One of my themes for the year is that most discussion about the Red Sox' problems this year has been irrelevant, focusing on communication with the manager and getting injured hitters back in the lineup. I contend that they have been hitting well enough to win a pennant, but pitching terribly, and one can see this with two simple stats: Runs Scored and Runs Against.
Part of the point has been to suggest that sports discussions in your town may be similarly flawed. Two months ago, I used those simple stats to predict what would happen from here. I don't even know who plays for these teams, remember. I'm working from two numbers. I picked four teams to improve and five to decline with two maybe declines. I stated that 8 of the 11 would bear me out. I could say that I got only two badly wrong while whistling and looking up at the ceiling, hoping no one would press me. But there were four that were weakly against me as well. That's just not 8 for 11.
In my defense, I will note that the remaining five were spectacularly correct. I told you that Oakland and St Louis would improve and they have. I told you that Cleveland, the Mets, and Miami would collapse and they have.
The big mistakes: I said the Red Sox would slightly improve, but they have been much worse. The pitching remains bad, and now their hitting is only average to boot. (Sox speculation below.) I said Pittsburgh would fall beneath the waves but they have done well. Their offense has been spectacular.
The middle four, neither correct nor incorrect are interesting. I predicted Baltimore would drop off but they have been only slightly worse, and remain in the pennant race. I predict again they will drop off. This can't last. I thought their other main competitor for the wild card, Tampa, would also decline, but they have improved. TB's hitting has been the same, but their pitching has been the best in baseball the last two months, by a healthy margin. Baltimore is cooked. I picked Arizona to improve, but they have stayed the same. I picked SF to revert to .500, but they have been slightly better than that and remain in the race. The scramble for the second WC in the NL is going to be interesting.
I bring all this up now, rather than in September, because the Red Sox have fired their pitching coach, which may show some recognition of what's happening. At last. It seemed a good time to mention again that how much the position players like Valentine is not very important. If his presence screws up pitchers' heads, that could be a factor. But I think that Varitek gone and McClure here have been bigger factors.