There isn’t a better topic to get us back into writing about baseball than the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. Both teams made significant splashes during the off-season and brought in new managers. It’s a two-team race and the Red Sox are trying to win the American League East for the third straight year.
I believe the division title will come down to the starting rotations of both teams. Offensively, the Yanks add Giancarlo Stanton to an offense that scored the second most runs (858) in the American League. Stanton comes to New York off a career season (59 home runs) to a team that led the American League in home runs (241). There is no question that the Yankees will have a top three offense in baseball but fans should not expect there offense to be the reason they win the division. Last season, the Red Sox ranked sixth in the A.L. in runs scored (785) and last in home runs (168). If the Red Sox were able to win the division in a season where their offense was below average, they should have a good shot to win the division adding J.D. Martinez to rejuvenate their offense. Both teams should have top 5 offenses in the A.L. but the offense won’t be the deciding factor.
I also believe the two bullpens are a wash when comparing the two teams. Last season, the Yankees led the A.L. in bullpen ERA (2.67) and had a K/9 of 12.09. The Red Sox bullpen was third with an ERA of 2.73 and K/9 of 10.56. Both teams have multiple power arms and guys who can get both lefties and righties out.
So let’s look at the starting rotations. The Yankees return everyone from a year ago. They are led by a 24-year-old ace who is coming off his first full big-league season in which he finished third in the CY voting. Severino threw 193.1 innings last year and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back after a full season, but I would expect Severino to have a similar season as last year. His ability to strike hitters out (10.7 K/9) allows him to work out of trouble. C.C. Sabathia is coming off a fantastic season in which he had his lowest ERA (3.69) since 2012. With Sabathia, the question is always going to be health as he is entering his 18th season in the league. Sonny Gray was not the pitcher the Yankees thought they were acquiring as he went 4-7 in 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. Gray has not looked like the pitcher that went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in the playoffs over the past 2 seasons. Jordan Montgomery is coming off a rookie season in which he made 29 starts and gave the Yankees valuable innings. Montgomery is a left-hander sinker-ball pitcher and I think he could make a big jump this season. The X factor for the Yankees is Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka had such a confusing season because he had his worst season in the big leagues. He went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA. It was weird because Tanaka had the highest K/9 (9.8) of his career but the strikeouts did not lead to success. Tanaka had 9 games where he gave up at least 5 runs. In the post-season, Tanaka looked like a different pitcher as he threw 20 innings and had a 0.90 ERA. If the Yankees get post-season Tanaka or anything close to that, they will have a good chance to win the division.
As with the Yankees, the Red Sox return their whole rotation as well. Chris Sale is coming off his first season with the Red Sox and it was a dominant season (2nd in the CY). Sale was dominant for most of the season, but it looked like the tall lefty was fatigued in September. Opponent batting averages were the following: April (.177), May (.215), June (.205), July (.167). August (.217), and September/October (.272). Sale was just not as sharp as he was earlier in the season and it might be in the team’s best interest to try to give Sale as much rest as possible early in the season. Rick Porcello followed up his CY in 2016 with an 11-17 season in which Porcello saw his FIP raise 1.20 from the previous season to 4.60. Either Porcello ran into bad luck last year or the 2017 Porcello is more like the real Porcello than the one that won the CY in 2016. Drew Pomeranz provided the Red Sox with a much-needed top of the rotation arm as the lefty made 32 starts and went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Unfortunately, 2018 is not off to a good start as Pomeranz will likely start the season on the DL with an elbow strain. Another pitcher recovering from an injury is Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod is coming off off-season knee surgery but there is a good chance he starts the season in the rotation. The wild card for the Red Sox rotation is David Price. Price missed almost all of the second half with an elbow strain until returning to pitch extremely well out of the bullpen in October. Price is only two years removed from finishing second in the CY. Price’s time in Boston has been interesting but if he is healthy, it will be fun to watch Sale and Price at the top of the rotation.
The best rivalry in baseball should heat up as both teams are stacked with stars and young talent. There hasn’t been this much excitement between these two teams since the 2004 post-season. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably pick the Yankees to win the division, but a case can be made for both teams. Let the games begin.