Boston Red Sox Mid-Season Review
As we wrap up the first half of the 2013 Season, there have been plenty of surprises. The Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals are failing to live up to their World Series expectations, while teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox are wowing the baseball world, being among two of the best teams in the entire league.
The Boston Red Sox sit atop the American League East and all of baseball with a franchise best 58 wins at the break. This has come as a surprise to many baseball experts, as Boston was predicted to finish last in the East during the offseason. The Red Sox rise to the top has less to do with luck and more to do with the franchises return to its old ways. The addition of players like outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, along with first baseman Mike Napoli have drastically improved the team’s chemistry, which is light-years away from where it was during the abysmal 2012 season. The improved chemistry has allowed the Red Sox Nation to loosen up and do what it does best, hit. The Sox lead all of baseball in runs scored with 498, which is largely due to their league-leading on-base percentage of .350.
Other factors contributing to the success of the Red Sox include the team’s health and a change of management. Boston has played the majority of the season with its full, healthy lineup intact, as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli have returned to their game-changing ways. John Lackey has also had a successful return from Tommy John Surgery, with his fastball reaching the mid-90’s and his slider topping out in the high-80’s. With ace Clay Buchholz on the shelf, Lackey has stepped up and become the team’s best pitcher, which will be all the better for the Sox when Buchholz returns after the break. Perhaps the biggest of the success factors is the return of a familiar face to the Boston helm, John Farrell. Farrell returns to Fenway after managing in Toronto for the last two years. He was well-accepted by Fenway Faithful, as they remember him as being the head of a very successful Boston pitching staff from 2007-2010. Farrell seems to be in control of this team and the success will continue if he does so.
While the Red Sox impressive win total is a huge shock to the baseball world, the biggest surprises contributing to the team’s success involve the emergence of prospects Daniel Nava and Jose Iglesias and the return of John Lackey to the team’s starting staff. Nava has been nothing but spectacular, playing multiple positions in the outfield, first base, and even DH. His patient approach at the plate has led to a .288 batting average to go along with a .374 on-base percentage. Iglesias has also impressed Red Sox management. They have always been impressed with the young man’s soft hands in the field, but are blown away by his approach at the plate during the 2013 season. He is currently hitting at a .367 clip, sporting an on-base percentage of .417. John Lackey is perhaps the biggest surprise of the first half, as he has returned to ace form, throwing his 4 above average pitches wherever he pleases. His 2.78 ERA is fourth in the American League.
The biggest disappointment for the Sox would have to be the continued struggle of former ace Jon Lester, who has gone 2-6 after his blazing 6-0 start. When watching Lester, it appears as if he has lost control of his best pitch, his cut fastball, which seems to have held him back as a pitcher. Another disappointment involves the health of Clay Buchholz, who is the team ace when he is healthy. Buccholz aims to pitch after the All-Star Break, although there is no time-table for a return date. If Lester and Buccholz can rebound in a big way, look for Boston to run away with the East.
As far as predictions for the Red Sox second half, only time will tell. If the key components of the team can stay healthy and rebound in a positive way, there is no reason why they cannot repeat their first half success. The Sox have not made the playoffs since being a game away from the World Series in 2008, but they aim to end the drought in 2013.
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