Yankees Preseason Pitching Matchup: Boston Red Sox
We’re a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the roster for the Yankees looks just about finalized.
Let’s take a look at how the Yankees compare to last season’s AL East Champions and longtime rival, the Boston Red Sox. There will be no speculation — we’re going with what’s on the rosters as of right now.
STARTING PITCHING: BOSTON RED SOX
This is where the Red Sox have the distinct advantage over most of the AL East with the offseason addition of Chris Sale. The Sox have several options they can go with to start off their rotation, including 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, David Price, and now Sale. For the Red Sox, their best hope is that Porcello can put up similar numbers to his 3.15 ERA last season and 22 wins. And that Price has a bounce-back year from his 3.99 ERA — which would give them an excellent starting three.
Their biggest struggles could come towards the bottom two of the rotation where there are question marks on who should start. The top candidates are Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez. One of them will inevitably be designated to the bullpen.
Wright missed the latter part of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, finishing up with a 3.33 ERA. Pomeranz struggled heavily after being acquired from the Padres. He posted a 4.59 ERA with the Red Sox for the remainder of the season. Eduardo Rodriguez posted a 4.71 ERA and a losing record of 3-7 last season. He recently tweaked his knee playing winter ball in Venezuela.
This is where the Sox’s significant starting rotation advantage dwindles and makes it a much different matchup for the other competing teams.
STARTING PITCHING: NEW YORK YANKEES
The Yankees lost Nathan Eovaldi to free agency this offseason after he struggled for most of ’16. He put up a 4.76 ERA and 9-8 record, and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, which is the main reason he was not brought back.
For the Yankees, the only definite in the rotation is Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka could have a huge 2017 season if he remains healthy and doesn’t allow the impending contract opt-out to cloud his performance. Tanaka had a 3.07 ERA and a great WHIP of 1.08 last season; as well as a WAR of 5.4, which was higher than Porcello who won the AL Cy Young.
Next in the rotation would be Michael Pineda who had a disastrous 2016 season, posting a 4.82 ERA and a losing 6-12 record. The Yankees need to hope the offseason and Spring Training allow Pineda to find his groove and finally stick with it. He still does have the potential to bounce back and be successful because of his “electric” stuff.
Following Pineda will most likely be CC Sabathia, who is entering his eighth year with the Yankees. Sabathia, 36, will look to put up solid numbers as he will be in a contract year. The good news is that Sabathia’s ERA last season was the lowest it’s been since 2012 at 3.91. If he hopes to sign another two or three-year deal, he will have to outperform his No. 3 rotation slot – which may be tough due to lingering knee and back issues.
Fourth in the rotation will be Chad Green, who had his season cut short due to a sprained elbow ligament injury. He was solid after being promoted to the big leagues in early August — yet only had 4 starts. He too is a question mark at this point because we don’t know how well he’ll do with a larger sample size.
The final designation in the rotation is really up in the air. This spot could potentially be filled by Luis Severino. Sevvy has yet to pan out the way the Yankees had hoped, following his stellar 2015 performance.
Severino’s ERA jumped from 2.89 in ’15 to 5.83 last season. And he had a losing record of 3-8 last season, which was a serious downgrade from a winning record of 5-3. Should Severino struggle during Spring Training, the last spot in the starting rotation could potentially fall to Adam Warren or Bryan Mitchell.
SO HOW DO THE TWO STARTING ROTATIONS MATCH UP?
The Red Sox certainly have a more definitive starting rotation than the Yankees do. The big 3 of Price, Porcello, and Sale is almost too big of a match for the Yankees first 3 on paper. Unless Pineda and Sabathia can exceed expectations, they don’t match the numbers that Porcello and Sale can put up.
However, Tanaka and Price do match well, especially if Price has another season of struggles like he did in his first year in Bean Town. The Red Sox are primed to reach the World Series with the acquisition of Sale while the Yankees are in a transition year — trying to build for the future.
The Yankees match up much better against other teams in the AL East than they do with their arch-rivals at this time. Should several pitchers such as Pineda and Sabathia have stellar seasons, then the Yankees could find themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot deep into the summer months.
Bullpen pitching is where the Yankees match up particularly well with the Red Sox. The Yankees brought back closer Aroldis Chapman who helped the bullpen significantly in his Bronx debut. He put up with a 2.01 ERA and .89 WHIP before being traded to the Chicago Cubs.
The Yankees still have their setup man in Dellin Betances who complemented Chapman wonderfully in ‘16. Tyler Clippard is also a good 6th inning option for the Yankees bullpen as well. Should Mitchell take a starting role, Severino, and Warren would be nice long relievers. The Yanks also have left-handed specialists Chasen Shreve and former Red Sox shooter Tommy Layne to get crucial outs in the late innings.
The Red Sox added Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers who could be a steal if he pitches as well as he did last season in Milwaukee after posting a 2.15 ERA and .94 WHIP. The loss of Clay Buchholz — while mostly a positive, does provide fewer options in the ‘pen.
The Sox also have Fernando Abad who struggled almost instantaneously upon his arrival from the Twins. After the trade, his ERA jumped from 2.65 to 6.39 in just 18 games. Other back-end relievers include Robbie Ross and former starter Joe Kelly.
The key to the Red Sox’s closing out contests is shut-down closer Craig Kimbrel who missed a large portion of last season with knee surgery.
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All in all, the Yankees hold the advantage in terms of bullpen effectiveness. Reuniting Betances and Chapman was a smart move by Yankees GM Brian Cashman and strengthens the club significantly. With guys like Warren and Clippard in tow, the Yankees have one of the better bullpens in all of baseball. This could be the X-factor that the Yankees need to have a successful season.
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