So what can we learn from the Red Sox' previous experiences with 100 wins?
The 1912 Red Sox had one of the best starting rotations ever seen, led by an all-time great season from Smoky Joe Wood. They allowed just 544 runs in 152 games, well below the league average of 687. With 76 wins as the league average, that 143-run advantage (about 14 wins) bumped the Sox up to 90 wins. They only needed to be 100 runs better than average as a team on offense to win 100 games, which is just about exactly what they did. Their Pythag record was 102-50.
The 1915 club also had an incredible pitching staff, thanks to the emergence of starters like Rube Foster, Ernie Shore and Babe Ruth, with Wood's last hurrah helping out, as well. Though not as dominant as the 1912 club, the '15 Sox allowed an infinitesimal 499 runs, eight more than the Big Train-led Senators. The league average was quite low, just 615 runs allowed, which meant the 1915 club gained just 11 or 12 wins from their pitching, roughly half the total needed for a 100-win season. But the offense wasn't good enough to cover that difference — scoring just 53 runs more than the league average. As a result, the team's Pythag was just 96-55, third-best in the league. The Sox got lucky, winning five more than they "should have," helped mostly by a 29-21 record in one-run games, four games better than a luck-neutral .500 record.
On the other hand, the 1946 club, while it had a decent pitching staff, needed help from a dominant offense. Tex Hughson, Boo Ferriss and company allowed just 594 runs, and that was 36 runs better than league average, but that paled in comparison to the 792 runs Ted Williams, Boby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and Rudy York helped compile. It was truly a Yawkey-esque team, and it scored 162 runs more than the league average. Put together, the pitching and offense combined to be worth nearly 200 runs better than average — roughly 99 wins (Pythag record of 97-57). Once again, luck helped the team push over the top, finishing an astounding 27-17 in one-run games.
We can look at clubs that almost made the cut — the 1978 Sox collapsed down the stretch but would have won 100 games if they could have dispatched the Yankees in the one-game playoff. They were all about the offense. The 2004 club won 98 games (and was arguably more talented than that post-trade deadline) and had five starters appear in at least 32 games, and of course their offense wasn't bad either.
In the end, I think the better clubs of these five — 1912, 1915 and 2004 — were pitching-oriented clubs, and if nothing else that pitching certainly pushed them through the postseason to ultimate glory. Those clubs that relied mostly on their offense — 1946, 1978 — still compiled impressive records but failed when it counted most. In the end, luck plays a pretty big role, too.
The 2011 Red Sox appear to be well balanced. The offense has fewer question marks than the pitching staff, but if Josh Beckett and John Lackey can pitch to their career averages, and the team can counteract the horrible luck of 2010 with just a little good luck in 2011, 100 wins is certainly not out of the question.