And here they come, neck and neck…

With just six games remaining and a playoff spot locked in, the Red Sox have their eyes on the prize right now. Here are some observations and predictions about what the next few weeks will hold:

The Sox offense is better than advertised. Taken a look at the team offensive stats lately? Guess where the Red Sox rank in terms of runs scored? Would you have guessed that we have the third most productive offense in the American League? Yes, ahead of the Angels. Ahead of the Indians. Only New York and Detroit have scored more than we have, and that’s a comforting thing. And that doesn’t change if you look at just the second half; since the ASB, we’re actually second place in runs scored. After all the talk all year about how anemic our offense is, we’ve produced pretty well. And that’s been with Manny Ramirez sidelined and Big Papi nursing a sore knee. And those no-hit wonders we’ve all been complaining about all year are actually not half-bad since the ASB:

J.D. Drew: .266/.360/.422
Coco Crisp: .272/.341/.375
Julio Lugo: .289/.327/.423

I’ll gladly take that over their first halves. Don’t forget that we’ve also got three “Dave Roberts” types who can cause trouble on the basepaths in Lugo, Crisp and Ellsbury. In a real pinch, Buchholz could pinch run. Really.

The rotation should go Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka and Wakefield. I’ve been saying this one for some time now. Josh Beckett is the undisputed ace right now, and Curt Schilling is rested and pitching well, despite the W-L record. He is a big game pitcher, but Tito just has to yank him at the right time. Stick with him too long, and we’ll pay for it (see my many previous rantings on this one). We need to get innings out of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, and the rotation will be fine. Wake’s recent slide doesn’t worry me, because I know what he brings to the table; Lester can’t go deep into games, and the starting in the playoffs is asking too much of him at this stage.

Surprisingly, the bullpen is the wild card. Injuries have taken Brendan Donnelly out of the picture, and cast doubt upon Hideki Okajima. Okey-doke has a less than sparkling ERA of 4.94 in the second half. Part of this is simply self-correction of his ERA, but that sore hip and tired arm are giving him trouble too. Eric Gagne is struggling for some unknown reason, and Kyle Snyder is not pitching well, either. Mike Timlin has really lost something on his fastball, judging from his peripherals, though he seems to be pitching fine now. A lot rides on whether these guys can get healthy and prepped in time.

Julian Tavarez provides good insurance against a really bad start. You gotta keep Manny Delcarmen and Clay Buchholz in the pen for the playoffs, and I’d leave Snyder off the postseason roster, and replace him with Jon Lester.

Ellsbury will play plenty, but should not start regularly. Ellsbury is a great contributor already this year, but let’s not crown him our regular right fielder quite yet. Don’t forget he’s had a TOTAL of 94 major league at bats to his name, ever. He’s had a great run, but he’s proven that he can’t hit the breaking ball low and in, and teams will take advantage of that in key situations.

Drew is on a pretty hot streak, even if the power never really surfaced for him this year. And he plays well against NL teams. And if we’re lucky, we’ll play one soon.


One Response to And here they come, neck and neck…

  1. donchoi says:

    Thanks to Tampa Bay, we gained another game last night. A three game lead is nice to have right about now. As long as we win at least 2 of our last 5, we should win the division. Awesome.

    Even though NY’s offense is way ahead of everyone else in runs (923 RS), it’s run differential that is really important. In that regard, theirs is 175 runs, while ours is 202 runs. Our Pythagorean expected W-L is 98-59, which means we’ve been underperforming our team’s potential. The Yankee’s Pythagorean record is 93-64.

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