The Boston Red Sox limp into the All-Star break with a 43-43 record. While there are teams that would view a .500 record as an achievement at this stage of the season; for Boston, the record indicates a lower level of performance than fans have come to expect from this team.
As the team licks their wounds and prepares for the second half of the season, here is a report card of their performance thus far.
Beckett, Josh B-
More should be expected from Beckett entering the 2012 season. Coming off a disastrous September in 2011, Josh struggled some in his early season starts. Of late it appears that the righty has begun to find his form before his rough first inning on Friday. Despite giving up five runs in the first inning against the Yankees on Friday night, Josh bounced back in the game; grinding out four more innings of work while surrendering just one additional earned run. In May and June, he had a streak of seven straight games where he averaged seven innings of work. Two missed starts due to injury is no cause for concern; as the righty has missed time every season since arriving in Boston.
Cook, Aaron B-
After an injury-shortened Red Sox debut in May, Cook returned from a lacerated knee to pitch solidly for Boston. Cook has allowed five earned runs over 20 innings covering three starts; brining his earned run average to 4.37 for the season. On a pitching staff that has battled through injuries this year, cook's performance has been a welcomed addition.
Doubront, Felix B
Most consistent starter in the season's first two months, Doubront struggled in June with a 5.83 earned run average but battled well against the Yankees on Saturday. Felix currently leads Red Sox starters in wins (9), strikeouts (97) and earned run average (4.41). Doubront battled in the spring to secure the fifth starter role and has been a pleasant surprise this season; registering more than one strikeout per inning. Fenway Park attendees have not been lucky enough to witness some of his brilliance; as Doubront has been a much more effective pitcher on the road with a 5-1 record and 3.09 earned run average.
Lester, Jon C+
Lester has regressed since the second half of 2011. This year, Lester has allowed greater than one hit per inning while his strikeout ratio has declined compared to previous seasons. Prior to his July 3rd start against Oakland, Lester failed to allow fewer than three runs in his last eight starts. After performing solidly against the A's, Lester again struggled on Sunday against New York; surrendering four earned runs in just over four innings of work. The lefty has struggled with left handed hitters; giving up an opponent average of .269; 30 points higher than his career average.
Daniel Bard D
After a promising April start to the season, Daniel Bard lost control and confidence; ultimately being demoted to Pawtucket to regain his form. The former flame-throwing reliever was believed to be the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon as closer in Boston. During the off-season, Bard expressed a desire to become a starting pitcher. Unfortunately for Bard and the Red Sox, the 100-mile per hour velocity that became his trademark did not carry forth to the starting rotation. As a result, opposing hitters found greater success; batting .259 opponent's against him, while Bard's walk ratio has increased while his strikeout ratio decreased.
Daisuke Matsuzaka D-
Matsuzaka has struggled since his return from Tommy John surgery last year. Despite pitching five innings or more in his first four appearances, he had only one appearance where he allowed fewer than three runs. After a promising start on June 26 th , Matsuzaka was removed from his next appearance due to a sore neck after one inning; allowing runs on four hits allowed.
With a large number of capable arms who can fill the five starting rotation spots, Daisuke is likely to return from the disables list and placed on a very short leash.
Alfredo Aceves C+
After a solid season in 2011; one that demonstrated his versatility, the Red Sox turned to Aceves to fill in for injured closer Andrew Bailey. After a very rough April start, Aveves has settled in to his new role; saving 14 games in 15 opportunities. When entering a game with the bases empty, Aceves has been effective; allowing a .160 opponent's batting average. Conversely, with runners on base his opponent's average is .344; including a .364 average with runners in scoring position.
Matt Albers B
With a shaky starting rotation in 2012, the relievers have been a key component in keeping the Red Sox afloat. One pitcher that has been solid for Boston has been Albers, who has a respectable 2.38 earned run average in his 32 appearances. The righty has been effective against both left and right handed batters, with a total opponent's average of .215. Albers is best when entering a game with the bases empty; allowing a .179 opponents average as compared to surrendering a .259 average with runners on.
Scott Atchison B+
Going back to September of 2011, few relief pitchers have been as effective as Atchison has for the Red Sox. Atchison is having a solid season again for Boston; recording a career-best 1.79 earned run average. Scott has not surrendered a run in 29 of his 35 appearances and has allowed a 0.99 WHIP.
Mark Melancon D-
Expected to assume the set-up responsibilities for the Red Sox, Melancon has been bad to put it mildly. After recording a 49.50 earned run average through his first four appearances, Melancon was demoted to Pawtucket to work on his mechanics. Since returning, he has allowed just one earned run in his last 11 appearances; spanning 13 innings of work.
Andrew Miller B+
The lefty reliever has 21 strikeouts in 19 innings of work, with a 1.02 WHIP over 25 appearances. In his 12 May appearances, Miller recorded six holds and one win with a 2.38 earned run average; and currently ranks second on the team with 10 holds. As solid as he was in May Miller was even better in June. From late May till early July, Miller allowed just one earned run in 13 appearances.
Franklin Morales B+
Versatility has paid dividends for Boston and Morales has performed well once being inserted in the starting rotation. His poor outing on Saturday could equally be blamed on an ill-advised relief appearance three days prior as much as a potent Yankees lineup. Morales struck out 26 batters in 19 innings of work; allowing only four earned runs over his three starts prior to Saturday. Early in the season, Morales was solid in his set-up relief role, registering six holds in his first ten appearances.
Vicente Padilla C
Capable end of bullpen pitcher, Padilla struggled early to find his role on this pitching staff. Prior to his blown save on Friday, Padilla had allowed just one of the 19 runners that he inherited to score for the season. Since a rough April, Padilla has pitched well for Boston, allowing four earned runs in his last 23 appearances and is the team leader in holds with 19.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia B
Saltalamacchia benefited from a solid month of May (.308-6-15) to go from more of a platoon role to the primary backstop for the Red Sox. Never will be considered to be an elite defensive catcher, Jarrod has been solid in the role this season; utilizing his large frame to block errant pitches. Saltalamacchia leads all American league catchers in home runs, with a career-best 17 and warranted more all-star consideration; although his .167 average from June 6 th to the present certainly hurt his chances. With the all-star break upon him, Saltalamacchia can use the time off for some needed rest.
Kelly Shoppach B
The former Red Sox farmhand returned to Boston and has been solid offensively. For the season, Shoppach has hit .269 with a .527 slugging percentage. Kelly has performed well in pressure situations; with a .297 batting average with runners on base, including a .444 average with runners in scoring position with two outs.
Mike Aviles B
Proving to be a better hitter than expected when he first arrived in Boston, Aviles has been a solid producer for the Red Sox; hitting .311 in 2011 and .260 in 2012. Aviles has performed better in clutch situations; batting .329 with runners in scoring position. At the season's mid-way point, Aviles has nine home runs, two shy of his full season career high. While defensively he will never be confused with Ozzie Smith, he plays his position solidly.
Adrian González B-
Since last season's All-Star Home Run Derby, Gonzalez has struggled to find the power he demonstrated in the pars. A perennial 40 home run hitter, Gonzalez has been more of a singles hitter in 2012. To his credit, Adrian has not taken his plate issues into the field, where he has been a team-oriented player; assuming outfield duties this season in addition to his traditional gold glove first base work. Although lacking power in 2012, Gonzalez had his recent hitting streak of 16 straight broken on Sunday; a span of games that saw his season average raise from .257 to his current .283.
Will Middlebrooks A
His surprise performance this year made fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis expendable. Will exploded onto the scene in May with a .316 average in Youkilis' absence and followed up in June with a solid .288 average. Recent hamstring injury hampered Middlebrooks some lately but his plate discipline and solid glove has made the youngster a cornerstone of the team's present and future.
David Ortiz A
Showing the form that has made Ortiz one of baseball's most feared hitters, Ortiz arrived in camp this spring in great shape and with something to prove. Playing for a new contract, Ortiz began the year on a tear; hitting .405 with six home runs in April. Despite the fluctuating batting average, Big Papi's power production has been consistent throughout; slugging six or more home runs in each month; surpassing the 400 plateau on Sunday in Oakland. With little protection in the lineup against the Yankees over the weekend, Ortiz batted .539 to bring his first-half batting average to .312. With better protection in the middle of the lineup the remainder of the season, there is little doubt that a 35 home run, 100 RBI season is well within reach.
Dustin Pedroia B
The former Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player has struggled with injuries in 2012. After a strong start to the season (.301 and .290 in April and May respectively), injuries impacted his production. In June, Dustin hit below .200 while playing through a thumb injury. Just when it appeared that Pedroia was returning to form, another thumb injury was sustained and he has been placed on the disabled list.
Nick Punto D
Utility man has been valuable filling in defensively at second and third base but at the plate has been a disappointment. While not considered to be highly productive at the plate, June has been Punto's best month of thus far season; benefitting from more playing time and hitting .333 in 14 games. Punto had his best production of late; batting .416 in the weekend series against the Yankees. While his value is in his versatility, the fact he is playing so often should give Red Sox fans reason to be concerned.
Kalish, Ryan C
Once considered to be the team's top outfield prospect, Kalish has struggled at the plate this season; batting .217 in 17 games. With players returning from injury, his brief stint in Boston is about to end but still offers promise for the future. The left-handed outfielder has been surprisingly productive against lefty pitching; hitting .273 in limited plate appearances.
Daniel Nava B+
A highly regarded prospect, Nava has produced well in his stint with Boston. For the season, the switch-hitting outfielder has hit .275; including a solid .312 average against right-handed pitching. With Crawford and Ellsbury expected to return. Nava will likely find his way to utility outfield duty or to the minors; but the team now knows what the kid can do when called upon.
Cody Ross A-
With a team second-best .537 slugging percentage, Ross has been a pleasant addition for Boston. Playing far more games than initially planned, Ross has taken full advantage of his opportunities; hitting .264 with 13 home runs in 56 games. June was Ross' best month; hitting .318 with a .705 slugging percentage and 1.066 OPS. For the season, Ross ranks among the best in baseball with a home run every 15.5 at bats.
Ryan Sweeney B+
When on the field, Sweeney has been a solid hitter for Boston; batting .283 for the season. Intended to be used in a platoon right field position with Cody Ross, Sweeney hits right-handed pitching well (.314) and played a solid right field at Fenway Park. After a strong April (.373), Sweeney cooled off in May (.254) before being placed on the disabled list in early June.
Bobby Valentine C
I will admit that I have not been a fan or supporter of Valentine from Day 1. I felt that he was not the right man for the job when he was hired and he did many things early in the season to validate my concern. His off-the-cuff comments alienated many of his players and the lackluster performance of his team will fairly or unfairly be leveled at his feet.
With a talented team, a .500 record is less than most fans would expect from the Red Sox. I will acknowledge that "Bobby V" has done better of late; especially in dealing with the inconsistent health status of his roster but ultimately the results of this team are what he will be judged on.
For all the Red Sox troubles in 2012, the team sits at .500 and still within striking distance of a playoff berth. If the starting pitching can ever find its form and the roster can maintain some measure of health, Boston could make significant strides to ascend the American League standings. The weekend series against the Yankees currently shows the gap that exists between themselves and the team they must overcome.
The core of Boston's issues lies in their top of the rotation starting pitching; where the duo of Lester and Beckett have combined for a 9-13 record and a 4.47 earned run average. Add Buchholz' abysmal earned run average and the top three pitchers for the Red Sox have an inflated ERA of 4.79. For a team that has championship aspirations, the top three starters need to produce far better if they have any hopes of ascending the standings.
For all the team's issues this year, there have been some pleasant surprises and some impressive performances. A series of divisional games are ahead and the starting rotation is expected to be healthy in the coming days. Being healthy and being productive are completely separate concepts. If the team can somehow figure out what ails them and live up to a portion of their prior billing, the team could overcome last season's collapse and bring playoff baseball back to Fenway Park this season.
Scott Duhaime is a life-long Boston Red Sox fan with a career statistics/analytics background. His passion for baseball and his quantitative skills translate into a deep analysis of player statistical contributions both to their respective teams and the sport in general.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @Scott_Duhaime .