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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Atchison’

Still nothing to write home about yet.  Arnie Beyeler, who’s been managing the PawSox, is our new first base coach.  Greg Colbrunn, formerly of the Evil Empire, is our new hitting coach.  Victor Rodriguez, our former minor league coordinator, is our new assistant hitting coach.

As far as players are concerned, we’ve non-tendered Ryan Sweeney, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison.  We traded Zach Stewart, who we got from the Other Sox for Kevin Youkilis, to the Pirates for a player to be named later.  Last but not least, although we claim that we’re still working on resigning Cody Ross, we worked out a two-year deal worth ten million dollars for Johnny Gomes pending a physical.

In other news, the Pats beat the Colts, 59-24, and the Jets, 49-19.

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I wanted to go out with a bang.  I really did.  I was really hoping that, since we were playing the Yankees for our last series and therefore our last game of the year, we would do something to remind the world that we may have had a worse-than-worst year this year but we’d be back with a vengeance next year.  I was hoping that we’d do something spectacular, like score a ton of runs or pitch exceptionally well, which for us, given the season we’ve had, would be nothing short of spectacular.  I was hoping we’d have a hand in deciding who would win the division.  At the most basic level, I was at least hoping that we’d walk away with our heads held high after a win over our archenemy.

Instead, we ended the season in a more appropriate fashion: with bad hitting, bad pitching, and a bad loss.  We got shelled.  And that’s much more indicative of our season this year than any win would have been.

Dice-K got the nod to start, and speaking of lasts, this may have been the last time you see Dice-K wear our uniform.  If that’s true, this start was a similarly appropriate end for him because it was mediocre at the very best.  He gave up five runs on six hits while walking one and striking out two over the course of only two and one-third innings.  He threw forty-three pitches, twenty-seven of which were strikes.  He went one-two-three in the first using only six pitches.  But then he gave up a single and a walk to lead off the second before notching his second and final strikeout and giving up a three-run home run on his first pitch of the at-bat.  He induced a groundout to start the third but then gave up another single followed by another home run.  After giving up a single, Mortensen came on to finish the third inning.

Mortensen went one-two-three in the fourth and got the first out of the fifth, but then he gave up a double and a two-run home run of his own followed by two consecutive walks on five pitches each.  Beato then came in and finished the fifth.  To begin the sixth, he hit a batter, gave up a single, induced a groundout, and issued a five-pitch walk.  Atchison then came in and gave up a single that scored two runs.  He finished the sixth before Carpenter came on for the seventh and gave up a solo shot on his sixth pitch.  He then issued a four-pitch walk, induced a lineout, gave up a single and then a double that scored two runs, and issued another walk.  Breslow then came in and issued a four-pitch walk to load the bases and gave up a single and a sac fly that plated one run each before finally recording the last out.  Tazawa went one-two-three in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Ellsbury had singled on the second pitch of the game and scored on a single by Ross two outs later.  And with two out in the seventh, Ciriaco doubled and scored on a single by Iglesias.  That was all.  It was our last chance to score runs for half a year and we only came up with two.  Other than that, we hardly threatened at all.  Rare was the occasion when we got a runner past first base or multiple runners on base.  By the time the game was over, hardly any of the Yankees’ starters were left on the field.

The final score was a crushing and humiliating 14-2.  Only Ross and Ciriaco had multi-hit games; they each went two for three.  Pedroia and Lavarnyway were the only ones who walked; each walked once.  We pounded out a grand total of eight hits, only three of which were for extra bases, and all three of them were doubles.

And so ends the most disappointing season in recent memory.  There’s nothing new to say.  We’ve been losing so consistently and for such a long time that every possible way I could express the anger and confusion and frustration and embarrassment that we have steadily experienced this year has already been used to express it.  We end hte season on an eight game losing streak and have only won one of our last thirteen games.  We finish with a record of sixty-nine and ninety-three, our worst since 1965, which corresponds with a winning percentage of .426.  We also finish twenty-six games out of first place in our division.  We’re last in our division for the first time since 1992 and third-to-last in the league.  It was awful.  For an entire season we had to sit through injury after injury, loss after loss, and drama after drama.  It was just crushing and exhausting and frustrating and infuriating.  And strange; the Orioles are in the playoffs, and the Nationals have the best record in all of Major League Baseball? Who knew? But one thing’s for sure: we’ve got a lot of work to do this offseason.  A lot of work to do.  It’s going to be a long, cold winter, but hopefully it’ll be a busy one as the brass figures out how to fix this mess.  We only have our hope for next year now.

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We played a two-game series against the Rays and got swept.

Tuesday’s game began auspiciously with us paying tribute to the 2004 team.  But it didn’t end well.  Buchholz pitched as decently as any of our other starters this year, but in terms of the way he’s been pitching lately, his start was mediocre at best.  He gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings while walking two and striking out five.  In the second, he gave up two walks followed by a home run that score three.  And in the sixth, he gave up two straight singles and then another single two batters later that scored two runs, one of which was made possible by Nava’s fielding error, hence the unearned run.  Atchison pitched the seventh and to one batter in the eighth, Miller pitched the rest of the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth.

We got on the board in the second; we started the inning with two back-to-back singles followed by a flyout, and Valencia batted in our first run with a single.  We started the third with a strikeout and then hit two back-to-back singles again.  This inning possibly did us in, because if we’d been able to take full advantage of our opportunity there, it’s possible that perhaps we could have won in the end.  But a caught-stealing at third basically put a damper on things.  Pedroia doubled after that, and we scored on a balk.  And that was it.  The final score was 2-5.

On Wednesday, Lester pitched six innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five.  He was solid for most of it but unraveled at the end.  All three runs were scored via the home run.  He gave up a single in the fifth followed by two consecutive home runs.  Mortensen came on for the seventh and gave up a single, and then Hill came on and gave up another single; three at-bats later, Hill gave up an RBI double.  Melancon finished the seventh and pitched the eighth, and Breslow pitched the ninth.

We had actually scored first; Salty walked and scored on a single by Nava in the second.  And then Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a single by Ross, and scored on a sac fly by Loney.  The final score was 2-4.

Wednesday’s game actually began auspiciously as well with us announcing the All-Fenway team comprised of our greats throughout our long and illustrious history, with plenty of old faces and plenty of new.  The starting lineup included Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Pedroia, Wade Boggs, Nomar, Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Jonathan Papelbon, Papi, and Terry Francona.  The first reserves included Jason Varitek, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Doerr, Mike Lowell, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Dom DiMaggio, Trot Nixon, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Tim Wakefield, Dennis Eckersley, Dick Radatz, and Joe Cronin.  The second reserves included Rich Gedman, George Scott, Jerry Remy, Frank Malzone, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Rice, Reggie Smith, Tony Conigliaro, Babe Ruth, Smoky Joe Wood, Curt Schilling, Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg, and Dick Williams.  And, last but not least, the pinch hitter was Bernie Carbo and the pinch runner was none other than Dave Roberts.

Why before Wednesday’s game? Because Wednesday’s game was our last home game of the year.  It would have been nice to win it.  Instead we will finish the season with our worst record at home since 1965 and our first losing record at home since 1997: 34-47.  Now Fenway will soon be covered with snow, silent in the long, cold winter that lies ahead with only the bitter memory of losing as an aftertaste.

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The badness keeps on coming and coming.  It just doesn’t stop.  Just when you think we somehow finally pulled it together with hardly any games left to play so that at least we can go out with our heads held high, we reach a new low.

I don’t even know where to start.  I’ll start with the hitters, because there’s less to discuss, which was obviously a big part of the problem.  We actually scored first; Ciriaco hit the fourth pitch of the game for a single, stole second, and scored on a single by Ellsbury.  We were still leading after three; Iglesias worked a five-pitch walk to start the third, Ciriaco singled, and then Ellsbury singled and Pedroia grounded into a force out to bring both of them in.  That was the last time we led because those were the last runs we scored.  Of the rest of our innings, four were spent going down in order, and in the two remaining innings we only had one runner on at one time in each, none of whom went past first.

The Rays were not so unlucky because our pitchers were awful.  They were just embarrassingly, pathetically awful.  It all started with Dice-K, who went one-two-three in the first, which was not at all an indication of what was to come.  In the second, he allowed three consecutive singles to load the bases and then walked in a run, all without recording an out.  In the third, he gave up a single, which turned into a double thanks to a steal and then into a run one out later thanks to another single.  He gave up a solo shot on his third pitch of the fourth followed by a single and another home run followed by a double.

That was when Aceves came in.  Aceves got out of the fourth and even pitched through the fifth.  But he got into trouble in the sixth.  To start the inning, he issued a five-pitch walk.  Then he gave up single, and both runners advanced thanks to his throwing error.  Then he gave up a bases-clearing triple that may as well have been a home run because the hitter scored also on a missed catch by Ciriaco.  Then Aceves gave up a double.

That was when Bard came in.  Bard did not get out of the sixth.  It only took him nine pitches to issue two consecutive walks.  He then gave up a sac fly that scored one run and a single that scored another.  He then issued another five-pitch walk to load the bases.

That was when Miller came in.  Miller didn’t get out of the sixth, either.  He also issued two consecutive walks, which both walked in runs since the bases were loaded and reloaded.

That was when Atchison came in.  Atchison got out of the sixth and even pitched through the seventh.  Carpenter came on for the eighth and gave up a double.  He got the first out on a flyout, but then the runner advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a single.  Two walks and one out later, the bases were loaded again, but Carpenter managed to close the door this time.

So, after all was said and done, the final score was 13-3.  We made two errors and passed one ball, but all of the runs we allowed were earned.  In total, our pitchers struck out five but walked ten and allowed fifteen hits.  That’s right.  We walked twice as many batters and allowed three times as many hits as strikeouts.  Dice-K took the loss.  The only pitcher under whose watch no runner crossed the plate was Atchison.  That’s one pitcher out of six.  It was so bad that, after the Rays, who are supposedly in a slump right now, scored seven runs in the sixth, there was a massive exit of most of the starters to start the seventh inning.

And just like that, we’ve clinched our first losing season since 1997.

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It’s a sad, sad day when your goal for the season’s end is just to stay out of last place.  And it’s even more sad when you’re in the process of failing at that goal.  This series with the Jays was a big opportunity for us to make a dent and claw our way out of the basement.  Our loss last night didn’t exactly help our cause.

Unfortunately, it’s very simple.  The Jays scored.  We didn’t.  The end.

Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out seven over the course of seven innings.  So it was a very solid, very quality start, and it should never have been the case even remotely that it would be possible for us to lose.  The problem was entirely the seventh inning, and objectively speaking, even the seventh inning wasn’t all that bad.

Neither team scored through six and a half, so it was a pitcher’s duel if there ever was one.  For our part, we had two men on base in the first and fourth, one on base in the second and seventh, and none on base in the third and fifth and sixth.  For his part, Lester was in absolute cruise control.  His stuff was as good as I’ve ever seen it; he looked like his old self again, and his struggles this year seemed like distant memories in comparison to how he was throwing.  I mean, his cut fastball, which is the natural and default indicator of his performance, had that characteristic sharpness and bite and movement that makes it so fatal for opposing hitters and so hard to read and hit.  He allowed a double in the third, gave up a walk and made a throwing error that resulted in a second runner in the fifth, and went one-two-three in the first, second, fourth, and sixth.

The seventh inning was what did us in.  Admittedly, maybe if we’d managed to get to the Jays before they’d gotten to us, their getting to us for as many runs as they did may not have had to have been a problem.  After two quick outs, Lester gave up a single, which may as well have been a double thanks to a stolen base.  Sure enough, it turned into a run on a single in the next at-bat.  And then he gave up a two-run home run before ending the inning.

We singled twice in the top of the eighth with one out, but it ended thanks to a double play.  The badness continued for our pitchers in the eighth, although it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  Bard came on to replace Lester and gave up a double on his very first pitch followed by an RBI single that was stretched in a double thanks to a fielding error by Kalish.  He then gave up a four-pitch walk before Miller replaced him.  Miller got the inning’s first out but put runners at the corners in the process.  Atchison then came on and gave up an RBI single before ending the inning.  And we went down in the top of the ninth.

The final score was five-zip.  The fact that we couldn’t come up with an answer to that, or any answer to anything at all, is the sad part.  Lester hurled a gem.  Lester hasn’t hurled a gem in way too long a time.  And he finally did in a game that was an opportunity for us to actually sweep a team, let alone win one just to avoid being swept ourselves.  And we just couldn’t get it done.  Instead of us being the sweepers, we had to settle for a series win, which is still more than we’ve gotten lately.

If that were all, I could deal with it.  But there’s more.  As of last night’s loss, we are officially eliminated from playoff contention.  It is now a certifiable impossibility for us to play postseason baseball this October.  Is is the indisputable, cold truth that will usher in a long, hard winter.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation that it’s something that we’ve known would happen for a while now in the sense that this is not a surprise.  Obviously there was still the believing and the keeping of the faith to be done, but at the end of the day, the team’s performance was the team’s performance.

This whole season has just been so epically frustrating.  None of the players who were supposed to deliver, delivered.  All of the players new on the scene have delivered recently but it’s too little too late.  Is it the players? Is it the manager? Is it the brass? We’re on the outside, and we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so who’s to say? But let’s not kid ourselves.  I knew since our previous offseason that something was wrong.  It just didn’t feel right.  I wanted to be wrong about that because I wanted us to do well, of course, but there was something that was just off.  But that doesn’t help things; no matter what, the results are the results.  We are now out of the playoffs officially.  And even though we knew that this was coming, it’s still painful when it finally happens because, like I said, there’s always that possibility lurking in the back of your mind, that perhaps it really isn’t too late for the team to pull it together.  But every time we’ve thought that this year, it hasn’t happened.  And now we’ll have nothing to show for it but a pathetic battle for second-to-last place so that we can at least preserve some measure of our dignity.  And what makes all of it even worse is the fact that the Yankees are still in it.  We didn’t even have an impact on anything October-related.  And now we’re going to have to sit back and watch as other teams that are no ours are still playing a month from now.

I’m telling you, I don’t care how not-surprising it is or how much we saw this coming.  It still hurts.  It’s humiliating and embarrassing and painful and devastating, and it hurts.  It doesn’t just hurt because of the simple fact that our season will end when the regular season ends.  It also hurts because we never even had a chance.

In other news, the Pats lost to the Cardinals in a close one, 20-18.

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I really hope last night’s contest was a sign of things to come now that we’ve had a chance to rest and regroup ourselves over the All-Star break.  We had a couple of days off, which was really nice, and from the way we played last night, I think they did us good.  True, the game was close, but it didn’t have to be a slugfest in order for us to see that our guys looked refreshed.

Winning wasn’t the only good news we got last night.  Ellsbury is officially back in action! It’s been almost exactly three months since he hurt his shoulder, but he’s back, and he looked as good as he could under the circumstances.  Look for him to not immediately start every game, though.  Bobby V. might want to take it slow in the beginning.  Buchholz, we know, is also off the DL and will make his next start.

Anyway, the final score was 3-1.  On the pitching end of things, we basically rolled out the staff for this one.  Morales picked up the win and pitched five shutout innings, recording two hits, three walks, and five strikeouts.  He threw ninety-five pitches.  So he labored through it, but luckily he kept his head down and put us in a position to win all the way through.

Atchison, Miller, and Albers then combined to pitch the sixth.  Albers also pitched the seventh, and then Padilla pitched the eighth and Aceves pitched the ninth.  All the pitchers received holds except Miller, who failed to record an out, and Aceves, who got the save.

The Rays’ lone run was scored on Atchison’s watch in the sixth.  Aviles made a high throw to Gomez for an error, which resulted in one on first, and two outs later Atchison gave up a double that brought the run in.  So it was unearned, but still.

On the hitting end, we didn’t waste time and scored all three of our runs within the first two innings, one the first and two in the second, appropriately enough.  Ellsbury began the game by flying out on his fourth pitch, but it was nice to at least see him arc one all the way out there.  With two out, Papi hit a solo shot on his fifth pitch, a ninety-mile-per-hour cut fastball middle in, toward the back of the seats in right.  And everyone know it was a homer as soon as the ball left the bat.  I mean, he flipped that bat aside like there was no way in the world that ball was staying anywhere near the field.  But that’s what happens when you try to sneak fastballs by Papi.

With one out in the second, two straight walks followed by a hit batsman loaded the bases for Ciriaco, who singled in two.  That was really it for us in terms of threats as well; we didn’t constitute any special threat in any other inning.

We had only one multi-hit performance last night, but it was a big one.  Ciriaco had a perfect day at the plate, going three for three with two RBIs and a stolen base! I’m telling you, this kid is really impressing at the big-league level.  Salty, Papi, and Aviles also each had hits, with Papi’s homer and Aviles’s double being our only two out of seven total for extra bases.  And Ellsbury went one for five with a single in the seventh.

It’s good to be back.  It’s good to have people back off the DL, and it’ll be good to have that added production and play out there in the field.  It’s good to start the second half in a good way.  And I hope it’ll be good to watch the second half play out.

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Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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