Yanks/Cleveland: Your need to know.

Much of the focus tonight will be on the pitching matchup of Luis Severino vs. Corey Kluber, and rightfully so.  In an era of dominant starting pitchers, and in the middle of a season rife with dominant starters, both Severino and Kluber are in the discussion of who’s MLB’s best.

They’re both among the league’s best in K%-BB%, innings pitched, Fielding Independent Pitching, xFIP, ERA+, bWAR and fWAR.

And for the Luddites among you, they’re also among the league’s best in both wins and ERA.

On a somewhat side note, something to look for tonight is that the only major difference between the two is that Kluber walks far fewer than Severino, but also gives up more long balls.

But what I’m more interested in this weekend is how the teams’ star position players perform, as you should.  I write this because I’m not sure you realize just how good Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are.

I’m of the mind, if you name the best four players in baseball in 2018 who aren’t named Mike Trout, 3 of the 4 will be on the field in Cleveland.

Let’s start with Jose Ramirez.  Ramirez is not only having the best season a 3rd baseman has ever had, he’s having the best season a 3rd baseman has ever had BY FAR.  (He’s on pace for 12.0 WAR, Al Rosen’s 10.1 in 1953 is the best ever.)

Completing the best left side of the infield ever, Francisco Lindor is on pace for 10.4 WAR.  That would be tied for the 3rd best season ever by a short stop since electricity was invented.  (It was 10 weeks ago I had multiple people tell me that Didi was better than Lindor…exhales loudly…)

For the purposes of comparison, since you’re probably more familiar with Judge and Stanton…

Jose R. 6.0 1.1 162 .392 .609 27 65 19 2
Lindor 5.2 1.4 146 .370 .571 25 62 12 3
Judge 5.1 0.9 156 .399 .558 25 60 6 2
Stanton 2.7 -0.1 131 .348 .518 22 54 2 0

Things that jump out at me in no particular order:

  • Judge and Stanton are future hall of fame corner outfielders in their prime. Lindor and Ramirez are switch hitting, better than average defensive infielders who are just as good (better?) offensively.
  • Stanton, despite what the intelligencia who attend Yankee stadium will tell you, is having a very good year. The seasons the others are having is unreal.
  • Both Ramirez and Lindor have higher slugging percentages than both Judge and Stanton.
  • The stats that don’t tell you very much – HR and RBI – are the ones that are almost identical.
  • The stolen bases of Ramirez and Lindor don’t impress me – their ability to not get thrown out is indicative of what great baserunners they are. Their combined 86% success rate is better than the best base stealers of all time.  (For the record, both Judge and Stanton are plus base runners when advancing on hits and not getting thrown out on the bases is factored in).
  • Also for the record, Stanton’s negative dWAR isn’t because he’s a poor fielder. It’s because DHs and left fielders are penalized by WAR due to their lack of contribution compared to other positions.

I don’t need to write a blog about how great Judge and Stanton are.  Judge is clearly among the best in baseball over the past 18 months and Stanton is a future Hall of Famer coming off an MVP season and in the middle of another good one.

But the reality is they may be the 3rd and 4th best players on the field tonight.

This weekend’s series is just another example of how great MLB is right now in large part due to the level of talent, which is the best it’s ever been.  Baseball is the only sport that seems to not want to acknowledge its athletes are better today than athletes of previous generations were.

Don’t let the fix the game, sports radio crowd tell you otherwise.


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