The 2014 MLB playoffs officially get underway tonight, as the Oakland Athletics take on the Kansas City Royals in a win or go home Wild Card game. The opening contest will feature a pair of impending top flight free agents in Jon Lester and James Shields, both of whom have a knack for rising to the occasion when the spotlight is at its brightest. For Red Sox fans, Lester’s prowess as a proven playoff arm needs no introduction. In 11 career postseason starts, the southpaw holds a 1.97 earned run average and an equally impressive 1.04 WHIP. After another solid season on the mound, which saw the 30-year old toss over 200 innings for the third straight year and post an ERA below 3.00, Lester seems poised to add to his postseason resume. Similar to Lester, Royals starter James Shields has also been battle tested in postseason during his time with the Rays. While the 32-year old doesn’t have quite as much success in the playoff as Lester does, Shields has started 6 career playoff games and was an integral part of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays run to the World Series. In 227 innings this season, Shields posted a respectable 2.31 ERA and averaged about a strike out per inning. In his last 6 starts of the season, the right-hander averaged 7 innings per start and held opponents to a .199/.228/.295 slash line.
- As the Red Sox enter the offseason, they do so unlike any other team trying to reconcile a last place finish. Boston has the money, prospects, and motive to give the club a major face lift over the winter. By position, most of the Red Sox rebuilding will come in the starting rotation, where the team will need to acquire two top of the rotation arms. The Sox front office could also look to ink a left-handed hitting third base bat, and find a way to keep Mookie Betts on the 25-man roster. (It’s going to get crazy: A Red Sox position-by-position offseason primer)
- A major part of what went wrong for the 2014 Red Sox, was the fact that almost all of their rookies failed to make a consistent contribution. Jackie Bradley, more so than any other, had a rough time making the leap to the MLB, but wasn’t alone as Xander Bogaerts and a plethora of arms all struggled during their first seasons. But even though it didn’t work out the way it was planned in 2014, don’t expect the Red Sox to stray from their commitment to promising rookies. (Commitment of Red Sox to young players not wavering)
- Will Middlebrooks won’t be joining some of his teammates in winter ball this offseason. After yet another season of injuries and under performance, the third baseman and the Red Sox had discussed the idea of sending the 26-year old down to winter ball to make up for lost at-bats. However, Middlebrooks ultimately decided to bypass additional baseball and will instead head to his home in Texas to prepare for next season. (Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks chooses not to play winter ball)
- After missing most of the home stretch of the season with their respective injuries, it turns out that neither David Ortiz or Mike Napoli will require surgery this winter. Additionally, Red Sox newcommer Allen Craig will not have his ailing left foot worked on, and will instead take advantage of a regular offseason of rest. Outfielder Shane Victorino is also on the mend after undergoing back surgery this summer, and is currently set to rejoin Boston for Spring Training. (Napoli, Ortiz won’t need surgery)
- It seems as though the Red Sox added their catcher for the 2015 season before the offseason even started. The Red Sox all but penciled in Christian Vazquez for next season, after the rookie showed off his superb defense and great potential at the plate during 55 games with Boston. While Vazquez figures to receive the bulk of the playing time behind the dish, the Red Sox would also like to add a left-handed hitting veteran to back-up the 23-year old. (Red Sox comfortable with Christian Vazquez as the starting catcher in 2015)
- Tweet of the day: We feel your pain, Gerald.
Sox fan Gerald Wallace disappointed to say the least: "Yeah, worst to first and back to worst."
— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) September 29, 2014