Grading the Sox veterans from 2012 to now

Sam Galanis
Contributing Writer

We hear it all the time, the story of the Red Sox rebuilding their team. With strategic changes in management and coaching and the acquisition of key free agents, the Sox were able to go from worst to first. But what the story leaves out is the fact that the Red Sox didn’t actually completely rebuild their team. They didn’t scrap everything and start over. They built up from a very strong foundation. What they did helped talent that the Sox already had get back on track.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all made great improvement from 2012 to now, while Craig Breslow and Daniel Nava got the playing time to show they deserved to be there all along. Their combined wins above replacement (which shows how many more wins a player is worth compared to an average replacement player) jumped from 13.9 to 31.1. You don’t need a statistician to tell you that that is pretty damn impressive.

And we decided to grade them based on how much they’ve improved.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Salty has only improved during all the time he’s spent with the Sox, though the strikeouts he racks up make that hard to believe sometimes. But all kidding aside, his average went from .222 to .273, which speaks volumes about what he’s done this year. Also, Salty has the second most doubles on the Sox with 40, which is up from a mere 17 last year. A doubles hitter is always important. His abysmal catching stats only improved slightly, but then again, that’s what David Ross is for.
Improvement grade: B+

David Ortiz
Papi didn’t have a bad season in 2012, but he had a short one due to his nagging achilles issues. What’s impressive is that he was able to come back and have one of his best seasons thanks to all of the positivity surrounding him. Every time he got up to the plate this season, he was swinging harder than he ever has. While it’s hard to grade him based on improvement due to the fact that he didn’t play a full 2012 and didn’t technically improve, I have to give him credit on his attitude change from then to now. It’s made a huge difference.
Improvement grade: A-

Craig Breslow
The Sox didn’t have Breslow for all of 2012, but man, has he upped his game with them this season. He lowered his ERA from 2.70 to 1.81, which is impressive, but it’s even more impressive when you see how lights-out he’s been against lefties. Breslow had an ERA of 3.60 against lefties last season, and he brought that all the way down to 0.72. Breslow certainly found his groove on this new and improved Sox team, especially with new help from pitching coach Juan Nieves.
Improvement grade: A

Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia is another one that you have to take his attitude change into account with and not necessarily his stats. Even though he didn’t play badly last season, he just seemed so dejected. His slugging percentage actually went down (his thumb issues are probably to blame for that), but everywhere else, he was up. His average went from .290 to .301, his RBIs from 65 to 84, and he played in 19 more games. In fact, he played in 160 games, which is much more than anyone else on the team. It was actually difficult for John Farrell to get the guy off the field. And for that, he gets brownie points.
Improvement grade: A-

Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury played for less than half of last season, but even when he was playing, he wasn’t nearly as good as he’s been this season. This season it was back to the old Jacoby, who can run around the bases 15 times in 15 seconds, or something like that. He seemed like he actually wanted to play too. So he brought his average up from .271 to .298, and stole a few more bags. And by a few, I mean the guy only stole 14 bases in 74 games last season and stole the most in the league with 52 this season, getting caught only 4 times. He even improved his extra base hits. Ellsbury is usually relied on to be a singles hitter who steals himself into scoring position. Due to his speed, he always has a decent amount of extra bases, except for last season. He went from 18 doubles and no triples last season to 31 doubles and a whopping eight triples this season.
Improvement grade: A+

Jon Lester
John Farrell told the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham this about Lester: “Jon is a very concrete thinker and the more we can make things black and white for him, he operates better. That’s where being consistent and being specific works for him.” So Lester under poor management and a carousel of pitching coaches, needless to say, wasn’t so good. But with help from Farrell and Nieves, Lester seems to have gotten himself back on track to be an ace. He went from a very sad 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA, to a much improved 15-8 and 3.75 ERA. And that was with a long slump in the middle of the season. He also seems much calmer at the mound and less like a bundle of nerves. He gets points off for the slump, but I think that as long as Nieves and Farrell are around, he’ll post his best numbers next season.
Improvement grade: A-

Clay Buchholz
Obviously the Buchholz situation is a bit more complicated than any other player. Say what you will about his extended break this season, but I have no problem with the way he came back pitching. He’s still only lost one game (being 9-0 before his injury was way better than where he was last season) and his ERA is down from 4.56 to 1.74. Plus, I think he can keep it up through the postseason. I’m taking points off for the break and for the fact that he somehow had a winning record last season (11-8) with that ERA, but don’t let the grade make the man. Buchholz is an ace.
Improvement grade: B+

Daniel Nava
He only played for a little more than half of the games last season, but in his first full season, his numbers are some of the best on the team. Only David Ortiz has a better average than Nava, who brought his average up from .243 to .303. He’s fifth in RBIs (66) and sixth in runs (77) and doubles (29). He also posted a sold 12 home runs. The way Nava has improved, he could be looking at a big contract in his future.
Improvement grade: A+

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