Yankees’ starters and the good kind of homersBy
Interleague play has been in baseball for 15 years now, but no Yankees’ pitcher has ever hit a homerun in an NL park. I didn’t remember one, and B-Ref’s Play Index confirms it. That’s kinda disappointing. In terms of OPS+, the best hitting Yankees’ pitcher in the interleague play era is Kevin Brown (min. two plate appearances), who had a double and a strikeout in his two plate appearances back in the day. That adds up to a 290 OPS+. Javy Vazquez leads the way with a 121 OPS+ among guys with ten or more plate appearances thanks to a double, two walks, and three sac bunts in ten trips to the plate. The Yankees don’t pay their pitchers to hit anyway, no team does.
With the team headed to Chicago and then Cincinnati over the next few days, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that one of the Yankees’ starting pitchers will in fact hit a homerun at some point on the trip. Which one? I’m not that brave, but I am feeling it this year. Let’s stick some odds on the fellas…
Friday @ Cubs: Freddy Garcia
Sweaty Freddy has never hit a homerun in his career and has just a .190/.212/.222 career line in 80 plate appearances. He hasn’t had a hit since 2007 (in part due to injuries), and his two career extra base hits were a double in 2007 and a double in 2002. Wrigley Field is just about neutral when it comes to right-handed batters, so that doesn’t help his cause either. Garcia will have the platoon advantage against lefty Doug Davis, a ground ball guy (~45% over the last few years) that has surrendered 1.1 homers for every nine innings pitched over the last three years. Doesn’t look good for Freddy. Chances: 0.5%
Saturday @ Cubs: A.J. Burnett
All those years with the Marlins produced a .134/.180/.180 batting line in exactly 300 plate appearances, though A.J. has three career homers. One came off Rick Ankiel, another off Robert Person, and the third off Kevin Correia. The problem is that Burnett has just one hit (a single) in 17 plate appearances since coming over the AL. He will be at a platoon disadvantage against righty Ryan Dempster, who gave up eight homers in his first five starts this year but just five in ten starts since. Not liking his chances, but I do like them better than Garcia’s. Chances: 5%
Sunday @ Cubs: CC Sabathia
Now we’re talking. Sabathia is a .258/.265/.381 career hitter with three homers in 101 plate appearances, and two of those homers came with the Brewers in 2008. He also picked up a hit with the Yankees in both 2009 and 2010, though both were singles. Wrigley Field is very favorable for left-handed batters and CC will have the platoon advantage against Randy Wells. Wells has been an extreme fly ball guy this year (just 35.1% grounders) and has given up three homers in 18 IP since coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago. Chances: 29%
Monday @ Reds: Ivan Nova
Nova has never come to the plate in a professional game, majors or minors, and opposing starter Johnny Cueto has gotten better and better at limiting homers as his career has progressed. It’s also a right-on-right matchup, which never helps. That said, Nova’s young and presumably strong, plus the Great American Ballpark is absurdly favorable towards right-handed batters, so I could see him surprising us and running into one. Chances: 15%
Tuesday @ Reds: Brian Gordon
This is where it gets interesting. Gordon spent the first ten years of his career as an outfielder and is a career .275/.321/.460 career hitter in 4,161 minor league plate appearances. He hit no fewer than ten homers in any season from 2000 through 2006, including a 22 homer year in 2004. He averaged 15.1 homers per year during that stretch. Clearly, he has some power. The GAB also favors lefties, but Gordon will be at a platoon disadvantage against southpaw Travis Wood. Wood is an extreme fly ball guy though (just 31.5% grounders in his career), so if he doesn’t Gordon doesn’t hit one out himself, there’s a chance the Yankees’ offense will knock the Reds’ starter out of the game early and give their starter some swings against a right-handed long man. I like the odds. Chances: 50%
Wednesday @ Reds: Garcia again
The opposing starter is Mike Leake, a ground ball heavy right-hander (48.4% career). Sorry Freddy, it’s probably not going to happen. Odds: 0.5%.