Denizens of Red Sox Nation have been sounding the alarm for a couple of weeks now. But, even after all of the team’s success over the past decade, many such folks are apt to sound the alarm when Dustin Pedroia stubs his pinky toe or Jonathan Papelbon sneezes a little too loudly, so it’s always good to take these waves of panic with a grain (or seven) of salt. But here we are in late September, and the Red Sox have done little to stem the tide. Even Josh Beckett fell victim to the Olde Towne Team’s September malaise on Wednesday. Turns out, all the hand-wringing and theoretical (hopefully) Tobin Bridge jumping has been justified.
The Boston Red Sox, Or Americans, as they were once known, have played in September in 110 different seasons. Of them, in only six seasons did they score more runs per game than the 5.81 they are averaging this September. In two of those seasons — 1903 and 2004 — they won the World Series. That’s pretty much where the good news ends, as, for the month, the Sox are also allowing 6.48 runs per game. That total, should it hold up for the duration of the regular season, would be Boston’s worst runs allowed mark for September/October ever — by more than half a run per game (0.62 to be exact). And when you consider that this is a down season for offense, it gets just a bit more frightening.
The next four worst marks all came in seasons in which the Sox didn’t even have the faint whiff of a contender — 1932 (last place, .279 overall winning percentage), 1993 (5th place, .494), 1920 (5th place, .471) and 1923 (last place again, .401). Devout members of the Nation will remember 1932 as the single-worst season in Red Sox history. That year, the club went 43-111, for a vomit-inducing .279 winning percentage. The team had three players who compiled a WAR of 2.0 or better, and 36 who compiled a WAR of 0.7 or worse, including 18 players with a negative WAR.
The picture doesn’t get any rosier when you look at the team’s winning percentage this month. At a lowly .238, the only September/October on record that qualifies as worse is 1926, when the Sox closed out the season with a 4-18 record, good for an Olsen-sized .182 winning percentage. 1926 was — you guessed it — the second-worst season in Red Sox history, as the club finished 46-107.
But while few, if any, Red Sox fans were alive to witness those seasons, a much greater percentage of current Sox fans were around to witness the so-called 1978 collapse, and it has been referenced more than a few times this month. But lest we forget, that September wasn’t so much about the Red Sox collapsing as it was about the Yankees catching fire. The Red Sox went 15-15 in the lead up to the one-game playoff at Fenway, and 15-16 overall from September 1 on — good for a .484 winning percentage. That puts it towards the middle of the pack in terms of Red Sox finishes — the Sox had a worse end of season winning percentage in 42 other seasons.
Of course, it doesn’t need to end this way. The Red Sox still have six games left — three in the Bronx and three in Baltimore. The Yankees have little to play for at this juncture, and the Orioles are the Orioles. There’s still time to win five of six and end up with a September that blends in with a lot of other subpar-but-not-quite-tragic finishes — taking three of the final six would move them out of the five-worst September/October’s by winning percentage. They can do as well as the 22nd worst mark if they win out, though they need only go 4-2 to guarantee themselves at least one more game. And with Beckett, Jon Lester and Erik Bedard tentatively on tap to start four of the remaining six games, they may even put a dent in that worst-ever 6.48 runs allowed per game.
A team that finishes the season poorly won’t necessarily perform poorly in the playoffs, and should they reach October, a lot of the bleeding for the Red Sox will cease once John Lackey, Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland are all placed in some of Fenway Park’s many dark corners for a month-long time out. Still, the fears of Red Sox fans (and the giddiness of Boston haters) are justified — this has truly been a September to forget in Beantown.
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