August 2, 2012
Out of Left Field
By July 31st, teams usually have a good sense of how their season is going. Some are doing well. Some aren’t. In either case that certainty, unwelcome as it may be in the latter case, makes decisions easier. First place teams are “buyers,” last place teams are sellers. As a GM you know that it’s time to bolster the major-league roster, or conversely, that it’s just not happening this year. Time to sell off some pieces and live to fight another year. Things are easy when it’s that simple.
It gets stickier when teams are in between those extremes. This is a land where cogent arguments for both buying and selling exist. You could even argue coherently for doing nothing and not be burned at the stake. Mostly though, it’s a dangerous land, one where the wrong decisions can haunt a franchise for years.
That is exactly where the Boston Red Sox have found themselves for the past two weeks and, as we enter the waiver-trade period, will find themselves for the next few weeks. Floating in that in-between, nebulous, purgatory of deadline existence at a time that typically calls for action of some sort. And yet it was unclear what type of action the Red Sox should taken earlier this week. Can they still compete for the playoffs, or is that wishful thinking at this point?
The Red Sox are 53-52, 8 ½ games behind the Yankees despite winning two of three in the Bronx this past weekend. Our own Playoff Odds Report estimates their chances of winning the American League East to be 1.6 percent. The odds of Boston winning either of the play-in Wild Card spots are higher, but it’s not like 15.7 percent is particularly high. Overall that’s under a one-in-five shot to even make a play-in game to make the playoffs.
So the numbers don’t look promising. But I keep finding myself asking this question: Does their record accurately represent them? In other words, is it reasonable to expect the roster, as currently constructed, to play at roughly a .500 pace the rest of the year, or are they much better than that? Analysts and fans who thought the Red Sox should sell off useful players think the record represents the team. I find myself making a different argument, that the team, as is, can play significantly better over their final 57 games than they did over the first 105.
Why? Three points: