Since falling a season-worst 12 games under .500 on July 9, the Red Sox have scored more runs than any other American League team. They’ve allowed fewer than everyone except the Rays. They’ve posted an AL-best record of 8-2 over that stretch, and seemingly breathed some life into a season that had all but lost its pulse.
But is the optimism born of this recent surge reflected in a marked improvement in the team’s standing within the league and the division, specifically in terms of its chances of making the playoffs?
According to Fangraphs, the Sox still have just a 5.7 percent chance of winning the East, and just a 4 percent chance of claiming a wild card berth, as of Wednesday morning. They’re still last in the division (which is where they were when this run began), and they’ve leapfrogged only one team in their pursuit of the wild card (jumping from 10th to ninth).
The same system said the Sox were nearly certain to make the playoffs deep into September 2011, of course, and things have tightened slightly in both races. However, there generally hasn’t been a lot of shifting over this span — and now there are two fewer weeks remaining for the Red Sox to make up ground during the regular season. Take a look:
|White Sox||44||47||5.5||White Sox||48||53||5.5|
|RED SOX||39||51||10.5||RED SOX||47||53||8.5|
What might stand out most is that although they knocked four games off their deficit to the playoff-positioned Mariners, there’s only one fewer team separating Boston and Seattle than there was before. And although they played at an .800 clip, they’re still in a position where they need to make up a game a week over the final 61 games to have any hope of catching the Orioles in the division.
So while this recent run has been nice, and refreshing, and fun, it hasn’t actually done much to undo the failures of late May. If the Sox had merely split the 10 games that comprised their dreadful losing streak, they’d be 52-48 right now, a record that would put them within 3.5 games of the division lead, and just a game out of a playoff spot.
Heck, if they’d merely done as last year’s team did, and just stopped the skid before losing more than three in a row, they might have still gone 2-8 in that stretch — but would be 49-51, and ahead of a couple more teams. But they didn’t. They aren’t. That’s all hypothetical.
And the reality is that the Sox, even after their recent success, are still a long way from contention for anything.