Last night the Sox kicked off one of their toughest stretches of the season. The Sox started a stretch where they host Tampa Bay for 4, go to Detroit for 4 (including a double header), back to Minnesota, host NY, finally get a day off, and then host the Angels. That’s a stretch of 18 games against teams over .500.
In late August, the Sox then go to Boston for 4, go to NY, then to Minnesota again, go to Wrigley for the make-up game against the Cubs, then host Boston. This stretch is in the middle of a 20 game stretch filled with travel and no days off.
Doing well in these stretches won’t guarantee the Sox a playoff berth, but it can easily break the Sox season. The Sox offense has been hot this month and picked up the slack, but the pitching has been troubling. The Sox will be facing very good offenses and pitching, so they will need a good combination of both to win games. I’m not sure what propelled the Sox offense recently. The pickup of Podsednik has certainly helped and has made a difference. Some people argue that the weather plays a role and the summer is always better for hitters, which is a possibility. The main point is that the Sox can’t be expected to blow out teams regularly and the pitching needs to keep the team in the game. Buerhle has been great this season, but Floyd and Danks really need to be more consistent and pitch deep into games since the bullpen has looked shaky lately. Another big problem is the 5th spot in the rotation. As it stands now, Clayton Richard is starting tonight and still has the job, but he can’t be the long-term answer. It would have been nice to see Aaron Poreda get a shot, but he was taken away from his regular starts and now needs to get back into the rhythm of starting. The Sox also have Bartolo Colon (who will start the doubleheader at the end of the week) and have signed Freddy Garcia, but are these old pitchers that no one else wanted really the answer? The Sox really need to pursue a move to strengthen the rotation. In 2004 and earlier, the 5th spot in the rotation was always an automatic loss and really hurt the Sox when chasing a division. In 2005 the Sox found the perfect storm with a combination of Orlando Hernandez and a great prospect in Brandon McCarthy who lived up to his billing during the season. Both pitchers gave the Sox a chance to win and that season the team did a better job of not throwing games away.
Just for fun, I decided to look at a couple simple stats to look at the trends of the offense (including home runs because that has been a big part of the Sox offense for a long time) and pitching.
There doesn’t appear to be any strong correlation with wins and losses. In the end, it depends on the individual game and scoring more runs than the other team. This does, however, show the trends of the offense and pitchers, and how important these trends may be with such a tough schedule coming up. It also shows how well the offense has done with creating runs without relying completely on the home run, and how the pitching has given up more runs then it has all season.