All offseason pundits have forecasted a monster year for the Yankees. But with Martinez in the fold, the Red Sox are as poised as ever to take them down.
Since the day Giancarlo Stanton dawned pinstripes we have heard nonstop that the New York Yankees have surpassed the Boston Red Sox as heavy favorites to win the AL East.
There’s a decent bit of reason in that assessment. The Yankees finished two games behind the Red Sox last year with 91 wins; however, their Pythagorean record, a record simply computed using runs scored versus runs allowed, was 100-62. Then they added the NL MVP.
Yesterday, the Red Sox anted up and signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year $110 million contract and suddenly the power dynamic has shifted.
Most would agree that the Yankees still improved more than the Red Sox this offseason and, based on raw performance, the Yankees were better last year anyway. So why am I claiming that the Red Sox should be more feared coming into 2018? Regression, regression, regression.
See, the Yankees were very unlucky in translating an elite run differential into wins, but they were very lucky with a lot of individual performers. Aaron Judge probably can’t maintain a .357 BABIP and a ridiculous 35.6 HR/FB rate. Aaron Hicks played far above anything he’s flashed in his professional baseball career. Jordan Montgomery, C.C. Sabathia, and Sonny Gray wildly outpitched their peripherals, which all included FIPs over four. These are all players who are very likely to take a step back or two in 2018.
The Red Sox look likely to regress in the exact opposite direction.
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Boston’s lineup last year posted an American League-low 162 home runs. They scored only 785 runs and lacked a true threat in their lineup. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all had uncharacteristically bad years at the plate.
Betts was bogged down by a .268 BABIP; a number far below his .303 career mark. Bogaerts seemingly lost the ability to drive the ball with authority; he’s still very young and has flashed much higher offensive potential over the prior two seasons. Ramirez struggled with injuries last year, contributing to his hampered production; a healthy start and a platoon partner in Mitch Moreland may help him regain his stride. JBJ just never had his annual extended hot streak.
On top of this, Andrew Benintendi will likely improve with age and Rafael Devers will play a full season. The offense already looked poised to bounce back in a big way prior to yesterday’s events. And now there’s J.D. Martinez!
If just some of the players above have better seasons in 2018 the Red Sox will once again have a feared offense to back a rotation that was fantastic last year. And that’s without even touching on the impact of a full season of David Price.
The Yankees aren’t going to go down easily. If the Bombers went out and won 100 games no one would blink. But at this moment, smart money may be on a three-peat in the AL East. Welcome to Boston J.D. Martinez!