You never want to peak too soon if you’re a baseball team with aspirations of winning the World Series. While the 104-win Dodgers and 102-win Indians appear to be on a collision course to face one another in this year’s Fall Classic, both teams may have already played their best baseball this season.
The MLB playoffs are something of a crapshoot in the modern era as we’ve recently seen Wild Card teams like the 2014 Giants and 2011 Cardinals win it all. It’s all about peaking at the right time, and the Red Sox look like they may have their best baseball ahead of them.
The Perfect ‘pen?
The Sox found out last season exactly what a dominant bullpen can do in the postseason as Cleveland’s Andrew Miller and Cody Allen completely owned the Boston lineup. Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski surely took note that in baseball today – a top-notch bullpen is just as important, if not more important, than having a star-studded starting staff.
Craig Kimbrel (1.43 ERA, 35 saves), Addison Reed (2.84 ERA, 19 saves) and David Price (6-3, 3.38 ERA) lead the way for the Boston relievers.
The Sox already had a tremendous pen before Reed landed with the Sox via trade and Price transitioned to a relief role as Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Robby Scott and Brandon Workman had all been relatively dependable early in the year. In tight games, however, manager John Farrell can go to his A-list of Kimbrel, Reed and Price instead of rolling the dice with the B-listers.
Reed, who has settled in perfectly as the eighth-inning man, has allowed just one run in his last 14 outings. Price hasn’t given up a single run in the five appearances he made as a reliever in September. Kimbrel has been phenomenal all season as there was just one game this entire year that he allowed three hits or more in an outing (Aug. 1 to Cleveland, a game the Sox still managed to win).
Go get some runs
The 2017 Red Sox are the most unconventional Red Sox team of all-time in that they did not care about bashing balls onto Lansdowne Street. In fact, the Sox finished dead last in the American League in home runs this season. The name of the game, however, is crossing the plate by any means necessary and the Sox did a pretty good job at that this season. They scored 785 runs this year, good for 10th overall in all of baseball (the Astros were No. 1 with 896 runs).
Leadoff hitter Xander Bogaerts finished the season strong after a dreadful three-month stretch as his .393 OBP in September was the highest it had been since he had a .405 mark in May. If Bogaerts can perform up to his normal standards and one of the trio of Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts can get hot, then the Sox will be in business. If not, it’ll be a second straight quick exit from the postseason.