ESPN Can’t Find Anyone Who Thinks the Yankees Can Finish Ahead of the Red Sox

The race for the American League Winter Pennant was never close. As soon as Cliff Lee agreed to go to the Philadelphia Phillies instead of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox hoisted the cardboard trophy and got fitted for their papier-mache championship rings. On paper, the Sox are unbeatable: they added Adrian Gonzalez, the best player for the San Diego Padres, and Carl Crawford, the second-best player for the Tampa Bay Rays.

How unstoppable are the Paper Sox? ESPN asked 45 baseball experts to predict the division winners—and

45 of them picked the Red Sox

to win the American League East.

Not one person thought that the Yankees or Rays would win more games than the Red Sox. (One person did pick the Rays, and one the Yankees, to finish behind Boston but to win the pennant as a wild card.) Forty-two of the 45 picked the Red Sox to win the pennant.

Pretty impressive for the defending

third-place team

in the division. Baseball Prospectus projects the Red Sox, with their new superstars, to

win 94 games

and the Yankees to win 92. Baseball being baseball, that would mean that the Yankees’ talent is two lucky bounces away from a dead heat with the Red Sox’s. When Baseball Prospectus ran multiple simulations of the 2011 season, the Yankees won the division

36.4 percent

of the time (the Red Sox won 56.7 percent).

If opinions about baseball were distributed as variably as baseball results are, that should produce an expert panel with 25 or 26 people picking the Red Sox, and 16 picking the Yankees. But no one—not even the guy from ESPN New York—predicted the Yankees to win the division. The Red Sox are good, but they shouldn’t be that good. Incredible as it would have seemed a few years ago, the New York Yankees are losing on hype.