Dennis Eckersley has said numerous times on Boston Red Sox broadcast that “you can only play who is on the schedule”, but have we overestimated how good this team actually is because of the lackluster competition they’ve faced?
By record, the Boston Red Sox are the best team in baseball; it’s really not even close.
This will also be the best Red Sox team by record ever barring some incredible losing streak. It’s been a historic season for the club, and yet I still am not convinced.
I already know what a reader of this article is thinking, “What more could you possibly want them to do to prove they are the best team in the AL”. My answer is fairly simple “beat the teams you are competing with in the postseason.
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As of the publication of this article, the Red Sox are 86-30 against teams that are not in the American League postseason (includes teams in the NL). This translates into a .741 mark or the equivalent to winning nearly 3 of every 4 games.
Of course, that is historically great. You have to play who is on your schedule, and no matter how bad they are you might not always win. The Sox have done their job and have been rewarded with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Now, here is my concern. Notice I just listed the Boston Red Sox record against teams not in the AL postseason. At the time of the publication of this article, the Red Sox are just 17-19 (.472) against teams that will be fighting for the AL crown come October. The other team’s records against each other are as followed:
New York Yankees: 20-16 (.555)
Houston Astros: 22-18 (.550)
Oakland Athletics: 18-19 (.486)
Cleveland Indians: 11-16 (.407)
As you can see the Red Sox would be 4th amongst the pack in this category which is obviously not what you want from this historic team.
The Boston Red Sox have had great teams the previous two years but completely collapsed in the postseason. The teams have not looked the same and seemingly have been outclassed by the teams who went on to win the AL pennant (Indians in 2016 and Astros last season).
David Price and Chris Sale are notoriously bad in the post-season, but throughout this run, they have been determined to shed that notion. Both are some of the best pitchers of their generation and need to get their postseason woes behind them.
The big difference this year and last should be the bats. J.D Martinez and Mookie Betts are arguably the two best players in baseball and don’t seem to cool down in the fall.
Xander Bogarts, Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, and red-hot Brock Holt are great compliments to the offense as well.
The only issue I can see is the bullpen arms. The Red Sox are somehow 7th in baseball in the post-season ERA, but they have struggled dramatically throughout the last two months.
Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly need to be viable options out of the pen and be a great set up man. Matt Barnes is back and looked more poised before his injury if he can remain healthy he can definitely contribute quite a bit as well.
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Am I worried about the Red Sox? How could you not be? Their recent postseason success has been quite slim and the team seems to fizzle out.
Does that mean I think this particular team is overrated? Not really.
On paper, this is one of the most complete teams in baseball since the turn of the century and is steamrolling through most of their competition. Their record might be a bit concerning against the teams they will have to play in October, but I can see them rising to the occasion.
Alex Cora is a fantastic first-year manager and has shown he is really good at his job. His creative lineups and knowing when to take pitchers out can be a great asset come time for postseason play.
Home field advantage should definitely come into play where the Red Sox have been fantastic this year.
The nucleus of this team is really good, and if it can just perform at an average rate, the chances of success are high.
All and all, if the teams bats can drive in four to five runs a game and pitching can consistent, I don’t think any team would want to match up with the Boston Red Sox in October.