It’s round two of the Red Sox-Yankees pitching comparison. We learned about the bullpen, now let’s examine the starting rotation between the AL East rivals.
We’re back for round two of the Red Sox-Yankees pitching comparison. In the first article, I outlined differences between the team’s bullpen players. The Yankees have made more adjustments to their team in the offseason. They have a stronger bullpen than the Red Sox and they have answers to questions that the Red Sox have yet to figure out (or have yet to share). The Yanks have some unique players in their bullpen.
The Red Sox have some strong players but have more questions in particular to their closer. Let’s look at the starting rotation of both teams.
The Red Sox have four starters under the age of 30; Chris Sale (29), Nathan Eovaldi (28), Eduardo Rodriguez (25), and Steven Wright (28). Rick Porcello is 30-years-young. David Price, the oldest member of the starting core, is only 33-years old. The Yanks have an older starting rotation core with only one member, Luis Severino (24), under the age of 30. Teammates James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are both 30-years-old. The team has two players over the age of 35. CC Sabathia is 38-years-old and J.A. Happ is 36 years-old. What does this mean?
The Red Sox have younger members that are likely to last in the league for longer. In 2013, Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer conducted a study examining the peak age for baseball players. In the small sample size, it was discovered that pitchers performing at the top peaked at age 29, experiencing a slight drop at age 30, and another peak at age 31. The second peak tended to have longer lasting time periods. Another study conducted for FanGraphs in 2012, shows that starting pitchers start to lose velocity around 28-years of age. This study isn’t full-proof, as it only observed a small sample size.
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It’s important to also factor in injuries, despite age. Depending on the number of injuries that a younger player has incurred, he will become more injury inclined and have longer bounce-back rates, making him a bit more of a risk to an organization than an older player who has been healthier. The other thing to consider is the experience levels that come with age. The Red Sox don’t have any rookie starters, therefore they’re a more-experienced younger group. The Yanks have pitchers that have been in the league for longer, and that have faced more in games.
The Sox have more starting pitchers with contracts coming up sooner than that of the Yankees core. Therefore, the Yanks are more secure in the starting pitching department for a longer time period. The Red Sox have numerous pitchers with contracts coming to an end in 2020 including Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. In addition, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright are arbitration eligible come 2020.
Chris Sale is signed through 2019. The current contract he has is a 7 year, $59 million deal, with him becoming a free agent in 2020. Entering his last season in this contract, Chris Cotillo of Mass Live, reported that Sale is open to a contract extension with the Red Sox.
"“My phone’s on,” Sale said. “Yeah. If they called, I’d answer.”"
As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported, the Red Sox are taking a few things into account when it comes to re-signing Sale including his health for this season and future seasons, his age, the accomplishments that he’s made so far in his career (including being a top-six finisher in the AL Cy Young voting for 7 years), and if it’s the area that the Red Sox want to place a large investment in. When it comes to the current position of his health, Alex Cora said on Tuesday,
"“Chris looks great. He has gained some weight. And he’s been throwing with no setbacks.”"
Rick Porcello is also signed through 2019. His current contract is a 4 year, $82.5 million deal. As BoSox Injection’s Brendan Mizgala reported, Porcello is eager to remain with the Red Sox. Rodriguez is signed through 2019, on a 1 year $4.4 million deal. He is arbitration eligible in 2020 and a free agent as of 2022. Wright is signed through 2019, on a 1 year $1.38 million contract, he becomes arbitration eligible in 2020 and a free agent as of 2021. Wright had offseason arthroscopic and debridement surgery on his left knee. It’s currently unclear when he will rejoin the team. David Price is signed through 2022, on a 7 year $217 million contract. He becomes a free agent in 2023.
As for the Yankees, Luis Severino is the only player who is of immediate potential concern. He has first-year arbitration eligibility (super 2) in 2019. Meaning that unlike most players, he can become eligible for arbitration before the typical mark of three seasons of MLB service.
James Paxton is signed through 2019, on a 1 year $8.58 million contract. He is eligible for arbitration in 2020 and a free agent in 2021. CC Sabathia is signed through 2019, on a 1-year contract for $8 million. He will become a free agent in 2020. Sabathia will miss the first five games of the 2019 season. He’s suspended for throwing at a batter in September of 2018. Masahiro Tanaka is signed through 2020, on a 7-year contract work $155 million. He becomes a free agent in 2021. J.A. Happ is signed through 2020, on a two-year contract work $34 million. He also becomes a free agent in 2021.
Sale leads the Red Sox for lowest WHIP for 2018 (he recorded a 0.861 WHIP), Career (1.029 WHIP), and projected 2019 (1.006 WHIP). Porcello recorded the second lowest WHIP for the team in 2018 (1.126 WHIP). Price has the second-lowest career WHIP on the Sox (1.144 WHIP) and the second lowest projected WHIP for 2019 (1.216 WHIP). Wright has the highest career WHIP on the team (1.310 WHIP). Rodriguez recorded the highest WHIP on the team in 2018 (1.265 WHIP).
Paxton leads the Yankees for the lowest WHIP in 2018 (1.098 WHIP). Tanaka had the second lowest WHIP in 2018 (1.128 WHIP) and Tanaka leads the team for lowest career WHIP (1.103 WHIP). Severino had the second lowest career WHIP (1.154 WHIP). Severino has the lowest project WHIP for 2019 (1.127 WHIP). Sabathia recorded the highest WHIP on the Yanks in 2018 (1.314 WHIP). Happ has the highest career WHIP on the team (1.309 WHIP).
A pitcher’s WHIP shows us the sum of a pitcher’s walks and hits, divided by innings pitched. The lower the WHIP, the better. We can see that the Red Sox pitchers’ have lower WHIP in comparison to the Yankees for lowest in 2018, lowest career, and lowest projected for 2019. We can see that the Yankees have a lower number when it comes to recording the second lowest WHIP on the team in 2018. Happ has a slightly lower career WHIP compared to Wright.
Sale recorded the lowest ERA on the Red Sox in 2018 (2.11 ERA), the lowest career ERA (2.89 ERA) and the lowest projected ERA for 2019 (2.91 ERA). Porcello recorded the highest ERA on the team in 2018 (4.28 ERA) and the highest career ERA (4.26 ERA). Wright recorded the second lowest ERA on the team in 2018 (2.68 ERA). Price has the second-lowest career ERA (3.25 ERA) and the second lowest projected ERA for 2019 (3.83 ERA).
Of the starting pitchers on the Yankees, Severino recorded the lowest ERA in 2018 (3.39 ERA) and the lowest projected ERA for 2019 (3,43 ERA). Paxton has the lowest career ERA on the team (3.42 ERA), but the highest ERA in 2018 (3.76 ERA). Happ has the highest career ERA of the Yankees (3.90 ERA). Sabathia (3.65 ERA) and Happ (3.65 ERA) are tied for the second lowest ERA in 2018. Severino has the second-lowest career ERA (3.51 ERA). Paxton has the second lowest projected ERA for 2019 (3.68 ERA).
The Red Sox have recorded lower numbers in the following categories: lowest ERA in 2018, lowest career ERA, and lowest projected ERA in 2019. When looking at the second lowest ERA recorded on the teams, the Red Sox have a lower 2018 ERA and career ERA. However, when looking at the second lowest projected ERA, the Yankees win.
The Yankees have the stronger bullpen of the two teams, but the Red Sox have the stronger starting rotation core. Both teams are facing the start of the 2019 season one starter short. While there is currently no projected return date for Wright, the Red Sox have answers about replacements in the position. On the other hand, the Yankees know that Sabathia will return after a 5-game suspension.
As Sports Illustrated reported in September 2018 Sabathia was ejected after hitting Tamp Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre. The act was in retaliation of an Andrew Kittredge pitch tight on Austin Romine (at about 94 miles an hour). Sabathia has elected to appeal the suspension decision so we’ll see what comes of that, but Sabathia’s feelings about the incident were pretty clear.
The Red Sox starting pitchers produce better stats, are younger players and have the added advantage of having played for the organization in previous years. Going into the 2019 season, the Red Sox have the edge as far as this position is concerned. The big advantage for the Yankees is that their starters have longer contracts, meaning they have a longer period of time before they have to worry about reaching new contract agreements or finding new pitchers to bring.