Sunday, February 19, 2006

Red Sox vs Yankees - Pitching Staffs

Today lets take a look at how the pitching staffs of the two biggest rivals in sports compare against each other. I'm using the depth charts from MLB.com to do the comparisons.

#1 Starter - Randy Johnson vs Curt Schilling. This has to go to the Yankees first for reasons of health but also because Johnson is simply the better pitcher. Both have plenty of question marks and honestly I'd be surprised if both pitchers went through the entire season healthy. Advantage Yankees.

#2 Starter - Mike Mussina vs Josh Beckett. The realistic expectations for the 37-year old Mussina are probably for 175 IP, 4.50 ERA and a 13-8 record. I can easily see Josh Beckett topping those numbers. Both players summon mental asterisk when you think of them. For Mussina its the fact that he never won 20 games in a season (and it ain't happening in 2006). For Beckett its that he never pitched 200 innings in a season (and I can see this happening this year in Boston). Advantage Red Sox.

#3 Starter - Shawn Chacon vs David Wells. Let's assume that Wells plays the 2006 season for the Sox (and this may be a big assumption). Let me also say up front that I've been a long time fan of Chacon. However, we have to let the numbers speak for themselves. Chacon has never pitched more than 160 innings in a season (his rookie year in 2001). Wells has thrown at least 184 innings in 9 out of the last 10 seasons. Chacon has double-digit victories only once (11 wins in 2003). Since 2001 when Chacon came into the league, Wells has gone 66-36. Wells has the clear statistical advantage over Chacon but even so I'm going to call this one even for two reasons; the uncertainty of Wells (both health wise and trade wise) and the potential of Chacon (he's not an all-star but he's Jeremy Bonderman good or Tim Wakefield good). Tie.

#4 Starter - Chien-Ming Wang vs Matt Clement. Let's not forget that Wang only pitched 18 games in his career (that's half a season) and let's not forget that Clement's first half last year was so good that he made the all-star team. Clement got beaned in the head (can you get beaned anywhere else?) late last year and that effected him as it would anyone. He should be healthy and is more of a proven commodity than Wang (those who are really high on Wang should consider that Baseball-reference.com lists Andy Replogle as the most similar pitcher by age to Wang - Andy Replogle!). Advantage Red Sox.

#5 Starter - Carl Pavano vs Tim Wakefield. The health of Pavano is a major question mark for the Yankees while the Red Sox can almost guarantee 200 innings from Wakefield. Innings may be the most important thing to expect from your number 5 starter and I think anyone who follows baseball would agree that Wakefield is the better bet. Those who would argue Pavano's case would argue that he's the better pitcher but the fact is Pavano's career ERA is 4.27 despite playing most of his career in the National League while Wakefield's is 4.28 despite playing the past 11 seasons in Boston. Advantage Red Sox.

Emergency Starters - If a starter goes down the Yankees can plug in either Jaret Wright or Aaron Small. Meanwhile the Red Sox can counter with either Bronson Arroyo or Jonathan Papelbon. I'm not real high on Arroyo but he's better than either of the Yankee's options and Papelbon is much better than Arroyo. Advantage Red Sox.

Closer - Mariano Rivera vs Keith Foulke. Two questions here. First - what is the health status of Foulke? If he can return to his form of 2004, that will be a huge plus for the Red Sox but I'm not sold on that (in fact I expect the Red Sox to have someone else step up to be the closer by the all-star break). The question on the Yankees side is not whether Rivera is better than Foulke but whether Rivera is the GOAT (greatest of all-time). Advantage Yankees.

Bullpen - the Yankees have Crazy Kyle Farnsworth, Worcester's Tanyon Sturtze, Injured Octavio Dotel, Red Sox Cast-off Mike Myers, Minuteman Ron Villone, and According to the State of New York You are the Assman Scott Proctor. The Red Sox counter with the Ageless Mike Timlin, Kamchatka David Riske (trade mark Parker Brothers), Boston's Own Lenny DiNardo, Rudy "O Say Can You" Seanez, and Crazy Julian Tavarez. In a fight - I think the Yankees' crazy guy could whip the Red Sox' crazy guy but in baseball talent the Red Sox are pretty stacked this year. Advantage Red Sox.

So I think the Red Sox have the clear advantage in pitching over the Yankees with the exception of closer where Mariano Rivera reigns supreme. The depth will be the deciding factor this year and I think the Red Sox have a big advantage here as well.

You can find my comparisons of the position players for the two teams here.

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