Category Archives: MLB

Mickey Callaway Cannot Fix a Flawed Team

During Spring Training, Mets manager Mickey Callaway earned great praise for the positive energy he had brought to Spring Training.  I also read of players complimenting the fact that all of the Spring Training drills had purposes, as if Terry Collins had always been orchestrating a bunch of useless drills in his Spring Training workouts.  That seemed like a bogus claim to me, but it was not the silliest thing that I heard this spring.  To the contrary, the silliest thing I heard was when Callaway mentioned that he wanted Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler to pitch 4 innings per start.  At the time, Callaway also discussed having relievers be able to pitch multiple innings to make up for those short starts. While the idea of having relievers pitch multiple innings was and is a good one, the idea that a bullpen could collectively handle such a massive workload was and is not.  Nevertheless, in the spring; reporters, players, and some Mets fans thought that all of Callaway’s ideas were wonderful.  I was not one of these people; I thought Callaway’s idea to use starting pitchers for so few innings was a recipe for disaster.

In fact, when I heard all of the premature praise for Mickey Callaway, it reminded me of the scene in Step Brothers in which Seth Rogen’s character compliments Dale and Brennan for showing up for a physical-education job interview in tuxedos.   “It’s ironic.  I get it.”  Anyway, why did the Callaway situation remind me of this scene?  First off, most things in life remind me of Step Brothers.  Secondly, I knew that there was no way that the bullpen strategy could work over a 162-game season.  Thus, applauding the strategy in March was like Rogen applauding the tuxedos.  I figured that, when the strategy ultimately blows up, and Callaway’s over-the-top positivity for a bad team quickly runs stale; all of his one-time sycophants would say, “OK, now the 4-inning starts (aka the “tuxes”) seem kinda f$%#ed up”.  If this analogy has gone over your head, please go watch Step Brothers immediately.  Then it will all make sense, and the movie is one of the funniest movies of all time.  You are welcome.

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Anyway, enough with the analogy.  I do give Mickey Callaway credit for the idea of pitching relievers for multiple innings.  I have been preaching this idea since 1998 when I first wrote to The Record, stating that, if Turk Wendell has pitched a good 8th inning, he should be allowed to pitch the 9th.  That part of Callaway’s logic makes perfect sense.  We know that Callaway rightfully includes warm-up pitches in his consideration for how much work a pitcher has received.  We know that he hates “dry humping”, and, by that logic, it is more efficient to have a pitcher throw 70 innings in 35 appearances than 70 innings in 70 appearances.  The latter means 35 more games in which the pitcher has to throw several warm-up pitches in the bullpen.  I agree with Callaway on all fronts here.  Furthermore, some days a pitcher “has it”.  Some days a pitcher does not.  Therefore, I have never liked taking out a pitcher who clearly “has it”.  If you go through 6 or 7 pitchers in a game, the law of averages says that at least one (and likely more) of those pitchers will not “have it” that day.  Therefore, you might as well stick with the guy who has been effective in that game.

That all said, the benefits of this strategy go out the window when you have three pitchers who rarely make it past four innings.  I should add that some of the unwarranted preseason praise for Callaway intimated that Callaway would be able to fix Matt Harvey.  That clearly proved not to be the case.  Meanwhile, I am not going to blame Jason Vargas’s horrific performances on Callaway, but the fact remains that we are stuck with three Mets pitchers who routinely exit after 4 or maybe 5 innings.  That was Callaway’s plan anyway, and it does not work.  You cannot sustain a bullpen under those circumstances.

It does not matter if you are using relievers for an inning apiece or multiple innings apiece; if you need five innings of relief three out of every five nights, you will destroy your bullpen.  If we assume that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard give a combined 13 innings per rotation, the Mets need 20 bullpen innings per rotation, and that equates to roughly 650 bullpen innings per season.  Keep in mind that a dependable workhorse reliever is good for 80 innings per season.  The standard modern workhorse, in that case, would make 80 appearances and average one inning per appearance.  Fortunately, Callaway has allowed pitchers to make multiple-inning appearances.  However, if a pitcher like Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman pitches 2 or 3 innings in a relief effort, he should not be pitching in the next two games or really the next three games.  THAT is how you maximize the effectiveness of a relief pitcher.  It is not only the longer outings but it is also the longer rest.  Ideally, a team should be able to use two relievers per game.  This would keep all relievers fresh, as they would regularly get two or three days off in a row.

The problem is that this idea would only work well in an era in which starting pitchers routinely pitch seven innings.  Such an era would require only 320 relief innings per season.  If a team has 4 good relievers, the team can satisfy the bulk of those 320 innings with only those four relievers.  Plus, if those relievers could make 2-inning appearances with some regularity, these relievers would receive enough rest to stay effective.

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On the other hand, the Mets need the afore-mentioned 650 bullpen innings.  Yikes!  Is the Mets’ bullpen terrible?  No.  It has four dependable relievers – Jeurys Familia, Lugo, Gsellman, and the injured Anthony Swarzak.  How many teams have more than four dependable relievers?  2?  3?  Many teams would be happy to have four dependable relievers.  However, when your team’s strategy is to have 650 bullpen innings (as I have projected for the Mets), and you have only four dependable relievers (who we will generously say are good for 80 innings apiece); you are stuck with the unenviable choice either a) coaxing 330 innings from the other relief pitchers, who are generally terrible, b) completely overworking the good relievers to the point where they are injured or no longer dependable, or c) both.  Actually, who am I kidding?  The only answer is “c”.  This is the sole logical result, given that teams do try to use the bad relievers; the bad relievers get bombed; and the teams must then use the good relievers.

Case in point: Seth Lugo on Memorial Day.  This guy has dominated all year, but he has been overused.  Callaway wanted Lugo to get a 2-inning save in the first game of a doubleheader, so that he could save Familia for the nightcap.  I do not think it is bad strategy, but it would have been much better strategy if Lugo had not pitched so many innings already.  Lugo has pitched 32.2 innings, and Gsellman has pitched 33.3.  Lugo’s 20 appearances are not bad for a 51-game stretch, but he, like Gsellman (25 appearances), is on pace to pitch more than 100 innings, an untenable total for a reliever.  (I would still love to swap Lugo and Wheeler; given that Lugo has been an effective starter and that Wheeler has an innings’ limit.)  Unfortunately, the Mets are burning out their best relief pitchers.

The funny thing is: this same exact issue happened for the Mets last year.  In fact, I wrote an article about how the Mets’ starting pitching was atrocious and responsible for the bad bullpen performance.  The Mets’ bullpen performed well at the beginning of last season too, but those relievers became overtaxed and lost effectiveness.

The truth is that there are only two ways for a team to be successful while having as many 4-5-inning starts as the Mets do:

  • The team must have at least 6 good relief pitchers.
  • The team must have fantastic position players.

 

It is great to have six good relief pitchers, because that would cover 480 of the 630 relief innings.  That is a workable ratio.  However, let’s be honest.  How many teams have 6 good relief pitchers?  The Yankees did last year, and so did the 2006 Mets (Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver); but it is a huge rarity.  No, the only way to expect success with such undependable starting pitching is to have a dynamite offense, and the Mets do not have that.   The Mets have a bunch of old guys who would be on the benches of most other teams, some younger guys who are currently no better than #7 or #8 hitters, and one phenomenal hitter who can never stay healthy.  Mickey Callaway cannot fix any of these problems, but he cannot fix the pitching problems any better than Terry Collins could.  That is why the preseason praise for Callaway seems as f$#@ed up as the tuxes.  I do not think he is a bad manager, but he does not have the ability to fix the major problems with the Mets’ roster.

Yankees Baseball is FINALLY Back

After a long winer, the day we’ve all been waiting for is almost here. Tomorrow, Luis Severino and the Yankees will take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre with a 3:37 first pitch. Us Yankee fans have been anxiously anticipating Opening Day ever since a heartbreaking ALCS Game 7 loss to the eventual World Champion Astros ended our season in October. Between last year’s postseason success and the addition of  NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year. While 2017 was supposed to be a “transition” year for the Bombers, the goal for 2018 is clear: World Series or bust. Opening Day marks the start of the journey towards that goal, and aside from the recent injury to Greg Bird (shocker), the Yanks are headed into the season at full strength. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve right now, and nothing short of my life physically being in danger could stop me from sitting on my couch and watching this team get back to business tomorrow. Every Yankee fan is hoping that this will be our year. Let’s play some goddamn baseball!

Survival of the Fittest: 2018 MLB Season Hype Video

Will Judge and Stanton carry the Yanks to #28? Will the Nats finally get over the hump? Will the Indians avoid another playoff collapse? Will the Mets‘ young pitchers stay healthy and reach their potential? Will the Dodgers get their redemption? Or will the Astros repeat?

All these questions and more will be answered on this season of…. BASEBALL!

In the midst of March Madness captivating the country, here’s a friendly reminder that the 2018 season of America’s pastime is just around the corner. And we couldn’t be more excited.

Top 10 Players in Baseball Right Now Countdown: Second Basemen

As the countdown to the MLB season draws closer, I take a look at the ten best second basemen in the league right now. If you missed my catcher or first baseman countdowns, you can find them here. Let’s dive in.

10. Ian Kinsler, Angels

At 35, Kinsler’s best years are likely behind him. However, that’s not to say he isn’t still a solid player. With the Tigers last year, Kinsler hit .236 with 22 HR and 52 RBI. This is a guy who hit .288 with 28 HR and 83 RBI just two years ago in 2016. After being traded to the Angels this offseason, let’s see if Kinsler can inject some life into a lineup that also features Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Albert Pujols.

9. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

I hate this rat-faced fuck. One of my most hated Red Sox ever. It sickens me that he once won an MVP award and Derek Jeter never did. Now that my Yankee fan bias is out of the way, Pedroia has been one of the top second basemen in the game for years. While he is for sure not an MVP-caliber player anymore, he is a consistent hitter and an overall scrappy guy who does what it takes to help his team win. However, Pedroia has had his share of health issues lately. He played in only 105 games last year, and he had a cartilage restoration procedure performed in the offseason that’s expected to keep him sidelined until the end of May. Hoping for a speedy recovery for one of my favorites!

8. Javier Baez, Cubs

Sometimes overlooked in Chicago because of guys like Bryant and Rizzo, Baez is one of the best young second basemen in the game. Hitting .273 with 23 HR and 75 RBI a year ago, the 2016 NLCS MVP looks to build on the successful start to his career.

7. DJ LaMahieu, Rockies

Part of a Rockies lineup that can absolutely mash, LaMahieu has hit above .300 in each of the past three seasons. While he does not overwhelm you with power, he can certainly swing the bat. He’s a two-time All-Star, the 2016 NL batting champion, and a two-time Gold Glover.

6. Starlin Castro, Marlins

This poor soul. The unfortunate victim of the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, Castro is now one of the only legitimate baseball players left on what the Marlins are still attempting to call a team. After watching him start for the Yankees past two years, it’s clear this guy can flat-out hit. A four-time All-Star, Castro hit .300 with 16 HR and 63 RBI in 112 games last year, missing some time due to injury. He’s sure to be unhappy in Miami, and with the current situation there, I’d be surprised if he’s a Marlin for too long.

5. Robinson Cano, Mariners

The one that got away. As much as it bothered me that Cano left the Yanks for Seattle (or that they gave his money to Jacoby fucking Ellsbury), you can’t deny he has one of the sweetest swings in baseball. I mean, look.

Just gorgeous. Cano’s resume speaks for itself. 8-time All-Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, 2-time Gold Glover, 2017 All-Star Game MVP. While Cano may be nearing the end of his prime, he’s still among the game’s elite second basemen.

4. Brian Dozier, Twins

When Dozier led off the Wild Card game with a home run, my heart dropped. This guy is a hitter, and he can hit for power. With 34 homers last year and a whopping 42 the year before, it’s rare to see this kind of power from a second baseman. He’ll be one of the headliners of an intriguing free agent class following this season.

3. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles

The Yanks play the Orioles 18 times a year, and I still didn’t realize Schoop was THIS good. He hit .293 with 32 HR and 105 RBI last year. At just 26, he looks to be one of the game’s best for a long time.

2. Daniel Murphy, Nationals

After carrying the Mets to the World Series in 2015, Murphy has continued to mash with the Nationals these past two seasons. At .322, 23 HR and 93 RBI, Murphy helps to form a dangerous duo along with Bryce Harper. Like Harper, Murphy is also a free agent after this season, so 2018 will be a crucial one for the Nats.

1. Jose Altuve, Astros

Just the clear-cut best. The 2017 AL MVP hit a league-leading .346 with 24 HR and 81 RBI last year, leading the Astros to a World Series title. 5-time All-Star, 3 batting titles, 4 Silver Sluggers at just 27. Altuve is one of the best players in baseball, and if he keeps his current pace, will go down as one of the best second basemen of all-time.

Is This the Worst Proposed MLB Rule Change Ever?

In an era where 98% of sports TV is unwatchable, I actually really enjoy Colin Cowherd. I agree with most of his takes, and he does a pretty good job of mixing up his topics of discussion and having opinions that differ from what you’d hear 9000 times a day on SportsCenter. But every once in awhile, he says something that I just can’t get on board with. During the NBA Playoffs last year, he claimed it didn’t matter that everyone and their mother knew the Finals would be Warriors vs. Cavs again because “you go into movies knowing how it’s going to end.” First off, I try not to hear how a movie ends until I go, when applicable. And yes, while you obviously go into some movies knowing how it’ll end (spoiler alert: the Titanic sinks at the end), you watch the movie to see how it all plays out to cause that ending. Forgive me for not exactly finding the Warriors going 12-0 in the West and the Cavs go 12-1 in the East particularly entertaining. Long story short, when Cowherd has a bad take, it’s usually a REALLY bad one. Then I came across this video the other day.

I’m not necessarily a baseball purist that will scream and shout at any potential rule change, but this one is just really bad. First off, if anyone should be for this rule, it should be me as a Yankee fan. Would I rather see Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton bat again in the 9th with the bases loaded rather than Ronald Torreyes? Obviously I would. But that’s the beauty of baseball, you don’t know how the game itself is going to pay off. Every move is strategic. Do you use your best reliever to get out of a jam in the 6th inning, or save him for the 9th? At what depth do you play your infielders when it’s first and third with one out and you’re ahead by one? Every little decision can make a major impact, and this proposed rule change would just make a manager’s job too easy. Imagine if the Astros had 7-8-9 in the order coming up in the 9th, and A.J. Hinch could just say “hey, Correa, go grab a bat.” Where’s the strategy in that? What happens if Terry Francona already used Andrew Miller to get Correa out two innings prior to that? Is he allowed to come back into the game too?

I’ll listen to anything  that can help make baseball even more entertaining, not because the sport needs help, but why not make improvements? I’m all for pitch clocks and limits to mound visits because while cutting 5-10 minutes off of a game may not make a real impact/attract any new fans, they just make the game itself run more smoothly. But this idea? Scrap it immediately. It’s the Jessica Mendoza of ideas. (If you watched even just one Sunday Night Baseball broadcast last year, you know how awful she is at her job). So thanks for trying Colin, but let’s never talk about this idea ever again.

MLB Teams That Could Surprise in 2018

FINALLY this offseason is starting to heat up a little. I’ve been dying to write about baseball, but literally nothing has happened. A few free agents remain unsigned, but the bulk of the “big names” have found a home. Teams, for the most part, have their rosters ready to go into Spring Training.

Obviously this year you are going to have the powerhouse teams, and the bottom-of-the-barrel rebuild teams, but what about the dark horses? The ones that have always found themselves somewhere in the middle, but never leaned one way or the other, and now they have a legitimate chance to contend for a playoff spot.

PADRES

Key Additions: SS Freddy Galvis, 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Chase Headley

The San Diego Padres have been a joke for a really, really long time.  I’ve watched the sport since I was six, and I honestly cannot remember a time they were even close to good. But I think 2018 might be their year to be slightly above average! Adding some depth to their lineup in Hosmer, Galvis, and Headley (his name still sends chills down my spine), in addition to their talented young outfielders (Margot, Renfroe), can actually make them a threat on the offensive side of things. But their rotation lacks any consistency, so don’t expect them to be making a wild card push this season. I’d consider anything over .500 a wildly successful season for the Padres.

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ANGELS

Key Additions: SP/OF Shohei Otani, SS/3B Zack Cozart, 2B Ian Kinsler

With the Messiah in center field (others call him Mike Trout), the Angels are always going to contend in some way. But I’m legitimately excited to see them contend in the AL West this year. They are getting a full season out of slugger Justin Upton and added All-Star infielders, in addition to already having defensive wiz Andrelton Simmons and Albert Pujols.

But, of all the teams in this blog, they have the highest chance of failure. With the exception of Otani, they are bringing in old, declining talent, with the hopes they are the players their reputation holds them to. Upton could begin to lose power like Pujols has already done, as could Kinsler. Cozart is no sure thing, especially while playing a new position (3B). And what if Otani isn’t ready? What if he pitches like a 24 year old is supposed to. They could fly high, or they could fall hard. It’ll be very intriguing to see what happens.

CARDINALS

Key Additions: OF Marcell Ozuna, RP Luke Gregorson, RP Dominic Leone

After falling for the good ol’ “Have Derek Jeter become the owner so he can trade that team’s best player to his former team” trick, the Cardinals recovered quickly and added Marcel Ozuna to an already stacked outfield. With Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, and now Ozuna, their lineup is scary. They were already on the verge of being a playoff team, but with ace Carlos Martinez a year older, and a few added pieces to the bullpen, this squad could be ready for the postseason once more.

BREWERS

Key Additions: OF Lorenzo Cain, OF Christian Yelich

The theme of a “stacked outfield” continues here, but like the Cardinals, this team wasn’t missing a whole lot. I don’t think they’re championship caliber, but a few midseason moves could direct them towards the promised land. They have some great prospects to dish out at the deadline, and Jake Arrieta still remains unsigned.  With the Cubs and the Cardinals both getting better this offseason, be on the look out for the NL Central to be best division in baseball.

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GIANTS

Key Additions: 3B Evan Longoria, OF Andrew McCutchen

It’s an even year, so the Giants are automatically a contender. Minus the weirdest trend in sports, the Giants actually made significant moves to be a better team. Longoria and McCutchen are veteran players that still have something to offer, and getting Mad-Bum healthy already gives them a few more wins. I can see them switching between the 2nd and 3rd spot in the NL West throughout the year with the Rockies, and the Diamondbacks falling into mediocrity.

PHILLIES

Key Additions: 1B Carlos Santana, RP Pat Neshek

The Phillies didn’t make a huge splash this offseason, but they are a young team that continues to get older, and this season could finally be the year they breakout as a unit. Fans got a glimpse of what OF Rhys Hoskins can do last season, and as their rising stars continue their gradual pace towards becoming All-Star caliber players, the Phillies have a chance to compete for a wild card spot come October.

MARLINS

Just kidding, they’re a dumpster fire

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What the Balance of Power Looks Like in the AL East after the JD Martinez Signing

After months of negotiations, the best hitter on the free agent market has finally signed. JD Martinez signed with the Red Sox today, as expected, for 5 years and $110 million. Martinez signed for less than the 5 years/$125 million that was previously rumored to be on the table, and far less than the 7 years/$210 million that agent Scott Boras claimed he was seeking. Martinez is coming off a career year in which he hit .303 with 45 HR and 104 RBI for the Tigers and Diamondbacks. While he may not be as flashy of a name as Giancarlo Stanton, Martinez is definitely a huge addition to the Sox lineup that was desperate for a power hitter.

The real question is, does this shift the Red Sox back to the favorites in the AL East? If not, how much does this move close the gap between them and the Yankees? Despite both teams adding two of the game’s top power hitters, these moves are completely different. The Yankees added on to their biggest strength, their powerful lineup. The Red Sox addressed their biggest need, a lineup that was starved of power. The Yankees actually led the majors in home runs last year, while the Red Sox ranked 27th.

In a division decided by only two games in 2017, who is the favorite going into 2018? The gap between these two teams and the rest of the division is still too wide to consider the Rays, Orioles, or Blue Jays division contenders, in my opinion. So we’ll just compare the Yanks and the Sox and see where they stand in terms of chances of winning the division.

Lineup

Prior to the Martinez signing, I would’ve given this to the Yankees without question. But adding a player of his caliber definitely opens up the debate. Like the Yankees, most of the Red Sox’ meat of the order guys come from their outfield/DH spots, in the form of Martinez, left fielder Andrew Benintendi and right fielder Mookie Betts. Betts had a down year in 2017, hitting only .264 after a .318 year in 2016. He’s still a stud on both sides of the ball, but he doesn’t scare me nearly as much as Benintendi. I personally think that guy is gonna be an absolute star, and he would’ve been an easy Rookie of the Year choice if not for Aaron Judge’s historic season. Benintendi is what you could call a “Yankee killer”, and third baseman Rafael Devers seems to fall in that category as well (the game-tying homer off Chapman in the ninth is still tough to watch.) In addition to Devers, the infield is comprised of All-Stars Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, as well as first baseman Mitch Moreland. Bogaerts, like Betts, had a strong 2016 but really regressed in 2017. Bogaerts vs. Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorious was an interesting debate going into 2017 until Didi’s career year that made him the obvious choice. It will be interesting to see if Bogaerts can make that a discussion again. Don’t get me started on Pedroia, he’s the guy I’ve hated the most for a long time, especially considering he’s won an MVP and Jeter never did. He’s not a guy that’s really gonna scare you when he’s at the plate, but he’s a scrappy guy with a .300 career average that’s gonna help you win games. Moreland is a nice player over at first, a guy who won’t hit for average but can give you some solid power numbers. Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon handle the catching duties, neither of whom are super imposing at the plate but do a solid job.

The Yankees boast Judge and Stanton in the outfield, the last pair of teammates to have both hit 50 homers in a season since Mantle and Maris. Hopefully Stanton can help Judge cut down on the strikeouts, something he has done a good job of himself over the last few seasons. The keys for these two will be Judge staying out of deep slumps like the one he got into in 2017, and Stanton staying healthy. Brett Gardner will play left field and bat leadoff, and while he won’t steal as many bases as he used to, he is fantastic at working counts and getting on base. Aaron Hicks is somewhat of an X-factor to this lineup, as he was All-Star caliber before he got hurt and less than stellar once he got back last year. Regardless of how he is at the plate, Hicks is quietly one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

Hopefully he can perform at the plate, as it’s possible the Yanks could turn to Clint Frazier or even Jacoby Ellsbury *gasp* if Hicks isn’t the hitter he was a year ago. The infield is extremely interesting for the Yanks, as it includes two rookies, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Andujar has raked in the minors, but there have been concerns about his defense. As of now, he figures to be the opening day third baseman for the Yanks. Torres will likely spend the first month in AAA before getting promoted to the bigs so the Yanks can gain an extra year of his service time, as the Cubs did with Kris Bryant when he was coming up. Torres is supposed to be one of the best prospects in baseball, and if he lives up to the hype, could be an absolutely electric addition to the lineup. Shortstop Didi Gregorious returns after a career year that included postseason heroics like his game-tying home run in the Wild Card Game, or taking Corey Kluber deep twice in the decisive ALDS Game 5. First baseman Greg Bird looks to reach his full potential after a 2017 season that includes a disastrous 6-60 start, months on the disabled list, and a promising September/playoff stretch. At catcher, Gary Sanchez is one of the team’s most important players. Although he’s been somewhat overshadowed by Judge and Stanton, Sanchez may legitimately be the best hitter on the team. His rocket arm makes him a huge threat to throw out stealing baserunners, and hopefully the weight he lost will help him improve his ability to block balls in the dirt, which was a huge problem last year.

Conclusion: The Red Sox have a deep lineup. A good lineup. But the Yankees simply have too many guys that are not just good hitters, but great hitters. The Red Sox definitely have significant advantages and second and third base right now since you don’t really know what you’re gonna get from Torres and Andujar, but if they live up to their hype that gap wouldn’t be too wide. Sanchez is the clear cut choice at catcher, Didi is better than Bogaerts, Bird at his best is better than Moreland, and I’ll take Judge/Stanton/Gardner/Hicks as my outfield/DH over Martinez/Benintendi/Betts/Bradley any day.

Advantage: Yankees

Starting Pitching

The Red Sox staff is anchored by the best starting pitcher in the American League in lefty ace Chris Sale. I know he wasn’t great in the playoffs last year, but there’s no denying the guy is absolutely filthy. If I was picking a team to make a one-year run at the World Series and I needed a starting pitcher, Sale is probably the first guy I pick not named Clayton Kershaw. I’d consider Max Scherzer or Noah Syndergaard too, but point is Sale is a beast. David Price is an interesting guy at the #2 spot in the rotation. Sure, we’ve seen him perform as one of the best pitchers in the league in the past. But his time in Boston has been riddled with elbow troubles, trouble with the Boston media, and overall sub-par performance. That being said, he still has the ability to shut down any lineup on any given night, as he did to the Yanks on Sunday Night Baseball last year. Rick Porcello followed up his 2016 Cy Young Season with a horrid 11-17, 4.65 ERA 2017. It will be interesting to see which Porcello we get in 2018. Drew Pomeranz quietly had a great 2017 season, going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. For a middle of the rotation guy, he is more than solid. Veteran knuckleballer Steven Wright figures to be the 5th starter, although offseason domestic violence charges could come into play there.

The Yanks staff is led by young ace Luis Severino, whose breakout 2017 netted him a third place finish in the AL Cy Young vote, behind Kluber and Sale. However, he has a lot to prove in 2018, coming off of the most innings he’s ever thrown, to prove this was no fluke. He’s followed by Masahiro Tanaka, who had an interesting 2017 to say the least. From shutting out the Sox at Fenway during his early season dominance, to basically forgetting how to pitch for a few months, seemingly getting shelled every time out, until he finally put it back together again for September and the playoffs, you simply don’t know what you’re gonna get from Tanaka. Veteran CC Sabathia returns after a solid 2017 that included a great playoffs, and lefty Jordan Montgomery figures to project as the 5th starter following a solid rookie campaign. The X-Factor of this staff, however, is Sonny Gray. He was good for the Yanks last year after coming over from Oakland in the deadline, but not great. Will he step up to be the ace-potential guy the Yankees thought he could be when they traded three top prospects for him, or will he continue to be a middle of the rotation starter? To me, that’s a huge question regarding not only the Yankees’ division chances, but their title hopes.

Conclusion: These staffs are both interesting. They both boast Cy Young caliber aces (Sale and Severino), and guys who are All-Stars at their best, but pretty bad at their worst (Price, Porcello, Tanaka, Gray). But, considering the Sox staff is overall more experienced, I feel like they have to get the nod here.

Decision: Red Sox

Bullpen

This one is honestly a no-brainer. Sure, the Sox have one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel, but who’s in the pen besides him? For as demoralizing as it is to go into the 9th losing to face Kimbrel, who’s the bridge between him and the Sox’ starters? Literally no one. The Red Sox bullpen was a huge weakness all season in 2017, and they didn’t really do anything to upgrade it going into 2018.

The Yankees, however, boast the best bullpen in baseball. Sure, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman make you want to pull your hair out, but when they’re pitching well they’re elite. Chapman was great in the playoffs, and hopefully Betances has figured it out this offseason. Chad Green was quietly one of the best relievers in baseball in 2017, and David Robertson is extremely reliable. Tommy Kahnle finally looked like the stud the Yankees thought they were getting in the playoffs, and Adam Warren is more than capable.

Conclusion: The Yankees have the better bullpen, and it’s not close.

Decision: Yankees

Overall, the Martinez move is a good one for the Sox. It gives them the power hitter they needed. But do I think it makes them better than the Yankees? No shot. I may be biased, but to me, the Yankees have a better lineup, much better bullpen, and a rotation that, if healthy, gives them a fighting chance on any given night. In my mind, as great as I think the Yankees can be, I don’t think they should be the favorites to win the World Series. That’s still the Astros in my mind, no doubt about it. But in the East? On paper, the Yankees are better than the Red Sox. The Indians even scare me more than the Sox do at this point. But baseball is a long season. If what’s on paper really mattered, they wouldn’t play the games. Let’s hope I don’t regret this blog once October rolls around, but I have a feeling this is gonna be a great year for the Bronx Bombers. Opening Day, where you at??