This first Yankees vs. Red Sox series of the year goes down this week in Boston so let’s take a look at the State of affairs in New York and in the rivalry.
Well up until this year it has been pretty nonexistent. When the Yankees were good the Red Sox weren’t, and when the Red Sox were good (or great) the Yankees were very mediocre. There is also another reason for the rivalry being more subdued: David Ortiz. Before Ortiz all of these guys hated each other, he went out of his way to take the domincan players under his wing and befriend them. While that is great for them, and the right thing to do, it made for a dumbed down rivalry. Seeing the two best players for each team chit chat before the game, though materially not important for on field results, changes the aspects of a rivalry. I want to see the competitiveness of a roided up Roger Clemens and a brash Pedro Martinez throwing inside. Neither Clemens nor Pedro would back down, and I see the same competitiveness from Severino and Sale.
With the old guard retiring on both sides there is an opportunity for the younger generation to step up and renew the rivalry. All of these guys are competitive and will want to prove their worth to each other and the fans. Judge, Bird, Severino, Betts, Bennitendi, and Sale are all pretty new to their respective teams. This is the first time in a while that both teams are good and competitive. Yes, the O’s are playing really well and currently have more of a rivalry with the Red Sox than the Yankees do, but this is an opportune time for that rivalry to be rekindled.
Aaron Judge has been a beast this year and we need him to continue that this upcoming series. Last year his big questions were the strikeouts and adjusting to the major league level, and so far this year he has answered those questions. Firstly he has cut down on the strikeouts. Naturally he is going to have a larger strike-zone than most and he has done well to fight off tough pitches and limit his K%. He is striking out at a 25% clip, basically his minor league career average, which isn’t great but is a big improvement over his 44% rate from last August till the end of the season. Every time he goes up a level its takes him some time to adjust, but adjust he does. We have seem it in the minors and now we have seen it at the major league level. He looks great and has hit some massive bombs so far, and will likely continue to do so. I really do think that A-rod had an impact during Spring Training and that Holliday has had one up at the major league level. I’m hopeful that Judge can finish the year with 30 HR, a .270 average and less than a 25% strikeout rate.
Aaron Hicks has somehow turned his career around. Even though it is a small sample size, 44 PA, he has a 9% K rate compared to a 22% BB rate, completely flipped from last year. He seems to be hitting the ball harder than he was last year, though I need to find the date on that. He is definitely hitting less ground balls, though, which is a good sign. Is he going to replace Gardner in left? I don’t think so. I do think he steals ABs from Gardner though and gets rotated around the outfield. I could see Girardi finding 20-24 ABs a week for Hicks (assuming 7 games in a week). That is a lot of ABs and definitely doable while getting Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, and Holliday at-bats.
Luis Severino: 3 games, 20 IP, 4.05 ERA but a 3.12 FIP. Severino has been good to start the year. He is pitching WAY WAY WAY better than last year and sports a strong 12.15 K/9 ratio. He also sports a just as important 0,90 BB/9 rate. All of those combine to showcase a great 3rd starter and good #2, he is our 4th best starting pitcher right now. Those are all good things. He is really on the upswing after a really tough year in 2016. He is no longer just trying to throw 98 on the black, instead trying to pitch to hitters. All of his pitches are improved over last year.
Pineda: Pitching like an ace. a 11.19 K/9 (not an aberration either, look at last years numbers), 1.16 BB/9, 4 GS, 23.1 IP (not great, need more length), and a 3.86 ERA. That ERA isn’t great either but he has a 3.60 FIP and a 2.27 xFIP. Those FIP and xFIP numbers show me that he can definitely lower his ERA as the year goes on. Again, it is early in the season so this doesn’t mean it will last all year, but watching him pitch it seems like he is more focused and in command.
The bullpen has been lights out and it’s tough to pick one guy who demostrates that. I will say Warren and Clippard have done really well, just as I predicated in my bullpen write-up.
Matt Holliday: He has hit a couple massive HRs but is only sporting a .217 average. His BABIP is a little low so either he is not hitting the ball as hard or is getting unlucky. He is striking out at a higher rate but he is also walking at a higher rate. That tells me he is getting pitched around and will sometimes press and chase a pitch. He is hhitting 6% more ground balls than last year and 10% more than his career average, so it will be something to track as the year goes on. Why is Holliday potentially getting pitched around?
Greg Bird: Not good. He has looked lost and late so far this year, even after a massive spring. I’m not sure what is going on with Bird right now but hopefully it is fixable. He is striking out a lot, and making weak contact a lot. He is dubbed the first baseman of the future so letting him figure it out is wise. It is still a rebuilding year, though it doesn’t feel like it because of the early season success, and Yankee fans need to be patient. I think overall they have been and hopefully that carries over to the clubhouse and Bird doesn’t press.
Bird could go here, too. Let’s give him a break. Tanaka could go here but I think that is just some early season struggles, he has overall looked fine. Carter sucks but was only signed for $3MM. Torreyes has been good defensively and fun to watch, though his numbers don’t show that. Gardner has had a tough start to the year but hasn’t looked “ugly” I would say.
Hopefully we get some fireworks with this series in Boston, and hopefully a Yankees sweep.
P.S\ Get your tickets for Sunday April 30th, it’s Gary Sanchez bobblehead day.