The Boston Red Sox come into the 2014 season as the defending American League East champions. Not only do they have the World Series target on their backs, they also have four divisional foes trying to unseat them as champs. Over the next few days, we will compare the champs to each challenger within the division in a Tale of the Tape format. All listed player projections are from Dan Szymborski's ZiPS machine. We did the Blue Jays here. Next up, the New York Yankees.
2013 Final Record
New York: 85-77
2014 Projected Standings from Baseball Prospectus
New York: 82-80
Boston: A.J. Pierzynski, Grady Sizemore, Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop
New York: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Thornton
Boston: Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
New York: Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain
New York significantly upgraded their catching situation with the addition of Brian McCann (.338 wOBA). In 2013, Yankees catchers had a collective .266 wOBA that was fifth worst in baseball. Not only does McCann upgrade the position offensively, he allows the Yankees to continue their emphasis on pitch framing as he is considered one of the better receivers in the game. McCann will assume the lion's share of the workload behind the plate with Francisco Cervelli (.291 wOBA) and Austin Romine (.282 wOBA) battling in camp for the reserve role.
Boston decided to move on from Saltalamacchia and replaced him with Pierzynski (.312 wOBA). Pierzynski and David Ross (.288 wOBA) give the club a very experienced as well as aged duo at the position. Pierzysnki has played at least 125 games for 12 consecutive seasons and is coming off his best two-year run at the plate of his career. When he has been catching, opposing baserunners have converted 71 percent of their stolen base attempts, going 125 of 176.
Advantage -- New York
The strength of the Boston infield is on its right side. Mike Napoli (.350 wOBA) and Dustin Pedroia (.340 wOBA) combined for 25 runs saved defensively while providing above league-average production at their respective positions. The left side of the infield is a larger question mark as Boston let Stephen Drew leave via free agency and is entrusting the shortstop position to the talented yet inexperienced Xander Bogaerts (.333 wOBA). Bogaerts earned that role with an impressive showing late in the season and throughout the postseason. Will Middlebrooks (.312 wOBA) showed excellent power but struggled to get on base and cost the team eight runs defensively at third base.
Simply put, this is the Achilles heel of the revamped Yankees squad. Kelly Johnson (.316 wOBA) takes over for the suspended Alex Rodriguez at third base, a position he has played just 16 times in his major league career. Derek Jeter (.301 wOBA) is returning for one final season after missing nearly all of 2013 battling ankle and leg issues. Brian Roberts (.296 wOBA) has averaged just under 50 games played over the previous four seasons battling through every imaginable malady, and Mark Teixeira (.347 wOBA) is still fighting through his recovery from a wrist injury. Eduardo Nunez (.296 wOBA), Brendan Ryan (.267 wOBA) and Scott Sizemore will likely be kept busy off the bench.
Advantage -- Boston
The .307 wOBA Yankees outfielders had in 2013 was the fourth-worst in the majors. $198 million dollars later, the outfield received quite the facelift in the offseason with the additions of Jacoby Ellsbury (.347 wOBA) and Carlos Beltran (.342 wOBA). Both players come with risks as Ellsbury has not had consecutive seasons with at least 600 plate appearances since 2008-2009. Beltran turns 37 early in the season, but has stayed healthy in recent seasons and can now get days off in the field as the designated hitter role. Brett Gardner (.322 wOBA) in left field gives the Yankees a strong defensive tandem in the larger parts of the park with Ichiro Suzuki (.292 wOBA), Zoilo Almonte (.292 wOBA) and Alfonso Soriano (.335 wOBA) in play on days Beltran serves in the DH role.
Boston is asking a lot from Jackie Bradley Jr. (.308 wOBA) to fill Ellsbury's shoes in center. Ellsbury, who was worth 9.1 and 5.8 wins above replacement in his two most recent full seasons, also saved 13 runs defensively last season. Manager John Farrell platooned Jonny Gomes (.327 wOBA) and Daniel Nava (.322 wOBA) as they managed the intricacies of playing left field in Fenway Park. Shane Victorino was everything the club expected and more in right field, fighting through injuries to save 24 runs in right field while providing above-average offensive production over 122 games. Reclamation project Grady Sizemore and Mike Carp offer depth from the bench.
Advantage -- New York
New York lost two-fifths of its 2013 rotation due to retirement and free agency. The Yankees landed Masahiro Tanaka (191 IP) to join CC Sabathia (196.1 IP, 3.84 FIP) and Hiroki Kuroda (178 IP, 4.12 FIP) at the front of the rotation. Sabathia has lost a considerable amount of weight this offseason and is hoping to stay strong throughout 2014. Kuroda has tired down the stretch each of the previous two seasons and the Yankees are looking at the likes of Ivan Nova (165 IP, 4.19 FIP), David Phelps (101.2 IP, 4.56 FIP), Adam Warren (77.2 IP, 5.24 FIP), Vidal Nuno (71 IP, 5.24 FIP) and Michael Pineda (81.1 IP, 4.62 FIP) to round out the rotation.
Boston enjoys the rare luxury of being able to return its entire starting rotation a season after winning it all. Jon Lester (197.2 IP, 3.77 FIP), John Lackey (166 IP, 4.10 FIP), Clay Buchholz (128.2 IP, 3.89 FIP) and Jake Peavy (149.1 IP, 3.67 FIP) give the club a formidable foursome. There are a few names in play for the final spot such as Ryan Dempster (149 IP, 4.44 FIP), Felix Doubront (137.1 IP, 4.15 FIP) Brandon Workman (124 IP, 4.49 FIP) and Drake Britton (110 IP, 5.05 FIP) in play. Boston enjoys depth at this position in the upper levels of the organization.
Advantage -- Boston
New York enters 2014 with a different closer for the first time since the Bill Clinton administration. David Robertson (63 IP, 2.76 FIP) has the unenviable task of replacing Mariano Rivera. Shawn Kelley (48.2 IP, 3.72 FIP), Preston Claiborne (63 IP, 4.16 FIP), Cesar Cabral (43.1 IP, 5.20 FIP), Dellin Betances (96.2 IP, 6.37 FIP), Jose Campos (65.2 IP, 5.68 FIP), Matt Thornton (47.2 IP, 3.90 FIP), and Manny Banuelos (28 IP, 5.51 FIP) offer New York more quantity than quality. The free agent market for relievers is, for all intents and purposes, now barren. In a best-case scenario, the rotation will be able to absorb more innings to help marginalize this relatively inexperienced bullpen.
The bullpen is anchored by Koji Uehara (52.1 IP, 2.10 FIP), who has had a 1.93 ERA over the past four seasons and has struck out 35 percent of the batters he has faced. The only concern with him is that he has yet to throw more than 50 innings in consecutive seasons. Perhaps that is why Boston signed Edward Mujica (63 IP, 3.54 FIP) to give them a strong insurance policy a season after watching both Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan go down with injuries. Junichi Tazawa (73.1 IP, 3.41 FIP) should again play an effective role out. Craig Breslow (57 IP, 4.01 FIP) and Burke Badenhop (63.2 IP, 3.63 FIP) give the club a strong left/right combination to use in matchup situations to help get the ball to Tazawa, Mujica and Uehara.
Advantage -- Boston
New York was very active on the free agent market and their spending accounted for roughly 25 percent of the money spent this offseason. The upgrades at catcher and the outfield will help, but the question marks on the infield still leave the offense short in terms of matching up with David Ortiz and the retooled lineup in Boston. Tanaka brings excitement to a starting rotation that ended the year with both Sabathia and Kuroda limping and crawling to the finish line and Rivera's departure leaves a gaping hole in the bullpen as everyone else attempts to step up and do their part. The season ends with these two teams in Fenway Park, but it seems unlikely that the final game for New York will be anything more than a celebration of Jeter's storied career.