How many wins have the Red Sox' injuries cost them?

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A lot of people are playing the “what if” game with respect to the Red Sox lately, mostly in terms of “what if they didn’t have all those damn injuries.” Would they be in the thick of the AL East right now instead of hanging by a thread? In the lead? How bad has the injury bug really harmed their status as contenders?

ESPN’s (and Baseball Think Factory’s!) Dan Szymborski figured that rather than just talking it up and down all day like some sports radio goon that he’d try to figure it out.  Over at the WWL today (sorry, Insider only), he does his best to break out the difference in performance between the expected starters and the dudes who have replaced them in 2010.

The verdict: while acknowledging that there’s all kinds of alchemy and magic and unexpected and unintended consequences when imperfect human beings are your variables, Dan figures the replacements have cost the Sox about four wins.  That would have them closer, sure, but not quite as high up the standings as some people in Boston probably believe.

Neat exercise, though, so if you have Insider, by all means, check it out.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.