2011 Yanks Vs. 2011 Sox: The Tale Of The Tape

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Fans and Opinions, Major League Baseball

By Phil Bausk

It’s funny how things have changed in such a short period of  time. I remember in high school, back when cell phones were thick enough to see in your front jeans pocket, scribbling in my notebook about both the Yankees and the Red Sox. I would constantly compare their lineups, pitching staffs, and managers just to make class go by quicker (It also gave the teacher a bit of shock value, as they thought I may have been taking notes, not a chance).

Nowadays I am part of the corporate world (barely). I have to wear pants outdoors,  I get the stink-eye from people when I jump into a ball pit full of children, and can no longer have someone cut up my food for me. But perhaps the biggest change for me is now I can share my opinions on the Yanks and Sox with the general public from the comfort of my bathroom. In life, things change in the blink of an eye and free agency in baseball is no different. Many moves were made, or not made, by both teams this winter and it has greatly affected where each team stands in the American League East.

The Yankees just went out and made a key signing in the form of RP Rafael Soriano. While they may have overpaid for him, it was a smart decision by the Yankees brass to help upgrade their roster, and add another pitcher to help the game get to Mariano Rivera. I am going to look at each rosters position by position, and give an edge to which team is better prepared at those spots for the upcoming 2011 season. (Warning: ARod will be called gay in this article)

Catcher: NYY Russell Martin/Francisco Cervelli, BOS Jarrod Saltalamaachia/Jason Varitek

This is clearly neither of the team’s strong points. The Yanks went out and signed Martin late in the off-season, as they didn’t want to rush prodigy Jesus Montero up to the big leagues, and feared that incumbent Catcher Jorge Posada’s days behind the plate were done (Yeah, like 3 years ago).  Martin and Cervelli provide the Yanks with a little offense from this position, but both are very good in terms of handling runners and pitching staffs. If Martin can return to his 2008 form, the Yanks will have one of the better steals from this off-season.  Salty and ‘Tek, on the other hand, are two of the worst at handling opposing teams’ runners. Well, maybe you’d think they could contribute on the offensive end. Unfortunately for Red Sox nation, both Satly and ‘Tek wil be lucky to hit a combined .230 this season, and perhaps Theo will be searching for a new catcher come July 31st.

Advantage: Yankees

1st Base: NYY Mark Teixeira, BOS Adrian Gonzalez/Lars Anderson

The first match-up between these two teams that involves two studs. Both Tex and AGonz bring so much to their respective teams. Gold glove defense, middle of the lineup power, and boring post game interviews are part of what these two men can do for a squad. AGonz has been trapped in a hitter’s version of Tron; No one wants to be there but you have to, and at some point you wonder if death is a better option than staying. Petco Park hurt AGonz’s potential production and Fenway will do wonders for his gorgeous stroke. Tex had a rough 2010 for himself, but I have faith he will bounce back in the New Yankee Stadium, where I think Jason Tyner could poke one out.

Advantage: Even

2nd Base: NYY Robinson Cano, BOS Dustin Pedroia

Perhaps the toughest match-up to gauge between these two teams. Cano is a more talented player, blessed with more size, a stronger arm, and bigger lips, while Pedroia plays with grit, tenacity, and youth sized pants. Pedroia was getting hot last year right before his freak foot injury, and was on pace to finish with career highs in HR’s and RBI’s. Cano had a great season, leading a Yankees team that had struggles offensively from some of its most important players. Each year this match up goes back and forth, and while Cano is more talented, I don’t think he means as much to the Red Sox as much as Pedroia does. Pedroia is one of the team leaders, not just by example, but also vocally in the clubhouse and in the dugout. It’s hard to find a player like that, and sometimes you pay that player way too much just to keep him around a bit longer, but we’ll get to that later.

Advantage: Even

Shortstop: NYY Derek Jeter/Eduardo Nunez, BOS Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie

I guess we got to my point a bit sooner than expected. Jeter, the Yankees captain and team leader, was resigned after much hullabaloo this winter. He got more money than he deserved, but less money than he wanted. From a production standpoint, Jeter doesn’t bring so much to the table. He can perhaps still hit .300, but with very little power, less speed, and the same defensive range I have in softball. My main concern for Jeter is that this is his 16th season in the major leagues. At what point does he have to take some time off? The man can’t possibly play 157 games again  this year right? That’s nearly unheard of in this day and age. With the exception of 2003, Jeter hasn’t played less than 148 games in a season. But he brings that emotional spark that Pedroia brings to the Red Sox, which is something you just can’t replace. On the flip side, the Red Sox finally have some production out of their shortstop position, the first time since 2004 (Julio Lugo crotch grabs of 2007 are not on Baseball-Reference.com and that is a crime against humanity). Scutaro brings stability with his great batter’s eye, and short “please make contact” swing. He had similar numbers to Jeter last year on both sides of the ball. Lowrie is the big difference here. He has been one of the Sawx top prospects for a while, but struggled with a wrist injury and then a cause of Mono. He came back last year and by the time he was at full strength was crushing the ball. He destroyed lefties last year and will get a chance to play this season. I think the depth with him and Scutaro, as well as the ability to platoon them, gives Terry Francona more versatility in his lineup, something he uses better than most managers in the majors.

Advantage: Slight Edge Red Sox

3rd Base: NYY Alex Rodriguez/Ramiro Pena, BOS Kevin Youkilis

A great example of a star on the rise, and a star on the decline, meeting somewhere right in the middle. ARod’s production has dipped in recent years. Injury concerns, as well as a media circus only men like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Brett Favre can understand, have deterred ARod from his previous MVP numbers. However, as much as I hate to admit it, ARod is still one of the most talented players in baseball. He has a cannon for an arm, he still runs like a horse, and according to Kate Hudson, is still into men (I had to). ARod just has a stigma that he will carry with him for the rest of his career. Yankees fans don’t like him, baseball fans don’t like him, and the general public sees him as an arrogant liar, who needs to seek some sort of therapy. Youkilis is beloved by his Red Sox fans, though Manny Ramirez may say otherwise. He doesn’t have the raw ability that ARod has, but plays as hard as anyone in the league. He was on pace for a monster season before a thumb injury sidelined him for the last 60 games. I love Youk, but his ceiling doesn’t compare to ARod’s and over the course of a full season, both players are going to play significant roles for their clubs.

Advantage: Slight Edge Yankees

Left Field: NYY Brett Gardner/Kevin Russo, BOS Carl Crawford/Darnell McDonald

This is where the match-ups get a bit tricky. Brett Gardner had a solid season for the Yankees last year, providing excellent defense, and contributing offensively from the lower end of the lineup. Many of his critics believe he got lucky last year, and that his  Batting average for balls in play (BABIP) will drop, taking his average and on-base percentage along with it. The Red Sox made quite the splash with Carl Crawford this off-season. He will no longer have to bat lead-off like he did in Tampa,  and will be in a much better lineup and ballpark suited for his abilities. Crawford will most likely repeat his career averages, with perhaps a spike in average and other related categories. I expect McDonald to play against some lefties, but he will not cut into Crawford’s playing time enough for it to make a difference.

Advantage: Red Sox

Center field NYY Curtis Granderson/Greg Golson, BOS Jacoby Ellsbury/Mike Cameron

When the Yankees traded for Granderson last year, I thought to myself, well, he’s not very good, good for him though to get out of Detroit, and that was it. Anytime a CF can hit under .250, and still inflate his stats in the last two weeks of the regular season…. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this but you get the idea. Granderson is not a very good player, but he is serviceable and will sneakily make a lot of money in his career. His backup, Golson, actually showed flashes of being a mini-Granderson, though he shouldn’t take hitting advice from his mentor. With a lefty on the mound, Granderson is just as valuable as Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard in “Just Wright.” You see that he’s there and all you can wonder is why.

The Red Sox counter with some questions of their own. Ellsbury missed 90% of last year with a rib injury. Early reports are that he feels better than ever and that the ribs will not pose any problems. However, with a player who plays as recklessly as Ellsbury, there is always the chance of re-injury. Still only 27, Ellsbury has two very productive seasons in 2008 and 2009, and was one of the key factors in the Sox winning the World Series in 2007. I have faith that he is healthy and will play 70% to 80% of the team’s games this year, with Cameron platooning against some lefties. Both outfields cover a lot of ground, though Granderson has a slight edge on the defensive side of the ball. However, Granderson has just too many flaws on the offensive end to consider him as a real threat in an otherwise potent lineup.

Advantage: Slight Edge Red Sox

Right Field: NYY Nick Swisher/Colin Curtis, BOS JD Drew/Ryan Kalish

Nick Swisher has cut a nice niche into Yanks fan’s hearts, while also becoming one of Red Sox’s fans least favorite Yankees, but I guess the two go hand in hand don’t they? Swisher had a career year last year, and he should be finish the season with numbers in between last year’s and the year before. The only problem with the Yankees this year is their lack of depth, and as you can see by the backup outfielders, they have none. If someone were to go down then the Yankees would be in trouble. Swisher is a very durable player, especially in his time with the Yanks. On the other side, you have the fragile Mr. JD Drew. Drew hasn’t played over 140 games in any of the last 3 seasons, but gives the same per game production he has since he was signed. He is in the last year of his contract and I am sure that will motivate him somewhat, but it probably won’t lead to any Adrian Beltre type offers. Kalish is a very solid backup and is going to get some at-bats this season. However, both Drew and Kalish are streaky players and unless Francona manages it perfectly, there will be dry spells from the right field position.

Advantage: Yankees

Designated Hitter: NYY Jorge Posada, BOS David Ortiz

Two years ago, there may have been no player in baseball whose game was deteriorating as much as David Ortiz’s was. He went through the motions, dealt with the vicious Boston media, and turned his 2008 season around to a point where the media wasn’t asking for his head. 2009 started in a similar fashion. Talks of him and Mike Lowell platooning at the DH spot arose and Ortiz wasn’t feeling it. He went on to finish the 2009 season with 32 HR and 102 RBI, as well as a respectable .270 avg. The key for Papi is that he is still getting walked. He finished with an on-base percentage over .100 points better than his average. Pitchers still respect him and I am sure some fear his daunting, Mo Vaughn like stroke. Jorge Posada on the other hand, not so much. Over the last 3 seasons, Posada has dealt with several nagging injuries, something catchers are very much accustomed to. With the signing or Martin, Posada will get to relax more this year and just focus on his offense. While I do not expect him to repeat the awful numbers he posted last year, It is hard to imagine him matching Big Papi in terms of power numbers, the staple of the DH spot in the AL East.

Advantage: Red Sox

Starting Rotations: NYY CC Sabathia/AJ Burnett/Phil Hughes/Ivan Nova/Sergio Mitre, BOS Jon Lester/Clay Buchholz/Josh Beckett/John Lackey/Diasuke Matsuzaka

Without the help of Andy Pettitte, the Yankees starting rotation looks extremely weak. After CC, there isn’t much to write home about. Hughes has a lot of upside, but struggled last year with better lineups and more innings on him. He strikes out a good number of hitters per inning, and doesn’t walk many. He is primed for a breakout season, and will have to solidify himself as the team’s number 2 pitcher behind CC. AJ Burnett seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. He has been in the league for quite some time now, and even with his great arm and great stuff he just doesn’t appear to get it. The Yanks will need to throw him out there 33 times this year because they have no one else they can throw out there instead. Unless he turns it around big time, I expect him to be out of New York and perhaps sent to New Jersey as punishment. Ivan Nova is the other key to the Yanks rotation. They need to get 180 innings out of the youngster, and they need to be quality innings. He showed flashes last season but is still very raw. Think of him as a Clay Buchholz type 2 years ago. Mitre just needs to stay healthy and then get ready to move to the bullpen once the Yankees make some sort of move.

The Red Sox also have question marks in their rotation, though certainly not at the top of it. Lester is an ace, and will be a Cy Young candidate for a large portion of his career. Buchholz is on his way there as well. He spent last off-season working on trusting his fastball, locating it better and forcing hitters to put the ball in play. He has such good stuff that hitters tend to hit the ball off the end of the bat, or get jammed with ease. In addition, both Lester and Buchholz can walk the street of Boston and bang any loud-mouthed, drunk college student who just left at BU hockey game. Dice-K will give the Red Sox what they expect out of him; 140-170 innings, an ERA ranging from4-5, and countless minutes of watching him shake his flat, Japanese butt. Even if he gets hurt, Tim Wakefield can replace his production in a heartbeat, solidifying the 5th starter role.

The real questions come from the two men in the middle, Lackey and Beckett. Lackey finished the season relatively strong, and according toe former pitching coach, and current Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, Lackey needed an adjustment period to the AL East, as it is a different beast than what he was used to. I don’t expect great things out of Lackey, but I think he will fill the role as the 4th starter better than most others in the American League. Beckett is a bit more tricky to figure out. He had a solid 2009, despite back troubles, but those same troubles, along with other ailments, ruined his 2010 season. Word is he is feeling great this off-season and will be back to his old form. For some reason, I highly doubt that, but I see him and Lackey finishing the year with similar numbers. Either way, it’s better than Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova right?

Advantage: Red Sox

Bullpen: NYY Mariano Rivera/Rafael Soriano/Joba Chamberlain/David Robertson/Boone Logan/Pedro Feliciano/Damaso Marte, BOS Jonathan Papelbon/Daniel Bard/Bobby Jenks/Dan Wheeler/Hideki Okajima/Scott Atchison/Matt Albers

The Yankees have the best closer of all-time in Rivera. There is no argument there from me, or any other member of Red Sox nation. They just signed Soriano, which was huge because Joba has been very inconsistent in his recent return to being Mo’s setup man. Logan and Feliciano offer solid matchups for lefties, while Robertson will provide much needed depth to the pen. This is one of the strengths of the Yankees team. There aren’t many question marks and you really know what you are going to get out of this group.

I wish I could say the same about the Sawx. Papelbon is coming off one of the worst years of his career, and he is likely done in Boston at some point this season or next. Bard is an animal. He is perhaps the 2nd best reliever in baseball behind Rivera, and he will take that closer role if Papelbon fails to deliver. Theo did a great job in adding depth to the pen. Wheeler and Jenks are both pitcher who should benefit from pitching in Fenway, as Jenks fly ball rate is around average, and Wheeler is a ground ball pitcher. These two points of these teams shouldn’t be a glaring weakness unless something goes horribly wrong with the closers, which is obviously more likely on the Red Sox side of things.

Advantage: Yankees

Now normally I would go off on a tangent about how great Terry Francona is at managing a baseball game and a team and how inept Joe Girardi is at buying paper towels at Super Stop & Shop (I’ve witnessed this). However, I will save that for another day. It appears to be a pretty equal contest, though I believe the Red Sox starting pitching will heavily out-produce whatever 5 guys the Yankees end up throwing out there. Both of  these teams will make the playoffs, as Tampa is selling off its parts again, and the rest of the American League is appearing to be very weak. I look forward to them meeting in the ALCS this season, even though it may take 4-5 years off of my life. Either way its been a good run, and as a proud member of Red Sox nation, I am looking forward to a season full of agony, triumph, and the eventual David Ortiz wiener pics.

  1. von wafer says:

    In no way are scutaro and lowrie better than jeter. I hate Jeter, more than most people in fact. Jeter has been one of the most consistent players in the history of the league and scutaro and lowrie are garbage.

  2. SamBam says:

    I see no advantage over the other in the starting line-up. I like our bullpen, but give the yanks a slight advantage if you want to . The difference is that our starters are so much better than the Yanks and this far outweighs any other slight advantage the Yankees have.

    Advantage BOSTON !!!!!!!!

  3. john says:

    the redsox the starting pitching is not as good buckholtz lester after that the rest have problems over rated pitching take that to the bank it will show this year n big papa stats will go down big time mark my word

  4. randy says:

    more like tale of the rape

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