Time to Coast

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:

2003

  • Oakland: 3-4 (.429) / 3-2 (.600)
  • New York: 9-10 (.474) / 3-4 (.429)

2004

  • LAnaheim: 5-4 (.556) / 3-0 (1.000)
  • New York: 11-8 (.579) / 4-3 (.571)
  • St. Louis: DNP / 4-0 (1.000)

2005

  • Chicago: 4-3 (.571) / 0-3 (.000)

2007

  • 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.

2008

  • 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.

16 comments… add one
  • last night’s results not withstanding, I think a strength of the team is the pitching right now. The offense against good pitching – not so much, and with Mike Lowell hurting and Drew not back (no pun intendeded), that’s not good. Coco seems to be regressing back to his normal offensive state as well (pun definately intended). And Pedro is hitting at a more human like pace right now. Can’t see them getting past he Angels, but I think it will be a long series.

    dw (sf) September 18, 2008, 10:25 am
  • I say they lose to the Angels every time, and every single time they beat them. I’m not calling that yet. Plus, LAA has been on cruise control for awhile now – they could catch them napping.

    Brad September 18, 2008, 10:55 am
  • but a good hunter would never catch his prey napping, they would always wake them up, right? ;) Hopefully the Angels get “Rockies syndrome”, only trouble is, they are still playing the games, and seeing live pitching. I’d like to see Drew, Bay and Lowell all back in the lineup, with either Ells or Coco depending on who is OBP the best at that time.

    dw (sf) September 18, 2008, 11:11 am
  • I think a healthy Drew would do the most to reinvigorate this team. Casey (assuming he also can get healthy) could fill in adequately for Lowell, who hasn’t been much at the plate since his injury way back in the summer, but Drew is such a huge upgrade over having to play both Crisp and Ellsbury.
    I like this team a lot. I think they’re better than they’ve shown for much of the season. But they have to actually play better against the teams they’ve played the worst against in the regular season. If anyone can do it, this team can. But will they?

    Paul SF September 18, 2008, 11:22 am
  • “If anyone can do it, this team can. But will they?”
    now, that’s the duck-boat question, isn’t it? :) Casey doesn’t have any power though, at least Lowell can hit for some power, and even with the injury, he’s still faster than Casey! If Kotsay would get hot, I’d rather see him at first. Thank goodness Lowrie was in the system!

    dw September 18, 2008, 11:46 am
  • oops, that was me…

    dw (sf) September 18, 2008, 11:47 am
  • I’m sure Bailey will get a lot of time at first base too; his average is mediocre but his OBP is .378, and he has a good amount of power.

    Atheose September 18, 2008, 12:08 pm
  • Bailey can hit bombs. Period. I saw BP once and he was absolutely crushing the ball as far as anyone in the park. But, he has to make contact with it first:)

    Brad September 18, 2008, 12:33 pm
  • i’ve said this a thousand times, but it’s worth repeating…the post-season has been transformed into a tournament…the hot teams, and not necessarily the best regular season teams, win more than their fair share in the tournament…’04 turned out alright for the sox, and other wild cards have had similar success…the sox are in it, ’til they’re not…i see no reason they can’t win it all…

    dc September 18, 2008, 12:53 pm
  • The Red Sox in 2004 were in a far better situation. They took the season series from the Yankees, and finished in second only because the season isn’t 172 games instead of 162. They entered the ALCS as the favorites, which was part of what made the 3-0 hole so shocking (and disheartening). This wasn’t 1999, where the Sox made the playoffs essentially on the strength of one pitcher and got creamed by the mid-dynasty Yanks.
    This year, the Sox have been very good in August and September — but have shown no ability to beat the teams they’ll face in October. This is much different from ’04 and ’07.

    Paul SF September 18, 2008, 2:37 pm
  • No Sox team or Sox season is the same, and precedent has only been set because we don’t do badly enough on teams we face. Or we’re just seeking precedents the wrong place.
    Here’s my precedent:
    2007 Cleveland Indians v. New York Yankees, Regular Season: 0-8
    2007 ALDS, Indians v. Yankees: 3-1
    That and the Angels have no right to their win total with that run differential. Something is rotten here. We get healthy, we can take them in 4.

    Hit Dog September 18, 2008, 4:58 pm
  • This is interesting, but ultimately proves nothing: hey, plenty of people gave the Rockies a chance (or outright picked them) on the basis of that one series in Fenway in Summer 2007. I look at the two 1-1 games that went to extra innings (or the bottom of the 9th) and I see games that a full clip of Sox offense do not lose. You want precedents? Here’s a precedent:
    Yankees v. Indians, 2007–
    Regular Season: NYY 8-0
    ALDS: 3-1
    I believe in statistics like the Pythagorean formula, which shows the Rays to be somewhat overachieving and the Angels to be a paper tiger. Lineup status permitting (I do not want to see Kotsay’s face, hear his name, or have Francona even think that he should be batting in a major league lineup above the 8 hole), I’m going with the Red Sox against the Angels. In 4. A bad division and a lack of meaningful baseball will make even the best team go flat/fat, and that these Halos are not.

    Hit Dog September 18, 2008, 5:29 pm
  • This is interesting, but ultimately proves nothing: hey, plenty of people gave the Rockies a chance (or outright picked them) on the basis of that one series in Fenway in Summer 2007. I look at the two 1-1 games that went to extra innings (or the bottom of the 9th) and I see games that a full clip of Sox offense do not lose. You want precedents? Here’s a precedent:
    Yankees v. Indians, 2007–
    Regular Season: NYY 8-0
    ALDS: 3-1
    I believe in statistics like the Pythagorean formula, which shows the Rays to be somewhat overachieving and the Angels to be a paper tiger. Lineup status permitting (I do not want to see Kotsay’s face, hear his name, or have Francona even think that he should be batting in a major league lineup above the 8 hole), I’m going with the Red Sox against the Angels. In 4. A bad division and a lack of meaningful baseball will make even the best team go flat/fat, and that these Halos are not.

    Hit Dog September 18, 2008, 5:30 pm
  • a lot will depend on which closer’s bubble bursts: papelbon or k.rod….they can’t both be heroes in the same series….

    dc September 19, 2008, 12:00 am
  • Sorry for the flooding; wasn’t seeing my comments showing up.

    Hit Dog September 19, 2008, 9:33 am
  • I appreciate the 1997 figures, HD. Makes me feel better. That said, precedent is not irrelevant, as it gives us a good idea of probabilities. Not to say that probabilities cannot be broken, but they’re instructive as to what to expect.

    Paul SF September 19, 2008, 10:40 am

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Next post:

Previous post: