Their pitching should carry them into October. But the Sox offense needs to eventually wake up.
There are just eight weeks to go in the 2007 season. As of now, the Red Sox still have the best record in baseball. Let's hope they're still the best team in October, when it really matters.
Curt Schilling has returned for the stretch run. The Sox managed to go 24-18 in his absence.
So far it looks like the Sox were wise in not granting Schilling the contract extension he's been seeking.
Schilling has been hit pretty hard over the last 12 months, giving up 212 hits (22 homers) in his last 170 innings.
Since July 15 of last season, Schilling is a disappointing 10-8 with a 4.55 ERA. In 170 innings, he has allowed a staggering 212 hits and 22 home runs while striking out just 135. In his last 25 games, he has won consecutive starts just once.
However, before Schilling went on the DL to rest and rehabilitate his pitching shoulder, the Red Sox were 44-25 -- a 103-win pace. The Sox subsequently went 24-18 during his absence, a 93-win clip over the course of a full season. This implies that Schilling's value is approximately plus-10 over the course of a full season.
But Sox starters had almost the exact same ERA during Schilling’s absence (4.18) as they did during his presence (4.10).
The Red Sox weren't great in Schilling's absence, but they hung in there and kept the Yankees from gaining too much ground. No doubt, Schilling's return should make the Red Sox a better team. But he is no longer the staff ace. Those days are long gone. The 40-year-old righty has been supplanted by Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. But Schilling's playoff experience is invaluable. What he needs is "consistency", to "execute" and to "make adjustments", as he has so often said himself.
The starting rotation and the bullpen will be the Red Sox strong suits in these final 50 games. The big question is the offense -- as in, where is it and where has it been?
A weak offense has meant that the Red Sox need to get leads early. They are 60-5 when tied or leading through six innings, 8-39 when trailing. This means that Sox starters have to outpitch their opponents because the lineup hasn't been able to consistently outscore their opponents.
Runners left on base has been the Sox Achilles heel all year long.
The Sox went 21-7 in August of 2004. But they were 9-21 last August when the wheels came off the wagon hauling their playoff hopes. They'll need to be on a roll this September and stay hot through the playoffs to become World Series Champions once again.
The pitching will be as good, or better, than any of the competition they'll face. How good Schilling will be remains to be seen. Having nearly two months off should benefit a pitcher his age. How good the offense will be is anyone's guess.
Playoff hopes usually rise or fall in relation to pitching. For the Red Sox this year, most unusually, much will rest on the Sox ability to score runs and stop leaving runners on base.
Copyright © 2007 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.