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Friday, July 13, 2012

Will "The Cavalry" Help Lead Red Sox to October Baseball?

BOSTON, MA - JULY 09: Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of th...
There's no doubt Jacoby Ellsbury is a game-changer, but can his and others' presence lead the Red Sox to October baseball? (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Because of the way this season has played out in the first half, we have been forced to place every ounce of our hope on "the cavalry" returning, as Bobby Valentine likes to call it. The return of prominent Red Sox players begins tonight in Tampa Bay when Jacoby Ellsbury makes his way into the lineup for just the eighth time in 87 games this season, but will his return and others be enough to carry Boston to relevance in the second half?

According to Gordon Edes' story this morning, Boston has used the disabled list 23 times for 20 players in this disastrous season. With that amount of players suffering injuries, it's no surprise that the Red Sox have struggled to gain anything in the way of consistency. At this point, with less than half the season remaining, is there still time to march back up the AL East ranks with some fresh returning faces?

Obviously, if Jacoby Ellsbury returns to the MVP caliber player we had the pleasure of watching last season, Boston's lineup will be in much better shape than it has been to date. A dynamic leadoff hitter of his abilities can completely transform a teams offense. We saw how the run-producers carried the way at times last season, so can they do it again?

In order for Boston to win 90 games, they must play to a 47-29 record the rest of the way. That's a .617 winning percentage, .117 points higher than they have played through the first 86 games of the season. Is it possible? Of course. Likely? I'm not so sure. Can you see this team right now winning 3 out of every 5 games for the rest of the year?

The offense has help on the way with Ells and eventually Dustin Pedroia and possibly Carl Crawford (I know, we're speaking theoretically), but can the bats overcome the increasingly mediocre starting pitching employed by the Red Sox thus far?

Clay Buchholz is set to return this week, but he didn't make a huge effect on the team while he was healthy and we know he's a slow starter, so it may take him a couple to get to form. Boston doesn't have a couple starts, the time for patience has passed. The only way the Red Sox make the postseason is if good things happen now.

Winning 90 games should be enough to get the Sox a playoff spot, but it's far from a realistic expectation with the way this team has played. The cavalry can only do so much before the guys that have been around have to step up and be productive.

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz will have a profound effect on the success in the second half. Returning players like Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Andrew Bailey will help improve areas that have been lacking, but there is no help on the way for starting pitching and that's where this season will be won or lost.

I'll continue to root for the Red Sox, win, lose or draw, but my expectations for this season are realistic. I have a hard time picturing a run at the postseason with the dynamic of issues surrounding the team. The cavalry should help the Sox play good ball for the remainder, but don't expect them to carry the team to October baseball.


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