Halfway through writing this post I realized a little tweaking could make it a Fanpost Friday post ...
Did you know that if an out consists of three strikes, then a nine-inning baseball game consists of 162 strikes?
162 ... you know that number! That's the same as the number of games in a major league baseball season.
So if we analogize a season to a game, dividing up a season the way we divide up a game, then a game is a strike, and a three-game series is an out.
Are you with me? I hope so.
What portion of a season, then, makes an inning? A stretch of 18 games does.
The Red Sox have just completed their 18th game of 2018. End of the first. One-ninth of a season. Not far into things, but a good point to take stock of where things are at.
Hmmm ... looking pretty good, at 16-2! Their best start ever, and the best start of any team in over 30 years.
Time for some unreasonable projections!
All we have to do is multiply all counting stats by 9 to see where the Red Sox will be come the end of the season. I mean, when a team finishes the first inning with an 8 run lead, it's totally reasonable to assume they'll win the game by 72 runs, right?
Commence the absurdity:
It's September 30, 2018, and the Red Sox have completed their historic season with a 144-18 record, which puts them 126 games over .500, and 36 games ahead of the second place Toronto Blue Jays. They finish 63 games ahead of the last place Orioles and Rays.
Their 126 games over .500 demolishes the previous best of 80 by the 1906 Chicago Cubs (who played 10 fewer games, but the 10 extra games wouldn't have helped them much).
Their .889 winning percentage also demolishes the previous best of .763, also by the 1906 Cubs (we're only looking at modern baseball, so games since 1900).
And their 144 wins blows away the previous best of 116, by those same Cubs, and the 2001 Mariners.
How about their offensive stats? They had good numbers, but didn't set any records for runs scored, hits, or home runs. But they did completely demolish the previous best for doubles in a season, which had been 376 by the 2008 Texas Rangers. Now it is an astonishing 505.
Also, the previous high mark of 14 grand slams in a season has now been more than doubled, and stands at 36.
Pitching? Defense? Yeah, they put up some very impressive numbers in those, too. Even astonishing. No wonder they won so many games.
... aaaand end the absurdity.
These will not be the results that the Red Sox get. Fatigue will set in. Hot players will become cold players. Their competition will get tougher at times. Lucky breaks won't be as numerous. Guys will get injured.
But there is tremendous reason for optimism. A list of reasons:
Their current win streak, including three mightily impressive wins on the road against the Angels, has come without the aid of the guy who carried the offense through the first several games of the season: Xander Bogaerts.
It's also come without Dustin Pedroia. Both of those guys will come back, and the team will be better when they do. Better than what we're getting now!
Mookie Betts's outburst is no fluke. They've discovered and fixed two things that hurt his production in 2017:
1) his stride got too big, and it sapped the power out of his swing, and
2) he routinely took too many pitches in his first two at bats of every game, and the opposing teams knew it, and exploited it.
If Betts stays healthy, this could be his season to win the MVP - he'll be even better than he was in 2016.
The defense is no fluke. The Red Sox have applied analytics in a new way to their defensive alignment, factoring each defender's known defensive range to minimize the holes in their alignments for each batter. They've been nearly error-free this season, in part because each player is faced with easier plays.
Alex Cora really seems to know what he's doing. Some of these changes are thanks to him. He's making what appear to be unintuitive choices, but it's based on a deeper analysis than the rest of us are doing. His comments demonstrate that he observes details that others don't see. How Brock Holt's swing would work well against a certain pitcher. How Betts's swing is getting just a tiny bit slower, prompting rest. He's being proactive about rest, resting guys in March with an eye on October, and it's working out. He's seen what hasn't been working, and he's making bold choices to fix those things, and it's working.
Alex Cora, as a rookie manager, should have had a hard time gaining the trust of his players. But the success of a 16-2 start has likely made that easy. By now, every player on the team should have a great amount of trust in Cora's decisions, and that will make everything easier and more harmonious going forward.
They haven't seen a single inning yet from Tyler Thornberg, Drew Pomeranz, or Stephen Wright. Those guys will be back soon, and the team will be even better when they are.
This team won't hit the ridiculous projections of the fantasy I described above. But right now, I think a run at the 116-wins record is probable enough to risk dreaming about.