Posted on October 5, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The race for the AL East division title between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees didn’t end up being as exciting as we hoped. Alas, the teams are bound to give fans the excitement they’ve been craving when they meet in the ALDS. Nothing that happened in the regular season matters anymore. It’s all about what happens over the next five games with a spot in the ALCS on the line.
Offense – Push
The Red Sox may have led the majors in runs this year, but this is still too close to call. With Aaron Judge back from injury, Andrew McCutchen added, and the sudden emergence of Luke Voit, New York’s lineup is as deep as they get. Any injury questions that the Yankees faced in September have been answered, meaning they have a lineup in which all nine spots have power, some more than others. That means that are close to nine hitters who are capable of getting hot and carrying the team during a series.
Boston’s lineup isn’t quite as deep, but the Red Sox have more star power. MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez both had an OPS over 1.000 this year, something no Yankee accomplished this season. Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi also give the Red Sox a treacherous middle of the lineup. However, it could be up to hitters in the back of the lineup like Eduardo Nunez, Ian Kinsler, and Sandy Leon to find ways to contribute so that all of the pressure isn’t on Betts and Martinez.
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Rotation – Advantage Red Sox
Neither of these rotations is as dominant as you might expect, but as long as Chris Sale is healthy, Boston has the edge. Sale is by far the best start on either of these teams and with him lined up to make two starts, the Red Sox have to feel good about their chances. David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi are also capable of giving the Red Sox strong performances in this series, so Boston shouldn’t be too worried about their starters. However, Sale gives them their best chance to win one or two games on the back of their starting pitcher.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will put a lot of faith in midseason acquisition J.A. Happ, who will start Game 1, and presumably Game 5 as well. Happ has a great track record against the Red Sox, and the Yankees are hoping that continues to be the case. Of course, after starting Luis Severino in the Wild Card Game, he won’t be available until Game 3, limiting to one start. The Yankees will have to rely on Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia to take the ball at some point. Tanaka has brilliant postseason numbers and is coming off a strong September, but Sabathia could be a bit of a wild card.
Bullpen – Advantage Yankees
If you saw the Wild Card Game, you know how good New York’s bullpen can be. The Yankees essentially have four closers in their bullpen, and that doesn’t include guys like Chad Green or Jonathan Holder, who were also key contributors this year, as well as lefty specialist Stephen Tarpley. Of course, it’s all about the guys in the back end. If Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and Aroldis Chapman are at the top of their game, New York’s bullpen is lethal.
Boston’s bullpen is nearly as good but not nearly as deep. Craig Kimbrel is one of the game’s best closer and has an excellent postseason resume. The question is how they’ll create a bridge to get to Kimbrel. Matt Barnes will be vital, as will journeyman Ryan Brasier. Another pitcher to watch is knuckleballer Steven Wright, who has excelled since moving to the bullpen earlier this year.
Prediction – Yankees in 5
The Red Sox may have dominated the regular season, but the Yankees are built for the postseason. Literally, every single hitter in their lineup is a home run threat, so no lead is ever safe. The Yankees also have a bullpen that can dominate over the course of four, five, or even six innings. With a bullpen that deep and multiple off days over the course of the series, New York’s bullpen could carry them to the ALCS. New York wins in five games.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.