BOSTON — You’re watching a second-tier offense.
When it comes to the Bronx Bombers, the Red Sox aren’t fighting fire with fire. They’re fighting fire with Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, and that’s working well enough.
But a playoff matchup for the Sox with the Astros (best slugging percentage in the majors, .484) or Yankees (third, .460) would not showcase offenses on equal footing. Those teams simply belong to another tier and the old adage that pitching and defense win championships isn’t exactly gospel.
Of course, they have to get to the playoffs first. The Rays unexpectedly have an outside shot — in no small part because they’ve hit 121 home runs, one fewer than the Yankees and five fewer than the pacesetting Astros.
The Red Sox have hit 78. Only two American League teams have a worse slugging percentage than the Red Sox’ .415.
The Sox can likely carry on with their current offense and at least make a wild card spot. It’s not a bad offense by any stretch. And the Sox might have the upper hand elsewhere.
The Astros probably need to acquire a starting pitcher, depending on the health of Lance McCullers and Dallas Keuchel. The Rays’ bullpen is a mess. The Yankees have had a variety of injuries, but also have a huge store of prospects to trade if they so choose.
The Sox have the majors’ fifth-best on-base percentage, .336, despite a crater in production at third base. Presumably, they’ll upgrade there in some way.
But even at that point, unless Hanley Ramirez gets going and Dustin Pedroia regains some power, the Sox’ hitting identity probably won’t change. They’re not going to out-muscle the very best in the league. They might out-pitch them.
The present formula is working, but make no mistake: it does not involve offense first and foremost.