Want proof the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry could be entering a prolonged stretch of competitiveness? Look no further than the rosters, which are littered with young talent capable of carrying the torch passed down over multiple generations.
For the sake of argument — when it comes to Red Sox-Yankees, who doesn’t love a good debate? — and as a way to highlight just how evenly matched these teams could be for the foreseeable future, let’s hone in on a pair of rookie outfielders, Andrew Benintendi and Aaron Judge, who look poised to become franchise cornerstones for Boston and New York, respectively.
You see, there are an abundance of stars — or players with star potential — on both sides, but comparing and contrasting Benintendi and Judge is a fascinating exercise. Not only is there a distinct difference in appearance, with Benintendi listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds and Judge standing a hulking 6-foot-7, 282 pounds. But there’s also a clash in styles on the field, where the long-haired Benintendi is seen more as a five-tool threat and the short-haired Judge is viewed as Major League Baseball’s next great slugger.
Which raises an interesting question: Which player, Benintendi or Judge, would you rather have for the next 10 years?
Judge is a legitimate American League MVP candidate this season and the favorite to earn Rookie of the Year honors, but he’s regressed a bit since his torrid first half due in large to his knack for striking out. Benintendi, meanwhile, is on the rise, ripping off a red-hot August for the resurgent Red Sox, who enter their three-game weekend series against the Yankees with a 4 1/2 game lead in the AL East.
Let’s first look at the offensive numbers, which is a worthwhile examination given that they’ve spent almost an identical amount of time — nearly one full season — in the majors thus far:
Benintendi (LF, 23 years old): 145 games, 596 plate appearances, 146 hits, 78 runs, 15 stolen bases, 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 103 strikeouts, 61 walks, .282 average, .360 on-base percentage, .815 OPS.
Judge (RF, 25 years old): 143 games, 602 plate appearances, 134 hits, 101 runs, 7 stolen bases, 41 home runs, 90 RBIs, 204 strikeouts, 97 walks, .270 average, .394 on-base percentage, 1.026 OPS.
Now on to a few key defense and baserunning metrics, which should shine light on each player’s overall game, not just his bat:
Benintendi: 3 defensive runs saved, -1.2 UZR, -1.5 UZR/150, -6.2 Defense score (Def), 3.3 Base Running Score (BsR)
Judge: 8 defensive runs saved, 7.5 UZR, 10.5 UZR/150, 0.8 Defense score (Def), -1.2 Base Running Score (BsR)
Basically, while one might expect Benintendi — a natural center fielder, who since has shifted to left field, with greater speed — to be the better defender and baserunner, Judge actually has outperformed his counterpart in the field to this point.
To bring everything together, let’s rely on everyone’s favorite metric, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), an all-encompassing statistic that aims to measure a player’s total contributions to his team. Benintendi checks in with a 2.6 WAR through 145 career games, per FanGraphs, whereas Judge owns a 5.8 mark in 143 career contests.
Of course, all of this simply verifies what the eyeball test tells us: Overall, Judge has been a better player than Benintendi to this point. But circle back to the initial question — who would you rather have moving forward? — and the answer is far more complicated, especially since Benintendi is two years younger and was a more highly touted prospect coming up through the Red Sox’s system.
For instance, who’s to say Benintendi’s power doesn’t develop far beyond our wildest expectations or that Judge doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts, evolve as a hitter and produce a better average at the expense of a few dingers. Any of those developments obviously would significantly skew how we view this little tale of the tape.
The cop-out answer, albeit an accurate response, is to say, “You can’t go wrong with either player.” So we’ll stick with that for now, while adding that we’re thankful Benintendi and Judge are playing for the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively, because it adds a whole new layer to the revived rivalry.
Thumbnail photo via Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports Images