - A
The Red Sox had to be wondering what they would get from Beckett after last year's disastrous season - to say nothing of the dread they must have felt over the four-year contract extension that didn't kick in until this season. Now they know - Beckett is, again, one of the league's premier starters. After three seasons of frustration and mixed results, Beckett is an ace.

Jon Lester - B
Lester leads the staff with 10 wins and was three outs away from his 11th when a pulled lat muscle interceded. He might have been a worthy All-Star selection but his season has been inconsistent at times and he hasn't always shown the dominance one normally associates with him.

Clay Buccholz - B-
After a slow start, Buchholz seemed to finally be getting on a roll when back spasms came along and eventually sent him to the disabled lost. Until then, he was good - just not good as he was last season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - D
It may well be that the enigmatic one has thrown his last pitch as a member of the Red Sox thanks to Tommy John surgery. If so, his final season was somehow emblematic of his time in Boston: flashes of brilliance mixed with a heaping portion of underachievement.

John Lackey - F
Sure, there have been a few gems - last Saturday against Baltimore, two weeks ago against the Phillies and two back-to-back starts on the West coast. But too often he's failed to even keep his team in the game, as evidenced by his unsightly 6.84 ERA.

Tim Wakefield - C
For the first few weeks, Wakefield seemed to be a spare part the Sox didn't need. Then, the inevitable injuries struck the rotation and Wakefield re-established his value in a hurry. Key stat: the Sox are 7-4 in his starts.

BULLPEN:

Scott Atchison - C-
Atchison has been the human yo-yo this season, up-and-down from Pawtucket, seemingly on an almost weekly basis. That's a tough dynamic for a pitcher. Still, Atchison hasn't been nearly as reliable as he was in the second half of last season.

Matt Albers - B
Albers was a cheap free agent signing in the off-season, but has far out-performed his more expensive teammtes (Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler). Except for an eighth-inning meltdown against the Cubs in interleague play, in fact, he's been stellar, averaging about a strikeout per inning.

Dan Wheeler - D
If it weren't for Carl Crawford, Wheeler would be considered the team's biggest off-season bust. (What it is with these former Rays?). Relegated to mop-up by his own ineffectiveness, there were weeks where it was easy to forget that Wheeler was on the roster. Of late, though, he's pitched far better, suggesting that a second-half market correction could be in the offing.
Bobby Jenks - D
It hasn't helped his continuity that he's gone to the DL twice in three months. Then again, his conditioning hasn't helped him stay healthy, either, so he probably gets some of the blame. Like Wheeler, there's time to make amends in the second half. But to date, a disappointment.

Daniel Bard - A
If it weren't for a squirrely first few weeks, when Bard seemed to be inventing ways to lose games (chalk-kicking double on Opening Day, suicide squeeze in Cleveland, etc.), he might warrant an A. As it is, Bard has, again, been the Red Sox' best reliever. Three numbers make the case: 1) a WHIP of 0.80; 2) a scoreless streak that dates back to May and 3) stranding 16-of-20 inherited runners.

Jonathan Papelbon - B
As always with Papelbon, the saves can be adventures. And the non-save appearances, well, those can be real thrill rides. But the bottom line is this: it's the All-Star break and Papelbon has blown exactly one save. And his 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio illustrates how much better his command has been.

Incomplete: Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden, Tommy Hottovy, Kyle Weiland, Dennys Reyes, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."