The 2013 Boston Red Sox have, at the very least, ensured that the nearly two years worth of nightmares on Yawkey Way are now a memory. How distant remains to be seen.
At 58-39, the Sox have the most wins and the third-best record in all of Major League Baseball. However, such status amounts to a mere two-and-a-half-game lead on the second-place Rays in the American League East. The good news in a sea of reasons to smile, though, is that Boston has a league-low 65 games remaining in the regular season. A whopping 41 of those games are against teams with better than .500 records Ė the Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Diamondbacks, and Tigers Ė but 25 are at home, where the Sox are 31-16.
So, what happens next? Letís visit my remarkably unreliable crystal ball. Apologies in advance as this list wonít include quite everyone.
Warning: the following predictions are based on a mixture of opinion, statistical analysis and, ya know, gut. In other words, donít run to your bookie after reading this.
Alfredo Aceves...will wind up pitching elsewhere by season's end. The versatile but loony pitcher would be a valuable part of this team both as a spot-starter and in the bullpen if only his head was on straight. He was recently outrighted to Pawtucket and the organization clearly wants little to do with him going forward.
Andrew Bailey...will remain frustratingly inconsistent and won't regain the closer's role this season. The second-half of June was abysmal (7 ER in 3 IP), but Julyís been flawless (0 ER in 5.1 IP). Get used to seeing him in the seventh and eighth innings.
Xander Bogaerts...will be playing third base in Boston by season's end. He's hitting .294 with an .879 OPS, 13 home runs and 54 RBI in 85 games this season between Triple A Pawtucket and Double A Portland. He also shined at baseballís Futureís game, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. The future's almost here.
Clay Buchholz...will see no more than seven trips to the mound during the rest of the regular season. With 13 turns in the rotation still available, the 9-and-0 hurler appears nowhere close to a return after yet another setback on Thursday as he continues to deal with lingering neck discomfort. It's become increasingly difficult not to call his mental toughness into question along the way.
Ryan Dempster...will start to actually get some run support. This guy's been a reliable mid-rotation starter with a 5-8 record that doesn't properly reflect his 11 quality starts.
Stephen Drew...will, when finally healthy, lose his job at short to Jose Iglesias. Not every off-season move was going to work out, and this one simply hasn't. Poor guy was doomed from the start in these parts in name alone.
Felix Doubront...will not pitch as well as he has of late (3-2, 2.70 ERA in last 11 starts), but he will show a mid-3's ERA in the second-half. That's a high quality fifth starter right there.
Jacoby Ellsbury...will not be in Boston in 2014. Why's that relevant now? Because he'll put together a fantastic second-half before he and agent Scott Boras cash in elsewhere in the offseason.
Brock Holt...will prove to be the only useful part of the Joel Hanrahan trade. A perceived throw-in, "Don't Call me Steve" Holt is a proven hitter, albeit mostly in the minors, and he'll see lots of action over the next two months.
Jose Iglesias...will prove to the organization once and for all that he's the team's shortstop of the future Ė or at least the immediate future. Drew's obviously not gotten the job done, while Iglesias has done nothing but hit for average (.367 with an .878 OPS) and field even better than advertised. Basically, there arenít enough words in the English language to describe how well this kidís played this season, and my Spanish is a bit rusty.
John Lackey...will be the team's ace down the stretch. He's already pitching like one, so why not? At this point, he could run for Mayor. Soon enough, you'll be hearing all about his lifetime 3.12 ERA in 14 postseason contests.
Jon Lester...will improve but won't be the guy we saw the first six weeks of the season. Two of Lester's last three July starts have been positive as heís allowed a combined four runs in 13-and-a-third innings in those outings, and that will propel him to a sub-4 ERA in the second-half.
Will Middlebrooks...will enjoy little to no time in Boston the rest of the season. Between Iglesias, Holt and, eventually, Bogaerts, it will be good for him to continue to face Triple A talent to get his confidence back, find his swing, and also to prove he isnít ultimately, well, Triple A talent.
Mike Napoli...will continue to reward the Sox for taking a flier on slugger with a hip issue. He'll keep striking out (already an MLB-high 123), but the extra-base hits (37) and RBI (58) will continue to pile up as well, as has generally been the case in his career.
Daniel Nava...will drop off to more than serviceable .270/.355./.410 totals, but that's just a gut-feeling. Nava's numbers have improved each and every month this season, so he's fully capable of making me look foolish at year's end.
David Ortiz...will reach the 30 home run and 90 RBI plateaus at a minimum. Awfully impressive for a 37-year-old who, back in spring training, looked like he may not take the field before June. Also, I'd bet Big Papi reaches the 130-game mark (77 so far), a far cry from the one game he played from this point forward in 2012.
Dustin Pedroia...will be the Red Sox' MVP. Along with near-flawless defensive play (one error in an MLB-high 96 games), Pedroia's among the AL leaders in numerous offensive categories. He's consistent and historically only improves in the second-half.
Junichi Tazawa...will be just fine. For all who have complained about his over-usage (already a career-high 43 appearances), allow me to point out his poor performances have really only come against the Blue Jays (6 ER in 5.1 IP vs. 8 ER in 36.1 IP against everyone else). Might make sense to rest him Aug. 13-15 and Sept. 20-22. Just saying.
Koji Uehara...will hang onto the closer's role for the duration of the season. The 38-year-old with the high-fiving exuberance of a child has allowed only one earned run in 18 games (18 innings) since June 10, while striking out 26. As a closer, heís 1-0 with 8 saves in 11 opportunities, and he has a 1.87 ERA, 18 strikeouts, and 0 walks in 10-and-a-third frames. No need to make a trade here; better to just help the crew ahead of him.
Shane Victorino...will not appear in 100 games. At 64 so far, injuries have been a problem for the Flyiní Hawaiian. But, he's helped take the attention away from a hefty contract ($39 million over three seasons) by playing great defensively, delivering at the plate when healthy, and he's certainly been a contributor in the clubhouse.
Finally, a few big picture predictions:
- With the trade deadline approaching, we know the team needs pitching help in both the starting rotation and bullpen (given injuries and ineffectiveness), as well as potentially at third base. If Iím a gambling man, the Red Sox will pick up one or two more relievers (not a closer), one middle-of-the-road starter (not a front-line Cliff Lee or Matt Garza-type), and maybe one bat (a utility fielder, who can dabble at third).
- The Red Sox will finish with a 94-68 record, win the division, and fall short in the ALCS to the Tigers. Iíll inevitably change my stance on that last part when the playoffs roll around since Iíll be giddy with homerism at the clubís first postseason trip since 2009.
- John Farrell will win the ALís Manager of the Year award, while Ben Cherington will be honored as the Executive of the Year after a bang-up season.
Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman
The author is solely responsible for the content.
About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
Send Adam Kaufman an email.