It’s tough to run comparisons of AL and NL teams. Not only do the have a different number of teams in the league, but there’s also the DH to consider. For instance, should the Yanks have the advantage on defense because they’re not only in a higher league percentile, but because they have to face nine hitters rather than eight hitters and a pitcher? I’d say yes, but because the Mets’ raw number was lower I gave it to them. It might even be best to ignore the Edge category.
Last time the Yankees and Mets met, things didn’t go so well. The Yanks had trouble scoring runs all series — at least until the ninth inning. Even then their rallies came up well short and they ended up dropping two of three. They get a complete rematch this weekend, complete with pitching matchups.
Yanks on offense
The Yanks had no trouble scoring runs in the games leading up to the Mets series. They had, in fact, scored six or more in each of their previous four games. Against the Mets that magic kind of went away, though, and extended into the Minnesota series. From there the offense picked it back up.
It looked like they had really hit their stride on Tuesday when they rocked Roy Halladay. But they managed just four runs in the next two games, including just one last night. The Phillies pitchers did a good job of getting ahead in the count, and that apparently threw the Yanks off their game. That hasn’t dropped the Yanks from their percha top the AL in runs per game, but they have dropped behind the Red Sox in terms of wOBA.
Mets on offense
It took injuries and ineffectiveness to get the job done, but the Mets have a good lineup going right now. The injury to Luis Castillo has forced Jerry Manuel into sane decision making, as he’s moved Angel Pagan into the No. 2 spot. Jose Reyes remains at leadoff and has improved from his understandable early season slump. David Wright, Jason Bay, and Ike Davis form the middle of the order, and despite a general lack of power in that area they do form a formidable troika.
Castillo’s absence, however, has been a net negative. His replacement, 20-year-old Ruben Tejada, sits on an OBP below .300. I’m sure Alex Cora will get a start or two in his place this weekend against one of the righties. I also suspect Chris Carter will DH. He joins Rod Barajas in the bottom part of the order. They both join Marcus Thames in the We Don’t Hit The Ball Often But When We Do It Goes Really Far Club.
We’re looking at the exact same pitching matchups as last time. Hopefully the Yanks bats have better success the second time around, and that the Yanks pitchers make more adjustments facing the Mets for the second time. Unfortunately, the Mets have the reverse hopes.
Friday: Hisanori Takahashi (3.48 ERA, 3.27 FIP) vs. Javier Vazquez (5.43 ERA, 5.35 FIP)
Last time this battle was a pitchers’ duel for the ages. The Yanks managed just two runs, but thanks to some stellar pitching by Vazquez that was enough. Since then Takahashi has gone on to post excellent numbers. He’s striking out 8.61 per nine innings and walking 3.31. His biggest advantage comes from the home run, just four allowed in 54.1 innings. Considering his fly ball tendencies, this should correct itself at some point. There might be no better place than Yankee Stadium for that to happen.
Javier Vazquez took a huge step forward in his recovery last time against the Mets. He allowed just one hit through six innings and was going strong until he bunted one off his finger. We’ll just say that the injury affected his grip the next time out, when he got rocked by Minnesota. Since then he’s been nothing short of excellent, carving up lineup after lineup. With the offense struggling the Yanks could use another big night out of Javy. If he limits the homers to the solo variety he should be fine.
Saturday: Mike Pelfrey (2.39 ERA, 3.29 FIP) vs. Phil Hughes (3.11 ERA, 2.90 FIP)
With Johan Santana not exactly being his old dominant self, Mike Pelfrey has taken the reigns. He has been nothing short of excellent this season, improving his strikeout numbers while using his curve/sinker to keep the ball in the park. That, combined with a very high strand rate, has kept his ERA nice and low. He’s done an excellent job in high leverage situations, inducing plenty of ground balls. That’s how you strand runners. He has allowed just five hits in 42 high leverage situations.
The season started out well for Hughes, but he’s faced struggles of late. There’s nothing wrong with that, but his team won’t be able to score nine runs behind him every time like they did last Sunday against Houston. This actually represents a big test for Phil. Last time out he couldn’t finish off the Mets. They kept fouling off his cutter and pounding his other pitches. His ability to slip those pitches by the Mets will be the difference this time around.
Sunday: Johan Santana ( 3.13 ERA, 3.81 FIP) vs. CC Sabathia (4.00 ERA, 4.24 FIP)
Santana’s strikeouts are down, his walks are up slightly, yet he’s still posting good numbers. This is partly because of a very low home run rate. In the past Santana had a high-ish home run rate, but they were mostly of the solo variety. This year he’s allowing fewer despite a steady fly ball rate. It’s Santana, so I wouldn’t predict a correction necessarily. But it’s tough to keep up a 5.5 percent HR/FB ratio, especially when you’re allowing a lot of balls in play. That’s been Santana this year.
The Yanks’ own lefty ace has faced his own struggles. His strikeouts are still a little down, but it took him a while to get into a groove last year. He’s keeping the ball on the ground a bit more, though, which will be even nicer if he maintains it while raising his strikeout rate. Homers have been the culprit for Sabathia, as 12.8 percent of his fly balls have left the park. A correction there would go a long way towards his return to acedom. For what it’s worth, he hasn’t allowed a homer in either of his last two starts.