Who Do We Want to Play on Tuesday?
I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, and the loss last night doesn’t help things at all, but the Yankees still hold the top American League Wild Card. With other 3 AL teams looking to compete for the two spots in the Wild Card, what team should we be rooting for to make it alongside us?
Boston Red Sox:
The Boston Red Sox have the highest odds to make the playoffs (besides the Yankees) at 66.7% of the teams fighting for the Wild Card, which means it is most likely that the Yankees will be playing them in a one-game-playoff on Tuesday.
Is this something the Yankees should be hoping for?
The Red Sox recently were able to bring back LHP Chris Sale after he missed the entire 2020 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s back with a vengeance and in his 8 games started this year he has a 2.90 ERA. He’s obviously the Red Sox #1 pitcher and he last pitched on the 28th, meaning that the Red Sox may use him in the final game of the season (though likely only if they are still trying to get into the Wild Card game). If not, the other pitching option would be former-Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, who’s been the Red Sox best pitcher in recent years and is sporting a 3.75 ERA over 32 games this season.
However, the Red Sox bullpen has been uninspiring at best, but their best reliever Garrett Whitlock (how did the Yankees just let him go for nothing?) is out on the 10-Day IL. If the Yankees can get Sale/Eovaldi out of the game early, then the tide should be in their favor.
As an offensive core, the Red Sox also boast a very good team as their entire starting line-up (except catcher) has hit above a 100 OPS+. Of the teams remaining, they are the only team where this is true. (Each other team has at least one starter besides the catcher with an OPS+ under 100.) They are a very balanced team overall and them having players like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez all are single-handedly capable of taking over the game themselves.
Did the Yankees recently sweep the Red Sox in Fenway? Yes. However, that doesn’t mean I want to face them again any time soon.
Toronto Blue Jays:
The Toronto Blue Jays are the most underperforming team in baseball given their +168 run differential, yet they’re playing 7 wins below their Pythagorean record. (They theoretically should be 95-63.) This makes them an extremely volatile and dangerous team…as the Yankees are currently seeing.
Robbie Ray is likely to be their starter for the Blue Jays going into the Wild Card game (if they get there) as he is having an AL Cy Young worthy season. The Yankees will get to see his stuff tonight, so it will be interesting to see how they handle him.
The Blue Jays bullpen is interesting as closer Jordan Romano and Adam Cimber are both pitching very well in 2020 but they’ve combined for under 100 innings. Bullpen arms are notorious for being volatile.
However, the pitching situation is not what scares me about Toronto because they have an offense with players like AL MVP candidate (if not for Shohei Ohtani) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his 1.000 OPS, Marcus Semien, George Springer, and Bo Bichette. If we can say that the Red Sox have a scary line-up because they have a few players who can single-handedly determine a game, the Blue Jays have nearly a whole line-up of players like that.
The Blue Jays are playing the Yankees tough currently, I don’t want to see them again on Tuesday.
Now, the Mariners (if it wasn’t obvious enough) are the team that every Yankees fan should be rooting to make the AL Wild Card. They are severely overperforming their Pythagorean record as they gave a -48 run differential and theoretically should have a 75-84 record.
Pitching wise, Chris Flexen would likely be the arm they would go to in a 1-game playoff, and while he’s been good he’s not a comparable arm to what the Red Sox or Blue Jays have at the top of their rotations. Flexen has a 3.67 ERA and is the only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00 in the Mariners rotation.
When it comes to the bullpen the Mariners have a couple interesting names like Drew Stechenrider (their closer) and Paul Sewald, both of whom have ERA’s in the 2’s. Add in Casey Sadler who has an ERA of 0.72 through 37.2 innings of work and their bullpen does hold some might. However, if they needed to go to it too soon the rest of the bullpen is not very good.
Echo this sentiment for the lineup as they’re led by Ty France and his 129 OPS+ and Mitch Haniger and his 122 OPS+. Both good numbers, but besides them the Mariners have 5 players between a 100 a 105 OPS+ and another 3 comfortably below 90.
If there is a team to root for it’s the Mariners and there is no question about it.