With Opening Day only a few months away the inevitable Red Sox vs. Yankees comparisons are starting to rear their ugly heads. Hot Stove season is over, and barring any blockbuster moves, each roster appears to be set.
Anyone who has followed the off-season up until this point is fully aware of Theo's inclinations toward an improved defense. UZR has become the new OBP. With the additions of Beltre, Scutaro, and Cameron (along with Ellsbury's move to LF), the Sox look to have one of the best defenses in the league. The thought of an Ellsbury/Cameron/Drew outfield is unreal. Throw in three Gold Glove infielders and this defense is like a freaking baseball vacuum.
On the other end the Yankee's have new acquisition Curtis Granderson manning CF. His defense is an obvious upgrade over Melky Cabrera, he brings a career +21.2 UZR to what was a weakened outfield last season. Swisher will get the job done in right, and assuming Brett Gardner is the Opening Day left fielder, the Yanks will have improved their OF defense as well. Despite the much heated debate about the declining skills of Derek Jeter, they will still have an above average IF, especially with Teixiera manning 1B. The only question mark is going to be the durability of now 38 year old catcher Jorge Posada, who should see a fair amount of time at DH while sharing time behind the plate with Francisco Cervelli.
Both teams made significant improvements to their defense, but the Red Sox win this by a wide margin, replacing Bay, Lugo/Green, and Lowell with superior defensive talent.
As far as lineups go, its going to come down to whether or not guys on both sides bounce back and/or replicate their career years. Granderson could hit 30+ homers at Yankee stadium, but the same has been speculated with Adrian Beltre hitting in Fenway Park. The Sox are counting on a resurgent David Ortiz, who may not be the slugger he once was but is still a formidable bat to have in the lineup. A repeat of the first half of 2009 would certainly be a surprise, if he produces half as well as he did after the AS break then the loss of Jason Bay's bat will barely go noticed. Throw in a full year of V-Mart at catcher and the Sox have a very solid 3-4-5. The only glaring question mark is Marco Scutaro, while I would't expect a repeat of last years numbers, a career average year would be welcomed versus last years automatic outs with Lugo, Green, and Lowrie.
The offensive powerhouse that we call the Yankee's is a step ahead, and Rodriguez and Teixiera is as close to Ramirez/Ortiz as it comes. We can only expect Cano to get better as he ages and the addition of Granderson adds another dangerous lefty to an already potent lineup. Every year I have Posada's age coming up to bite him but he has defied it every season.
The bottom line is while the Sox have improved, the Yankee's clearly have the superior lineup. The addition of Adrian Gonzalez may have changed the scales but the signing of Adrian Beltre seems to have ruled out a trade, at least until the deadline.
Of course with the addition of Lackey, the Yanks countered with Vasquez. With Vasquez' history during his tenure with the Yanks, i'm taking Lackey hands down. The guy is an absolute horse and would be a #1 on any other team. Sabathia and Lester is definitely an interesting match up, arguably two of the best left handed pitchers in the game not named Santana. While the Sox have possibly the best starting three in baseball, the four and five spots are huge question marks. Matsuzaka was atrocious last season, but did show promise towards the end of the year. Reports on his workout regime have also been encouraging, with some going as far as to say he is in "the best shape of his life". No doubt the potential is there, and the same goes for Buchholz. If either can live up to their infinite expectations the Sox will be a force to be reckoned with. It's time to live up to the hype for both Buchholz and Chamberlain. At the top the Yank's are set, CC proved last year that he can perform on the big stage and became the staff ace the team needed. Burnett, while erratic at times, was adequate and a second year in NY could do wonders.
I'm going to go ahead and give the Sox the win here, but its hardly a weak spot for the Yanks. New York got by last season with Sergio Mitre as a fifth starter, they have the luxury of not needing to rely solely on the rotation with such a powerful offense.
As far as predictions go, I have the Sox winning the division. Call it homerism at its finest, but I truly believe the run prevention route the Sox went will pay dividends. Of course things change over 162 games so nothing is guaranteed, except for the fact that we are in for some intense games throughout the season and hopefully, in October.