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OTM Roundtable: Where do the Red Sox stand in the American League?

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Is their record reflective of where they actually stand?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have surprised pretty much everyone with the start to their season, not only running out to first place in a tough division early on, but staying there amid a tough three-team surge behind them. They’re pitching well, getting good offense from their core and some timely hits from others, and they’ve been lights out in the late innings, particularly the ninth. At the same time, it’s not even Memorial Day. Things change quickly in this league, and the Red Sox do have a big challenge coming up soon on the schedule. And so with all of that considered, I was curious where the staff thought this team really belonged in the AL picture. The question was simply: Where do you rank the Red Sox in the AL right now for the rest of the season?

Michael Walsh

I’d rank the Red Sox around sixth in the American League for the rest of the season. I believe they’ll be in competition for a wild card spot but end up falling just short. The Sox have definitely been performing better than I (and most other Sox fans) expected thus far, but they need the bottom half of the lineup to find consistency for this trend to continue. It’s not realistic to rely solely on the core four of Verdugo, Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers to save every day. Surprisingly, after last year’s disaster, pitching really hasn’t been an issue for the Sox this year — their team FIP of 3.37 is 2nd best in the league! Instead, guys like Christian Vázquez and Bobby Dalbec will be the deciding factors in whether the Sox can turn themselves into true contenders. As of now, however, I’m not confident enough in those guys to put the Sox ahead of teams like the Blue Jays, Yanks, Rays, White Sox, or Astros. Let’s hope they keep proving me wrong.

Mike Carlucci

I was convinced this was a team that would be on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Honestly that’s where I stand with a quarter of the season in the books. However, with what we’ve seen out of Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards, Garrett Whitlock, and Nathan Eovaldi I’m prepared to flip that at the 50%percent mark. J.D. Martinez has surged back to life. Chris Sale is likely to pitch in some capacity. I’d think the Sox might just be in the top six teams in the American League going forward with health and effective pitching still looming question marks. The Rays, Jays, and Yankees aren’t fooling around, and this will be a hard division to pick up wins. But Richards, Pivetta, Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Martín Pérez are looking like a solid rotation to back up the offense.

Shelly Verougstraete

I would rank the Red Sox sixth behind the White Sox, Cleveland, Houston, Yankees, and Athletics. Boston’s starting pitching has been performing well but I’m still not sold with the last three spots of the rotation, especially after Richards’s last start where he walked four batters.

Phil Neuffer

Based on FanGraphs’ playoff odds, the Red Sox are pretty much a coin flip to make the playoffs. I think that’s pretty reasonable because as good as they’ve been, it still feels like they are playing above their actual talent level. Right now, I still think the White Sox and Yankees (groan) are the best teams in the American League objectively speaking, with a number of other teams jumbled in the second tier, including the Astros, A’s, Blue Jays, Rays and, yes, the Red Sox. If I have to order them, I’d go White Sox, Yankees, Houston and then the Red Sox, so I guess I’m a bit higher on them than I thought when I started writing this, but still a little down compared with where they are currently positioned in the standings.

Jake Kostik

For right now, I’d put the Red Sox as one of the top two teams in the American League, but the future is a little harder to project, and I think I might see them more as a sixth or seventh best team in the AL at the end of the season.

Teams around them are getting better, and I don’t feel like the Red Sox are keeping up. The Mariners bring up Jarred Kelenic, Rays brought up Shane McClanahan and Luis Patiño, and the teams that started on the downswing have been getting better like the Yankees and Astros. The Red Sox don’t really have much in the pipeline coming in 2021 (outside of Jarren Duran, and as much as I love him, it bears repeating that he isn’t a finished product. He has been striking out a lot in Triple-A), and the players who aren’t performing aren’t likely to just up and start performing.

There’s an argument the Red Sox have already peaked. I’m not sure I entirely agree, but I don’t know if there is much reason to expect improvement without a surprise signing or trade. I think this team has already shown what they are.

Keaton DeRocher

Boy, this is a tough one, mainly because of their division. Four teams separated by two games and that’s before you expand your view to the rest of the American League. The bullpen has been in a rut but is still pretty good, starting pitching is getting a little inconsistent and they’re only 5-5 in their last 10 games. I think all of this means I think they’re a wild card team. The offense is going to carry them but because of inconsistent pitching think they’ll have their ups and downs but still make the playoffs in what is becoming just a brutal divisional race.

Brady Childs

I’m not convinced this team is for real. My biggest concern with them was pitching health and that’s held up so far, but I don’t think this is a true talent 92 ERA- rotation going forward. I think Nick Pivetta is due for a hard regression with shaky command in the zone that he’s gotten away with. Martín Pérez is having a career year so far striking out more batters than he ever has and who knows if that’s real or not, Garrett Richards has looked good for most of May but we all know how inconsistent he is. Oh, and anyone in this rotation could go down at any given time.

They’ve been legitimately great as an offense, fourth in baseball in team non-pitcher wRC+, but it’s been propped up almost entirely by Bogaerts, Martinez, and Devers who have all been top twenty players in baseball this season. Individually, they each have the skill to keep this up, but the likelihood of all three dudes playing like this for the entire year is slim. Someone’s going to hit a slump, regress, or get hurt at some point and when that happens there’s not much to cushion their fall. There’s Alex Verdugo and Enrique Hernández. Marwin, Renfroe, Dalbec, and Cordero have all been awful and don’t have good track records. When it comes down to it, I’m around where I was at the at the beginning of the year: Somewhere around .500, maybe a little higher.

Bryan Joiner

Per the, uh, private conversation Matt and I had that was supposed to be the OTM Podcast, I have the Sox and the other three AL East teams in a big block at spots 3-6 after the Astros and White Sox. Any order will do. The teams are so evenly matched it’s hard to really distinguish between them, so I refuse to do so. Hopefully this too doesn’t get erased. Stupid technology.

Jake Devereaux

This is an extremely difficult question to answer, but overall I say first. It all starts with the Red Sox offense which to this point in the season has scored the second-most runs in all of baseball, trailing only Houston. The team is first in the American League in home runs and third in wRC+ in the American League behind only Houston and Chicago. I expect the core of this lineup to remain elite and the mid-year addition of Jarren Duran should only serve to strengthen this advantage.

On the pitching side of things the Red Sox rotation has performed amazingly so far. The unit ranks second behind only the Oakland Athletics in innings pitched by their starters in the American League with 239. Those innings haven’t been bad either, FanGraphs has the unit worth 5.3 fWAR, good enough for top marks in the American League. In this same category their bullpen trails only New York and Chicago. The defense has been in the upper middle of the league.

The Red Sox will also presumably add Chris Sale to this mix during the second half of the year and should be active in addressing team needs at the deadline. Overall, it’s hard to see them as anything but favorites in the American League especially when the other top teams have just as many if not more questions to answer than the Red Sox. The Chicago White Sox hate their manager, the Houston Astros are booed everywhere they go, the Oakland A’s don’t have a ton of offense, and the New York Yankees are injury prone. Give me the Red Sox!

Matt Collins

This is a harder question than I thought it was when I first asked it, and I don’t really think I have a firm answer. I’ve gone back and forth about a billion times, but right now I think there is a clear top three in my mind with the Astros, White Sox, and Yankees. They all have issues for sure, but so do the Red Sox, especially if injuries start to catch up to them in a way they haven’t just yet. After that top three, I think you can put the teams in just about any order, with Boston hanging around with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland. I’m not sure there’s a wrong order there, but I do think it’s reasonable to put the Red Sox at the top of that group, which would put them at fourth overall in the AL.