Welcome to Volume 2, Edition 5 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, Craig Skok, out-of-position umpires, Sam Bowen, 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 ...
1. Shane Victorino
Don't worry/'Bout a thing ...
I'll tell you, sometimes it hasn't been easy coming up with these monthly top fives for this year's Red Sox. More so than with any other winning Sox team in recent memory, it's been ... well, it's been a team effort. Mike Napoli drives in 27 runs in April as David Ortiz is working his way back, then Papi picks up the slack as Napoli goes into whiff mode. Felix Doubront becomes the dependable lefty when Jon Lester falters. Koji Uehara becomes the team's third closer of the season, and does the job as well as anyone ever has for the franchise. And on and on, a different standout every day. But this month, coming up with No. 1 on this list was as pleasant as singing along with a familiar Marley song, which some of you have taken doing at Fenway thanks to Victorino's "Three Little Birds'' walk-up music. Victorino had a brilliant month -- he went .328/.392/.578 with 7 homers, 22 RBIs (doubling his previous high month's total of June) and a .970 OPS. Over the last 13 games of August, he hit .434 with a 1.303 OPS. Oh, and his defense in right field is impeccable. As long as he's playing like this, every little thing is gonna be all right.
2. Koji Uehara
What more is there to say? He's been as automatic as automatic gets, at least this side of vintage Eck or Mo Rivera. He's having a season, in terms of rate stats if not counting stats, on par with Craig Kimbrel's '12 and Eric Gagne's beast-mode '03. He has more than twice as many innings pitched (61.1) as hits allowed (29) and more than nine times as many strikeouts (83) as walks (9). He did not allow a run in August, spanning 10 appearances. He did not allow an earned run in July, spanning 10 appearances. He has not allowed an earned run since June 30, 54 Red Sox games and 35 Uehara appearances ago. But of all the ridiculous numbers he's putting up, here is my favorite collection -- his stats over the past 365 days:
I'm not kidding when I say he should get at least cursory consideration on the MVP ballot.
3. Jake Peavy
His Angry Bird Fidrych routine on the mound is a riot -- I like to think I've been pretty familiar with his work over his stellar 12-year career, but I had no idea was such a competitive nut when he's on the mound. Less surprising, but just as fun, is how he has been everything the Red Sox hoped he'd be when they acquired him July 30. In six starts, he's 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA, a .958 WHIP, and a 24/6 K/BB ratio. He's allowed two runs or fewer in five of those starts, with just the one six-run hiccup against Kansas City during his second Red Sox start. Don't know about your choice, but I think he'd be my choice to start a one-game playoff or Game 1 of a longer postseason series.
4. The left side of the infield
Stephen Drew in August:
And Will Middlebrooks since his recall from Pawtucket exile August 10:
5. Henry Owens
Will he get to Boston next season?
I'm trying to avoid overhyping Owens, the Red Sox' touted lefthanded pitching prospect. Really, I am. He's 21 years old. He's made just six starts above Single A. He doesn't throw all that hard, topping out in the low-90s. He walked a batter every other inning at two levels this year. Pitching prospects, even the best of them, can be thrown off the path with a single twinge in the elbow. He's not perfect ... and yet, resistance is futile. How do you not get excited about this kid? He's 21 years old. He made just six starts above Single A, posting a 1.78 ERA and striking out 46 against 18 hits and 15 walks in 30.1 innings. He doesn't throw all that hard, but he's already a master of deception, and he certainly throws hard enough -- this isn't Kevin Morton here. Yes, he needs better command, and increased velocity wouldn't hurt. But if he stays on the path he took this year, he may find himself on the Fenway Park mound before next summer is through.
There's not much to gripe about with the Red Sox right now. So instead of forcing five downers from August, let's consider the sad saga of Daniel Bard, and the cruel irony that he is exactly what the Red Sox need right now.
Not the current version of Daniel Bard, of course. This Daniel Bard is a scatter-armed, confused shell of the pitcher who was one of the finest late-inning relievers in the majors from 2009-11, and his designation for assignment this week, so unthinkable just two years ago, has felt like a sad inevitability for awhile now.
No, what they could use, in a bullpen that has dealt with an overabundance of attrition and didn't get any help by the August 31 deadline, is someone just like what Bard was at his best. Consider the 2010 version: a 1.93 ERA, 45 hits in 74.2 innings, 76 strikeouts, and a 1.004 WHIP. The next season, his ERA rose more than a run (3.33), but most of his other numbers mirrored his '10 season, and his WHIP actually dropped to 0.96. Imagine that guy setting up Koji Uehara. It's be ideal.
That feels like such a long time ago now. It goes without saying that the Red Sox made a huge mistake in converting him to a starter -- and messing with his mechanics in the process -- in spring 2012. It's all gone wrong since then. His velocity, which he depends upon because of so-so secondary stuff, has never come back, and his control is frighteningly scatter-shot. In 15.1 innings at three minor-league levels this season, he walked 27 and threw 11 wild pitches.
I'm not sure if his troubles began last spring or during the final month of the 2011 season -- he was brutal that September, with a 10.64 ERA and nine walks over 11 innings in 11 appearances.
But this much we do know: His time with the Red Sox is apparently over. Wish we could say the same for his troubles on the mound.
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
July: Cherington, Gomes/Napoli, Doubront, Uehara, Pedroia.
Follow Chad Finn on Twitter at @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.