Mike Aviles: It’s easy to forget that Mike Aviles was fighting for a job back in March, but he earned the starting spot and has been a pleasant surprise for the BoSox thus far. He’s shown some power (9 HRs, 22 doubles) and while his average has taken a hit due to his recent slump (.260), it hovered around .270 or .275 for much of the first half. Maybe the nicest surprise has been in the field, however; Jose Iglesias’ big draw is his stellar defense, but Aviles has flashed some leather of his own. He’s made his fair share of mistakes (7 errors, .982%), but shown that he has good range and can make the tough plays, for the most part . Not a whole lot was expected of Mike Aviles at the beginning of spring training, but if he can get hot again, he’ll be a really important piece of this Red Sox lineup in the second half.
Adrian Gonzalez: It’s been made painfully obvious by fans and media alike that Adrian Gonzalez is not putting up the kind of numbers we all expect him to. If I had a nickel for every time I heard ‘even so and so has more home runs than Adrian Gonzalez,’ I’d probably have enough to pay my rent. And while the criticism isn’t unwarranted (he has only hit 6 homers, tying him for 6th on the team, below guys like Salty, Middlebrooks, and even Mike Aviles), but he’s tied for 1st on the team with 96 hits, only 15 behind the league leaders in the category. He’s batting an impressive .372 with RISP and .359 in that situation with two outs. Lately he’s been hitting the ball hard but not far enough to muscle one out, and instead has been hitting a lot of two-baggers (he’s tied for the league lead with 27). His lack of home run power is disconcerting, since the Sox aren’t stacked with a lot of power hitters in their lineup, but Adrian Gonzalez’s season hasn’t been quite as bad as many people make it out to be.
Will Middlebrooks: Middlebrooks had been slumping a little bit before he missed two whole series due to injury, but he’s got a lot of pressure on him, becoming the heir to third base, previously occupied by Kevin Youkilis. But his numbers over the course of the first half are pretty ridiculous for a rookie. His 10 home runs are 4th on the team after Ortiz, Salty, and Ross, and he’s racked up 11 doubles and driven in 37. His average had been over .300 for much of season, but he ends the first half with a .298/.335/.538 line. The Sox need him to get healthy after the break, and hope that a nagging hamstring injury won’t be an issue down the stretch, but provided he’s feeling good, he should be able to handle the pressure of being the starting third baseman and get back into the hot streak that earned him the spot.
Dustin Pedroia: It’s no secret that Pedroia’s production has been down this year. A nagging thumb injury kept him out of the lineup for about a week, and continued to affect the way he swung the bat. Pedroia started to get hot when he injured another part of the same thumb diving for a ball. Although the mediocre first half can primarily be attributed to injury, that doesn’t change the fact that his .266 average is his lowest ever by this point in the season, and his power numbers are down considerably (6 HRs, although he does have 19 doubles to his credit). A good April gave way to a less-than-stellar May and an injury-plagued June. Pedroia’s health and success will be crucial to the Sox in the second half if they plan to make a run for the postseason.
Nick Punto: Nick’s not the best utility infielder anyone has ever seen, but he hasn’t been all that bad. Honestly, when he gets a couple at-bats in a row and gets his timing down, he can get on base once in a while. You don’t often see a guy whose slugging percentage is lower than his OBP, but Punto’s slash line is .212/.322/.293. He can work a walk, and there’s no doubt that he’s as scrappy as they come in the field and on the basepaths (how he doesn’t severely injure himself diving into first base constantly amazes me). Punto’s real benefit is off the field, though. He’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s like the comic relief in a dramatic movie. Everyone likes this dude, and for good reason.
Ryan Kalish: Although Kalish is back to Pawtucket for the time being, it’s obvious we’ll see him back up here in September, if not sooner. Kalish’s return may have produced some underwhelming numbers (.217/.238/.250), and his defense was shaky at best, but his energy provided a temporary spark for the team. Kalish displayed a lot of aggressiveness on the bases, which both helped and hurt the team in different situations. But it’s hard to get on the guy too much for not producing, with this being his first time back in the bigs after missing an entire season plus due to injury. The takeaway from his 18 games with the big club this season is that he needs a little more time to mature and probably isn’t quite ready to be an everyday player. But he’s a talented, hard-working kid who will probably be a much bigger factor next season.
Daniel Nava: Is there a bigger (good) surprise this season than Daniel Nava? Probably not many, but he’s undoubtedly been the story that no one in Boston saw coming. This guy wasn’t even invited to Major League spring training camp this season, and here he is, starting every game in left field, getting on base what seems like half the time he’s up. His .815 OPS is 4th on the team behind Ortiz, Ross, and Middlebrooks, and he manages to get on base almost 4 times out of 10. He’s made a real case for staying on the roster when guys like Ellsbury and Crawford make their way back, and will be attractive trade bait if the Sox decide to move him. Although his production as of late has been declining as the league begins to catch up to him, Nava has shown that he’s making the most of this second opportunity with the big league club.
Scott Podsednik: Man, who would have guessed that 36-year-old Scott Podsednik would make his way back to the bigs for the first time since 2010 and actually contribute? Scotty Pods says he’s feeling as good, if not better than ever, and certainly seems reinvigorated by this second chance. His speed and consistent hitting (he was batting .387 in 19 games before his trip to the DL) will be valuable to some contending team if the Red Sox choose to move him, and at the very least can serve as excellent depth in Triple A down the stretch. With Ells and Crawford out of the lineup, Scotty Pods provided a speedy spark to the Sox lineup, and his defense in center field was impeccable in the short time he was up here. It was great to see Pods make a comeback and prove that he’s still got some years in him.
Cody Ross: I honestly think if Cody hadn’t missed an entire month due to the fractured bone in his foot, he would have garnered serious All-Star consideration. Cody’s been slumping as of late at the dish (then again, who hasn’t) but still finishes the first half hitting .264/.345/.537, which adds up to a pretty darn good .882 OPS (131 OPS+). He’s got 13 bombs through 56 games, only one less than his total for all of last season (121 games), and let me tell you, not a single one of those home runs were cheap. He’s driven in 40 and has 14 doubles and 1 triple to his credit as well. He’s quietly having a career year of sorts, and the Red Sox have started to take notice, telling teams that Ross would be unavailable for trade and that they intend to keep him. His right-handed pop in the middle of the lineup is pretty valuable to the team at this point. I think everyone in Boston hopes to see more signature Cody Ross home run bat flips in the second half. Plus, I think he’s got a great personality to thrive in Boston and has been a positive force in the clubhouse.
Ryan Sweeney: Despite missing time with a concussion and a separate DL stint with toe issues, Sweeney’s contributed pretty consistently to this Red Sox lineup. His defense has been pretty spectacular, making up for his two errors on the year with a few outstanding diving grabs. He plays the field without any hesitation, even after his concussion. On offense, he’s been a doubles machine, racking up 17 two-baggers in 180 at-bats. His average has taken a hit in the past month or so, but remains at .283. Despite his awesome doubles prowess, he seems incapable of muscling one over the wall for a home run, and has only knocked in 14 runs on the year. It seems pretty clear that if Carl Crawford comes back healthy, Sweeney could be moved before the July 31st deadline, with his injuries making him slightly more expendable than Nava and his lack of pop may make Ross a more attractive option for now, but Sweeney hasn’t had a bad year overall.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: I’m not sure anyone needs the 4-day break more than Salty at this point, after a horrendous weekend at the plate in which he struck out 10 times in 14 at-bats. And while Salty only has 2 hits this entire month and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since June 20th, his first half numbers were impressive. A lot of fans were upset that he wasn’t chosen for the All-Star team, and while I’m not sure his numbers were all that much better than Wieters or Pierzynski or Mauer, he made a case for himself. He’s belted a career-high 17 home runs, the most by any Sox catcher pre-break since Carlton Fisk had 18 in 1973. Salty’s average has dipped down to .235 during his recent slide, but his slugging % remains at .531. He’s driven in 41 (15 more than the league average for someone with as many PAs as him) and has been seriously clutch at some points this season. Keep in mind that his hitting has been streaky (it’s easy to forget that he batted .103 in his first 10 games this season) but the rest should do him and his bat good, and I have little doubt he’ll pick back up in the second half. On the defensive side, Salty’s cut down tremendously on passed balls (he had 26 last season, but only 5 so far in ‘12), but his caught stealing % is a bit down (17%). Salty’s had a handful with the starting staff this season, but seems to be managing to ever-rotating rotation pretty well.
Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach is a great guy to have on the bench. You feel comfortable with him in the starting lineup when Salty needs a day off, and he provides some offense pop as a pinch hitter with 4 home runs in 93 at-bats this season. He’s thrown out 30% of baserunners behind the plate and has been solid for the most part offensively and defensively. He could very well be a trade chip as the deadline approaches and Ryan Lavarnway waiting in the wings in Pawtucket, but Shoppach’s given the Sox exactly what they expected out of him.
David Ortiz: If there’s been one constant for the Red Sox this season, it’s been David Ortiz. He’s having a monster year. He leads the team in most offensive categories (runs, hits, RBI, HRs, average, OBP, and slugging among qualifiers). He’s shown that his age isn’t going to slow him down by showing up to camp 25 pounds lighter. He looks young, he’s running better than he did when he was in his 20’s, and the Sox wouldn’t be staying afloat if it weren’t for Papi. He’s been great, that’s all there is to it. Now if he would keep his comments regarding his contract to himself, there’d never be anything to complain about when it comes to David Ortiz.
Daniel Bard: What is there to say about Daniel Bard’s season that hasn’t already been said? It’s been like watching a train wreck in slow-motion, starting back in September. How Bard went from dominating even the best major league hitters in late-inning relief to hitting not only batters, but umpires in triple A is a mystery to everyone, including Bard, who is still searching for answers. Daniel left the majors in early June after a horrendous outing in Toronto, in which he went 1.2 innings, walked 6, hit 2, and allowed 5 earned runs, inflating his ERA to 5.24 on the season. What’s much more troubling than the numbers indicate is his complete lack of ability to control any of his pitches, and the surprisingly low velocity of his fastball, which once would blow hitters away at 98 or 99, but has now seemed to sit at 92 and top out at 94. His mechanics are, to put it simply, all messed up, and watching him struggle with the PawSox is incredibly hard to watch. We can only hope that Bard figures out what’s wrong and returns to his dominating ways in relief, even if it’s not this season.
Josh Beckett: Beckett has been a mystery this year. His 4-7 record and 4.43 ERA aren’t particularly pretty, but he’s shown flashes of real dominance during points in the season. The problem is the inconsistency. Beckett’s become a different pitcher this year. He’s been relying more on mixing up his pitches and using his off-speed stuff more rather than dominating hitters with his fastball. His WHIP is way lower than the other starters at a decent 1.198, and he’s allowing slightly less than 1 HR per 9 innings. The new Beckett can find success in the second half and still have a pretty decent season, but he needs to come through in big games and stay consistent.
Clay Buchholz: The guy having the most up and down year has to be Clay Buchholz. We all know his start to the season was abysmal, disastrous, just…bad. How he has 8 wins and a .800 winning percentage is a mystery. But in his last five starts before a hospital stay due to esophagitis, he went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA with a .241 batting average against and 10 runs allowed over 37 innings pitched, including a three game stretch in June where he allowed only 3 runs in 3 games, all on solo home runs. The long ball has been an issue for Clay, but I’d take a couple bad pitches that get driven out of the park rather than letting hitters rally. If Clay comes back from the DL and continues the streak, he could get back to whittling down that bloated 5.53 ERA and return to the Clay Buchholz of old.
Felix Doubront: Doubront currently has the most wins (9), most strikeouts (97), and the lowest ERA (4.41) out of the pitchers who have started more than 10 games for the Sox. That’s no small feat in a rotation with the likes of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, even if those guys are having off seasons. Doubront’s been a really solid #4 starter, simple as that. He’s had a couple really great games, a couple bad ones, but most have been just solid. Walks have been a little bit of an issue for Doubront, who issued 35 free passes in 96 innings pitched, and his 15 home runs allowed are tied for most on the staff. But his biggest issue has been pitch count. Somehow Felix can manage to pitch really well in games while being completely inefficient. I don’t know if anyone keeps track of most foul balls hit off a pitcher, but Doubront would probably be the league leader. The consistently high pitch counts might be catching up to Doubront, who has shown signs of fatigue in his last couple starts. After all, he’s never pitched this many innings in a season before, and we’re only halfway through. But if Doubront’s arm holds up, he can continue to be a good back of the rotation guy, and if not, he could be valuable in the bullpen.
Jon Lester: Jon Lester may very well be the biggest disappointment for the Red Sox this season. He’s been inconsistent, very hittable, and far from dominant. When you think of an ‘ace’ of the staff, you don’t think of 2012 Jon Lester. Lester finishes the first half 5-6 (not that it W-L really matters, but) a 4.49 ERA, 11 HRs allowed, 30 walks, 94 strikeouts, and 62 runs allowed through 112.1 IP. To put that in perspective, he only allowed 77 runs all of last year, in 191.2 IP. His command isn’t always there, his velocity is dipping, and the strikeouts, while on pace with last year’s numbers, are astoundingly low compared to 2010 and 2009 (2010 pre-break: 124 Ks, 2009: 131). But numbers and stats aside, if you just watch a Jon Lester start, you can tell he’s just not pitching like an ace. I hate to make the last game of the first half bigger than it really is, but you can’t deny that Lester needed to come through for the team and shut the Yankees down. Instead, he was easily hittable and far from sharp. He’s shown a couple flashes of the old Lester this season, perhaps most notably his complete game back on 5/14, but a few good games does not a #1 starter make. If the Red Sox are going anywhere this season, Jon Lester has to get his mojo back.
Alfredo Aceves: Aceves has gone through some high points and some low points during the season, but has been trying his best in a role that I know he isn’t fond of. At this point, whenever he enters the game you worry that he’s not going to hold it down. His 0-6 record is pretty ugly, along with his 4 blown saves and 4.33 ERA. But Alfredo hasn’t been all bad. During a stretch back in May and June, it seemed like it would be tough to take him out of the closer’s role when Andrew Bailey returned from the DL. He’s 10th in the majors in saves with 19, and is first in the majors in games finished with 37. Bobby V says he’s sticking with Ace for now, so we can only hope that he can get back on track.
Matt Albers: I think Matty Albers gets a bad rap due to his inconsistency last year, but he’s been really quite good for the Sox this season. He’s thrown 34 innings in relief, boasting a 2.38 ERA in 32 games. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys and pitches to contact instead (which leads to the occasional bomb) but overall…can’t complain.
Scott Atchison: It’s saying something about your performance when fans and players alike expect a reliever (who isn’t a closer) to garner actual All-Star consideration. Atch has been close to lights out this season, and proves to be the most reliable guy in a pretty reliable ‘pen. The 36-year-old is easily having the best season of his career, pitching 45.1 innings in usually late relief with a 1.79 ERA. Atch’s 15-game, 19-inning scoreless streak earlier in the season was no fluke; he’s been solid since the streak ended as well.
Franklin Morales: Aside from his start against New York, I’m sure everyone’s been impressed with the success of Franklin Morales as a starter and excited about his versatility. One bad start ballooned Franklin’s ERA to 4.22 over 4 games started (still better than Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, or Doubront) with a 1.172 WHIP. He’s averaging an impressive 11 strikeouts per 9 innings as a starter and has a 5.20 SO/BB ratio. As a reliever, Morales has also been having a fine season, with opposing players batting only .226 against him in 25 innings. He’s looked good so far, and could be making a case for being the fifth starter (or possibly taking Doubront’s spot) when everyone’s healthy.
Vicente Padilla: The sometimes volatile, always scary-looking reliever has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox this season, and has been pretty much lights out when he comes in with runners on base. He contributed to that infamous bullpen implosion on April 21st against the Yankees and has had maybe 2 or 3 rough outings since, but he’s a valuable asset in the ‘pen and can pitch in many situations, like long relief, late innings, and especially when a pitcher needs to get out of a jam.
Andrew Miller: Miller has spent his whole career trying to find where he fits in, and it seems that he’s sticking in the Red Sox bullpen. The hard-throwing Miller has pitched well in his 25 games this season, and is a great lefty specialist, something that the Sox will need now more than ever with Franklin Morales in the starting rotation and Rich Hill on the DL. Miller has harnessed his talent, it seems, although he’s still prone to being a little wild. He’s got good stuff and it’s nice to see him succeeding and gaining some confidence.
Mark Melancon: Melancon’s Boston career got off to maybe the worst start imaginable. It seemed like he was incapable of ever getting a batter out. His ERA when he was sent down to Pawtucket was 49.50…I think that speaks for itself. But the trip to Triple A straightened Melancon out and he dominated minor league hitters. It took a while to earn a spot back in the big league bullpen, but since his recall, he’s been fantastic, with a 0.68 ERA over 11 games and 13.1 innings, allowing only 1 earned run on 8 hits. It’s a real relief to see him come back and pitch the way the Sox expected him to all along.