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Did anyone predict this level of success for the Red Sox? Let's go back and look ...

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 8, 2013 11:14 AM

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It's been inevitable for a while now, but the formal achievement is still worth celebrating.

It became evident long ago -- probably as early as that 18-8 start in April -- that the 2013 Red Sox would be better, so much better, than the Bobby Valentine-driven jalopy of 2012.

Well, now they are. Officially.

Thanks to your new favorite player Stephen Drew's go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning, the Red Sox beat the terrible-yet-pesky Astros Wednesday night, 7-5, for their 70th victory over the season.

You've done the math. We all have as the day grew nearer: The Red Sox now have one more win through 116 games this season than they had through all 162 a year ago.

There are roughly seven weeks remaining in the regular season. And it's already assured of being a better season than the last. A remarkable achievement in a thus-far remarkable season. Pretty nice bridge year, huh?

All right, I suppose I'll pause here to wave the obligatory caution flag: Enjoy the home-run trots, but don't consider them victory laps just yet. There's a long way to go, and it's a tough division, and ill-timed injuries to key players could still leave the Red Sox in the breakdown lane. Ah, hell, I could have just left it for Mazz to tell you at 2 p.m.

Of course, I don't expect a fall to happen, and at this point, neither do those yowling daily that it might. Barring catastrophe, this team is going to the postseason, and they may well be playing in October for a while.

But on the occasion of that 70th victory, with the fair promise of many more to come, I can't help but look back rather than ahead and ask a related question:

Did anyone expect this to happen?

I'm not asking rhetorically so much as I'm wondering whether anyone anywhere really did predict it. I had some faith -- I liked Ben Cherington's roster-building approach in the offseason and thought the Sox would be better than conventional wisdom suggested. But I didn't go so far as to predict this level of success.

The closest I came was when I wrote this in my Opening Day column:

If the majority of question marks end up having suitable answers � not an unreasonable request � this team does have a chance to be a pleasant surprise, not only a likable, rootable team but a good team.

drewstephen88finn.JPGTrue enough. But it's not exactly the equivalent of projecting a .603 winning percentage, either. The bets here were hedged, if not outright buried behind some really bad predictions. I had the Jays in the playoffs ahead of the Sox, for one thing. And I'm beginning to think that Nationals-Angels World Series I was so sure of in the Globe Baseball Preview section probably isn't happening this October.

Certain stats projections are pretty hit or miss, too. Two wins for John Lackey? Went with the over there. But I'm pretty sure Joel Hanrahan will fall short of 30 saves. And 12 wins for Clay Buchholz has gone from a May lock to a September wish.

Hey, I'm not alone here on Planet Underestimation. Three of seven Boston.com sports guys had the Sox in the playoffs -- all as a wild card -- and no one had them advancing to the ALCS.

Among my Globe colleagues who made predictions, only one of five had the Sox in the playoffs. That would be Chris Gasper, who wrote:

"If the O's could snag a wild card berth, why can't the Sox? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz restore their reputations."

Dan Shaughnessy picked the Jays to win the East, with this comment: "Why didn't they give me this team?" asks John Farrell.

Boston cynics doing their parade-soaking routine? Well, no, not really. The Red Sox didn't have many believers anywhere.

Of 43 ESPN experts -- go ahead, do the air quotes if you want -- just four picked the Red Sox to make the postseason: "Baseball Tonight" host Karl Ravech, "Sweet Spot" impresario Dave Schoenfield, ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald, and fantasy writer AJ Mass.

Former Red Sox did not believe in the current Red Sox. Curt Schilling left them out of the postseason. So did Alex Cora. Nomar Garciaparra gave the Yankees a wild-card nod, but not the Sox, while former Yankee Aaron Boone didn't believe in them, either.

Among seven prognosticators from "Sports Illustrated,'' exactly none foresaw the Sox in the playoffs. FanGraphs polled 30 of its writers for playoff picks; again, none had the Red Sox in the postseason. But 27 picked the Angels.

Baseball Prospectus's wisdom-of-the-crowds approach to predictions resulted in one writer among 42 -- my friend Matthew Kory, also of Over The Monster and Sports On Earth -- projecting a playoff berth for the Red Sox.

He actually had them winning the division, which was probably received by his peers as some combination of a pipe dream, wishful thinking, and flat-out insanity.

Now ... well, they have 70 wins. They are up 2.5 games in the division. They have 46 games remaining. The division title is possible. The playoffs are, according to Baseball Prospectus's own simulations, likely -- they have a 96.6 percent chance of making it as of this morning.

It looks like his prediction is on its way to realization. Who knows, maybe mine will head that way as well. See, back when we Boston.commers made out predictions, we were also asked to choose the World Series we'd like to see.

Me, I went with Red Sox-Dodgers. It sounded so improbable then. Now, 70 Red Sox wins later (not to mention a crazy run by the Dodgers), it's one more possibility in a season full of them.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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