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Red Sox power rankings: July

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 2, 2013 10:30 AM

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Welcome to Volume 2, Edition 4 of Red Sox power rankings, a wide-ranging excuse to write about the best and worst performers of the previous month as a new one begins. The only rule of the power rankings is that there are no rules to the power rankings. Prospects, media members, Tim VanEgmond, out-of-position umpires, Fireball Fred Wenz, front-office personnel – anyone is fair game. It's a measure of the exceptional and the unacceptable, with the middle ground unacknowledged. The top five are ranked; the bottom five are not since our pool of candidates is innumerable. Enough ballpark chatter. Let's get to it ...

TOP FIVE
1. Ben Cherington
The future and the present
I'll lead off with a short comment by the usual standards here, since we've spent a lot of words the last couple of days talking about the exceptional job Cherington has done in his second year as general manager. So let's keep it to this: The Red Sox, an extraordinarily resilient and likable ball club, have the most wins in baseball as the schedule turns to August; the farm system is bursting with talent, with crown-jewel Xander Bogaerts on the verge of getting the call any day; and he just parlayed a slick-fielding shortstop with a career .588 OPS in Triple A for a starting pitcher with outstanding peripheral numbers. It's like this season is the baseball gods' way of rewarding him for gracefully enduring last season.

2. The Bearded Bash Bros
Napoli and Gomes
Maybe that nickname won't stick. I know it won't. But it would definitely make a cool Costacos Brothers poster. Anyhow ... you don't hear much complaining about the $10 million guaranteed that Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes will make between them these days, do you? They combined for eight home runs, including a couple of walk-offs. Gomes had .902 OPS, Napoli .918. Gomes slugged .563, Napoli .581. Sure, they combined to whiff 49 times in 136 plate appearances, but you know, that's who they are. They were everything in July that they were advertised to be. I bet they get matching tats to commemorate the month.

3. A starter ...
Doubront emerges
Here's one stat on Felix Doubront that doesn't necessarily pertain to his excellent July, but jumped out at me as an indicator of ... well, either how much he's improved, how difficult he is to hit, or maybe both. In 117 innings, he's allowed just eight home runs. That's a much better rate than any of the veterans of the starting rotation:

ERA GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
Jon Lester* 4.27 22 139.0 138 66 17 47 119 99 1.331 8.9 1.1 3.0 7.7
Ryan Dempster 4.24 21 121.0 120 57 20 56 112 100 1.455 8.9 1.5 4.2 8.3
Felix Doubront* 3.77 19 117.0 114 49 8 51 107 113 1.410 8.8 0.6 3.9 8.2
John Lackey 3.19 18 113.0 110 40 17 24 102 133 1.186 8.8 1.4 1.9 8.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/30/2013.

Doubront allowed just one of those homers in 31.1 innings in July, when he went 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 31.2 innings. Both losses came to reigning Cy Young winner David Price. Can't hold that against him.

4. ... and a closer
Best signing of the offseason
Here's Koji Uehara's month: Fourteen July appearances. Fifteen-and-a-third July innings. Five July saves, countless July high-fives. Twenty-one July strikeouts, five July hits, one July walk, zero July earned runs. Sure, I'll ask again: How did you guys not vote him onto the All-Star team? I mean, Steve Delabar? I hope you feel shame. Shame.

5. Dustin Pedroia
A jackpot and a bargain
Stat-wise, it was a subpar month for the Red Sox second baseman, who hit .216 with a .623 OPS in 114 plate appearances. (Those are the kind of monthly numbers that get you traded to the Tigers at the trade deadline.) The argument can made made that this spot should belong to Jacoby Ellsbury, who followed up his hot June (.894 OPS) with an outstanding July (.844 OPS, four of his five homers on the season). But the nod goes to Pedroia for a bigger-picture reason: In signing an eight-year contract worth $110 million that takes him through the 2021 season, there's a pretty good chance he will spend his entire career with the Red Sox. Hard to come up with better baseball news than that.

174417666.r.jpgBOTTOM FIVE
Jose Iglesias
Have glove, will travel
It's possible he's the best defensive infielder the Red Sox have ever had, though I'm still partial to Pokey Reese and his ridiculous vertical leap. And his offensive contributions for about six weeks were as fun as they were inexplicable. But with a far superior shortstop prospect tearing it up at Pawtucket and a serious offensive regression already underway to the point that you wondered if any of his presumed progress would be sustained, it made all the sense in the world to trade him when they did. My question is this: What would have been the lowest yielded return for Iglesias that Cherington would have still agreed to? I suspect it was less than Jake Peavy.

Complaints about Clay Buchholz
Spare me
It's a bummer he hasn't pitched since June 8 and probably won't until right around September 1. And I know that there has been the suggestion of some disagreement between the righthander and the team on what the proper courses of action were along the way. To which I ask: Can you blame him? He was hospitalized with internal bleeding after taking the pain-killer Toradol a couple of seasons ago. He had a broken bone in his back that went undiscovered by the Red Sox' crack medical staff at the time. It's a wonder they can lure the guy to the doctor's office at all. Yes, I know you know a guy who once had bursitis in his shoulder and yet still competed in the Friday bowling league at Yankee Lanes without missing a night. And I know BERGERON WOULD HAVE PLAYED BASEBALL PLAYERS ARE SOFT GET OUT THERE AND PITCH SISSY. It's all unnecessary noise. I mean, you know it was good news that there's no damage in his shoulder, right?

Bullpen attrition
It's a wonder they haven't signed Chad Fox
Andrew Miller threw his last pitch of the season July 6. Andrew Bailey, July 12. And it's like Joel Hanrahan was never here at all. The plague of injuries has cost the Red Sox valuable arms in the bullpen, which in turn has put a heavier workload on Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow. Some help has and will come from within – Franklin Morales could return soon, Drake Britton has been a pleasant surprise, Steven Wright has bailed them out twice now, and I have huge hopes for Brandon Workman in the role of 2008 Justin Masterson. But it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world to sneak another arm or two through waivers and into the 'pen in August.

Daniel Nava, baserunner
Gotta score from second on a double
I didn't used to be a believer in Nava. I am now – he's a legitimate major league hitter, even a very good one when completely healthy. Beyond that, he's worked hard to become a competent outfielder. He's certainly the best $1 transaction in Red Sox history. But I suspect he's yet to pass the remedial baserunning course that he should have mastered while he was washing uniforms at Santa Clara. He's had a couple of gaffes on the bases this season, none more inexplicable than failing to score the tying run on Stephen Drew's double late in Monday's 2-1 loss to the Rays.

Bat-wielding David Ortiz
He hates these phones!

We can laugh now. But taking a deep breath and counting to 10 is probably a more effective way to calm down than going all Kevin Brown on the phone while Dustin Pedroia shivers in fear within striking range. Chill, Papi. No need to be a jerk.

***

PREVIOUS 2013 POWER RANKINGS
April:
Buchholz, Entire Cast of Veteran Newcomers, Farrell, Nava, Ortiz.

May: Pedroia, Buchholz, Saltalamacchia, Breslow, Bogaerts.

June: Iglesias, Lackey, Ortiz, Uehara, De La Rosa


Follow Chad Finn on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn

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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