The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
BoSox and Bronx Bombers Will Duke It Out to the Finish

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox appear to be in a fight to the finish.  They are like two heavyweight boxers going toe-to-toe in a slugfest.  Mid-way through the current bout for first place in the East Division, they are pretty much even in points (win-loss record), and neither one appears to be going down for the count any time soon.

The boxing analogy is indeed appropriate.  The Yankees and Red Sox are practically deadlocked in a tight race in the East Division.  Since May 1, the two teams have been in first or second place, never more than 2 ½ games apart.  They are both offensive juggernauts, only surpassed by the West Division’s Houston Astros in a few categories.  In head-to-head competition so far this season, the Yankees have won five of nine games from the Red Sox.  Neither team shows any sign of faltering.  They are both on a pace to win over 100 games for the season.

Of course, what’s at stake is a first-place finish in the division, so that a risky wild-card playoff situation is avoided.  In a one-and-done wild-card game, a season filled with excellence, like both teams are currently demonstrating, can go down the drain with one unlucky inning.

The Yankees have had mixed results from the last two times they finished the regular season with a wild-card berth.  Last year the Yankees finished in second place behind the Red Sox, but got past a relatively weak Minnesota Twins team in the wild-card game.  The Yanks defeated the Indians and then almost got into the World Series, losing the AL pennant in seven games to the eventual champion Houston Astros.  However, recall the Yankees were put out of the post-season in a wild-card game loss to the Astros in 2015.

The highly successful Red Sox and Yankees are amazingly being led by first-year managers, Alex Cora and Aaron Boone, respectively. They are pushing all the right buttons, and neither manager has blinked so far in the showdown through the first half of the season.  They are making the MLB manager’s job look easy, but just ask another first-year skipper, Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals, how easy it really is.

Of course, a big factor that helps both managers is that their rosters are loaded with talent.  The Red Sox added free-agent slugger J. D. Martinez during the off-season, while the Yankees acquired 2017 MVP Giancarlo Stanton in a deal with the Miami Marlins.  These big-time acquisitions signaled that both teams were willing to pull out all the stops this year to get back to the World Series after several years of absence.

Stanton is complementing the new core of the Baby Bombers that includes Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius, Torres, Hicks, and Andujar.  Martinez, who leads the league in home runs and RBIs, has been a nice addition to Boston’s young core of Betts, Benintendi, Bogaerts, Bradley, and Devers.  Both teams have youth on their side, as the batters of both teams remarkably average only 27 years of age.  Only the Chicago White Sox having a younger offensive lineup in the American League.

Not only are their won-loss records pretty much even, but the two teams are very similar in almost every other respect.  Here’s a comparison of the American League ranking of the two teams in several key offensive categories:

Batting Category

Yankees

Red Sox

Runs Scored

3rd

1st

Home Runs

1st

2nd

Slugging %

1st

2nd

On-Base %

3rd

2nd

On-Base Plus Slugging %

1st

2nd

OPS+

2nd

3rd

 

It’s a similar situation in the key pitching categories in the American League.  The Houston Astros are the leaders, but either the Yankees or the Red Sox are second or third in most of the rankings.

Pitching Category

Yankees

Red Sox

Runs Allowed

2nd

3rd

Earned Run Average

2nd

3rd

Walks and Hits per 9 Innings

2nd

5th

Strikeouts per 9 Innings

2nd

3rd

Fielding Independent Pitching

2nd

3rd

ERA+

2nd

3rd

 

The Yankees’ pitching staff is headlined by 24-year-old Luis Severino, while 18-year veteran CC Sabathia seems to be getting better in his elder years.  The Red Sox have four starters with nine or more victories.  Both clubs have reliable relief staffs.

Of course, both teams need to stay injury-free during the second half of the season.  The Yankees have starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Jordon Montgomery on the DL right now, which will likely push them to acquire some help for the starting rotation at the trade deadline at the end of the month.

The two teams will face off four more times in August and six more times in September, including a three-game series on the final days of the regular season at Fenway.  Unless one of the teams can deliver a knockout punch sometime before that last series, the division race should come down to the final bell.

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