It’s not secret that after a roaring first half, the Boston Red Sox have hit some tough times since the All Star Break. Granted, these rough patches are nowhere near as abysmal as the ones the Sox hit in 2011 and 2012, but they have raised questions about whether the team will hang on and make the playoffs.
The team was 58-39 at the break but has been 17-16 since then. Although they’re 20 games above .500 and still reigning supreme in the AL East, are these struggles signs that the Red Sox are going to collapse at the end?
Not necessarily – and the numbers seem to back it up.
For one, the quality of competition for the Red Sox has been pretty difficult since the break. Their first 10 games were against AL East foes (Yankees, Orioles, Rays) and they finished a mediocre 5-5 during this stretch. After playing six games against cupcake opponents (Seattle and Arizona for a 5-1 record) at home, the Red Sox real perils began.
The Red Sox are in the midst of a stretch of 16 of 19 games on the road. When they finish their series in Chavez Ravine and travel back to Boston, the team will end up logging 9,150 miles of airline travel since August 5. In fact, last week the team played an emotional 4 hour, 12 minute game against the hated Yankees before flying 6 hours across the coast to the Bay Area, where they played the Giants the following night. Somehow, they won that game 7-0 and outscored the defending World Champs 21-4 in the series win.
Bottom line is that the Red Sox have been on the road way too much this month. The travel does get easier after this weekend when they play 18 of their next 25 games at Fenway. Granted, these games will be against tough opponents like the Orioles, Tigers, Yankees, and Rays, but hey, at least they’re at home.
The second reason why Red Sox Nation shouldn’t panic is because of the way the Red Sox have been losing. The team has been losing by an average margin of 2.7 runs per game since the All-Star break. In other words, they’ve been in ballgames. Of the 16 losses, only two have been by margins of greater than five. Six of them have been one-run losses.
When you consider the fact that the Red Sox have stranded 61.9% of all base runners in the second half compared to 59.7% in the first half, it becomes clear that had the Red Sox gotten a hit or two in some clutch situations, a lot of those one-run decisions would have been different. The Red Sox hope that when they return home, they’re hitting with runners in scoring position will improve.
Finally, there’s been the pitching. With Clay Buchholz sidelined in the second half, the starters’ ERA has increased from 3.82 to 4.14. The spike can also be attributed to the fact that Red Sox starters are third in MLB in pitches per start at 100. The team as a whole has thrown the most pitches. Perhaps high pitch counts have taxed the arms of the Red Sox and have resulted in decline in performance.
The bullpen ERA, however, has dropped significantly from 4.10 to 2.59. That being said, Red Sox relievers are still allowing a whopping 33% of inherited runners to score. This means that the low ERA is probably because of the fact that relievers are pitching well when there aren’t any inherited runners. That might be the only positive news from the pitching department. From all of the problems the Red Sox have faced during the second half, the toughest one to fix will be the pitching.
With that said, the Red Sox can still achieve success in September and beyond with a mediocre pitching staff if their offense bounces back. Hopefully for the Sox, a long stretch of home games will fix that problem.