The Red Sox playoff run kicks off today. It remains to be seen whether this will be a quick exit again.
There’s reason to be excited for the series against Houston. The Astros got off to a phenomenal start in the first half of the year, then sort of coasted to the postseason (losing the top spot to Cleveland after their record streak). They have a way more consistent offense, scoring 111 more runs than the Red Sox. Their starting pitching is also more consistent. Verlander vs Sale will be a great matchup, and hopefully Sale can keep the Sox in the game for at least 6 innings. Keuchel is inconsistent, but has the ability to be a dominant pitcher, while Pomeranz has had an excellent season and should continue to do well in game 2. Beyond that, the Red Sox starters have been downright unpredictable, between Porcello and Rodrigez struggling and Fister’s bipolar swings. As far as a third starter goes, Fister has the best postseason track record. The Red Sox have a better bullpen, especially if David Price can keep it together the way he has in the last few weeks.
To win, the Red Sox will need their two best starters to step up and pitch as well as they have all season. The offense will need to hit much more consistently than their regular season effort, and they will have to manage not to get thrown out on the bases as they have all season. Defense is fortunately something that the Red Sox do very well, and I am very confident that they’re going to continue that.
If the Astros win this series, it will be because the Red Sox can’t hit consistently, and their aggression on the basepaths gets them thrown out (Benintendi). Leaving runners on base has been a struggling point all year, given the style of offense the Sox use (somewhat of a small-ball approach, few consistent power hitters), so that may rear its ugly head if they can’t build offensive momentum. Either way, I look forward to an exciting series against a solid all-around team.
The Sox clinched a spot in the postseason last night with a win and an Angels loss. At the very least, they’ll be a wild card team. They’re in the driver’s seat for the division though, so barring a pretty big collapse they’ll have (likely) Houston, or more likely they’ll be heading to Houston.
I’m not as confident as I’d like to be in the Sox. Their offense is inconsistent. Just look at their last 3 games: two overtime Wins, one going 15 innings, and one blowout win on the back of Chris Sale’s absolutely dominating performance. If they had a consistent showing on offense even for the past month or so they could be contending for home field advantage. I’m still no 100% sold that they’ll be ready to compete in the playoffs with playoff pitching, whether it be Verlander, Keuchel, or even Kluber if things go south for Cleveland.
Pitching is another concern. Sale is Sale, but other than yesterday he kind of struggled (relatively, of course, for the Cu Young award hopeful). Big congratulations are in order on his 300 strikeouts this year, the first time since 1999 that it’s happened in the AL. Drew Pomeranz has actually been consistently very good this year, which is something I wouldn’t have expected to say last year. He has done a tremendous job and has been one of the few cconsistent pieces on this team. Beyond that, what do we have? Rick Porcello, who isn’t even close to what h was last year; Eduardo Rodriguez, who is what you’d expect him to be; Doug Fister, a solid fifth starter with an unfortunate last name who would be exposed as a third starter; and the billion-dollar man David Price, who will probably be a bullpen pitcher (which is good considering that’s the only way he’s ever won a playoff game).
The Sox will most likely play the Astros in the ALDS. I think they can win, but it’ll probably go to at least 4 games if not 5. Houston has been coasting a bit since starting the season like a rocket and burning out after the all star break. After Houston would be Cleveland, a juggernaut who won 22 games in a row and is poised to have home field to defend their pennant from last year. Cleveland looks to have Boston’s number this year, whatever the reason. If I were a gambler, I wouldn’t bet on the Sox in Cleveland. But stranger things have happened, so the Sox shouldn’t be counted out yet.
I see this every damn time someone hits multiple home runs in a game (congrats, JD Martinez). Everyone complains about how they’ll get “random” drug tests, and it’s clearly not “random”. It happens every 4/20 too.
Here’s the answer: it isn’t meant to be random. “Random” only applies to the player. The MLB (and NFL, and NBA, etc.) Have the authority to do it *randomly (I.e. at their discretion, without warning the player in advance) as a way of potentially catching a player in the act of cheating. It’s to deter people from cheating. It isn’t random for both sides because there would be no practical benefit for that.
The final round of my preseason predictions. Here it is:
1. Seahawks: 11-13 wins
Seattle will have another strong year, contending for a high playoff seed. How they fare in the playoffs is a mystery.
2. Cardinals: 6-9 wins
I think Arizona will finish stronger than last year, but their potential isn’t particularly great. They could contend for a wild card slot, but they’ll be a dark horse if anything.
3. Rams: 5-8 wins
Los Angeles’s season is up in the air, especially since their quarterback situation is a little messy. But now that they’re free from the clutches of Jeff Fisher, their future looks brighter than before.
4. 49ers: 4- wins
Oh my. This team is a hot mess. Guaranteed top 5 draft pick.
Another unpredictable division is the NFC South. Here we go:
1. Buccaneers: 9-12 wins
Tampa Bay has the talent to win the division, and Jameis Winston could pull it off this year. They should continue to improve and have a huge impact on the NFC.
2. Falcons: 7-11 wins
Atlanta could have a but of a hangover year after their monumental collapse in the Super Bowl last year. Or they could come out for revenge. Who knows?
3. Panthers: 7-10 wins
Can Newton needs to bounce back. They’ve lost a good chunk of their 2015 postseason team, but Carolina should be competitive for a wild card spot if Newton plays consistently.
4. Saints: 6-9 wins
If they had a defense, they’d be golden. Drew Brees is one of the best passers ever, but he can only carry the team so far.
The NFC North features some of the oldest franchises in the league, including the original Super Bowl winner. Here’s round 6:
1. Packers: 11-14 wins
Green Bay sometimes gets off to a slow start, but when they get rolling they can be absolutely deadly. Aaron Rodgers is pretty much good for 10 wins on his own.
2. Lions: 8-11 wins
Detroit has performed surprisingly well recently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small decline, but at the same time 11 wins is a very achievable goal.
3. Vikings: 6-9 wins
Minnesota’s offense is a huge question mark on the 2017 season, especially at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater returning at some point. I hope they make a run for the playoffs but it seems very unlikely.
4. Bears: 1-5 wins
Oh boy. This team is a hot mess. We’ll see how the rookies perform, but having high hopes for Da Bears is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Here we go. Time for the NFC, starting with the most unpredictable division in football.
1. Giants: 10-12 wins
The Giants have been steadily improving for several years now, and I think this is the year they move into first. How long that lasts, who knows.
2. Cowboys: 9-12 wins
Dallas has a lot if question marks. A lot. Particularly around sophomore seasons for Prescott and Elliot. But they should be good, and could easily take first place again over NY.
3. Redskins: 7-9 wins
The Redskins could end up surprising me either way here. I could see them winning more or fewer games than I predict the range will be. Their offense is going through a big change, so the bulk of the uncertainty rests on quarterback Kirk Cousins.
4. Eagles: 5-9
I think it would be really cool for Philly to upset everyone and take the division, but I don’t see that being much of a possibility. They do have hope for the next few seasons if they draft well, though.