The Boston Red Sox are back atop the American League East after two years of sitting in the basement. They’re the first team ever to go worst-to-first twice in a five-year span - 2012-2013 and now 2015-2016. Over the last year or so, the team has made multiple moves and significant progress as a team to get to where they are right now, which is postseason-bound and one of the top teams in all of baseball.
There’s a lot at stake for Boston in October, some individuals feeling immense pressure to succeed. Everyone on this Red Sox team is feeling some amount of pressure, but some more than others. There is so much expected out of the Red Sox heading into the playoffs. So, who are the individuals feeling extra weight on their shoulders and how will they fare when it really matters?
We all know who has, hands down, the most to prove in the playoffs, by a landslide: David Price. His 0-7 postseason record is hard to look at without fear, if you’re a Red Sox fan. He has a 5.12 ERA in October, eleven home runs given up, thirty-eight runs, and a 1.168 WHIP in fourteen appearances. Not ideal numbers for a guy who’s supposed to the the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff.
When Price came to Boston, he was asked about his issues in October. He said, “I guess I was saving all of my postseason wins for the Red Sox.” It was a smart answer, pleasing Sox fans across the country. During the Red Sox celebration at Yankee Stadium upon clinching the AL East, he was again asked about his postseason struggles. He responded by saying he doesn’t really care if he loses three games and pitches horribly if the team wins the World Series. The words ‘don’t care’ really stand out to all of us. Everyone has shared their displeasure with his comments, and now he’s certainly feeling the wrath, putting even more pressure on him to perform well. As if he didn’t have it bad enough.
How well will he perform, anyways? It’s kind of hard to predict. It can go either way. He could very well let down Red Sox Nation and continue his postseason skid, but then again, you can’t rule out that he records a couple quality starts, performs like an ace and gives them a win or two. It’s probably more likely that his woes continue on with his new team, unfortunately. It’ll be a pleasant surprise if he does all of a sudden turn it around, though. Just keep the faith, Red Sox fans.
The next player on my list is star closer Craig Kimbrel. His career before Boston was lights out every appearance, never a doubt in any fan’s head that he’d blow the game. In Boston, that’s a different story. He hasn’t been awful by any means, but he’s had his ups and downs, and those downs were near unwatchable. When Kimbrel is bad, he’s really bad. He’s wild, trying to throw too hard, etc. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable. Nasty, 98-100 MPH, the ideal closer. He’s only made six total postseason appearances, but has great numbers: 1.35 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, 10 strikeouts, one hit, one earned run and a save. That’s the Kimbrel we know best.
Kimbrel is another unpredictable guy in this situation. Similar to Price, he’s had a pretty up and down season. The highs were glorious while the lows were miserable. John Farrell’s bullpen management is, too, unpredictable, so who knows how much Kimbrel will be on the mound. Also, it depends on how the Red Sox perform as a team, obviously. If they get blown out every night or vice versa, Kimbrel won’t even get to stretch in the bullpen. If he does get the ball a few times, I think he’ll be okay. He might have one bad appearance thrown in there, probably his first, if any. Don’t expect him to make a fool of himself come October.
Another is Rick Porcello. He’s a Cy Young candidate. The first Red Sox pitcher to reach 20 wins since Josh Beckett in 2007. The fastest pitcher to 20 wins in major league baseball this season. He’s made history multiple times this year. He’s expected to continue this greatness into the playoffs, which, I’d have to guess, is incredibly stressful. It has to be all he’s thinking about. His postseason numbers are pretty so-so: 4.41 ERA, eighteen hits, ten earned runs, no home runs, and a 1.224 WHIP in eight appearances. His preparation in between starts is impeccable, and I doubt that changes in October. I expect him to perform pretty well. Maybe not as fantastically as he has in the regular season, but just about. Porcello should be the number one starter come playoff time, but we don’t know if he actually will be. Either way, he’s expected to continue to do big things.
My last big player would have to be David Ortiz. This is his last postseason, ever. All eyes are on him, and this isn’t a bad thing. This pressure will not drag him down. Everyone knows his history, Red Sox fan or not. Nobody expects him to suck, and he won’t. Ortiz doesn’t crack under pressure, especially postseason pressure. Price, Porcello and Kimbrel have some nasty pressure lying on their shoulders, but not Papi. I can’t picture a scenario where he has a bad playoff run. He’ll be out there for every at-bat, and he’ll succeed. He is going to, and has already, singlehandedly motivated and driven this team to the very end. The world is watching, and he will come through for his final time.
Those were the big, top four players, in my opinion. The rest of the team has it kind of easy. The young guys; Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley Jr., Benintendi, Shaw, Rodriguez, haven’t won yet. Bogaerts was there in the end for 2013, but not for the long run. These guys haven’t experienced postseason play before. They’re already excited to go out there when it matters, with little-to-no pressure applied. It’s a dream scenario for the kids.
The older guys; Ramirez, Pedroia, Uehara, etc, they know the deal. They’ve been in this situation before. Those three may be key pieces in the playoffs. They’re the role models for the younger guys and can help lead the way with Ortiz. I doubt they’re feeling much pressure to succeed, at the moment.
Then, we have the new additions, who haven’t really been with contending teams before, with little-to-no postseason experience; Abad, Pomeranz, Ziegler, Hill, Holaday, Young, but who knows if those guys will even sniff the postseason roster, minus Ziegler. It’d be interesting to see how they performed, though.
My final person would have to be John Farrell. No, he isn’t a player, but he deserves mention. Everybody has their own viewpoint on his managing skills. Whether you think he’s great at his job, decent, or straight up horrible, you know he has a lot riding on his shoulders, as he has all year. His questionable decisions throughout the season have been the storyline. As long as he thinks things through, consults Lovullo, and the rest of the coaching staff, he’ll be just fine and we might refrain from calling for his head for a while. Nobody is more stressed right now than Farrell. With all of the criticism he’s received from fans and the media, he knows what’s expected of him, as does the rest of the organization. Depending on how far the Red Sox go in October, it will be a telling few weeks for John Farrell. Will fans want to fire Farrell or extend Farrell? We shall find out in the coming weeks. Keep the faith.