As most of us already know, the Boston Red Sox are heading to the new Yankee Stadium for a four-game series later this week. The Red Sox have owned the Bronx Bombers in recent series', and the Yankees are hoping for a reversal of fortunes this time around. As it stands right now, New York is a half-game ahead of Boston in the American League East.
By the end of the week, that could all change.
But this post isn't about one series; no, it's about the remainder of the season -- including the playoffs. Who has a better chance to win the World Series, the Red Sox or the Yankees? And why?
Well, there's only one way to find out. Let's go to the specifics...
Section 1: Offense
One thing is certain: both of these teams can hit. The Yankees went through an offensive drought earlier in the season, while (with the exception of the past few games) the Red Sox have struggled in the past month. Those droughts aside, these are two of the premier offensive clubs in baseball.
But who is superior?
As far as collective approach, I like the way the Red Sox go about their business. These are patient hitters, particularly Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and J.D. Drew. Victor Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, and David Ortiz can also be selective at times. Now patience doesn't guarantee success, but it does increase a team's on-base percentage, which in turn increases the number of runners in scoring position.
However, the Yankees' lineup is more intimidating. More powerful. Mark Teixeira is the best power hitter on either team, and when he's right, Alex Rodriguez is also better than any Red Sock. What's the good news for Red Sox Nation?
A-Rod isn't right. He's way off. He's just up there waiving his bat in one particular spot. He clearly isn't seeing the ball as well as he normally does, and there's no consistency in his power production.
But, Jason Bay is equally as discombobulated for the Red Sox. He's chasing two-strike sliders in the dirt too often, and his approach is not nearly as polished as the man he was traded for: Manny Ramirez. I'd love this Red Sox lineup with Manny in it, but he's long, long gone. Bay's not as disciplined, and simply not as good.
Turning back to the Yankees, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Johnny Damon are all having quality offensive seasons. Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher are worth mention as well.
Taking everything into account, it's really difficult to distinguish between these two offenses. The thing is, the Red Sox are known for their patience, but this Yankee lineup can also be very selective. Teixeira, A-Rod, Damon, Jeter, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher can all get on base in bunches.
In the end, I'm taking the Yankees because they don't have to work as hard to score runs. Both teams play at outstanding hitters' ballparks, and the Yankees have displayed the better "pop" of the two. It's extremely close, though. This is really splitting hairs.
The verdict: Yankees have a 54/46% advantage.
Section 2: Starting Pitching
Earlier this season, the Red Sox looked like a lock to me in this department. They had Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, and Brad Penny penciled in, with talented youngsters Justin Masterson and Clay Buccholz waiting eagerly in the wings. John Smoltz seemed like an excellent wild card option for one year at $5 million.
And yet, Boston's starting pitching hasn't been outstanding. Beckett remains one of the premier pitchers in baseball (No. 4 overall, in my opinion), and Jon Lester has been solid, but not spectacular.
Other than that righty-lefty duo, there are a number of question marks. Tim Wakefield was cruising along before the All-Star break, but an injury has slowed his season, perhaps to a halt. Dice-K was totally ineffective before hitting the DL and staying there, and Smoltz has been a disaster since returning from injury.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have seen vast improvement from A.J. Burnett in the past two months, and Joba Chamberlain since the All-Star break. I like the mix of their top four with C.C. Sabathia, Burnett, Chamberlain, and Andy Pettitte, but their No. 5 spot is also a club weakness. Sergio Mitre currently occupies that spot, and he got absolutely hammered his last time out. Like Smoltz, he's returning from a long injury hiatus.
So, here we are, in a similar situation to that of the previous section. It's close. Really close. If the Red Sox can get Wakefield and Matsuzaka back healthy and effective, I'll take them; but until then, I'm going with the Yankees...again. Boston is too shaky after Beckett and Lester right now.
The verdict: Yankees have a 53/47% advantage. (If the Sox were healthy, I'd give them a 55/45% advantage.)
Section 3: Bullpen
Like the starting pitching department, earlier this season Boston looked like a lock in relief pitching. Both Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera are elite closers, but the Red Sox were far superior in setup situations.
But now the Yanks have Phil Hughes in the eighth-inning role, and he's been unhittable. He's always showcased impressive stuff, but he appears to have found a temporary home near the back of Joe Girardi's bullpen. I still prefer Boston's depth -- Daniel Bard, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen, and former closer Takashi Saito -- but the percentages are closer than they were in the past.
Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves have been workhorses in middle relief, and their performance has improved the Yankee bullpen as well. New York's bullpen is pretty good, but I'm still leaning in favor of Boston.
The verdict: Red Sox have a 53/47% advantage.
Section 4: Defense
Man, this post is giving me a headache. Again, this is very close.
Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada are poor defensive players, but Nick Green and Jed Lowrie aren't exactly studs at the shortstop position. Shortstop is the most important defensive position, so that hurts Boston, but the Green/Lowrie combination can only be counted once. Derek Jeter's lack of range is duly noted, but we know he can be relied upon in pressure situations. Green and Lowrie are unproven commodities at the same position.
Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, and Jacoby Ellsbury are all quality defensive players. Unfortunately for my sanity, the same can be said of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Melky Cabrera.
With that in mind, a slight advantage is showing in favor of the Red Sox, and their collective athleticism. Let's even this thing up at two apiece.
The verdict: Red Sox have a 54/46% advantage.
Section 5: Baserunning
The Red Sox never gamble unnecessarily, and they have excellent team speed, led by their blazer Ellsbury. In addition, Drew, Pedroia, and Bay are all legitimate threats to steal when the time is right. That's what I like about Boston's baserunning, they don't force the action.
With Brett Gardner on the DL, the Yankees don't have a blazer right now. Jeter, Damon, A-Rod, and Cabrera can all swipe bags if necessary, but the Red Sox are more dangerous and efficient as a group.
The verdict: Red Sox have a 53/47% advantage.
Section 6: Manager
As many of us already know, a manager in baseball is not as important as say, a head coach in football. Nonetheless, a major league manager can still be a difference-maker. In this case, it's a no-brainer -- Terry Francona is a two-time World Series champion, and Joe Girardi has yet to win a playoff series in his managerial career. Girardi allowed the team with the highest payroll in baseball to miss the postseason last year. I didn't have to think twice about this one.
The verdict: Red Sox have a 70/30% advantage.
So, take the manager category out of the equation, and the Red Sox have a six percent advantage over the Yankees. But obviously, it's not that simple. It depends on what you value. I'd argue that offense and starting pitching are the most important categories, and the Yankees are slightly superior in both. Some people prefer pitching and defense, others think the manager is extremely important.
In the end, it's up to you. What do you value? Given everything here, who are you taking...
The Red Sox or the Yankees?
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)