There’s no shortage of statistical information that suggests the Boston Red Sox are a very good baseball team — one of the best in Major League Baseball even.
Just five teams in all of baseball have a better winning percentage than the Red Sox, who open a three-game weekend series Friday night with one of those clubs, the Houston Astros.
Boston trails the New York Yankees by two games in the American League East and is 3 1/2 games clear of any challengers in the wild-card race. The Red Sox have wins in six of their last 10 games, and their 16-8 mark since May 21 is the AL’s best.
In a business where the bottom line largely is dependent upon wins and losses, there’s no denying the Red Sox have had success. But are they actually good?
Dig a little deeper than wins and losses, and the picture gets a little fuzzier.
The 37-29 record looks nice, but dig a little deeper and you’ll realize that 12 of those wins came against the National League, including six combined wins against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, two clubs who are a combined 25 games under .500.
The Red Sox have a losing record against first-place teams, and perhaps the biggest thing that stands out — one of the biggest marks against them — is their record against divisional opponents. The Red Sox are 13-15 against AL East teams — only Toronto has a worse mark within the division. The Yankees have taken the Red Sox to the woodshed, winning four of five games between the longtime rivals, outscoring Boston 26-2 in those four wins.
They’re nine games over .500, sure, but it doesn’t feel like the Red Sox have completely clicked yet, either.
The offense sputtered out of the gates, and quite frankly, the Boston bats still haven’t completely found their stride. The Red Sox already have been shut out five times; that happened just six times last season. Those issues, at times, have been compounded by injuries to the pitching staff. We’ve still yet to see Dave Dombrowski’s overhauled bullpen (and we’ll have to wait at least one more year to do so), and the Sox already have used nine different starters after using 10 all of last season.
Pablo Sandoval is a liability at the plate and in the field, leading to legitimate questions about how much longer he’ll have (or deserves) to prove he’s worth a roster spot. Drew Pomeranz flashes his All-Star potential but has pitched into the seventh inning just twice all season. Hanley Ramirez is banged up. Andrew Benintendi has been streaky. Eduardo Rodriguez is out until the All-Star break. Rick Porcello has returned to Earth after a Cy Young campaign, and when David Price isn’t picking fights with the media, he’s working on regaining his own Cy Young form after an elbow injury put him out until mid-May.
So maybe you look at it and say the Red Sox have done well to ensure they’re in a good spot despite all that’s happened so far this season. They’re positioned in a way that another winning streak could solidify them as contenders … which is what makes this weekend important, as the Astros likely will provide one of the best tests the Red Sox have faced all season.
The Astros, to this point at least, have been a very good team. Houston sits 23 games above .500 and looked poised to run away with the AL West on the strength of a ridiculous 22-7 run in May, a month that included winning streaks of five, four and 11.
But Houston has its own rough patch lately, going 4-6 in its last 10, in large part due to a horrible rash of injuries that landed Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh all on the disabled list. So even if the Red Sox do take care of business, we still probably won’t know for sure just how good they are.
But we definitely should learn a thing or two this weekend in Texas.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images