Do the Red Sox need more punch in their lineup? There are very few certainties in life, but if the calendar reads August and your team leads their league in runs scored, team batting average and team ops, then it is pretty safe to say that the offense is not a problem.
Do the Red Sox need more pitching? That’s tougher to say with the same levels of certainty. The Red Sox are 10th in the 15 team American League in team earned run average.
Not great, but is this really a roster issue?
For everyone clamoring for Chris Sale at the trade deadline, given the resume that David Price arrived in Boston with, and then taking into consideration his performance over the first half of the season, is there really any guarantee that Sale wouldn’t have encountered some unforeseen challenges once he arrived in Boston?
Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t the second coming of Pedro Martinez, but he’s much better than the pitcher that spent the entire first half of the season either injured, or struggling to regain his composure on the mound following his injury.
Rick Porcello has been everything the team could have hoped for and then some. Steven Wright was arguably the biggest overachiever among starting pitchers through the first half of the 2016 season.
The team added an All-Star starting pitcher. Drew Pomeranz could also be considered an overachiever, but even if his first half with the San Diego Padres ends up being the best stretch of starting pitching of his career, he’s an almost certain upgrade over the alternatives. The Red Sox added him without sacrificing a player who will hit the majors prior to the 2018 season.
The point is that if you lay the Red Sox roster on paper, and then compare it to the other teams they’re fighting with for the a spot in the postseason. The Red Sox are either as good or better than their competition.
The last two months of the season will be about winning games, especially close games, and if the Red Sox can figure out a way to do that then they’ll be fine.
If not then the Red Sox will miss the playoffs for the third season in a row. That will mean that the Red Sox have made the playoffs this decade just once, and while that one trip to the postseason resulted in the 2013 World Series Title, not making the playoffs in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 just doesn’t scream “perennial contender.”
This is a team with a legitimate ace starting pitcher and two other above average starters, an All-Star closer and at least one former closer along with a pair of competent late inning options out of the bullpen. They’ve got the best offense in the majors. This is not a team that should miss the playoffs.
It is on them at this point. It is up to the players on the Red Sox roster to make the pitches, make the plays and score the runs needed to win the close games. Games this team has struggled to win all season long.
The Red Sox are 18-8 in games with a run differential of more than five runs. That means they’re 40-39 in games with run-differentials of five or less runs.
Big games, games between playoff contenders, critical late-season showdowns, playoff and World Series showdowns, those are games that are likely to be relatively close, and the Red Sox have been relatively bad when games are close.
The roster isn’t comprised of 25 All-Stars, but no team has that luxury.
A quick glance at the division leaders and wild card contenders reveals that every one of them has some defined weaknesses.
The Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays all have areas that could use improvement.
That’s eight contenders for five playoff spots. Three teams will be left on the sidelines this October. Whether or not the Red Sox are one of them has far more to do with how the players perform going forward than the make-up of the roster.
Team President Dave Dombrowski and general manager Mark Hazen have both done their jobs. A team that ended the 2015 season in desperate need of a near-complete bullpen rebuild and starting rotation re-boot have seen the team add multiple parts to fill multiple roles.
An offense that showed potential has realized that potential and in many cases exceeded expectations.
Red Sox manager John Farrell will absorb the bulk of the blame if the Red Sox fail to make the playoffs.
Whether or not that’s fair is at this point inconsequential. The Red Sox brass have done their jobs, and you don’t fire the players. This is John Farrell’s team and he’s got to win with them.