The All-Star break is upon us and the Red Sox enter their mini-vacation with a 43-43 record which puts them in last place in the A.L. East, 9.5-games behind the Yankees.
Injuries have been a problem for the Red Sox - Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Bailey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Rich Hill, and Will Middlebrooks have all either been on the disabled list or missed significant time due to injury - but the biggest reason the team is struggling is the poor performances in the first half by many of their best players.
Let's start with the team's three top pitchers. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz are supposed to be an elite trio capable of leading the Red Sox to a championship but so far we are seeing the worst of all them. For comparison's sake, I will present their key statistics - starts, wins-loss record, earned run average (ERA), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP), and their strikeout to walks ratio (K/BB) - for their career totals, 162 game season averages, this season, and their best overall career season with the Red Sox.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and anything in bold denotes a league leader.
Career Totals: 172 starts, 81-40, 3.63 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 2.52 K/BB
162 Game Averages: 34 starts, 16-8, 3.63 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 2.52 K/BB
2012: 18 starts, 5-6, 4.49 ERA, 1.353 WHIP, 3.13 K/BB
2010: 32 starts, 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 2.71 K/BB
Analysis: Lester is having the worst year of his career through 18 first half starts and when you factor in his numbers from September and October of last season (1-3, 5.40 ERA, 1.611 WHIP, 2.00 K/BB) when the Red Sox collapsed and missed the playoffs, things look really bad for him.
Career Totals: 290 starts, 129-88, 3.87 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 3.09 K/BB
162 Game Averages: 34 starts, 15-10, 3.87 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 3.09 K/BB
2012: 14 starts, 4-7, 4.43 ERA, 1.198 WHIP, 2.95 K/BB
2007: 30 starts, 20-7, 3.27 ERA, 1.141 WHIP, 4.85 K/BB
Analysis: Beckett has created a pattern of oscilating from a good year to a bad year since coming to the Red Sox before the 2006 season. The Red Sox can only hope that he bounces back from this dismal season in 2013.
Career Totals: 90 starts, 43-26, 3.95 ERA, 1.376 WHIP, 1.83 K/BB
162 Game Averages: 34 starts, 16-10, 3.95 ERA, 1.376 WHIP, 1.83 K/BB
2012: 14 starts, 8-2, 5.53 ERA, 1.541 WHIP, 1.71 K/BB
2010: 28 starts, 17-7, 2.33 ERA, 1.203 WHIP, 1.79 K/BB
Analysis: Buchholz has an excellent win-loss record so far but that's due to excellent run support from his offense because he has been awful for most of the year. He has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career and that doesn't bode well for the future.
Other than the terrible pitching from what is supposed to be the team's three best starting pitchers, the Red Sox are also being hurt by a lack of production from two of their top hitters, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia. I will compare their key statistics - the "triple slash" (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage), home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), hits (H), walks (BB), doubles (2B), and plate appearances (PA) - the same way I did for the pitchers.
Career Totals: .292/.371/.506, 201 HR, 687 RBI, 1209 H, 512 BB, 258 2B, 4717 PA
162 Game Averages: .292/.371/.506, 30 HR, 101 RBI, 178 H, 75 BB, 38 2B, 693 PA
2012: .283/.329/.416, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 96 H, 23 BB, 27 2B, 371 PA
2011: .338/.410/.548, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 213 H, 74 BB, 45 2B, 715 PA
Analysis: The biggest concern about Gonzalez after 86 games is that his home run totals are way down and his on-base percentage is also below normal. Gonzalez did start to hit better before the All-Star break (an 18-game hitting streak was broken last night) so hopefully he will have a good second half of the year. He also gets a break from me for offering to move from first base to right field so the lineup could accomodate him, Will Middlebrooks, and Kevin Youkilis before Youk was traded to the White Sox.
Career Totals: .301/.369/.457, 81 HR, 377 RBI, 943 H, 327 BB, 225 2B, 3539 PA
162 Game Averages: .301/.369/.457, 17 HR, 77 RBI, 194 H, 67 BB, 46 2B, 727 PA
2012: .266/.326/.400, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 81 H, 26 BB, 19 2B, 338 PA
2008 (A.L. MVP): .326/.376/.493, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 213 H, 50 BB, 54 2B, 726 PA
Analysis: Pedroia has struggled all year with a thumb injury that recently landed him on the disabled list. However, while he gets credit for playing hurt, Pedroia is expected to produce if he is on the field and he is having the worst year of his career so far. The Red Sox need him to get healthy and to start hitting if they are going to turn things around.
As bad as things have been for the Red Sox, they can still make the playoffs as a Wild Card team - they are just 2.5-games behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot - if they get healthy and, more importantly, if Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz start to pitch to their expectations and if Gonzalez and Pedroia start to hit like they are expected to do in a normal season.