As we head into the thick of the presidential election season, we’ll be hearing plenty about electoral math – how certain swing states take on greater importance than other states due to the number of potential available delegates on the table- and “The Path To The White House,” and so on.
Allow me, then, to make a bit of a stretch comparison: If the AL East was the Electoral College, than the Boston Red Sox would be in a heap of trouble.
I get it – you look at the standings this morning and Boston is seven games above .500 and a good series sweep or two away from claiming back the division lead. They also happen to be a game up in the wild card race.
Not ideal, but not a bad position to be in either.
The problem, though, is in taking this 75-game sample size they’ve given us and translating it over the remainder of the season.
A point that has been driven home repeatedly this year is that the Red Sox have struggled against division opponents and excelled (this past week and its 4-6 slide against non-division foes not withstanding) against everyone else.
But what does that mean?
Frankly, it means there’s no “path to the postseason.”
Not without a monumental shift in the way this season is playing out.
In compiling a 41-34 record to this point, the club has gone .605 (26-17 to be exact) against non-division teams and they’ve gone an unsettling .468 (or 15-17) against the teams in the AL East.
Let’s play that out over the rest of the year (recognizing, of course, that injuries, trades, waivers, call-ups and the sheer randomness of baseball can veer any and all of this off course): If Boston holds the .605 non-division clip through its 43 remaining non-division games – it would stand to reason that they’ll win roughly 27 of those games.
If they continue along the .468 in-division pace through the 44 AL East games left, they’ll grab 21 more wins. That means 48 wins left in this season to add to the 41 wins they’ve already put in the books.
That’s roughly an 85-win season, which would have left the Red Sox a game out of the postseason last year.
There’s reason to believe it may not even be that close.
Let’s not consider, for a moment, the quickly unraveling bullpen and starting rotation, or the many injuries being incurred by the players out in the field and the increasing periods of rest for David Ortiz.
Instead, let’s look at the division-leading Orioles’ ‘Electoral Math.’
Baltimore has been pretty great across the board (and, just a side note here: without a true ace), winning 62 percent of its AL East contests and 66 percent against everyone else.
That’s paints a grim picture for any Boston division title hopes. Carried over the remainder of Baltimore’s 41 remaining division games and 44 non-division games, that would boost the Orioles to a 99-win season – roughly speaking.
For anyone counting, that puts the Red Sox 14 games or so out at the end of the regular season.
It’s only a four-game difference now, but given the Orioles’ much better performance in division, it stands to grow drastically (again, barring the unforeseen – and there always is the unforeseen).
So that effectively leaves it down to a race for one of the two wild-card spots.
While Boston holds the edge in the standings, Toronto seems to have the inside track.
Boston has played better against non-division teams (Toronto has gone .514 in 37 contests), but the Blue Jays are better against in-division at this point. And, they’ve played far fewer non-division opponents to this point, so that .514 percentage down the stretch should haul in roughly 27 wins – which is the same due for Boston.
Supposing everything held – and again, this is baseball, so it won’t – Toronto is on pace to finish the year with roughly 87 wins, or two ahead of Boston.
So, as of right now, the Red Sox are staring down a fight – in theory – for that final wild card spot. A spot they’ll be battling the likes of Kansas City, Houston, Seattle and maybe even the White Sox for.
That’s not to say they can’t rise to the top of that group. But with Houston and Seattle getting a glut of games against the Angels and A’s down the stretch – that’s a tough, tough draw.
Now, these are rough approximations. Baltimore and Toronto have both seen the weaker Rays and Yankees more than Boston has to this point. That could be skewing the percentages. Boston, though, is seeing attrition from key spots in its lineup and Steven Wright may be headed for the second-half slump we see out of pitchers with unique approaches their second and third times through the league. He struggles with moisture coupled with the hot summer ahead don’t seem to bode well.
These next four weeks or so could drastically re-shape the look of the franchise. Or, they could play the hand they’ve been dealt.
Either way, as it stands right now, there is no path to the postseason.
The math just isn’t there.