Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Yankees/Red Sox Offensive Preview

Comparing and contrasting the Yankees' and Red Sox respective offenses has to be taken with a grain of salt, because they will likely be the 1-2 offenses in the game as they were last year. They likely won't separate themselves on the aggregate enough in terms of total runs scored to make a substantial difference in who wins more games. The more important thing to watch will be which offense can succeed when it matters, against the best pitching and the best teams.

Looking at it on the aggregate for purposes of this analysis, though, the teams' cores (Jeter/Swisher/Teixeira/Rodriguez/Cano vs. Pedroia/Crawford/Gonzalez/Youkilis/Ortiz) can be summed up very similarly to the way their rotations were, except in reverse: the Yankees have a higher ceiling and the Red Sox have a higher floor. Operating at or near maximum levels, the Red Sox offense is going to produce at All-Star levels, the Yankees offense at Hall of Fame levels. We have a massive sample size for all 10 players that tells us so. However, the Red Sox group is younger and has a lower chance of experiencing multiple underperformances. It could go either of these ways, but chances are they'll end up being more similar than they will different in terms of total 2011 production.

What gives the Yankees some separation is 6-9 in the order. Posada/Granderson/Martin-Montero/Gardner is likely to give you more than Drew/Scutaro-Lowrie/Salty/Ellsbury. On the aggregate you can wash Posada/Drew (most likely), you can wash Gardner/Ellsbury (most likely), but there is just no way around Granderson and Martin-Montero in comparison to Scutaro-Lowrie and Salty. You have to grind the Yankees' lineup all the way 1-9, the Red Sox give you 1.5-2 breaks.

And that's on the aggregate. As I mentioned earlier, if any real difference is going to be made offensively this year between these two teams, it will likely be on a more micro scale. When you look at it from this vantage point, the bottom of the Yankees order separates itself even more. Posada is a far more difficult at bat than Drew, no further analysis needed. Even if Ellsbury bounces back, Gardner lead the majors in pitches per plate appearance last year. He's one of the more annoying at bats in the game, even when you get him out. Even when Ellsbury is producing, we see a lot of give away/three pitch strikeouts (especially against lefties)/soft pop-up at bats. Then you have the aformentioned difference at the other two spots, and the Yankees are better equipped to get after elite pitching, especially in terms of getting pitch counts elevated, getting starters out of games, and getting into bullpens. You won't necessarily see this show up in total offense, but this type of thing can make a difference in the win-loss column.

I don't anticipate either team having a huge offensive advantage this year, and both teams have such an advantage over most of the rest of baseball that it really isn't overly significant. But I do think that the advantage that does exist goes to the Yankees. They are more powerful operating at their highest levels, deeper, give you few if any breaks 1-9, and have a wild card in Montero to cover for their weakest bat on paper in Martin. The Red Sox have a few more inconsistencies and question marks.

3 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

Good analysis Pat. My only comment is that you call Montero a wild card to cover for the Yankees weakest bat, even though he had a horrible spring, at least when you consider the high expectations we have for him, and he may not even make the big league team.

Patrick said...

ross -

because he is young, untested, did not have a good spring, and we don't know when he'll be called up to the major league team - basically all of the classic uncertainties that come with being a "prospect" - is precisely why i called him a wild card. if he were more of a certainty for production, then he wouldn't be a wild card. but he is a wild card, and in this instance it's a good wild card because there is no downside to him not giving the big league team production this year, as they are not relying on him to do so. it would simply be a bonus. a potentially big bonus.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

This is pretty much perfect. I feel like James Carville after Frank the Tank crushed him in a debate.

The only things I would want to expand on would be Salty and 46. As far as Salty goes, he is pretty much everything you say about Jesus Montero, except with not as high of a ceiling. Maybe in 2008, he had that ceiling, but now he's 25 years old and it shouldn't be long until we admit that he is what he is. Big difference is, Montero is a bonus and Salty is what the Red Sox have in place to prevent Varisuck to have 500 at-bats.

As far as 46 goes, he might be the easiest out in baseball. The way he takes pitches right down the middle is enfuriating, and the way he swings at the first pitch and hits lazy fly balls to right field is as frustrating as Nomar was - except Nomar could actually hit something other than infield singles. If 46 could a) learn how to work an at-bat instead of just being flat-out awful and playing like he's getting a cup of coffee in the majors in September or b) hit .320 or contribute a few doubles, he could have the edge over Gardner. Even when he shows up to work more than 18 times over a given season, he's the worst and most frustrating .300 hitter perhaps in Red Sox history. In 2009, he was hitting .300, going on .265.