12.5

The Red Sox hold a 12.5 game lead on the Yankees. No disrespect intended to the Yankees, but the Orioles are the closest to Boston right now at 11.5 games back.

The Yankees seem to be disastrously broken. They have the talent but nothing is clicking right now. I am astounded that things have gone so poorly.

That being said, the Yankees can never be counted out.

Focusing on the Red Sox, I figured some grades were in order. Consider these mid-term results.

Lugo: Grade D. Lugo is being paid far too much to have this poor an average (.231) and OBP (.296). I expect he’ll pick it up as he might just be dealing with the "first year in Boston" issue many struggle with.

Youkilis: Grade A. Leads the team in AVG, OBP and runs. He has played solid D and makes pitchers work very hard. I was stunned his name was mentioned so much in trade talks this off-season.

Ortiz: Grade A-. Good average, great OBP. His slugging is a bit off pace from the last 2 seasons, but with Manny’s early struggles, I don’t think he is getting as much too hit.

Manny: Grade C-. Manny has gotten off to a bad start. His K totals are high, his power is low. This isn’t a huge concern as Manny has taken a month or two off in the past during a season yet always seems to end up in the same place.

Drew: Grade D+. Like Lugo, he seems to be suffering in his first year in Boston. Unlike Lugo, he is still getting on base (.349 obp). More importantly, he has stayed somewhat healthy, only missing a few games with a sickness and a bruised back.

Lowell: Grade A. He and Youkilis have really carried the team thus far, at least from the supporting cast contributions. Lowell got off to a hot start in 2006 too, and tailed off a bit, let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.

Varitek: Grade B+. His average (.276) and obp (.373) are more than enough to keep him in the line-up. I had feared he was all done just a few weeks ago, but with his rediscovered ability to get on base and his defense, he is solid.

Crisp: Grade C. His grade would be worse if not for his stellar defense. Crisp hasn’t found the stroke that made him so appealing a pick on for Boston, but he has been tracking down everything hit towards him.

Pedroia: Grade B+. Dustin has raised his average to .271 and his obp (.361) is great for any #9 hitter. More importantly, Pedroia never gives away an at bat. His 12 pitch, 9th inning at bat today against Gagne ended with him hitting a solo home run which ended up being the deciding run. His defense has been more than solid. I think Terry Francona should be commended for keeping him in the line-up despite his early struggles.

Schilling: Grade B. He has certainly done enough to give the Red Sox a chance to win most of the time. What is most concerning is the number of hits he is allowing per inning. Schilling does still have good enough command to limit walks thus keeping opponents OBP down. I am not ready to say he has officially gotten old, but without his velocity and his excellent command of years past, this Schilling might not be worth $13m a season.

Beckett: Grade A. Beckett was the most dominating AL starter prior to his injury. The good news is he had been able to throw his off-speed stuff for strikes. With his most recent injury, he’ll have to prove himself again, fair or not.

Matsuzaka: Grade B. Daisuke has been up and down. I’m impressed with what he has accomplished given the intense pressure he has faced. His make-up is off the charts. His in-game consistency is off right now and his 4.43 ERA is proof of that. But he is averaging almost a strikeout per inning and has a 3:1 K/BB ratio.

Wakefield: Grade B+. Wakefield has kept the Red Sox in most games. His 5-5 record is misleading as he has pitched better than that. He is still subject to bouts of inconsistency, but he is still a bargain.

Tavarez: Grade C+. I hear people rave about Tavarez thus far and scratch my head. I suppose if you thought prior to the season he was hopelessly overmatched, yes, I’d be happy with him so far, but he is a veteran pitcher who had 93 career starts coming into 2007. He has pitched well in spots, but seems to fall into the "one bad inning" trap, hence the 3-4 record. I am ok with him as a stop gap, but nothing more.

Papelbon: Grade A-. The only ding against him is his durability. Specifically Francona’s hesitancy to use him much. Then again, it might just be a function of the Red Sox playing so well. Since there is no urgency, why overuse him?

Okajima: Grade A. A major surprise, Okajima has pitched as well as a first year pitcher can. I’m not sure he’ll continue at this level of success, but so far so good.

The rest of the pen: Grade B+. Mostly good results from this crowded crew. Francona hasn’t had to overwork them which is partly the reason for their success. At the same time, with such limited use, players like Joel Pineiro and Kyle Snyder really haven’t had a chance to prove themselves.

There are a few others I’m leaving out, but so be it. The Red Sox are playing very well and have built a tremendous lead. I feel their only real enemy at this point is themselves. They cannot become complacent. The Yankees are capable of so much more and have a history of wiping out massive leads. Don’t get comfortable boys.

FYI, Sports Illustrated ran an article on the charity efforts of Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. The 3 teamed up with Charity Wines to produce 3 wines, the proceeds of which will be given to their respective charity.

SI enlisted the help of Dr. Vino to assess each wine. You can check it out in the May 28th issue of SI, page 26.