(Ed. Note: This article was written prior to this week’s final series in Baltimore, which may have made the following completely irrelevant)
I’ll give you a minute to clean up whatever you spit all over your keyboard/newspaper when you read the title.
All clean? Ok, here we go. The Boston Red Sox, fresh on the heels of one of the more pathetic Septembers in baseball history, will win the 2011 World Series.
Here are five reasons:
1) They won’t have to face the Rays
As well as Tampa played down the stretch, they dug too deep a hole to make the playoffs, even after taking six of seven from Boston in September. The Red Sox won’t have to worry about Desmond Jennings willing himself on base and running until he scores. Evan Longoria won’t bash any go-ahead home runs. Tampa’s solid young starting pitching won’t frustrate Boston’s bats, and their anonymous relief corps won’t stymie potential comeback rallies.
2) The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball
Boston scored 5.5 runs per game this season, more than any other team in baseball. Sure, Fenway Park boosts their numbers a bit, but the only other teams within 100 runs, the Rangers and Yankees, play in big-time hitters’ parks too. Jacoby Ellsbury might win the MVP this season after adding power (31 home runs) to his already speedy game (38 stolen bases). Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez were legitimate MVP candidates at points this season and David Ortiz was one of the five best hitters in the American League. The Red Sox score in droves and will continue to do so in October.
3) The pitching is not as bad as you think
September showed that the Red Sox didn’t have nearly as much pitching depth in the rotation or the bullpen to make life without Clay Buchholz comfortable. But Buchholz is back (in some capacity), as are Erik Bedard and Josh Beckett, each of whom missed time with September injuries. Most importantly, the Sox won’t have to use the dregs of the starting pitching ranks. It was John Lackey, Kyle Weiland, and Tim Wakefield who pitched the Sox out of games early all month and overtaxed the bullpen by failing to pitch even five innings in most of their starts.
In October, the Sox should get all their starts from co-aces Beckett and Jon Lester, Bedard, and some combination of Buchholz and Alfredo Aceves, each of whom can throw a few effective innings. In the bullpen, we shouldn’t see much action beyond Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, and lefty Franklin Morales, unless a game is out of reach early.
Sure, Lester needs to cut down on the walks and the next three guys in line need to be healthy throughout October, but if they are, there’s no American League rotation better than Boston’s.
4) All the other American League teams have flaws
You saw the Red Sox dominate the Yankees this year, winning 10 of the first 11 matchups and 12 of 18 overall. Beyond CC Sabathia, New York’s October rotation will be unproven rookie Ivan Nova and any of a stable of veterans whose fastballs had a little more life in 2005.
The Tigers have the best playoff rotation, led by certain Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, trade deadline steal Doug Fister, and hard-throwing Max Scherzer, but they don’t have much offense aside from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila. Tigers supporters will tell you that they’ll have several advantageous pitching matchups against Boston, but pitchers don’t face pitchers. Give me Beckett against Detroit’s lineup over Verlander against Boston’s any day.
The Rangers may have the best combination of offense and defense, but neither is a sure thing. Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland have far surpassed their career highs for innings pitched and may not have much left in the tank at this point. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton can rake, but the bottom half of Texas’s lineup isn’t the equal of Boston’s.
5) It’s the American League’s turn
Realistically, if the Phillies await the Sox in the Series, Philly’s rotation will make them heavy favorites. Even the Brewers look like a strong competitor. But look at the last six World Series champs:
2010 Giants (NL)
2009 Yankees (AL)
2008 Phillies (NL)
2007 Red Sox (AL)
2006 Cardinals (NL)
2005 White Sox (AL)
We’ve been alternating between leagues since the Red Sox and White Sox broke their respective curses. It’s the AL’s turn. We know the Red Sox will have a far better offense than any NL team they might face. If the breaks fall their way (and after September’s madness, a few of them are due to), the same Red Sox who started September 5-18 could be celebrating their third title in eight years by Halloween.