the "second half"
posted at 7/18/2013 8:31 AM EDT
The quotation marks mean the second half is a lot shorter this year--just 65 games to go. The question is, how will the Sox fare in those 65 games?
They start with some definite advantages--a 2.5 game lead over the Rays and 4.5 over the Orioles and the best winning percentage in the AL; most runs scored and highest OPS in MLB; most games played in MLB, which means the fewest games to play (65) and most rest days ahead; more home games than road games and no west coast road trip ahead; a lineup with only one real star, which means a lot of depth, including guys on the bench and even at Pawtucket; a decent rotation and bullpen even without Buchholz and Hanrahan; team chemistry and overall good management.
The fear is the Sox are playing over their heads, the bubble will burst, and the Rays, Orioles and even the Yankees will assert themselves and blow by the Sox. In the wild card race you have to also add in Texas or Oakland from the AL West as competitors. Thus the cry for three additions--a good starter, a good righty bat, and one more good arm in the bullpen. I think Cherington might go after all three, but will not be bold because that's been his modus operandi to date, plus he too must like the team chemistry, plus the Sox are in the lead, plus this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Someone else already said it, but I will chime in and say I agree the biggest risk to this team in the next 65 games is health. If Ortiz goes on the DL, real trouble--ditto Pedroia and ditto Buchholz if he doesn't return as the first half Buchholz. Some trouble if Ellsbury, Iglesias, Lackey, Doubront, or Uehara goes on the DL. Even Lester and Dempster would be hard to replace.
I honestly believe the AL East or at least a wild card slot is the Sox to lose, especially if Buchholz can get back in decent time and form--and the team stays healthy.