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Looking back at the first 55.5 percent of the Red Sox season

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  July 15, 2011 10:45 AM

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The All-Star break is traditionally a good time to look back at the first half of the season. But the Red Sox have played 90 games and that is 55.55 percent of the season. That's more than half based on what they taught us at New Bedford High.

So, let's look back at the first 55.5 percent of the season:

Most Valuable Player
1. Adrian Gonzalez. There were ridiculous expectations for Gonzalez. He has met every one of them, offensively and defensively. Do you realize that he is hitting 70 points over his career average?

2. Jacoby Ellsbury. He has hit for power and average, stolen 28 bases and played a solid center field. Ellsbury is now the versatile All-Star the Sox hoped he would become.

3. Josh Beckett. It's hard to believe this is the same guy the Sox didn't trust to pitch in the first series of the year. Now he's the rock of their rotation.

Biggest surprises

1. The catchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek have a .766 OPS, second in the American League to the Tigers. SaltyTek even throws out runners.

2. Matt Albers. A bust in Baltimore, he has been one of the best relievers all season and emerged as a reliable late-inning choice.

3. Josh Reddick. His career stalled last year. But when the Sox needed an outfielder to help replace Carl Crawford, he delivered. Reddick has hit .396 in 18 games since being called up a second time.

Spring training story lines that proved untrue

1. The Sox will have trouble with lefthanders. The Sox are 21-11 against lefthanded starters and are hitting .281/.357/.442 against lefties. It's pretty much the same (.277/.352/.463) as they hit against righties.

2. Jonathan Papelbon is an endangered closer. Not so much. Papelbon is 20 for 21 in save situations with a 2.95 ERA.

3. Mike Cameron will be productive off the bench. He hit .149, was designated for assignment and then traded to the Marlins.

Biggest disappointments

1. Carl Crawford. It's going to get better (it has to right?) but you expect a heck of a lot more than .243/.275/.384 from a guy you invested $142 million in.

2. Bobby Jenks. The former White Sox closer has a 6.32 ERA and been on the disabled list twice. He's far out of the Terry Francona Circle of Trust.

John Lackey: There are extenuating circumstances, to be certain. But a 6.84 ERA is a 6.84 ERA.

Questions remaining to be answered

1. What will the trade deadline bring? The Sox need a right fielder. They could try to go big (like Carlos Beltran) or find somebody to use in a platoon (like Jeff Baker). The next few weeks will determine to what degree they seek pitching.

2. Who's the shortstop? It was Marco Scutaro Then it was Jed Lowrie. Now it's Marco Scutaro. If Lowrie gets healthy, can he take it back?

3. Who's in the rotation for the pennant race? Let's assume that by Aug. 15, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are all reasonably healthy. Who will be the other two starters? Your choices are John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and assorted Mystery Guests.

Minor leaguers who could play a role in the remaining 44.4 percent of the season

1. Felix Doubront. He has been erratic all season but is lefthanded, has big league experience and throws strikes. He's going to get his shot eventually.

2. Ryan Lavarnway. It's somewhat of a miracle that the Sox have gone 90 games with Saltalamacchia and Varitek staying healthy. If a need arises, Lavarnway is mashing (.350/.417/.641) since being promoted to Pawtucket.

3.Tommy Hottovy: He came out of nowhere and got a shot and is still on the 40-man roster.

Three unfolding dramas

1. The Drew dilemma. Since the 2010 All-Star break, he is hitting .230/.324/.369 over 133 games with 16 home runs. Francona hopes a hot streak is coming. There is no sign of it. How long can they keep playing him?

2. Closing acts. David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon will be free agents after the season. Ortiz has said he is content to wait to after the season to talk about a new deal while Papelbon is clearly bent on free agency. Are the coming weeks their final ones for the Red Sox?

3. Put up your dukes: Sox pitchers have hit a lot of batters, 12 more than any other team. That stuff does not go unnoticed. The Orioles were peeved and threw at Ortiz last weekend. Other teams may retaliate, too.

Prediction

The Sox are on a pace to win 99 games, which seems a little high. But a favorable schedule certainly makes 95 or 96 wins and a division title right in their wheelhouse.

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