“And down the stretch they come!” 

Gratuitous Xander picture. I just wanted to remember what he looked like since he wasn’t actually brought up to Boston to play.
(Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net)

Once again the calendar turns from August to September. Thankfully this time around the Red Sox are not only back in the race, they are, in fact, leading the race. Boston entered August 65-44, up 0.5 games in the American League East. They end August at 81-56 and 4.5 games up, going 16-12 on the month despite a brutal schedule on their recent West Coast trip, and a 3-7 stretch against the Royals, Blue Jays, and Yankees.

So which players are the most responsible for the Red Sox current position atop of the standings? Let’s take a look at this month’s Roster Power Rankings.

The Criteria for the Rankings:

1) What is the value of each player on the Red Sox roster relative to the other players? If a player was to go down for the year, who would hurt the overall performance and potential of the team the most?

2) Salaries don’t matter. Would you rather have Felix Doubront for $518,500 or John Lackey for $15,250,000? Doubront, of course. The cheap cost of controlled players like Doubront, Tazawa, and Nava would completely skew this list.

3) Organizational depth does matter.

4) This is based on my opinion and evaluation. Your opinion may differ. That’s ok. We can still be friends. Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter which players you think I have too high or too low. (Please don’t tell me that a player should be higher without telling me who he should be above, though. It’s very easy to say that Player A is more valuable than I have ranked him, but in order for him to move up, Player B also needs to move down.)

Rank Player Previous Ranking Comments
 25 Franklin Morales NR (DL)  If you have kids it’s fun to sing “Hey it’s Franklin!” when he comes out to the mound. Otherwise, it’s not fun at all when Morales pitches this season (6.32 ERA, 1.787 WHIP).
 24 Drake Britton 19 A couple of rough outings in August took his ERA from 0.00 to 3.12. He’s a good young back of the bullpen arm, but to this point he isn’t a guy that we want to see getting meaningful innings in September and October.
 23 Matt Thornton 20  Thorton has a 1.86 ERA in his 9.2 innings with the Red Sox but he’s been far from dominant, as indicated by his 1.655 WHIP thanks in large part to the 14 hits he’s given up.
22  David Ross NR (DL) First and foremost, he’s not Ryan Lavarnway! He’s hitting .250 since coming back from his concussion issues (and he showed some serious signs of breaking out at the plate in the last game of the month, going 2-3 with a walk and two scorched shots in the game). Unfortunately, he also allowed three stolen bases in the same game, which is not what the Red Sox are counting on him to bring to the team defensively.
 21 Xander Bogaerts NR (AAA) He’s batting .333/.375/.400 in 16 PA’s, and very smooth in the field, but he hasn’t had a plethora of opportunities to this point. It will be interesting to see what kind of time he gets in September and if he is in the mix when the playoff rosters are made, especially now with the all-glove/no-bat John McDonald on the team.
 20 Ryan Dempster 15  I’m done with Dempster. Even if you only expect him to be a 5th starter, he’s still mediocre. If he isn’t the pitcher moved to the bullpen when Buchholz finally returns there will be a Twitter riot. Unrelated side note: I don’t love him hitting ARod (well, from a blood-thirst perspective I loved it, but not in the midst of a Pennant Race) but if you’re going to be the big man that throws at him, you better pitch your guts out for the rest of the game. You can’t “send a message” and then stand out there on the mound getting lit up the rest of the night. We were all rooting for you to get ejected, Ryan. Not because we care about justice, but because you’re a crappy pitcher.
 19 Brandon Workman  14  He only pitched 12.1 innings for the month, and didn’t appear in a game from August 19 until August 29. Maybe Farrell is saving him for the stretch run, or maybe he has just forgot about one of the best arms, and one of the very few right-handed options, in his bullpen.
 18 Craig Breslow 18  I really don’t get why Breslow is such a polarizing issue for Sox fans. Sure he doesn’t strike anyone out (4.91 K/9) but his 2.08 ERA and dental floss thin 0.38 HR/9 puts him firmly inside my bullpen “Circle of Trust.” I have him ranked lower than Tazawa, but I undoubtedly trust him more than Junichi at this point.
17 Will Middlebrooks (NR) AAA Will is the toughest player to rank this month, since these are season long rankings, but he’s hitting .322/.406/.475 since being recalled. Perhaps most encouraging is that earlier in the year he had only nine walks in 216 plate appearances, but in August he had eight BB in 69 PA. He still has some ugly at-bats and a chronic inability to lay off outside breaking balls, but his approach undeniably improved during his stint in Pawtucket.
 16 Jonny Gomes 18  Gomes only hit .219 in August, but he added another three home runs to his total. He has also mastered the ability to play balls off the Green Monster and has turned several possible doubles into long, loud singles.
 15  Mike Carp 13 Carp hit .250 in August without any HR, but he also had a clutch, game-winning pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 8th in the August 28 comeback win over the Orioles. His season line of .307/.362/.551 continues to significantly exceed any reasonable expectations.
 14 Junichi Tazawa 11 Tazawa is confusing for me. I don’t trust him at all. I feel like he’s given up way too many HR this season (eight this year after only allowing one in all of 2012) and I feel like he’s let way too many inherited runners score (but his LOB% of 86.7% is nearly indentical to 2012’s 86.9%). Then I look at his 2.70 ERA, his K/9 of 9.5, and his K/BB of 7.00 and I think that I must be crazy not to trust him.
 13 Daniel Nava 12  Man, I love this guy. He came out of the All Star break strugging to find consistent playing time and in this column in July I wondered about the health. Well, in August he hit .396 with an OPS of 1.035. The wrist is fine, thank you very much.
 12 Jarrod Saltalamacchia 16  There are only three American League catchers with a higher WAR than Salty’s 2.5 — Joe MauerJason Castro, and Carlos Santana. The guy is probably never going to win a Gold Glove, but he is now a significantly better than average offensive catcher.
 11 Mike Napoli 7 He’s only hitting .219 in the second half, and .208 in August. At the same time he continues to provide far better defense than expected, and one of the very few options for right-handed power on this team (his 17 HR leads all RH hitters.)
 10 Stephen Drew 10  Oh you know, just our old friend Stephen Drew. A 2.2 oWAR and 0.8 dWAR player. If you still don’t like him because of his last name and lowish batting average, you’re missing out on an abundantly solid all around shortstop, and one of the best to wear a Sox uniform since Nomar.
 9 Jake Peavy NR (Trade)  Has Peavy been the Sox best starting pitcher since he was acquired? His 3.18 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 0.96 WHIP certainly put him in the conversation. Other than a rough start at Kansas City (5 IP, 6 ER) he has given up two or less earned runs in each of his starts with Boston, including a complete game, three hit, one run performance against the Dodgers. If I had to sum up Peavy’s performance in two words I’d choose: 1) Worth 2) Iglesias.
 8 Felix Doubront 8 3.74 ERA, 3.56 FIP, tied with Lester at 3.1 WAR (Fangraphs) as the pitching leader for the team. Back to back poor starts against the Royals and Yankees (8 IP, 9 ER in the two games) drops him behind Lester and Lackey though.
 7 Jon Lester 9 Lester gave up 6 ER in his first start of August, against Arizona, and then gave up 7 ER the rest of the month, lowering his ERA to 3.99 on the season. The best stat for Lester in August was that after giving up 17 HR for the year, he only allowed one in 39.1 IP for the month.
 6 Koji Uehara 5 Koji was invincible in August (11 IP, 12 K, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 ER). Who knows where this team would be without Uehara’s continual lights-out performance out of the pen. The last time I felt this confident in a closer was 2007-2009’s Jonathan Papelbon.
 5 John Lackey 6  I’m not entirely sure how to exist in a world where John Lackey is the starting pitcher that I have the most confidence in, but it’s come to this. Screw his 8-11 record, his 3.19 ERA and 131 ERA+ speak to the kind of year he is having. Five times this season the Sox have been shut out when he was starting, including two 2-0 losses in August.
 4 David Ortiz 3  Ortiz broke an 0-22 skid on Friday night, a slide that led to his worst month of the season (.269/.352/.430). His bat has been absolutely critical to the success of the team, though. In wins he is hitting .363 with an 1.108 OPS, in losses he’s at just .242 and .728.
 3 Dustin Pedroia 1 Pedey held the top spot on this list in June and July, and August saw him regain his usual form at the plate (.307/.380/.412) but at the same time I feel like he has been passed by the two players in front of him on this list.
 2 Shane Victorino 4 Go over to Fangraphs and take a look at the WAR leaders for August. Did you see who is first? Not Mike TroutAndrew McCutchen, or Miguel Cabrera. They’re all looking up at Victorino. In August he posted a .328 average with 7 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, 0 CS, 5 BB, and strangely 8 HBP which helped drive his .392 OBP. Combine that with other-wordly defense in RF and you have an absurdly valuable player.
 1 Jacoby Ellsbury 2  Baseball-Reference has Ellsbury at 5.3 WAR, with Pedroia tied at 5.3, and Victorino trailing slightly at 5.1. More important than which of those three players have been most valuable, is that all three of them have already surpassed BR’s “All Star” criteria with a month of the season left to go. No other team has three players that have reached that level this season.