Grading scale

The Red Sox (27-19) are in first place, with the second-best record in the American League (Texas is now 27-18 after last night’s win over New York). Not shabby for a team with so many lingering “issues.” I mean, as if there weren’t enough to pore over, we’re going to create an unwarranted “What’s wrong with Papelbon?” concern? Please.

At the end of this road trip, the Red Sox will have played one-third of the 2009 season, which in baseball circles unofficially ends the evaluation period. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

Kevin Youkilis – A
Missed time with an oblique injury, but it’s tough to find much fault with a .486 on-base percentage. Demeanor may continue to rub people the wrong way.
Dustin Pedroia – A-minus
Leads the team with 60 hits. Not much pop in the bat as of yet. Will be interesting to see if that changes now that he’s no longer hitting in front of Ortiz for the time being.
Julio Lugo – D-minus
Atrocious in the field, but he hasn’t been all useless with the bat. So, there’s that…
Mike Lowell – B-plus
So much for that hip remaining a concern.
Jason Varitek – C
Better slugging percentage than either JD Drew or Dustin Pedroia. But if he’s such a master of handling the pitching staff, then what has he done with Jon Lester?
Jason Bay – A
What do the following names have in common: Bay, Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Morneau? The short list for AL MVP. Too bad we’re going to have to be on contract watch much of the summer while he’s putting up these numbers.
Jacoby Ellsbury – B-minus
Hitting streak aside, Ellsbury’s .335 OBP is ranked ninth among AL leadoff men with at least 150 plate appearances (coincidentally, Coco Crisp is eighth). Only Ichiro (seven) has walked fewer times batting leadoff than Ellsbury (10). Of course, nobody in the AL has more hits (59) out of that position either. Patience still needs to be his virtue.
JD Drew – C
It’s kind of impossible to feel passionately one way or the other.
David Ortiz – F
On the bright side…um…forget it.
Nick Green – D
Nice: .794 OPS. Putrid: Eight errors. Prior to 2009, that’s as many as he had total dating back to 2006.
Rocco Baldelli – C-minus
The Red Sox have Rocco Baldelli?
George Kottaras- C-minus
He hasn’t Josh Bard-ed under the pressure of catching Tim Wakefield, so give him that. Couple hits the other afternoon was good to see.
Josh Beckett – B
Other than back-to-back poor outings against the Yankees and Rays, Beckett has allowed three or fewer runs in five of his other six starts. The 5.01 ERA doesn’t scream “ace,” but he’s worked that down from 7.22 at the start of the month. Not a major concern.
Jon Lester – D
Has allowed five runs or more in six of his 10 starts this season and offenses are hitting him at a .307 clip. His 1.60 WHIP is the highest for any Sox starter not named Daisuke Matsuzaka. If that doesn’t get better, Clay Buchholz may yet have his opening.
Daisuke Matsuzaka – F
We could be nice and give Matsuzaka the ol’ incomplete. But each start has been so brutal, it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the class.
Tim Wakefield – B-plus
I mean, if you don’t know by now what to expect…
Brad Penny – C-plus
And tonight’s starter for your Milwaukee Brewers…
Manny Delcarmen – A
I think we may want to prepare to see Delcarmen go before the trading deadline. In fact, is a package of the aformentioned Penny and Delcarmen enough to wrangle JJ Hardy from the Brewers? Probably not.
Ramon Ramirez – A
I’d say both sides are happy with that deal, no?
Hideki Okajima – A
Remarkably leads the team in strikeouts per nine innings (10.35).
Takashi Saito – A
Hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 9.
Justin Masterson – C
Returned to his bullpen role with a nice three-inning stint on Friday. Really, he’s had just one bad outing coming into a game in relief (four hits, three runs in one inning of work at Los Angeles).
Daniel Bard – B-plus
So far, so good.
Jonathan Papelbon – B-plus
The 11 walks and home runs the past few games are a bit of a concern, but they’re easily drowned out by his overall dependency. Saturday night was his first blown save of the season. At this point last year, he had two (on back-to-back nights).

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