By Matt Citak
The New York Yankees made one of the biggest moves of the offseason when they went out and acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. The reigning NL MVP was on his way to the Bronx, where he would be joining the reigning AL MVP runner-up, Aaron Judge, to form what was supposed to be one of the best power-hitting duos the game of baseball has seen in recent memory.
Through the first 44 games of the season, the two have not disappointed, as both players have hit 11 home runs each heading into play on May 21.
However, with just over a quarter of the season in the books, Stanton and Judge have not even been the best slugging duo in the American League East, let alone in MLB.
That title belongs to the Boston Red Sox’s pair of All-Stars, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who as of May 21, have been the two best hitters in all of baseball.
While New York decided to acquire it’s big hitter via trade, picking up the remaining 10 years, $285 million on Stanton’s contract, Boston chose to wait out the free agent market for Martinez. After a long and slow winter, the most coveted free agent hitter available during the offseason agreed to a five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox.
The season is still very young, but after almost two months, it seems as if the Red Sox made out like bandits compared to their division rivals.
In 175 at-bats this year, Martinez is batting a whopping .343, just .001 behind Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera for the second-best batting average in all of Major League Baseball. His 15 home runs is tied for the league-lead, while his 42 RBI is second to only Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
The 30-year-old outfielder is also second in the league in slugging percentage and OPS, while his 60 hits are just two behind Nick Markakis’ league-leading 62.
Martinez has been amazing in 2018, and looks to be worth every penny of the $110 million deal he signed in late February. But combined with the performance of his 25-year-old teammate in the Boston outfield, the two have put together a magical start to the season.
For as good as Martinez has been, Betts has been even better.
The two-time All-Star is leading the league in batting average (.365), slugging percentage (.760), OPS (1.198), runs (48), and doubles (19), while his 61 hits and .438 OBP both rank second. Betts also leads all of baseball with a 3.6 WAR, according to FanGraphs.
The Red Sox are not used to seeing such power on display at Fenway Park this early in the season. In fact, Betts and Martinez are the first pair of Red Sox teammates to hit 15 home runs by the end of May in franchise history.
This is quite a drastic change from last season, when Boston had only one hitter (Betts) reach 15 home runs by the All-Star break.
So despite the Bronx duo of Stanton and Judge receiving all of the attention throughout the offseason, it’s been the Boston pair of Martinez and Betts that are well on their way to having one of the greatest teammate-seasons of all time.
Oh yeah, it also cost the Red Sox significantly less, in terms of money AND talent, to form their version of the “Bash Bros.”
It’s important to note that even with the dominant performances from Martinez and Betts, the Red Sox and Yankees will enter play on May 21 tied for the AL East lead. In addition, Boston is averaging 5.38 runs per contest, while the Bronx Bombers come in at 5.84 runs per game.
The Red Sox will need to see more production from the rest of its roster if they want to keep up with the Yankees, as New York sports one of the league’s deepest lineups.
The rivalry between these two clubs is already off to a feisty start this year. The two teams have split the first six games of the season series, 3-3, with almost all of the contests being close and exciting games. Then there was the brawl that occurred in just the second meeting of the season, which resulted in multiple suspensions.
No matter who you are rooting for to win the division, one thing is certain- the race for the AL East crown between the Red Sox and the Yankees is going to be one wild and crazy ride.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.