Yankees’ starters and the good kind of homers

Yankees will look into Kazmir
Bernie Williams to make first Old Timers' Day appearance

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%.

Yankees will look into Kazmir
Bernie Williams to make first Old Timers' Day appearance
  • Monteroisdinero

    Chance of injury running the bases?

    • the tenth inning stretch

      My money’s on CC.

      • The Oberamtmann

        That’s why he’ll hit a homer. Then he can slowly jog.

  • BigTimeBartolo

    Dammit, I really wanted to see Bartolo at the plate!! Fuck that injury!

    • Guest

      That was guaranteed to be a YouTube classic.

      • the tenth inning stretch

        You just know he would’ve pulled an El Duque and jumped over someone on his way to first.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Bartolo is master of the drag bunt.

  • Guest

    15% of 162 = 24.3 If Ivan Nova has a 15% chance of hitting a homerun in Mondays game, that means that over the course of a 162 game season played under the same conditions as Monday game, we think that Ivan Nova would hit 24.3 HRs.

    That seems…aggressive.

    • Guest

      Aaaaand I just realized I completely misread the post and the odds refer to the chances that a particular Yankee pitcher will be the pitcher that hits a homerun IF a Yankee pitcher does hit a homerun.

      I stand corrected. I will return to my corner now.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        You have shamed us all.

    • 28 this year

      its also aggressive to project Brian Gordon hitting 81 homers but I digress.

  • Art Vandelay

    I hope mo gets an at bat again. that was awesome against the mets last year

    • YankeesJunkie

      Mo seems like one of those guys that could put a charge on it and run it out for a triple.

  • Jake

    Really enjoyable post, Mike. You’ve been crushing it.

    • Sayid J.

      That’s funny, because i have a feeling that if this had been posted by one of the weekend writers, everyone would be trashing the article because it’s not real analysis and a waste of their time…

  • no.27

    In the Yankees last 32 games, they are 19-13 with 6 losses to the Red Sox. 6 of the other 7 losses have been 1 run games.

    • CS Yankee

      Not a bad pace (96 wins), those 1 run games seem to have them on the losing side by quite the margin.

      YTD, I’ve been amazed with the starters and bummed with the ‘pen. Mo has 3 (or 4) blown saves, Soriano has thrown better while on the DL than in actual games, Joba has the remote, and our two (high & higher) extremely well paid LOOGY’s are poolside while were stuck with Logan.

  • CS Yankee

    If the Great Gazoo can hit a grandslam (on Mother’s day to boot) and Pena can go yard in a (at the time) close game, well CC might be able to get a couple and Gordon…perhaps a cycle.

  • Zack D

    I’d actually go much lower on Gordon, I think he’ll actually be pitched to instead of just fastballs out of the zone that most AL pitchers just hack at while their bench laughs.

    But this definitely has the feel of a “weekend-type” article, I’d love to see the difference in comments if it was re-posted on Saturday.

    • Sayid J.

      Ah, yes, exactly what I just wrote above. If this were posted by a weekend writer there’d be a lot of hate around here.

  • Nuke Ladoosh

    Welcome to Chicago boys. See you in Wrigley shrine tomorrow and Saturday. I’m on my couch for Sunday ESPN game.

  • asdfasdf

    CC has the best chance of going yard, gordon second.