Strange feeling after that Detroit sweep, no? Kind of empty, if that's possible after posting the Majors best record in the first half. This coming from a guy who is notoriously of the 'Glass half full' camp, I might add.
Having said that, it was a half of ups and downs, and you really get a picture of exactly that when you take a look at the Sox lineup player by player and how they preformed (or in some cases, underperformed) in the seasons first half.
You know what, let's chop it up right now.
Player: Jason Varitek
Excels at: Has kept the pitching staff ticking over and has also kept a disparate, eclectic relief staff pitching to a high degree of efficiency. Some facile commentary teams knock his stolen-base-against percentage however they aren't taking into account the fact the Sox do not allow their pitchers to slide step. Francona is on record saying he doesn't care about stolen bases against. Varitek is a premium defensive shortstop who blocks home plate as well as any catcher in the game.
Needs to improve at: How do you knock a pretty decent batting average when the guy has an enormous workload on his shoulders? Maybe a couple more home runs would help.
Second half outlook: If Varitek finished the 07 season at .270 with 20 home runs and 80 rbis the Sox will be delirious considering the high degree to which he plays the other half of the game.
If his first half was a movie it would be: The Godfather. A class act, almost beyond reproach.
Half term grade: B+
Player: Mike Lowell
Excels at: Probably no one saw this first half coming. Amongst the AL leaders in all the big offensive categories, Lowell is also right up there with Manny and Ortiz as the Sox leader in all categories of note. He has provided remarkable consistency in the middle of the order.
Needs to improve at: Unbelievably, needs to improve his defence. A superior glove man the last few years Lowell has experienced an odd '07 with more errors this season alone than in '05 and '06 combined. Probably needs to just accept he is going to make around 20 errors and move on, deliver the kind of leather work he is known for in the second half.
Second half outlook: Lowell has given the Sox a real headache. Before his offensive outburst the Sox front office probably wouldn't have dreamt of extending his 9 million salary another year - now they might be talking to him about a two year extension. A vital part of the Sox lineup for the second half.
If his first half was a movie it would be: The Godfather II. Even better than the first one. A sleeper of sorts that did everything right.
Half term grade: A
Player: Julio Lugo
Excels at: Oh boy. Stealing bases? I guess he has that going for him. Everything else aside, Lugo provides the Sox with superb speed and above average base running ability.
Needs to improve at: Lugo simply needs to start hitting. He has shown a little spark in recent days including a decent series in Detroit however he needs to start hitting, and fast, or the Sox will be looking at a new face at short yet again.
Second half outlook: Lugo needs a strong first few weeks after the All Star break or the Sox will be forced into drastic action.
If his first half was a movie it would be: Die Hard 4.0. The most expensive bag of garbage ever.
Half term grade: D- (would be an E+ if it weren't for his blazing speed and impressive stolen base stats)
Player: Dustin Pedroia
Excels at: Pedroia has been one of the Sox success stories from part one of the season. Most interesting is that opposition team commentary teams are absolutely drooling over him right now. The Detroit team, for example, lauded his every move. His defence has been possibly some of the best glove work seen around second since Pokey Reese and he swings a big stick for such a little fella.
Needs to improve at: Needs to grow a inch or two, I dunno?
Second half outlook: The future looks bright, both short and long term.
If his first half was a movie it would be: The Bourne Identity. Came out of nowhere and blew the opposition away.
Half term grade: A+ (think about it, what else could Dustin possibly have done?!)
Player: Kevin Youkilis
Excels at: Youkilis has blossomed in 2007 into the player the Sox front office imagined, a patient hitter with a wonderful eye for and understanding of the strike zone.
Needs to improve at: Would possibly lose a race to Kevin Millar.
Second half outlook: Youkilis's maturation is a joy to behold for Sox fans, personally I would slot him in the two hole and sit back and enjoy, he is an on base machine.
If his first half was a movie it would be: The Bourne Supremacy. Destined to succeed, as steady as they come.
Half term grade: A+ (think about it, what else could Youk possibly have done?!)
Player: Manny Ramirez
Excels at: Manny is showing Boston he can turn up every day and hustle his way down the line on a nightly basis.
Needs to improve at: Um, not for nothin', but where's the power gone?
Second half outlook: Who can predict exactly which way the good ship Manny is going? A huge power surge? An extended slump? Flip a coin? What you can do is look back at his previous post all star outputs, and history shows the real Manny will stand up.
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'The Godfather Part III' - historically brilliant, flashes of class, excellent form, but stretches where you wonder, what on earth is going on?
Half term grade: B-
Player: David Ortiz
Excels at: With opposing pitchers starting to give Ortiz the 'Barry Bonds' treatment (nothing to hit, most pitches at his ankles or over his head) it is completely inane to expect him to hit 60 home runs. What Ortiz has done is hit for average, even with that ridiculous shift that teams employ against him.
Needs to improve at: Just needs to relax and take it easy, the Sox don't need him to be '04 Pappi, just keep hitting.
Second half outlook: Pappi had a strong second half last season and as he hamstring strengthens the bombs will fly.
If his first half was a movie it would be: The Simpsons movie. Doesn't really matter if it is 'on it's game' or not, you'll still go to see it, and anyway, it probably will deliver.
Half term grade:B+
Player: Coco Crisp
Excels at: Has Fenway park ever seen this incredible level of defensive play in centre field before? Crisp has delivered several stunning, often game changing, full-out catches that other outfielders can only dream about. He has made defense sexy again with his incredible natural ability to track down fly balls.
Needs to improve at: Hey, it's obvious, Crisp needs to hit with more authority, but he is starting to do just that.
Second half outlook: Coco's 2007 stock is clearly on the rise.
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'The prestige' - starts off a little slow and muddled but turns into a fantastic little movie.
Half term grade: B- (I can't give any lower to player who makes those catches on such a regular basis, do you have any clue how uplifting it is to a pitching staff to have that behind them every night?)
Player: JD Drew
Excels at: Everyone says he has a sweet swing. He just hasn't put it to much use.
Needs to improve at: Right now, it appears Drew couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag.
Second half outlook: Well, anything is better than this, right?
If his first half was a movie it would be: Pirates of the Caribbean III - big, expensive, glossy, and about as rewarding as a bad toothache.
Half term grade: E+
Player: Josh Beckett
Excels at: Now this is more like it. This looks like the 2003 World Series MVP Boston were hoping they would get when they gave up Hanley Ramirez. Beckett looks poised, in control and comfortable. A 20 win season is on the cards.
Needs to improve at: Really just needs to stay healthy, fingers crossed.
Second half outlook: If he pitches anywhere close to his first half output, 22 wins? How does that sound?
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'The Empire strikes back' - the second episode was much better than the first. Exciting, dramatic and just a better movie.
Half term grade: A+ (When all is said and done, at the end of the day, Beckett just went out and grabbed the position of 'Boston's Ace'.
Player: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Excels at: His stuff is like Tara Reid after two bottle of rum on a Friday night, just nasty.
Needs to improve at: All he needs to do is find his own comfort zone.
Second half outlook: The sky is the limit for Matsuzaka, he has the stuff to do something special.
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'Babel' - Sometimes a little confusing, but rewarding, richly created and ultimately very classy.
Half term grade: B (only this low because he has an A+ in him, he just needs to find his 'happy place' and deliver consistently.
Player: Curt Schilling
Excels at: Has that near-no hitter to be proud of, but at what cost?
Needs to improve at: Anyone figured out the secret to going back in time yet?
Second half outlook: If Schilling comes back at anything like his usual self it will provide the Red Sox with a major spark. Using 'if' in a sentence does not, however, promote confidence.
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'The road to perdition' - Absolutely brilliant in parts, slow and laborious in others, with a slightly unsatisfying ending.
Half term grade: C+
Player: Tim Wakefield
Excels at: Eating up innings like Vincent Wilfork does cheeseburgers.
Needs to improve at: He needs to get all Indiana Jones and find his own personal holy grail, consistency.
Second half outlook: More of the same please, Timmy. If he replicates his first half the Sox will be perfectly sated.
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'The Wizard of Oz' - it's old but every time you go back to watch it again, it gets the job done.
Half term grade: B+
Player: Hideki Okajima
Excels at: Getting batters out. Okajima could arguably be the Sox first half MVP
Needs to improve at: What is with that gaudy necklace?!
Second half outlook: What could he possibly do for an encore?
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' - Exciting, classy older version of an inferior, bigger budget remake ('Pearl Harbour').
Half term grade: A+
Player: Jonathon Papelbon
Excels at: Slamming the door with authority
Needs to improve at: Maybe just a few more offspeed pitches for a greater overall balance
Second half outlook: Keep slamming that door!
If his first half was a movie it would be: 'Sin City' - New, loud, brash and exciting.
Half term grade: A+ (imagine, this is just his second year on the job!)
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