There is no magic in the beards of the Boston Red Sox. There is no magic in the presidental management of John Farrell. The Red Sox got where they are today — in first place by more than six games, the first team in baseball to reach 90 wins, not by wishes or voodoo or one-run game anomolies stacked on top of each other.
The Red Sox are in first place for one reason and one reason only: they’re really good.
That’s it. That’s all. They’re good and deep and deeply good. They weather injuries better than most teams and score more runs than every team. They paid too much money for Ryan Dempster but he gives them the only thing they would ever ask him for: attendance. Dempster shows up and pitches okay for a while and then the Red Sox score a bunch of runs and Dirty Water plays and everyone goes home happy.
Shane Victorino gives the Sox more than they asked for but, his resurgent year aside, the Red Sox are a study in balance. The average Red Sox hitter this season owns a .277/.351/.447. That’s the entire team’s line. That’s also close to Kendrys Morales line for the season. That’s good!
That rates as a 115 wRC+. Three different qualified Red Sox boast a wRC+ between 110 and 120. Of the 13 Red Sox players with 100 plate appearances or more, only two rank as below average (less than 100 on the wRC+ scale.) One of those below-average hitters is Will Middlebrooks, who owns a .308/.371/.519 since being recalled from Triple-A in August. That’s a 138 wRC+, if you’re counting.
The Red Sox spent the weekend laying waste to the Yankees playoff chances, outscoring the Bronx Bombers 22-7 over a three game sweep. Their starting pitching was great and their bullpen just as good.
It has been nothing short of a spectacular season for the Red Sox, a success in every conceivable way. The future looks even brighter than the present, as Xander Bogaerts and his opposite field power demonstrated last night. The Red Sox, after such a disaster in 2012, now look the part of one of baseball’s best organizations. After all the talk of rot and culture one year ago, who thought this would be the outcome.
Turns out good baseball players are the best culture money can buy. Good players who are willing to do what they must (read: platoon) for the betterment of the team. Good baseball players who sign tiny one-year deals and then turn in one of the best relieving seasons in recent memory. Just be good and patient and the ship rights itself, nearly.
The Red Sox of 2013 should serve as a brilliant example of what can happen when a little patience and a little good luck combine with some smart management with a clear vision: good thing. Good things happen.
What We Learned
- The Rangers are fighting for their playoff lives. Establish non-ace Yu Darvish wasn’t at his best on Saturday. He allowed a first inning run as his pitch count swelled. Like a nice number two starter, Darvish lasted seven innings, allowing a single run to go with 10 striekouts and just one walk. But he isn’t an ace as he lost he’s fourth 1-0 decision of the year. Not an ace!
The Rangers have played their way backwards into a Wild Card dogfight they are much, much too good for. The Rangers were just swept twice in a row at home in September. That isn’t good for business, no matter how many games you won in August.
- The Cleveland Indians are ’bout that Flags Fly Forever life. The Clevelands made several savvy signings this past offseason, bringing in local product Nick Swisher and signing discount free agent Michael Bourn. They also traded away a very, very good outfielder, bringing in a project/prospect in Trevor Bauer. They improved their team but did not go for broke.
Here in September, Cleveland sits just 0.5 games behind the wild card holders Tampa Bay and Texas, staring at the easiest schedule known to humankind and firing on all cylinders (against awful teams, mind you.) Nick Swisher homered twice on Sunday, the second of which was his 20th of the season. THat is nine straight 20-homer years from the bro whose broness distracts from this persistent baseball excellence. You’re alright, Swish.
And your Tribe? It is alright, too. The Ubaldo Boondoggle increasingly looks like Cleveland made out okay, as Big U keeps pitching well down the stretch for the Cleve. The internet’s boyfrield Cory Kluber continued making believers of the faithful with a strong outing against the White Sox. Danny Salazar is breaking hearts every time he takes the hill, as well.
- The Dodgers are bored to tears. I mean, sure, getting swept by the Giants (the Giants!) is a bad thing and posting a losing record in September probably doesn’t feel good but do the Dodgers actually care? I’m going with no.
The Dodgers magic number may be four, but because they're playing Arizona, it's effectively just two for the next few days.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 16, 2013
Turns out winning every game for three months helps you weather the storm in September. The main concern for the Dodgers is getting everyone healthy, as both Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig left games early this weekend with a variety of ailments. Narrative-laden questions await the Dodgers: can they gear back up when the playoffs begin and games start mattering again?
What We Saw
Our game chart of the weekend features the Twins — the TWINS! — mounting a furious comeback on the Rays and ensuring the Wild Card situation remains as murky as possible. The Rays were handed a cupcake schedule in September and have, if not blown it, made things needlessly complicated. A series split with the Angels, losing two of three to Seattle, dropping this heartbreaker to Minnesota is not how a team with playoff designs wants to see that stretch of schedule unfold. Way to go, Rays. Always Raysing. The next soft spot on your schedule is the final series against Toronto, should it even matter (it will!)
A look under the hood of Trackman from Astros analyst Mike Fast, showing off the nitty gritty of young Cody Clark‘s big league hit. This type of information is typically behind a very costly paywall for the teams, but Fast shows off a tiny glimpse of the powerful Trackman program.
Having this information is one thing. Finding the right people to parse it and then translate it into better baseball players or, at the very least, better baseball decisions, is another.
This is a terrific play by Angels third baseman Andrew Romine. The Angels are taking advantage of the final weeks of the season to make a statement: please don’t count us out next year. Nice production from Kole Calhoun and big time power from big time power guy Mark Trumbo demonstrates there is more to the Angels than just the best player in the universe.
What We Hated
Not sure what I disliked more about this clip: that Kyle Kendrick did it or that the broadcasters didn’t make a bigger deal of it. He kicked the ball! What a sly dog.
What We Loved
Todd Helton quietly announced his retirement this week after 17 years in the bigs, all of them spent with the Colorado Rockies. The perfect sendoff for the most forgettable superstar of his generation. Quite fitting, really. Todd Helton and relevance slip past each other like two ships in the night. Really makes you think…
This extensive look at the work and buy-in required for the Pittsburgh Pirates to gain an edge via their constantly shifting defense.
Chris Davis hit his 50th home run of the year on Saturday. What a beast he’s been in 2013 for the Baltimore Orioles. 50 homers, 40 doubles, the next he scores will be his 100th. One of the finest offensive seasons in the long, storied history of the O’s. Congratulations are in order, though he still has a small matter of a ongoing playoff hunt to worry about before he collects his plaudits.