I think 2018 will be the best year in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry since 2004. The two teams are playoff contenders, which hasn’t always been the case. The Red Sox have been inconsistent since ’04, loading teams up with risky free agent signings, resulting in two additional championships and three last place finishes. The Yankees spent years trying to get out from under their own terrible contracts, with everything coming together during their surprising ’09 championship season. Reflecting on the teams since 2004 is noteworthy 14 years later (ugh), because I believe Boston and New York will play one another in the postseason for the first time since that historic American League Championship Series.
The 2018 story of these two teams started in the offseason, when the Yankees made a splash by trading for slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees lineup was a surprising strength in 2017, with the emergence of Aaron Judge, and uniting the two large right-handed hitting right fielders was a power play move for the division title.
Boston responded by (eventually) adding J.D. Martinez in free agency, a move that essentially neutralizes the Stanton addition. While Stanton may be the better hitter (he is, stop freaking out, it’s April 10th), in terms of expected number of wins based on the impact of one bat, this was a great pick up for the Red Sox to keep a steady hold over the division.
The Red Sox and Yankees have only played 19 games combined this season, but it feels like a lot has happened. Essentially, the Red Sox are on fire and can’t seem to lose, while the Yankees are somehow .500 despite an awful start to the year by Stanton (3 for 28 with 16 strikeouts in his first home games), and an abundance of injuries.
I predicted the Red Sox would win the AL East in 2018, using the logic I mentioned above neutralizing the Martinez/Stanton acquisitions in terms of projected wins. Now the Red Sox are 8-1, and would be undefeated if not for one bad eighth inning, and New York looks like a mess. Yet my assessment has flipped. New York will win the AL East in 2018.
Baseball is all about expecting the unexpected, and hot starts are always overrated. Given their injuries and the slow start of Stanton, I’m more impressed with New York’s .500 record against the AL East than Boston’s 8-1 record against the two Florida baseball teams. Here’s a scary reality for Red Sox fans: the starting pitching will never be this good over any 10-game stretch this year, and Giancarlo Stanton will never look this bad.
I’m trying not to take anything away from the Red Sox, because they look excellent. Right now, their rotation might be the best in baseball. But ultimately, I think the rotation is also their weakness. Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and David Price will remain a tremendous trio at the top, but I don’t think the Red Sox will get close to the same production from their fourth and fifth starters this season–until they make a move at the trade deadline.
The Yankees have a better, deeper rotation, and a much better bullpen. They haven’t performed up the standards of the names on the back of their jerseys yet, but they’ve also only played 10 out of 162 games this season. There is a lot of baseball left for New York to play their type of baseball, and I believe they could win 90 games even without any production from Giancarlo Stanton. And when Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez do start hitting, the trio will be a challenge for the Boston rotation, which is primarily left-handed. That is a significant disadvantage for Boston in a seven-game series.
Returning to this three-game series, I like the Red Sox to continue their winning ways. The Yankees have to grab at least one win though, right?
Game 1: Luis Severino (2-0, 1.38 ERA) vs Chris Sale (0-0, 0.82 ERA)
Both pitchers have been tremendous, but the Red Sox need to be more cautious with Sale after he ran out of gas last year. Red Sox capitalize on the struggling Yankees bullpen and pull off a 5-3 victory.
Game 2: Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 2.92 ERA) vs David Price (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
The Yankees network recently praised the pitching of Price, though they incorrectly stated that he had only pitched one game this season. That ERA is very real, as Price has pitched 14 innings with 10 strikeouts and a remarkable 0.714 WHIP. I think his luck runs out, as Giancarlo Stanton breaks his slump (he’s 3 for 10 against Price with a double). Yankees win 4-2.
Game 3: TBD vs Rick Porcello (2-0, 2.84 ERA)
Never trust a TBD starting pitcher. I don’t trust Rick Porcello either, but the Red Sox win the series in a surprising 9-5 game.