Want proof that the Boston Red Sox lineup is superior to that of the Tampa Bay Rays? Here’s the main thing you need to know: Tampa only has one hitter whose average is over .293 (that would be first baseman James Loney at .299). Boston has five such hitters: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino.
Boston’s offensive advantage doesn’t end at batting average, either. The Sox have the advantage in slugging percentage (.446 to .408), home runs (178 to 168), stolen bases (123 to 73, a number admittedly inflated by Ellsbury’s 52 steals), and runs (853 to 700).
If Tampa wants to win this series, they will not be able to do it by out-slugging Boston. It just won’t happen.
Looking beyond the stats, Boston simply has more hitters who have playoff experience and strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers who have to face them in crucial situations. Does David Price, Matt Moore or Roberto Hernandez want to have anything to do with Big Papi in a crunch-time at-bat?
Does any pitcher in the AL want to face Napoli after the way he’s been burning down the mountain with his performance over the past month-plus (.333 with eight home runs and a ridiculous .714 slugging average since August 24)? The Rays have a decent offensive attack of their own, and Evan Longoria actually has more home runs (32) than Papi (30). But any way you slice it, the Red Sox lineup is simply better on paper.
As we know, however, these series aren’t played on paper. It’s the playoffs; anything can happen. I know I’ll be refreshing my browser on Friday afternoon for game updates.