Boston Red Sox

At the end of the day, the Yankees have two clear advantages over the Red Sox: home-run power, and bullpen. Those aren’t small things. They may very well be enough to make them the American League East winner in 2018, or even the favorite to win the league championship.

But why are so many people so convinced that they’re clearly ahead in the race?

Look, there’s no doubt that Giancarlo Stanton was a major addition. They have perhaps the two best power hitters in baseball with him and Aaron Judge. But at the same time, how often does having the most power in the regular season translate to having the best team, or making the World Series out of the AL?

Recently? Not very often.

The last AL team to represent the league in the World Series was, coincidentally, the Yankees in 2009. If you’ll recall, they had Mark Teixeira, who tied for the league lead with 39 home runs in the regular season.

But since then, it’s been quite different. To be fair, last year’s Astros finished second. But the 2016 Indians finished 10th. The 2014-15 Royals? HA! Last and second-to-last. They’re a huge anomaly, though. The lightning-in-a-bottle 2013 Red Sox finished fifth.

So of course you need some high-end power to have a World Series-caliber offense. But the longball, as entertaining as it is, won’t necessarily decide your fate at the end of the season. You still need Pitching And Defense™ to complement your lineup.

Based on recent history, total runs scored is a stronger indicator of the offense that has the best chance of making it to the Fall Classic. The 2017 Astros led the league in runs, the 2016 Indians finished second, and if you skip over the abnormal Royals you’ve got the 2013 Red Sox finishing first.

The Red Sox certainly needed power. And it didn’t help them at all that they led the league in runs in 2016. But the assumption is that J.D. Martinez gives them the power boost they need. Enough of a boost that the Yankees’ power advantage can’t overcome the Red Sox’ clear advantage at the front of their starting rotation.

So with that, let’s quickly go over three reasons why the Yankees are no guarantee to blow by the Red Sox for the AL East crown in 2018…

Giancarlo Stanton Is No Guarantee To Stay Healthy

Giancarlo Stanton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Giancarlo Stanton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Two of Stanton’s major injuries are more of the freak variety. He got hit in the face with a fastball in 2014 and hit in the wrist in 2015.

But other than that? Groin strain in 2016, missed three weeks, 43 games total. Hamstring strain and shoulder soreness in 2013, missed 44 games.  Abdominal strain and “loose bodies” in his knee in 2012, missed 36 games. Hamstring and quad strains in 2011, missed 11 games.

Facts are facts, and the fact is Stanton has played in 150-plus games in a season just twice in his seven-year career. And the majority of his injuries are the kind that nag, the kind that truly do earn players the “injury-prone” label.

Just because Stanton finally stayed healthy in 2017 doesn’t mean he’s going to do it again in 2018.

Aaron Judge Is No Guarantee To Repeat Rookie Numbers

Aaron Judge (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Aaron Judge (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I wrote last season that comparing Judge to Babe Ruth by any measure, which Buster Olney did, is stupid and ridiculous. Buster was only going by marketability and star power and his immense size compared to his peers. Fine. But can we hold off on building the statue, please?

Now I’m not going to say that the 6-foot-7 Judge isn’t a fun player to watch. His at-bats are muse-see TV, considering the chance that the ball could be headed for the moon. Having him in pinstripes is good for baseball at the end of the day and good for the Red Sox’ and Yankees’ (hopefully) rekindling rivalry.

But lest we forget Judge’s .228 batting average after the All-Star break? How about the fact that, for all his power, he struck out 208 times? The kid is far from a sure bet to hit 50 bombs again, and certainly not with an average as high as .284.

If Judge hits another 40 homers while batting .250 this season, if he’s closer to Adam Dunn than Albert Pujols … are we still going to be hearing Babe Ruth comparisons? Are the Yankees really going to get enough out of him to overtake the AL East and plow through the league in the postseason? He could still be a top-quality power hitter, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up what he did in his magical rookie campaign.

Their Rotation Is No Guarantee To Compete With The Sox

Luis Severino (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Luis Severino (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As important as it was for the Red Sox to improve their lineup – and as optimistic as you can be that their young talent will improve upon last season’s numbers – the Red Sox’ true advantage over the Yankees lies in the starting rotation. If Chris Sale even approaches his 2017 numbers and David Price finally puts it all together for the Cy Young-caliber campaign we know he’s capable of … then the Sox have the best 1-2 punch in the league. Perhaps easily.

Obviously, there are also questions there. The Red Sox are tinkering with Sale’s routine in an effort to preserve him physically, which could potentially lead to a slow start. Price is just an enigma at this point. But if we’re going to give the Yankees the check mark on paper with their lineup, then it’s only fair to give the same marks to the Red Sox.

The Yankees’ rotation is likely to be led by Luis Severino and Sonny Gray. The former does have a chance to be very good, perhaps even contend for the Cy – but at best he’s a wash with Sale, and he’s most likely behind there. As for Gray, he had just a decent 3.72 ERA for the Yanks last season and, like Stanton, is even less of a guarantee to stay healthy for a full season. His ceiling compared to Price’s is not very close right now.

New York has to hope that Masahiro Tanaka bounces back and C.C. Sabathia finds the fountain of youth. Because at the top of the rotation, the Yankees don’t look to have something that can compete with the Sox. In this respect, the gap is arguably wider than it is between the lineups.

What Do You Think?

So that’s that. Rants over. If you have a problem with my arguments here then feel free to let me know. The Yankees did get better in the offseason, but I still don’t see why they need to be considered a clear favorite.

The funniest thing about all this? It’s likely that neither team has done enough to pass the Astros anyway.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.

Stanton injury stats courtesy Fish Stripes.