Tom Verducci rings in on the race between the Yankees and Red Sox this year –
It really is this simple: the team that gets the most starts out of its planned five-man rotation will be the better team. That’s right, both teams can spend $350 million combined on players, assign squadrons of number crunchers to analyze the life out of the game, hold staff meetings late into the night to worry about what Triple-A middle reliever might be needed around August, and the battle will be won simply by which team’s top five starters take the ball most often. All that architectural planning and scheming and it all comes down to crossing your fingers when it comes to how well five pitching arms hold up.
I know this to be true because Curt Schilling told me years ago. His theory was that the Red Sox and Yankees are so evenly matched that the team that gets the most starts out of its top five starters will be the better team. It’s amazing how right he has been.
Last year, for instance, the Yankees’ top five starters made 139 starts to Boston’s 121. New York won eight more games and the World Series. Indeed, so freakish was the run of good luck by the Yankees with their starters that they had four starters make at least 31 starts — for the first time in the history of the franchise.
And, for the record, the Yankees’ top five starters making 139 starts last season was the top mark in the league. (I read that in The Bill James Gold Mine 2010.)
One thing not mentioned here – let’s not forget the Tampa Bay Rays. They just may end up having the best starting rotation, from top to bottom, in the A.L. East – and if their top five gets more than New York and Boston, then it’s Tampa who gets the crown.