Red Sox have had season of ups and downs

CJ Haddad
Journal Staff

It would be an understatement to say that the Boston Red Sox 2011 season up until this point has been a roller coaster ride. A team that everyone thought would represent the American League in the World Series come this October dropped its first six games of the season before posting a win in their home opener versus the evil empire. But the Sox did start to find their form after recording a less than stellar record of 11-15 in April.
Throughout the months of May, June, and July, the Red Sox started to look like the team that sports writers and analysts predicted to be dominant. As the weather warmed up, so did the Sox bats.
Emerging on top of all the explosive hitting displays performed on any given night, Adrian Gonzalez showed us that he has arrived as advertised. The American League MVP candidate is hitting for average, power, and driving in runs on a frequent basis.
If the season were to end today, Gonzalez would capture the first of possibly many AL batting titles, posting the highest batting average in all of the majors at a .340 clip.
Patrolling center field, possibly the biggest surprise of the season, Jacoby Ellsbury has emerged as an AL MVP candidate as well.
Many people speculated the production that Ellsbury would deliver this season given the 2010 season ended moments after crashing into 220 lb. Dominican Adrian Beltre(just a week into the season), which would fracture the 27-year-old’s ribs.
In 2011, Ellsbury has become one the premiere center fielders in all of baseball.
Not only is Ellsbury posting a line of .317, 25, and 90 (average, home runs, RBI), but he has also stolen 36 bases and scored 103 runs.
Ellsbury is also a heavy favorite to take home his first gold glove award. The Oregon St. product has posted 6 assists, and has not committed an error this season in 348 total chances.
Overall, Red Sox Nation has been pleased with the production out of their tandem switch hitting catchers.
Saltalamacchia, who has done the brunt of the work behind the plate, got off to a slow start, but has been getting progressively better, especially at the plate, throughout the season.
The 6’4 235 lb. Florida native is hitting .248, with 16 home runs and 51 RBI.
When the longest name in the majors isn’t behind the dish, the 39 year old captain is grinding out his last few season left in the Majors.
Varitek has gotten most of his inning when either Josh Beckett or Jon Lester is on the mound.
Number 33 has started 58 games in the catcher’s box this year and although his numbers at the plate aren’t anything to get excited about, Varitek has quietly hit for double digits in home runs with 11 and has driven in 33 teammates.
The guys that Salty and Tek are behind the plate for have had a season of positive and negative results.
Right from the start, Diasuke Matsusaka continued to be injury plagued and ineffective. Matsusaka has been taken off the 40 man roster, and has proven to be a liability since his rookie season in 2007.
Probably the biggest blow to the Sox rotation this year has been the major absence of the number three starter in the rotation, Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz has only started 14 games this season, before going onto the disabled list in the middle of June.
The Texas native suffered from a stress fracture in his back and it is unlikely if he will be able to perform in the postseason if needed.
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey have been consistently healthy for the team this season.
Beckett is tops among Red Sox starters in innings pitched (173), hits allowed (125), and ERA (2.49). It is likely that if the Sox make the post season, Beckett will be the one taking the hill in Game 1.
Jon Lester at times has shown the nation his dominant form that we have all seen, making him one of the most intimidating left handed pitchers in the majors. This season he sometimes may have called upon an alter ego that is a not so dominant and sometimes wild south paw. Lester does lead the team in strikeouts (169) and wins (15).
John Lackey has been a disaster all season. Slotted into the number three position in the rotation because of injury, Lackey as an astronomical ERA of 6.30, almost two full points higher than his previous highest ERA season.
One bright light for Sox pitching this year has come from the bullpen and the revival of the craziest closer in the Majors being Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon has converted 29 of 30 save opportunities and has a 2.65 ERA. Pap is back to his strikeout ways, by sitting down 75 hitters in 57.2 innings.
This season’s bullpen, granted, has been better than ones in the past (see 03′ bullpen by committee). Alfredo Aceves has been the Red Sox go-to long inning reliever and has fit nicely into the mix.
With Ellsbury stealing the show in center, the corner outfield position seems even worse than they actually are.
Carl Crawford has been almost extinct this season. Hitting at the bottom of the order and posting a career low in almost every hitting category, makes the fans and analysts wonder if he can play in a big market city like Boston.
J.D. Drew has continued to be useless to the team. Another injury plagued season has given the likes of Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick opportunities to perform.
Dustin Pedroia is the MVP talks again. The “muddy chicken” has been the spark plug to this team and continues to bring that larger than life personality to the club.
Down the stretch of the season heading into the final weeks of the season, the local 9 has put themselves in a sticky situation, starting off the month of September 2-9.
If the Red Sox want to hold on and make a post-season run, they are going to need to get the bats going and stay healthy.
With only a 3.5 game lead over the Rays(who they start a 4-game series at Fenway with the 15th) it is vital to this group to grind out these last couple of weeks and start to make some noise going into the postseason.

Jacoby Ellsbury is having an outstanding season for the Boston Red Sox.