Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees: Who's Better in 2011?
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This year is shaping up to be no different, as they have the top two records in the AL, and this past weekend's series begged the question of which team is better.
After entering the series with identical records and splitting the first two games, the rivals were so even that they needed extra innings in the finale to determine the winner of the rubber match.
And while the Red Sox came away with the win Sunday night, neither team left Fenway Park convincingly better than the other.
The question remains. Which team is better in 2011?
Find out here, as the teams are compared head-to-head, position by position.
Catcher: Russell Martin Verses Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jarrod Saltamalacchia has exceeded expectations this season.
While Russell Martin was voted into the All-Star game, he loses the head-to-head with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek.
The Red Sox catching tandem has combined on 17 homers and 58 RBI this season.
Salty has turned into the player people hoped for when he was a prospect, as he's posted an OPS .785.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the rest of his game been solid. He's done good job behind the plate, throwing people out and even stealing a run or two this season with some impressive and aggressive base-running.
Martin has 12 round-trippers and has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, but he's hitting just .228 with an OPS of .707.
1B: Mark Teixiera Versus Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez has landed in Boston as expected. With a huge splash in his first season.
Typically, a year in which a player is on pace for 46 homers and 123 RBI would require no debate in a positional head-to-head battle, but this season those numbers won't be good enough for Teixeira to win the battle of two giants.
Teixeira has clubbed 32 bombs already, but he's hitting .252.
Adrian Gonzalez won't come close to catching his Yankee counterpart in round-trippers, but he is leading all of Major League Baseball in batting average, hits and RBI.
In terms of head-to-head production, Gonzalez hold an impressive 96-point lead in OPS, despite trailing in homers.
Both guys are tremendous defenders, so this one was decided with the stick.
2B: Robinson Cano Versus Dustin Pedroia
Robinson Cano is the standard among second baseman in the MLB
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There's no real "loser" here, as both are elite second baseman.
Pedroia already has an MVP under his belt, and holds a better OPS than Cano this season, but Cano gets the nod because he is a better run producer.
He's scored 71 times and knocked in 75, while Pedroia has scored 73 times and drove home 60.
Both guys also play incredible defense, but Cano might be the better of the two at this point.
Neither team will win anything without success from these two, so this debate is as close to a "push" as it gets.
SS: Derek Jeter Versus Jed Lowrie/Marco Scutaro
Derek Jeter brings more to the Yankees than just on-field skills.
Even though Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie probably have more upsides at this point (and better production numbers this season), it's hard to pick against Derek Jeter.
His entire career is one filled with success, and he's one of those athletes that just finds ways to win games.
One look as his resume and the Yankees banners during his playing time and it's obvious that, unless a truly great shortstop opposes him, he gets the nod.
3B: Alex Rodriguez Versus Kevin Youkilis
Alex Rodriguez is still a premier 3B option.
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Like at second base, this is another battle of very talented players.
A-Rod is the choice—despite spending the last month on the DL—because of his ability to produce runs, as his RBI totals are consistently freakish.
Offensively, he's more capable of carrying a team than Youkilis.
Defensively, neither is a Gold Glove candidate at third base, but A-Rod probably has a slight advantage because of position familiarity over there.
LF: Brett Gardner Versus Carl Crawford
Though hes underachieved in 2011, Carl Crawford earned his contract from Boston as a game-changing talent in left field.
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Yes, Brett Gardner has turned into a very good left fielder.
Yes, his overall numbers are better than Crawford's this season.
And yes, Crawford is still the better overall player.
Gardner's game is built around his speed, so he will get his hits, steal bases and score some runs.
Crawford's own speed is every bit as good, but when he's right, he's much more dangerous with the bat in his hands.
Crawford is in the middle of the worst year of his career and still has as many extra-base hits as Gardner.
If Crawford gets anywhere near what made him all of his money while with Tampa Bay, he goes back into the discussion among the best players in the game.
Defensively, both are talented.
But Crawford is the rare left fielder capable of winning a Gold Glove.
CF: Curtis Granderson Versus Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson is on pace for more than 140 runs this year.
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Both players are in the middle of MVP-esque campaigns, but Granderson's has been the better of the two.
While Ellsbury, who's scored 84 times so far, looks like he'll eclipse 100 runs for the first time in a season, Granderson has already hit the triple digits mark.
In addition to being on pace for more than 140 runs, Granderson also has nine more round-trippers and 14 more RBI than Ellsbury.
Both players are elite, top-of-the-order bats who play a good center field, but Granderson's game is a hair better in most categories.
RF: Nick Swisher Versus Josh Reddick
Josh Reddick has played his into a starting role with the Red Sox.
In a position battle of two good-but-not-great players, Reddick gets the nod because of the underdog attitude he brings to the table for Boston.
Reddick was forced to play his way into time and, despite rumors that it was still J.D. Drew's job, he's played well enough to earn it.
Reddick likely won't hit the .340ish he's been posting so far, but he is a young talent capable of helping the Red Sox win ball games, and he's better than Swisher in most areas.
He's a better natural hitter and outfielder, and he has a stronger arm.
Even though Swisher has more power and draws more walks, Reddick takes the cake, because the Red Sox are more in need of his talent than the Yankees are of the few additional homers they'll get out of their RF.
DH: Jorge Posada Versus David Ortiz
David Ortiz remains the best DH in baseball.
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Even if Jorge Posada's production hadn't fallen off so much that the Yankees have a question mark at the DH position, this head-to-head would still be the easiest to determine between these two teams.
Since becoming a regular with the Red Sox, David Ortiz has been the best designated hitter in baseball—without exception. He's posted an impressive .956 OPS in his time there.
He's at it again in 2011, as his OPS is this .929 and his 22 homers leads the Red Sox.
Jon Lester has been among the best pitchers in baseball since beating cancer.
Even with a number of injuries and question marks surrounding their rotation, the Red Sox starters are clearly better off than the Yankees.
If this was a debate of aces, Sabathia would probably win out because of how consistently dominant he's been in pin stripes.
The problem for the Bombers is that the rest of their rotation is made up of guys who weren't really in their long-term plans a couple of years ago.
Ivan Nova has emerged as a dependable pitcher, but they would've moved him in a trade if they could've brought back rotation help.
Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia have pitched better than anyone could've expected, as both came to the Yankees on minor league contracts and had to earn their spots on the team.
Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett are enigmatic at best.
With no clear-cut No. 2 starter in New York, the Red Sox get the edge in rotation. They at least can answer the question of who takes the ball second in a short series.
Josh Beckett has re-emerged as the team's ace and likely would take the ball in Game 1 of a playoff series.
And while Sabathia might be the best overall pitcher on either of these teams, Beckett turns it up in the playoffs and has already won two World Series.
Having Jon Lester capable of taking the ball in Game 2 gives the Red Sox an enormous advantage in the early games of a series.
Erik Bedard and John Lackey will fight for the third spot in Boston if Clay Buchholz is unable to return, putting the Sox in the same end-of-the-rotation conflict as the Yankees.
They get the advantage here because they have a better firm plan in place earlier in the rotation.
Mariano Rivera is still the standard for relief pitchers in the MLB
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Both teams have bullpens good enough to win in the playoffs.
Both teams have an absolute knock out set-up man (David Robertson and Daniel Bard).
And both teams have an elite, All-Star closer to finish games for them.
The Yankees get the nod, because their All-Star closer, Mariano Rivera, is the only player on either of these teams that is the absolute best of all time at his position.
As good as Jonathan Papelbon is, Rivera has saved games for five World Series-winning teams. He has pitched into 40s without effect.
He's lived on one pitch his whole career and still dominates the best hitters he faces.
Conclusion: Red Sox 6 Yankees 5
The Red Sox edged the Yankees this weekend on Josh Reddick's walk-off single, and edged the Yankees head-to-head in positional rankings.
The Red Sox came away as 6-5 winners in the head-to-head matchups, further proving these teams are as close to each other as the current records would indicate.
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