When the Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2006, they went out the next offseason and reloaded: $100 million total to negotiate with and sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, $70 million for J.D. Drew, $36 million for Julio Lugo. Now, it was the Yankees' turn. After missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, New York moved to address its starting pitching woes and the hole at first base created by decliningJason Giambi's option
First, they did some housecleaning: They signed Sergio Mitre for depth then cut ties with Carl Pavano and Giambi. They re-signed reliever Damaso Marte (who had come over with Xavier Nady in an '08 deadline deal) to a three-year deal and sold Darrell Rasner to Japan. The first significant move came in mid-November 2008, when the Yankees sent Wilson Betamit and prospects to Chicago for Nick Swisher.
A month later, New York signed CC Sabathia to a record-setting deal for a pitcher, then they turned around and signed fellow free agent starter A.J. Burnett. The pair's deals were made official on the same day. With the rotation solidified, the Yankees turned to the developing bidding war with Boston for the services of free agent Mark Teixeira. Setting aside the controversy over how that went down, Teixeira signed with the Yankees. It was widely known as the $450 million offseason.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, having lost out on Teixeira, stuck with Kevin Youkilis at first base and Mike Lowell at third. Their offseason, though not quiet, was certainly much quieter than New York's. With Jacoby Ellsbury turning in a solid rookie season in 2008, the Sox traded Coco Crisp to Kansas City for reliever Ramon Ramirez. They then locked up Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Youkilis to long-term contracts and signed Brad Penny and John Smoltz, two starters with past success but recovering from injuries, to one-year, incentive-laden deals. Likewise, the Sox inked Rocco Baldelli for the bench and Takashi Saito for the bullpen.
The clubs' respective moves seemed to obviously shift the balance of the division back to the Yankees, and SG's projections that March indicated that was the case. Once again, he used six systems, but this time he dropped the obviously inferior Diamond Mind projections and replaced them with Tom Tango's Marcel system.
- Red Sox: 96-66, 825 RS, 678 RA, 50% Div, 31% WC
- Yankees: 94-68, 845 RS, 718 RA, 39% Div, 35% WC
- Yankees: 98-64, 860 RS, 694 RA, 55% Div, 27% WC
- Red Sox: 95-67, 832 RS, 689 RA, 30% Div, 39% WC
- Yankees: 94-68, 856 RS, 727 RA, 48% Div, 27% WC
- Red Sox: 92-70, 827 RS, 715 RA, 33% Div, 32% WC
- Yankees: 96-66, 822 RS, 686 RA, 45% Div, 30% WC
- Red Sox: 95-57, 826 RS, 684 RA, 37% Div, 34% WC
- Yankees: 97-65, 883 RS, 732 RA, 50% Div, 30% WC
- Red Sox: 95-67, 857 RS, 713 RA, 36% Div, 36% WC
- Yankees: 96-66, 855 RS, 711 RA, 53% Div, 28% WC
- Red Sox: 93-69, 856 RS, 738 RA, 30% Div, 33% WC
Whew. These are kinda boring. All of them show the two teams within three games, similar in run scoring and run prevention potential. No year to this point had seen such wide agreement among the systems. Not surprisingly, the average of the six projections looks much the same.
- Yankees: 96-66, 853 RS, 711 RA, 48% Div, 30% WC
- Red Sox: 94-68, 837 RS, 703 RA, 36% Div, 34% WC
In reality, the Yankees significantly outperformed their projections, while the Red Sox hewed closely to theirs, which left a far wider gap in the AL East than initially estimated:
The Yankees blew away their offensive projections by 70 runs, in part because 2008 had left much uncertainty around the expected performances of Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Well, all three of them raked. With Teixeira's presence, the Yankees were able to absorb Alex Rodriguez's hip injury. Even Melky Cabrera approached respectability with the bat.
On the mound, Sabathia proved to be just as advertised, Burnett was solid, and Pettitte returned to form after an off year. Joba Chamberlain disappointed, but as the Yankees' No. 4 starter, league-average pitching over 157 innings was certainly not hurting the team. The only dark spot was Chien-Ming Wang's utter failure to rebound from injury, as he posted a 9.64 ERA in 12 games. The Yankees replaced him with Phil Hughes, Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, who provided mixed results. Hughes spent most of his time setting up Mariano Rivera to much success while youngsters David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves proved serviceable in relief.
For the Sox, it was an odd year. Pedroia slumped a bit, David Ortiz took more than two months to hit anything and barely managed to produce a final line above average. The Sox received the expected performances from Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew and Jason Bay, but Jed Lowrie's wrist injury needed surgery in April, and with Julio Lugo already injured, scrub Nick Green was pressed into service for more than 300 plate appearances before the Sox could reacquire Alex Gonzalez. Jason Vairtek's time as a productive hitter had clearly ended, and the Sox traded for Victor Martinez at the deadline. A hip injury to Mike Lowell forced Youkilis across the diamond and a parade of subpar replacements (Casey Kotchman, Jeff Bailey, Mark Kotsay) to man first base. In all, though, the Sox' offense scored nearly 900 runs, well more than expected.
On the mound, neither Penny nor Smoltz worked out, which forced the Sox into scrambling for starts at the back end of the rotation, especially when Matsuzaka went down with an injury. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester performed very well, and Tim Wakefield turned in his usual league-average pitching for 130 innings before running into his own injuries. The Sox received 31 starts from Matsuzaka, Smoltz, Paul Byrd, Junichi Tazawa (thrown into the mix from AA such was the Sox' desperation at that time) and Michael Bowden, and none managed an ERA below 5.70. The season ended, however, with an encouraging run from Clay Buchholz, who re-emerged from the minor leagues with a 112 ERA+ in 12 starts. In the pen, Hideki Okajima for the first time began to show signs of mortality, while Ramirez was a solid addition initially before slumping as the season went along. Manny Delcarmen was a huge disappointment, and despite solid numbers, Saito was never used in high-leverage situations. A late-season trade for Billy Wagner helped solidify the Sox' pen in time for the playoffs.
But, of course, it was the bullpen that betrayed the Sox at the end of their first-round sweep at the hands of the Angels. The Yankees had no such problems. Their dominant lineup and solid front-three starters carried them to their first World Series title of the 21st century.