The Red Sox are out, and the offseason is officially here. We’re not jumping right into the offseason, though. We’ll take some time to look back before we look forward, both at the regular season and the postseason run that once again ended too soon. Without a doubt, Boston did plenty to contribute to their early exit this year. It was not a great series for them, which showed in the final result. We’re going to get into that a lot over the next few days, weeks and months. The flaws are not going to be left off the hook and we will do everything we can to cover how things went wrong and what the organization can do to improve upon them. With all of that being said, and this can be hard to accept sometimes, but the biggest reason the Red Sox lost this series had nothing to do with them. The Astros were the better team, and they just unleashed their will upon Boston in overwhelming fashion.
It’s always a little easy to miss that the better team came out ahead when your favorite team and the one you follow closely was on the other end. We’ve spent all year looking at everything from a Red Sox perspective while closely and obsessively focusing on every little flaw and strength on this Red Sox roster. When they get to the playoffs, it’s only natural to continue watching things through that lens, and blaming the loss on the fact that more flaws showed up than strengths. There’s some fairness to that! Boston had some bad moments in this series, particularly in the first two games. There is every right to be upset at the team’s performance, especially in the immediate aftermath of the loss. That being said, I think it’s worth it to just take a step back and remember who they lost to. The Red Sox ran into a juggernaut and would have had to have been perfect to beat this Astros team. They weren’t, and Houston got exactly what they deserved.
We’ve now watched the Red Sox and the Astros face off for the last eight games, so we are uniquely familiar with this team, but still, let’s talk about just how good the Astros are. The place in which it is clearest that they are better is obviously the lineup. It’s true that Boston’s lineup was disappointing all year and right up until that final game of the series. (Bases loaded with no outs and you can’t score one run?!) Houston, meanwhile, had firepower in every spot in their lineup. Hell, besides maybe Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel was the best hitter in this series and he was in the bottom third of the lineup. This group certainly served to highlight how much worse the Red Sox offense is, but they’d do that to anyone. They are the first team in at least 50 years to lead baseball in both strikeout rate and Isolated Power, and the gap between them and the second-best team by wRC+ (the Yankees) was the same as the gap between the second-best team and the 17th-best team. That is....bananas.
The pitching was supposed to be where Boston held an advantage, but that didn’t hold true. A big part of this was certainly the horrible performance from Red Sox starting pitchers, particularly in the first two games. That was a major disappointment. However, the offense in Houston also overshadows their pitching. Justin Verlander is a superstar who has been doing this in the playoffs for what feels like forever. Dallas Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner who is looking just as impressive as he was when he took home that trophy. Even Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton are a pair of former journeymen who have reinvented themselves into legitimately good starting pitchers. This is certainly a playoff-worthy rotation that can shut down any lineup if they are at their best.
None of this, as I said, is to take away from the disappointment from the Red Sox exiting in the ALDS for the second year in a row. We wanted to see a step forward this year and it didn’t happen. It sucks, and particularly in that last game it felt preventable. But before we get into all of the reasons it happens and how they can prevent it from happening again, let’s give a tip of the cap to the Astros. This is a great team that was clearly the better squad in this matchup. They deserve their ALCS berth.