At the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season, the Red Sox are in pretty good position, all things considered. While the Red Sox went 10-16 in the month of June and took a serious step back in the American League East, at the All-Star break, they find themselves only two games back of the Baltimore Orioles with a 49-38 record.
Lets take it around the horn with the BBS staff and give some grades to this Red Sox team...
Pete: C-. There is no other way to say it, David Price was the biggest underachiever of the first half. However, we have seen flashes of dominance in the past 10+ starts and his ERA is slowly creeping down to sub-4 range. Considering how terrible Price was at the beginning of the season, I doubt he will have a comparable second half.
Matt: D. Although he has improved his stuff over the past month, Price has been nowhere near the ace that we expected when we signed him. Too many mistakes have lead to too many bad performances, and luckily the offense has bailed him out of most of them. That being said, this is only a first half grade, and he seems to be trending in the right direction for the second half of the season.
Will: C+. As Pete noted, Price had a handful of dominant starts, and has steadily improved from his 6.75 ERA back on May 7. But he has been far from an ace overall, and will need to post a great second-half to improve his stock. If his most recent start was any indication of things to come, that looks like a safe bet.
The Rest of the Starting Rotation
Pete: B-. All things considered, you have to like what we have seen from the top-half of the rotation. Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have been absolutely fantastic, and the Red Sox have really not had a consistent #4 or #5 all year. If the Red Sox were to somehow able to get even a reliable #4, they will be in good shape moving forward.
Matt: B. The bulk of this grade is coming from Steven Wright and Rick Porcello. Wright, as we all know has been outstanding with a 2.68 ERA at the break. Porcello has quietly had a very decent season with an 11-2 record and a 3.66 ERA. Obviously the bottom half of the rotation has been a mess between Kelly, Rodriguez, Buchollz, O'Sullivan etc, but if the Sox can add an arm and solidify the 4/5 slots in the rotation, they'll be in good shape.
Will: B. Porcello and Wright get an A+, but everyone else gets a D (and that's being generous). Unfortunately, the Red Sox need to acquire two starters as the Nos. 4 and 5, because they're screwed if they keep having to trot out Buchholz, Kelly and E-Rod.
Pete: B+. One of the few bright spots, aside from Koji Uehara and perhaps Junichi Tazawa, has been the bullpen. Because the starters have not been able to go deep into ballgames, the Red Sox have had to rely on Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross Jr., and Matt Barnes much more than they anticipated. My only fear is that these guys will get burnt out in a couple more weeks if things continue onward.
Matt: C-. Even with the troubles Kimbrel has faced, he has been the most important and dominant part of this bullpen. Outisde of Kimbrel, Red Sox fans need to hold their breath. Tazawa and Uehara have proved to be very inconsistent, especially in close games. While Hembree, Ross and Barnes have been a decent suprise, I don't think I'm alone when saying I'm not 100% confident with them on the mound. Ziegler threw an 8-pitch shutout in his Sox debut and will hopefully be able to fill Carson Smith's spot going forward.
Will: B-. Losing Carson Smith seemed like a major blow to the bullpen, but they've been good without him. Hembree and Barnes have been vastly underrated, and Ross has become increasingly reliable. Kimbrel has been lights-out in save situations, and Ziegler should be just fine in his absence. Once Kimbrel returns, Ziegler should help shoulder the load with Tazawa and Koji in the late innings. If those two can rebound a little bit, the Red Sox will have an enviable bullpen.
Pete: A-. It is hard to complain when you have two All-Star starters in your three-man outfield, but the Red Sox still desperately need a consistent left fielder. With no clear return date for Chris Young and Blake Swihart, the Red Sox may need to explore the trade market if they believe Bryce Brentz cannot take the load of being an everyday MLB outfielder.
Matt: B+. Trying to find a problem with the outfield involves a lot of nitpicking. Overall, Center and Right have been as solid as it gets, but we all know the problem is in left. Between Holt, Young, Swihart and Brentz, the Sox have had trouble finding consistency at that position. However, the revolving door of players hasn't proven to be a fatal flaw, and the Sox can solve that problem internally.
Will: A. Remember just a short time ago when over-the-hill Grady Sizemore was a starting outfielder for Boston? Those days are long gone. Bradley Jr. and Betts have been as good as it gets, and the tandem of Holt/Young in left field has been just fine, with Brentz providing some welcomed depth. Don't let the early injuries fool you; the outfield is rock-solid.
Pete: A-. Again, no complaints really. The only reason they do not get a perfect grade is because of the rotating door at third base. Everyone thought that Travis Shaw would come out and be a potential All-Star third basemen, but Red Sox Nation may be coming to the sobering reality that Shaw may not be what they thought. Hopefully he can get healthy and get back on track.
Matt: A. At the beginning of the the season I expected this grade to be a lot lower because of one player: Hanley Ramirez. However, it took Hanley over a month to record his first error of the season, and has surprisingly been a valuable asset to this team. With Pedroia, Bogaerts and Shaw playing along side, I don't see the infield ever being a problem for the Sox this season.
Will: A. Show me a true weakness on the infield, if you dare. Bogaerts and Pedroia have both played at an All-Star level, while Hanley and Shaw have seen much-needed offensive surges this season. The only issue remains at catcher with Vazquez's offense, but his defense more than covers his liabilities at the plate...especially if Sandy Leon keeps a hot bat.
Pete: Incomplete. What we have seen out of Aaron Hill, Chris Young and others has been good in spurts, but the Red Sox do not have consistent bench depth that I believe is necessary to win a World Series. I would like to see them get one more guy, and I need to see the news guys play more to give an honest evaluation. However, because I'm not a quitter, I will give the bench as currently constituted a C.
Matt: C-. This is a tough grade to give because Dombrowski just made a few moves to improve the bench, but we haven't seen them play much. It's no secret the bench has been very weak after all the injuries, but the Sox have made moves to improve it. Hill and Martinez will no doubt add a few more bats, and will be able to jump in at any position to give the starters breaks. Overall, it feels like when the Red Sox have to go to their bench, they're in trouble. Hopefully a few acquisitions can change that.
Will: N/A. It's tough to grade the bench until after the trade deadline, especially since the constant call-up/send-downs and platooning have muddied what actually constitutes the "Red Sox bench". For now, it looks like Aaron Hill, Michael Martinez and whomever is not playing left field (Holt or Young) on a given day will provide the Sox with options off the bench.
Pete: C-. I know that everyone wants to use Farrell as a scapegoat, but I think he has been an essential non-factor in most of these situations. Sure, he has put the Red Sox in some lose-lose situations, but he's the freakin' manager. It is hard to say the manager is singlehandedly the reason that this team has struggled at times.
Matt: D. He has to go. Plain and simple. I understand that he doesn't have much to work with in the rotation and bullpen, but that doesn't excuse his mistakes. It's almost a nightly occurence that Farrell has people, even Eckersley calling the game, scratching their heads. From his player's days off, to leaving the starters in too long, Farrell is going to cost this team games as long as he's here.
Will: D. Farrell owes his job to Bogaerts, Ortiz, Betts and Wright, because if it weren't for those four, he'd be trying to hitch a ride on a highway somewhere. His awful decision-making both on the field and in the bullpen have already cost the Sox a handful of games. Hopefully, it won't end up being the team's demise.
Pete: B+. Dombrowski has made every move that he said he was going to make up until this point and has come as advertised. Sure, he needs to get a front-end starter, but I am happy that, up until this point, he has not made an impulse move and traded the likes of Andrew Benintendi or Yoan Moncada. I am extremely interested to see what Dombrowski does not only at the Trade Deadline, but the offseason as well.
Matt: B+. The Red Sox had a very good offseason acquring the best starting pitcher in FA, and arguably the best closer in baseball. Dombrowski filled two big needs with two of the best, even adding Smith as a setup guy for Kimbrel. However, people like to get on Dombrowski because there are still holes. He's done well to fill the needs of the bench adding Hill/Martinez, and Ziegler to fill Smith and Kimbrel's spot for the time being. People need to understand that the pitching market is terrible right now, so simply tweeting "Get some pitching, Dave" isn't helping.
Will: A. The only real criticism on Dombrowski is the fact that he hasn't acquired a top-end starter yet. But if his assertion that the asking prices are sky-high for those players is true, then it's good that he hasn't emptied the team's farm system yet. He's made a handful of nice, under-the-radar moves this season between Ziegler, Hill and Martinez. Expect a few more of those kind of deals before the deadline.
Biggest Guy To Watch In The Second Half
Pete: You can pretty much pick any starting pitcher, any of the six All-Stars, Dave Dombrowski or John Farrell, and you would not be wrong. However, I am going to pick the $217 million man and say David Price. If Price can pitch in the second half like he was when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays, then the Red Sox could make a legitimate run in the playoffs.
Matt: Possibly the MVP of the first half of the season, David Ortiz is currently sitting on 22 homeruns, 34 doubles and a .332 average. We all knew Ortiz was good, but not this good, especially at the age of 40. The big question now is if he can keep it up for the second half. Ortiz has several problems with his feet and it shows with his lack of running. With a legendary first half, I think I speak for all Red Sox fans when I say Ortiz will be a sight to see in his last 80 or so games.
Will: The star of the Red Sox rotation thus far, Steven Wright needs to keep his knuckleball elusive in the second half of the season. If he enters the postseason as the No. 3 starter and with a still-dominant knuckler, you certainly have to like Boston's postseason chances.