Boston Red Sox Are the Biggest Playoff Pretenders of the 2012 Season

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIAugust 9, 2012

Pop quiz Red Sox Nation: Which team has more wins dating back to September 1, 2011—the Boston Red Sox or the Minnesota Twins?

You have to think hard about that, don't you?

The Minnesota Twins own a 54-82 record in that time span, while the Boston Red Sox are 62-77. 

Some folks may be sighing in relief while others realize that it is merely splitting hairs—both teams are sub .500 teams, and the question, therefore, is irrelevant.

The greater point is that the 55-57 2012 Red Sox team is not a playoff contender.

They're not even close.

The American League East is the Yankees' to lose. The Red Sox are 10 games back in that race. (In case it matters, the the Orioles are 4.5 back and in second place. Hats off to them for their tremendous turnaround this season.)

In the Wild Card race, the Sox are 5.5 out. That, in and of itself, may not seem so insurmountable. That is, until you look at the teams in front of them in the standings.

The Orioles, Detroit Tigers and Oakland A's are all tied for the first two spots. The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angles are strongly in the hunt, each 1.5 games out of contention.

That leaves the Red Sox next in line, four games behind the other two serious contenders.

It seems a bit odd that the team with the second most runs scored in baseball (551) and the fifth best team batting average (.268) can't possibly vie for a playoff berth.

The problem is not now, nor has it ever been the hitting. Even with slugger David Ortiz on the shelf the team has still managed a .283 average in the month of August.

Diagnosis: The pitching is like a baseball in high grass—lost.

The most glaring issue is that this team does not have a legitimate ace.

In general terms that is not so uncommon in baseball. There are about a half-dozen legitimate aces in the game. (See: Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Clayton Kershaw—you get the picture.)

The bigger issue is that of their three potential "top of the rotation" starters, only Clay Buchholz has shown any grit and desire to win this season.

He is slated as the team's third starter.

Jon Lester, the "ace," has been abysmal. His 5-10 record for the Sox gives him the most losses on the team.

His 5.36 ERA is higher than that of Daniel Bard, the reliever turned starter, who was cast off to triple-A Pawtucket to get his mind right. His ERA at the time was 5.24 through 11 games with a 5-6 record.

The No. 2 on the staff, Josh Beckett, has the second most losses on the team, owning a 5-9 record with a 4.97 ERA.

For those interested, if you look at the Red Sox's team stats, Beckett and Lester bookend Daniel Bard in ERA. What does that tell you?

That equates to a combined 10-19 from two of the top of the rotation starters. If they could have been .500 each this season, the Red Sox would own the Wild Card right now.

They haven't been.

They're not that duo.

They're not that good.

Beckett ranks 85th, and Lester ranks 91st in ERA among all 98 qualifying starting pitchers on the season.

While the team was supposedly fielding offers to try and trade Beckett away at the deadline, his trade value is nearly nil.

Beckett is earning, *ahem* being paid, $15.75 million for the 2012 season and is owed the same for 2013 and 2014.

Lester is more of a mystery.

Since 2008 he has managed 15 or more wins each season, hitting 19 in 2010. This season he is totally lost, or so it appears, on the mound. His record is indicative of that.

The Red Sox missed the opportunity to unload and begin a wise, strategic rebuild by standing firm at the trade deadline.

It would not have needed to be a drastic fire sale, but it would have been smart to remove some of this ineffective pieces on the roster that have been a drain to both the morale and productivity of the team.

If nothing else, the remaining 60 games will be a litmus test for who has heart and who does not.

The reality is, this team is not making the playoffs.

The measure of the team and its players will come when we see who will still play hard every day and who just doesn't care.

The latter is the part of the team that needs to be removed. Period.


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