Five things that need to happen for the Red Sox to win the World Series:
David Price comes back healthy and finally wins a couple games in the postseason:
Price has notoriously never won a playoff game. If he could come back and pitch well that would be huge for the Sox. He needs to get the monkey off his back and win a playoff game, and in so doing he would go a long way towards shoring up the pitching staff. Drew Pomeranz has had a complete turnaround, but behind Chris Sale the Red Sox pitcher with ace capability is David Price. Having a healthy Price to follow Sale in rotation is ideally what the Red Sox need.
Red Sox bats follow Rafael Devers’ and Eduardo Nunez’ example:
Red Sox hitters were ineffective until the month of August. Struggling to find their way following David Ortiz’ retirement, the trade for Eduardo Nunez and the call up of Rafael Devers have helped spark their dormant bats. Halfway through the month of August the Red Sox have 19 home runs, only six less than they hit the entire month of July. They are on pace to hit more home runs this month than any month this season and their team OPS of .810 is the highest of any month. But through Monday night, Mookie Betts was hitting .220 in August, Hanley Ramirez .214, Xander Bogaerts .211 and Jackie Bradley .179. If the Red Sox can get everyone clicking they will be dangerous.
Bullpen continues to perform:
Despite all the talk of the Red Sox needing bullpen help, their relievers this year are 21-13 with a 3.03 ERA and better than a strike out per inning. But the Sox don’t have a shut-down reliever beyond Craig Kimbrel. Dominant as ever this year, Kimbrel’s stats speak for themselves: striking out an insane 16.56 batters per nine innings while allowing just eight earned runs in 50 innings. All other Red Sox relievers are having solid seasons, but just not comparable. Does anyone have faith come playoff time the other relievers can hold down the fort? That might just be a key to them winning the World Series. The Red Sox need their middle relievers and setup men to continue pitching well.
The Red Sox have two excellent catchers who can control the running game. Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon have combined to throw out 29 would-be base stealers this season at a 35.8% rate. Vazquez stands fifth in the league in caught stealing percentage at 37.2%. Keeping opposing baserunners honest and not allowing them to take the extra bases has proved daunting for the Red Sox in recent seasons. In the playoffs, where every run seems to have amplified meaning, holding runners at first could be an underrated key.
NO MORE PABLO SANDOVAL! :
Does this one even need an explanation?
Five things that could go wrong
Rotational depth isn’t strong enough in postseason:
If David Price can’t get healthy the Red Sox rotation is solid, but not as strong as they would like for postseason play. What if David Price doesn’t pitch again this year? What if he comes back and can’t stand up, getting lit up a couple times? Without him, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello have to be the numbers two and three for the playoffs, and I’m not sure they match up. Pomeranz has been great this year, but he doesn’t pitch deep into games. Pomeranz also had never thrown 100 innings before last year; will he wear down come playoff time? Rick Porcello just has not been very good this year with an ERA over 4.50. Those two would look a lot better behind Sale and a healthy Price.
Dustin Pedroia doesn’t heal:
Dustin Pedroia has been bothered by left knee inflammation for a couple weeks now. He came back from a disabled list stint to play in only one game before returning to the DL. By the sounds of things we won’t see him anytime too soon. Pedroia is the only season-long regular on the Red Sox with a batting average over .300 (.303). He also plays Gold Glove defense at second base, something his replacements most certainly do not. Hopefully Pedroia will heal up with a couple weeks off. But if his knee gives him problems the rest of this season, the Sox will be without a team leader on the field.
The bullpen implodes:
This is something that seems to be the fear of all Red Sox fans. The bullpen has performed well this year, but without any lock-down guy beyond Craig Kimbrel can the bullpen hold up their end of the bargain down the stretch and come playoff time? I liked the Addison Reed trade, low-risk move for a setup man who has had a couple good years. However, he was another guy I do not trust added to the bullpen. I tweeted at the time of the trade I would not be surprised if he went full blown Eric Gagne circa 2007.
I like the reed get, didn’t give up a ton and added setup guy. With that said, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled an Eric gagne.
— Scott F (@TheFrizz87) July 31, 2017
The Red Sox traded for Gagne that year to solidify the bullpen. He came over with a 2.16 ERA for Texas. Gagne posted a 6.75 ERA the rest of that season for the Sox. Unfortunately so far Reed hasn’t alleviated my concerns, allowing five runs in 4.1 innings pitched since the trade. Joe Kelly also hasn’t looked the same since coming back from the disabled list. The Red Sox could use him pitching like he did in May and June when he did not allow a single run.
Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez slow down:
Nunez and Devers have given the Red Sox offense a shot in the arm since they have arrived. Through Monday they had a combined 10 home runs between the two of them in just 130 at bats. Realistically though, Nunez isn’t going to bat near .400, and we can’t count on a 20 year old hitting with the best in all of baseball for the rest of the year. If and when they slow down, are other Red Sox stars going to step up their games and take the reins? Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez are all having down seasons. If they don’t make a move once others slow down the Red Sox might go back to hitting like they did in July.
Many fans, myself included, are not the biggest John Farrell supporters. He routinely makes questionable decisions in games, leaving in certain pitchers too long, bringing in relievers in questionable situations, not pinch-hitting in obvious situations, etc. Will his game management help cost the Red Sox the World Series? He did his best in 2013, game three to be exact, but that’s another story. Then again, maybe Farrell gets them to play better late in the year. Last year the Red Sox were one of the hottest teams down the stretch, and they seem to be trending that way again this year having won 11 of their last 12. Ninety percent of managing seems to be handling the personalities and keeping everyone in line and happy. You watch any manager enough and you will question plenty of moves they make.