So here we are. The All Star Break. That wonderful time of year when the winds are warm, most of the Boys of Summer are on hiatus for a few days while the best of MLB do (exhibition) battle in the Mid-Summer Classic and the “back-back-back-back-back” banter of Chris Berman becomes truly grating.
Your Boston Red Sox arrive at the mid-point of the season with 58 wins and 39 losses. The Olde Towne Team boasts the most wins of any team in baseball, and they’re in first place in the American League East – Two-and-a-half games ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Rays.
(I’m sure all 14 of the Rays’ fans are excited. But, I digress…)
All is good, right? Well, maybe.
Call it old-fashioned New England pessimism. Call it plain-old cynicism. The Red Sox have some questions as they move into the second half of the season.
The de facto ace of the staff (read: the guy that got the Opening Day start), Jon Lester, doesn’t look much like an ace. He’s got a winning record (8-6) thus far, but he’s struggled his last few starts.
Since May 12, against the Yankees, Lester has gone 7 innings just twice. And in those nine starts, he’s given up 37 earned runs. Ol’ Jonny K’s gonna have to pitch more like the Jon Lester that went 9 innings and only gave up one lonely run in a 5-0 shutout of the Blue Jays way back on May 10 if he wants to help his team continue its pace in the second half of the season.
Clay Buchholz. Remember him? The pitcher with the patchy beard that was cutting through American League lineups when before he got hurt in early June?
Well, there’s not much more to say about his pitching prowess, but you have to wonder about the tall Texan’s durability. This isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to injuries. It might not be his last.
Andrew Miller is out for the season. So, already, the Red Sox have lost a significant amount in the Hippie-looking Left-handed Reliever category. But probably more importantly, the Sox lost a left-handed reliever who was pitching pretty well went he went down with foot issues.
And Matt Thornton, the LHP whom the Red Sox acquired from the White Sox last week, took the loss in his first appearance in a Boston uniform Sunday against Oakland. He now has an ERA of 13.50 and a WHIP of 4.5. So, nowhere to go but up, right?
The closer position is still a question for the Sox, even though Mr. High Five himself – Koji Uehara – has been lights-out in the role. Joel Hanrahan ain’t walking through that door, and the closer formerly known as Andrew Bailey won’t be taking the ball in the ninth inning any time soon.
Jose Iglesias has been nothing short of a revelation since he arrived in Boston, seemingly to stay, earlier this season. The young Cuban has been as advertised (read: spectacular) defensively, and his presence at the plate has been a nice surprise.
But, Iglesias’ Williamsian batting average of .367 at the break is nearly 70 points lower than it was at the beginning of June. Iglesias was never expected to continue putting up Wade Boggs-type numbers in the batting-average column, but one has to wonder when all those high choppers up the middle will stop turning into hits.
And then there’s Will Middlebrooks, the once and former starting third-baseman who has since been exiled to the confines of McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Will he get his swing back? Will he be splitting time with Iglesias at third when Stephen Drew comes back from the disabled list?
Ninety-seven games into the season. Stephen Drew has been on the DL twice. To be fair, he was injured once in Spring Training, but still.
The younger Drew is slated to join the big club again soon, but it seems inevitable (he had injury issues before signing with Boston) he’ll visit the DL again at some point.
So far this season, the Sox have managed to mask the hole at short with the phenomenal play of those such as Iglesias and lesser-knowns like Brock Holt. But how long can that last?