Let me start off by saying that I want to be wrong. I hope I’m as wrong as I’ve been about David Price, who’s 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA since the All-Star Break. Maybe it’s just this demoralizing loss to the Yankees. Obviously, I want the Red Sox to be amazing. I want them to win the World Series. I want to not be a giant puddle of anxiety.
But it’s not going to happen, and here’s why:
For starters, let’s talk about our starters. The Red Sox do not have a proven postseason starter (full article linked) in their ranks. So as good as they’ve been this season, and they’ve been pretty darn good, not a man among them has ever had a postseason start that you could call ‘passable,’ let alone ‘dominant.’ Besides, even if they can keep the other teams’ bats quiet, that’s all they can do. They can’t put runs on the board for us, which brings me to…
Our offense, or lack thereof. For a team with Mookie Betts and JD Martinez, this lineup has been awfully quiet lately. Through fifteen games this month, they have 11 home runs, tied for fewest in all of MLB in September; they only have 55 homers total since the All-Star break. JD Martinez has hit 12 home runs since the break, but no other batter on the team has more than six. Collectively, the team’s batting average, OBP, and slugging percentages have all declined; it just hasn’t been so apparent because they’re still winning games, 103 of them, to be exact.
And of course, who could ever forget the dumpster fire we’re unlucky enough to call our bullpen? Now that the lineup isn’t hitting homers at every at-bat, the bullpen’s weakness is more apparent than ever.
We’ve known for a while that this Red Sox team would make the playoffs. They were the first team to clinch a postseason berth, and they’ll likely win the division. But the Red Sox team that’s dominated the league for almost all of this season has felt eerily, increasingly quiet lately. They’re winning, but they’re not destroying. I’d like to hope that they’re hibernating, resting up for the playoffs, but all I see is decline. It’s easy to disguise decline when you’re playing against teams like the Jays and Orioles, but those teams won’t be in the postseason. Yes, you need to win games to get to the postseason, but it’s about the quality of wins as much as quantity of wins; if you can’t beat the good teams, you may as well head into the postseason like it’s a revolving door, because you’ll be the first to leave.
If this Red Sox team, one of the best in franchise history, doesn’t at least make it past the ALDS, it will be devastating, but also somehow unsurprising, given the fluctuations we’ve seen. What scares me most is that the fight seems to have gone out of them. There have been no 11-run innings; in fact, four of their ten wins this month have been by a single run in late innings, and they’re averaging fewer than 6 runs per game since the break. When up against powerful offensive teams like the Astros, comebacks like the ones we’ve seen lately won’t be possible; Sox pitchers will give up runs the lineup won’t be able to match.
It’s scary to think that a season this incredible could end in such a fashion. But I’m never going to be the fan who pretends everything is perfect. I can love this team more than life itself and still call them out when a verbal spanking is due. And since David Ortiz isn’t there to wake them up, they feel overdue.
If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly eat my words. But I wasn’t wrong last year, about Farrell, about the pitching, about any of it. I wrote articles, and I watched them come true. Maybe it’ll be different this year, but right now, it definitely feels the same, maybe even worse, because this team is better. They should be better.