Now that it’s been firmly established the Red Sox will not win the division (and that even if they do, they probably don’t deserve it)*, it’s time to rest up the regulars and get everything in line for the playoffs. The Sox are in pretty good position in this regard, with Jason Bay and J.D. Drew both having missed time lately, Josh Beckett seemingly back to his old self and Jon Lester exactly in line to pitch Game 1 of the ALDS on an extra day’s rest.
The question now is how far can the Sox go once they make the playoffs? It’s pretty clear they’ll be playing the Angels, against whom they’re 1-8 this year. Were they to beat them for a 32nd straight postseason, they’d likely face the Rays, against whom they’re 8-10 this year (including 2-4 in their most important six).
* The Sox still can win this thing somehow. Even with their head-to-head results, the Sox are 10-6 to the Rays’ 6-9 in September. If the Sox match that .625 winning percentage in their remaining 10 games, they’d go 6-4, while the Rays’ .400 winning percentage over their final 12 would be 5-7. They would end up tied. When you consider the Sox actually have an .800 winning percentage in games not involving the Rays this month (and the Rays in turn have a .222 percentage against teams other than the Sox), a division title still doesn’t seem all that unlikely.
Here are the Sox’ regular-season records against their recent playoff opponents and their results in that year’s postseason:
- Oakland: 3-4 (.429) / 3-2 (.600)
- New York: 9-10 (.474) / 3-4 (.429)
- LAnaheim: 5-4 (.556) / 3-0 (1.000)
- New York: 11-8 (.579) / 4-3 (.571)
- St. Louis: DNP / 4-0 (1.000)
- Chicago: 4-3 (.571) / 0-3 (.000)
- LAnaheim: 6-4 (.600) / 3-0 (1.000)
- Cleveland: 5-2 (.714) / 4-3 (.571)
- Colorado: 1-2 (.333) / 4-0 (1.000)
In all, the Red Sox in the regular season have been 44-37 against their eventual playoff opponents, a .543 winning percentage. In the playoffs over that time, they’ve gone 28-15, a .737 percentage. That’s a bit misleading, as it includes an 8-0 record in the World Series against teams they barely or did not face. Their regular-season record against AL playoff opponents has been 43-35 (.551), with a 20-15 (.571) record in the playoffs. That’s not much difference.
- LAnaheim: 1-8 (.111)
- Chicago: 4-3 (.571)
- Tampa Bay: 8-10 (.444)
This year, the Sox are 13-21 against the three other AL teams likely to make the playoffs, a terrible .394 winning percentage. It’s hard to say the Sox will come back and beat the Angels and Rays in the postseason when they could not in the regular season; the fact is the Sox have yet to do so poorly against a potential playoff opponent — never playing more than one game under .500 against their playoff competition since 2003. This is uncharted territory for Boston, at least in the modern era.
These trends are exacerbated by the fact that the Sox have been terrible in Tampa (1-8) and were swept in Anaheim (0-3), while being generally mediocre-to-lousy on the road (their best possible road record for the season is finishing one game under .500). They will have to beat at least one, likely both, of these clubs in their ballparks. Color me less than hopeful on that score.