With a 57-37 record, the Sox have been heavily carried by their number 1 offence. They have had timely hitting, and very high OBP and OPS numbers. However, what if the offence stumbles for a bit? Luckily the only bad stretch of games that really sticks out this season is when they went 2-9 in early May, and they have avoided large slumps.
I am of the belief that in order to win the World Series, you will need to have good pitching- - - at least in the playoffs. It is a lot harder to rely on your offence in playoffs. Looking at past winners in the Giants (X2), Cardinals, Yankees, and Phillies, they all had solid playoff pitching performances. So can we trust the Red Sox pitching to get the job done? That is what worries me.
Even though they took 3/4 against the Mariners this week, they also gave up 11, 8, 4, and 7 runs in each game, respectively. Let me remind you that these games were played in Seattle against the Mariners who aren't quite slugging machines. In each game, there was one concerning pitching performance. Monday, Lester was abhorrent. Tuesday, Webster proved he isn't ML ready just yet. Wednesday, Brandon Workman had to get the nerves out of the way before finally settling down. Then on Thursday, Dempster had his first poor performance in quite a while. While we have won 3 straight, it's not exactly realistic to expect 7 or 8 runs every single game especially against some playoff calibre teams (eg. Oakland this weekend).
With Buchholz in the rotation, I have solid confidence in Clay, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront. After his last performance, Dempster seems like a slightly less reliable option. Then there's Jon Lester who really needs to figure things out before he is shipped out of town or becomes nothing more than a #3 starter. This rotation still sorely needs a healthy Buchholz, and with him in it, the only pitcher that needs fixing is Lester. However, that health issue continues to linger, and there are still some question marks for the rotation.
The bullpen should've had the least amount of question marks, but with season-ending injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller (Miller's loss is a crushing blow), and also having Franklin Morales, and Alex Wilson on the DL the 'pen is anything but stable. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow have been exceptional, but many bullpen arms are also homer-prone leading to multiple blown saves. It seems like the bullpen always has a new guy from Pawtucket, now having Pedro Beato and Steven Wright as the newbies. The bullpen currently has Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow, Bailey, Beato, Workman, and Wright, which is alright, but not spectacular. This area of depth concerns me greatly, and they definitely need to trade for an arm or two. In spring training that seemed preposterous, because guys like Aceves, Bard, and Mortensen weren't even likely to make the team.
We have heard many rumours about the Sox interest in White Sox arms like Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Matt Lindtrom, and Jesse Crain (although he is on the DL). Any of those guys are intriguing, and as long as we don't pay some ridiculous price like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Garrin Cecchini, or any other top prospect, it will be well worth the investment. I know some fans are wary of Cherington trading for a reliever (re: Bailey, Hanrahan), but a couple moves need to be made out of necessity, not just because they can. I can't imagine a team with a bullpen that we currently have going deep into the playoffs. With everyone healthy? I think the pen is solid, but that's not the situation we have right now. There have been too many poor pitching performances, and many of our prospects in AA and AAA aren't quite ready for the jump yet.
In hockey, they say the team with the best goal tending in the playoffs wins the Cup. I think it's similar in baseball. The team with the best playoff pitching will win the World Series. The group of pitchers we have right now might be good enough for a playoff berth, but why be satisfied with just a playoff berth? Some trades need to be made before the deadline for a reliever or two, and maybe a starter. In the end, I think Cherington comes through with a good trade, and hopefully doesn't give up more than he has to.