The Red Sox won 92 games last season and went to the ALCS. They had a fair amount of turnover in the offseason, losing Eduardo Rodriguez, Kyle Schwarber, and Hunter Renfroe in free agency, but Boston also added Michael Wacha and Rich Hill to the rotation, got Jackie Bradley Jr. to come back to their outfield, and signed Trevor Story to make a lineup that scored the fourth-most runs in the American League last year even more dangerous.
With a $205 million payroll, the Sox were sure to be contenders even in the difficult American League East. Or, it turns out, not so sure.
According to Baseball Reference, Boston’s chances of making the playoffs – the expanded playoffs this year, now with three wild cards – currently stand at 12.6 percent. That’s even footing with the widely assumed to have no chance Rockies (12.5 percent), and well below the not even trying A’s (21.4 percent).
Why is it so dire even though it’s so early, 31 games into a 162-game season? That’s the depth of the hole Boston has dug. The odds aren’t just based on current record, either: the Orioles, currently two games ahead of the Red Sox, are given a still-maybe-too-high 0.2 percent chance of October baseball. Boston still has a good team, but it’s going to be nearly impossible for the Red Sox to recover from their horrendous start.
Actually, not a horrendous start. Boston got out of the gate 6-5, losing two of three at Yankee Stadium, but then winning a series in Detroit and splitting a four-game set with the Twins. All fine. Since beating the Blue Jays, 2-1, at Fenway on April 19, to get over .500 for the first and only time this season (and tie for first place), the wheels have completely fallen off. Boston hasn’t had a losing streak of more than five games, but they also haven’t won consecutive games since the middle games of that Twins series.
Orlando Arcia’s walk-off homer in Atlanta on Wednesday night dropped the Sox to 5-15 over the last three weeks, and their 11-20 overall record means that to get to 90 wins, Boston needs to play at a 97-win pace the rest of the season. Hardly impossible, but the degree of difficulty when your unbalanced schedule includes New York, Tampa Bay, and Toronto… well, the games against the Orioles don’t balance that out.
Story did finally hit his first homer in a Red Sox uniform on Wednesday, which brings him to .206/.281/.304 with 37 strikeouts in 102 at-bats. You’d think that the easiest adjustment would be leaving Coors Field to the pinball machine is Fenway Park, but Story is also 8-for-45 at home with 21 Ks.
For his career, Story is a .299/.365/.592 hitter at home and .241/.311/.438 at home. DJ LeMahieu has shown with the Yankees that it’s possible not to be a Coors creation, and his career splits are just as drastic, even after four years out of Colorado – albeit in the also hitter-friendly “little league ballpark” in the Bronx.
Story isn’t the first free agent – especially the first late-signing free agent – to get off to a rocky start with his new club. So what’s the excuse for…
- C Christian Vazquez: .215/.274/.292, 1 HR
- 1B Bobby Dalbec: .148/.231/.222, 1 HR
- LF Alex Verdugo: .216/.260/.333, 3 HR
- CF Enrique Hernandez: .161/.232/.259, 1 HR
- RF Jackie Bradley Jr.: .198/.270/.286, 0 HR
Boston has gone from scoring the fourth-most runs in the American League to the fourth-fewest, and with both Hill and Wacha injured, the pitching is pretty miserable, serving up 34 homers while issuing 3.4 walks per nine innings.
And while some of the struggling Sox will pick things up, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who have been carrying Boston, won’t be quite so torrid all year. What they will be is miserable, because while it might be early, Boston already being 11 games out of first place and 5.5 games out of the playoffs means that it’s going to be a long summer trying to catch up to too many good teams who are already too far out of reach.