With half a season behind us and home-field wrapped up for the World Series, let’s take a quick look at the Red Sox performance that landed them in first place. CBS Sportsline has given the team an “A” but even though they are currently enjoying the view from first place, I’m not sure it was an A-worthy first half. I’ve plagiarized the following from my article in last week’s Barstool Sports.
Last winter, we all thought the Red Sox would return in 2008 with pretty much the same rotation that won the World Series. Then Schilling went down in a blaze of controversy. Whether you considered him the ace, a strong number two starter or a great third starter, losing him hurt. Suddenly the likes of Justin Masterson and the Rotund One himself, Bartolo Colon, are part of the mix. And it has all worked perfectly. The combo of Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Wakefield and Masterson are 33-18. Buchholz and Colon are 6-5. Lester has been everything Theo wanted when he refused to deal him, and Wake is on one of his near-unhittable runs. Look elsewhere for problems; we’re giving the starters an A.
Here’s the deal: you take a guy like David Ortiz out of your line-up and you’re gonna suffer. It’s like taking “Coach” off of Cheers, things drop a level with “Woody” in the line-up. Looking at the woeful road record, particularly in one-run games, and you just know with Papi’s bat in the middle of the order, things would be different. Thankfully, there have been a few guys who have stepped up big. JD Drew, whose head I called for on a nightly basis in ’07, has been off the charts. Pedroia and Youk have been tearing it up, Ellsbury continues to make things happen, and Mikey Lowell has been old reliable. That’s the good news. Not only have there been a few “Manny being Albert Belle” issues, but the Man-Ram just isn’t getting it done. But the real rally-killers have been Lugo and Cap’n Tek. It seems like every time there are runners on and two outs, one of those two steps into the batter’s box and ends the inning. Usually with a horrific strike out or feeble grounder. Overall we’ll call it a B.
Here’s where the trouble really begins. With Dice-K averaging just over 5 innings per start and Masterson and Colon not going deep into games, the bullpen has been taxed. Not only that, they’ve also sucked. Mike Timlin needs to hang up the spikes. I love everything the guy has done, but he just can’t do it any more. 6.75 ERA and opponents batting .312 against him. Time to go hunting, Mike. Craig Hansen can’t get big-league hitters out. He gets two strikes and just doesn’t have a reliable out pitch. A 5.84 ERA with 17 walks in 24 innings is going to hurt the team. Okajima – what happened here? His stats look OK but if you’ve seen him pitch, he’s not OK. He looks like he’s trying to pass a kidney stone when he’s on the mound. Delcarmen has shown flashes of brilliance but has been inconsistent. Gotta give them a D and hope for better days to come.
Papelbon is still the man. Four blown saves, but there is nobody in the game I’d rather see take the ball in the ninth with a one-run lead. 47 K’s in 37 innings, and just 7 walks. And he’s even gone beyond his Irish Jig and co-starred with Delcarmen in a “Blame it on the Rain” music video. The guy should have his own reality show.
Tito shows up every day, makes the line-up, and then sits there rocking back-and-forth like a retard while chomping on a mouthful of shit. And he wins games. I’ll be the first to throw a half-empty nip of schnapps at the TV and curse his name once in a while, but overall he gets it done. I question his use of Oki, and the way he uses (or doesn’t use) pinch hitters, but he’s Tito and he gets a B+.
The defense is rock solid. Two potential gold-glove centerfielders, a first baseman that hasn’t made an error since Jesus was in diapers, and steady Mike Lowell at the other corner. Here comes the “but” – Julio Fucking Lugo. The guy can’t field. He’s compiled a staggering 16 errors already. Who ever thought the chant of “Ed-gar’s Bet-ter” would be a possibility? Defense gets a B, a solid A if Lugo goes missing, and I know people that could make that happen for fifty bucks.
Not a bad first half, all things considered. The second place standing in the AL East is an anomaly, not a long-term thing. The Rays will fade back into obscurity and return to being the fun, young team that is a few players away from competing.