I’m analyzing the 2009 version of the greatest rivalry in baseball: the Yankees and Sad Sacks, er Red Sox. I’m not sure if a solar flare hit the earth, the Prime Mover took his eye off our spinning blue marble, or what, but the natural order of the Universe has been disrupted. The Red Sox winning championships and the Yankees consistently coming up second best? This is not acceptable and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s somehow responsible for this worldwide recession we’re currently undergoing. I can’t prove it yet, mind you (not for lack of trying), but I can’t help thinking these two tragic events are somehow connected.
What I can prove is that the planet has tilted back upon its proper axis and is spinning normally, again. The Yanks have signed the top three free agents on the market, possess a bustling bullpen of young, versatile power arms, and have several key contributors coming back from injuries (Posada, Wang, Matsui) while other Bombers are due for bounce back years (Swisher, Cano, A-Rod, Jeter). Yes, Crybaby Nation you can pretty much mark it down that the good old days of your Red Sox finishing second every year and finding ways to blow big games are back. The days of Bucky #@$#$ing Dent and Aaron #@$$ing Boone and the Curse of the Bambino are back to stay. Maybe you’ll win another one in 80 years.
It’s pretty clear that the dynasty days of the 90s have returned for the Yanks but, just for the sake of science, logic and pointy ears, I’ve done a statistical analysis of each player and compared them to their Beantown counterpart. I used an amalgam of the traditional stats, the newer sabermetric stuff, and the replacement level value stats, utilizing mostly baseballreference.com and fangraphs.com (love the fangraphs).
I gave a score out of 10 to each starting player, starting pitcher, and closer. The bench of each squad received a group grade out of 10 as did the setup men and the back of the bullpens. Add it up and surely we’ll see a huge gap between the Pinstripers and the Crybabies.
Matchup analysis after the jump:
Josh Beckett: 8 CC Sabathia: 9 – have to give the edge to CC on durability and ERA over the last 3 regular seasons but in the playoffs, this matchup flips with a potentially large edge to Beckett.
Matsuzaka: 7.5 Wang: 7 – I deducted a half point from the Wanger for his injury issues last year, though the rust shouldn’t affect him too much. Both these guys are prototypical innings eaters who rack up wins despite their differing stuff.
Lester: 7 Burnett: 7 – Lester looks better in the traditional stats 3.21 ERA to AJ’s 4+, but the advanced value stats actually show Burnett contributing 55 runs to Lester’s 50 (rounding). Both guys lose a point, Lester for his inexperience, Burnett for injury history.
Wakefield: 5 Joba: 6 – Polar opposites. The savvy veteran innings eating knuckleballer versus the young fireballer who’s never gone much over 100 innings. On talent and numbers, Joba’s an 8 but he loses two points for injuries, inexperience and questions re: his ability to last as a starter.
Penny/ Smoltz/ Bucholtz, etc.: 6 Hughes/ Aceves/ Giese, etc.: 4 – Much as I love Phil and believe he’ll be successful this year, statistically you have to be fair (though Bill James projected a low 3 ERA for the Phranchise).
Papelbon: 9 Rivera: 9 – Mo’s old, Papelbon is a closer not named Mariano Rivera, therefore they each lose a point.
Setup Men – Boston: 8 Yanks: 7.5 – Had to be somewhat arbitrary here. Too many numbers to crunch. Both teams have great options with Saito, Masterson, Bruney, Veras, Okajima, Marte, and Coke all putting up tremendous numbers. Slight edge to the Beantowners for a longer track record.
Back of the pen – Boston: 8 Yankees: 8 – Again, somewhat arbitrary, but from what I could tell about each system, they both have a wealth of young, versatile arms that can fill a variety of different roles.
Hmm, this might be a little closer than I thought. With the addition of Teixeira, though, surely the Yanks lineup will blow Boston out of the Charles River.
Posada: 6.5 Bard: 2 – Posada loses 2 points for injuries and age but if he can put together even an average dropoff year from 2007 this becomes the only huge mismatch in the rivalry.
Teixeira: 8 Youkilis: 7.5 – These guys are practically clones (151 OPS+ to 143). The only difference is that last year was the first season Youkilis really hit for power.
Pedroia: 8 Cano: 6.5 – Can Cano bounce back? Can Pedroia reproduce his monster year? Take 06-07 Cano versus 07-08 Pedroia and their wOBA’s are actually very similar.
Jeter: 7 Lowrie: 4.5 – Jury is still out on Lowrie, but most people like the kid. .326 wOBA last year is pretty poor but not awful from the SS position if he wields a good glove which he did last year. Jeter was actually improved defensively last year according to fangraphs (rated middle of the pack) though he dipped with the bat.
Lowell: 6 A-Rod: 9 – Injury questions subtract two points from Lowell.
Bay: 7.5 Swisher: 5.5 – Swisher needs to bounce back. Bay needs to learn how to field.
Ellsbury: 6 Damon: 7 – ½ point off for Damon’s age. Ellsbury loses runs at the plate but saved 17.5 runs in the field last year.
Drew: 7.5 Nady: 6.5 – they both produced a similar amount of value over replacement level last year, but Drew has the track record while Nady broke out.
Ortiz: 7 Matsui: 5 – Both of these guys lose two points for age and injuries.
Benches – Sox: 6.5 Yankees: 5 – Baldelli gives them the edge. He’s a nice super sub in the outfield and if stud prospect Lars Anderson progresses, he gives them young depth for injuries. I like Gardner for the Yanks, but there are too many questions.
The results: Yankees: 124, Sox: 121. Thank you very much, just as I sus… What!!!??? These teams are close! How can it be?? All kidding aside, I think we have to get used to the fact that the Red Sox are a really good team with an extremely well-run organization that is likely to give the Yanks a run to the wire each year. Oh, and you can throw the Rays in there, too… grumble. I guess this just makes it all the more interesting, right?
I guess my (absurdly long-winded) point is to say that, even though we’ve built a top squad here, the Sox and Rays are still neck-and-neck, and the era where we could rely on money and mojo to put the Beantowners in their place (irony ;-) is long gone. It should be a great season. We can’t take the playoffs for granted the way we used to, but we should glory in the epic battle of what should be a classic race for the A.L. East crowns.
No Red Sox fans were harmed in the writing of this article.
What do you guys think of my analysis? Am I off? Who really has the edge here, and is it bigger than I think it is?