On Wednesday, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will conclude their two-game set to determine which American League East juggernaut has started the season on a worse foot — via fuboTV (try for free). The Yankees won the first game on Tuesday, pantsing the Red Sox by an 8-0 score en route to a 7-9 record. Meanwhile, the Red Sox now have sole possession of last place at 6-12. Yikes.
It’s early, and you never want to read too much into 20-game segments. Had these teams suffered through the same runs in June or August — well, we’d probably write about them, but not with the same sense of urgency. So, ahead of tonight’s finale, we decided to ask and answer a simple question: which of these two teams is in more significant trouble?
The case for the Red Sox
Woo, brother. Where to start?
The Red Sox are misfiring across the board. Their offense ranks 23rd in adjusted weighted runs created, or one spot better than the Toronto Blue Jays, who keep getting nearly no-hit. Their defense is 24th in converting balls in play into outs … yet it’s hard to say how much of that is on the gloves due to how poorly they’ve pitched. Boston’s rotation has the worst ERA in baseball, at 7.18, and their bullpen — the relative bright spot here — checks in at 19th.
There’s too much talent on the Red Sox roster for them to continue to play this poorly. You just know Mookie Betts is going to improve upon his .714 OPS; that they’ll finish with more than starter with an ERA below 7.50; and that the highest OPS+ among Jackie Bradley Jr., Steve Pearce, Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez will be better than 10. You know that.
You can also, perhaps, write off some of the bad start by noting the Red Sox opened the season on a lengthy west-coast road trip. The schedule is the schedule though. Every team goes through similar cross-country roadies at some point. Had the Red Sox played well, we’d be hearing about how they bonded and blah blah blah. It stinks that Boston’s home opener didn’t come until their 11th game of the year, but that doesn’t cover for all the issues going on here.
There’s even reason to be worried about Chris Sale, who has been among the most consistently good pitchers in baseball throughout his career. It’s not good when every start is accompanied by a velocity watch. It’s also not good when you have to count on about a dozen things correcting before you can start to feel good about Boston’s chances of competing for the division crown. Unfortunately for the Red Sox and their fans, that’s where we are right now.
The case for the Yankees
Truthfully, the Yankees’ biggest issue is out of their hands. For the most part, everyone on the active roster is performing. There are some notable exceptions — J.A. Happ, Chad Green, Brett Gardner — but the real problem here lies with who isn’t on the active roster.
The Yankees have 12 players on the injured list. They’ve already lost more than 200 days to various maladies, almost as many as the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and aforementioned Red Sox have lost combined. The Yankees aren’t just short a few middle relievers and bench players, either. They’re without four of their top five performers from last season, as judged by Wins Above Replacement. That includes a former MVP (Giancarlo Stanton), their ace (Luis Severino), a top setup man (Dellin Betances), and the likes of Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar. Any team, when faced with similar loss, would be struggling to live up to preseason expectations.
Injuries aren’t always luck-based — maybe there’s some issue with the Yankees conditioning and strength programs — and there’s certainly some trickiness involved heading forward, as it pertains to the chances of injury. But, all things considered, we think the Yankees will be fine just as soon as they get healthier. When, pray tell, that will be is anyone’s guess.
You can probably guess based on the writeups, but we think the Red Sox are in a more perilous state. For as weary as we are about assuming every little thing will work out when it comes to injuries, we’re even more concerned about a prolonged team-wide slump — especially when it’s accompanied by legitimate worries about one of the team’s best players. Water tends to still, and both squads have too much talent to be down for long. But if we had to pick one or the other as things stand, we would feel more confident about the Yankees making the postseason.