By: Jake Perda
As we sit at the All-Star break eagerly awaiting the return of Red Sox baseball on Friday night, now seems like a good time to reflect on the season thus far. Speaking of which, I can’t think of any better way to reflect than to harshly judge professional athletes while giving them letter grades like they are measly grade school students. So here is my Red Sox midseason report card:
NOTE: Only players of interest/players who have made a significant impact on the team will be graded.
Tzu-Wei Lin: A++
When I said players of interest, I meant Tzu-Wei Lin. He is THE player of interest. You may now proceed to read my honest and objective opinions on the rest of the team. #TzunamiForever
Craig Kimbrel: A+
Craig Kimbrel has been everything the Sox could have asked for and then some. Kimbrel holds the team lead in ERA, Batting Average Against, K’s per 9 innings, and pretty much every other statistic you’d want from your closer. Can’t get much better than what he’s done so far. Thus, I have no problem with giving Kimbrel the only A+ and asking him to keep doing exactly what he’s doing.
Chris Sale: A
Maybe it’s unfair of me to withhold an A+ from the guy who has been the best starter in the American League, but he’s had a few uncharacteristic starts in there that are making me hold back on giving him the full-fledged A+. That being said, he’s been by far our best pitcher, and I can’t wait to see how he responds to the increase in pressure as we inch closer to the big games of September and October.
Joe Kelly: A-
Aside from Jackie Bradley Jr., Joe Kelly is probably the Red Sox most under-appreciated player this year. Even John Farrell, whose job is to pay attention to the performance of his players, took until June to realize that Kelly has been their best option for the 8th innings, and that the gap between Kelly and Matt Barnes is pretty damn big. Kelly has proven that last September was no fluke; however, his lack of the ability to pitch on back to back days has caused me to restrain myself from giving him a higher grade.
Mookie Betts: A-
I’m really torn as to how I want to go about grading Mookie’s season. Part of me wants to say that he is failing to meet the sky-high standard that he's set for himself, but you have to acknowledge that he’s still an All-Star and is currently leading the team in doubles (29), home runs (16), and stolen bases (15). Not to mention, he’s been doing this while hitting out of the leadoff spot for the majority of the season. All in all, Mookie’s having a solid season, though we all know that he has another gear that he has yet to reach. If he can heat up, things are about to get very scary for opposing pitchers.
Dustin Pedroia: B+
This is a tough grade to give. Although Pedey’s play on the field this far warrants an A-, he has struggled to stay healthy. Albeit these have been “contact injuries”, he has not been on the field enough for me to say he deserves an “A”. Nevertheless, Pedroia will be as important as ever in both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game if the Red Sox want to make a run at a championship. I think we all know how badly he wants ring number 3.
Drew Pomeranz: B+
Since shaking off a rough start to the season and getting in a screaming match with John Farrell in the dugout in Oakland, it appears that Pomeranz has turned a corner. In 9 starts since the incident, Pomeranz has posted a 2.60 ERA in 52 innings. This solid stretch of pitching from Pomeranz has been huge when taking into consideration that Eduardo Rodriguez went from dominating to being back on the DL and Rick Porcello has been dreadful for the majority of the season.
Mitch Moreland: B+
Mitch Moreland has produced at an offensive level that nobody in Boston thought he was capable of when they opted to sign him instead of Edwin Encarnacion. Due to the struggles of Hanley Ramirez, Moreland has been tasked with hitting in the cleanup spot far more often than most Red Sox fans are comfortable with, but I think that it’s pretty safe to say that Moreland has exceeded expectations. I’m going to loop Sam Travis into this too and just mention that he picks up right where Moreland leaves off every time he is given the opportunity to play. I’ve remained consistent in my stance that I’d prefer to have Travis playing every day, regardless of the level, but it’s hard to ignore how well this platoon has worked out.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: B+
JBJ has come out of nowhere to lead the team in OPS to this point in the season. Since being benched in the beginning of the season due to a lack of offensive performance, Jackie has come back and shown the consistency that we’ve been waiting to see out him for the last 4 years. If he can continue to produce at this level, he will be an extremely valuable asset to an offense that has not hit for much power this year.
Xander Bogaerts: B+
Xander Bogaerts has been a key piece in the Red Sox offense this year, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit worried. Last season, Bogaerts batting average peaked at .351 on June 23rd and he went on to hit .246 for the rest of the season. Well, guess what? This season Bogaerts batting average peaked at .325 on….. you guessed it, JUNE 23RD. He has since hit .174 in the last 13 to bring his overall batting average down to .303. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily pessimistic, but you know what they say: history repeats itself. If this turns out to be the case, the Red Sox may run into some serious trouble offensively down the stretch.
David Price: B
In his limited time this season, David Price has been pretty good. He hasn’t exactly gone deep into starts, but 5-6 innings of 2-3 earned runs is usually good enough to at least keep the team in the game. Although we know that David Price is capable of having far better outings, let’s just accept the moral victory of Price not being out for the season due to Tommy John surgery. But with that in mind, his elbow could explode at any minute, so make sure you keep his health in your prayers regardless of how much you know that he hates you and everyone else in Boston. I’ll take an ultra-sensitive psychopathic David Price over Kyle Kendrick or Hector Velazquez any day.
Eduardo Rodriguez: B
If Rodriguez continued to pitch as well as he was, I would have struggled to give him any grade out of the A range. But Rodriguez has been on the disabled list for the past month and a half. Although he is set to return to the team sometime soon, it’s hard to expect him to pick up where he left off, and even if he does, who’s to say that his knee won’t give out again before all is said and done? A strong return from E-Rod would be a huge boost to a team as they look to secure a playoff spot down the stretch, so we’ll have to wait and see how he looks after missing some time.
Andrew Benintendi: B
Unfortunately for Andrew Benintendi, his overall first half performance has landed him as the worst of the “Killer B’s”. However, I have no problem with the way that Benny has played this season. You have to keep in mind that this kid was put on a fast track to the Majors and skipped over the Triple-A level entirely. He was never allowed to struggle in the Minor League's, so he’s going to have to go through some struggles and make adjustments here. That’s just how life works for young baseball players. Luckily, Andrew is an extremely talented player and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him heat up and make an enormous impact on this team in the second half.
Robby Scott: B-
Scott has been fine when used as a situational lefty-on-lefty guy, but he has struggled mightily when they try to use him in as a typical mid-relief pitcher. The demise of Robbie Ross Jr. forced the Red Sox into a tough situation in which they are stuck with 2 situational lefties in Scott and Fernando Abad; nonetheless, Scott has not been able to step into the role of a full-time reliever.
Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon: B-
Since they’ve split their playing time almost exactly evenly, I’m not going to bother giving Vazquez and Leon separate grades. They’ve both been good enough offensively and have provided great defense behind the dish. While neither of them have been All-Star caliber players, they’ve been the exact definition of a “B-”, good enough.
Matt Barnes: C+
Since being appointed the 8th inning man after a solid start to the season, Matt Barnes has been the definition of a wild card. He is just as likely to strike out the side as he is to walk 3 straight batters and force John Farrell to bring in someone else to try and clean up his mess. Ideally, Matt Barnes will get into a groove and give the Red Sox a go-to 7th innings guy. But if we’re being realistic, the Red Sox are playing Russian roulette every time they give Barnes the ball in a high-leverage situation, so all we can do is hope he comes through when it counts the most.
Deven Marrero: C+
You may be thinking this is too low for a guy that I support the Red Sox putting in the lineup on a fairly consistent basis, but let’s face it: Deven Marrero is a C+ guy. He’s not a young stud like Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, and Benintendi. He always has been and always will be organizational depth. But that’s not a bad thing. Marrero has been the calm in the absolute shit-storm that has been 3rd base for the Red Sox this year. Don’t let the .225 average distract you from the fact hat Marrero has come up with some big hits this season and the Red Sox likely wouldn’t be in the position they’re in without him.
Hanley Ramirez: C
It may seem unfair to put Hanley below Deven Marrero, but he has not done his job as well as Deven Marrero has done his. As I said before, Deven’s role is to fill in when a Red Sox infielder gets hurt or benched. On the other hand, Hanley’s role is to be the Designated Hitter for the Boston Red Sox. Outside of the last two weeks, he has seemed somewhat passionless and has failed to step up. He is supposed to be the biggest power threat in this lineup, yet he has only managed 13 home runs to this point in the season. Hopefully he can stay motivated and continue to heat up, but I have not been impressed by Hanley’s 2017 performance thus far.
Chris Young: C
Young has been nothing special this season. He’s done his job and given the guys in the outfield the day off and performed adequately when in the lineup. Could be better, could be worse.
Rick Porcello: C-
Rick Porcello has been nothing short of a disappointment so far this year. Until his most recent start in which he had a masterful outing against the Tampa bay Rays, Porcello’s ERA had ballooned to over 5. After seeing Porcello bounce back toward the end of 2015, I’m not ready to call this a lost season yet, but it’s going to take a major turnaround for Rick to regain the support of the fans.
Pablo Sandoval: F
Shockingly, in this scenario, F doesn’t stand for fat, frequent disappointment, or even fuck you Pablo Sandoval. F stands for failure. The failure for Pablo to meet even the lowest of expectations. He was unable to hit, unable to make routine plays in the field, and unable to make even the slightest repair to his already destroyed reputation with the Boston fans. Once his “rehab assignment” ends and the Red Sox are forced to make a move, that move should be to release Pablo Sandoval. Someone who loves himself so much and lives his life with such a sense of complacency clearly does not belong in Boston. Goodbye Pablo, see you never.
(Photo: Boston Herald)