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.

JoshMeanwhile, 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.)

JobaA 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.)

6 Responses to “Pitching vs. Hitting, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Pennant vs. Wild Card…I’m beside myself.”

  1. Nick Kapur says:

    This is why they play 162. I think Sox fans need to start getting real worried about the Yankees who are now only 5 back.

    The Yankees’ ERA in July? A very respectable 4.16. So far this month? 4.00. Meanwhile the Sox are going slightly in the other direction and pretty much every pitcher in the Sox pen is pitching better career norms, meaning the pen is more likely to pitch worse than better down the stretch.

    The Yankees have actually been pretty unlucky so far. Given their staggeringly large run differential, you would actually expect their record to be a major-league best 71-42 rather than 63-50. The Sox have been a bit unlucky as well – a team with their run differential would usually have a record of 70-43, which would put them one game back of the Yankees.

    All of which is to say, with that offense, I don’t think we can say that the Yankees have bad pitching. Their pitching has been more than sufficient to put up the best run differential in all of baseball.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    First, Sox fans have always been worried about the Yankees. Only foolish media jabbermouths had already written New York off, and I was never among them.

    Second, the Yankees clearly have had bad pitching this year, a fact that you can try to gloss over by being dazzled by their brilliant offense, but a fact that remains nonetheless. You can’t say that their lackluster pitching has been good, just because their offense has been spectacular. As for luck, well, the fate of any given season is always affected by luck—some of it bad, as fans of the Red Sox well know. Yes, Red Sox pitchers are *luckily* throwing better than usual, which is fortunate because several of the Red Sox’ offensive leaders are *unluckily* having off-years. You can say that the Red Sox hurlers are statistically likely to start being less effective down the stretch, but you can just as easily say that the Red Sox hitters will start performing towards their usual levels. And with the pitchers the Yankees have, that’s still a match-up I’d like to see. If there is pitching staff in the American League that can shut down this Yankee offense, it is the pitching staff of the Boston Red Sox. And if they can’t, well, it will be a long winter in New England.

  3. Nick Kapur says:

    I’m not saying the Yankees have *great* pitching. Just that they have pretty darn good pitching. The only reason anyone thinks they have lackluster pitching is because of April, when their staff ERA was over 5.00. But since then they have been pretty good.

    Even including April, the Yankees ERA for the season is the 7th best in the American League. It was 6th best in July, and so far in August it is 3rd best, behind only Cleveland and Minnesota.

    I’m not saying that a Red Sox-Yankees series won’t be awesome, or important. I’m not saying the Sox are definitely going to flop down the stetch that the Yankees are definitely going to win. In fact, I’m not disagreeing with anything you said in your post.

    I was just taking your post as a jumping off point to point out that, at least on paper, the Yankees have statistically been the best team in baseball this year, which is not a fun thought.

  4. Paul Moro says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m emotionally removed from the Yanks-Sox thing. But to me, I think it’s pretty clear that the Yankees chances are slim at best. Of course, there are still a good number of games left and injuries and other freakish things can happen. But the Sox just have too much talent not to be able to take advantage of the ridiculous underperformance of the Yankees in comparison with their run-diffential. It may get close – say, 2 or 3 games – but the Sox have too much going their way, no matter how talented the Yankees are.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I love how seamheads talk about “on paper” when the only stat that really matters, in the end, is how many W’s you have.

    And Paul, thanks for jinxing us. When we fall apart at the seams (right on schedule, sometime in September), I will be sending a package bomb to your house.

    First rule of being a Sox fan: never, EVER underestimate the Yankees.

    Second rule of being a Sox fan: never, EVER underestimate the ability of the Red Sox to find new and creative ways to break your heart.

  6. good hitting vsgood pitching usually a draw look at red sox era vs yankees this year, if yanks did not have all those pitching injuries early this would not even be a race. red sox got of fast and have been on a slow decline since middle of may.yankees will probably catch them by sept 1

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