The Boston Red Sox are not the betting favorites to win the World Series in 2019, according to various odds-makers.
Now, before you grab the pitchforks and dismiss this information as fake news, allow me to explain why the odds-makers have actually gotten this one right.
Here are 5 valid reasons why the Boston Red Sox are not the World Series favorites.
#1 – The Bullpen
If the Red Sox had one chink in their armor in 2018, it was the bullpen. Now, allow me to qualify this statement. One, the bullpen was still “good” and preformed as a top 8-12 group. It wasn’t some catastrophe like many fans suggested. Second, the bullpen absolutely dominated in the postseason. However, the club’s regular season “weakness” has gotten worse, not better – at least on paper. Joe Kelly left Boston for LA and all-star closer Craig Kimbrel appears unlikely to re-sign with the Red Sox.
At the time of this article, it seems improbable that Boston will make a big splash in the reliever market. Instead of improving upon 2018’s group, the quality of the bullpen has lessened due to management’s apparent goal to limit spending. Overall, this leaves an already vulnerable part the roster in a worse position heading into 2019.
#2 – Regression
How many of you remember the awesome season the Red Sox had in 2016? Now, how many of you remember the much less fun 2017 season? Okay, those of you who raised their hand twice will surely remember the roster-wide regression in 2017. Despite both teams getting as far in the postseason, the 2017 Red Sox were a much worse team. Particularly on the offence, key players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Hanley Ramirez, and others suffered huge drop-offs in production. This is commonly known as “regression” or “regressing back to the mean.” In 2018, luckily, these players produced closer to or better than their 2016 totals.
However, the possibility of regression is still very prominent. It is possible that we saw players in 2018 over-perform their norm and could suffer various degrees of regression in 2019. For example, players like Steve Pearce, Brock Holt, and JD Martinez could see a reduction in production. Likewise, players like Xander and Mookie could be prone to regressing again in 2019 like they did in 2017. While I do not expect this to happen to all these players, it is possible a few bats drop production next season, especially when the team itself performed at a historic level in 2018.
#3 – The New York Yankees
Hey, I thought we agreed to put those pitchforks down? Before the entire readership revolts, there’s a simple fact that we need to discuss: the Yankees have become the betting favorite to win the World Series in 2019. Whether we like it or not doesn’t matter; they are an obstacle Boston must deal with if they wish to repeat as champs. The New York Yankees went 100-62 in the 2018 season. Usually, that would be good enough to win a division title with ease; however, unfortunately for the Yanks, they were competing with an all-time great roster in the Boston Red Sox.
It is clear, however, that Yankees had a damn good roster armed with power, elite relievers, and depth. The reason the Yankees have become betting favorites is quite simple: they added to their loaded roster and the Red Sox haven’t. In the eyes of the odds-makers, the gap between Boston and New York has disappeared and now favors the Bronx Bombers.
#4 – The American League Is Still Really Damn Good
2018 saw a historically good American League. The Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees all won 100+ regular season wins, and the Indians and Athletics weren’t too shabby either. This was the first year in my memory where so many legitimate World Series contenders duked it out in the same conference. In a normal year, I believe any one of those clubs could have won the World Series. The bad news for Red Sox fans is that the amazing quality in the AL is still there. While the Astros have lost some players, there is no doubt the 2017 World Series champs will still be a force to reckon with.
Similarly, other AL teams have seen talent come and go, but the overall quality of the league should still remain quite high, making it even tougher for the Boston Red Sox to repeat as champions. If the AL in 2019 resembles anything close to the AL in 2018, then this factor could have a huge impact on Boston’s World Series hopes.
#5 – Repeating Is Very Hard
If you were a bit of a gambler you would want to keep one key historical stat in mind before making a bet on the 2019 World Series winner: no one has repeated as champs since the 1998-1999-2000 New York Yankees. That is 19 years without a repeat champion; surely bettors are keeping this in mind. Baseball is an inherently competitive sport and the MLB is a league where it is very hard to sustain success (unlike a few other leagues we could mention). Want to hear another bit of history that doesn’t bode well for the Red Sox? No one has even repeated as AL champs since the Texas Rangers did in 2010-2011.
Not only is it hard to win the World Series in consecutive years, it is highly unlikely for AL teams to even get to the World Series in consecutive years. While historical patterns are not a guaranteed predictor of the future, it is hard to be optimistic about Boston’s 2019 chances knowing these two things.
It is not just one of these factors that hurts Boston’s odds of repeating as champs, but rather the culmination of each one. The bullpen can be saved by a good starting rotation and a potent offence. Regression may reduce overall production, but it is not a season-killer and it is not certain to happen. An improved Yankees may be a threat, but Boston can overcome their rivals who they eliminated in the ALDS last postseason.
Furthermore, a tough American League can be beaten again, and history has no effect on what this club does in 2019. However, when you combine these factors, it doesn’t look good for the Red Sox. Regression and a worse bullpen can conceivably sink the team, especially with the Yankees only an 8-win gap away. Taking into consideration a tough American League and the difficulty of repeating as champions in the MLB, it is understandable why the odds-makers no longer have Boston as the betting favorite to win the World Series.
However, just because the odds-makers got this right doesn’t mean that the Boston Red Sox won’t defend their World Series title. If this article leaves you feeling despair, then tomorrow’s article will surely give you hope. Make sure to check it out and leave your thoughts on the upcoming season below!