This morning, the Red Sox were just six games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East. As it happens, New York and Boston have six contests left this year.
In 17 of their last 19 games, the Yankees have scored five or more runs (even in games they ended up losing). That span also includes some crazy football-type scores: pounding Tampa Bay 17-5 and 21-4, drubbing the White Sox 16-3, and battering the Royals 16-8. Not surprisingly, the still-aptly-named Bronx Bombers lead the AL in runs scored, homers, hits, average, RBI, OBP, SLG, and OPS.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox pitchers lead the league in ERA, have given up the fewest runs and earned runs, have the most strikeouts, and are tied for the lead in batting average against and shutouts.
So it would seem that the AL East pennant is going to come down to a classic baseball faceoff: good pitching vs. good hitting. The conventional wisdom says that in that matchup, good pitching always beats good hitting. But New York’s offensive juggernaut is even more impressive than ususal right now.
Yet so far, Boston has a slight advantage; as great as the Yankees’ offense has been, Boston’s has also been very good. Meanwhile, Boston’s superb pitching has far outstripped New York’s, which has been abysmal. The Yankees are consistently towards the bottom of the league in pitching stats, while the Red Sox are consistently in near the top in offensive numbers.
New York wants to change that. Gone is Joe Torre’s Binky (aka Scott Proctor). Likely headed for waivers is the out-of-favor Kyle Farnsworth. Designated for assignment is lefty-one-out-guy Mike Myers, bane of David Ortiz. And relegated to the remainder bin is Kei Igawa, touted at the beginning of the season as the Yankees’ Matsuzaka. All of this dumping makes room on the roster for hot, young, Yankee farmhands Jim Brower, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain. Phil Hughes had been on the DL since the Yankees panicked and called him up too early in the season. Brower, a reliever, had been in the minors, honing his 1.65 ERA. Chamberlain–who throws a 98 mph fastball and a 90 mph slider–had started the season in Single A. (Although Chamberlain has had nothing but success this year, I can’t help but point out that Farnsworth throws 97 and still hasn’t been able to get anybody out.)
A few miles up I-95, Boston decided they already had enough good, young pitching and instead went for a veteran arm in Eric Gagne. A few dissenting voices in Boston wished they’d added a bat instead–as I write, Julio Lugo is singlehandedly trying to ruin Boston’s chances of winning the division. This morning, the Boston Globe reported that Lugo was last in the league in RCAA (runs created against the average) with negative 27. Cutting to the chase, this means that though Lugo has created 40 runs for the Sox this season, an average shortstop would have created 67. (And that doesn’t even factor in all the damage he’s done with his leaden glove.)
Good pitching or good hitting? In the end, both Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein decided to stock up on good pitching. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens when good pitching and good hitting face off on August 28, when the Red Sox head to the Stadium. It could decide who gets the AL East pennant…and who gets stuck with the Wild Card. (We know Josh and Joba are already pretty psyched [see photos]. Either that or hungry.)