The sands of time are running out for the Red Sox
The Red Sox notes column in today’s Boston Herald had six winnable games pegged for the Red Sox’s next soiree on the road. The Pirates a dreadful collection that, unlike the 1979 “We are family” team, have little to generate interest, and the “rebuilding” Orioles follow that up. Six games are winnable, but all games are winnable. Even the most disastrous squads will win 50 games except the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
"There’s a lot riding on this upcoming six-game road trip against the last-place Pirates and rebuilding Orioles, who entered Sunday five games ahead of the Sox in the wild card chase. – Boston Herald"
The “rebuilding” Orioles have a winning record against Boston this season (4-5). And their “rebuilding” apparently is going far more smoothly and cheaper than Boston’s. The Pirates and O’s are performing quite similar to Boston and losses against any team this time of year is critical. In football, there is a term “trap game” regarding the potential to lose to an opponent you underestimate. Are these two trap series?
Just what does Boston have to do to make the playoffs?
My most snarky approach would be to hold about six other teams hostage, but according to the rule book, that is not allowed. The home stretch is now taking place, and Boston is several lengths behind those vying for a coveted wild card slot. Is it impossible? Of course not but it is in the realm of improbable.
Since the winning formula is pitching and defense Boston has considerable weakness in both. The bullpen woes are well documented, and Chaim Bloom has been scouring the scrap yard to find a worthy arm. Jeurys Familia is the latest. Good luck with that!
The reality is that the pitching – rotation and bullpen – are just not sustainable for a playoff push. The rash of injuries may make it advisable for John Henry to load the crew about Air Red Sox for a quick trip to the healing waters of Lourdes. They just do not have the arms in what is essentially an “arms” race. For the metrics worshipers, they are in the middle of the pack and this late in the season a bad game or two or a good game or two will not impact the numbers dramatically.
Defensively the team is inconsistent at best. Jarren Duran is not a defensive stalwart in the outfield. Poor decision-making is often the formula for mental errors. Physical errors are excusable, but mental ones are not. Manager Alex Cora has taken a rather soft glove approach to this but has not excused it.
The team collectively is 11th in fielding in the American League and four of the most sturdy defenders are gone. Christian Vázquez and Jackie Bradley Jr. were traded and Trevor Story and Enrique Hernández are on the IL. That is 25 Defensive Runs Saved gone.
All season long, the leadoff slot has been a statistical wasteland. The latest hope is Tommy Pham, but finding the remains of Amelia Earhart is a greater possibility than leadoff competency at this point of the season.
The lineup has been a checkerboard all season, with players shuffling in and out based on a staggering injury toll and poor performances where least expected. Toss is a helping of young players who have been overvalued, and you have a top-heavy lineup far too dependent on two stars. The team does produce runs with 516 but not enough to compensate for defensive and pitching deficiencies.
The current odds of the Red Sox making the playoffs is 7.2%. That is not comforting, even for the most degenerate gamblers or optimistic loyalists. The leapfrog required to get into proximity of a playoff slot is daunting, and even the energizing of beating the Yankees in a recent series is a doubtful springboard to a string of needed victories unless Michael Wacha channels Jack Chesbro and starts every other day.
You know exactly what type of team you have at this point of the season. In my opinion, this is a team that lacks excitement, has suffered far too many injuries, has inherent weaknesses in defense, ownership that was not proactive, and that damn lack of pitching! I would even have dragged Rick Porcello out of a comfortable retirement.
If there is any joy in Mudville, it is at least beating the Yankees in that recent get-together. Of course, the Yankees have made a joke of the American League East race, but still, it helps soothe the pain.
Now comes the planning stage for next season. Maybe a rebuilding like the Orioles? But a repeat of this season will be costly as the fan base will express their ire by not showing up.