The 2020 MLB season is going to be a weird one. With COVID-19 delaying the start of the season, the owners and players finally agreed on a 60-game season. This is dramatically shorter than the typical MLB season, which means that highly volatile performances will have a huge impact on the ultimate outcome of the season. If everything breaks right, the Red Sox can use this volatility to make the playoffs and possibly take home another World Series title.
To be clear, I am not saying that winning the World Series is a likely outcome for the Boston Red Sox. Chances are, they’ll be a fringe playoff team or miss the postseason altogether. However, the Red Sox do have a path to making a deep run in the postseason.
How the Boston Red Sox Can Win the World Series in the Shortened Season
Roll With Your Good Pitchers
The Boston Red Sox do not have much pitching depth. Whether it’s the back end of the rotation or the early part of the bullpen, some of Boston’s arms leave a lot to be desired. However, the top of their rotation and bullpen are actually in pretty good shape.
Last year, Eduardo Rodriguez proved that he has what it takes to put up fantastic numbers over a full season. The longtime starter has flashed that ability ever since 2015, but injuries or inconsistencies have always stopped him from reaching his full ceiling. However, last year Rodriguez hit 203.1 innings while recording a 3.81 ERA and a 3.86 FIP. These aren’t elite numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re pretty solid in today’s day and age.
Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t stayed healthy for a full season in quite some time, but he’s always great when he is healthy. The odds of both players staying healthy for the majority of the 60-game season is pretty high, and these two are good enough to carry an offensive-minded team.
The bullpen is currently led by 2019 breakout star Brandon Workman. Workman was a bright star in an otherwise lost season, recording a 1.88 ERA and a 2.46 FIP in 71.2 innings of work. The underlying numbers suggest that his ERA wasn’t particularly sustainable, but he should remain one of the better relievers in the league. Matt Barnes is always great in the first half of the season, and his second-half slump shouldn’t be an issue, seeing as it’s just a 60-game season.
The key to the bullpen could be Darwinzon Hernandez. Hernandez has all the talent in the world and looked like an MLB fixture during points of the 2019 season. He’ll never possess elite control, but everything else he does is so good that it doesn’t really matter for a bullpen role. These three have the potential to be one of the better three-headed bullpens in baseball, if everything goes right. If the starting pitcher can keep a lead through six innings, then the Sox should feel comfortable about their odds to win.
Every year, there is at least one or two players that come out of nowhere to post great seasons. Last year, it was Workman. The year before, it was Ryan Brasier. The Red Sox are going to need to embrace that uncertainty and roll with whoever turns out to outproduce expectations.
Brasier’s decline in 2019 isn’t all that surprising, considering his underlying numbers suggested that his 2018 was a total fluke. However, the Red Sox probably don’t win that World Series without his steadying presence. Players are capable of getting hot for short periods of time and doing better than you’d expect over an expanded sample. A 60-game season is a perfect time to embrace that strange outlier performance and roll with it for as long as you can.
Marcus Walden has yet to put it together for a full season, but he played well in the early portions of both 2018 and 2019 (2018, admittedly, coming in a very small sample). Perhaps this is the year that the stars align and he becomes a solid, reliable member of a top-heavy bullpen.
The Offense Is Great
The Boston Red Sox won’t have the best pitching staff in baseball, but they won’t need to. Even without Mookie Betts, this should still be one of the best offenses in the MLB. Last year, Boston’s offense ranked sixth in the league in wRC+, fifth in wOBA, and fifth in slugging percentage. This will drop with Betts out of the picture, but this offense still has plenty of firepower.
J.D. Martinez has a case for being the best designated hitter in the league, while the Red Sox have plenty of All-star talent in guys like Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Newcomer Alex Verdugo is no Mookie Betts, but he’s still an above-average bat. These four will probably be the heart of the order, and all are capable of taking over a game on any given night.
This offense could go from good to great if Andrew Benintendi finds his 2018 form. The former first-round pick had a disappointing 2019 but is clearly capable of a lot more. Additionally, the Red Sox have one of baseball’s most volatile hitters in Jackie Bradley Jr. The upcoming season will be especially interesting for him, as he could win MVP or hit .100 over a 60-game sample. Guys like Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez, and Michael Chavis won’t set the world on fire, but all three are great options later on in the lineup.
How Likely Is a Red Sox World Series?
Ultimately, the Red Sox are still facing an uphill battle to win the World Series. This team has plenty of flaws, and they’d need a lot to go right over the shortened season. However, it’s not completely out of the question that this team can compete for a title.
Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi are both above-average starters when healthy, and the shortened season should increase their odds of making it to the finish line. The bullpen quartet of Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, and 2020’s random overachiever should give Boston enough depth on the back end to stop blowing so many leads.
This pitching won’t set the world on fire, but it doesn’t need to. The Red Sox should still have one of the best offenses in the league, even with Mookie Betts in Los Angeles. As long as the pitchers can perform at a league-average level, Boston should have the pieces to make a playoff push. From there, anything can happen.
Embed from Getty Images