Maybe I'm just being that one negative-minded Boston Red Sox fan who—no matter how much money and success the team can wave in front of my face—still stands ready for them to do the seemingly impossible and completely blow it. And while I would love to say that my gut feeling is wrong, the Red Sox are giving more and more reason to believe that my fears are completely right.
The odd thing about this article that I am writing (as a Massachusetts native who is bashing his home team) is the timing. I am writing this following a crucial 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, that put the Sox back to four games up in the AL Wild Card. This would seem like good news for Red Sox Nation, a fan base that is used to sneaking into the playoffs. But is it just me, or does the Wild Card seem rather underachieving for a team that once had so much hype?
Now with the schedule approaching its final ten games, the Red Sox are certainly in good position to hold onto the AL Wild Card. With quite a few games against the Baltimore Orioles coming up and a four game cushion to sit on, it's looking like the Red Sox won't completely tank before the postseason.
But the real question is: can this team even make it far into October? I am one of very few Red Sox fans who will say, no they can't.
If I lived in New York (or probably any other part of the United States outside of New England at this point), I could end my article here. However, as a lifelong Boston sports fan, I feel I owe the reader more. So, here is why I'm curbing my excitement for playoff baseball in Boston this year.
It's something the Boston Red Sox don't have enough of to make it to the World Series. And their offense? It's not that good either. Let's start with the pitching though.
Three solid starting pitchers. That's what many would argue, all you need to survive in the postseason with. The Red Sox have about, one and half solid starters.
Lester has the fewest wins of all the postseason-bound American League aces despite pitching for an offensive powerhouse. Lester also has the worst ERA of the group, with the least strikeouts. The Red Sox second starter in a playoff series would be Josh Beckett.
Beckett was the Sox fourth starter at the beginning of the season. This was after a 2010 campaign where he started only 21 games. He's continued his brittle reputation in 2011 as well. He most recently came off of a late-season ankle sprain, and looks as though he'll fall short of 200 innings for the year.
The Red Sox third starter is currently a toss up between John Lackey and Erik Bedard. I would include Clay Buchholz, but his most recent success is an "abbreviated bullpen session" where he threw only 30 pitches on Thursday (only 15 from actually on top of the mound). So it's looking like the Red Sox will have to put their postseason fate in the hands of either Lackey or Bedard, both of whom have given very few reasons to trust either of them in a critical start.
The Red Sox bullpen, much like their starting rotation, is also far from perfect. Outside of closer Jonathan Papelbon and seventh-inning man Alfredo Aceves, the Red Sox bullpen has proven to be unreliable and very shaky during pressure situations. Setup man Daniel Bard has given up nine runs in his last 5.2 innings. The rest of the Sox bullpen has an ERA that sits about four and can't be trusted to keep any game close.
Next we look at the Red Sox offense. An offense that has certainly proven to be lethal during the regular season—ranking in the top of league in average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage. Even an offense "this good" can't carry a team all the way to the World Series though. Without a much better pitching staff, the holes in Boston's offense appear much larger.
While Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury make the Red Sox bats look like world beaters, the bottom of their lineup makes Boston's offense seem much more manageable for opposing pitchers.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carl Crawford are both hitting under .250 for the year, with just about 100 strikeouts each.
Josh Reddick is proving to be a somewhat reliable member of the lineup, but how much can be expected in the playoffs, of a kid who hasn't even played a full season at the major league level yet?
And while it is known Kevin Youkilis is having a down season, he still manages to look like a shadow of himself while trying to struggle through injuries down the stretch.
So while the Red Sox are trying to convince their fan base that they have what it takes to make it in the postseason by fighting off non-playoff contending teams, I am not expecting a successful ending to the Red Sox Cinderella story this year.