Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Sept. 26, 2018 – Source: Getty Images North America)
Anyone hoping for drama during the final weeks of the baseball season had to be disappointed with the American League playoff hunt this season. It’s been abundantly clear for a month or so who will win their respective divisions and who will play in the Wild Card game. Depending on the winner of said game, the Red Sox will face either the New York Yankees or the Oakland Athletics in the AL Divisional round. In this installment of the Boston Red Sox playoff primer, let’s take a look at the New York Yankees and how they match up with the Boston Red Sox.
New York Yankees: Boston Red Sox Playoff Primer
The Yankee Offense
Boston’s longtime rivals will likely host the Wild Card game and are coming off a strong season. Led by Aaron Judge, the offense ranks second in runs, second in OPS and first in home runs. To say this team knows how to score runs is an understatement, as their 109 team wRC+ is just one point behind the league lead.
Of course, this team hasn’t been the same in the second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are “only” fifth in runs, 10th in OPS, and third in home runs. Most of these relative struggles can be placed on a wrist injury to Aaron Judge. Judge was sidelined for almost six weeks, and the rest of the team failed to increase their production in Judges’ absence.
The righty slugger returned to the Yankees lineup, hitting .219/.359/.281 with a 86 wRC+ in 39 plate appearances. A slow start was expected after missing so much time, but the question now becomes can Judge find his swing in time for the postseason? New York lives and dies by Judge, and his presence will be the biggest factor in determining just how good the Yankees are.
Outside of Judge, the Yankees offense is led by Giancarlo Stanton. The first-year Yankee is in the midst of another strong season, posting a .260/.337/.491 slash line with an accompanying 121 wRC+ on the season. His production has dipped recently, as he’s hitting just .159/.255/.293 with a 46 wRC+ in September. Still, Stanton is one of the best pure power hitters in baseball and, as far as we know, isn’t playing hurt. He’s capable of turning it on at a moment’s notice and will always be a threat every time he steps up to the plate.
Perhaps the most interesting addition for the Yankees came when they acquired former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. While he’s no longer an MVP-caliber player, McCutchen has shown there’s a lot left in his tank. Since joining the Yankees, the outfielder owns a .247/.433/.494 slash line with a 157 wRC+.
The Yankees Pitching Staff
While the Yankees offense is what makes them elite, their pitching isn’t anything to mess with either. Luis Severino struggled in the second half of the year, but still has the stuff to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Masahiro Tanaka is a strong number two arm, and J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia round out a solid rotation.
In all, the Yankees starting rotation ranks 15th in ERA, 10th in FIP, and 18th in innings pitched. While this isn’t a bad unit by any means, it’s clearly the weakest part of the Yankees roster.
However, their starting rotation pales in comparison to their bullpen. The Yankees have arguably the best bullpen in all of baseball. Led by Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, and Dellin Betances, the unit leads the majors in WAR (9.8), is second in FIP (3.27), and is third in ERA (3.37). By all accounts, this bullpen is one of the best in the majors. If the Yankees hold the lead after seven innings, they usually keep it.
Astonishingly, the Red Sox and Yankees have not faced off in the playoffs since their famous seven-game series in the 2004 ALCS. Should the Yankees emerge victoriously and come to Boston, they should give the Red Sox everything they can handle.
That said, the Red Sox are by and large the better team. While Boston’s bullpen isn’t as good as the Yankees, the Red Sox have a better offense and a better starting rotation. Look for the Red Sox to win the series in four games.