If this format looks familiar, it’s because I’m
ripping off riffing on the style of Matthew Carruth of Lookout Landing (and FanGraphs). Last Friday we discussed the idea of series previews, and Matthew’s are top notch. I’m going to try to bang out one of these for each future series in 2010.
The Yankees, as we are painfully aware, have struggled lately, going 4-6 in their last 10 games. Even still, they feature one of the best all-around attacks in the league. Their pitching has been very good, if not frustrating lately. Their rank in FIP is mostly due to the bullpen and its homer-happy ways, though the starters have had a rough go the last pass or two through the rotation. The offense continues to top the league despite injuries and ineffectiveness.
The Twins are on equally cold footing, also having gone 4-6 in their last 10. That counts two losses to the Yankees in the first two games of their previous series. In a stretch where they played Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee, Minnesota went 3-4, dropping both games to Boston. Prior to that they spit a short series with the White Sox and split a long series with the Orioles.
This series figures to be a well-fought battle among two of the AL’s best teams. The Yankees won the first round, but had home field advantage. The Twins will look to even things up, at the least, at their brand new ballpark.
The series features rematches of the last series in the first two games, followed by a should-have-been matchup in the finale, with Javier Vazquez taking the place of Sergio Mitre.
Tuesday: A.J. Burnett (3.86 ERA, 3.98 FIP) vs. Scott Baker (4.88 ERA, 3.72 FIP)
Last time against the Twins Burnett had trouble finding his control early in the game, but he settled in nicely and left the game with a lead. Damaso Marte promptly blew that, but that doesn’t overshadow how well Burnett pitched from innings three through seven. It’s another game where he didn’t have his curveball and therefore had to work more with his two fastballs. He still managed to strike out four Twins, though. In his last start the Rays lit him up, though again he settled down after a rocky start and pitched into the seventh.
Baker had a tough assignment last week. After the Yankees shelled him for five runs on 10 hits in six innings, he had to go out and face the Red Sox. He fared a bit better, again lasting six innings but this time allowing just three runs. That was more about timing, though, as he allowed eight hits and struck out just four. Against the Yanks he struck out nine. His season peripherals look right in line with recent years, so chances are he’s due for a correction.
Wednesday: Andy Pettitte (2.68 ERA, 4.02 FIP) vs. Francisco Liriano (3.25 ERA, 2.67 FIP)
Pettitte’s last start against the Twins was his first after sitting out with elbow inflammation. He was up to the task, though, allowing just two hits and walking three in 6.1 innings. The Twins didn’t record a run off him, and ended up losing the game 5-0. The next time out, though, Pettitte was not nearly as sharp. That much was evident from the first pitch, and it resulted in a five-inning, seven-run performance against the Rays.
Liriano’s talent is undeniable. He’s a hard-throwing lefty with a nasty slider that can flummox hitters. He put that talent to good use in April, allowing just three runs all month — all of them coming during his first start. He did not allow any in his next three starts, pitching 23 innings and striking out 24. Once the calendar flipped, however, he became much less effective. Against the Yankees he allowed three runs on nine hits through six innings, and last time against Boston he allowed five runs through 4.2 innings. In May he has allowed 19 runs in 23.2 innings.
Thursday: Javier Vazquez (6.69 ERA, 5.76 FIP) vs. Nick Blackburn (4.50 ERA, 5.33 FIP)
It’s tough to imagine a start to the season rougher than Javy Vazquez’s. He got smacked around in his first few starts, got skipped, and then finally got back on track. He has allowed just two runs in his past two starts, including a six-inning shutout against the Mets on Friday that would have gone longer if not for him taking a pitch off the index finger on a bunt attempt. He’ll head right back out there and try to continue it against the Twins offense, which ranks better than any other offense he has faced since his first start against Tampa Bay.
Nick Blackburn has never been a strikeout pitcher, though this year he has struck out even fewer hitters than before. His total sits at 15 right now, 2.5 per nine innings. He’s also walking a few more, though it’s not a terribly significant difference. Everything else seems to be in line. The extra balls in play, though, have seemingly affected him. Hitters have slugged .498 off him, so the extra damage has come in the form of extra base hits. He has turned it around a bit in May, though, allowing just nine runs in 30.1 innings.