Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Wild Card Race: Do the Red Sox have what it takes?

The new MLB playoff format instituted in 2012 sees each league have two wild card teams, these teams will face off in a one game playoff before the victor advances to be one of the four playoff teams in each league along with each division winner.

This new format does two things, by opening up a second wild card spot it keeps more teams in the playoff hunt for longer, the other thing it does is make the wild card a much less attractive way of making the playoff.

Having your playoff fate depend on one game allows even more random luck to come into play.  It also forces a team to potentially use it's best starting pitcher in this game and then enter the real best of five division series.

As one of the wild card teams to make the World Series are getting much harder in the new format.

As they stand now the Red Sox are at 49-50 (.495 Winning %) and are in a race for the two wild card spots in the AL with 8 other teams, the A's, Angels, Whitesox, Tigers, Orioles, Rays, Indians and Blue Jays.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays are the farthest out of the wild card spots of the contenders at 5.0 games back.

So in order to make one of the two wild card spots the Red Sox need to pass 6 teams in the standings. still has the Red Sox with a 14.9% chance of claiming a wild card spot. still projects the Red Sox at 20% odds to make the playoffs.  For business reasons the Red Sox hardly can raise the white flag on the season.  They have to maintain hope that they are competing for the wild card even though it seems almost impossible that this team barring a miraculous winning streak will make the playoffs.

The fundamental flaw of the 2012 Red Sox team is the under performance of the front line starting pitchers in the rotation.  Unless they are hiding injuries, the issue with Beckett and Lester is performance and the question of whether or not they can rapidly return to their prime forms is an open one.  Based on velocity alone Beckett looks like a shell of his former self.  Neither pitcher looks like they are going to be the ace of the staff that this team needs to go on sustained winning streaks.

There is no way because of the Red Sox roster and payroll structure to acquire the front of the rotation starting pitching before the deadline that the Red Sox need to be competitive for this years playoffs.  The question becomes do the Red Sox simply stand pat in their wild card race or do they stay competitive but attempt to flip present players for salary relief or prospects that could be more helpful in retooling the roster for 2013?

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