Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

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It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees and Brewers played in Yankee Stadium. The last time these two clubs met in the Bronx was before Milwaukee jumped from the AL to the NL in 1998, and … well here’s the box score from that game. Scott Pose leading off! Derek Jeter batting seventh! Cats and dogs, living together! Crazy how long it’s been, a baseball lifetime basically.

What Have The Brewers Done Lately?

The Brewers are coming off a three game sweep of the Twins in Milwaukee, outscoring the road team 21-6 during the series. They’ve also won four of five but are coming out of a stretch in which they won just two of six games. It happens. At 44-35, the Brewers lead the NL Central by three games and their +27 run differential is fourth best in the so called senior circuit.

Brewers On Offense

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This is pretty damn close to an AL offense folks, at least at the top the lineup. Rickie Weeks flashes a .375 wOBA from the leadoff spot and comes into the series with a .348/.389/.576 batting line over the three weeks or so. Nyjer Morgan (.371 wOBA) will bat second against right-handers but Corey Hart (.359 wOBA overall, .506 wOBA vs. LHP) will bat there against CC Sabathia in the final game of the series. Batting third is one of the game’s very best, Ryan Braun. Dude’s got a .416 wOBA this year and comes into the series with a 17 game hitting steak. Because that’s not enough, Prince Fielder backs him up from the cleanup spot, and he’s sporting a .439 wOBA. He comes into the series hitting .363/.519/.800 over his last 26 games and .326/.473/.681 in his last 44 games. Someone hold me.

Things kinda drop off after that. Third baseman Casey McGehee handles most of the five-hole duties, but his wOBA is a pathetic .264 at the moment. He hasn’t hit at all, one little hit streak in May and that’s it. Yuniesky Betancourt is one of the very worst players in baseball (.264 wOBA with bad defense), and Carlos Gomez is just slightly better (.296 wOBA). The catching tandem of Jonathan Lucroy (.336 wOBA) and George Kottaras (.323 wOBA) is surprisingly productive for the position, and the just called up (as in yesterday) Mat Gamel (.409 wOBA in Triple-A) will get reps as the designated hitter.

Overall, the Brewers boast a .328 wOBA as a team, the fifth highest in baseball. They’ve hit the second most homers (91) behind the Yankees (111), and they’re middle of the pack with 53 steals. Braun (17), Gomez (15), and Weeks (seven) are the tops in that department. Fielder is going to make Yankee Stadium look very small with his power, smaller than it already looks. The good news is that Morgan and Kottaras are Milwaukee’s top power threats from the left side after him, but Braun, Weeks, and Hart can hit the ball out of almost any part of the park. This will not be a fun series for the Yankees pitching staff.

Brewers On The Mound

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Tuesday, RHP Zack Greinke: The Yankees had their chance to trade for Greinke this winter, but decided against it and will now have to face him later tonight. The 27-year-old right-hander comes into the series with 80 strikeouts and nine unintentional walks in 60 IP, adding up to a 2.30 FIP. His 4.77 ERA is the result of a laughably low 58.8% strand rate and a .348 BABIP. Greinke is going to carve hitters up with two low-90’s fastballs plus a slider, curveball, and changeup. Aside from Felix Hernandez in Seattle, I don’t think the Yankees have had a tougher assignment yet this season. It’s okay though, he can’t handle New York, amirite?

Wednesday, RHP Shaun Marcum: I’m not sure if Marcum is actually going to make this start. He’s left his previous two outings early due to hip issues (after just one and three innings, respectively), but as of now he’s listed as the probably starter. Marcum is another guy having a phenomenal year, sporting a 3.16 FIP in 94.2 IP. Although the numbers don’t show it this year, the right-hander has typically had a very pronounced reverse platoon split in recent years because his changeup is world class. He’ll throw it in any count to batters on either side of the plate, though it’s most effective against lefties. Beyond that, Marcum will also throw a mid-80’s fastball (yes, 80’s) and a curveball, but that changeup is how he makes his money. The Yankees have seen enough of him over the years because of his time in Toronto, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any easier.

Thursday, LHP Randy Wolf: After Greinke and Marcum, Wolf is going to seem like batting practice. The lefty doesn’t miss many bats 6.68 K/9 and gives up a ton of fly balls (36.1%), two traits that play right into the Yankees’ hands. His 4.08 FIP is a better indication of his talent than his 3.20 ERA, but the former is still rock solid. Wolf still has that knockout curveball, the big slow (upper-60’s) bender that he can throw for strikes or bury in the dirt. An upper-80’s fastball, slider, and changeup round out his repertoire. Andruw Jones has more plate appearances against Wolf (61) than anyone in baseball not named Chipper, but he’s just a .200/.279/.436 hitter off the southpaw.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Steve Paluch via Creative Commons license)

Bullpen: Unfortunately, we won’t get to see Sergio Mitre‘s comeback tour, Milwaukee designated him for assignment just yesterday. That’s a shame. Instead we’ll have to settle for another Yankees castoff, Brewers closer John Axford. He spent a year bouncing around the farm system before being released, and he’s since turned into one the better closers in the baseball thanks to some mechanical adjustments. He will get himself into trouble (4.08 BB/9), but it’s tough to get past an 11.72 K/9 and 52.5% ground ball rate with three outs to go.

Axford’s primary setup man is Kameron Loe, who is death on righties thanks to his sinker-slider approach (64.2% grounders). Lefty Zach Braddock was just called up yesterday to replace Mitre, and he’s Milwaukee’s lone southpaw in the pen. He’s sorta like Boone Logan in that he throws hard (low-to-mid-90’s) with a slider, but he’s not like Boone Logan in that he destroys left-handed batters. Tim Dillard was also called up not too long ago, and he’s struck out 17 against just two walks in 16 IP. The Brewers other righty reliever is another Yankees castoff, old buddy LaTroy Hawkins. He came back from shoulder surgery last month and has a 2.44 FIP in 19.2 IP with a lot of grounders (60.3%). Long man Marco Estrada would (presumably) start for Marcum if he can’t go, and he’s got a 4.10 FIP in 47.2 IP.

The Yankees are going to get the best the Brewers have to offer this week, so it’s going to be a very tough series. Their starters miss bats, the lineup hits the ball out of the park from both sides of the plate, and the bullpen has some dynamite specialists in front of a very good closer. This one should be fun.

Recommended Brewers Reading: Disciples of Uecker

If you want to check out any of these three games at Yankee Stadium, RAB Tickets can get you there. We’ve got some ticket pricing info after the jump…

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Mailbag: Minor League Parks

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Will asks: I’ve read in past years that several of the Yankees minor league complexes are pitcher friendly. Are they? If so do they skew the numbers of some pitching/position player prospects?

Oh yes, absolutely. Some of the parks in the minors are extreme too, though not necessarily the ones in the Yankees’ system. With some help from StatCorner, we have park factors for each of the four full season affiliates. Let’s tabulate…

The park factors are expressed like ERA+/OPS+, so 100 is league average. Anything below that is below average, anything above it is above average. StatCorner has factors for frickin’ everything (we’re talking singles, doubles, strikeouts, grounders, etc.), but I went with homers and wOBA because they’re what we most commonly reference.

Overall, all four parks are close to neutral in terms of wOBA, slightly on the pitcher’s side with the exception of the stadium formerly known as Legends Field. The homerun factors are much more interesting though, because a number of them are rather extreme. Left-handed batters at Waterfront Park in Trenton are roughly half as likely to hit a homer there than in other parks, which makes the 19 homers Eric Duncan hit with Thunder in 2005 look pretty impressive. Similarly, the 17 homers Jesus Montero whacked with Low-A Charleston back in 2008 looks damn good as well since that park holds righties to 68% of the homers a neutral park would.

It’s easy to forget about park effects when talking about minor leaguers because we rarely watch the games and see the actual parks. Given the factors of the four parks above, I wouldn’t concern myself too much with their impact on Yankees farmhands overall, but the power numbers are worth monitoring. If a pitcher is giving up an exorbitant number of homers in Low-A, then that’s a problem. If a lefty bat in Trenton isn’t hitting for as much power as we’d like, well now we know why. Here are aerial views of PNC Field, Waterfront, GMS Field, and JPR Park, just for a visual.

Turley & Higashioka give Charleston a win

Yesterday it was Josh Romanski, today it’s Chase Whitley. The righty reliever has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. Romanski, by the way, will pitch in relief. That’s probably his ultimate destination anyway. As for the bad news, Carlos Silva was placed on the disabled list for an unknown reason. Fernando Hernandez was bumped up from Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to take his place, which is hilarious. He’s put 70 men on base and allowed 24 runs to score in 35 innings this year, numbers that usually get you released and not promoted.

Also, make sure you check out Penn League Report’s interview with Dellin Betances.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Durham in ten innings)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 K – threw a runner out at second
Luis Nunez, 2B: 3 for 5, 2 2B, 3 RBI – had been in an 0-for-16 drought
Mike Lamb, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 2B
Greg Golson, LF: 0 for 1, 1 K, 1 SB – pinch-ran for Lamb late
Jesus Montero, DH: 1 for 4, 1 K – he fouled a ball off both his knee and foot, but shook it off and stayed in the game
Terry Tiffee, 1B & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 0 for 4, 2 K
Brandon Laird, LF-3B: 1 for 4, 1 K – made a nice running catch in the outfield
Gus Molina, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 2, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6-5 GB/FB – 51 of 95 pitches were strikes (53.7%) … the two runs didn’t come to the sixth, when he’s typically run into trouble
George Kontos, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – just eleven pitches, eight strikes
Randy Flores, LHP: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-2 GB/FB – a dozen of his 20 pitches went for strikes
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 17 of 28 pitches were strikes (60.7%)

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Yankees interested in Roberto Osuna

Via Roberto Espinoza (link in Spanish), the Yankees are one of several teams with serious interest in 15-year-old Mexican right-hander Roberto Osuna, who they watched throw last week. He will turn 16 on July 2nd, so he will be eligible to sign this year. Osuna is the nephew of former Yankee Antonio Osuna and a 6-foot-0, 198 lb. hurler with an idea of how to use three pitches: a low-90’s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. He’s currently pitching in the Mexican League (5.49 ERA in 19.2 IP), which is somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A in terms of competition.

Osuna is one of the top pitching prospects available on the international market this year, and he’s expected to command a seven-figure bonus. The Yankees have never given an international pitcher seven-figures (not counting vets Jose Contreras or Hideki Irabu), but they tried to with Michael Ynoa. Because he is property of a Mexican League club, Osuna will only receive 25% of his bonus. The rest goes to his team. The Yankees have a very strong presence in Mexico thanks to scout Lee Sigman, who helped broker deals for Manny Banuelos and Al Aceves in the not too distant past.

Open Thread: Missing Bartolo

It’s been exactly 15 days since Bartolo Colon was placed on the disabled list, and I have to say I legitimately miss watching the guy pitch. At the end of the day, baseball is just a branch of the entertainment industry, and watching some fat guy in his late-30’s slime out to the mound and throw mid-90’s gas on the corners entertains me. Bartolo threw 60 pitches in a simulated game down in Tampa today, facing Slade Heathcott among others. It’s unclear if he’ll go on a rehab assignment or start next weekend against the Mets. Either way, I miss watching Colon take the mound every five days, his starts had become must see TV. I hope he comes back soon for more than one reason.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Reds and Rays will be on ESPN2 (Leake vs. Hellickson), and that’s pretty much it. Use this thread to talk about whatever, so have at it.

Site News: Got some good news to share: we have a new weekend writer for you all to hate enjoy. His name is Matt Warden, and you’ve seen his stuff on both The Yankee Analysts and (before that) Yankeeist. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Matt_Warden. We’re happy to have Matt aboard and I’m certain you’ll enjoy his posts.

Injury Updates: Jeter, Colon, Feliciano, Chavez

The latest from the infirmary…

  • Derek Jeter‘s rehab from a calf strain was interrupted by rain and wet grounds both yesterday and today. He did manage to take full batting practice (30 swings), field a few ground balls, and begin a running program once the weather cooperated this morning/afternoon. “Everything‚Äôs good,” said the Cap’n. “Steps in the right direction.”
  • Bartolo Colon threw 60 pitches in a simulated game against minor leaguers (including the injured Slade Heathcott), broken down into four “innings” of 15 pitches. It’s unclear if he’ll make a minor league rehab start to jump right back to the bigs and face the Mets this weekend.
  • Pedro Feliciano made 15 minimum effort throws off a mound, the first time he’s done that.
  • Eric Chavez also took batting practice and played long toss with Jeter.
  • Mark Prior will throw off a mound tomorrow, the second time he’ll do that in the span of four days as he works his way back from the groin strain from hell.

The Yankees also confirmed that Phil Hughes‘ next rehab start will come with Double-A Trenton this Wednesday. After throwing 71 pitches last time out, I suspect he’ll be scheduled for 85-90 pitches. Trenton will be at home against New Hampshire, but it’s a day game (12:05pm ET start). You can get tickets here.

New design added to the RAB Shop

Now that a certain right fielder has re-learned how to hit left-handed, I figured it was time to break out the SwishHawk design for the RAB Shop. We have ten other designs as well, so make sure you check them all out. They look great on shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, clocks, you name it, plus you can customize the color and style of almost anything in the shop.

(h/t to Tyler Wilkinson for the design, as always)