From Tom Verducci:
I know this to be true because Curt Schilling told me years ago. His theory was that the Red Sox and Yankees are so evenly matched that the team that gets the most starts out of its top five starters will be the better team. It’s amazing how right he has been….
Let’s look at the past seven years, the era in which Boston and New York essentially have been near-equal rivals, and examine the correlation between which team got the most starts from its top five and which team had the most wins….
Schilling has been right four straight years. Only once in the past seven years did the team with more starts have fewer wins, but even that occasion needs an explanation. It happened in 2004, when the Red Sox — who got an incredible 157 starts from five starters — may have had three fewer regular season wins than New York but beat the Yankees in the ALCS and won the World Series.
So determining who is better this year, the Red Sox or Yankees, becomes a very simple exercise: just forecast which team will get more starts out of its top five starters. And when you do that, the answer becomes obvious: the Yankees will be the better team.
I think Verducci is correct here. While you can argue about which rotation is more talented, it is clear that the Yankee rotation is more reliable. In the Red Sox rotation, Verducci dubs only Beckett and Lester as reliable, and even Beckett has some question marks regarding his health crop up occasionally. Conversely, CC Sabathia and Javier Vazquez are two of the more durable pitchers in the game, Andy Pettitte has remained healthy with consistency despite his advancing age, and AJ Burnett seems to have found a way to stay off the DL after years of struggling with injuries. Furthermore, the Yankees have greater depth, with 8 solid starting options, while the Red Sox have a larger drop-off after their top 6.
This study is obviously not dispositive, and the club that gets fewer starts from their top 5 starters can compensate in other areas. However, considering two similar bullpens and the Yankees superior lineup, the fact that the Yankees project to be more reliable in the rotation bodes well for their chances in the AL East.
(Just a thought: this sort of concept might be self-fulfilling. With teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, poor starters will not be given much of a chance, and the 5 guys with the most starts will usually be 5 fairly good options. In this way, counting the number of starts from the top 5 is just as much about effectiveness as health (whereas with lesser teams, the top 5 might simply be the 5 healthiest guys, because they do not have many effective options). As such, the team with the most starts from the top 5 is likely to be most effective and will rack up a larger number of wins.)
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