Yes I know the greatest rivalry in Major League Baseball, if not all of sports, takes center stage again this evening in the big ballpark in the Bronx. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees play their first head-to-head games Tuesday and Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Is everybody ready?
Photo: Rounding Third
While that is usually a rhetorical question, to date this season it is anything but. Quite frankly, right now, both teams stink (they are a combined 12-20)! The Yankees sit in third place, while the Bosox are in fourth place in the American League East. I realize that this is very early, but they are both looking up at the Baltimore Orioles in the standings. WOW!
For the defending World Series champions, the reasons for their sluggish start begin 60’6″ from home plate. Their starting rotation has been abysmal. The poster boy for the malaise is Chris Sale. Prior to the season, he received a five-year, $145 million contract extension, and he will tote an 0-3 record, and 9.00 earned run average with him to the mound Tuesday evening.
Most alarming about his awful start to 2019 is the fact that his velocity is way down. According to BaseballSavant.com, Sale’s four seam fastball, which averaged 95.2 mph last season, is coming in this year at just 91.1 mph. And with his heater, he is only getting a swing and miss 3.7% of the time, which is down from 29.8% in 2018. Sure, three games does not a season make, but digging further into the numbers only further underscores just how bad his season has been.
He is far from alone in being bad on the mound however – Rick Porcello is 0-3, with a 11.12 ERA, Nathan Eovaldi sports an 8.40 ERA, Eduardo Rodriguez is 1-2 with a 7.98 ERA, and David Price (the staff ace) is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Oddly, conventional wisdom was that the bullpen, minus Craig Kimbrel, would be the club’s Achilles’ heel. However, the pen has been mightier than the rotation, holding their own quite nicely as a committee.
Offensively, the Sox haven’t exactly socked the ball either. As a team, they have scored just 74 runs in 17 games (16th in MLB), and their .236 team batting average is good for, or in this case, bad for 20th in the majors. Some of their stars have gotten off to slow starts, none more so than the reigning MVP, Mookie Betts. Over his 74 at-bats this season, Mookie is hitting just .222 with three home runs and seven RBIs. To say he is pressing, would be an understatement. Check out this tweet:
Red Sox's Mookie Betts: "Basically what I'm doing is unacceptable. I need to figure out a way to get something done and help the team."
— Christopher Smith (@SmittyOnMLB) April 15, 2019
As for the Pinstripes, well, their season hasn’t really gotten off the ground yet because they just can’t seem to stay healthy. As of this writing, 12 Yankees appear on the disabled, oh forgive me, the “injured list”. We are talking big names too, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances, etc. Basically everyone not named Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres is inactive at the moment.
C-Sanchez. 1b-Bird. 2b-Tulo. SS-Didi. 3b-Andujar. LF-Ellsbury. CF-Hicks. RF-Stanton. SP-Severino. Closer-Betances. Would you take that IL team or the 1 #Yankees will send to the field tonight against the #RedSox?
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) April 16, 2019
Injuries have been the main reason for the slow start, however they have not played crisp/good baseball either. The Bombers have played some pretty rotten teams and have already lost home series to a few of them, the Orioles and White Sox. In fact, the only good team they’ve played, the Houston Astros, swept them. Their vaunted bullpen, one thought to be the envy of the sport, has coughed up leads and cost them wins.
Photo: NY Daily News
What gives over the next two nights? Well, I will be watching to see which struggling starting pitchers find their footing. I have already chronicled how poorly Sale and Eovaldi have been, but Yankees starters James Paxton (1-2, 6.00 ERA) and J.A Happ (0-2, 8.76 ERA) have not exactly lit the game on fire either. As we all know, success in baseball begins at the beginning, with consistently good starting pitching. Let’s see who begins to turn the corner here. I’m not worried about either team’s batting lineup, track records matter. Once the weather heats up, and the Yanks get their studs back, both teams will mash.
Photo: NY Daily News
So, while early returns are ugly, take a deep breath everybody, patience is a virtue.
Feature photo: BGR.com