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Thursday, August 22, 2019

2018 Boston Red Sox among best teams in MLB expansion era

Red Sox champs

The Boston Red Sox on Sunday captured their ninth World Series title in franchise history and fourth since 2004. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the World Series, completing one of the most impressive postseason runs in the last few decades.

Though they might not have been as loaded with All-Stars as other teams, between their regular season and postseason success, the 2018 Boston Red Sox should be remembered as one of the best teams of the MLB expansion era.

Since all MLB teams began playing a 162-game regular season in 1962, only one team has won more regular season games and won the World Series — the 1998 New York Yankees, who won 114 games. The 1970 Baltimore Orioles, 1975 Cincinnati Reds, and 1986 New York Mets won the same amount of regular season games as the Red Sox — 108 — while winning the World Series. The ’70 Orioles went 7-1 in the postseason; the ’75 Reds needed seven games to win the World Series; and the ’86 Mets went 8-5 in the playoffs and needed help from Buckner to win it all.

This 2018 Boston Red Sox team went 108-54 (.667) in the regular season and 11-3 (.786) in the postseason. Their road to the World Series championship might have been the toughest we’ve seen.

Only seven times in MLB history have three teams won 100 games during the regular season. 2018 was one of those years, with all three teams coming in the AL (Houston Astros at 103 wins and New York Yankees at 100 wins). That means the Boston Red Sox had to navigate arguably the toughest playoff road ever just to reach the World Series. And they didn’t just navigate; they mowed through.

The Red Sox beat the Yankees in four games in the ALDS. That was a Yankee team that ranked second in the league (behind Boston) in runs scored during the regular season and had the reigning AL and NL MVPs in their lineup. Not only did Boston beat them in four games, closing the series on the road, but they also handed the Yankees their worst postseason loss in franchise history — an embarrassing 16-1 defeat in Game 3.

Next up, the Red Sox faced the defending World Series champion Astros. Houston had won 103 games in the regular season, were fresh off sweeping an excellent Indians team, and they had an extremely highly-regarded pitching staff. The Astros had the best team ERA in MLB at 3.11, 0.27 runs better than the second-place Dodgers. They were over half a run better than the next best team in the AL. Leading all of MLB despite being in the AL and having to face the DH is astounding. The Astros also had the most strikeouts and lowest batting average against.

Despite all that, Houston’s staff was no match for Boston’s hot hitting. After losing Game 1, Boston ripped off four straight wins over the Astros, lighting them up for 27 runs in those games (6.75 runs per game). They won three in a row in Houston and beat former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in the Game 5 clincher. They also won Game 3 8-2 that was started by Dallas Keuchel, another former Cy Young winner.

Then in the World Series, the Red Sox beat a heavily reinforced Dodgers squad (Dodgers made numerous mid-season trade acquisitions), smashing nearly every pitcher thrown their way. Their only loss came in a 3-2 heartbreaker in 18 innings in Game 3. They came back from down 4-0 in the 7th to win Game 4 and clinched it all by beating another former Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw.

Boston clinched all three series on the road, beating two Cy Young winners in those clinchers.

Few — if any — MLB teams have faced a tougher road in the playoffs, and not many have made it look easier. The Boston Red Sox led MLB in runs during the regular season, led the league with 108 wins in the regular season, and needed no more than five games to beat any of their three excellent playoff opponents. They went wire-to-wire as the best team in the league.

Along with the 1998 Yankees, the 2018 Red Sox are the best MLB team I’ve seen.



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