Despite the fact that I write a Boston sports blog, I’ve been very hesitant to write too much about the Red Sox this year.
Who wants to be the one to jinx (what has so far) been a good thing?
At the beginning of the season I was what I would call cautiously optimistic about the Red Sox. I knew that they still had a lot of key pieces and had added some “clubhouse” guys, and I thought John Farrell was the best man for the job outside of Terry Francona.
I knew the bullpen would be their strength, but I also knew that after Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, the team was looking at a back-end of the rotation consisting of Felix Doubront, John Lackey and a 36-year-old Ryan Dempster.
I predicted the Red Sox would win between 82 and 86 games this season. While the 58-39 record the Red Sox compiled in the first half of the season speaks for itself, I don’t think that winning at that clip is sustainable.
While the Red Sox have had a pretty healthy season as far as their position players go, the bullpen, which I’ve already called out as the strength of this team, has taken some major blows.
Andrew Miller, arguably the Sox's go-to lefty reliever, is out for the season. So are their primary options at closer, Andrew Bailey and 2012 All-Star Joel Hanrahan. I’m not sure that any bullpen in baseball can completely overcome the loss of its two best options at closer and its primary left-handed arm.
Oh yeah, Clay Buchholz has been out of commission for nearly two months now after starting the season 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
That said, players across the board have stepped up. While I’m not about to go ga-ga over the Jake Peavy trade, I do think it provides additional veteran depth to the starting rotation. I like everything that Peavy has said since landing in Boston, and I think Peavy, Dempster and Lackey will push one another.
So how’s it all going to end?
To be determined.
I do think the Rays are one of the best teams in baseball. Despite being in fourth place, the Yankees are only 8.5 games back. I’m pretty sure everyone in Boston is familiar with coughing up an eight-game lead with two weeks left in the season, let alone two months. And all of that aside, I continue to think the Detroit Tigers are the best team in the AL—although maybe they’re a bit soft playing in the AL Central?
Time will tell, but it’s not hard to let your mind wander a bit.
If Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Ryan Dempster pitch as they’re capable of (and have been showing), that’s a very formidable, very veteran starting rotation—and you’ve still got Felix Doubront. There have been no clubhouse issues this year, and the team has shown a knack for winning—it's leading the league in walk-off hits (11), coincidentally followed by Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians (9).
If the Sox bullpen and health can generally hold up, this team begins to look like a veteran squad with as good of a chance in October as anyone. And you know they’ve got a chip on their shoulder more than any team in major league baseball.
But dream easy, Boston—there’s a lot of baseball to be played, and cautious optimism remains the best play.
Geoff Roberts is the founder and managing editor of howiGit.com, a Boston Red Sox blog.