Yankees or Red Sox: Who Has Improved More?
This writer is a lifelong Yankees fan.
It is an understatement to say that I hate the Boston Red Sox.
So it pains me to have to make an attempt to analyze the offseason success of Boston versus New York.
Any Yankee fan knows by now that Brian Cashman has brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, ostensibly to roam the plains of center field in the new Yankee Stadium.
But there are many who believe, as this writer does, that Granderson was oversold and that he is not a very good center fielder.
Considering that Joe Girardi has a man crush on Brett Gardner, I for one expect Gardy to be the center fielder despite the fact that this experiment failed last year because he cannot hit major league pitching consistently.
But as of right now, regardless of where they play, Gardner, Granderson, and Nick Swisher are the Yankee outfield. The Bombers have lost Melky Cabrera to trade and apparently have lost Johnny Damon to free agency.
I have contended for the past two years that Damon should not be in the outfield. But the 2010 brand of fly catchers in the Bronx is overall worse than what we saw last year.
The new bunch may be a shade better on defense because whoever is in left will be much better than Damon.
But the same group will be much worse hitting. It seems right now that the outfield will group at the bottom of the order and it will be among the worst bottom three in the American League. Career averages tell us these three may combine for 350 strikeouts at the bottom of the order.
Boston, on the other hand, has some changes in store as well. Jason Bay has gone to New York and will play in Queens for the Mets.
In his place you will probably find Mike Cameron who is very good on defense and very mediocre at best at the plate.
Cameron's addition leaves Jacoby Elsbury in center and J.D. Drew in right.
So the Bosox have upgraded their outfield defense and gotten a little weaker at the plate with those three.
Elsbury can almost match Gardner's speed on the base paths. Elsbury is the bigger threat because he is on base a lot more than Gardner.
Even though Granderson is a speed threat as well, he is going to have to cut down on his strikeouts or it doesn't help much.
So the analysis here is that Boston has improved more in the outfield, considering both offense and defense, than New York has.
The Yankees have the best infield in all of baseball.
But Boston has improved here as well. They will not match the Yankees yet, but the addition of Marco Scutaro as a staple at short and Adrian Beltre at third is an upgrade for certain.
Beltre is a little better defensively than A-Rod.
Jeter still has the edge over Scutaro in the field.
Robinson Cano is so smooth at second that his talent is deceptive. He may be the best defensive second baseman in the game right now, but Dustin Pedroia is good, too.
Mark Teixeira is the best first baseman in all of baseball. But Kevin You-Kill-Us is a very good defensive first baseman.
And there is a reason this writer spells the Sox first sacker's name as I did above. He has traditionally killed the Yankees. He is all grit and determination and has come through in the clutch too many times against my team. I hate him, but I admire him.
On offense, the Yankees have the decided edge across the infield and will produce more power and runs than Boston.
Behind the plate, the Yankees can no longer rely on Jorge Posada to catch 140 games. Turning 39 during the season, Posada will probably squat for only about 110 games.
Posada has never been a good defensive catcher, but he is so clutch on offense that his value has remained.
If Jason Varitek was still the Sox catcher, the Yankees would have the decided edge here despite Posada's advancing age.
But the acquisition of switch hitting and power hitting Victor Martinez at midseason last year gives Boston the edge behind the plate. Martinez will provide much more offense than Varitek and is a good backstop.
The Yankees lost DH Hideki Matsui who signed with the Angels. And Damon, who might have been a logical choice to be DH, probably is asking too much to come back to NYC.
So the Yankees went out and signed Nick Johnson, a former Yankee who comes back to the team as their new DH. Johnson will probably hit in the second spot behind Jeter and will be productive there. He is a professional hitter and fits the Yankee style with long and productive at-bats.
David Ortiz remains as the DH for the Sox and he is not the player he was two years ago.
Ortiz and Johnson are completely different kinds of hitters and Johnson may be the most productive there. But it is unlikely he will match either Damon's numbers hitting behind Jeter in '09 or Matsui's production as the DH.
So Boston stays about the same at DH and the Yankees are not quite as good.
Despite Brian Cashman's assertions that he wanted to upgrade Yankee pitching in this offseason, there is not much evidence that he has done so. He started by getting rid of some pitchers in whom the Yankee brass had lost faith.
Ian Kennedy was made a part of the three way deal that brought Granderson to NYC. But Kennedy was a non-entity in New York anyway. After depending on him as one peg in the disastrous youth movement in 2008, Kennedy was hurt and meant nothing to New York in 2009.
Brian Bruney was thought to hold a great deal of promise in the Yankee pen until he screwed around and messed up his elbow and then came back and could not find the plate.
It is a double edged sword hanging at the Yankees throat in that they not only gave up on a relief pitcher who could have great stuff, but they also have to keep Hoffman with the big team all year or ship him back to the Dodgers for a piddly cash settlement.
But Cashman made no effort to go after John Lackey, the Angels free agent who signed with the Sox.
This writer has never been in love with Lackey, but he has pitched successfully in the American League and in pressure situations with the Halos.
The Yankees counter move was to bring back Javier Vazquez who looked great pitching in the National League East. But his ERA in his time in the American League is much higher and he will now have to face the best competition in baseball in the AL East.
Boston wins the battle of new starting pitching. They got better there than the Yankees did.
And considering that Boston already had Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, Lackey is not going to be the No. 1 in Fenway. He is going to be a three and could be the best in the AL East at that slot.
Andy Pettitte was re-signed for one more year and comes back at age 38. He will figure as the three or four starter for New York and if he is healthy he is going to battle and give the Yankees a lot of good innings there.
But Boston's four will be Daisuke Matsuzaka or Clay Buckholtz or Tim Wakefield. Each has the potential to get more wins than Pettitte.
And the Yankees fifth starter is a question mark. Maybe it's Joba Chamberlain. Maybe it's Phil Hughes.
Joba has a world of potential and is still very young. But the Yankees have almost destroyed the kid with their silly "rules." If they don't turn him loose and let him pitch, whether starting or out of the pen, forget this kid. He will be a nut case and will back in Nebraska before long.
Phil Hughes was part of the Yankee youth movement in 2008 and was guaranteed a starting role when Cashman refused to even consider adding him to a package to get Johan Santana from the Twins before that season began.
But Hughes was horrible in 2008 and it turned out he was injured.
In 2009, when Chien Ming Wang went down with an "injury," Hughes came up from Scranton and pitched very effectively early in the year. And when the Yanks moved him to the pen when Wang tried to come back, Hughes was exceptional there until the offseason.
But right after the World Series we heard from New York that Hughes and Joba were both starters and would be prepared that way in the offseason.
But the acquisition of Vazquez and the return of Pettitte has to make these kids wonder what the Yankee brass really thinks of them.
If Hughes returns to the pen and is as good as last year, he is the bridge to Mariano Rivera that the team has been looking for ever since Joba in 2007. And there are other promising arms in the bull pen as well.
But Boston has a very talented pen including the eccentric Jonathon Papelbon who switched from erstwhile starter to premier closer.
Rivera, closing for the Yankees, is still more dependable than Papelbon. But Rivera is also much older and there will come a time when this will begin to catch up with Mo. It certainly did not in 2009 when he was absolutely brilliant. And everyone behind the Yankees hopes it doesn't happen in 2010 either.
Overall, this writer believes that the Yankees are a little bit weaker starting the new season than they finished in 2009. The loss of Matsui and Damon could be telling.
And the Bosox, I hate to say, seem to be considerably stronger. They had issues at third base with a rehabbing Mike Lowell and got rid of him to bring in Beltre.
They became more solid at short with Scutaro and have Martinez behind the plate to make them much better on defense and offense.
They are better defensively in the outfield and a little weaker on offense with Cameron replacing Bay.
The Yankees are a little better on defense in the outfield and a lot weaker on offense than they were last year with the outfielders.
The biggest key may be the pitching. The Yankees have the best of all in C.C. Sabathia, but overall, Boston has better starting pitching. And except for the slight edge to New York in the closer, Boston has a better overall pen.
Boston has improved more than New York. Man that tastes bad in my mouth.
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