The Boston Red Sox own MLB’s best record, cruising to a 67-30 record and currently on a hot streak. While they are sitting pretty at a cool 37 games over .500, there are still flaws on this very talented squad. Here are three reasons why the Boston Red Sox will make a deep playoff run, and three reasons why they will not:
There has been nothing but positivity and optimism in the Red Sox clubhouse, sans ex-manager John Farrell. Cora has kept his players happy, and while winning obviously helps, the complete switch from a corporate-acting, robot-like John Farrell to a more relatable and younger manager has done wonders to the clubhouse.
While he has had some growing pains as a first year manager, Cora has pressed almost all the right buttons thus far in the season, and navigating through a minefield of a bullpen.
However, the October lights are much different than the summer nights in baseball. Your decision making has to be on point, and the pressure is through the roof. How will the rookie manager deal with the playoff pressure? The uncertainty will be enough to make Red Sox fans a nervous during October.
If the Red Sox can avoid the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros, they should be penciled in for a trip to the ALCS.
The Seattle Mariners or the Oakland Athletics are not in the same class as the Red Sox. The Cleveland Indians may provide somewhat of a challenge, but they peaked two years ago and have more flaws than the Red Sox.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it seems like they will match up against the New York Yankees in the ALDS. If they are able to avoid them for at least a round, they should be in position to be four wins away from a trip to the World Series.
I would lump Sale in with the rest of the starting pitchers, but he’s only had two postseason appearances, and only one start, so it is too small of a sample size. If the Red Sox can limit his innings enough for him to not fade at the end of the season, he should have a good postseason.
Not much of the same can be said about the rest of the staff, notably David Price and Rick Porcello. Neither Price nor Porcello have won a postseason game as a starter, and own a 5.03 and 5.47 ERA, respectively, in the postseason. While Eduardo Rodgriguez has had a good start to his 2018 campaign, he’s unproven in the playoffs, other than his one poor appearance last postseason.
If the Red Sox hope to make a deep postseason run, they will need Price and Porcello to reverse their bad fortune.
After failing to address the David Ortiz hole in the lineup two offseasons ago, and finishing last in home runs in the American League last year, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, addressed the power hitting need.
He went out and inked J.D Martinez, the best hitter available in free agency, and hired analytics-driven minds, such as manager Alex Cora, in an attempt to help the power hitting department. And it’s worked.
The Red Sox rank second in the majors in home runs and slugging percentage, first in OPS and doubles. That has transformed an offense that was tenth in the league in runs scored last season, to the best offense in baseball.
We saw a record amount of home runs hit last regular season and postseason, but the Red Sox did not join in on the power hitting party. This year, they’re the head of the party.
Although the Red Sox rank sixth in bullpen ERA, it is the weakness that will cripple this team in October, if not addressed before the trade deadline.
Other than all star closer Craig Kimbrel, the rest of the bullpen is filled with middle relief pitchers and mop up duty relievers. Joe Kelly, the closest thing the Red Sox have to a setup man, currently owns a 4.31 ERA, and an ERA north of eight in the months of June & July.
Matt Barnes has good numbers on paper, however, his performances against the New York Yankees has inspired nothing but uneasiness for Red Sox fans. Against the Yankees this year, Barnes has an ERA of 15.43.
If Tyler Thornburg can return to his 2016 form, that would be a huge boost to the bullpen, but they are two relief pitchers away from fielding a good bullpen, not one.
J.D. Martinez has been the best hitter in baseball over the past year, and Mookie Betts has been the best all around player in baseball over the past year. I can give you all the stats, but I’m sure you’ve seen them plenty by now.
Martinez has transformed the anemic-at-times Red Sox lineup to one of the best lineups in baseball. He has allowed Mookie to hit leadoff, as there is no hole in the heart of the lineup anymore. And Mookie has clearly shown how comfortable he is in the leadoff spot.
Before Martinez, the Red Sox did not have a hitter who can consistently hit home runs to deep center or to the opposite field. In a ballpark like Fenway, with its’ massive right field, it’s important to have a right handed batter able to hit it to the bullpen. Why? Well, Martinez is showing you exactly why.
It gives everyone else opportunities, knowing that the pitcher can not afford to make any mistakes because Martinez and Betts will make you pay. He has been the lineup changer the Red Sox have been looking for.