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Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.
At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.
Beltre has inserted himself into the American League MVP discussion with the second-best season of his career. Hitting .336/.372/.570 with 31 doubles and 20 home runs in 435 plate appearances, the third baseman has been a force both at the plate and in the field. While Kevin Youkilis has put together a strong season as well, Beltre has been the straw that stirs Boston's offensive drink.
Many thought Beltre would succeed with the Red Sox by virtue of his home park, but he's actually displayed more power away from the friendly confines, hitting five more doubles, two triples and one home run in 11 more trips to the plate. He's been everything the Red Sox could have asked for -- just don't touch his head. (Beltre hates it when Victor Martinez goes in for a head rub after he cranks a home run.)-- Evan Brunell, Red Sox blogger (Fire Brand of the AL), SweetSpot Blog Network
• ERA: 2.93
• xFIP: 4.25
• K.9: 8.02
• HR/9: 1.17
Those are all career-worst numbers for one Jonathan Papelbon, and his BB/9 and stranded runners on base numbers are both close to being career lows, as well. Yes, the ERA is nice, but that's a fluke as xFIP proves. Boston's bullpen has been a sieve all season, with only Daniel Bard truly capable of doing his job. Someone else has to step up, and it's logical that Boston's high-paid closer be requested as the man to step up.
Papelbon has reduced the usage of his fastball and boosted his split-fingered fastball numbers, as he promised to do. The problem is that while his split is working beautifully, no one is fooled by his fastball any longer. All this adds up to a shaky closer every time he takes the mound. With Boston struggling to keep pace with the Yankees and Rays, the last thing the team needs to worry about is if the game can be closed.-- Evan Brunell, Red Sox blogger (Fire Brand of the AL), SweetSpot Blog Network
Unquestionably, the main story with this year's Red Sox has been the injuries the team has suffered, with Clay Buchholz, Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, among others, all spending at least one stint on the disabled list. In all, 15 Red Sox have been placed on the DL, more than any team but Oakland and Philadelphia. Boston's Opening Day lineup took the field for the first four games of the season and has not been intact since. In particular, the Red Sox have been hit hard with injuries to outfielders Ellsbury and Cameron, which have contributed to the Red Sox outfield having the lowest batting average and second-lowest on-base percentage in the American League.
The Red Sox entered the 2010 season preaching a mantra of run prevention, with many fans and pundits alike questioning how the team would score enough to be competitive. Entering Thursday, the Red Sox had scored 555 runs through 108 games, falling just short of their 560 runs through 108 games in 2009. Kevin Youkilis has been an on-base machine as always, and Adrian Beltre has been even better offensively than could have been predicted.
The Red Sox are on the outside of the playoffs partly because they have failed at run prevention. Boston ranks second in baseball in runs scored but just 19th in runs allowed. The bullpen has been a trouble spot for the Red Sox all season. The Red Sox are one of just four AL teams whose bullpen ERA is higher than that of their starters. Hideki Okajima, a mainstay among Red Sox relievers since 2007, has had by far the worst season of his career.
The defense, which was the main subject of Boston's offseason roster overhaul, has been much improved by objective measures. After ranking 28th in the majors last season in defensive efficiency, which measures balls in play converted to outs, the Red Sox have improved to rank eighth overall.
Jon Lester, who helped carry the Red Sox rotation in the first half of the season, has struggled a bit in the second half, dropping all four of his decisions.
-- Dan Braunstein, ESPN Stats & Info blog
The Boston Red Sox won their first game of the season 9-7 against the New York Yankees. As a result, their 1-0 record had them in first place. They haven't been in first place since.
They've been close -- they were one-half of a game off the American League East pace as recently as July 3 -- but right now they are six games behind the Yankees and also looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays.
The latest playoff odds have them with a 23 percent chance of playing meaningful games in October.
So -- can they get back into this race, even with all the injuries they've suffered?
There is still a remote chance that a team in the AL Central or West could capture the wild-card berth into the playoffs. Realistically though, it will come down to Boston, New York and Tampa to decide the AL East crown and wild-card winner.For more of FanGraphs' analysis, click here .