Monday, July 11, 2011

A Look Back at the First Half

This is from April, following a sweep by the Indians, and an 0-6 start

Today is the start of the Major League Baseball All Star break, the proverbial halfway mark of the season. It has been a pretty wild first half for the local nine. It started with panic, as the team with such high expectations got off to a horrible 2-10 start. After that, they have been the best team in baseball. Their offense has been clicking for the majority of the time following that, and they have gotten a lot of good pitching. The Red Sox still have some strengths, and some weaknesses, but are still poised for a run in October if they play to their potential in the second half. Here are some superlatives for the first half of the year.

First Half MVP:
Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez came into the season with big expectations after the Red Sox gave up a huge package of prospects him, and he has somehow surpassed those expectations. He currently sports a league-leading .352 batting average, and a ridiculous 1.001 OPS. He also leads the league with 77 RBI to go along with his 17 homers and 28 doubles. On top of all of that, he has been playing Gold Glove-caliber defense, and heads into the break with 4.8 wins above replacement (rWAR).

First Half Cy Young:
Josh Beckett
Who could have predicted this one? Coming into the season, Jon Lester was the expected ace of the staff, with Clay Buchholz expected to be the guy if Lester couldn't perform up to his standards. However, Lester has not been up to par by his standards, and Buchholz has been average, and hurt for quite some time. Beckett has carried this pitching staff, and had a case for starting the All Star game, although that honor went to Jered Weaver. Beckett heads into the break with a 7-2 record and a 2.27 RBI. He has thrown one complete game shutout, and also leads the league in hits per nine innings with a 5.8 rate.

Least Valuable Player
John Lackey
This was a tough one, and it obviously came down to John Lackey and JD Drew. Ultimately, it came down to who I thought affected more losses, and in my opinion, that's Lackey. Drew has been horrible, no doubt, but the rest of the offense has been good enough on a lot of nights to make up for the absence in his bat. Despite pitching well in his last start, Lackey has been horrid this year. He has an ERA of 6.84 along with a 1.544 WHIP. He has generally been leaving a large number of pitches right over the heart of the plate, and has had plenty of early exits. He leads the league in hits batsmen (11) and is also averaging less strikeouts per nine innings since his rookie year (5.9).

Most Underused Player
Josh Reddick
This was a pretty obvious one. The 24 year old outfielder has been showing all year that he deserves to play on basically an everday player, but Terry Francona continues to resist. JD Drew has had his much publicized struggles, and Reddick has been forced to compete with him as well as Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron, before he was DFA'd. To this point, Reddick has a ridiculous .414/.455/.707 triple-slash line in 22 games played. Expect his playing time to continue to grow as the season goes on. When Carl Crawford returns from the DL, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for Reddick to take over the majority of the playing time in right field from JD Drew.

Most Overused Player
Darnell McDonald
In the above question, I mainly focused on the struggles of JD Drew. However, Darnell McDonald has been ever worse. After Mike Cameron got DFA'd, McDonald lost his partner in crime of sucking, and has had to hold that spotlight by himself now. McDonald has played 15 more games than Reddick, and is posting a not-so-comparable triple slash line of .143/.200/.257. He has just two home runs, and an absolutely atrocious OPS+ of 24. The average OPS+ for the Majors is always 100. 

Most Underrated Player
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
While Saltalamacchia has not been a star this year by any stretch of the imagination, he has been giving production better than many teams have been getting from their catcher. After his horrid start in the first two months, he has been getting back on track. The former top prospect has posted a triple-slash line of .251/.320/.437, which is very respectable. Again, these are not superstar numbers, but he plays at a position where most teams get weak production, and he has been one of the better catchers in baseball this year.

Most Overrated Player
Jon Lester
It disappoints me to say this, because I don't think Lester has been bad this year by any means. However, listening to the various sports radio station, people seem to think he has been great this year, when he has really just been good. So far, he has a 10-4 record with a 3.31 ERA. The reason most people heap all of this praise on him is because of wins. Well, most people by now realize that wins are not how you measure a starter's performance, or at least I thought. People were up in arms when Lester was initially left off the All Star roster, even though he has not put up All Star numbers. With all of that being said, I think Lester has a good chance to lower that ERA in the second half, and possibly even put himself back into the thick of the Cy Young race by year's end.

The Red Sox finish the first half with a 55-35 record, which is good enough for the second best record in baseball, and the best in the American League. They lead the Yankees by a game in the American League East. Their schedule will start back up on Friday in Tampa against the Rays, who are in third place, trailing the Sox by six games.                  

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