Bobby Valentine said yesterday, “I think we’re a playoff team, and I think we’re going to be there before the season is over,” adding that they just need to stay healthy.
The Sox won’t be in the playoffs for one specific reason.
It’s not Bobby’s managing or the clubhouse dynamics.
It’s not the injuries, tho they’ve been severe. The Sox have not a played a game this year where Ellsbury, Crawford, Pedroia, Gonzales, and Ortiz have all been in the lineup at the same time.
It’s not because Pedroia and Ellsbury’s production is way off from their last year stellar seasons.
It’s not because of offense at all. The Sox have scored 551 runs, second only to Texas.
Maybe it’s the loss of closer Papelbon? Not really. He’s saved 24 of 27 at Philadelphia while Aceves has saved 23 of 29. Not a big enough difference to account for the Sox playing around or below .500. And overall, the bullpen has saved 26 of 41, better than the Yankees and about average for the AL.
It’s because they’ve allowed 519 runs for a run differential of +32. Meanwhile, the Yankees run differential is +90, Texas’ is +80, and the Nats’ is +85.
But more specifically, it’s because John Lester and Josh Beckett have a combined ERA of 5.18, and the Sox are 15-27 in games they’ve started.
If they were the Beckett and Lester of 2008-2010, that would be reversed, and the Sox would be in first place.
No way the Sox will make the playoffs as long as Lester and Beckett continue at their current level.
Even if the Sox stay healthy, score some more runs, stabilize their currently shaky bullpen, continue to field well (8th out of the 30 Major League teams), there’s no hope as long as their two (former?) premium pitchers have an ERA of 5+.
As most folks know, the Nats, my second favorite team (tho I am not as obsessed by them as I am about the Sox), have the best record in all of baseball, 68-43 for .613 W-L %.
I keep thinking they are headed for a fall.
But look at why they are doing so well.
Run Differential +85 (480-395)
Fewest Runs Allowed in the Majors
Saves – 38 of 51, Tied for Fourth in the NL
ERA – .326, Best in the Majors
BA – .256 (opponents – .233)
Fielding Ave. – .985
But it starts with their pitching.
Even if they have to shut down Strasburg and Zimmerman, they should at least make the playoffs.
The World Series is always up for grabs, however.