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This Team

It’s a special group doing some special things

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday was, arguably, the best win of the Red Sox season. Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of “best,” because in terms of importance at the very least all four of the Red Sox’ wins in their sweep over the Yankees outweighed that single victory on Wednesday afternoon. In terms of enjoyment, entertainment, improbability or however else you want to describe that feeling you had watching that game, well, it’s hard to beat it. The massive eighth inning with hit after hit and taking every inch the Braves mistakenly decided to give them. It was something special. Brandon Phillips’ home run in the ninth was indescribable, both in terms of how amazing it was that it actually happened and the sheer distance the ball flew. Also, pretty much the entire team started the game on the bench! Sure, most of the regulars got to play a role in that eighth inning rally, but the bench players had to get it to a point where Alex Cora saw it worth it to go all-out for the win. It was a wild Wednesday, regardless of where you want to rank it among all of the other 96 wins on the season.

Really, the argument about the best win isn’t what we’re hear to talk about. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a fun conversation and likely one we’ll have in the winter when I have no idea what else we can talk about, but it’s not one for right now. No, right now the mere fact that it’s a conversation we could have is enough for me. That fact really speaks to the special season we’ve been witnessing, somehow even more so than the fact that the Red Sox have NINETY SEVEN wins on September 6. There’s something surreal about this team.

It’s not just the comebacks that make this perhaps the greatest Red Sox team (at least in terms of regular season) in franchise history, but they are the most amazing part. The Red Sox have come back for a victory 42 times this season. For reference, teams have come back for 912 victories this season, which works out to an average of about 30 comeback wins per team. The Red Sox outpace that just a bit. On the flip side, the Red Sox haven’t allowed many comebacks, despite the narrative around the bullpen. Teams also average 30 blown leads (obviously), and the Red Sox have only 15. So, 42 comebacks to 15 blown leads. That’s a good start for building a juggernaut.

To take it even further, this team’s record when trailing at certain points in games really tell a great story. We’ll get more specific, but the most telling part of this Red Sox team is that they have a better record than the average MLB team when trailing after each inning. There is not one point in the game where they have faltered. Below, you’ll see a table comparing the average win% when trailing heading into each inning compared to the Red Sox win% when trailing heading into the same inning.

Red Sox Comebacks

Inning MLB Win% Red Sox Win%
Inning MLB Win% Red Sox Win%
2 0.311 0.387
3 0.290 0.438
4 0.261 0.467
5 0.221 0.358
6 0.178 0.227
7 0.126 0.178
8 0.086 0.098
9 0.049 0.067

So, yeah. That’s pretty amazing. Obviously, some of the margins between the average win% isn’t very large. For instance, the eighth ninth innings really comes down to one extra win, but it’s still a difference. Not every team can boast these kinds of win rates. What’s really impressive is some of the earlier win%’s. Heading into the third, fourth and fifth innings, the Red Sox have a significantly better chance than the average baseball team to erase a deficit, and that’s a major boost for confidence. For a lot of teams, an early deficit can set them back for the rest of the night. For the Red Sox, it’s merely a minor bump in the road. There’s something special about feeling your team is still in the game after falling down 4-0 early in a game.

It’s not just the ability to come back that has made this a special season, either. It’s also the fact that every player on the roster is constantly ready to pick up the slack when someone else is failing. We talked about it with the lineup the other day with the bottom half starting to pick things up as the top half falters for the first time all year. It’s a trend among the broader roster groups as well. Consider that the average team needs to score at least five runs to have a win% of over .500. The Red Sox have a .765 win% when they score four runs and a .455 win% when they score two runs (MLB average when scoring two runs is .257). When the offense has a bad night, the pitching has been able to pick them up.

On the flip side, the average MLB team needs to allow four or fewer runs to post a win% of .500 or better. The Red Sox do have a worse-than-average win% when allowing five runs, but they are much better than average when allowing six or seven runs. Furthermore, they have been nearly unbeatable when allowing four or fewer runs while most teams are merely good when allowing three or four runs.

So, what are the reasons behind all of this? Part of it, particularly in relation to the comebacks, is fluky. That’s not to dismiss this team’s accomplishments by any means, but any time a baseball team pulls off these kinds of unlikely feats, there’s probably some luck involved. That’s not a bad thing! It’s also not the whole story. There’s something to be said about the clubhouse culture here, the one that allows new players to come in and immediately step up. The kind that tells Ian Kinsler, a longtime major-league veteran, that we don’t bunt here. The kind that makes Brandon Phillips feel like he’s been here all year long. This team feels like it never quits and it feels like it’s never out of it...because they don’t and they aren’t. They truly believe they are going to come back every game, and feeling that way about yourself is a hell of a lot easier said than done.

Really, there’s no point to all of this beyond pointing out the obvious. We’re watching something special here, and it’s been unreal to watch in real time. I have no idea if it’s going to last and catapult a deep run through October. It sure would be neat if it did, but there’s no real way to know. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy every second of the magic this team is surprising. Who knows if we’ll ever experience anything like this again.