Red Sox: Mixed emotions viewing playoff potential

BOSTON, MA - JULY 19: A general view of Fenway Park during the fourth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays on July 19, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 19: A general view of Fenway Park during the fourth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays on July 19, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are in the playoffs and I have mixed emotions about just how successful this will be.  There are certainly some negatives and likewise some positives.

The Boston Red Sox will face either the Cleveland Indians or Houston Astros and the reality check is both teams represent a significant obstacle.

The Red Sox are attempting to climb Mt. Everest without any Sherpa’s.  So I can view this as Mr. Negativity and I will, but there is also encouraging potential for the Red Sox. So I may waver between Debbie Downer and a purveyor of rose-colored glasses so fair and balance will be the code phrase.

Reality Check: The staff ace – Chris Sale – has done an Amelia Earhart type disappearance this September and every September for his career.  A furball game is followed by a superlative game. A potential repeat ad nauseam of David Price when the games count the most.

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Hope Springs Eternal (HSE): Sale has never ventured this far as his previous seasons were over long before the playoffs began.  Uncharted waters, but Sale is certainly a competitive pitcher who will want some real positives after watching his Cy Young Award potentially vanish. Will he be Madison Bumgarner?  Don’t bet against it.

Reality Check: Nothing is more consistent than the inconsistency of the Red Sox lineup.  There is simply no fear factor and in the playoffs so don’t expect a plethora of dramatic come from behind wins since the pitching is far superior.  The Sox bats are generally kept in a bat rack on the Ronne Ice Shelf. This team is capable of Mr. Freeze being a resident of Hades. Sox are below league average in ISO, wOBA, wRC+, BABIP, Slugging….

HSE: The Red Sox are not exactly the “Hitless Wonders” Chicago White Sox of 1906. They can generate runs, but not in the Earl Weaver’s three-run home run method – more on that later. The team’s ability on the bases can be disastrous, but it works far more than it fails.  This team is capable of putting on some respectable offensive pressure. They still score and have a better than average OPS. Pitching offsets hitting which is why they are in first place.

Reality Check:  The rotation is mystery meat with Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez. Pomeranz walks far too many, Porcello losses far too many and E-Rod has far too many stand-alone bad innings. This group is begging for a beat down from the ‘Stros or Indians lineups.

HSE: Pomeranz and Porcello are not a pitching version of a used Ford Pinto.  Pomeranz is among the most reliable of starters in the AL and has a 3.1 fWAR. Porcello has disappointed but has certainly shown the occasional glimpse of his 2016 self. Rodriguez is capable of giving a solid six innings. The Red Sox record is 12-10 in E-Rod starts.

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Reality Check: Does this team have the passion and toughness of other Red Sox teams? I don’t see it. The leadership left after 2016 and has not been replaced. They seem an uninspiring collection and watching a game is a visual form of a root canal. This team is predictable and boring.

HSE: Passion they have and it is on display almost nightly with a dramatic string of extra-inning success and great comebacks. A nice blend of savvy veterans cannot be ignored since they are sprinkled throughout the roster. This team not being exciting? Spare me!  They are aggressive defensively and offensively. Just look at the antics after a win.

Reality Check:  In baseball, circa 2017 you need the big – very big – bat.  That is a baseball fact of life and the Red Sox do not have it.  Hanley Ramirez is a home run MIA and the rest of the crew will not be found on the Statcast leaderboard for home run distance or among the long ball leaders.

HSE: The Red Sox will not homer you to death, but will inflict a steady stream of singles and doubles. Three of the top four teams in the American League in home run production are the Rangers, O’s and A’s. What do they have in common? No playoffs!

Reality Check:  The Red Sox bullpen consists of Craig Kimbrel and little else. The remainder is simply a collection of similar styles that have moments of incredible and dominating success or failures that make the Great Chicago Fire seem like a backyard cookout.

HSE: Carson Smith is back and that means reliability. Addison Reed, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and several other notables have shown some exceptionally magic moments during the season with extended shutout innings in dramatic wins. Price in the bullpen could duplicate his early career success. A bullpen is never perfect and this one is still among the best in the AL.

Reality Check: This is a vastly overrated defense that is capable of being a defensive sieve during a series.  Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts combined to approach a -20 on Defensive Runs Saved. Chris Young and Andrew Benintendi complete the defensive disaster on the left side. That ball will find Devers in a crucial spot and it won’t be pretty.

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HSE:  The Red Sox have the top-ranked defense in the AL if you are a believer in metrics. The key in any playoff situation is to place some defensive specialist into the late-inning situations. Let’s not repeat the Bill Buckner situation. No one team is perfect defensively, but the Red Sox are possible as close as you will see in the AL.