The baseball postseason, even more so than postseasons across the major sports due to the short length of the playoff series compared to the marathon regular season, is an elaborate crapshoot. Sometimes clubs in the playoffs are able to live up to their regular-season billing, but without sufficient enough repetitions in the postseason so that the cream will eventually rise to the top, there will be cases when the best regular-season team struggles in the playoffs. What we are witnessing in the ALCS is one such example of how an excellent offense can punch below their weight in the small sample size of the postseason.
While the performance of the Boston Red Sox offense in Game 4 of the ALCS was not as middling as in the earlier contests of the series, neither did the hitters' production match the reputation they spent 162 games building. Scoring three runs is decent, but not representative of what was the best offense in the major leagues during the regular season. The three runs also proved to be too little to overcome the seven runs given up by the Red Sox pitching staff during Wednesday night's contest.
The biggest problem for the Red Sox in Game 4, and what kept them from scoring more runs, was not the lack of hits that had plagued them in Games 1 and 3, but rather when the hits arrived for the club. For the game, the Red Sox hit safely 12 times, three more than the Tigers, and ended the game with an above-average hitting line of .308 BA/.325 OBP/.462 SLG with a .340 wOBA, putting themselves in favorable positions to score more runs.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the hitters sprinkled those 12 hits too frugally throughout the contest. In eight of the nine innings, the Red Sox got at least one hit, which would suggest that the team was experiencing great success against the Detroit Tigers pitching. However, the Red Sox only recorded multiple hits in three of those eight innings and failed to bunch up their hits to maximize their run-scoring potential; not coincidentally, the three innings in which the Red Sox had multiple hits are the three innings in which they did all of their scoring.
Had the Red Sox struck out less-they ended the game with a strikeout percentage of 25.0 percent-and given themselves more opportunities to put the ball in play against one of the least defensive efficient teams in the major leagues, perhaps more hits and more runs would have been forthcoming against Doug Fister, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Drew Smyly, and Joaquin Benoit.
The Detroit Tigers experienced no such difficulties in combining the majority of their productive offensive efforts into a couple of innings and benefited from doing so by scoring all seven of their runs in two innings. During the second inning, in which Red Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy was his own worst enemy, the Tigers had three hits and drew three walks en route to scoring five runs and basically putting the game away. The fourth inning, again while facing the overmatched Peavy, saw the Tigers hitters combine for three hits and a stolen base to score an additional two runs.
No team can choose when the hits and walks will come nor can one order them up at will, and the positive offensive outcomes just arrived at more advantageous times for the Tigers on Wednesday than they did for the Red Sox. When and where future hits and walks make an appearance will determine which club ends up going to the World Series.