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Potential Playoff Contender : Red Sox - Do they still have the Momentum?

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Now that the AL West is locked in, we’re looking forward at potential play-off opponents. If you haven’t seen the article on the Indians – check it out!

But today, we analyze the monster who has all of the momentum, the Boston Red Sox.

Team

Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle

Record

Red Sox – 107-52

Astros – 100-58

Run Differential /// Expected Win-Loss

Red Sox- +229 /// 101-58

Astros – +262 /// 107-51

Pitching

Both staffs are excellent, let’s take a look at the overall starting rotations overall stats for both teams:

Starting Pitching

Team IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% WHIP fWAR
Team IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% WHIP fWAR
Astros 937.1 72-36 3.2 3.31 3.39 28.2 1.12 21.7
Red Sox 864.1 68-37 3.78 3.79 3.84 25.3 1.21 15.6

The Astros have a distinct advantage when looking at the teams by their overall Starting Rotation. Let’s take a quick look at each of the pitchers and how they potentially line up.

Game 1 (Justin Verlander vs Chris Sale)

Verlander vs Sale

Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Verlander 208 16-9 2.6 2.85 3.08 34.50% 4.40% 0.91 6.4
Sale 158 .12-4 2.11 1.97 2.32 38.40% 5.50% 0.86 6.5

You can’t get much better for a starting pitcher duel in 2018. These are 2 of the top Cy Young candidates lining up for battle, and both have trophy cabinets stuffed full of awards. Verlander has not only been the workhorse he has been for the majority of his career, he has a resurgent years for one of the best in his career. On paper, Sale has an advantage over Verlander with one MAJOR caveat, health.

There are quite a few articles out there on this caveat, such as this one and this one , which highlight that not only has Sale’s velocity continued to decline in every start since returning from the DL (averaging 96, then 94, then 93, and 90.3 in his last start), and he has been beat up even by mediocre or worse teams (giving up 3 runs in less than 5 innings against the Orioles in his last start).

If Sale doesn’t get right, the Red sox may not even make it to play us, but if they do and he isn’t himself, the Astros would gain an even larger pitching advantage in the series.

Game 2 (Gerrit Cole vs David Price )

Cole vs Price

Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Cole 194.1 15-5 2.92 2.71 2.98 35.10% 8.10% 1.03 6.1
Price 176 16-7 3.58 4.02 3.95 24.50% 6.90% 1.14 2.7

This should be another great match up. David Price definitely has a bit more legacy with a Cy Young under his belt, and while he’s had a solid season, he definitely does not match up with Gerrit Cole’s break-out season. David Price isn’t without his own recent struggles, although he has remained solid throughout the season.

Game 3 (Dallas Keuchel vs Rick Porcello )

Fear the Beard vs Porcello

Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Keuchel 201.2 .12-11 3.75 3.7 3.84 17.50% 6.60% 1.3 3.5
Porcello 189.1 17-7 4.33 4.02 3.88 23.50% 5.90% 1.18 2.7

Game 3, and it’s another match up of 2 Cy Young winners. I think that speaks to the depth of both teams Starting rotations. Neither has pitched to their Cy Young levels, both have been solid workhorses that have shown the flashes of greatness.

Game 4 ( Charlie Morton vs Eduardo Rodriguez)

CFM vs Rodriguez

Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Pitcher IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Morton 164 15-3 3.18 3.63 3.45 28.80% 9.20% 1.17 3
Rodriguez 126.2 .12-4 3.69 3.57 3.89 26.40% 8.00% 1.25 2.4

Last year, to everyone’s surprise Charlie Morton broke out at 33 years old. This year, he showed that it was not a fluke. It will be an interesting duel with Morton and Rodriguez on opposite ends of their careers, but looking to line-up as fairly strong competitors. Morton pitched a short outing his last time out and it will be good to see him back this week hopefully reinforcing his stats.

Overall, both teams have incredible starting rotations, but the Astros have a distinct advantage even before the consideration of injuries.

Advantage Astros

Bullpen

Battle of the Bullpens

Team IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Team IP W-L ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WHIP fWAR
Astros 482.2 28-22 3 3.14 3.3 29.40% 6.80% 1.06 7.9
Red Sox 567.1 39-15 3.6 3.8 4.07 24.90% 9.90% 1.28 5.1

I hear there is an excellent article comparing these bullpens by a simply amazing writer at this link

While the Red Sox were known to have a great bullpen, the Astros on the other hand have an extremely underrated bullpen, beating almost any across the board. And that doesn’t represent the fact that they took it from a strength to a whole new level with the additions of Pressly and Osuna. Kimbrel has still had a great season, but it has been a major step back from the utter dominance he has been displaying over the past few years.

Advantage Astros.

Offense

Offense

Team AVG OBP SLUG OPS wOBA wRC+ K% fWAR fWAR
Team AVG OBP SLUG OPS wOBA wRC+ K% fWAR fWAR
Astros 0.256 0.33 0.427 0.757 0.327 111 19.70% 24.7 24.7
Red Sox 0.253 0.338 0.453 0.791 0.339 110 19.50% 28.9 28.9

The Red Sox took the mantle from the Astros with the leading offensive juggernaut this year. With that said, the stats were a lot closer than I anticipated. There are a few aspects that are not captured here such as the Astros had a major chunk of their season that had 3 of the “Core 4” missing. Additionally, the AL West was a stronger division this year, without the Orioles to feed on.

Close but Advantage Red Sox

Speed

Sportsbook Review

Need for Speed

Team UBR SB Spd BsR wGDP wSB
Team UBR SB Spd BsR wGDP wSB
Astros -8.7 122 4.2 -4.8 -5.8 8.30
Red Sox 2.7 71 5.2 -6.2 -7.7 0.20

The Red Sox take a dominant position, easily beating the Astros in Spd, BsR, wGDP, wSB and having 50+ more steals so far this season. It is good to see the Astros get a little bit of an edge in non-stealing situations, showing the aggressive windmill has helped.

I don’t think anyone is surprised here, especially with our double plays. It does look like the Maldonado acquisition could help control the running game and he may see more usage in this series.

Definite Red Sox Advantage

Defense

AP

Defense

Team Fielding % DefEff DRS UZR UZR
Team Fielding % DefEff DRS UZR UZR
Astros 0.989 0.705 18 27.4 27.4
Red Sox 0.987 0.694 -40 -14 -14

Defensive statistics are hard for a few reasons, with a major one being the amount of time it takes for them to normalize. DRS/UZR become truly valuable with around 3 seasons worth of data.

Fielding % is a fairly standard but flawed stat as it does not show range. The Astros are the best in the MLB in this stat, with Boston coming in at #3.

DefEff – This is probably the best overall stat for us to use in this scenario in my opinion. It basically looks at all balls put in play and what percent the team converted into outs. The Astros rank 3rd in this Metric, with Boston not far behind in 5th.

I’m going to go with a push in this area, the Astros seemingly have a slight lead but I’m not going to draw much of a conclusion here.

Conclusions

If this match up happens, I don’t imagine it disappointing. In my opinion, these are the two best teams in baseball, and they stack up really well. The Red Sox come in with the better W-L record, and Astros counter with a better run differential.

Truthfully, I do think the Astros are the better team. If the series were to be played today, I would feel confident going into the series. With the Red Sox injuries and shakiness in both their Starting Pitching and their Relievers, they show some signs of weakness.

The X-Factors for both teams is obviously health, which makes sense when you have names like Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Carlos Correa, and Charlie Morton that have some potential concerns.

The road for a repeat may go through Boston, and I’m sticking with Hinch’s statement and hoping for 11 more wins, 4 more celebrations, and lots of drinks!