With just 3 games remaining on the Red Sox schedule, it’s safe to say that we have seen enough of this team to come to some conclusions. Here are a few of mine: 1. They lack the starting pitching depth needed to compete against top-tier American League lineups. 2. They lack the offensive consistency needed to match up against top-tier starting pitching and compete against top-tier American League lineups. 3. The consistently inconsistent performances that they receive from their middle relievers and set-up men doesn’t seem like a major issue, but it is. Call me negative, but when Dave Dombrowski convinced John Henry to open up the checkbook and sign David Price for $217 million dollars and then proceeded to empty the farm for Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Thornburg, and Chris Sale, I was under the impression that it was time to win now… especially when Dave Dombrowski said that it was time to win now.
Yes, we have Chris Sale. He just became the first and only Red Sox pitcher to strike out 300 batters since Pedro. Nonetheless, the postseason starts in a week, and what has he done for them lately? In the month of September, Sale has posted a 3.72 ERA while averaging less than 6 innings per start. If that were Drew Pomeranz or Eduardo Rodriguez, that’d be fine. But those aren’t ace-like numbers, and they came against the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, and Blue Jays. Outside of the Yankees, those are not playoff teams. With that in mind, I can't say I’m eager to see him face-off against an elite offense at this stage of the season.
Beyond Sale, the Sox rotation consists of Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Doug Fister. Pomeranz has rebounded this year after a shaky introduction to Boston, but we’ve all seen what happens when Pomeranz doesn’t have his best stuff. If he can’t locate his fastball, or his 12-6 curveball doesn’t have its usual break, things can get ugly. Fast. Either you look up and he’s thrown 123 pitches through 5 innings or he’s out after 3 innings after putting his team in 5-run deficit. I don’t mean to discredit the year that Pomeranz has had, but as Rick Porcello showed us last year, postseason baseball is a completely different animal. As for the other 3, I’m going to stick with my russian roulette analogy. It doesn’t matter who John Farrell puts out there for Game 3. He simply has to spin the chamber and hope that whomever he chooses gives the team a chance to win.
Now, let’s look at the offense. There is a clear lack of power that has existed all along, which is why I wanted so badly for Dombrowski to ignore the luxury tax and sign Edwin Encarnacion. It was hard to expect Hanley to repeat his performance from last year, and it was even harder to look at the Red Sox lineup card and see the absence of David Ortiz’s name being filled with Mitch Moreland’s. That being said, the Red Sox offense seemed/still seems deep enough to make up for a lack of one heavy hitter. Unfortunately, Mookie Betts didn’t reproduce his MVP runner-up numbers from a year ago, or come particularly close to doing so. For the majority of the season, Bogaerts has looked more like a rookie who is struggling to make adjustments than a 2-time Silver Slugger Award winner. And it’s pretty alarming that if I had to bet on someone to hit a clutch home run right now, I would go straight to the rookies: Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. Were these guys intended to be the power threats of this lineup? No. But here we are.
If you want to make the argument that this bullpen has the potential to be great, or even elite, I’ll buy that. Craig Kimbrel has been NAILS all season long. Joe Kelly, when healthy, has been one of the better set-up men in baseball. Carson Smith has been outstanding since making his return from Tommy John. Regardless, these 3 men do not make up the entire bullpen. If we look at what we actually have, it’s pretty clear that a bullpen in which Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree are playing fairly crucial roles is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “elite”.
In the end, we’re all still Red Sox fans. We’re going to continue to watch the games, root for the team to win, and get excited when they succeed. However, no matter how many times we tell ourselves or Dave Dombrowski tells us that this team was built to win now and that the ultimate goal is a World Series title, we’re eventually going to have to accept that some goals are unattainable. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. If this team suddenly catches fire and rides that into the World Series, I will be the first person to admit that I was wrong, yet after watching them limp to the finish line for the second straight season, I don’t think that I am.
Photo: (Boston Herald)