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With an intimidating starting pitching staff and excellent defense, the Red Sox stand a good chance at winning this year's World Series

October 02, 2017

This is not the wall-banging Red Sox bunch of yesteryear, the one that led the AL in slugging percentage (.461) as well as batting average (.282) and on-base percentage (.348) in 2016. In the wake of David Ortiz's retirement, this year's bunch ranked 14th in slugging (.407) and dead last in home runs (167), though four player—Mookie Betts (24 HR), Hanley Ramirez (23), Mitch Moreland (22) and Andrew Benintendi (20) — still hit at least 20. According to Tom Verducci, none of the last seven champions finished among the majors' top five in homers.

The Sox do get on base enough (.330 OBP) to rank sixth in the league in scoring (4.86 runs per game), but they're a better team when it comes to run prevention. In Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, they have an excellent one-two punch in the rotation, albeit not the one that they anticipated on a roster that included 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price and 2016 winner Rick Porcello. Price's elbow issues limited him to just 11 starts and  have consigned him to the bullpen for September and October, but the early returns are excellent: four appearances, 7 2/3 innings, 11 strikeouts and just four baserunners. He'll augment a bullpen that ranks second in  the AL in ERA (3.10) and features the league's top closer in Craig Kimbrel, owner of a 1.43 ERA, 16.4 strikeouts per nine, and a 9.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his last 23 games, he's whiffed 45 of 89 batters while allowing just three runs.

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