The Red Sox are predicted to be on the verge of playoff contention
How we view postseason predictions is always a matter of perspective. There are those who view this year as a tragic disaster if the Boston Red Sox aren’t the odds-on favorite to finish at the top of the league. Others assume that since the front office didn’t break the bank to sign every flashy free-agent available, the club is destined to remain buried at the bottom of the division. The more sensible among us land somewhere in between.
FanGraphs recently revealed their projected postseason odds for the 2021 season. While the Red Sox fell short of a playoff spot in the projected standings, their odds are refreshingly optimistic for a team that finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball last season.
Boston is predicted to have a 47 percent chance of making the playoffs. Yes, that technically means the odds are against them but they are very close to essentially calling it a coin flip.
The New York Yankees are the heavy favorites to win the AL East with 91.6 percent odds, well above anyone else in the American League and trailing only the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers (96.7%) in the majors.
The Toronto Blue Jays (53.8%) are projected to finish second in the division and earn one of the two Wild Card spots, with the other going to the Chicago White Sox (60.5%). The Red Sox have the sixth-highest odds in the AL while only the Los Angeles Angels (37.8%) are even remotely close.
The gap between the Blue Jays and Red Sox is relatively thin, suggesting the teams will only be separated by a couple of wins in the standings. The White Sox are an improving team that certainly belong in the hunt but their odds are inflated by virtue of playing in weaker division where the Minnesota Twins are the only other legitimate contender.
If either of those teams stumble, Boston is the team most likely to overtake them for their Wild Card spot. The Red Sox wouldn’t need to significantly outperform expectations in order to leap ahead of the competition.
One of the biggest surprises from these projected standings is the Tampa Bay Rays (18.6%) finishing fourth in the division and well outside the playoff hunt. That’s a drastic fall for a team that made it to the World Series last year. The Rays traded away ace Blake Snell and lost Charlie Morton to free agency. A franchise with their limited financial resources has a slim margin for error and can’t easily replace those holes in the rotation.
Tampa Bay will be fine in the long run with their top-ranked farm system eventually replenishing the roster but we should expect them to take a step back in the short-term. If the Rays aren’t as strong this year, the Red Sox could pick up a few extra wins against their division rival.
The Red Sox face several lingering questions with Eduardo Rodriguez returning from a lost season, Chris Sale’s timeline uncertain and several key hitters looking to bounce-back from disappointing performances under the unprecedented circumstances of last year’s shortened season. If those players return to form, Boston has plenty of talent to make a playoff run.
Even if you’re pessimistic about those players delivering anything close to what they have in the past, the Red Sox have undoubtedly improved the depth of their starting rotation and bullpen through free agency and trades. They’ve added versatile positions players who provide flexibility when filling out the lineup.
There are too many unknowns to assume the Red Sox are ready to contend again so their sub-50% odds are a fair projection at the moment. They are clearly in a better spot than the pathetic excuse for a roster they rolled out in 2020 though. Almost everything went wrong for this team last year but there’s tremendous upside if things mostly pan out this season.