Every October, the same question arises, whether a team finishes 108-54, or 88-74: Are we built for the postseason? Sometimes the issue at hand is a lack of the cleanup hitter, or depth in the bullpen. Other years, the league competition appears too steep, or a true number one starter seems non existent. But, one team always emerges as champion of the league. Every roster is flawed. Every postseason contender has its worries. And over the last two nights versus Toronto, issues were abound: Pom got bombed by an unheard of Toronto leadoff hitter, barely scraping 90 on the gun. Sale gave up four homeruns for the first time in four years. Noonie re-aggravated his knee. I overcooked a $12 Porterhouse. The afternoon previous, Boston barely managed a one run victory over a really bad Cincinnati club. So here we are, admiring other playoff bound teams’ win loss records, home run totals, and rotation depth. While simultaneously, there’s a conclave of concern among our proud fan base. Is Sale fading, and is Pomeranz a true two? Will (pun) Farrell mismanage a potential victory? Can the Sox overtake Cleveland, Houston, or perhaps the Yanks or Twins if need be? Well, yes. Absolutely. Because revisionist history reteaches fans on a yearly basis, what you do in the regular season is a moot point. It doesn’t matter if you tiptoe into the wild card round by winning three consecutive, or you waltz into the Divisional Series with all starters enjoying four days of rest. All you have to do is get there, and here’s the proof.
Example A: Rotation and Clout
Team X had enough guys crossing the plate throughout the season, but four baggers weren’t in the teams pedigree. Only three sluggers breached the 20 home run threshold. The team finished last in walks, verifying their lack of ability to deepen the pitch count and work an opposing pitcher. The opposition shut them out in 11 different contests. Their ace? He was freshly acquired at the deadline, delivering four wins in 13 starts to go along with an ERA over 4.7. Not a single starter in their rotation was capable of averaging a K/9 rate over 8.7. They didn’t even enter the post season hot, with a meager .393 September winning percentage. Who was this? 2015 world champions, the Kansas City Royals.
Example B: No Lineup
This upcoming group of talent wasn’t much offensively. Dead last in their league in stolen bases, they couldn’t even manage a 100 RBI producer. Scratch that; a 90 RBI producer. Only five players in the vaunted lineup managed over 10 long balls, with just two breaking the 20 home run mark. By definition, a “slugger” is a player who manages a slugging percentage over .450. Our example here, featured just two sluggers on their roster, barely. Surely, their starting pitcher’s carried them, right? Well, if you call having just a pair of starters keep their earned run averages below 4.00, then sure, they carried them alright. Ranking 13th in strikeouts, while conversely being shut out 13 times over the regular season, and failing to even hit the .500 mark in one run matches, the San Francisco Giants of 2014 defied odds, winning only 88 games over the course of the year, snuck past the Pirates in the Wild Card game, and managed to defeat the heavily favored 96 win Nationals en route to said championship.
Example C: Stiff competition
I won’t hold everyone here in edge of your seat suspense. In 2002, the Majors featured a remarkable three ball clubs who put together 101+ win seasons; the AL version of New York, pre Money Ball era Oakland, and the team that most of Boston is familiar with thanks to TV broadcasting rights: Hotlanta. Your world series winner, however, hailed from none of these fine cities. Instead, it was the ageless Mike Scoscia’s small ball ran Anaheim Angels. Or California? Los Angeles? Either way, they are a baseball team on the west coast, and came into the post season as heavy underdogs, despite putting together a 99 win campaign. Even the people of Anaheim weren’t all in, as the club only procured 2 million tickets sold, 7th out of the then 14 team American League. The team itself was pretty darn good, headlined by Troy Glaus and Garrett Anderson, who together drove home 234 base runners, largely in thanks to flash in the pan spark plug David Eckstein. What is important here, is that the Brave, Yankee and Athletic powerhouses who were destined to duke it out in the ALCS and World Series didn’t even make it out of the divisional round.
From Sox Nation to the Fenway Faithful, I urge you to pocket your fears. 26% of the Major Leagues are lucky enough to birth a postseason bracket line. Boston is one of them. And starting on day one of the Divisional Series, it’s merely a race to 11 victories.