Rick Rowand breaks down the Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Indians ALDS matchup which features two teams that share many common threads.
2016 American League Division Series
Boston Red Sox (93-69) vs Cleveland Indians (94-67)
Game One: Cleveland won 5-4, click here for our recap.
Game Two: Cleveland won 6-0, click here for our recap.
Game Four: (If necessary) Monday, Oct. 10: Cleveland (TBD) at Boston (Eduardo Rodriguez 3-7, 4.71 ERA) , TBD (TBS)
Game Five: (If necessary) Wednesday, Oct. 12: Boston at Cleveland, TBD (TBS)
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox enter this best of five series with the third best record in the AL, behind the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. They won the season series against the Indians 4-2.
Despite having virtually identical overall records, they were very different teams at home and on the road with the Red Sox having a more balanced record. Boston went 47-34 at home and 46-35 on the road, while the Indians were 53-28 at home and 41-39 on the road.
The Red Sox also had a much more prolific offense than the Indians, leading all of MLB with 878 runs scored. The next best team, the Chicago Cubs, had 808. But the Red Sox didn’t score runs like they did in your father and grandfather’s eras by bludgeoning teams to death via the home run. They ranked ninth in MLB with 208. The Baltimore Orioles were the frontrunner with 253. Although Boston led MLB in SLG at .461, they did so mainly because of their proclivity to hit doubles, leading the majors with 343.
Another area this year’s model set themselves apart from Red Sox teams of the past is with their speed and the good judgment exhibited on the basepaths. They will never be among the league leaders in stolen bases, but their 83 steals to 24 caught stealing (77.57% success rate) is much better than what we’ve seen in the past.
As you may suspect with those kinds of offensive numbers Boston has featured a relentless lineup from one through nine. This was especially true when catcher Sandy Leon was hitting like prime Ted Williams. But lately, Leon has fallen out of grace and come crashing back to earth hitting just .213 over the past month. Expect the Red Sox lineup against the primarily right handed staff the Indians put on the mound to look something like Dustin Pedroia – Brock Holt – David Ortiz – Mookie Betts – Hanley Ramirez – Xander Bogaerts – Jackie Bradley Jr. – Sandy Leon – Andrew Benintendi.
Another strength of the Red Sox is their defense, especially up the middle with Leon at catcher, Bogaerts at shortstop, Pedroia at second base, and JBJ in center field. They also have two other center fielders patrolling right and left providing above average defense in Betts and Benintendi. They will be joined by Chris Young in the outfield.The weakest spots, and they are still MLB average at worst, are Holt at third and Ramirez at first. Travis Shaw, Aaron Hill, and Marco Hernandez will serve as the backup infielders. The Red Sox are utilizing Christian Vazquez as the back-up catcher because of his ability to control the running game (thrown out 23 of 52 runners attempting to steal), instead of Ryan Hanigan or Bryan Holaday.
You don’t reach first in the AL East with a weak bullpen, no matter how many runs you score, and the Red Sox are no exception with Kimbrel as the closer and Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, Joe Kelly, and possibly Drew Pomeranz as the primary setup men. Pomeranz you say? That’s right, he impressed the coaching staff enough in his last throwing session that they have kept him on the roster. Robbie Ross Jr. and Matt Barnes round out the bullpen for the Red Sox.
While not as prolific as the Sox, the Indians still scored 777 runs, good for fifth in MLB and won 25 more games at home than they lost. Offensively they are led by C/1B Carlos Santana who had a wOBA of .370 in 158 games. He is joined by Jose Ramirez with a wOBA of .355 in 152 games. Ramirez provided a steadier hand at the plate hitting .312/.363/.462 with 11 homers to Santana’s .259/.366/.462 with 34 homers. Another power bat is second baseman Jason Kipnis who hit .275/.343/.469 with 23 balls going out of the park. And let’s not forget old friend Mike Napoli who launched 34 homers in 150 games. He posted a line of .239/.335/.465
One of the Indians’ primary weapons was Rajai Davis, not for his ability to get on base, but for the damage he did once he reached. He had 43 steals while only being caught six times. It wasn’t just Davis who loved to steal a base, the Indians led the AL with 134 steals while being caught just 31 times (81.21% success rate).
When the Indians acquired lefty Andrew Miller from the Yankees, they strengthened the bullpen and provided Terry Francona the relief pitcher he could, and does, use at any time during a game to kill a potential rally. Miller, and closer Cody Allen, are backed up by a steady, if unspectacular group including workhorses Dan Otero and Brian Shaw.
This should be a very interesting series, not just because it’s playoff baseball, but also because best friends are the managers and both teams have so many connections on their rosters.