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Bad omen for Red Sox? Not necessarily

Sep 30, 2009, 1:23 AM EDT

youkilis_090929.jpgAs bad as they’ve looked over the past five games, the Boston Red Sox are once again back in the playoffs, thanks to the Los Angeles Angels, who eliminated the Texas Rangers from contention on Tuesday night.

That’s a record seventh wild card berth for Boston, as well as its sixth playoff appearance in the last seven seasons. But after two championships since 2004, simply making the postseason is no longer good enough for Red Sox fans.

So after five straight losses – including a weekend sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees – there has got to be plenty of handwringing going on over at Red Sox Nation headquarters. The good feelings of a hot September start have faded during a 5-8 run that could have been even worse if not for a three-game sweep of the pathetic Orioles.

In light of the current losing streak, is there reason for worry in Boston? Is the recent swoon a sign of terrible things to come?

Not necessarily.

According to some research by blogger Lisa Swan at The Faster Times, a hot run in September has little bearing on what happens in October. Also, a fade at the end of the regular season does not spell doom in the postseason.

Ever since three Wild Card teams in a row – the 2002 Angels, the 2003 Marlins, and the 2004 Red Sox – won the World Series after sizzling Septembers, people have thought that ending the season on a hot streak is the key to postseason success. Only thing is, it’s not often the case.

True, going on a run down the stretch – like the 2007 Rockies did, when they went 21-8 over the last month of the regular season – will frequently catapult a team into the playoffs. But it doesn’t necessarily increase the likelihood of postseason success.

Swan looked at the results of all 72 playoff teams from 2000-08, and found that of the 10 teams that won more than 70 percent of their regular season games in September and October, only the 2007 Rockies made it was far as the World Series, and they were swept by the Red Sox. Only four of the 10 even made it past the first round.

On the other hand, during the same stretch there were six playoff teams that finished with a losing record down the stretch. Four of those teams made it the World Series, and the 2006 Cardinals and 2000 Yankees took home the big trophy.

After Tuesday night’s loss, the Red Sox are 15-12 in September, a perfectly fine .555 winning percentage. Sure, there are concerns, primarily on the pitching side of things. Josh Beckett’s back might be ailing him, Jon Lester is recovering from taking a liner off his knee, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden don’t appear to be ready for prime time, and Dice-K is – well, who knows what you’ll get from Dice-K.

But now is not the time to be worried, Red Sox fans, as a September swoon has little bearing on what happens in October. Just take a cue from your ever-calm manager:

“We don’t really look at it like that,” Francona said. “Whatever happened nine days ago is not going to affect tomorrow. What we’re thinking about is today.”

  1. riscifiguy - Sep 30, 2009 at 7:35 AM

    Yeah Yeah they’re swilling Champane while the fans are chuging burobon straight from the bottle after watching them drop game after game.
    It’s like the other team knows what pitch is coming!

  2. Joey B - Sep 30, 2009 at 8:42 AM

    There are two sides to every coin. The team playing well could be playing well, or they could be buring out their players, kind of like NYY and CL in 2007. The team playing badly could have players injured, or playing bad. Or they could just be resting, re-charging their batteries, or just having their pitchers working on particular pitches. In many ways, it’s like trying to build your roto team based on ST results.
    If it were me, I’d be lining up my pitching, and nothing else. The Tigers either line up a rested Verlander twice v the NYY, or they go home.

  3. H R Coursen - Sep 30, 2009 at 9:26 AM

    What should concern Red Sox fans is that the team looks like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys when they are away from Fenway. They will have to win a game or two in Never Never Land to make it past the first round of the playoffs.

  4. Pat Gray - Sep 30, 2009 at 10:01 AM

    That darn Youkilis makes me very nervous. They need to get rid of him.

  5. XTrust_No1X - Sep 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM

    How can the Baaston Redsux celebrate, they backed into the playoffs(as usual)with even winning a crucial game, and even most recently being swept right out of the $1.5 Billion Shrine in the Bronx. But, if that’s the way the Baaston Redsux and their fans enjoy getting into the playoffs, well, what more can be said?

  6. Tommy - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    Why wouldn’t they back into the playoffs? The numbers were heavily in their favor.. I watched the yankees/sox series.. the Yankees brought out all of their big guns, while the sox didn’t. So the Yankees risked injury to their tragically overpaid players for what? They had the divison in the bag.. there was no worry, why not rest your players and get ready for the post season if it’s a lock? Seems like the Sox have been pretty successful in the past 10 years in the post season.. where have the Yankees been?

  7. Paul Sousa - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:31 PM

    “If that’s how they enjoy getting in the playoffs”?
    What are you in little league?
    Red Sox have been putting out a spring training lineup for the last week. They knew it was the wild card and not even a Yankee/Mets collapse could’ve kept them out.
    Hopefully for Joba they get Minnesota (no mosquitoes, gnats, flying squirrels, etc.)
    Oh yeah, if you’re not from the tri-state area and you call yourself a Yankee fan – don’t. You were just a kid with low self esteem who had to try to align yourself with a winner to feel better about yourself.

  8. Joey B - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    LOL! Here I thought we got in due to our record. I wasn’t aware that you had to 94 games in some predetermined order.

  9. Joey B - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM

    Not for nothing, but you are aware that we have the 3rd best road record in the league, right? I’m not sure that having the 2nd best home record, and only the 3rd best road record is all that big a dichotomy or all that big a disadvantage.

  10. ed1035 - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    If you are a pennant guy so be it. It is the World Series that counts now not the past.
    Now comes the presuure and choke time.
    It all starts 0-0.
    Forget how many wins in the season that is history.
    Now is where it counts!
    It is like you are starting all over.
    Can you feel the pressure?

  11. SoxFan79 - Sep 30, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    Wait, did someone actually suggest getting rid of Youkilis? Seriously?! He has the highest batting average on the team (.305), the highest slugging percentage on the team (.551), and the 2nd highest OBP in the entire AL (.414). And he also happens to play gold glove caliber defense at 2 positions (1 error all season).

  12. Fecteau - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    Yeah, I hear you! I was flipping out when Bowden allowed 7 runs in 3 innings, at home, against the friggen Blue Jays… Then Clay gets schellacked.. Oh, these two are the future of the team? I may need to get some night vision goggles if that’s the case!

  13. Fecteau - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    Pat Gray you need to step away from the wacky tobacky! Youk has been the Boston Red Sox MVP this year, only Bay had better offensive #s (but struck out a lot too and had crappy batting average) Youk is the future offence of the team, not Pedroia and Ellsbury

  14. ladyfan - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    Gentlemen, gentlemen, please! back to your corners! Texas was never going to win the wild card and we all knew that, and the Sox are doing what the Sox always do . . . .playing the percentages. Players who need rest are getting rest. Pitchers who need to work on specific issues are trying to get that work in as best they can in the course of the remaining regular season games. We have arguably the best manager in all of baseball, and an ownership that is not afraid to make whatever moves are necessary. We have not come this far to embarrass ourselves in the post season, have some faith! These last few losses have not been pleasant for us to watch, but they were not necessary for us to win. Keep in mind that an over-exhausted or seriously injured player or players could ruin any chance of winning the WS.
    Remember – it’s not about how you fight your battles. . . .it’s about being the last man standing.
    That is going to be us . . . Red Sox Nation.

  15. Johnny - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    “Seems like the Sox have been pretty successful in the past 10 years in the post season.. where have the Yankees been?”
    Ummm… where they have been is:
    *Division winner 9 or 10 years
    *Playoffs 9 of 10 years
    *World Champions 2 years
    Not too shabby… eh?

  16. Fanamine - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    If only you had said that without being a whiny, peepee-eyed, envious, rationalizing, name-calling, second-is-better-than-first, little crybaby, then I would say you go girl.

  17. Chris - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    Actually, in the post season for the past 10 years (going back to 2000), the Yanks & Sox have each had 8 series wins (Red Sox-4xALDS, 2xALCS & 2xWS – Yankees-4xALDS, 3xALCS & 1xWS). Not trying to be picky, but the two teams have been pretty even over the past ten years.

  18. Bruno - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    Yeah, now is where is counts,.. except now the RS are getting smacked around but the B-Jays.
    The RS, I’m sure don’t feel the presure, .. they’d have to have a pulse in order to feel anything.

  19. fanamine - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    Good for you to rationally support your team. You do realize that the games must be played before you anoint yourselves the champs. There are 3 other teams who will do their best to take the prize. We no longer can say, “May the best team win.” In a pure world that would mean no wildcards. We have become a society who rewards failure.

  20. Lee Daniels - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    right Ladyfan, it all starts in Oct. then it counts

  21. Paul Anderson - Sep 30, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Ya know I liked it better when the Red Sox lost. It happened for an entire lifetime for me and I was still happy to be a fan. Fenway is still the best park to watch a game in of any sport. Small field, big time playing. The idea of them having to win a World Series every year is for the fair weather fans that joined us after the first ring. Sure I want a series as well as the next guy. Sheesh… maybe I should become a Cubbies fan :-)

  22. Chris - Sep 30, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    True that. The Sox (and their fans) should pray nightly to the gods of MLB for creating the WC. Without it, they would have only made it to the post season in 2007. Seems like they have trouble competing over the length of a 162 game schedule. They must get tired.

  23. fanamine - Sep 30, 2009 at 3:20 PM

    Paul, even though there were many lost chances, the Sox always fielded a quality offense. Their pitching was their Achilles Heel for many seasons. Enjoy the successes. You never know if it will come again.

  24. ladyfan - Sep 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

    Well you have a point, fanamine. We have too many “divisions”, and the teams in each division are woefully divergent when it comes to money, management, and wins. To my mind, it’s a completely illogical system and could use a complete overhaul, starting with having the same rules for the National and American leagues, and including a good shakeup of which teams are in which division – 18 games per year against the same old opponents has gotten way past boring. But if I get going on all the things that are wrong with the present league structure, everyone will fall asleep trying to read this.
    We have to work within the system we have now, and fortunately for Red Sox Nation there IS a wild card, or we might have had to wait another lifetime!
    May I just say though, not meaning to offend anyone, that if the Sox make it past the excellent Angels, our opponent for the World Series comes from the Central Division. Detroit and Minneapolis are both worthy teams with fans who have been hard hit by this depression we are supposedly not having, and they have good, hard-playing baseball teams – I would love to see one of those cities get the economic boost hosting World Series games would provide.
    And yes, I realize I have made an enemy of every Yankee fan reading this, but we lifetime members of Red Sox Nation are used to that . . .we can take it.

  25. Harry - Sep 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM

    Hm. I love the endless implication that the Yankees “buy their team”. Well, yeah, they do – by not really taking a profit on much of anything. The Steinbrenners have enough money from Cablevision; the Yankees’ function is to win. Which is why they’ve done it, more than any other American sports team. It’s also why all the money goes back into the team. My team wants to win, more than anything. And….they do.
    And ladyfan, that made no sense; I think (though I’m not sure) that you meant that you hope the PENNANT series opponent comes from the Central. That’s unlikely, but not impossible, I admit. Never is. But you also seem to be assuming that you’ll get through the Angels with that pitching you’ve had lately, and that is in no way a given.
    I kind of hope it does happen; we’ve had more trouble with the Angels than with Boston since the break.

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