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One number that suggests playoffs will be a dogfight for the Red Sox

John Tomase
September 25, 2018 - 1:51 pm

Unless they sweep the final series from the Yankees, the Red Sox will finish the regular season with a losing record against the other American League playoff teams. Does this mean anything?

Yes and no.

The Red Sox are 17-19 against the Yankees, Astros, Indians, and A's. That's not the worst record amongst the AL playoff clubs. The Indians are 11-16 vs. the iron, followed by the A's (18-19), the Astros (22-18), and the Yankees (20-16).

The last club to win a World Series with a losing record in such games was the 2015 Royals, who went just 10-16 vs. the Astros, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Rangers before vanquishing the first two en route to a World Series win over the Mets.

Most clubs finish right around .500 in that regard, no matter how good their record, for obvious reasons -- they're measuring themselves against the best. The 1998 Yankees (22-12) and 2001 Mariners (21-14) are exceptions, but for the most part, even dominant teams haven't overwhelmed their league's other playoff squads during the Wild Card era.

Last year's Dodgers won 104 games but went 24-26 against the Nats, Cubs, Rockies, and D'Backs before losing the World Series. The 105-win Cardinals of 2004 lost a pretty popular World Series around these parts after going 16-14 against NL playoff clubs. The 106-win Braves of 1998 went just 12-15. The Curse-busting Cubs of 2016 won 103 games but still only managed to go 15-13.

For all their greatness as they've set a franchise record for wins with 106 and counting, the 2018 Red Sox have played the best teams no better than evenly. They're 3-4 vs. the Indians and Astros, 2-4 vs. the A's, and 9-7 vs. the Yankees.

If the Yankees sweep this weekend, the Red Sox will finish with a losing record against all four playoff rivals. The Royals proved three years ago that needn't be an impediment to winning it all, but if nothing else, it suggests the gap between the Red Sox and their postseason rivals isn't nearly as great as their overall records would suggest.