The Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees rivalry is back and for the next three nights it’s in the Bronx.
Since the Red Sox won a World Series and ended the trend of Yankees batters like Bucky Dent and Aaron “Bleepin” Boone breaking their hearts with late inning home runs the rivalry has been less venomous and more tepid.
After a 2017 season that resulted in a Houston Astros World Championship, there was disappointment for Red Sox fans who may have had overly high expectations and optimism for Yankees fans who arrived a year earlier than most expected.
Entering 2018, both have the kind of expectations that create a sense of urgency and provides a competitive edge that we haven’t seen in recent years.
This series is even more intense than we may have originally thought entering the 2018 season because of the hot starts of the two teams and their previous April series. The Red Sox currently lead baseball with a 25-9 record, while the Yankees are one game back at 24-10, riding high on a six game winning streak. If proximity in the standings or the importance of winning the division rather than accept a Wild Card birth wasn’t enough, they cleared their benches in that first series. That was a series won by the hometown Boston Red Sox at Fenway, this one is in the Bronx.
Both teams enter the series on comparable footing both in the batters box and on the bump while the Red Sox hold a significant advantage on defense.
The Battle in The Batters Box: The Yankees have hit the second most home runs in baseball with 48 and rank second in runs scored with 197, while the Red Sox have hit two fewer home runs and scored five less runs. The Red Sox lead the league in SLG (.460) and OPS (.792) while the Yankees rank third, .445 and .780 respectively.
The Bump: Who Has The Edge? On the bump, the Yankees are sixth (3.43) and Red Sox seventh (3.45) in team ERA and are third and fourth in team WHIP (1.15 and 1.16 respectively). On paper, most fans probably think that the Yankees, with all of those power arms and high-profile names, have an edge in the bullpen, but in a small 2018 sample size the Red Sox have been slightly better in ERA (3.38 vs. 3.58) and WHIP (1.18 vs. 1.22). Not only has the Red Sox pen held its own in 2018, but they were better in 2017 in ERA and only.01 worse in WHIP, effectively a statistical tie.
Sizing Up The Defense: Defense is the one place where the numbers are lopsided in the Red Sox favor. How valuable or predictive defensive metrics are, especially in only 34 games, is a worthwhile debate, but in 2018 the Red Sox have the clear advantage. The Yankees rank 23rd in fielding percentage (.980), seventh in errors (25) and dead last in double-plays turned with only 17. The Red Sox are seventh in fielding percentage (.987), 24th in errors (16) and 12th in double-plays turned with 29.
The defensive metrics aren’t a significant surprise considering the Yankees have an aging Brett Gardner and two bulky sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge roaming the outfield while the Red Sox have two of the best defensive outfielders in the game with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as a well above average left-fielder in the form of Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox also have an elite all around defensive catcher in Christian Vazquez while the Yankees have a rocket of an arm, but relatively pedestrian, at times challenged, defensive backstop in Gary Sanchez.
Tuesdays Matchup: Drew Pomeranz vs. Luis Severino
After his breakout 2017 campaign Severino is making the case in 2018 that he is the AL East’s second ace behind only Chris Sale. Drew Pomeranz’s narrative is a bit different. He has flown under the radar since arriving in Boston, but he has pitched like a strong number three starter with back-to-back 3.32 ERA seasons in 170.2 and 173.2 innings pitched.
An Inside Look: The Bump vs. The Batters Box
Drew Pomeranz Pomeranz hasn’t had significant splits in 2017 or 2018, but a few of the Yankees big sluggers have and it’s not a surprise that it would be at home and against left-handed pitchers. Here are the numbers:
Gary Sanchez: Vs. Left-Handed Pitching: Three home runs - 1.053 OPS - 7 RBIAt Home:.200 BA - .767 OPS - Five HRs - 14 RBI
Giancarlo Stanton: Vs. Left-Handed Pitching: Four HRs - 1.382 OPS - 10 RBIAt Home:.586 OPS - Three HRs - 33 SO - Eight BBs - .176 BA
Didi Gregorius: Vs. Left-Handed Pitching: .333 Batting Average - .981 OPS - Two HRs - Two RBIHome:.365 BA- Nine HR - 25 RBI - 1.338 OPS
Aaron Judge: Vs. Left-Handed Pitching: .250 BA - Two HR - Two RBI - .983 OPSHome:1.200 OPS - Seven HRs - .328 BA - 20 BBs
Individually, Gary Sanchez is the slugger to watch tonight while Tyler Austin has had some success getting on base even though he has lacked pop in the process. Tyler Austin, in 24 at bats, has a .893 OPS, .292 BA and .393 OBP, while Brett Gardner has a .490 OPS and .182 BA and zero extra base hits versus left-handed pitchers in 2018. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gardner on the bench against either Pomeranz in game one tonight or David Price in game two Wednesday night.
Here are some individual numbers by Yankees against Drew Pomeranz.
Brett Gardner 9-26, one home run, one doubleDidi Gregorius 8-21, One HR
Gary Sanchez 8-18 with three home runs
Luis Severino: There isn’t much of a sample size to look at for the Red Sox against the emerging ace, but there are some generic numbers for the Red Sox against right-handed pitchers and on the road.
Red Sox Versus Right-handed Pitching in 2018
J.D. Martinez 1.045 OPS - Seven HRs - Six doubles - .340 Batting Average
Mookie Betts 1.232 OPS - Seven HRs - .368 BA
Mitch Moreland 1.095 OPS - Four HRs - .352 BA - .410 OBP
Xander Bogaerts .973 OPS - Three HRs - 15 RBI - .333 BA
Rafael Devers.806 OPS - Four HRs - .271 BA
Individually, Mookie Betts has been on fire in April and early May, is 6-19 with three doubles against Severino, while Andrew Benintendi is 8-16 with five extra base hits, two home runs, nine RBI and a 1.681 OPS. That short right field porch could be a big boost for Benintendi and Mitch Moreland, a lot like it has for Didi Gregorius. It should be an interesting opening game to the series.