Breaking Down Sox vs. Yanks

So, since I’m bored at work and I have baseball on my mind, I decided to take a deeper look into the Red Sox vs. the Yankees this year. Why exactly have the Red Sox gone undefeated? It must be a statistical fluke, right? Anything can happen in a small sample size? After all, even though the Sox have beaten the Yankees in every match-up thus far, they are only up one game. Sure, anything can happen in 7 games. However, the Red Sox are playing right at their Pythagorean, while the Yankees are 2 games ahead of it.* So maybe the Sox should be 3 games up. But still, that’s no excuse. So I decided I’m going to break down the teams by position. Maybe I’ll do this periodically as the season progresses.

*Also of note, the Sox are 19-8 against the AL East, which is the best division in baseball, while the Yankees are 12-15. I’m not what this means, but I think the Red Sox are very good.

First Base: This is an excellent head to head matchup. Rob Neyer mentioned it in his blog, but it’s worth pointing that between Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, and Justin Morneau, there’s a heck of a battle for title of best First baseman in the AL, and best human first baseman in the MLB.* The stats don’t say much, since they’re both awesome. They are both good with the glove too. Youkilis might get the slight edge, since he can play third (and play it well) in a pinch, but there’s not much to choose. If this was based on contracts, Youkilis is more efficient, but since we’re talking about on the field performance, this one is a wash. Edge: Draw.

*Albert Pujols, of course, is a baseball-playing android designed by Soviet scientists to be the perfect hitting machine.

Second Base: Another close one, as Pedroia and Cano have OPS+’s of 110 and 108 respectively, with Pedroia’s big advantage in OBP largely offset by his relatively anemic power production compared to Cano. Pedroia’s reputation of being better with the glove is largely undeserved, as he and Cano both saved only about 3 runs in 2008. Still, I think OBP is more important than Slugging, so I have to give the MVP a slight edge here. Slight Edge: Red Sox.

Shortstop: No contest here, as Derek Jeter blows away the pu-pu platter of Sox Shortstops. Even his terrible defense isn’t a liability, as the Sox have been even worse. Big Edge: Yankees.

Third Base: Lowell just keeps producing, as his .296/.331/.509 is good for a 111 OPS+. He’s still a very good to excellent defender, as he saved 17.6 runs in 2008 and looks to be continuing that pace this year. Alex Rodriguez missed time with a hip injury, but has put up a 132 OPS+, despite hitting only .231, thanks to a lot of walks and power. Rodriguez is not a good defender, but he contributes too much with the bat to hold that against him. Lowell’s edge with the glove won’t overcome A-Rod being one of the best hitters ever. Edge: Yankees.

Left Field: Jason Bay has been awesome this year, hitting 16 homers with an OBP of .402. After Youkilis, he’s been the most productive hitter on the squad. Johnny Damon has had a nice year as well, hitting 13 homers in Coors Field East. Damon has a massive edge in fielding, despite the poor arm, but it isn’t enough to overcome Bay’s production at the Plate. Edge: Red Sox

Center Field: Possibly the weakest position on each team, as the combination of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera goes head to head with Tacoby Bellsbury. Ellsbury may have the slightest of advantages with the glove (at least over Cabrera), but his sparkling 83 OPS+ and .370 Slugging% wipes that clean off the board. Gardner isn’t much with the stick either, but Cabrera is pretty good, and combined with the speedy Gardner as a late inning defensive replacement has to give the Yankees the edge here. Edge: Yankees.

Right Field: The white Nick Swisher goes head-to-head with the really white J.D. Drew here. Both are sub-average fielders, but Swisher has a reputation as a “gamer,” while J.D. has to be rebooted around the 5th inning. Swisher has been better at the plate this year, but he’s playing above his head, while J.D. is having a pretty typical, solid year. I’d take Drew, except he’s going to get hurt at some point. Edge: Draw.

Catcher: The perennial battle between Jorge Posada and the exhumed corpse of Jason Varitek continues. Varitek can’t seem to hit the ball, but when he does, he’s been hitting for power. Posada has an OPS+ of over 150, which is very good. Neither has as much as they did in the field, but Varitek can’t throw anyone out right now. I’m glad he’s not as dead as he was last year, but he’s still not as good as Posada. Edge: Yankees.

Designated Hitter: Oy. David Ortiz’ struggles have been well-documented, while Hideki Matsui has been pretty bad too. Both teams will be looking for help here before they get set for the stretch run. Edge: Draw.

Bench: Oy again. I don’t know if there are good benches in the majors these days, but they aren’t here. Baldelli vs. Gardner? Kottaras vs. Molina? Jeff Bailey? Cody Ransom? Someone will get a big hit in a tough spot, but it will be by accident. Edge: Draw.

Starting Rotation: Two pretty similar rotations. Beckett and Sabathia have been good, Wakefield and Chamberlain have been OK, and everyone else is just not good. Lester is coming on, but he has a ways to go. Wang and Dice-K have been horrendous. Penny and Burnett? Meh. The Red Sox have a few bullets in the chamber with Buchholz and Smoltz, but right now these two rotations’ best days are ahead of them. I’ll give the edge to the Red Sox, because Lester is getting back on track, and Matsuzaka is closer than Wang. Slight Edge: Red Sox

Relief Pitching: The Red Sox easily have the best bullpen in the Majors. How good is it? Right now, every member except Javier Lopez would have a PB rating of 2-7 or better in Statis-Pro Baseball, with 5 guys getting the coveted 2-9. This doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it means they don’t give up very many runs. Papelbon has been worrying at times, but Okajima and Ramirez have been awesome. The Yankees? Well, Brian Bruney pitched pretty well before he got hurt. And Rivera’s still pretty OK. Huge Edge: Red Sox.

Offense: The Yankees have scored about 20 more runs, but it seems like the New Stadium may be even more of a hitters’ park than Fenway. The Yankees lineup has been better, though, and unless the Red Sox start getting more production from Ortiz and their shortstops, they won’t be able to out bomb the Bombers. Edge: Yankees.

Pitching: The Sox have allowed 40 fewer runs than the Yankees. Their rotation is marginally better, their bullpen is way better, and their backlog of pitchers is better. If the Sox are going to win the division, they’ll have to do it with their arms. Big Edge: Red Sox.

Fielding: The great X-factor. Neither team is going to set the world on fire. Lowell, Youkilis, and Teixeira are all legitimately good fielders. Ellsbury and Gardner can track down some flies, as can Damon. Both teams have little to no range at short, and ok defensive second basemen. The right field arms are pretty good. Very blah. Edge: Draw.

Managers: Francona still drives me crazy with his relief pitching decisions, but other than that he’s been great. Girardi? He was likely going to be fired if the Yankees didn’t improve. I’ll take Francona. Edge: Red Sox.

Overall Edge: Red Sox, on the strength of their pitching.

So there you have it. There’s no way the Red Sox are good enough to beat the Yankees like they have been without some major luck. I wouldn’t be shocked if they split the rest of the season series, or the Red Sox went 7-5 or so. These are two very good teams, and it’s going to be one heck of a race.

5 Responses to “Breaking Down Sox vs. Yanks”

  1. I hope your wrong and the Red Sox go 19-0 against the Yankees this year. I think Pedroia gets the edge over Cano because Cano is a poor fielder and generally unaware. As we saw last night, Pedroia had that HUGE backup on Kottaras’ errant throw to second in the 9th. Cano wouldn’t have been there. I don’t know a stat which accounts for stuff like that.

    Why do you count OBP ahead of SLG?

  2. sara rose Says:

    I agree with dan about cano and pedroia. Cano may be a good fielder, but that’s only when he exerts himself, which is rare. He reminds me of the kid on the little league team who gets put in the outfield and picks flowers instead of paying attention.

  3. fieldingmellish Says:

    I was as shocked as you guys, but if Cano is saving 3.1 total runs a year and he’s a spaceshot, what does that say about Pedroia saving 2.9 runs a year if he’s alert on every play? I love Pedroia, and maybe I need to find different stats, but from what I’m looking at, he’s just an average second baseman. I’ll look at his FRAA and UZR and post the results, but I’m not convinced Pedroia is as good as his rep yet.

  4. Yeah, I don’t think MadTV is very funny.

  5. Oh wait, I mean baseball. Boo Jets!

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