It goes without saying that this is not a normal March in the baseball world after the lockout froze transactions for more than three months. By this point on the calendar teams are all but set, with some moves left to be made around the margins but not much else beyond that. Right now, though, there are still plenty of big names left on the free agent market and it’s fair to say we don’t have a clear picture of what the league landscape will look like even by the weekend, never mind Opening Day on April 7.
Even so, it’s good to take stock of where things stand right now and how much the Red Sox may need to improve if they want to get into the newly expanded playoff field. To that end, both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus unveiled their 2022 playoff odds this week along with their projected standings, and it’s worth taking a look at them together. Again, this is just a snapshot of where things stand now and not necessarily season predictions since the moves that come between now and April 7 will change things.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both systems are mostly in lockstep, at least when it comes to projecting where the Red Sox stand right now. PECOTA, which is the projection engine that runs the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds, have the Red Sox projected for about 83 wins, while FanGraphs is slightly more optimistic with an 84-win projection. At first glance those may feel a little bit off for a team that went to the ALCS last season, but it’s also a team with a glaring hole in the outfield as well as pitching questions in both the rotation and bullpen. Assuming they plug those holes, especially in the outfield, I’d expect these projections to tick up. I’d also mention that projections in general are typically on the more conservative side, though BP’s 98-win projection for the Yankees bucks that trend a bit.
Speaking of the rest of the division, though, I think the point that is really hammered home from these projections is that the Red Sox have some work to do if they are really going to compete even to get into this expanded postseason field. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus have Boston as the fourth best team in the division behind the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays. The former has the gap a little bit smaller, with Toronto out in front with a 92-win projection while BP has the aforementioned 98-win projection slapped on the Yankees.
As far as the playoff odds go, however, the sites differ. FanGraphs does indeed have the Red Sox as currently constituted in their projected playoff field, giving them a roughly 52 percent chance to make it in. They are trailed by the Angels (36 percent), Mariners (27 percent), and Twins (26 percent). Over at BP, Boston is actually behind all three of those teams with a 33 percent chance to make the postseason.
So in the end, the lesson to me is this: Add more to this roster. That was obvious before seeing the projections, I think, and I still believe the Red Sox have a significant move or two up their sleeve. But right now, at least according to the projection systems, they are a borderline playoff team at best.