This iteration of the Red Sox has been competitive since 2016. And it's really as simple as...if the pitching is there, they make the playoffs. If not, they don't.
This year the pitching wasn't there.
I'll say that this team wasn't nearly as scattered as it was in 2020, where they were struggling for starting options and even good pitchers like Martin Perez and Nate Eovaldi couldn't help. Yes, there were competent starters in Boston this year, and Michael Wacha, Nick Pivetta and Rich Hill had decent seasons. But without Eduardo Rodriguez, a healthy Chris Sale and an elite, healthy Eovaldi, this pitching weighed the team down. There was no one answer in the ninth, with John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, Matt Strahm and Garrett Whitlock getting reps there. Longtime relief surefires Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier were bloated and unsatisfactory. The call-ups, like Brayan Bello, Connor Seabold, Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski, haven't worked as well as they've wanted. And now even Pivetta's got a 4.48 ERA and a 10-11 record.
The pitching just isn't there. And it cost them a spot in the race that was already crowded enough with the Yankees, Jays and Rays.
Plus, with so many pitching pieces, like Nate Eovaldi, Matt Strahm, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, and James Paxton, WHO DIDN'T EVEN PITCH FOR THE SOX AT ALL THIS YEAR, free agents next year, there's no guarantee the pitching will be in better shape next year. I guess Pivetta, Whitlock and the kids are all back, but there are so many question marks, not even including Chris Sale who has been so inconsistent the past few years [again, the Jack McDowell comparisons may not have been far off]. So unless a lot happens and, like usual, the Sox deal like hell this offseason, we could have another year of this team being held back its pitching.
And at the same time, you have J.D. Martinez possibly leaving, Enrique Hernandez possibly leaving, Tommy Pham possibly leaving, and the possibility of Xander Bogaerts opting out and going somewhere else. Meaning the team could be down to its barest essentials, including Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo, Trevor Story, and Christian Arroyo, who could be using his impressive second half work as a ramp up to a starting gig next year. This team could look a ton different in 2023, and it's not even a certainty that they'll be better than Baltimore, let alone the others.
The Red Sox could still be a factor going forward, but they need to ensure a lot of things, including a sturdier, less unstable pitching staff, to conserve their momentum.
Coming Tonight: A guy who led the league in home runs in 2020 and is trying to outrun the Chris Carter comparisons in Washington.