The Red Sox are on fire.
They’ve lost just 5 games in August, going 16-5 and have split, and taken 2 of 3 from the “team to beat” in the AL, the Cleveland Indians in the past month. According to Fangraphs, the Red Sox have a 99.8% chance of making the playoffs and a 92.6% chance at winning the division. Barring a collapse, the Red Sox will win the division, and unless Houston continues to skid down the stretch, they will play the Indians in the ALCS, the same team that swept the Red Sox last season.
On May 20, the Red Sox fell to .500 after losing their 3rd straight game to the Oakland Athletics. Since then, the Red Sox have the best record in the AL, and may just be the AL favorite to go to the World Series in a lot of people’s mind.
Here’s why the Red Sox will win the World Series… and why they won’t:
The Red Sox will win the World Series if: They’re healthy.
The injury bug has bitten the Red Sox a bit recently; David Price, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, are all on the DL and expected back sometime in September, and Carson Smith’s long awaited return could give a big boost to that bullpen. The Sox have gone on this run in August without David Price and Dustin Pedroia, add them in and that’s scary. Chris Sale is going to win the Cy Young and pitch game 1. Drew Pomeranz has also been one of the best pitchers in the AL and will pitch game 2. Behind them you then will have David Price and (although he’s not the same pitcher) last year’s Cy Young winning Rick Porcello. Adding a healthy David Price to that rotation is a massive boost to that rotation, and one that teams will have a very difficult time beating in a 5 or 7 game series. This isn’t Clay Buchholz starting game 3 behind Price and Porcello, this is Price or Porcello starting game 3 behind Sale and Pomeranz. Oh ya, and add Dustin Pedroia making Gold Glove plays at 2nd and hitting over .300 at the top of the lineup. Pedroia also allows Eduardo Nuñez to move anywhere if there are any other injuries. A fully healthy Red Sox team is a top 3 team in the league with the Dodgers and Indians, and healthy may just decide it.
The Red Sox won’t win the World Series if: They’re injured.
As for any MLB team, injuries are the kiss of death. If Price is out for the year, Pedroia knee doesn’t let him to contributed the way we know he can, and/or others get injured as well, the Red Sox won’t win anything. Eduardo Rodriguez hasn’t been the same since his knee injury, Brock Holt hasn’t been the same with his battle with vertigo, Rafael Devers is just 20, and Doug Fister has been very inconsistant. Those are guys who will have to be heavily relied on if there are injuries. Holt is fine as depth from the bench, and Devers is unbelievable as we’ve seen, but a World Series team doesn’t heavily rely on a 20 year old and a struggling utility man.
The Red Sox will win the World Series if: The Starters continue to dominate.
Drew Pomeranz has been the most under the radar pitcher all season. His 3.18 ERA is 5th among AL pitchers, and his knuckle-curve is one of the most dominant pitches in the league. Chris Sale is Chris Sale, he’ll win the Cy Young. David Price’s peak is one of the best pitchers in the league, and Rick Porcello won the Cy Young last year. Eduardo Rodriguez may not even make a start. See “They’re Healthy” for the rest.
The Red Sox won’t win the World Series if: The don’t
The Red Sox are built around pitching. Even if they don’t score many runs, they win games because of their pitching. They were never supposed to score 10 runs a game, but they are supposed to have one of the best staff ERAs in the league. Chris Sale has struggled historically against Cleveland, who the Red Sox are likely to play, with an ERA above 4.50 and 2 games this season with 7 runs allowed, about the only bad thing you can find about Sale. If the Sox can’t win like they were built to, they’re going nowhere.
The Red Sox will win the World Series if: Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts do what they did last year.
I would have included Andrew Benintendi in this, but he’s been an absolute tear lately so he’s doing what he should. Mookie Betts has been good, but nowhere near his MVP-runner up season of last year. .263 and 18 home runs is fine, but he needs to be hitting .290+ and limiting his infield pop-ups, which have been a big issue for him. If he can be even 90% of what he was last year come October, the top/middle of that lineup becomes a lot more scary. Hanley, on the other hand, has shown power. His 19 home runs aren’t his 30 of last season, but he’s hit some timely moonshots. His .248 average, however, isn’t good enough. He’s shown often uncompetitive at-bats and simply isn’t on base as much as he was last year. Bogaerts started the year hitting above .300 and an on base machine, but since the break, he’s hit just .217. He had 2 hits and a triple on Thursday, so maybe this is the start of something. Regardless, those three need to get going if the Sox are going to get by the powerhouses of the MLB.
The Red Sox won’t win the World Series if: Hitting falters.
You can say this for any MLB team – if the Red Sox hitting slumps at any time during the playoffs, they won’t go anywhere, regardless of how well they pitch. 7 games isn’t a long time. A 4 game slump and your season is quickly over. It doesn’t need to be a lot of hits, The 2013 Red Sox had just 3 players who batted above .250 through the playoffs: David Ortiz (.353), Jacoby Ellsbury (.344), and rookie Xander Bogaerts (.296), but man that team was clutch, and got all their hits when they needed them most. If this team doesn’t do the same, they’ll be in tough.
The Red Sox will win the World Series if: The bullpen performs
We saw how valuable a dominant bullpen can be in the 2016 playoffs. The Red Sox have the pieces, but not the consistency. Craig Kimbrel is one of the best relievers in the game, but after that it’s a bit questionable. Addison Reed has been up and down since being acquired, but is a great setup man at his best. Carson Smith is a question mark, but even if he’s 75% of what he was in 2015 with Seattle, that’s a useful piece. Matt Barnes’ splits are ridiculous, with a 1.95 ERA on at home and a 5.53 ERA on the road. Brandon Workman has been a nice comeback story as well with a 2.00 ERA since his return (bumped up after allowing 2 ER on Thursday), and Joe Kelly was dominant before his injury, consistently throwing over 100 mph, but hasn’t quite been the same since. The pieces are there, and if the bullpen can get hot at the right time, it’s going to be tough to get any runs on the Red Sox with their starting pitching.
The Red Sox won’t win the World Series if: Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree are forced into big rolls.
Heath Hembree is fine, whatever. You do not what Heath Hembree coming into a tight playoff game in the 7th inning. If nobody in the bullpen steps up and earns John Farrell’s trust, then a revolving door of Hembree, (road) Matt Barnes, Robby Scott, and Fernando Abad has the potential to lose games that should be won, and that just can’t happen in the playoffs. Somebody needs to step up and earn Farrell’s trust, hopefully Addison Reed can step it up and Carson Smith can return and make an impact, but neither are a sure thing.
The Red Sox will win the World Series if: They get help from other teams.
The Indians are the Red Sox toughest matchup, so beating out Houston for the top seed in the AL may be in their best interest. They finish the season with 4 games at home against the Astros, which could prove to be massive. This isn’t to say the Red Sox can’t beat the Indians, but the can beat the Yankees or any other of the mediocre teams fighting for a Wild Card spot. Getting some help from the national league as well would be nice if the Sox made it to the World Series, as it would be nice to avoid the Dodgers.
The Red Sox (probably) won’t win the World Series if: The play the Dodgers.
This isn’t to say the Red Sox can’t beat the Dodgers. They haven’t, and won’t, play them this season and there’s really no comparison to be made. However, the Dodgers are on their way to potentially putting up the best regular season of all time, and recently they have been winning without Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Cody Bellinger. They’re 90-36 (!!!), and are the overwhelming favorites to win the whole thing. Again, no precedence has been set, I’m not saying the Red Sox can’t beat the Dodgers, but that’s a really tough series that the Red Sox would be lucky to avoid if they make it to the Fall Classic.
The Red Sox have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the AL. Their one of the best teams in the league, one of the favorites, if not the favorite to win the AL. This team has the potential, it’s just a matter of weather they can stay healthy, and put it all together.
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