The off season certainly isn’t over yet, but most observers have anointed the Red Sox as taking a big lead over the Yanks heading into next season. But is that true? The Yankee team that won 95 games last year remains largely intact. Crawford is certainly an upgrade, but Adrian Gonzalez is effectively replacing Adrian Beltre, who had a fine season for Boston last year. To sort this out, I thought I’d go position by position to see how the two teams stack up. To take some of the ‘eye test’ out of the ratings and make this less subjective, I’ll use 3 year cumulative WAR while adding some analysis which will hopefully add some context to the numbers, some of which need clarification. With that being said, here’s my ratings:
Position players:(Numbers next to player’s name are 3 year total WAR)
Catcher-Russell Martin (8.9) vs Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0.8)-Edge Yankees
Martin is a very tricky case. He’s a former All Star and was about a 5 win player in 07-08 with the Dodgers. But injuries have slowed him down to the point where the Dodgers non-tendered him rather than pay him through arbitration. The owner’s messy divorce affecting finances could have played a part, but you have to assume they know more about Martin’s health than anyone else. I think you have to treat the past two seasons as the baseline for Martin. He was 2.2 and 2.1 WAR player the past 2 seasons, respectively. Salty has barely been above replacement level at any point of his career, registering a total of 0.8 WAR the past 3 seasons. Although to be fair, he’s never had a chance to play full time. Yanks take this one easily unless Salty has a breakout season.
1B – Mark Teixeira (16.2) vs Adrian Gonzalez (15.6)-Edge none
I think Adrian Gonzalez is a slightly better player than Tex, and moving from spacious Petco to hitter friendly Fenway should benefit him enormously. But A-Gon’s 15.6 WAR over the past three seasons is remarkably similar to Tex’s 16.2, and the fact that Gonzalez is coming off shoulder surgery makes me tend to lower expectations for the newly minted Red Sox. Push for 2011.
2B -Robinson Cano (11.0) vs Dustin Pedroia (14.9)-Edge none
This is one where I think 3 year WAR can be a bit misleading. Cano’s number is brought down by his dismal 2008 showing (0.2) while Pedroia has been a steady 5-6 win player when healthy, even registering 3.3 WAR in half a season last year. But in a year where offense was down across the board, Robinson Cano finally had the breakout season Yankee fans had been waiting for. Pedroia may be a nudge better when healthy, but he missed half of last year with a broken foot while Robinson has been a veritable iron man for the Yanks throughout his career. Call this one a push, but I’d rather have Cano on my team than Pedroia going forward.
SS -Derek Jeter (13.3) vs Marco Scutaro (9.5)-Edge Yankees
I’m firmly in the camp that thinks 2010 was no fluke for Derek, but even with that being said he was still a 2.5 WAR player last year, while Scutaro registered 2.1. If you suspect he was banged up or still has some tricks up his sleeve, then it’s reasonable to expect Derek to bounce back to being something close to being a 3 win player. Scutaro’s track record is much more spotty, with Fangraphs barely projecting 2 wins for him next year. This one is closer than many fans will think, but Derek still gets the nod.
3B -Alex Rodriguez (14.4) vs Kevin Youkilis (15.7)-Edge none
Yankee fans can hate him and his Federico Fellini batting stance all they want, Kevin Youkilis is a wonderful Baseball player. If both players are healthy Alex should get the nod, but his chronic balky hip has caused A-Rod to miss a month each of the past 2 seasons, so that takes him down a notch. Youkilis missed time last year as well, but that was a freak thumb injury after being jammed by a pitch. Not the type of injury that should impede him going forward.
RF-JD Drew (11.4) vs Nick Swisher (8.6)-Edge none
Another instance where a Yankee is peaking and his 3 year WAR number gets pulled down by a bad 2008 season. Swish revamped his swing and posted a career best 4.1 WAR last year. When healthy, Drew has been a 4 win or better player throughout his career, but injuries have pulled him below that mark for 6 of his 12 full seasons. It’s also noteworthy that he posted a disappointing 2.6 WAR for the 2010 season despite playing a relatively full season of 146 games. At age 35, you have to wonder if JD is beginning to slow down, while at 30 Nick Swisher might be in the midst of his peak years. Call this one a push based on two players heading in opposite directions last year and as with Cano, I’d rather have Swisher on my team going forward.
CF-Curtis Granderson (10.1) vs Jacoby Ellsbury (6.4)-Edge Yankees
This one is closer for the Red Sox than the above numbers would lead you to believe. Ellsbury was a productive player for the Sox in 2008 (3.9) and 2009 (2.7) before his disastrous 2010 campaign (-0.2) where he basically missed the entire season after an April 12 collision with Adrian Beltre. Ellsbury figures to bat 9th next year, and paired with Carl Crawford as a double lead off, the Sox will have an element of pure speed on the base paths unlike anything they’ve had in recent memory. Grandy’s been a steady 3+ win player the past few years, and has yet to really tap his power in Yankee Stadium. Curtis has also posted a 7.4 win season in his career, which is hard to imagine Ellsbury ever matching. Edge Yanks.
LF-Carl Crawford (15.1) vs Brett Gardner (8.6)-Edge Red Sox
It may surprise fans of both teams that Brett Gardner posted a 5.4 WAR last season, the first season where he played everyday as the starting LF. But Carl Crawford is a terrific all around baseball player, and in another class from the Brett Gardner’s of the world. He hits for good power, gets on base, hits for average, steals bases, and plays a stellar defensive LF. Brett excels in most of those categories as well, but you’re lucky if he hits 2 HRs a year, and one of them will be an inside-the-parker. I’m a GGBG fan, but big edge Sox based mostly on the difference in power.
DH-Jorge Posada (6.5) vs David Ortiz (6.1)-Edge none
There was a time in Jorge Posada’s career from 2000-2007 where you wouldn’t have been surprised if he posted a 6.5 WAR in a single season. But age and injuries have slowed him down, and now he’s logged just 6.5 over the past 3 years combined. The same could be said of Big Papi, he was a 5-6 win player annually from 04-07 but has really tailed off in recent years. Jorge may benefit from less time wearing the tools of ignorance behind the plate, but he’s never been a full time DH and it remains to be seen how (and if) he’ll take to the new role. His career numbers as a PH and DH could lead one to believe that he may have some trouble. Ortiz is the proven DH, but age (35) PED accusations and the past 3 seasons have to concern you. One thing that could play in Big Papi’s favor is having A-Gon bat behind him, which would be the best hitter he’s been paired with since Manny left.
In summary, the Yanks have a big edge at Catcher, while the Sox enjoy a sizable lead in LF. Overall the Yanks have a small edge in lineup, but nothing that the Red Sox should be worried about. The Sox have some age in that lineup, but so do the Yanks. If the Sox stay healthy, they match up well with the Yankee lineup. Tomorrow I’ll look at both teams pitching staffs and see how they match up there.
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