I realize this post seems highly out of place now that we’re two weeks away from when the Yanks and Sox last played and two weeks ahead of when they’ll next square off, but I’d meant to do this post in the aftermath of the last Yanks-Sox series and was away, and then Mo needed coverage on his posting duties this afternoon, so on short notice this seemed like as good a time as any to roll this out.
Anyone who’s watched the 12 games the Yankees and Red Sox have played this season can tell you that the Red Sox have seemingly saved their best for their rivals, while the Yankee offense, for whatever reason, has vanished nearly every time out. The Sox are hitting a staggering .292/.375/.462 as a team against the Yankees in 2011 (compared to .277/.349/.452 on the 2011 season as whole), while the Yankees are hitting a meager .225/.320/.375 against Boston (.269/.348/.449 on the 2011 season).
The following table shows how the primary offensive components of the Red Sox have fared against the Yankees in 2011 compared to their career lines vs. the Bombers (green highlights indicate a statistical category in which the player has outperformed their career number):
As you can see, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia have been a two-man wrecking crew against the Yankees this season — though they’ve obviously been killing everyone — and are obliterating their career averages against the Bombers. Of course, Pedroia has always killed the Yankees (.313/.395/.452 career), but what he’s done this year is absurd (.439/.519(!)/.634). Yes, that’s right, Pedroia has reached base safely more than 50% of the time in 12 games against the Yankees this season. Ellsbury’s been no slouch himself, raking to a .348/.392/.587 line vs. the Bombers. Yikes.
To the Yankees’ credit, they’ve actually been able to hold big guns Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis relatively in check this season. This is no small feat, particularly when considering that the latter owns a career .313/.442/.498 line against them. They’ve also been able to minimize the damage done by Carl Crawford, even if he did finally come alive against them in the most rec4ent series.
Just about everyone else in the Sox lineup is outdoing most of their career averages against the Yankees this season, with Marco Scutaro in particular putting up an insane .367/.406/.500. Boston’s favorite son J.D. Drew has gotten on base at an over .400 clip this season against the Yanks, and Josh Reddick is at an even .400. Basically, the only Red Sock the Yankees have been able to get out with any regularity this season is Jason Varitek, and even he’s slightly outperforming his career OBP vs. the Yankees.
Taking a look at the Yankees on offense, it becomes crystal clear why the Bombers are just 2-10 against their rivals this year (grey highlights indicate a statistical category in which the player has underperformed their career number):
Cover your eyes. Every single big bat in the Yankee lineup save Curtis Granderson has ostensibly vanished vs. Boston this year. Perhaps most glaring is Mark Texeira’s .136/.250/.205 line. Alex Rodriguez has also been a non-factor, though he’s only played in nine of the 12 games. Maybe even more egregious than Tex is Cano’s disappearing act, considering he has the second-best career line against Boston on the entire team (.318/.358/.520), and has only managed a .227/.306/.386 showing. Nick Swisher, back to being one of the best right fielders in the business, has mostly been a nonentity against Boston pitching this season (though in fairness he did have the game-winning hit in the team’s August 5 victory).
Now obviously Boston has some great pitching, and so to a certain extent we can probably expect the team to fare a little less well when facing some of Boston’s top hurlers than they might ordinarily. As I’ve painfully noted on many an occasion, Josh Beckett‘s having a Felix-esque year vs. the Bombers this season (having allowed a mere three runs in 27 innings, good for a 1.00 ERA), while Jon Lester is always extremely tough on the Yankees. However, one glimmer of hope I see from these charts is that there’s no way the outsized performances from a number of the Boston hitters and the way-below-career-norm performances of many of the Yankee hitters are sustainable.
Now obviously anything can happen in a small sample, and it’s not difficult to imagine the Sox continuing to pound the ball during the last two three-game sets of the season and the Yankees continuing to struggle, but it seems like both the Red Sox and Yankees hitters are due for some serious regression against each other at some point. It’s also worth noting that the Yankees really only had no chance — for these purposes, games I’d subjectively define as contests in which the team never tied or took a lead — in four of the 10 losses (the first two Beckett starts, the Freddy Garcia game on June 7 and the A.J. Burnett game on June 8). So that leaves six games that maybe could have gone to the Yanks had their pitching not betrayed them. Of course, we don’t live in a theoretical world, and if you calculate the Pythag winning percentage it says the Yankees only should have won one additional game than they have, so it appears they in fact have been as bad against Boston as their 2-10 record indicates.
Regardless, even if Boston ends up winning the last six games and the Yankees finish the season 2-16 against their rivals, if these two do end up meeting up in the ALCS for the first time since 2004, it seems reasonable to expect performances more in line with their career averages.
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