And so we meet again. The Yankees and Red Sox still have a dozen games left to play this season, including nine at Yankee Stadium. The first three of those nine will be played this weekend. The Yankees have won five of six against their greatest historic rival this year.
What Have They Done Lately?
Boston just lost two of three to the Rangers and have lost five of their last six overall. They’re just 8-13 in July and currently sit in last place in the AL East at 49-50. Their +34 run differential is the fifth best in the league and they’re five games out of a wildcard spot.
The Red Sox can score some runs, ranking third in baseball at 4.90 runs per game. Their team 101 wRC+ rankings eighth in baseball. This series is highlighted by injuries, with Alex Rodriguez (hand) and Nick Swisher (hip) on the shelf for the Yankees while Boston will be without David Ortiz (165 wRC+). He is, by far, their best hitter but will miss the series with an Achilles problem. Excuse me while I go shed a tear.
Cody Ross (126 wRC+) and Will Middlebrooks (123 wRC+) have been the Red Sox’s best hitters among those who are actually healthy, though Adrian Gonzalez is an awful lot better than his 101 wRC+ suggests. Both Jacoby Ellsbury (91 wRC+) and Carl Crawford (38 wRC+) are back from the DL and in their usual outfield spots. Crawford actually gets lifted for defense in the late innings because his elbow is still giving him problems. Dustin Pedroia (91 wRC+) did not play the last time these two clubs met but will be in the lineup this weekend.
Outside of the catcher platoon — Kelly Shoppach (123 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (117 wRC+ vs. LHP) — there isn’t much bite to the rest of the lineup. Mike Aviles (78 wRC+) and Nick Punto (70 wRC+) are awful and Pedro Ciriaco (120 wRC+) is just 11-for-41 (.268) with no walks since crushing the Yankees in Fenway Park a few weeks ago. Daniel Nava (114 wRC+) has cooled down in a big way, ditto Ryan Sweeney (82 wRC+). The Red Sox can score runs in bunches, but Ortiz’s absence is a huge boon for the Yankees.
Friday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Aaron Cook
Cook, a 33-year-old sinkerballer, is having a rather fascinating season. He’s made six starts and thrown 36 innings, but he’s struck out just three (!) hitters. That works out to a 0.75 K/9 and a 2.1 K%. Cook’s also walked three hitters while getting a ground ball on 60.6% of his balls in play. That’s like Chien-Ming Wang to the extreme. It’s crazy. Cook throws his upper-80s sinker more than 80% of the time while mixing in a mid-80s slider against righties and a mid-70s curveball against lefties. I’m very curious to see how this goes tonight.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
There is no sugarcoating it, Lester has been pretty awful this year. His 4.18 FIP is fine but his 5.46 ERA tells a much different story. Last time out, he surrendered 11 runs and 14 baserunners to the Blue Jays in four innings. It’s ugly. Lester’s strikeout rate (7.48 K/9 and 19.0 K%) is his lowest since 2008 and both his homerun (1.20 HR/9) and ground ball (47.2%) rates are his worst since becoming a full-time big leaguer. His walk rate (2.84 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) is actually right in line with the best years of his career, so at least he has that going for him. Lester will use three low-90s fastballs — four-seamer, sinker, cutter — a mid-80s changeup, and a mid-70s curveball. He did a lot of bullpen work between starts following the disaster against Toronto, so we’ll have to see if he sorted anything out.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Felix Doubront
Doubront carried a sub-4.00 ERA into June but has pitched to a 5.29 ERA since. Overall, he owns a 4.54 ERA (4.31 FIP) with a strong strikeout rate (8.83 K/9 and 22.5 K%) but middling walk (3.45 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) and ground ball (41.7%) rate numbers. He’s quite homer prone (1.35 HR/9) as well. The 24-year-old southpaw goes to work with low-90s two and four-seamers to setup his mid-80s changeup and mid-80s curveball. Right-handers have hit him pretty hard so far this year (.353 wOBA), though he’s done a fine job against the Yankees in two starts (4 ER in 12.2 IP).
Both clubs had yesterday off, so their bullpens are fresh. Something tells me they’re going to need them this weekend. The Red Sox own a rock solid 3.11 bullpen ERA (3.54 FIP) and are led by closer Al Aceves (3.67 FIP). Right-hander and noted head-hunter Vicente Padilla (2.59 FIP) sets up from the right side while Andrew Miller (2.76 FIP) gets things done from the left side. Reliever turned starter turned reliever Franklin Morales (3.45 FIP) is the other left-hander in Bobby Valentine’s bullpen. The rest of the bullpen is filled out by righties Matt Albers (5.10 FIP), Mark Melancon (5.64 FIP), and Junichi Tazawa (1.96 FIP). Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the details on the Yankees’ relievers, and check out Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
Five questions this week, but four of them got relatively short answers. Make sure to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at any time.
Tucker asks: With the Cole Hamels extension, could Hunter Pence be a trade option for the Yankees? Could he help to replace Nick Swisher next year?
Pence, 29, is having a solid year (111 wRC+) but has been just a touch worse than his career norm (118 wRC+). His walk rate (8.6%) is better than his career average but otherwise the power numbers (.180 ISO) are normal. He’s hitting for a slightly lower average than usual (.267), most likely due to BABIP issues (.299 this year vs. .324 career). Pence has stopped stealing bases (only four so far) and the various defensive metrics say he’s trending downward in the outfield. He’s making $10.4M this year and will likely jump up to $14-15M through arbitration next year before becoming a free agent the following winter.
Now that all that is out of the way, sure. Pence definitely makes sense as a stopgap outfielder in 2013. My only concern is that the Phillies are going to market him as a superstar even though he very clearly is not. He’s a consistent, profile right fielder who never ever gets hurt. At the same point of his career, Dan Uggla was traded for a big league ready bullpen prospect (Mike Dunn) and a fringy utility player/everyday big leaguer (Omar Infante). Pence is a bit of a hacker and that concerns me, but I feel like the disconnect between the type of player he’s perceived to be and the type of player he actual is will make things difficult.
Chip asks: Would trading for Corey Hart be wise? The Brewers look to be on the edge of falling out of the race and Hart is signed at reasonable money for [next season]. Yeah, he sucks at defense and doesn’t take walks but I would imagine he’d outproduce Chris Dickerson (or they could somewhat platoon) next season.
The 30-year-old Hart is owed $10M next season, the last one on the three-year, $26.5M deal he signed in the middle of the 2010 season. He owns a 117 wRC+ this season, right in line with his career norm (115 wRC+). Apparently the Brewers would have to be overwhelmed to deal him, and Hart’s not a guy you go overwhelming his club to acquire. He’s similar to Pence in terms of raw production — both right-handed hitters too — but gives you cost certainty next year. He’s an option, but it always comes down to price.
Nick asks: Do you think the Yankees could look at Kevin Shoppach or David Ross to be the starter over Russell Martin next season?
Sure, I think so. Shoppach is a straight platoon player (126 wRC+ vs. LHP last three years) and Ross has been the best backup catcher in baseball since landing with the Braves (123 wRC+ overall last three years). Neither is a Gold Glove type defender but they’re not awful. The offense makes up for it. Both Shoppach and Ross are playing for less than $1.7M this season and will be free agents this coming winter. They’re both great stopgaps options as far as I’m concerned, though there are legitimate questions about Ross’ ability to be productive in more than 180 plate appearances or so.
Nico asks: Are there any MLB managers who buck the conventional righty-vs-lefty mentality when they’re facing changeup specialists with reverse platoon splits? Does Joe Maddon? Can we ever hope to see that from Joe Girardi in the Bronx?
Maddon has done it plenty of times it past — you’ll see it referred to as The Danks Theory around the web. Maddon first used it against …wait for it … John Danks in 2010, loading his lineup with left-handers — the switch-hitters batted left-handed as well — to take away his changeup. The result? They hammered him for eight runs in four innings. Tampa still does it occasionally but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of another team doing it.
I can’t imagine the Yankees and Girardi will employ something similar anytime soon. It’s too against the grain I think. Tommy Milone, who shut the Yankees down and set a career-high in strikeouts in Oakland last week, is a perfect Danks Theory candidate as a soft-tossing changeup guy. Instead, New York has faced him twice this year with a right-handed heavy lineup and he’s pitched well both times. Alas.
Ori asks: With the Nets moving to Brooklyn and having a formidable roster now, do you think YES Network ratings will spike, and if so, will this help the Yankees in doling out more cash for a big name?
I don’t know much about basketball at all, but there sure seems to be a lot of buzz around the Nets these days, no? I have no idea how the financials work between the network and the team, but I have to think that higher YES Network ratings — regardless if it’s the Yankees, Nets, Yankeeographies, whatever — the better it is for the Yankees overall. The team has never had a problem with shelling out big bucks for a player though, and I don’t think improved YES ratings will cause ownership to suddenly scrap the 2014 payroll plan or anything like that.
Over at ESPN in an Insider-only blog post, former Yankees intern Kiley McDaniel penned a piece with scouting notes on several players with High-A Tampa. He wrote at length about OF Mason Williams — who he compared to Jacoby Ellsbury — and C Gary Sanchez, but also chimed in on OF Tyler Austin, RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Mark Montgomery, and some other power arms on the staff. Pretty much the only negative thing he had to say was that Sanchez tends to struggle with fastballs in on his hands.
McDaniel praised scouting director Damon Oppenheimer for landing such quality prospects (Austin and the pitchers, specifically) with low-round draft picks, which is pretty neat. “Opposing clubs’ scouts covering this Tampa squad were simultaneously commending the Yankees for their deep staff and wondering why their teams didn’t draft these talents,” he wrote. Anyway, like I said go check it out. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.
2B David Adams took grounders at third base today, which is notable only because Alex Rodriguez broke his hand two days ago and the Yankees are suddenly looking for a stopgap third baseman. As Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin said: “Draw your own conclusions.”
Triple-A Scranton (8-7 win over Charlotte)
CF Chris Dickerson: 4-6, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI — 17 hits in his last 40 at-bats (.425) with three doubles, three triples, four homers, seven walks, and five strikeouts
2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 2 RBI, 1 BB
SS Eduardo Nunez & LF Kosuke Fukudome: both 1-5, 1 K — Nunez stole a base … Fukudome doubled and drove in a run
DH Jack Cust: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
1B Brandon Laird: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K — 14 hits in his last 32 at-bats (.434)
C Frankie Cervelli: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K — six hits in his last 14 at-bats (.429)
RF Darnell McDonald: 1-4, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K
3B Kevin Russo: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 6 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 7/4 GB/FB — 56 of 86 pitches were strikes (65%) … picked a runner off first
LHP Juan Cedeno: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 26 of 38 pitches were strikes (68%)
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 13 pitches were strikes
- Alex Rodriguez (hand) had a cast put on today and isn’t expected to miss any more than eight weeks. No word on the earliest possible return, but I suppose six weeks is a reasonable estimate. Either way, the Yankees expect to get him back before the end of the regular season.
- Nick Swisher (hip) came through today’s workout fine but Brian Cashman said “he’s not a player for us tomorrow (against the Red Sox).” He didn’t rule out a return Saturday or Sunday but insisted the team will play it safe.
- Joba Chamberlain (elbow, ankle) will throw a bullpen session for the big league coaching staff tomorrow and make another minor league rehab appearance — with Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Empire State — on Sunday. Cashman acknowledged that Joba is “getting closer” but wouldn’t say when exactly he’ll be activated.
The Yankees had a scheduled day off today and from the looks of things, they might be getting some unscheduled rest this weekend as well. The Red Sox are coming to town for a three-game set starting tomorrow, but the current weather forecast calls for lots and lots of rain and thunderstorms. These two clubs have already played one doubleheader this season and frankly I have no interest in sitting through another. Hopefully the weather clears up and they get play all three games with limited (or preferably no) interruption.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. Matt Harvey will be making his big league debut for the Mets against the Diamondbacks in Arizona a little later tonight (vs. Wade Miley), plus MLB Network will be airing a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. Talk about whatever you want here folks, the thread is yours.