The Red Sox have barreled their way into yet another postseason after finishing last in the AL East in the two seasons since they last won the World Series. The Sox crashed their way to the third seed in the AL on the strength of an 11-game September winning streak, involving three straight series sweeps of divisional rivals. Still, Boston finally clinched the division only when the Orioles beat the Blue Jays right before Mark Teixeira hit a walkoff grand slam off Joe Kelly. They wound up losing five of their last six.
Sure, fine. We’re going to the playoffs.
The Red Sox are probably the most annoying franchise in the American League, and they start Clay Buchholz every fifth day, but the strength of the Sox is a great offense anchored equally by franchise veterans and a new crop of young talent.
The 2016 Red Sox lead MLB in nearly every offensive category, other than home runs. They’re tops in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS/OPS+. The team’s pitching was not as strong as its offense, but still the staff finished the regular season with the fifth highest ERA+and with a 4.00 ERA and 4.00 FIP.
Put it together, and despite the history and the wicked pissahs in the stands, the Red Sox are a fun-to-watch team with an offense that can keep a game competitive even when their rotation craps the bed a bit.
Mookie Betts leads the Red Sox in overall coolness. Mookie is my personal favorite player on the Red Sox because every time I watch him make some ridiculous catch in right field, I think to myself, “Damn, this guy is so fun to watch I almost don’t care that he plays for the Red Sox.” His walk-up song is “Heavy” by Gucci Mane.
The 23-year-old leads the Red Sox by a wide margin in overall wins above replacement, helped greatly by his 2.8 defensive WAR (second in the league only to Kevin Kiermaier’s 3.0 dWAR). At the plate, young Mookie has jacked 31 dingers in 2016.
The Red Sox’s home run leader however, is an elderly designated hitter whose impending retirement does not prevent him from being the centerpiece of the Red Sox’s playoff run. David Ortiz led baseball in slugging and OPS in his age-40 season, and mashed 38 home runs. What Ortiz has accomplished this season is nearly unfathomable—Ortiz now has definitively claimed the record for the best final season for a hitter since Ted Williams’ 1960. Ortiz’s stats compared to his franchise forerunner’s are arguably as good, or even better; Ortiz edged Williams slightly in offensive WAR, 5.0 to 4.8, in his final regular season.
For many Sox fans who have crammed themselves into Fenway year in and year out, Ortiz’s statistical accomplishments are almost secondary to the consistent presence he’s been through three championships.
Which brings us to another elder statesman of the Red Sox whose 2016 production also makes me shake my head in a bit of disbelief: Dustin Pedroia. You might have expected a sharper decline in offensive output from the 33-year-old Pedroia. Instead, he’s continued to scrap, grind, and lead MLB in singles with only 52 of his 201 hits going for extra bases. I thought to myself, what’s the most Pedroia stat I could find, and there it was.
Other 2016 Red Sox offensive mainstays Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Hanley Ramirez, Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, and young Andrew Benintendi have combined for a .273/.342/.452/.795 line.
The rotation has really struggled to get its shit together, with Rick Porcello and expensive newbie David Price essentially flip-flopping on their season expectations coming into 2016. Porcello, whose nearly 5-point ERA in 2015 dropped to 3.15 this season with a 1.01 WHIP (second only in the AL to Justin Verlander), will presumably be named the Game 1 starter for the ALDS. I’m sure that’s exactly what the Sox expected when they drove a semi full of Benjamins to David Price’s home. Price’s numbers have inflated since his 2015 DET/TOR split season, but he has been consistent making 35 starts and leading the league with 230 IP. Price finished the regular season with a 3.99 ERA and 3.60 FIP. Red Sox relievers, anchored by Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, Robbie Ross, et al, have combined for a 3.56 ERA (to the starters’ 4.22).
Anyway, those are some guys. Have fun watching the Red Sox bang around with one of the best offenses in baseball.
The Cardinals are hibernating for the winter, so of course.
I’m electing instead to choose best baseball ears, which leads us to Henry Owens:
Nothing I could write here would convince anyone who is not an existing Red Sox fan to root for the Sox to win their fourth World Series in 12 years. No one denies this. But if you haven’t paid attention to the Sox this season, you’ll probably be surprised by how much fun they are to watch.