Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Sept. 25, 2018 – Source: Getty Images North America)
The regular season is officially over, and just five American League teams remain. The Boston Red Sox are chief among them, earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs behind their 108-54 record. The Boston Red Sox are stacked, but they’re now going up against the best of the best. Take a look at the Boston Red Sox confidence index to get a feel of how the team looks heading into the postseason.
Boston Red Sox Confidence Index
The Boston Red Sox have arguably the best offense in baseball by just about every measure. The Red Sox finished their season ranked first in runs, OPS, slugging percentage, and batting average. The Red Sox are entering the playoffs on a hot stretch, as their offense ranks fifth in runs, OPS, and slugging percentage since the All-Star break. They did all this despite effectively taking the entire month of September off. To say this offense is good is a dramatic understatement.
Boston’s offense is led by two legit MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Betts, the likely MVP, finished his season with a league-leading .346 batting average to go along with a 1.078 OPS and a 185 wRC+. This was the best season to date in Betts’ short career, and he will lead the offense throughout the playoff run.
If Mookie is the best bat in the Red Sox lineup, then J.D. Martinez is a close second. The first-year Red Sox was everything the Red Sox needed in the lineup, finishing his season with a .330/.402/.629 slash line with an accompanying 170 wRC+. Martinez finished his incredible season with 43 home runs, the most of any first-year Red Sox in history.
If there is one weak link in the Red Sox offense, it’s the catcher position. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Blake Swihart have combined for 640 at-bats at the catcher position. In those 640 plate appearances, the Red Sox put up a .233/.288/.342 slash line with a combined 1.1 fWAR. In spite of everything else, the Red Sox have one of the worst catching positions in all of baseball.
Confidence Grade: A
The Starting Pitchers
This unit will ultimately determine how successful the Red Sox can be in 2018. Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello all have the potential to be among the best starters in baseball, but all three have serious questions heading into the postseason.
Sale’s biggest question is health and if he can fix his mechanics. The Red Sox ace missed the majority of the second half of the season, and his fastball velocity decreased in each of the past four starts. Sale’s mechanics were out of whack in his most recent outing, and he’s all out of time to fix it. He’ll have to solve his mechanical issues some point before Friday, or else the Boston Red Sox will be in rough shape.
Price’s postseason problems have been discussed everywhere, so we won’t waste many words here. The lefty has struggled throughout in the postseason, but he had a fantastic playoff run last year. Pitching through a painful elbow injury, Price tossed seven scoreless innings of relief against the Houston Astros. Hopefully, Price can build on his successful 2017 and continue his dominance into the postseason.
After coming out of the gate on fire, Rick Porcello has struggled basically since July. In the past 86.1 innings, Porcello owns a 5.11 ERA and a 4.66 FIP. While his WHIP is a solid 1.25, Porcello is allowing soft contact just 14.3% of the time. He’s had good outings sprinkled in, but overall it’s been a bumpy road for Porcello.
Confidence Grade: C+
While most Red Sox fans believe the Red Sox bullpen is this team’s fatal flaw, we already profiled why that concern is overblown. While this unit isn’t as good as the Yankees or Athletics bullpen, it’s more than capable of getting the job done.
Craig Kimbrel is one of the elite relievers in baseball, Steven Wright has looked phenomenal since coming off the disabled list, and Ryan Brasier has been one of the most pleasant surprises all season. Red Sox fans shouldn’t be worried about this trio, and Wright has the ability to go multiple innings. Should the Red Sox hold the lead in the fifth inning, these three should be able to close out the game.
Additionally, Eduardo Rodriguez will start the series out of the bullpen. Rodriguez is a really good starter, and his stuff should play up ever better out of the bullpen. Matt Barnes was one of the best relievers in baseball prior a hip injury. If he’s fully healthy (fairly big “if”), the bullpen gets even deeper.
The biggest worry with this grouping is the inherited runner situation. Outside of Heath Hembree, nobody has shown the ability to come into a jam and consistently get out of it. Even Hembree has struggled in the last month or so. How manager Alex Cora chooses to handle this situation will go a long way in determining the ultimate success of the 2018 Red Sox.
Confidence Grade: B-