Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Red Sox look like serious World Series contenders just a year after finishing in last place in the AL East. Actually, wait, don’t stop us. You have heard that before. It just happened in 2013.
These Red Sox are a little different, though. Sure, David Ortiz is still there bashing homers, but he’s also playing in the final games of his career. Around him is a talented cast new and old — from free-agent signing David Price to second base stalwart Dustin Pedroia, and loads of young talent everywhere. Especially in the outfield where Mookie Betts has staken claim to being the next face of the franchise. And Rick Porcello, if you haven’t been paying attention, transformed into one of the AL’s best pitchers this season.
The Red Sox are a complete team. They can hit, they can pitch, they’ve got youthful energy and veteran wisdom. If you’re betting on which team could hoist the World Series trophy, they ain’t a bad pick. Here are five reasons the Red Sox could win another one:
BIG PAPI’S LAST RIDE
David Ortiz has been and will continue to be the heart and soul of Boston’s offense right up until his final at-bat. That heart is beating stronger than ever too, as Ortiz is enjoying one of his best seasons in a 20-year career filled with MVP-caliber seasons and perhaps Hall of Fame-worthy numbers. This season? He’s hit 37 homers, driven in 124 runs with a league-leading 1.022 OPS. We can debate his merits as an MVP candidate based on his role as designated hitter, especially since that could limit his contributions in the World Series itself. We can’t debate his impact on the Red Sox lineup.
THE EMERGENCE OF RICK PORCELLO
Porcello’s two seasons in Boston sure have been interesting. On Dec. 11, 2014, he was acquired from Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes deal and was being relied upon to solidify the rotation. After falling well short of expectations, he was considered a potential weak link in the Red Sox rotation coming into this season. Somehow though, he righted the ship and may actually be in line to win the American League Cy Young award.
His 22 wins lead baseball and are the most by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999. The offense has certainly helped him on occassion, but he’s done his share of lifting too. Porcello is striking out 20.9 percent of batters he faces, while walking only 3.5 percent. Overall, opposing batters are only hitting .223. It’s a massive improvement that gives Boston a legit second starter alongside David Price.
THE EVOLUTION OF MOOKIE BETTS
When David Ortiz is gone, the future of Boston will remain bright because of guys like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and, especially, Mookie Betts. All of those young players have been impressive this season, but Betts has stood out all season for his combination of power (31 homers), speed, getting on base and even his defense. He has the skills of a franchise player, which makes him a legit MVP candidate and makes Boston all the more dangerous in the here and now.
THEY’RE ROAD WARRIORS
There’s a reason home-field is considered an advantage. It’s because most teams are simply better at home than on the road. Not the Red Sox though. They’re good everywhere, as evidenced by their 46-32 record at home and 46-35 away from Fenway Park. They can win anywhere against anyone, mainly because of the players mentioned above, so Boston’s postseason opponents should anticipate needing a road win or two to win the series.
The Red Sox have been here before. After finishing last in the AL East in 2012, they rebounded to win the World Series in 2013. After finishing last in the AL East last season, they’re looking for history to repeat itself. This is notable because we’re used to seeing teams gradually move toward a championship. We’re used to identifying when they turn a corner, and we’re used to marking milestones as they climb the mountain. That’s not Boston’s method. The Red Sox restructure and they aim to win championships, meaning it’s World Series or bust in the postseason.
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES:
– Chicago Cubs
– Texas Rangers
– Los Angeles Dodgers
– Washington Nationals
– New York Mets
– Cleveland Indians
– Baltimore Orioles
– Toronto Blue Jays
– San Francisco Giants
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