Good pitching beating good hitting is an age-old debate. The Yankees and Red Sox will both score plenty of runs with their dynamic lineups, but which team has the better starting rotation as baseball’s premier rivalry continues in 2018?
The 2018 Yankees will roll out their “Magnificent Seven,” further reinforced by powerhouse duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius, but how does their rotation, consisting of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery compare to the reigning AL East champion Boston Red Sox?
With their “built to win” team, former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello are led by Chris Sale, arguably baseball’s most dominant LHP, and further backed up by southpaws Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez.
How the two starting staff’s stack up
Yankees: Luis Severino, age 24 — the Yanks’ ace, a 2017 All-Star, Sevvy went 14-6 with a brilliant 2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and finished third in the AL Cy Young ballot. Severino pitched virtually lights against most of the Sox’s ’17 squad, with only Benintendi having any real success against him.
Red Sox: Chris Sale, age 28 — the six-time All-Star finished second for the, AL Cy Young in 2017 and is simply the best LHP in the league, maybe in all of baseball. Sale went 17-8 last year with a stellar 2.90 ERA, 308 strikeouts and a WHIP of (.970). With all of his accolades, Sale might not be able to manage this Yankee lineup a third and fourth time around, but I give him a very slight edge over Severino for now.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka, age 29 — the former staff ace is coming off a disappointing 13-12 record, 4.74 ERA, 194 SO and 1.239 WHIP. The question is which Tanaka will we see? Will we get the inconsistent and home run prone pitcher of the first four months of last season, or the lights out September and Postseason guy who was virtually untouchable? I’m betting somewhere in the middle, a good No. 2 with flashes of brilliance in pressure situations, but it’s too soon in the new campaign to be sure.
Red Sox: David Price, age 32 — splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen, the former Tampa Bay Rays’ ace went 6-3 in 2017 with an ERA of 3.38, 76 SO and a WHIP of 119.2. I believe Price’s elbow is fragile to the point he can’t sustain a full season himself as a starter. Price would do far better to remain in the ‘pen. However, the Sox can’t justify paying a long reliever $30 million per season.
Yankees: C.C. Sabathia, age 37– the big guy turned back the clock last season going 14-5, with an ERA of 3.69, 120 SO and 1.27 WHIP. He’ll once again be stable as long as his knee holds up. A quality starter for five-to-six innings, CC will have much more run support which gives him a real chance to duplicate 2017s stats.
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Red Sox: Drew Pomeranz, age 29 — went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA, 175 SO and a WHIP of 1.353. Even still, Pomeranz will regress in ’18. He was one of the luckiest pitchers I saw last year, and I fully expect to see him knocked around early and rarely finish six innings of work. In my opinion, Pomeranz is not a No. 3.
Yankees: Sonny Gray, age 28 — went 10-12 with a 3.55 ERA, 153 SO and a WHIP of 1.205 between Oakland and New York. This year, after making some adjustments, Gray will rely on his excellent curveball, changeup and devastating slider — meaning fewer fastballs will be thrown to reduce potential dingers. Why do I believe Sonny will find his form again? Because when a pitcher with a career 12.3 WAR in just five seasons talks, we had better listen. His Spring Training numbers are a 2.08 ERA, nine strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.15 in 8.1 innings. This is Sonny’s language, and he’s talking to us.
Red Sox: Rick Porcello, age 29 — went 11-17 in 2017 with an ERA of 4.65, 181 SO and a 1.397 WHIP. I cannot for the life of me figure this guy out. Was his 2016 Cy Young season a fluke? Porcello never had numbers even close to his breakout season. His regression to a -0.3 WAR in ’17 on a Division Championship team is astounding. I’m going to give him a pass and the edge for now because of an 8-year career WAR of 15.5.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Jordan Montgomery, age 23 — the lanky lefty went 9-7 in his rookie season with a 3.88 ERA, 144 SO and a 1.23 WHIP. Although he’ll be starting the season as the Yankees’ No. 5, Montgomery has exceptional promise to move up to the front of the staff after posting an 8.2 Rookie WAR.
Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez, age 24 — E-Rod went 6-7, with an ERA of 4.19, 150 SO and a WHIP of 1.282 in his third season with Red Sox. His projections by Baseball Reference for 2018 are not much different from last year. I don’t see him yet as a quality starter — he’s better suited as a sixth man, splitting duties with Steven Wright. Anyway, Rodriguez is going to get pummeled by the Yankees’ Mag-7 position players, plus Stanton and Gregorius.
There you have it; the score is tied at two-a-piece. It could not be any closer, my friends. To complete the pitching comparison, we must also examine the bullpens of both clubs, which will undoubtedly settle the issue. Stay tuned for the next segment: Yankees vs. Red Sox bullpen match-up!