It has been presumed for some time that the World Series-champion Red Sox were sunk in their quest for a repeat. While the club has easily kept its head above water, it has struggled to bag enough victories in a highly stratified American League.
An eight-game losing streak wrapping the trade deadline — at which Boston held pat — sent the club’s chances plummeting. By August 21st, Fangraphs’ playoff odds tracker gave the Sox a meager 1.8% chance of making the postseason.
But here’s the thing about postseason odds charts: they make for useful, rough gauges as to where a team stands at a given moment. But they can’t and don’t reflect all the nuanced factors that can influence performance swings. And the odds are based upon simulations of how the remainder of the season can play out. Thus, they necessarily change as actual results come in, and can change rather significantly in fairly short periods of time.
(The Red Sox suffered a drop of nearly fifty percentage points from July 27th through August 4th. The Mets did nearly the opposite from July 24th through August 10th — only to quickly shed many of the “gains” with a recent skid.)
With just a month of the season remaining, there are less plausible scenarios. But several of them certainly involve the Red Sox continuing to play once the regular season concludes.
After an 8-3 stretch of play — coupled with middling periods from the Rays and Indians — the BoSox have shot back up to a 9.8% chance by reckoning of the Fangraphs computers. Other systems are less optimistic: 538 puts it at 7%, Baseball-Reference at just 3.1%. But these systems are telling us the same essential thing: there’s a chance, and not just in the Lloyd Christmas sense.
The Indians just lost Jose Ramirez and are still missing some key pitchers, as are the Rays. The Athletics seem to be cresting, but who’s to say the rotation can keep outperforming ERA estimators by such a wide margin? (4.02 ERA; 4.87 xFIP; 4.94 SIERA.) Or that the Red Sox’ opposite fortunes won’t suddenly reverse? (5.02 ERA; 4.44 xFIP; 4.41 SIERA.) David Price is slated for a return, with Michael Chavis perhaps not far behind him. Boston relievers have reversed their fortunes over the past month, perhaps portending good things for high-leverage situations.
Gut out a few extra wins, and those postseason odds will keep lurching forward. Gain some momentum, and perhaps the goal will feel — and even actually be — more attainable than the numbers would suggest. This team has been there before, so there’s no questioning the capacity. And it’s arguably the best of the AL Wild Card contenders from a true-talent perspective.
That’s the argument in favor of a stirring comeback, anyway. But what do you think? Do you agree with the computer simulations, or do you believe the Red Sox will mount a successful charge? (Poll link for app users.)