Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Shoppach’

Alright.  That’s the way to play.  We jumped out early and never looked back, and I mean never looked back.  Even in the fifth, which was our hugely colossal inning at the plate, the game had already essentially been blown open.  It was just amazing to watch.  We were so dominant that we looked like a completely different team than the one that loses in every way, on every day of the week, with every hitter, behind every pitcher, and by every final score that you could possibly imagine.  That team didn’t show up to the field yesterday.  Yesterday we were different.  In a good way.  We need to see much more of that.

In a rare occurrence, both the hitters and the pitchers deserve the spotlight, but I’ll start with the hitters first since they began the game for us because we were away.  Ellsbury grounded out, which should not at all have been an indication to the Indians of how yesterday’s game was about to go down.  Crawford doubled after that and scored on a double by Pedroia, who scored on a home run by Gonzalez, which he smashed to right field like it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world, like he gets up there and does it in every single at-bat, like it was no big deal and anyone who isn’t doing it has something wrong with him.

Lester began his start by giving up two straight singles, one of which turned into a run one out later on a sac fly.  But we got it back and more in the second, when Aviles and Ellsbury both singled and scored on a double by Crawford.  Neither team scored from the bottom of the second through the bottom of the third.  Aviles led off the fourth by getting hit, and then he scored on a single by Shoppach.  That was when the Indians thought that, maybe if they made a pitching change, their fate for yesterday’s game, which I assume they had begun to sense, would change.

It most certainly did not.  Lester went one-two-three in the bottom of the fourth, and then we scored eight runs in the fifth.  You read right.  That’s eight runs in the fifth inning alone.  We scored more runs in that inning than we often have scored throughout whole games this year.  We scored more runs in that inning than we often have scored throughout several games this year during particularly bad stretches.  And just like that we scored eight runs.  Like it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world, like we get up there and do this in every game, like it was no big deal and any team that isn’t doing it has something wrong with it.

Pedroia singled, Gonzalez walked, Pedroia scored on a single by Ross, Gonzalez scored on a single by Salty, Aviles walked, Ross scored on a sac fly by Danny Valencia, Shoppach struck out for the first out of the inning by which point we had already scored three runs, Salty and Aviles both scored on a double by Ellsbury, Ellsbury scored on a double by Crawford, the Indians made a pitching change that made absolutely no difference, Pedroia walked, Crawford and Pedroia both scored on a double by Gonzalez, Ross walked, Gonzalez and Ross both moved up a base thanks to a passed ball, and then the inning ended when Salty flied out.

Neither team scored for the rest of the game.  It was like we were sated and they were stunned and had absolutely no idea what to do and couldn’t make any sort of move whatsoever.  Lester, for his part, was brilliant.  He pitched six innings and gave up just the one run on three hits while walking two and striking out a grand total of twelve! No pitcher in our uniform has struck out that many since the last time Lester struck out twelve, and that was back in 2010.  I’m telling you, it’s so good to see that double-digit number in his K column again.  That’s been way too rare a sight this season.  Eight of the strikeouts were swinging, and four were called.  You better believe that his cut fastball was as nasty as I’ve ever seen it and was playing tricks on the hitters all afternoon long.  It was glorious.  It was vintage Lester and reminded me of all the goodness to which we unfortunately haven’t been privy this season.

Tazawa pitched the seventh, Mortensen pitched the eighth, and Aceves pitched the ninth.  Lester picked up the win.

All told, we put up sixteen hits.  Half of those were for extra bases.  Five members of our starting nine had multi-hit performances, and only one went hitless: Valencia, who still brought in a run with a sac fly.  Ellsbury went two for five, Pedroia and Gonzalez went two for three, Crawford went three for four with three doubles, and Aviles had a perfect day at the plate with a three-for-three performance.

The final score? 14-1.  They had nothing on us all day long.

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Oh, wow.  I don’t even know what to say about this.  This is a tough situation.  It really is.

As we all know, Beckett has been painfully mediocre this year.  And when I see painfully, I mean painfully.  To the point where even labeling him as mediocre is being generous.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can just do without him.  Technically when we headed into Spring Training, we were short on starters as it was.  And now he had to leave last night’s contest after pitching two and two-thirds innings with a back spasm.  That is bad news.  Back problems didn’t leave him alone in 2010, and they better not be back in 2012.  Not now.  Especially not now.

It was noticeable, too.  He mowed through the Tigers in the first and second, and I really wanted the opportunity to settle in and watch some vintage Beckett.  He secured the first two outs in the third, and then things turned bad on a dime.  He gave up a single, hit a batter, and loaded the bases with a walk.  And then he walked in Detroit’s first run.  That was when he called the trainers, and then he left.  It’s hard to say at this point how serious it is, I guess.  It all depends on whether the problem persists despite treatment and rest, which themselves take time.  Either way, like I said, we can’t very easily do without him at this point, especially not if he was just about to return to his usual self.

Mortensen relieved him and finished the third.  He gave up two walks in the fourth but got through it, and he pitched through the fifth and part of the sixth.

We had the bases loaded with two out in the first but didn’t do anything with it.  We barely threatened in the second and went down in order in the third.  We finally scored runs in the fourth, and we scored a handful.  We started the rally with two straight singles by Ross and Salty.  Then Middlebrooks struck out.  Shoppach walked to load the bases, and then we made up for for throwing away the same opportunity in the first.  Ciriaco singled in our first run.  Ellsbury walked in our second.  Crawford singled in our third.  And we scored our fourth thanks to a little help from a fielding error.

The game ended early, which was a good thing, too, because the Tigers left the bases loaded in the rain; Morales had come in to pitch.  The final score was 4-1.

Ben kept it quiet at the deadline; we traded Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik to the D-Backs for southpaw Craig Breslow.


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Wow.  We really went in for the slaughter on that one.  We wrapped the whole thing up in less than three hours.  Seriously.  The final time was two hours and fifty-six minutes. I guess we were in a  rush to win, like maybe if we scored all the runs we needed to score and worked fast, the pitching staff wouldn’t notice that they were actually preserving our lead.  Either way, we won.  If I’ve said that a lot, it’s because it has a nice ring to it.  And of course because I don’t get to say it nearly enough.

Buchholz was absolutely phenomenal.  Seriously.  He rocked.  Detroit stood no chance at any point.  He gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits.  He walked two and struck out four.  And he pitched eight innings.  He drew upon his entire arsenal and mixed it up with formidable effectiveness.  The heats, the offspeeds, everything.  He looked like a master creating his own game out there.  He threw 108 pitches and picked up the win.

He gave up a solo shot on his second pitch of the game.  Honestly, who thought right then and there that it was going to be a long night? Well, it was.  For the Tigers.  Who went down in order in the following frame.  Buchholz gave up his second run in the third; he relinquished a triple, a walk, a popout, and then a single.  The Tigers went down in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth.  And then Buchholz began the seventh with what was supposed to be a strikeout but ended up being a runner on first thanks to an errant throw by Shoppach; the run scored on a double.  He had a one-two-three inning again in the eighth, and Padilla pitched the ninth without incident.

Meanwhile, the offense was very busy, very quickly, very often.  We had an answer for that solo shot in the bottom of the first and then some.  Ellsbury walked and scored on a triple by Crawford, who scored on a groundout by Pedroia.  We didn’t score again until the sixth, and I bet Detroit still thought they were in this one.  In fact, they were, until Pedroia again powered us through, both figuratively and literally in this case, since he clobbered a two-run shot out to the Monster.  It was a ninety-six mile-per-hour fastball, and it was the fourth pitch of the at-bat.  Crawford had walked, so there you go.  With one swing, we gave ourselves a nice cushion.  And what a swing it was, too.  The best thing about Pedroia’s home runs, like I always say, is the fact that he just puts his whole self into it.  It’s like he pushes the ball way out there, and away it goes every time.

Shoppach opened the seventh with a triple and scored on a single by Ellsbury one out later.  Gonzalez opened the eighth with a single and, not wanting to miss out on the long ball action, Middlebrooks clobbered one of his own.  Again it was a fastball, again the fourth pitch of the at-bat, this one clocked at ninety-two miles per hour.  It still ended up out toward the Monster, though.  That kid has some serious power.  So you have home runs where you can see the hitter just unleashing everything he’s got on the ball, and you have home runs that just look like they’re the easiest in the world to hit.  Middlebrooks swings like the latter when he hits home runs.  Either way, though, it’s awesome.

And that’s it! The final score was 7-3; we outscored and outhit them by four.  Both teams had four extra-base hits, which just goes to show you that you can’t expect to win a ballgame with power alone.  Gonzalez and Salty, who DHed today, both went two for four.

This win felt good.  They all feel good, but this one was especially good because it felt easy.  That’s what you want to see.  You want to see a ballclub that looks like it wins like it’s its job.  Which it is.  But still.  You want it to feel easy and natural and just possible all the time.  So I hope this is a sign of some momentum building in the right direction.

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When you think about it, we’ve actually seen a few of these types of games this year, where we barely win but still win big.  It’s always a huge achievement to win with an extremely small lead, although ideally you want to have every part of the team firing on all cylinders.  Lately we seem to go to extremes, where we show that we can win these close games and win the wide-open games but seem to spend less time winning with just your average final score.  Anyway, a win is a win, and when you see one of our starters get the job done, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, it certainly is a significant comfort.

And that’s exactly what Buchholz did last night.  He got the job done, and in a big way, too.  He was masterful.  He was the Buchholz you were hoping to see all season long.  He was the Buchholz who threw a no-hitter remarkably early in his career.

Buchholz gave up one run on four hits over seven innings while walking three and striking out one.  He threw 105 pitches.  The highlights were his fastball, changeup, and his splitter; his curveball and cutter weren’t that great.  But he rolled out the whole arsenal, which is good, and he really mixed it up well.  Unfortunately, because that one run tied the game, he was not in line for the win.  The Rangers scored in the sixth, when he gave up a double, advanced the runner on a wild pitch, and then allowed a groundout that brought it in.

We were having the same luck at the plate that the Rangers were having.  We scored our first run in the fourth; Ross led it off with a walk and scored two outs later on a double by Shoppach.  We scored our second and final run in the top of the ninth; after two quick outs, Nava and Salty worked back-to-back walks, and Nava scored on a single by Aviles that just barely fell in there.

Padilla pitched the eighth and got the win, and Aceves pitched the ninth and got the save.  The final score was 2-1, and it was a nailbiter if I’ve ever seen one.  I was sure we were going to extras the way the game was playing out.

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Beckett gave up five runs, four earned, over six innings.  He walked three and struck out seven and threw ninety-six pitches.  So, like I said, it wasn’t the worst start ever.  If the batters batted around a little bit, it actually would have all been fine.  Sadly it was not to be.

Beckett gave up a triple with one out that led to a run during a fielder’s choice in the first.  One single later, he gave up an RBI single.  In the second, he gave up a double and a walk that both turned into runs after he gave up an RBI double.  He had a one-two-three inning in the third and fourth, and the unearned run scored in the fifth thanks to a throwing error by Middlebrooks, which allowed a single to stretch into a double and then a run on another single, just getting around Shoppach’s tag.

That, by the way, was ridiculous.  Colby Rasmus was out.  Anybody could see that he was out.  Rasmus claimed that his hand touched the plate under the tag, but you could clearly see that Shoppach had the plate blocked.  Rasmus didn’t touch it.  It may have looked like he touched it, but he didn’t touch it.  And if he didn’t touch it and Shoppach tagged him, which he did, then Rasmus should have been out.  Not that it ended up mattering, but it’s an issue of dignity and principle.  Anyway, then Beckett faced one above the minimum in the sixth.

Miller faced the minimum in the seventh, and Melancon faced the minimum in the eighth while giving up two straight doubles for another run in the ninth.

We, on the other hand, had the gross displeasure of being held to only one run throughout the entire game, and we were lucky even to score that.  We scored in the bottom of the ninth.  Ross struck out, Middlebrooks singled, Nava pinch-hit for Shoppach and walked, and then Aviles grounded into a force out for the reason why we weren’t completely shut out.  Salty pinch-hit for Ciriaco but struck out to end the game.

Our only other big opportunity came in the seventh, when we had two on with nobody out, but then Aviles struck out and Ciriaco grounded into a force out, which put runners at the corners, but then Ellsbury popped out and that was it.

So the final score was a keenly disappointing 6-1.  Both teams posted nine hits, but they went four for ten with runners in scoring position while we went 0 for 7.  They left five on base; we left eight.  And they hit five extra-base hits; we hit none.  Middlebrooks went two for four, and Shoppach went two for three for our only multi-hit games.

Beckett took a well-deserved loss for a mediocre start.  Honestly, it wasn’t horrendous – it wasn’t necessarily even that bad – but it wasn’t great either, and depending on how you look at it, either his start or our lack of run production cost the game.  Obviously in reality it was some combination of both.  But we’ve been over this so many times already; both the offense and the pitcher have a responsibility to keep the team in the game, and when neither does its job, the team loses unless it gets lucky.  And we are too good with too much potential and with too much ground to cover during the second half to just sit around and rely on luck.  Yesterday was a case in point.  We were very unlucky.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Man, that was a rough loss.  Any loss featuring a pitcher pitching under his potential is a rough loss.  I just don’t know what to do with Lester anymore.  It’s a sad, sad state when your supposed ace takes the ball and you have no idea what to expect when in fact you should be able to expect the height of consistency.

Last night, Lester was anything but consistent.  After recording the first out of the game due to a strikeout, he completely lost his feel for the zone and gave up a walk, a single, an RBI double, and an RBI single.  He gave up another RBI double in the second and then a three-run home run in the fourth with two out after allowing a walk and a double.

Thankfully, he was pulled after that.  All told, he gave up six runs on seven hits over four innings while walking three and striking out four.  As you can see, aside from his run total, his hit total as well as his walk total need to be lower, and his strikeout total needs to be much higher, at least double that.  And of course his home runs should be nonexistent.  As far as his pitches themselves were concerned, his cut fastball was completely and totally without its usual sizzle; it had very little movement or bite, and it was way too readable by the opposing hitters.  His sinker, changeup, and curveball weren’t bad, though, which was a good sign, but a pitcher can’t survive without his signature pitch, least of all when his signature pitch just isn’t working.

And it didn’t help that he got tired pretty quickly.  He kept getting behind, and he was constantly unable to seal the deal, so his pitch count was elevated to ninety-one over those four innings.  Tazawa relieved him for the next four innings with, with the exception of an RBI single in the sixth, proceeded without incident.  Morales pitched a one-two-three ninth.

We, on the other hand, needed to score more runs than we did, which we obviously didn’t because we lost.  The final score was 7-5.  Ellsbury singled in the first, stole second, and scored on a single by Crawford; one out later, Gonzalez singled Crawford in.  That was it both run-wise and, for the most part, threat-wise until the eighth, when Crawford singled, moved to second on a groundout, stole third, and scored on a single by Middlebrooks.  Then Shoppach came in to hit for Salty and, with two out, seemed to light a spark by walloping a two-run shot out to the Monster on his fourth pitch, a fast fastball.  It was great.  I mean, it was a really powerful swing.

At the time, that one swing put us back in the game and brought us within two runs.  We had no way to know that we were about to go down in order in the ninth.

Defensive highlights include Aviles’s inning-ending diving catch in the third.  Ellsbury went two for five, Gonzalez went two for four, and Crawford, believe it or not, went a cool three for four.  Shoppach, of course, was a perfect one for one at the plate and hit our only extra base hit of the night.  So we had nine hits in total, but only one of them was for extra bases.  We also went three for ten with runners in scoring position.  All in all it was just terrible, and it was rough to watch.

Lester needs to fix his problems, but I don’t even know if anyone, including him, really knows what they are.  And that’s bad.  You can’t solve a problem until you know what it is and where it comes from.  He’s pitching terribly; that’s about it. And to make matters worse, Papi will be out for about a week at least with an injured heel that he incurred on Monday.  This is so not what we need right now.

Boston Globe Staff/Matthew J. Lee

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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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