Despite all the injuries to Red Sox players — and there have been plenty of them — a 43-43 record just doesn’t cut it.
Boston is tied for fourth (and last) place in the AL East under new skipper Bobby Valentine at the All-Star break. And another poor couple of weeks could lead the Sox to being sellers instead of buyers at the July 31 trade deadline.
Before the season, I explored nine Red Sox story lines to follow here in 2012.
Here are each of those story lines and how they have unfolded thus far:
1. Gonzalez’s offense
Preseason remark: Adrian Gonzalez’s 27 homers in 2011 were fewer than he had in each of the previous four seasons but being a year and a half removed from shoulder surgery, he possibly could hit 40 homers like he did in 2009.
Midseason report: Gonzalez was one of the biggest underachievers in baseball during the first half, homering just six times. He is on pace to hit 11 long balls this season.
The left-hander’s sweet swing and potential to drive the ball to the opposite field makes him and Fenway Park seem like the perfect match.
The first baseman did make 18 starts in right field during the first half with so many Sox outfielders on the disabled list simultaneously.
Since June 20, when Gonzalez permanently returned to first base, where his comfort level is much higher, he has raised his average from .257 to .283, But he only has one homer during that stretch.
He is tied for the AL lead with 27 doubles, but his six homers, 23 walks and .329 on-base percentage are concerning.
2. Ellsbury’s power
Preseason remark: Jacoby Ellsbury had a breakout year in 2011, setting career highs in homers (32, his previous high was 9), RBIs (105), runs (119), hits (212), doubles (46), walks (52) and total bases (364) but will he continue this power surge?
Midseason report: Ellsbury played just seven games in the first half because of a subluxed right shoulder. He has been out since April 14 but is expected back tomorrow when the Sox open the second half in Tampa.
Ellsbury has missed 227 out of a possible 410 games since the start of 2010.
His injury history makes him difficult to rely on during the second half. And if he does stay healthy, he might have trouble reaching his full potential offensively after missing nearly the entire first half.
3. The Iglesias factor
Preseason remark: Much-hyped shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias was sent to
Pawtucket to work on his swing but he is someone new manager Bobby Valentine likes and so the 22-year-old defensive wiz could be with Boston by June.
Midseason report: Iglesias was up with Boston for two games in May (without receiving an at-bat) before being sent back to Pawtucket.
A lower back injury kept Iglesias out of the Pawtucket lineup from late May until late June.
He is hitting .260 with just a .305 on-base percentage in 52 games for Pawtucket and still hasn’t shown he is completely ready to hit at the big leagues despite some nice stretches offensively and spectacular defense.
Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles is tied for second among all major league shortstops with 44 RBIs but has just a .283 on-base percentage.
Jed Lowrie, who Boston traded to Houston for reliever Mark Melancon (7.04 ERA) this past offseason, is second among major league shortstops with 14 homers during the first half.
4. Doubront against the best teams
Preseason remark: Boston’s back-of-the-rotation starters in recent years have struggled against the best hitting teams but 24-year-old left-hander Felix Doubront has potential to pitch well against powerful clubs like New York.
Midseason report: Doubront started strong before posting a 5.83 ERA in five starts during June. He pitched much better in his last start. He finished the first half 9-4 with a 4.41 ERA. His average of 9.09 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched leads all AL left-handers.
He has shown the potential against the best with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Yankees. But Boston obviously needs the southpaw to pitch more like he did in May (3.71 ERA in six starts) than he did in June.
5. Replacing Papelbon
Preseason remark: New closer Andrew Bailey is easy-going with a quick wit and rugged good looks, but to really be a fan favorite, he has to fill Jonathan Papelbon’s big shoes. He has the talent to do it.
Midseason report: Bailey has the talent but he spent the entire first half on the DL after undergoing surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb in early April.
Bailey has been injury-prone his entire career. The Sox knew the risk they were taking when they dealt for him.
He threw last week and apparently is making strides toward a comeback. But there is no rehab stint planned yet and you have to wonder whether he will return this season.
Alfredo Aceves has done well in Bailey’s absence after a shaky start. He has converted 19 of 23 save opportunities.
Meanwhile, Josh Reddick, who the Sox traded to Oakland for Bailey, has 20 homers and is on pace to hit 38.
6. Youkilis’ questionable health
Preseason remark: Injuries have limited Kevin Youkilis to 358 games out of a possible 486 over the past three seasons and at 33, let’s see how he holds up. He is leaner than in past years and appears to be in good shape.
Midseason report: Youkilis spent 22 games on the DL with lower back strain and hit .233 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 42 games for the Red Sox before being traded him to the White Sox on June 24 to make room for rookie Will Middlebrooks to be the everyday third baseman.
Youkilis and Bobby Valentine didn’t have a friendly relationship to put it kindly. Valentine’s biggest issue with Youkilis became public April 15 when the first-year Red Sox skipper publicly called out the third baseman’s emotional and physical commitment.
Youkilis was furious and wanted to be traded. He and Valentine’s relationship was irreparable.
By the way, Youkilis is hitting .347 with three homers and 14 RBIs for the White Sox in 13 games.
7. Matsuzaka’s recovery
Preseason remark: Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is rehabing from Tommy John surgery, could be ready to pitch by June 1. With a healthy elbow and new manager Bobby Valentine who managed in Japan, Matsuzaka might return neat the form he was at in 2008 when he posted a 2.90 ERA in 29 starts.
Midseason report: Matsuzaka returned June 9 and made five starts (posting a 6.65 ERA) before returning to the DL with a right upper trapezius strain.
Matsuzaka’s Boston career has been way too inconsistent. He has underachieved greatly since 2008 and the Red Sox surely will be happy to see him become a free agent after this season.
8. Salty’s time to shine
Preseason remark: The time is now for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and PawSox backstop Ryan Lavarnway could replace backup Kelly Shoppach if Shoppach struggles offensively in the first half.
Midseason report: Saltalamacchia leads all major league catchers with 17 homers and is on pace to hit 32 home runs this season. His batting average and on-base percentage dropped in June and he hasn’t hit well in July, but he is having a productive year overall.
Shoppach has a .269 average, .358 on-base percentage and four homers in 93 at-bats. The Sox could try to trade him in the coming weeks because Lavarnway is hitting .310 with a .401 on-base percentage in 69 games for Pawtucket.
9. New sheriff in town
Preseason remark: Old manager Terry Francona went above and beyond to protect and applaud his guys, but new skipper Bobby Valentine doesn’t do that. How will his players react to Valentine’s criticism?
Midseason report: Red Sox players obviously didn’t like when Valentine publicly criticized Kevin Youkilis. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia fired back at Valentine by telling reporters that is not how things work.
That said, Red Sox players asked for someone like Valentine when they ran their player-manager out of town.
Valentine does have the support of some players, such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But others don’t like him.
ESPN’s Buster Olney’s report of the Red Sox clubhouse being “toxic” also has brought the issue to light that Valentine and some of his coaches might not have the best relationships.