Apr
29

4/29-5/1 Series Preview: Houston Astros

By
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

(Scott Halleran/Getty)

The Yankees are fresh off a four-game sweep of the division rival Blue Jays, and I’m not sure the schedule could have worked out any better to help continue the winning streak as the Astros are coming to the Bronx for three games. Then again, this has classic “trap series” potential.

What Have They Done Lately?
Lose, unsurprisingly. The Astros were just swept by the Red Sox in a four-game series, getting outscored 28-10. They did win two straight against the Mariners before that though. Overall, Houston is 7-18 with a -50 run differential, both the worst marks in the AL.

Offense
The Astros average 3.9 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, both a touch below the league average. They are missing two important right-handed platoon bats in OF J.D. Martinez (92 wRC+) and former Yankees property OF Justin Maxwell (87 wRC+) due to a knee sprain and a broken hand, respectively.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The littlest hitter. (Getty)

Manager Bo Porter’s best full-time hitter is also his leadoff hitter, 2B Jose Altuve (121 wRC+). LF/DH Chris Carter (101 wRC+) and 1B Carlos Pena (86 wRC+) both play everyday as well, and both guys can hit the ball out of any park despite their massive strikeout issues. C Jason Castro (94 wRC+) and slick-fielding 3B Matt Dominguez (81 wRC+) are the team’s only other everyday guys. Marwin Gonzalez (138 wRC+) and Ronny Cedeno (116 wRC+) split time at shortstop.

The rest of the Houston lineup is filled by platoon players, including right-handed hitters OF Brandon Barnes (178 wRC+ in limited time) and former Yankee 1B/3B Brandon Laird (129 wRC+ in limited time). Lefty bats OF Rick Ankiel (112 wRC+ with a 58 K% (!)) and OF Fernando Martinez (64 wRC+) start against righties. OF Robbie Grossman (-20 wRC+ in limited time) has taken over in center following Maxwell’s injury while C Carlos Corporan (90 wRC+) backs up Castro. It’s not a great lineup obviously, but they aren’t total pushovers.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Lucas Harrell
The Astros struck waiver wire gold with the 27-year-old Harrell last year, as he pitched to a 3.76 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 193.2 innings after being selected from the White Sox. He owns a 4.08 ERA (5.54 FIP) through five starts this year even though his strikeout (6.28 K/9 and 16.3 K%) and ground ball (54.7%) rates are basically identical to last season. His walk (4.71 BB/9 and 12.2 BB%) and homer (1.57 HR/9 and 22.7% HR/FB) numbers have jumped a ton though. Harrell is a big time two-seam fastball guy, throwing the low-90s pitch roughly 60% of the time. He’ll also throw a low-90s four-seamer and upper-80s cutter on occasion, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s slider, a low-80s curveball, and a low-80s changeup. He doesn’t throw any of those pitches more than eight or so percent of the time, however. That two-seamer is his bread-and-butter. Harrell has never pitched against the Yankees in his career and only three players (Brennan Boesch, Jayson Nix, and Travis Hafner) on the roster have ever faced him before.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Phil Humber
Baseball has not been kind to Humber since his perfect game last April. The 30-year-old has pitched to a 7.54 ERA (~5.99 FIP) in 111 innings since making history, including a 7.99 ERA (4.69 FIP) in five total starts this year. He hasn’t struck anyone out (4.94 K/9 and 11.5 K%), but he has done an okay job of limiting walks ( 3.04 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) and getting grounders (45.5%). Either way, he’s been pretty close to the worst starting pitcher in baseball so far this year. Humber is very offspeed heavy, throwing his upper-80s two- and four-seamers a combined 41.2% of the time. Upper-70s curveballs and mid-80s sliders are his top secondary pitchers, and he’ll also throw a mid-80s changeup. The Yankees have faced Humber twice before, both times when he was having success with the White Sox back in 2011.

Wednesday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Bedard, 34, has managed to stay healthy in the early going after years and years of injury trouble. The results haven’t been very good (7.98 ERA and 6.47 FIP) so far, which isn’t terribly surprising given his walk (4.91 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%), ground ball (33.3%), and homer (3.07 HR/9 (!) and 23.8% HR/FB) rates. He is striking out plenty of batters though (11.66 K/9 and 27.1 K%), which is something he never really stopped doing even while battling all the physical problems. Bedard’s money-maker remains a knockout mid-70s curveball he can throw for a called strike or bury in the dirt for a swing-and-miss. He’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and set things up with three fastballs: upper-80s/low-90s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. The two-seamer is the most used by far. The Yankees saw Bedard a bunch during his Orioles days, but he hasn’t started a game against them since May 2008.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Despite the beatdown in Boston, Porter’s bullpen is in decent shape because Bud Norris threw six innings yesterday before RHP Jose Cisnero (2.08 FIP) followed with two innings to wrap things up. The team carries three long man types out of necessity, with RHP Paul Clemens (6.48 FIP) and LHP Travis Blackley (7.16 FIP) doing the honors alongside Cisnero.

When they do actually have a lead, the Astros use former Yankee Jose Veras (1.86 FIP) to slam the door in the ninth inning. The setup crew is some combination of matchup guys RHP Rhiner Cruz (6.48 FIP), LHP Wesley Wright (3.08 FIP), and RHP Hector Ambriz (3.45 FIP). The Yankees have relied on their late-game arms pretty heavily of late, which could limit their availability in this series. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. There aren’t a ton of Astros blogs out there, but Crawfish Boxes is the best of the bunch.

Categories : Series Preview
  • your mom

    Carlos Pena……hate that guy.

  • Eddard

    If Dave Phelps can strike out 9 Jays in 4 innings how many Astros can he strike out in a full start? Anything can happen in a 3 game series but the Astros are one of the worst teams in AL history. Anything less than 2/3 would be a major disappointment. 8/10 on the home stand is more than possible after taking the first 4 and having the hapless Astros coming to town.

    • Darren

      The correct answer, as it is for every single game, is that it’s possible for David Phelps to strike out an infinite number of Astros tonight. All you needs is an infinite number of batters striking out and reaching base on a wild pitch/passed ball.

  • Kiko Jones

    The Lastros—as their own fans refer to ‘em—could shock us all and take 2 games; more often than not it seems like lowly teams will rise to the occasion when facing the Yankees.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Even the worst team in the majors is going to win at a .300 clip against the best team.

      The Astros Winning 2/3 is still a 19% chance. It’s baseball. Things happen. If you get shocked when a 1/5 chance event occurs then you’re probably watching the wrong sport.

      • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

        “You know, Suzyn, you just can’t predict baseball”

    • vicki

      i prefer Disastros.

      • trr

        suddenly I’m flashing on a Tim Curry song from the ’80′s….

  • CountryClub

    I know a lot of fans are expecting/hoping for a sweep. But I just want to see them win the series. A sweep would be great. But taking 2 of 3 would be acceptable.

    • trr

      I’ll sign up now for 2/3.
      Anytime, agaianst anybody

  • Robinson Tilapia

    1. Obligatory “Brandon Laird is starting in the major leagues, Cashman failed” joke.

    2. I’ve literally never heard of half these players until reading about them above. Like nothing even rings a bell.

    3. Total potential trap series. Let’s make it not be that.

    • MannyGeee

      1. Obligatory “Brandon Laird is starting in the major leagues, Cashman failed” joke.

      Houston barely qualifies. For shit sakes, Jose Veras gets to be a closer in Houston! Justin Maxwell was their third best hitter.

      2. I’ve literally never heard of half these players until reading about them above. Like nothing even rings a bell.

      This. I felt like the guys at the diner at the beginning of Major League when reading the above ‘roster’.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Justin Maxwell = Cashman failed.
        Jose Veras = Cashman failed.

        Anyone else? Jimmy Paredes still there? Cashman failed.

        If they’re standing upright, then Cashman failed.

        • MannyGeee

          butbutbut…. teh Shelly Duncinz!!!

          • Manny’s BanWagon

            Dude FWIW, “teh” and adding a “z” to players names was funny the first few times it was posted. Now after having seen it 1000 times, it’s exactly the opposite of funny.

            • Jim Is Bored

              And yet, no one thought it worth being a nag about except you.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Jim is Rather Frisky Today.

                • Jim Is Bored

                  Jim has had enough of negative nancies whining all the time.

                  without capital letters, though.

                • Manny’s BanWagon

                  “Jim is Bored” sounds more like “Jim is menstruating” today.

                  • Robinson Tilapia

                    Oof. That was ice cold.

                    Jim is About to Go All “Come at me, bro.”

                  • Jim Is Bored

                    Definitely raising the level of humor in here, and adding some sexism to boot.

                    Well done.

                    • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

                      Sexist? I thought that was a scientific fact.

                  • trr

                    poor Jim….

              • Manny’s BanWagon

                Just making an observation that while it was initially somewhat humorous, it has been completely beaten to death.

                No need to get your panties in a bunch.

                • Jim Is Bored

                  Don’t care.

                  • Manny’s BanWagon

                    If you didn’t care, why did you respond to my comment in the first place????

                    • Jim Is Bored

                      Cool story, bro.

                    • Steve

                      Yeah bro. That simple question you asked was a cool story

                    • Jim Is Bored

                      Welcome, Steve.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Upsetting MBW versus upsetting the natural order of things: A toughie.

              You may have to take one for the team here.

              • Manny’s BanWagon

                New material needed desperately. I have confidence you’ll come up with something funny before it gets played out to death. Just summon your inner TSJC.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  There’s only one TSJC. Too bad he got mauled by that bear like he did.

                  • Manny’s BanWagon

                    TSJC was like the Dos Equis guy. The bear would have lied down and been a rug for him.

                    • Manny’s BanWagon

                      laid down

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      teh laid down

                • Jim Is Bored

                  Glad you’re helping the cause.

            • Steve

              This. 1,000,000 times this. It stopped being funny eons ago. Or because I’m disagreeing with you guys, I guess I should say “IT STOPED BING FUNNYZ EONZ AGO!!!111oneeleven” I only had two z’s. Did I do it right?

              • Manny’s BanWagon

                LOL.

                I think you got it right except you needed to throw in a “teh”

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  You know I’m now going to refer to you as “teh MBW” for the next week now, or until I just simply forget, which is more likely to come first.

                  • Manny’s BanWagon

                    Maybe I’ll change my handle to “teh Manny’z BanWagon’z”

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      DO IT!!!

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Are you Crabbe or Goyle here?

              • Jim Is Bored

                Oh good, the “We’re not allowed to disagree in the RAB comments” thing again.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Fuck Shelley Duncan.

  • Pseudoyanks

    All these referrals to “trap series” are just superstitious people attempting to not jinx this, right?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We remember being swept by the previous version of the Washington Nationals in 2009.

      • MannyGeee

        Also, the shitty versions of the Orioles and Royals say hello.

      • trr

        (grunting )

    • Jim Is Bored

      I believe in trap games in the NFL, maybe the NBA, because of the individual nature of each game. I can even believe in a trap game in baseball, buuuut…

      I don’t believe in “trap” series. I DO believe that sometimes you play poorly against bad teams. And sometimes you play fantastically against great teams.

      I would think that losing game 1 of a series against a bad team would get rid of any “trap” implications.

    • WhittakerWalt

      I still remember getting swept by the Detroit Tigers back in ’96, when they were one of the worst teams ever.

  • mt

    I normally am cautious and normally say 2/3 is fine but I really want to sweep this.

    3 things that are a little concerning:

    1) Yanks have never seen these starting pitchers – that could be an issue (although one could argue these fill-in Yanks that are playing now are not the real “Yanks”)

    2) Not sure how long Phelps can go – Wednesday may be a little dicey.

    3) A Youkilis replacement would cement things.

    On a related note, I wish there were ways to bet on things but this predictable Youkilis injury bothers me – did he only play on Saturday because Girardi intimated before that game that he would have to go on DL if he did not play that day (also thought I saw some quotes from Youkilis that prior week he was not seeing any reason to go on DL.) Now after playing one game he is getting MRI and I would not be shocked if he had to go on DL and miss an whole 15 days. Almost reminds me of when Yanks put Derek on DL and they were laughably still initially publicly saying April 6 was a possibility for a return (probably to placate Derek’s ego in this regard) – that did not work out either.

    And with May 1 almost here, are we really going to see Tex in May – seems like we did not lose anybody that important form 40 man in refusing to put Tex on 60 day DL but we’ll see. As it is, Grandy’s earlest major league return may be at best May 20 or so (I’m predicting somewhere between May 23-May 27.)

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      1) They’ve at least seen Humber.

      2) I’d say he can at least give 90-100 pitches. If not, that’s what Nuno and/or Warren are here for.

      3) Let’s see what the MRI says, but agreed here. Even if they don’t DL him (I hope the injury isn’t severe enough for this), I’d like to see Adams up anyway, with Benny boy getting the boot.

      I’m with you on wanting the sweep, 2/3 will be acceptable but a little disappointing.

      • mt

        Thanks – forgot to note that they’ve seen Humber (although it seems Humber looks nothing like he was back in 2011 (probably in a good way for Yankees). He has really gone south since his perfect game.)

      • CountryClub

        Bedard too

    • trr

      I’d say late May for Grandy, June for Tex, July for Jeter, August for Pineda, never for A-Rod

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Get out the broom for this series. I’d seriously not watch baseball if the Yankees were this bad. There’s not 1 guy on the team that you’d turn in to watch.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      tune in to watch

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’ve always kind of liked Maxwell, but he’s hurt. I have no idea if someone’s worth watching if I’ve never heard of them, and I’ve never heard of half these guys.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Altuve.

      But nothing beyond him.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        If that’s the best you’ve got, times are rough.

        • Jim Is Bored

          I don’t know, Altuve is pretty fun to watch. He’s fast, he’s got power, and he’s got the “oh look at that short person play sports!” factor that people seem to love.

          • Manny’s BanWagon

            I guess. He’s got some speed. I don’t know about power with 10 HRs in 900+ PAs.

            If he was a balding white guy instead of Venezuelan, he’d probably rate pretty high on the grittiness scale too.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              You can be a balding, white Venezuelan guy. Hell, that’s what a lot of Venezuelan guys are.

              What happens then?

              • Manny’s BanWagon

                I think you pretty much have to be pasty white, near albino to rate anywhere high on the grittiness scale.

              • bobtaco

                You win the World Series with the Giants… ?

  • Q

    Irrelevant comment: The Astros new uniforms are nice.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      They are, but I’d love me some old-school Technicolor shit.

      • Pat D

        You mean the rainbow jerseys? Yea, those were awesome.

        • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

          I used to like the Astros a bit back in the days of Ceasar Cedeno, Jose Cruz, JR Richards and Nolan Ryan in their rainbow pajamas.

  • jjyank

    Just let Altuve get on base a few times :) otherwise kill them all!

    • Pat D

      Man, screw your fantasy team. Seriously.

      • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

        Blasphemy!

      • trr

        well somebody screwed mine!

  • pat

    Mets really screwed up Fernando Martinez.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Cashman must have ridden the 7 Train to Flushing for some dumplings, stopped by Citifield, and failed there.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      It seems like another lifetime when he and Jose Tabata were top prospects.

  • RetroRob

    Anything less than a four-game sweep of this three-game series should be viewed as FAILURE!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Over/under on date/time the series is called a failure by someone after the Yanks give up a run?

      • Jim Is Bored

        Never, because we’re going to shut them out in all 3 games.

        • trr

          I like the cut of your jib!

      • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

        To be a success, they can’t give up more than 2 runs in any game and they have to score at least 6 runs in each game.

        They also can never fall behind in any game.

        • Pat D

          Well, you did it.

          Tip o’ the hat to you, sir.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            This is how all internet scraps should end, with all parties seeing the humor in it and an unsuccessful attempt by Steve to tag along in the argument.

            • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

              With the Anti Christ gone from the blog, these scraps are now just playful banter IMO.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Oh, there’s still some decent potential around here.

                Someone should do a study.

                • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

                  I haven’t been around much lately since the NFL draft is my #1 holiday but I can’t recall many vicious fights around here lately though I may have just missed those threads.

                • trr

                  Let’s play nice now!

              • Pat D

                The Anti-Christ? To whom were you referring?

                • Teh Manny’z BanWagonz

                  I’m afraid if I say his name, he might appear.

                  • Pat D

                    Ah, I see.

                    Beetlejuice, eh?

  • Pat D

    By the way, what’s the chance of this game getting rained out? Been raining all day here in PA.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It’s been an annoying drizzle all day in Brooklyn.

      30% for tonight. I can’t imagine they can’t play in this.

      • RetroRob

        Is it a night game? Still adjusting to the idea I actually can’t watch most games during the week. Day games. I want day games!

  • WhittakerWalt

    Humber was awarded a Perfecto he didn’t earn, now he’s being punished karmically. I’m OK with that.