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Yankees 2017 Potential Playoff Opponent: Boston Red Sox

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You know it’s the matchup you want.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Andrew Benintendi has had plenty of success against the Yankees this season.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to matchups, none are more familiar than Yankees-Red Sox. The two storied franchises have an interwoven history and plenty of disdain for each other. But while they renew the rivalry every year, the two clubs have only met three times in the postseason, thanks to the introduction of the wild card, and haven’t played each other in October since the ill-fated 2004 series. That inspires the question of how a potential 7-game series between the AL East rivals could play out in 2017.

Lineups:

Red Sox Top 3 Hitters: Mookie Betts (RF), Andrew Benintendi (LF), and Rafael Devers (3B)

Yankee Top 3 Hitters: Aaron Judge (RF), Gary Sanchez (C), and Didi Gregorius (SS)

When the Red Sox lost David Ortiz to retirement this season, the plan they had in place was to have Betts continue to lead the lineup while top prospect Benintendi added onto a dangerous squad. While Betts and Benintendi did prove to be Boston’s two best bats, they really haven’t been challenged for the role.

Boston has seen declines across the board in their lineup, losing .6 runs per game of production from their 2016 counterparts. They’ve also seemingly lost their power stroke, sending only 163 balls out of the park compared to 208 a year ago. They have managed to improve their base stealing, stealing over 100 bags for the first time since 2013, but overall their lineup has been remarkably worse than last year.

On the opposite end, the Yankees used the youth movement that began in the second half of last season to resurrect their dormant offense. Now a fixture of the team, the Bomber lineup is capable of blowing the gates open on anyone. The Yankees have five players that have produced at least 3 fWAR for them from the lineup (Judge, Sanchez, Gregorius, Gardner, Hicks), while the Red Sox have only one (Betts). Additionally, the Yanks have nine regular contributors who have at least 100 wRC+, meaning they can throw together a lineup that doesn’t feature a single below-average player.

Result: Advantage Yankees.

Rotations:

Red Sox Prob. Postseason Starters: Chris Sale (LHP), Drew Pomeranz (LHP), Rick Porcello (RHP), and Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP)

Yankees Prob. Postseason Starters: Luis Severino (RHP), Sonny Gray (RHP), Masahiro Tanaka (RHP), and CC Sabathia (LHP)

This is the most interesting part of the matchup, because both of these rotations are quality. Sale has been the frontrunner for the Cy Young most of the season, and although he may have lost out late to Corey Kluber, Sale is undoubtedly a fearsome arm. Pomeranz has been underrated as the #2 behind Sale, pitching to a 3.38 ERA and keeping home runs to a minimum. While Porcello has struggled this season, he’s held his ground against New York, pitching to a 3.24 ERA against them.

For the Yankees, Severino has been the team’s undeniable ace, and has earned some Cy consideration himself. Since coming over in a trade Gray has been lights out, but has lacked run support in most of his outings. CC has had a renaissance year, and could arguably deserve the third spot above Tanaka, who has battled inconsistency all season.

CC’s case would be even better in a lengthy series against the Red Sox, as he has pitched incredibly against them. In 4 starts, he is a remarkable 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA, and has held Boston’s bats to a measly .167 batting average.

Result: In general, this would likely be even, but against each other its advantage Yankees.

Bullpens:

Red Sox Top Relievers: Craig Kimbrel (RHP), Joe Kelly (RHP), Fernando Abad (LHP), and David Price (LHP)

Yankees Top Relievers: Chad Green (RHP), David Robertson (RHP), Dellin Betances (RHP), and Aroldis Chapman (LHP)

Kimbrel is easily the best piece in the Sox bullpen. His minuscule 1.34 ERA puts him in elite company, and his 49.6 strikeout percentage is absolutely filthy. From there, the options drop in quality. Kelly and Abad have put together decent seasons, though neither has been outright dominant. Addison Reed was brought over from the Mets to give them the depth that they desperately needed, but he hasn’t been as effective since joining Boston.

The interesting twist is the inclusion of David Price. The Red Sox certainly didn’t hand him a $217 million contract to be used out of the pen in the postseason, but due to lengthy injuries and an inability to stretch him out in time, Price will be coming out of the pen for the foreseeable future.

Whether he is still there by the time of a potential ALCS is unknown, but it may work out favorably if he is. Price has a poor postseason track record as a starter (0-8 with an ERA north of 5), but famously came out of the bullpen as a rookie for Tampa Bay in their pennant chase back in 2008. While the demotion is just for this season, the Red Sox wouldn’t mind seeing a dominant run out of Price from the pen to help alleviate his postseason demons.

On the Yankees side, they boast depth as their greatest strength. Green, Robertson, and Betances could appear at any point in the game, with Adam Warren, Jordan Montgomery, and Jaime Garcia on standby. Chapman appeared to lose the closer job back in August, but has regained his composure and will likely be seen exclusively in the ninth. The bullpen’s biggest weakness would be Betances and Chapman’s likelihood to lose command out of nowhere, but in a playoff scenario the leash would be short on them and there are plenty of arms who can step in to minimize the damage.

Result: The Red Sox have an advantage at closer, but overall the bullpen is advantage Yankees.

It’s really no surprise that overall, the Yankees appear to be slightly better than the Red Sox. They did win the season series against them 11-8, and the pre-trade bullpen blew a couple games that would’ve widened that gap further. Ultimately, the only conclusion that could be drawn from the regular season is that a potential postseason matchup would likely go the distance. The Yankees and the Red Sox have a tendency to do that.