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August 17, 2006

Big-Ass Series Preview: Yankees at Red Sox, August 18-21
by SG

It's finally here, the series that most of us have been thinking about for the past few weeks. The Yankees are coming into this series on a down note, getting thrashed by Baltimore 12-2. The Yankees head to Fenway to play five games in four days, beginning with a doubleheader. Since this is primarily a sabermetric blog, it's time for math. First, here's a comparison of the primary starters for both teams as of right now, based on their performance to date, using linear weights for offense, and zone rating converted to runs for defense.

Now that I've presented these, let me talk about the limitations of these numbers first. First and foremost, we shouldn't just look at this year's performances when trying to gauge a player's true talent, so keep in mind a player's historic performance as well as other factors that may be impacting their ability right now, such as injuries, etc., Another issue is that fielding metrics are imprecise and should not be taken as gospel. In particular, I think Manny Ramirez gets unfairly penalized in zone rating due to the Green Monster. Zone rating is supposed to be park-adjusted, but I did a quick check of Red Sox LF since 1987, and they averaged a -21 per season. That indicated a park bias to me.

With those disclaimers out of the way, the numbers are certainly interesting. The Yankees as presently constituted have the edge at five of the nine positions, and it's fairly significant. This doesn't factor in things like the bench or matchups, but it's pretty encouraging to see anyway. Indications are that Jason Giambi will see some time at first in this series so his negative defensive value should also be considered (-9 on the season, -31 per 162 games).

Of course, positions players are just part of the equation. We also need to consider the pitching.

I've lined the pitchers up by the expected matchups. I'm using linear weights for calculating runs saved above average, and am comparing starters to starters only, and relievers to relievers only. The last column for the starters is runs saved above average per 27 batters faced, which I've concocted as a rough estimate of the value a starter would provide in a typical start.

The Yankees would appear to have the edge in four of the five pitching matchups, which is more good news. They also seem to have a pretty significant edge in the bullpen. I didn't include Octavio Dotel or Brian Bruney as their sample size this season is basically meaningless and they most likely will not see any action in meaningful spots.

What does it all mean? Not that much unfortunately. Anything can happen in a short series, and the bullpens may be stretched thin between the doubleheader and the Yankees' starters inability to go deep into games with any regularity. Based on these numbers, I'm fairly convinced the Yankees are the more talented team right now, but then again, they were more talented than the Orioles too. They're also going to be in Boston, where the Red Sox have won at a 67% clip, compared to their 49% winning percentage on the road.

The Yankees have a 1.5 game lead in the standings, 2 games in the loss column. Here is what we're looking at based on the possible series outcomes.

Frankly, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm a pessimist, so I'm planning for a Red Sox sweep. Then, any other outcome won't seem so bad.

On a completely unrelated note, Tyler Clippard pitched a no-hitter tonight for AA Trenton.