Friday, April 8, 2011

Is it time for the 0-6 Red Sox to panic?

(photo courtesy of

I saw a statistic on ESPN yesterday that said after the Red Sox 0-6 start, their projected win total dropped from around 95 to 86. The same computer decreased their chances of making the playoffs from approximately 66 percent to 36 percent. I know that simulation takes into account the fact that their current struggles make future success less likely, but those numbers seem drastic.

Through six games, most thought a team like Boston would be 4-2, much like the Yankees. Through six games, they have four fewer wins than "projected." So I ask, how does that drop their win total for the season by nine games?

I understand that they can't hit. And outside of Jon Lester's sterling start yesterday, their pitching has also struggled. But anybody who knows baseball realizes that this team isn't going to stay down for long. Not after picking up two of the top five players at their respective positions in the offseason (1B Adrian Gonzalez and OF Carl Crawford).

Starting in a little over an hour, Boston will play host to the Yankees for a three-game series at Fenway Park. Let's say they win two out of three games to climb to 2-7. New York will be 5-4, three games ahead with 153 games to play. If New York goes 85-68 to get to 90 wins, Boston needs to go 88-65 to tie the Yankees.

What I'm really trying to say is that this 0-6 start isn't half the big deal people are making it out to be. As a Yankees fan, I love to see Boston struggle. But they still scare me. Teams have made up three games in the standings in the final week of a season before, who's to say Boston can't do it in five-and-a-half months.

For comparison's sake, if this was football the Red Sox would be down big at halftime of their FIRST GAME. Because the baseball season is so long, an 0-6 start really doesn't doom a team and represents less than 1/25 of the entire season. So why the panic?

The Boston lineup will be fine, there's no doubt in my mind about that. So will Jon Lester and to a lesser extent, Clay Buchholz. But John Lackey? Josh Beckett? Daisuke Matsuzaka? Those three are legitimate reasons to worry for Red Sox fans, but the Yankees have similar issues at the back end of their rotation.

If Boston gets swept at home by New York to fall to 0-9, then there may be some reason to panic. A seven-game lead after the season's first nine games is a much bigger hole than three or four, particularly when the team you're chasing is just as good if not better on paper.

For anybody who was wondering, I don't count the Orioles as a legitimate threat. Their young pitching has been superb so far and guys like Zach Britton, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta come with high upside. But let's not forget how good the Blue Jays were early last season, only to fall off as the season wore on.

There's a good reason the AL East is arguably the best division in baseball year in and year out and Baltimore will find out that it's hard to stay at the top when you have to deal with the Yankees and Red Sox all season.

Even with an 0-6 start, Boston is likely to end up near the top of this division with the Yankees in the end. The only question is whether they can overtake them or clinch a Wild Card berth in the American League. But it's way too early for Sox fans to panic, as much as I love to see turmoil in Boston.

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