The Red Sox season is 60 percent complete, so this is certainly not a review of the first half. But the All-Star break is a good time to look back ... and take a few guesses at what is to come.
1. Dustin Pedroia: This won’t be another MVP season. But in many ways, this could be Pedroia’s best season. His OPS+ is the third-best of his career (and close to his best) and his defense has been extraordinary. He’s not the team captain but his leadership is unquestioned.
2. David Ortiz: Still wondering whether that two-year deal was smart? Big Papi shook off his Achilles’ injury and has a 1.008 OPS. Only Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are higher. On a team lacking home run power, Ortiz is a critical player.
3. Clay Buchholz: He hasn’t pitched since June 8. But when he did, Buchholz was one of the game’s best. His return to health will determine the course of the season.
BREAK CY YOUNG
1. Clay Buchholz: The Sox were 11-1 in the games he started. Had he not gone on the disabled list, Buchholz might be starting the All-Star game on Tuesday.
2. John Lackey: He has given the Red Sox 16 starts and a 2.78 ERA. His bounce-back season is one of the best stories in baseball.
3. Koji Uehara: In what has been an unsettled bullpen, the 38-year-old has been a rock in any role. An 0.75 WHIP and 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings attest to his dominance.
BREAK ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Jose Iglesias: The defensive maestro has hit .367 in 52 games and forced his way into the lineup. Common sense tells you his offensive numbers will dip, but your eyes tell you he’s become a better hitter.
MORE RED SOX THOUGHTS AT THE BREAK
Five pleasant surprises: Daniel Nava emerging as a productive everyday player. ... Felix Doubront recovering from early season woes to become a reliable starter. ... Mike Napoli plays first base better than just OK. ... Mike Carp has been a helpful bench player. ... The amount of help fill-in players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Ryan Lavarnway, Alex Wilson and others provided.
Five disappointments: Will Middlebrooks being sent back to the minors. ... Jon Lester regressing after a strong first nine starts. ... Andrew Miller getting injured after a breakout first few months. ... The lack of home run power from the outfielders. ... Stephen Drew’s sub-par season.
Five observations: Jarrod Saltalamacchia is putting himself in line for a nice contract as a free agent and it should be with the Red Sox. ... The front office was exactly right about Shane Victorino being a good fit in right field. ... Napoli’s ability to tear up Fenway Park was wildly overstated. ... John Farrell has struck the right balance between being candid about performance but not being overly critical of his players. ... Junichi Tazawa looks worn down and may not be an effective set-up man down the stretch.
Five keys to the second half: Buchholz being Buchholz. ... Lester being Lester. ... Putting the puzzle together in the bullpen. Perhaps Andrew Bailey fits best as closer but there is no denying how well Uehara has handled the role. ... Managing Ortiz’s playing time to keep him fresh. ... Napoli, a good second-half hitter, getting hot.
Five questions: In the 65 games remaining, is there a role for young players like Middlebrooks, Allen Webster, Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Workman, and Drake Britton? ... If Drew doesn’t pick it up, would the Red Sox be bold enough to play Iglesias at shortstop and use Bogaerts at third? ... Is Ellsbury playing out the string in Boston? ... Will Ben Cherington make another trade or two before the deadline?
Five predictions: The Sox win 93 games and the division by one game over the Rays and two over the Orioles. ... Drew returns, but Iglesias ends up back at shortstop before the season ends. ... Lester goes 8-3, 3.39 in his last 13 starts, picking up for Buchholz. ... Bailey ends up leading the team in saves. ... Farrell is named AL Manager of the Year.