2018 ALDS: Who Should be the Favorite in Yankees-Red Sox Matchup?
Who is the true favorite to win the latest battle in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry? Let’s dive right in to find out.
Ladies and gentleman, the rivalry will officially be renewed this Friday at Fenway Park. The New York Yankees will take on the arch-rival Boston Red Sox on the road in the first game of the best-of-five 2018 American League Divisional Series.
It will be the first time these two long time rivals faced each other in the playoffs since the infamous 2004 ALCS. The series where the Red Sox became the first team to come back down three games to none in baseball history, defeating the Yankees on their way to their first World Series championship since 1918, breaking the 86-year Curse of the Bambino.
Both of these teams battled it out all throughout the regular season for the AL East division crown. However, Boston’s 108-54 record compared to New York’s 100-62 gave the former first place in the division. Because of this, the Red Sox are considered to be the favorites to win the ALDS, and understandably so.
Nevertheless, playoff baseball is a whole new game; both teams’ regular season record go out the door now. It’s time to dive into how these teams match up against each other in the latest edition of the greatest rivalry in sports.
The best way to get started is looking at the 17 games they played against each other this regular season. One of the big reasons the Red Sox ultimately won the division is by winning the season series against the Yankees nine games to eight. Furthermore, the Red Sox outscored the Yankees 115-102 in those games. Just by looking at that alone, it seems Boston has a big advantage.
Looking deeper however, we need to take a look at the series that the Red Sox ultimately put the AL East out of reach for the Yankees. I am, of course, referring to the four game series between Aug 2 and Aug 5 at Fenway Park. The series where Boston swept New York and all but eliminated the latter from the race for the division.
However, in defense of the Yankees, Aaron Judge missed that series dealing with a wrist injury. Now I understand injuries are a weak excuse, and that Boston has dealt with injuries as well. Regardless, you cannot expect a Yankee team without their best player to be any match for the team with the best record in the MLB.
Despite this, however, even if you exclude that one series from the equation, the Yankees only outscored the Red Sox 89-87, by just two runs. So with all that said, the Red Sox are the obvious favorites if we look simply at the regular season series.
Battle of Offenses
If there’s one thing Yankees and Red Sox fans can agree on going into this series, it’s the fact that the strength of both these teams is their lineup. Boston ranked first in offense this season with 876 runs while New York was a close second with 851. The Red Sox’s lineup is highlighted by AL MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, as well as studs Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts. Meanwhile the Yankees will trot out two of the biggest sluggers of our generation in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as rookie sensations Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. It will definitely be a treat to watch these two offenses go at each other.
So which team’s offense is better? Well while I believe the Yankees have the most talented lineup in all of baseball, the Red Sox have the better lineup overall. The Bronx Bombers definitely lived up to their title this season, hitting 267 home runs as a team, breaking the record set by the Seattle Mariners in 1997. Furthermore, they became the first team in Major League history to have at least 20 home runs from all nine spots in the batting order. Last but not least, their slugging percentage of .451 ranks second.
So what’s the problem you may be asking? Their contact hitting. The Yankees as a team hit just .249 this season, 16th in the majors. Furthermore, their on base percentage is just .329, 9th in the league. The Yankees score most of their runs via the home run, and struggle to manufacture runs in other ways.
Meanwhile the Red Sox have a multi dimensional offense, they rank first in the MLB in batting average by a healthy margin at .268. They also rank first in on base percentage at .339. They have plenty of power as well, as they hit 208 dingers this season, ninth in the majors, and had the best slugging percentage at .453. Boston has proven that they can manufacture runs with both the home run and making contact, something the Yankees simply haven’t.
However, in Wednesday’s 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics, we saw the Yankees bats come alive. They scored runs with both their power and also made great contact. If the Bronx Bombers want to hoist their 28th Commissioner’s trophy, they’ll have to prove they can continue doing just that.
Who’s Aces Will Show Up?
Along with their star-studded lineup, fans of both teams will look to see both teams rotations go at it. The Yankees rotation is lead by ace Luis Severino, followed by Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and CC Sabathia. Meanwhile the Red Sox will send out AL Cy Young candidate Chris Sale as well as David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Rick Porcello. Boston has allowed just 647 runs this season, sixth in the MLB, while the Yankees have allowed 669, 10th in the MLB. On the surface, Boston has the advantage in terms of pitching.
However, there are several areas that the Yankees may have an advantage that can prove to be the difference. While Chris Sale has had an incredible season, pitching to a 2.11 ERA, he’s struggled as of late heading into the postseason recovering from shoulder inflammation. In his previous two starts, Sale has given up five runs in eight innings pitched. Since his injury, his fastball doesn’t have the same velocity that is used to have, which is a big concern for Boston. Not only that, but both Sale and David Price have struggled in the postseason. The former has a playoff ERA of 8.38 while the latter has a playoff ERA of 5.03.
On the Yankees side, while Luis Severino struggled for a large part of the second half, he’s bounced back strongly since then. In his last four regular season starts, he pitched to a 2.04 ERA and looked like his old self. In Wednesdays AL Wild Card game, Sevy pitched four scoreless innings in the Yankees 7-2 win over the Athletics. Furthermore, excluding last years Wild Card disaster, Severino’s ERA in the postseason is 3.20. Last but not least, the Yankees have a far superior and deeper bullpen, giving their starters much more breathing room.
So going back to the question we asked in the beginning, who should be the favorite in the 2018 ALDS? If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting this series, as it’s hard to pick a favorite. Both teams are among the best in baseball with many strengths and just a few weaknesses. However, I feel a big key to the series is which team’s rotation shows up. If Chris Sale and Luis Severino show up for their respective teams, it makes things that much more difficult for the opposition. Last but not least, look for the Yankees to win ether game one or two at Boston. Because if they do, they will head home to Yankee Stadium, where they have won their last six straight postseason games, with a legitimate chance to close it out.
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