By Gerard Lombardo – @redsoxfidelis
Whether it be the ’86 Mets or the ’04 Yanks, New York’s franchised ball clubs have long been Boston’s cause of frustration, broken T.V. remotes, and long nights of boozing at your local pubs and watering holes in an effort to erase the damaging effects they bestow on the fan base and players alike. Luckily for millennials, 80’s babies, along with the aging Sox fanatics, the curse was reversed in 2004, and Boston hasn’t looked back.
Unlike previous seasons, in 2017, after winning 94 tilts for the second straight year, it was pitching that carried the Sox; and once again, coupled with a couple key Yankee departures and the core of Boston’s talented team returning, it will be Sox pitching that alleviates any fears of the Bronx Bombers running away with a division title in 2018.
The same narrative has been beaten into the ground time and time again this offseason: The Yanks have the deadliest trio of middle of the lineup bashers in Sanchez, Judge and Stanton since Cano-Rodriguez-Teixeira, and the Red Stockings’ winter maneuvering has been but a blip on the radar. But oft overlooked are the departures and shortcomings within the entirety of the New York offense, as their second baseman who posted an OPS near .800 is now in South Beach, their first baseman is coming off an injury riddled .190 average campaign, and the vaunted Didi Gregorius only slugged .354 off southpaws last year, while compiling just 12 home runs in the left handed bat-friendly venues of Yankee Stadium. With an unproven third baseman in Gleyber Torres set to take over Chase Headley’s spot –another regular that the Yanks lost this offseason– New York clearly isn’t confident in the potential production of their infield; why else would they be hot on Eduardo Nunez’s trail with just two weeks separating them from their first Spring Training game?
Boston, on the other hand, has done more right than wrong over this winter, where the offseason numbness brought on by the cold is only matched by the coma 25 general managers have fallen into. The only casualty we’ve suffered was the aforementioned Nunez, the spark plug that Boston is very much in play for according to mlbtraderumors.com (and Bob Nightengale for what that’s worth). The coaching staff is vastly improved, with the unpopular Farrell having been succeeded, as well as a hitting coach who led the team to a miserable slugging percentage of .407, only 10 points from being dead last in the home run happy American League.
But it’s not just the starting nine that will ultimately lead the good guys to compete for a third consecutive division banner, rather the crew that will be toeing the rubber at 7:05 on so many nights this year. They’re comprised of two 17 game winners, a pair of Cy Young champs, and a plethora of arms ready to compete for the fifth spot. So can the Sox once again look to neutralize the Bombers? Look a bit closer at some of their numbers vs. lefties:
Judge (.230 in ’17)
Sanchez (.239 in ’17)
Gregorius (three home runs in ’17)
Gardner (career SLG% of .355)
Add the loss of Castro’s .836 OPS vs. lefties, plus another year of Ellsbury who hasn’t hit over .271 since winning a World Series in Boston, and suddenly this Yankee lineup is susceptible to the left hand dominant Red Sox pitching. I’d be remiss to negate the incredible talent of Giancarlo, but which Stanton are the Yanks getting: last year’s version that destroyed the National League, or the guy that averaged just 29 home runs for the entirety of his career leading up to 2017? It’s a fair question to ask.
There is much to be hopeful for in our city, even if Dombrowski doesn’t sign a middle of the lineup thumper, while simultaneously failing to be persuaded to acquire Encarnacion for Bradley Jr. You can start with the most heralded starter since Pedro Martinez, Chris Sale, who will still take the ball every fifth day. Drew Pomeranz’s curve ball and cutter will continue to be a forceful combination that leaves hitters off balance; and not withstanding is David Price. Despite his trials and tribulations within the Sox organization, the veteran arm has still maintained an ERA of 3.84 to be paired with a 9/2.2 K to BB ratio. And if Porcello’s competitive nature doesn’t lead to a successful rebound in 2018, I still like the odds if he’s penciled in as a 3rd or 4th starter.
Seven weeks from now, the 162 game journey begins. And the club that Boston will field is a heck of a lot more talented than being credited for.
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