With 81 games down and another 81 games to go, the Boston Red Sox found themselves Friday morning with a record of 48-33. This is enough to lead the American League East by 3.5 games and lead the American League in wins. Those 48 wins are enough to be tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals for most wins in the majors.
What a difference a year makes, huh? What a difference a change in manager and clubhouse makes as well.
If you are looking at the Red Sox right now, you have to be very optimistic about the remaining part of the season. While Boston has had many things go right at the beginning of the season, the team has also needed to overcome a large amount of injuries and poor performances.
While Clay Buchholz has had an outstanding start to the season with a 9-0 record and a 1.71 ERA, he has also battled injuries that have continued to cause him to miss starts during the first part of the season. Keeping Buchholz healthy will be a key to the second half of the season. Jon Lester started well, but has reverted back to his inconsistent 2012 form. Right now, Lester needs to pick up the slack for the rotation moving forward.
John Lackey has had a better than expected return from injury. Felix Doubront and Allen Webster have failed to take hold of the fifth spot of the rotation. The Red Sox will need innings from this group to relieve some pressure
The biggest problem that the Red Sox have faced has been the team’s problems at the closer position. Both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey have failed as the team’s closer already this season, with Hanrahan already being lost for the season due to injury and Bailey being unable to return to form.
A move for old friend Jonathan Papelbon makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox to make a playoff push in the second. Papelbon or another experienced closer would allow Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa to return to their setup roles, making the bullpen much stronger.
Offensively, it has been a mixed bag for the Red Sox, but the offense continues to lead the league in runs. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have continued to drive the offense with both players enjoying All Star-caliber seasons.
Newcomers like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino have proven to be key contributors while bringing a stabilizing veteran presence to the roster. Jose Iglesias has been a shock in his return to the majors, finally showing some offensive capability. The biggest positive surprise has been the season that Daniel Nava has had, turning in great offensive production while showing marked improvement in the outfield.
These positive developments have allowed the team to survive some injuries and poor performance from Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew, while dealing with the surprising lack of power that Jacoby Ellsbury has shown this season.
The Red Sox have a rich farm system, allowing them to make a big move at the trade deadline.
It is enough to think that the Red Sox could actually improve on their 15 games over .500 pace during the second half of the season. In a year seemingly with no great teams, it might be enough to push this Red Sox team over the top.