As of Thursday morning, the Red Sox sit atop the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays. As it stands, the Sox would have a chance at the World Series.
Yet, it’s hard to predict the Red Sox chances of advancing to game 163. Look at the 2011 collapse. The beer and chicken scandal; a last place finish; a manager fired; a major disappointment. That same kind of disappointment loomsa��it’s the kind that plagued the Red Sox for 86 years.
Disappointment is often synonymous with being a Red Sox fan. Even though in most recent years this hasn’t quite been the case. (I can admit this because I’ve been a baseball fan for the entirety of Red Sox jubilation. I’m also not a Boston nativea��shockera��so I won’t claim I was ever in some sort of mourning.) But, disappointment comes with the territory.
So, every year, I assume that the Red Sox will implode much like the 2011 season, the 1986 season, the 2005 season (bad World Series follow-up if you ask me), and many, many others. I only pretend to pick them to win it all but never expect the Red Sox to finish on top.
And certainly, the Red Sox were never predicted to win the World Series, by pundits and baseball fans, at the start of the 2016. This doesn’t mean that they can’t, nor does it make the team an underdog. It makes them more of an improbable force. With David Ortiz retiring at the end of the season, what better way to end than with a trophy and Duck Boat parade?
I see no other option. There’s just one problem: starting pitching.
Elite isn’t a word to describe the Red Sox starting pitching. The rotation isn’t terrible, but there isn’t much depth. If a pitcher in the active rotation were to get hurt there isn’t a sure-fire replacement for him. An obvious problem if the Red Sox are trying to make a deep postseason run. But the problems go further than that.
The Red Sox aren’t great at winning games when the offense scores fewer than five runs. They average 5.68 runs per game but allow 4.84. There isn’t much room for error. In this scenario, the offense cannot really ever take a night off. In the past two weeks, Boston starters are 8-1 with a 2.66 ERA. That’s the kind of pitching that wins in October.
According to Red Sox senior analyst Tom Tippett, during the 2011 collapse the Red Sox were 34-18 when a pitcher with an ERA under 5.00 started. When a pitcher with an ERA over 5.00 started, the team had a record of 29-20. The two Red Sox teams are very different, but again, that offense could ill-afford to take a night off. It still shows what can happen when pitching isn’t lights-out. And at this point that’s questionable.
Here’s a breakdown of how each Red Sox pitcher is producing so far this season (through August 24).
David Price: 12-8, 4.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIPa��striking out 179 and walking 39 over 177 innings. Price has lasted eight or more innings nine times this season (he leads the league) and has 15 outings of at least seven innings. This is the longevity the Red Sox need from their starters. He’s trending towards his days as a dominant pitcher. This is also the Price that the Sox thought they were signing.
Rick Porcello: 17-3, 3.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIPa��striking out 145 and walking 28 over 172.2 innings. Porcello’s in the race for the Cy Young, and he’s easily become the team’s ace. (One might’ve guessed Price would fulfill this honor.) Porcello’s consistent outings give the Red Sox hope for the postseason.
Drew Pomeranz: 10-9, 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIPa��striking out 150 and walking 56 over 140.1 innings. (These stats are combined with his time in San Diego and Boston.) At first, Boston fans lamented the Pomeranz trade because management let go of a solid prospect. Now, Pomeranz has garnered some respecta��at least enough that I’d rather him pitch in an important situation than Clay Buchholz.
Eduardo RodrA�guez: 2-5, 5.11 ERA and 1.40 WHIPa��striking out 60 and walking 24 over 68.2 innings pitched. He pulled himself from the rotation last week but isn’t expected to need a disabled list stint. If this injury persists, though, he’s not going to be any better than he was pre-injury. (Optimistic, I know.)
Clay Buchholz: 5-9, 5.18 ERA and 1.37 WHIPa��striking out 71 and walking 43 over 107.2 innings. Buchholz has been very inconsistent and not the type of guy I’d want in a postseason rotation. But, he’s actually been pitching better his last couple startsa��allowing just two earned runs in 12.1 innings. I still say you can’t trust him.
Steven Wright: 13-5, 3.01 ERA and 1.19 WHIPa��striking out 123 and walking 51 over 146.2 innings. Wright expects to return to the rotation Friday at home against the Kansas City Royals. It’d be great to get him back in the rotation, working on his form, before the postseason hits. It’s not a secret that starts post-DL stints aren’t always the best.
It’s clear that the Red Sox rotation is decent enough to win games, but there’s got to be a balance. The Sox offense will rely on its pitching/defense to keep the opponent’s scoring to a minimum. And when you’re deep into the postseason, relying on winning a series, this is extremely important.
I can’t claim that the Red Sox lack what it takes to wina��they’re not the Twinsa��but I’m still unsure whether a postseason run is in the future. Time will tell. And if Andrew Benintendi’s injury Wednesday night is any indication, I’d say the chances look slimmer.