The clock is ticking and the sun is beginning to set on the 2023 Boston Red Sox. Within the next month, the Red Sox will have to jump both the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays if they want to be a part of this year’s postseason.
With 22 games to go, the Sox are currently five games behind Toronto and 4.5 games behind Texas. The chances of them winning aren’t very high. FanGraphs, a baseball season simulator used by many analytical experts, gives the Red Sox just above a 4% chance of getting into the playoffs. With three games against Toronto and Texas each, they can make up some ground in the standings. Fast forward to the following week, and the Red Sox will reap the benefits of Toronto heading to Texas for a three-game set, where one of these teams will be eliminated.
The Red Sox are looking to find some magic to spark their final push to the postseason as they’ve sat in the middle of the pack for the better half of four months now. The Red Sox face an uphill climb as they have one of the toughest remaining schedules across the entire league. While it may have something to do with their stacked division, they are also in this position due to their lack of urgency earlier in the year. Let’s take a look back.
The biggest problem for the Red Sox all season has been their incredible lack of consistency. Game to game, inning to inning, there’s no real identity to the team. Specifically for the past two months, the Red Sox have been essentially running in place, playing exactly .500 baseball since July 22 going 21-21. They’ve been held down by their league-worst defensive fielding percentage of 981 and inconsistent starting pitching. Throughout the year, defense has plagued the team, forcing pitchers to get more outs than they should need to get.
The starting rotation has been the backbreaker for this team. While things never stay the same the whole year, there’s been too much shuffling of the rotation. Manager Alex Cora announced his starting rotation at the beginning of the year: Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford and Nick Pivetta.
The Red Sox signed the veteran Kluber to a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason and were hopeful that he could be a reliable middle-of-the-rotation piece that chewed up innings throughout the season. It would be an understatement to say that he did the complete opposite. Kluber was abysmal in 15 appearances for the Red Sox this year posting a 7.04 ERA along with allowing 18 home runs across 55 innings.
Sale cannot stay healthy. Sale would go on the COVID list in September of 2021 and wouldn’t pitch again that year. 2022 started out with a rib injury away from baseball that took him out half the year only to return briefly before going back to the injured list (IL) after a bike fall which broke his wrist. Midway through this season, Sale suffered shoulder problems and went on the IL for two months before returning recently. While he has returned, he’s been limited to just four innings a start to conserve him for the remainder of the year
Houck, who had always been known as a reliever for the Red Sox due to his third time through the order struggles, was having an okay year until a scary incident where Houck was hit with a line drive in the face, suffering a facial fracture. After a six week IL stint, Houck returned, and has understandably been very shaky. His ERA has climbed north of five and his outings are getting shorter. Crawford is in the same boat as Houck. A guy who is seen as someone that can give you innings but gets into a lot of trouble the third time through the order.
James Paxton replaced Kluber in the rotation halfway through the year. For two months Paxton was excellent in his return from Tommy John surgery after being away from baseball for over two years. The problem with Paxton is that now he has done a complete turnaround and is struggling to get out of the third inning in multiple games. The innings are catching up to him and he’s wearing down.
The biggest thing the Red Sox need to focus on in 2024 is starting pitching stability. Whether that is through free agency or by a trade, something needs to be done or else big changes may be coming to the Red Sox front office sooner rather than later.