After 81 games, half a season, 38 at home, the Sox are 46-35, three games ahead of the Orioles, tied for the third best record in the American League. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?
Fans can take the high road and talk of virtually leading the league in scoring offense (one run less than the Yankees, who have played 82 games), in on-base percentage, and on-base slugging percentage. They can exult in having achieved a first half league virtually without a contribution from Curt Schilling, and minus the formidable arms of Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. Patrons can also celebrate having achieved competency with limited bullpen contribution and with 19 homeruns and 119 RBI from the infield of Mueller, Renteria, Bellhorn, and Millar.
On the other hand, Sox loyalists have to recognize the inconsistency of starting pitching, the abomination that has been the bullpen, and the generally mediocre defense.
Sox hurlers are 22nd in WHIP (walks and hits per inning) and on base average allowed. The Sox team ERA is 12th in the AL (4.85), and 13th in relief ERA (5.58).
The Sox are eighteenth in fielding percentage (.983), tied for next to last in caught stealing (13), and 20th in double plays.
The most telling indictment of the construction of the team is the simplest: Mike Myers is the second most effective pitcher in the Red Sox bullpen, behind Mike Timlin. Even Timlin has shown signs of cracking under the workload.
Without more effective pitching, especially relief pitching, the Red Sox won't be celebrating in October, they'll be the ones golfing. It's impossible to envision the Sox outslugging everyone to run through playoff competition as smartly as occurred last season.
The challenge for GM Theo Epstein and his staff is to retool the pitching staff without mortgaging the future either economically or developmentally. That's not so much to ask from an organization that charges landoffice prices for obstructed view seats and $4.25 for a bottle of water.