The 2014 Boston Red Sox would like to do something that no team has done in 13 years and no Red Sox team has done in 98—repeat as world champions.
Yes, the last time the Sox repeated as champions was in 1916. Some scrub named Babe Ruth pitched and slugged a few home runs. So, how can this year’s team become the first since the 2000 New York Yankees to win consecutive World Series?
Well, it is not going to be easy.
The Sox won the American League Eastern Division last year powered by one of the most efficient offenses in team history. With a league-leading on-base percentage of .349, nine of the 10 regulars on the offense—Will Middlebrooks being the holdout—carried an OBP of over .300. The next highest percentage in the AL? The Detroit Tigers with .346.
With a league-high of 853 runs scored, the offense allowed a good, but not great, pitching staff to win ballgames. The Boston pitching staff allowed a team ERA of 3.79. A good number on the surface, but was only good enough for sixth in the AL.
The easiest way for the Sox to repeat will be to win the division. In order to do that, they need that starting rotation to be as stable as possible. Jon Lester was the only of six pitchers that started more than 10 games to throw in more than 30. John Lackey and Ryan Dempster started 29 apiece and Dempster’s 4.57 ERA was the highest on the staff a quarter of a run (Felix Dubront registered an ERA of 4.32).
For as well as the Red Sox pitched in their postseason run, on paper last season they came across as average. If they are to repeat, they will need to take the pressure off their young offense to produce. On the other hand, even if you take all of the departed Jacoby Ellsbury’s 92 runs scored away—and make the bad assumption that none of those runs are replaced—Boston still scores 761 runs as a team or 59 above the league average.
That still is powerful.
Avoiding the Wild Card game—a single win or go home affair that can mess up pitching for the League Divisional Series—has to happen.
During Boston’s run in 2013, they defeated three teams with extraordinary starting pitching by matching arm for arm. As the Red Sox piled up the batters striking out record, it was Lester and Lackey that delivered solid start after start.
In a short tournament format where the hot team coming in usually has a huge advantage, regardless of record, the Sox ability to adjust and manager John Farrell’s ability to change strategy on the fly was the x-factor.
Advance scouting played a huge role as Boston survived their worst stretch of hitting all year against the Tigers to take pitch after pitch against a tiring St. Louis Cardinals staff in the World Series.
What this team has is tight chemistry. They are going to roll with whatever is thrown at them and succeed. If they can control their own destiny and create their own luck, they certainly can do it.
As the San Francisco Giants can tell you first hand, however, having the ability to do it and actually pulling it off are two different kettles of fish.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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