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Miss us?

No, you didn’t. You probably forgot we exist. But that’s okay. We forgot the blog existed for a little while, too. Which is a shame, really, because it’s been a very interesting first 75 games for the Red Sox this season (and for baseball as a whole, but let’s be serious–this is a Red Sox blog in everything but name).

As predicted by yours truly roughly a million times, Daniel Bard failed miserably as a starting pitcher; he’s been sent down to Pawtucket and converted back to the bullpen, hopefully for good this time. The rest of the rotation has been lackluster as well; while Felix Doubront has come from nowhere to be a fine back end option more outings than not, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett have battled injuries and ineffectiveness (not to mention stupid media narratives about golf), and Jon Lester has been just a tick worse than we’ve come to expect from him, which has some people blaming the team’s struggles on him, which is insane. In all the Red Sox have the fourth-worst starters’ ERA in baseball, and Boston starters are 20th in both FIP and xFIP.

While the rotation being pretty bad was to be expected, the incredible spate of injuries was not. Carl Crawford has missed the entire season recovering from offseason wrist surgery; even if you leave him off, seven different Red Sox outfielders have hit the disabled list at one point or another. Jacoby Ellsbury only got 30 plate appearances before injuring his shoulder in a freak baserunning accident; Cody Ross (who has been a bright spot for the offense) missed a month; Ryan Sweeney hit the DL twice; even Scott Podsednik, who was brought in after the first wave of injuries and rewarded Bobby Valentine’s stupid decision to bat him leadoff with a ridiculous .893 OPS (and .434 BABIP) went and got himself hurt before people could remember that he’s terrible.

In place of the starters, the Red Sox’ outfield has been manned by the likes of Nate Spears, Jason Repko and Adrian Gonzalez, moved out to right first for interleague play but then because there was nobody else to play there. Ross has returned, finally, and the other two spots are currently manned by Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish. Nava has emerged as the team’s most recent leadoff hitter (after Ellsbury got hurt and Bobby V finally gave up on the Mike Aviles Experiment), posting a nifty .433 OBP and reminding the viewer of what it was like when every Sox hitter worked the count and took walks more than once a fortnight. Kalish, on the other hand, has been pretty terrible (.250/.300/.286); fortunately, it shouldn’t be too too long before Ellsbury and/or Sweeney are back to send him down to Pawtucket for some more seasoning.

One callup who thankfully doesn’t appear to need much more seasoning is Will Middlebrooks. After many (including myself) thought that he had been rushed to the big leagues after Kevin Youkilis predictably got hurt, Middlebrooks has put up an even .900 OPS. His defense at third has been shaky at times (he’s actually last on the team in UZR at the moment, but in this small a sample that means essentially nothing), but he’s actually capable of handling the regular workload of being a third baseman without breaking down or turning into dust, which is more than can be said of the guy we had before him.

Speaking of that guy: We traded him. I never got mad at Youk the way I got mad at Mike Lowell in late 2008 and all the way through 2010; he never asked to be moved back to a position he could never play, rather than traded in the winter of 2010 when he was a slick fielding slugger at first instead of in June of 2012 when he was a hobbled old man at third. The Red Sox got essentially nothing for him (failed prospect Zach Stewart and the execrable Brent Lillibridge), which isn’t a surprise because they weren’t trading away much of an asset; still, it’s a little sad to see Youk go, even if his departure was pretty much guaranteed once Middlebrooks showed that he could handle the load.

After a terrible start, the Red Sox are now 40-35, six and a half games back of the Yankees but just a game and a half back of the Orioles(!), who currently hold the silly second wild card spot. Despite the terrible offseason that saw the front office eat itself alive and a rash of injuries that would be enough to last many teams two whole seasons, the Red Sox are contenders. Contributions have come from unlikely sources–who would have seen Jarrod Saltalamacchia turning into the best slugging catcher in the American League?–and they’re going to have to keep doing so going forward, but right at this moment the Red Sox have an opportunity to at least make things interesting heading into the All-Star break and beyond.

Speaking of beyond, we (probably I, at least to begin with; Space wasn’t so thrilled with the idea when I pitched it to him) are going to be trying something a little different here, in an attempt to get more content up with greater regularity. We’ll try to get pre- and post-game pieces up for you every game, with at least a little analysis on what went right or wrong. Hopefully that will inspire more regular longer pieces in the future, so that we don’t put up a season preview at the end of March and then not touch the blog again for another three months. You know, as a for instance.

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  1. June 29, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Love my Sox! One question. Middlebrooks has been struggling at the plate ever since the Youk trade. Wondering why.

    • June 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Youk was traded on Sunday, and today is Friday. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s nothing.

    • June 29, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      With not even a week of at bats to judge by, I’d agree with my blogging colleague, though I’d add two more specific notes:

      – As well as being a VERY short period, this week has seen a lower average on balls in play – basically, it’s a combination of such a tiny sample that there may be no slump with miniscule evidence that if there IS a slump, it may just be bad luck. Looking at Fangraphs’ batted balls by game, he’s still getting fly balls and line drives, but they’re finding gloves.
      – Middlebrooks has almost certainly been playing above his actual ability most of the season. He may well be a solid major leaguer despite his aversion to taking walks, but he won’t continue to have a .348 BABIP (team average .311) or see nearly 21% of his fly balls leave the park (team average 11.8%). Realistically, it’s setting ourselves up for disappointment if we view him as the superstar we’ve seen for less than 200 PA.

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