It was way off, of course. It was against the grain to begin with, too, yet it needs explanation. And then we can put the 2018 Major League Baseball season to rest, for the most part—until the awards start being given away November 12, right?
Anyway, here’s the deal: The Boston Red Sox led the majors in runs scored, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were second in the majors in run prevention. On the way to the World Series, Boston knocked off the top team in run prevention, Houston, as the Astros were trying to repeat as champions.
Yes, the Red Sox got a huge assist from Umpire Joe West, but that was a small part of the overall American League Championship Series. It’s hard to repeat, and it’s even harder to do so without home-field advantage or decent umpiring. Either way, the Boston offense took the Houston pitching and defense to task in winning that series relatively easily.
Look at what the Red Sox did in eight postseason road games, as well: They beat the Yankees twice in New York, before beating the Astros three times in Houston. Then, they beat the Dodgers twice in three games in Los Angeles, the only loss coming in 18 innings.
The Boston bullpen, which posted a 3.72 ERA in the regular season, somehow managed to lower its ERA by a full run in the postseason (2.71 ERA). Meanwhile, the Dodgers starting pitching, which posted a 3.19 ERA in the regular season, saw its ERA rise to 4.02 in the October.
ERAs should naturally rise in the postseason, in truth: Arms get tired, and the offensive competition is better—on average—than what you’re going to face in the regular season over 162 games. So when numbers skew the opposite way, it always raises questions of how/why it happened.
The Dodgers were fifth in runs scored this year across MLB, and the Red Sox were eighth in run prevention. Usually, pitching wins in the postseason—and usually, it comes from the team that demonstrated the better ability to do so over 162 games. That did not happen in 2018, obviously.
As we pointed out in our prediction piece, the two teams were closely matched in run differential, with the Dodgers having an edge in strength of schedule. It looks as though that “strength” became a weakness in the World Series, as the Red Sox looked fresher and … healthier … than the Dodgers did.
(That makes sense: Boston played less-tense games to reach the Series, while the Dodgers had to play a 163rd regular-season game after overcoming a ton of injuries and then win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on the road. The Red Sox were better rested.)
Quite often enough to be the norm, too, a team that loses a marathon game in extra time during a playoff series—whether it’s baseball, basketball, or hockey—is deflated afterward and doesn’t perform well. That didn’t happen to the Red Sox, either, for some reason.
The Red Sox lost an 18-inning Game 3 and recovered from a 4-0 deficit late in Game 4. That was another thing that had not happened all season: The Dodgers were 54-0 when leading by four runs or more. That’s what Boston needed to win the Series.
Steve Pearce, the World Series MVP for the Red Sox, had one career postseason RBI prior to this October. He went 4-for-21 in the 2014 playoffs with the Baltimore Orioles. However, this postseason with Boston, Pearce had 11 hits in 38 at-bats with four home runs and 11 RBI. Over his 12 career as a journeyman in MLB, he has struck out twice as much as he has walked. But this October, he drew more walks than he struck out.
In the end, the Red Sox team bucked a lot of statistical trends to win its fourth World Series in 15 seasons. That usually is the case for any team that wins it all: They get extraordinary performances from ordinary players and/or they defy logic and statistical probability to steal wins.
For a team that couldn’t win anything from 1918 to 2003, it’s quite an achievement now to have won four World Series in such a short span of time. You have to wonder what the secret is that turned around the franchise’s fortunes.