David Ortiz says itís time to panic. I say, hold on a minute, David.
Your team still holds a three-game advantage over the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card; thatís one fewer than the distance separating you and the Yankees, in case you forgot. Or have you given up on that race, even with three head-to-head matchups remaining?
Speaking of the Yankees, they may end up easing your current fears. Of the Raysí 17 remaining games, seven will be played against New York. Seven of your last 16 come against Baltimoreó currently 30 games under .500.
No doubt, your starting rotation is cringe-worthy at the moment. Outside of Jon Lester, no one scheduled to take the hill in the next week has an ERA under five. But Josh Beckett could be back by the time Tampa comes to Fenway, and thereís not an offense in the majors capable of carrying substandard pitching the way yours is. Youíve earned John Lackey 12 wins, for crying out loud.
Youíre in a funk, you say. Youíve lost nine of your last eleven, while the Rays have won eight of 10. Actually, this could be just as much a source of comfort as a cause for alarm. Simple probabilities indicate that neither team is likely to continue at such a rate for the remainder of the season; thatís just the nature of streaks. Need evidence? You started the season 2-10.
Youíve got a 10-game homestand coming (winning percentage at Fenway: .592), while the Rays will be away for their next 11 (winning percentage on the road: .557).
According to Baseball Prospectus, youíve got a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs. Youíre much more likely to win the division over the Yankees than to lose the wild card to the Rays.
These are hardly reasons to panic, David. The pitching staff is a problem, but itís one that should be of more concern in October, against the best of the American League, than in September, against the Orioles and Blue Jays, with a 3.5 game lead. As long as the rotation can keep you in games, your best bet is to relax and play baseball. Itís no accident your team has made it this far.
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Stats Driven features a closer look at statistical analysis, sports strategy and trends within Boston sports. Andrew Mooney, a student at Harvard College and an active member of the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, is the primary contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @mooneyar.