Both the Yankees and Red Sox will have their share of innings and games lost due to injuries. A team can survive and thrive in the face of a barrage of injuries only with depth on their roster. The Yankees have it, the Sox not so much.
Winning teams in major league baseball take advantage of every little thing coming their way. The opposition makes an error, they capitalize on it. The wind is blowing in – or out – they find a way to capitalize on that too. Last season, something unexpected came the Yankees way and they took full advantage of their fortune.
You might be thinking of Aaron Judge sending baseballs into the night, or Luis Severino developing into a serious candidate for the Cy Young Award, or maybe even Jordan Montgomery coming out of nowhere to toss 180 quality innings in his rookie season. All good, but as I think back, the Yankees were (essentially) an injury-free team last year. And more significantly, no one went down unexpectedly.
The Yankees knew and were prepared for Didi Gregorius missing the first month of the season. In steps Ronald Torreyes and there’s nary a hiccup. Greg Bird went down early and the team knew it would be a long journey back. Plenty of hiccups on this one with exhibit number one being Chris Carter, who was finally booted out of town at the urging of manager, Joe Girardi, and replaced with a reliable combo of Chase Headley and Todd Frazier until Bird made his way back for the playoffs.
CC Sabathia‘s shelving for a few weeks was not a surprise and maybe even gave the 37-year-old veteran a chance to find a second wind, which he found once the second season began in October. Judge “played through” a shoulder disruption, slumped and then recovered. The Yankees should be so lucky in 2018.
The difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox is the depth the Yankees have on their 40-man roster and even beneath that if push comes to shove, to replace fallen starters. The Red Sox depth chart as tabulated by ESPN is formidable but falls far short of the Yankees.
Who, for instance, is available to replace Greg Kimbrel, the Red Sox closer if he goes down? I see nobody. With the Yankees though, take your pick among David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and in a pinch, even Chad Green and the forces of natural talent take over assuming Aroldis Chapman can’t handle the full load as was the case last season for a while.
But it’s in the outfield where the Yankees bludgeon the Red Sox in the event of injuries to starters. At the moment, it’s a headache for Aaron Boone in deciding between Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and presumably, Clint Frazier if he can get beyond the concussion injury he suffered, in figuring out who plays when both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are both playing in the field.
But as seasons go, you never can tell when the need may arise for Boone to plug one of these position outfielders into a stretch of ten or twenty games if one of the “big guys” go down.
Dustin Pedroia is a whole other matter. Pedroia is a leader of this team in the same manner as Derek Jerek was for the Yankees. But Pedroia needs to stay on the field, something he has been unable to do over the past two seasons, including last year when he missed 50 games.
His replacement, a recent pickup by the Red Sox, Eduardo Nunez, is a respectable replacement, but not nearly what Pedroia brings to the table in terms of leadership and energy.
Action at the trade deadline can and probably will alter the face of the race in the American League East. And we’ll just have to wait for July to see how those chips fall in or out of place for both the Yankees and Red Sox.
But between April and July, the Yankees are locked and loaded in the event that injuries within the starting lineup come about. The Red Sox? – not so much. And that just might be the key as to which team has the resources to withstand a six-month and 162 game season on the way to capturing the AL East title.
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