Sep 24, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz (34) hits a single during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Rockies won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

How The Sox Defied All The Odds and Made the Pundits Look Stupid

While the final half dozen teams attempt to scratch, dig and claw their way into the playoffs the Red Sox sit atop the AL East after having clinched nearly a week ago, having defied the odds.

Sep 20, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz (34) leads the celebration after they won the AL East with a win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 20, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz (34) leads the celebration after they won the AL East with a win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Their story has been both improbable and enthralling. After 2012 Ben Cherington and company made very deliberate moves to change the culture both on the field and in the clubhouse. They got the manager they wanted, John Farrell, a guy who was all too willing to come home. They picked up a plucky Charlie hustle type right fielder in Shane Victorino. They acquired a journeyman outfielder in Johnny Gomes whose only claim to fame was being on winners. They shrewdly negotiated a contract with Mike Napoli, who struck out a lot but hit a lot of home runs, knocked in base runners and led the charge of the beard.

They believed in players they’d developed through the farm system. Daniel Nava, the durable poster child of the bunch, has played every outfield position and even a little first base in 2013 while posting an impressive .296/.380/.434/.815 slashline.

Enough times when they inserted a new guy in the lineup – Mike Carp, Jose Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts, Jake Peavy, Quintin Berry, Jackie Bradley Jr. – something special happened and if it wasn’t special they at least held their own and didn’t hurt the team.

What happened was Boston became the grinding, pitcher killing offensive machine of old. To date they have earned the best record in baseball (96-63). They sit only 10 points behind the Tigers for best in the majors in team batting average. They have scored more runs by far (830 to Detroit’s 793) than any other team. They are in the top 10 in hits (2, 1523), doubles (1, 357), home runs (7, 173), RBI (1, 798), walks (3, 572), stolen bases (4, 121), OBP (1, .348), slugging (1, .444) and OPS (1, .792). By any standard these stats are scary.

Their pitching has stiffened in the second half of the season. Jon Lester is rounding back into form at just the right time of year, making him the odds on ace to start game one of the playoffs. While their team ERA of 3.76 is 12th best in the majors the are number one in the only stat that counts – wins. At this point in the season I’ll take a Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Peavey starting staff.

With all that said, let’s take a quick look back at the prognosticators that continue to wipe egg off their faces. Here’s what a sampling of pundits had to say about the Red Sox before and then during the 2013 season.

Sep 13, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava (29) hits an RBI single during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN
Projection: 15th in MLB, 4th in AL East
“After a positive spring where the rotation posted an overall 2.13 ERA, the Red Sox hope that success carries over when they open the season against the Yankees before traveling north for their first real test of the season — against the Blue Jays.
– Hunter Golden, Fire Brand of the AL”

Adam Wells, Bleacher Report
Projection: 15th in MLB, 4th in AL East
“The Red Sox are not nearly as bad as their record last year would indicate, it was just a storm of everything falling apart (bad managing, injuries, etc.) at exactly the same time.

As long as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz can bounce back, and David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli provide pop in the middle of the lineup, the Red Sox should compete for a wild-card spot.”

Matt Snyder, CBS Sports
Projection: 22nd in MLB
Give Snyder credit, he owned up to being wrong by keeping his preseason prediction up and saying he didn’t see this coming: “Again, I couldn’t have possibly been more wrong about this club. Amazing turnaround season.”

Sep 22, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (18) misses the catch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the eight inning at Fenway Park. The Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays 5-2. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports
Projection: 20th in MLB, 5th in AL East
“How things have changed the last few years on Yawkey Way. The Sox need Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to stay healthy and produce to avoid another ugly, forgettable season.”

Stan McNeal, Sporting News
Projection: 18th in MLB, 5th in AL East
“No doubt their clubhouse will be a happier place. But to improve on the field, they need Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey to pitch like they once did. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.”

Ben Shapiro, MassLive.com
Projection: 5th in AL, 2nd in Al East
“Worst-to-first? Not exactly. Still, the 2013 season promises to be one that should find Red Sox fans smiling a lot more than they did in 2012, or in late 2011 for that matter. The Red Sox will get bounce-back performances from Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, which by themselves will dramatically change starting pitching that was among the league’s worst in 2012.”

Sports Illustrated
Projection: 18th in MLB, 5th in AL East
“At least they should all get along. The Red Sox’ target list this offseason was very specific: free agents who were willing to accept contracts of three years or fewer, who wouldn’t cost them a compensatory draft pick and who are regarded as good clubhouse guys. Boston hopes this new mix, under the guidance of new manager Jon Farrell, can reach its potential the way the past two years’ worth of Sox teams did not. They might, but that potential ceiling isn’t as high as the Fenway faithful are used to seeing.”

Jonah Keri, Grantland
Projection: 13th in MLB, 3rd in AL East

Baseball Prospectus
Projection: 4th in AL East

Cody Derespina, Newsday
Projection: 22nd in MLB, 5th in AL East
“Will Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino rebound? When will David Ortiz be healthy? Can Jacoby Ellsbury stay on the field? Will Ryan Dempster have a better performance in the AL this time? Too many questions surround a revamped Red Sox squad. You can’t expect all answers to be positive after an awful 2012.”

Joseph Karbousky, Examiner.com
Projection: 24th in MLB, 5th in AL East
“…how much are the Boston Red Sox in disarray as they will have their third new manager in three years?”

JJ Stankevitz/Tony Andracki, CSN Chicago
Projection: 12th in MLB, 4th in AL East/ 13th in MLB, 3rd in AL East
Stankevitz: “All-around solid team, despite poor finish last year. Watch out for Jackie Bradley Jr.”
Andracki: “A lot of changes, but all good moves. Like what they’ve done.

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
Projection: 25th in MLB, 5th in AL East
Ryan Dempster arrives in a wave of nonimpact free agents designed to disguise how far this team is from contending again.”

ESPN Experts selections
Projection: Of the 43 baseball experts brought in to weigh in on postseason predictions, only four predicted that the Red Sox would make the playoffs (that’s 9.3 percent of experts).

• AJ Mass, ESPN Fantasy: Wild card
Joe McDonald, ESPNBoston.com: Wild card
• Karl Ravech, ESPN: Wild card
• David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: Wild card

Who’s crying now?

 

Tags: Boston Red Sox

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