All the talk around here about the Red Sox is how they're entertaining, fun and exciting . . . for now. That's an insult to them.
The Red Sox are for real. They're here to stay. And they can make it to the World Series.
As I write this, the Red Sox are tied with the White Sox for the second-best winning percentage in the American League. The five teams in the hunt for the playoffs along with Boston and Chicago are Baltimore, Texas and Seattle. Toronto is 5 1/2 games back in the American League East. The defending World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals, are also 5 1/2 back in the Central.
Boston is where it is because of an off-the-hook offense. The Sox lead the A.L. with a .298 average, and their 229 runs scored are 50 more than the second-place Rangers. Yes, we all know the team ERA isn't good -- 4.21 -- and it looks awful compared to the White Sox' league-leading 3.17. However, Chicago has scored 61 less runs than Boston.
My point is that if you can predict that the Red Sox bats will cool off, why can’t you predict their pitching will get better? I believe we've seen the worst of the Sox starting pitchers. By July I bet David Price’s ERA will be back in the threes and Eduardo Rodriguez will be firing away at his normal velocity of 97 mph. E-Rod will make another start at Pawtucket on Thursday after throwing 100 pitches Saturday, 71 for strikes, and allowing two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. He's improving with every start, which means he's more confident in his healing knee.
So with Price back on track and Rodriguez in the No. 2 spot, we have Rick Porcello -- who I told you would pitch well this year -- as a solid No. 3. Yes, his 3.11 ERA will go up. So will Steven Wright’s 2.36. But these guys are not going to fall off the table into Clay Buchholz territory.
(By the way, I don't have a positive prediction on Clay. His 6.11 ERA is what it is and no doubt the Sox are trying to move this guy. When he’s healthy, will Joe Kelley be any better? Well, he won’t be any worse.)
Now to the hitting. Why can’t Xander Bogaerts hit .330 for the season? Last year he hit .320 with 196 hits in 156 games and David Ortiz told the media that an opposing catcher raved about this guy at the plate. Of course, we would like to see Bogaerts hit for more power, but there's no doubt in my mind he's the hitter we are seeing right now and will be in the future.
Yes, Jackie Bradley Jr. (.331), Travis Shaw (.321) and Hanley Ramirez (.319) will cool off. However, I see Hanley’s power number going up when his average goes down. Ortiz is hitting .320, which is a number he will not maintain. But if he stayed around. .300, I wouldn't be surprised.
Of the five teams currently holding playoff spots, the Sox are as good as any of them. The concerns are Toronto, which is underachieving at the plate, and Kansas City, which is suffering from a World Series hangover. Will they right their ships? Probably. But even so, a postseason berth is certainly in Boston's grasp.
And the reason the Sox can get to the World Series is that anything can happen in the playoffs . . . as we saw in 2013. The key, of course, is Price, who has not done well in the postseason in his career. But he doesn’t have to dominate. All he has to do is not suck, and -- with these bats -- he'll give his team a chance to win.
Winning the Series is another story; the National League is loaded with powerhouse teams (Cubs, Nationals, Mets), any of whom will be tough to beat. But, Boston, your baseball team is really good.
I could be wrong. The Red Sox may not get to the World Series. But to think they can’t, or that they're not for real, is a mistake.
And for the first time since 2013, we're not spending the spring and early summer counting the days to Patriots training camp.