The regular season kicks off on Thursday, which means today is the final Friday without real baseball that counts until next winter, (knock on wood after last season). With that being the case, it’s time for all of the season preview stuff to coalesce now. We’ve talked about individual players and strategies and positional groups and everything else all spring. Now we look at the team as a whole and where it fits in this division and the league in its entirety. The prompt for today’s staff roundtable was simply to predict how the Red Sox would finish this season.
Without going into too much depth, I think the Red Sox will be somewhat surprising this year. I have them pegged for 85-77 as of now, good for third or fourth in the AL East. The division is really good. Who wins the AL East? Hard to say, but I think I still have to go with the Yankees, although the Rays and Blue Jays probably won’t be that far behind. I feel like the Red Sox will narrowly miss out on the playoffs with the field not being expanded this year.
As for the rationale, the team is much deeper than a year ago, the pitching is much improved, and they are getting a hopefully full season from Eduardo Rodriguez, as well as a partial season from Chris Sale. The offensive strategy will irk some, but I actually think it is a good fit for the roster. They don’t need a bunch of LOBsters every game. Having players who can run into a dinger every few games will be a net positive, I think. I think specifically we will be surprised by the back end of the rotation and bullpen. They will have the team in the thick of things long enough to force interesting discussion in the offseason.
WS Champs though? I am going with the Padres.
I think the Red Sox will make strides this year and improve to an even 81-81, finishing fourth in the division. Although fourth sounds disappointing, the AL East will be stacked this year, and the Sox should be more focused on young players’ development and building for 2022 and beyond. That’s not to kick the 2021 season to the curb, however. The lineup will be solid as per usual - the Sox’ team OPS was still ninth-best in the majors last year, and both pitching and defense have been revamped thanks to offseason additions and improved health. Call me simple, but I’m just excited to a competitive Sox team and a full season again.
2021 is a tough year to predict. The Yankees and Rays are both very good. The Blue Jays are talented. The Orioles are bad. The Red Sox just aren’t there yet, even if everything works out. The rebuild is far complete, even if the team could be really good with, say, five players having great years. End of the day this team ends up with 85 wins and that’s probably good enough for fourth place. Maybe it’s third place, maybe it’s 87 wins, but if all the AL East teams are healthy even the Wild Card is going to not only require a lot going right but the Sox not selling at the deadline for the rebuild. Which they probably need to prepare for since the team is solid, has potential, but up and down it isn’t the type of roster we saw from 2016-2018.
I think the team will finish 82-80 but also finish fourth in the AL East. I love the offense on this team and honestly they will need it when it is the fourth and fifth guy in the rotation’s day to throw. The AL East is super competitive, but they each have their flaws. For the Yankees, it is (always) health, the Blue Jays’ lack of starting pitching plus recent injuries, and the Rays...who knows with the Rays.
Well, I’m expecting improvement, they have some depth in places they didn’t last year which is really good to see. That said, there are still so many questions about the health and consistency of the pitching it just feels like a .500 club. The ceiling could certainly be 88-90 if everything breaks the right way for the starting pitching, but it’s just not likely to happen with the amount of risk these guys have.
Every year, there are a handful of teams we are pretty certain will be exceptionally good and then another handful for which we can’t even imagine a path to contention. The Red Sox don’t fall in either of those camps this year, even if their performance last year would indicate they belong in the latter.
Instead, the Red Sox are in the larger grouping of teams in the middle. These are the teams that have enough “well if this happens and this happens” type scenarios to make a playoff run seem possible, even probable. Unfortunately, while the Red Sox have plenty of intriguing potential if things break right, I still don’t see this as a team with much more of a ceiling than third in the AL East. They are certainly better than last year, and I think they will only get better as the year goes on with some call-ups and maybe Chris Sale getting back; however, this still has the look of a slightly below .500 team to me. I’ll pin them at 80 wins and a third place finish.
I believe the Boston Red Sox will win 86 games, but unfortunately finish third in the division this year. The lineup has plenty of thump with J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers make up the third through fifth spots in the lineup. While both Martinez and Devers struggled to get it going last year I believe the former will be aided by video and the later will be aided by the presence of Alex Cora.
The pitching side is where we can expect the most impact over last year’s unwatchable conglomeration of misfits. Instead of Ryan Weber and crew they actually have a real staff including a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez, the uber-talented Garrett Richards, and a healthy (for now) Nathan Eovaldi. In addition to the aforementioned guys, Nick Pivetta and Martín Pérez have looked serviceable and Chris Sale should be back by the All-Star break. If anyone gets hurt the combination of Garrett Whitlock, Matt Andriese, Connor Seabold, and Tanner Houck provide real solutions. Hell the bullpen should even be better with Adam Ottavino. If any team in front of them slips this could end up as a wild card team. Watch out.
PECOTA currently pegs the Red Sox for 79.7 wins. As I mentioned in my starting pitching preview, there’s significant downside risk there that could cause the Sox to drastically underperform their projections. It’s not out of the question that Eovaldi, Pérez, and Richards are all out at the same time. Remember too that UCL tears aren’t the only injuries. Nagging injuries are going to occur throughout the season. If things line up the wrong way at the wrong time, some bad pitchers are going to be starting games. I think injuries in the rotation come back to bite them and they finish the year with 72 wins, firmly in 4th place in the AL East.
I’m going 81-81, fourth place. No playoffs. No tears, either.
I’ve been surprised all preseason as each projection system that comes out seems to be higher on the Red Sox than I would have expected. It’s definitely bumped up my expectations some, as my predicted win total in early February probably would have been around 75. Now, I think the team’s true-talent is 80-82 wins. I do think the division is good enough that that kind of pace isn’t going to put them in the playoff picture by late-August.
I think they’ll be better than their final record will indicate, but ultimately they’ll make some moves at the deadline as sellers while also using the final two months to prioritize playing time for younger players. If things shake out as I expect, that will be the right path, but it will also at the very least bring more variance on the roster and probably less production. I think they fall off the .500 pace just slightly down the stretch and finish at 78-84 in fourth place in the division.