The Boston Red Sox have battled with the .500 for well over a month, reaching an even record four times this year only to lose the next game. The fifth time at .500 is the charm for the 2012 Red Sox as the team’s improbable with over Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers now has the team one game over .500 and just 3.5 games out of first place in the American League East. They are still last in the division, however, as the AL East now has five teams all better than .500 and no clear favorite to take the title.
Despite all the injuries, including the latest to Dustin Pedroia , the Boston Red Sox are still very much in contention for both the division title and one of the two wild card slots. With an expected record of 26-23 based on their runs scored and runs allowed, the Red Sox have been just as good, if not better than all of the teams ahead of them in their division by the more predictive run-based system. The 29-21 Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles will certainly be at an advantage thanks to the extra wins they have stocked up in these early months, but both teams have Pythagorean records of 26-24, so they have not actually been much better than the Boston Red Sox or their other division rivals where runs scored and allowed are concerned.
Considering the state of the Boston Red Sox outfield, which is currently featuring minor league acquisition Scott Podsednik, former Indy leaguer Daniel Nava and an out of position Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox current record is a testament to the depth of the organization and the ability of both GM Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine to adapt. With the return of Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Andrew Bailey just around the corner, the Boston Red Sox are in a great position considering all they have gone through in the opening months of the 2012 season.
On the other hand, the potential loss of Dustin Pedroia and the continuing questions about Jon Lester and other members of the starting rotation could easily sink the Red Sox before the cavalry arrives. Since May 10, the Red Sox have gone 13-5. In that time, the Red Sox have been carried by tremendous performances from some unlikely sources like Podsednik, Nava, and catchers Kelly Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia along with strong outings from Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Felix Doubront. It is probably a safe a bet that some of these near replacement-level players will cool off dramatically soon. When that happens, it will take improvements from struggling star players like Lester and Kevin Youkilis to keep the team winning and the Red Sox have not been able to count on that so far.
The month of June will be a major test for Bobby Valentine and the 2012 Boston Red Sox. I have been very critical of Valentine thus far and often with good reason, but he has done some great things in keeping the offense humming without Ellsbury, Crawford, Youkilis, and Cody Ross. He has also found his go-to relievers and begun to show more of feel for when his starters are tiring. If he can keep the team competitive through the next month, he will have done something truly remarkable considering the issues he has had to deal with. At that point, if the Red Sox are still 3-4 games out of first with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey all returning, the Boston Red Sox should be a strong bet to make the playoffs. That may be a big “if,” but it is very possible.
Whatever happens, June will be an important turning point for the 2012 Red Sox.