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Honor roll

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  June 27, 2008 12:41 AM

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ROTATION
Josh Beckett, ERA+ 115:
Started sluggishly due to the back injury in spring training, but he's lowered his ERA nearly a run over his last seven starts, and I have no doubt that given the chance, he will seize the October stage again. B-

Jon Lester, ERA+ 138: John Farrell reportedly fought to keep him out of any potential deal for Johan Santana. Now we're seeing why. As far as I'm concerned, he's the No. 2 starter until further notice. A-

(By the way, can you imagine how different this season would be had the Ellsbury, Lester, Masterson, and Lowrie for Santana rumor actually come to fruition? Not that there was ever confirmation that Theo even considered it for a nanosecond, but still . . . what a haul that would have been for the Twins.)

Daisuke Matsuzaka, ERA+ 125: The numbers in the Dice-K sequel are lovely, other than the 41 walks in 65 innings. I have to admit, though, I thought he'd be more fun to watch pitch. B

Tim Wakefield, ERA+ 111: His ERA+ from 2003 on: 114, 100, 109, 103, 100. It staggers me that a knuckleballer could be so consistent from season to season, and don't look now, but he appears to be about to go on one of his four-week hot streaks. B

Justin Masterson, ERA+ 126: Love the Eck-like motion, don't like that he looks like a bald Dane Cook. B-

RELIEVERS
Jonathan Papelbon, ERA+ 208:
Yup, the Sox's resident Fab Morvan has blown four saves this year, one more than last year. You will not see beads of sweat forming on my forehead when he comes into a game. There are closers having better years, but there's no one I'd trust more. A-

Manny Delcarmen, ERA+ 128: After a Slocumb-like start to the season, he's been exactly what we hoped he'd be lately, a power-armed bridge to Papelbon. Now let's see him do it in the biggest moments, because he was a little too wide-eyed last postseason. B-

Hideki Okajima, ERA+ 144: It was natural to expect him to slip a little bit after being lights-out in '07, but this is getting alarming. C+

Craig Hansen, ERA+ 88: Million-dollar arm, and the head may be worth more than 10 cents after all. C+

David Aardsma, ERA+ 171: It's a luxury to have a middle reliever who can come in and get a strikeout, and his command of his sizzling fastball seems to be improving. Theo might have a real find here. B

Mike Timlin, ERA+ 61: For the fourth straight year, I'm going to implore him to retire. For the fourth straight year, he's going to ignore my request. D-

Javier Lopez, ERA+ 176: I always cringe when he comes into a game, but I'll give him his due. More often than not, he does the job. B-

PROSPECTS, SUSPECTS, CONVICTS, EXPATRIATES, AND ASSORTED OTHER DOPES
Alex Cora, OPS+ 94:
Still an adequate utility guy, but gets way too much praise from Remy for his baseball instincts. He makes a lot of dumb mistakes. C-

Jed Lowrie, OPS+ 113: He'll never be a big-league shortstop, but he held his own at the plate during his early-season cameo, and he's probably a better player than Cora now. C+

Brandon Moss, OPS+ 74: He's struggling (.226), but I'm telling you, he can hit. I still think he'll have a better career than David Murphy, and possibly even Trot Nixon. C-

Coco Crisp, OPS+ 95: Though he'd surely cringe at the designation, he's been the ideal fourth outfielder, and he's even been hitting the ball with some authority lately. I'm glad he's still here. C+

Sean Casey, OPS+ 132: Owns the ugliest lefty swing in the game, has the footspeed of Chien-Ming Wang in a walking boot, and yet he's hitting .362. There's something to be said for good karma. B

Kevin Cash, OPS+ 73: Has been splendid defensively as Wake's personal caddy, and even dipped into someone's old stash of chicken parm and went deep the other night. B

Bartolo Colon, ERA+ 105: With four wins in six starts, he's already exceeded many expectations, and the Sox were shrewd to give him a few weeks off with a minor injury. Here's hoping he's spending it on the StairMaster, not at Sbarro. B-

Clay Buchholz, ERA+ 78: The rare young pitcher who has better command of his breaking stuff than his fastball, he'll be a factor this season before it's through. C-

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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