Game 41: Rain in B’more

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The weather in Charm City isn’t great right now, but it looks like there will be enough of a window for them to get tonight’s game in. The Yankees and Orioles are already slated to play two doubleheaders this summer, no need to add a third. But then again it’s the weather, so who knows. They’ve had a pretty quick trigger when it comes to calling games this year, hell, the Mets-Marlins game was postponed last night even though it barely rained in the city. Anyway, here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C

Bartolo Colon, SS SP – heh, boy would that have been interesting

If the game is played, it can be seen on YES at 7:05pm ET. No more of that 6:40pm nonsense we dealt with last series. Enjoy.

MLBTR’s 2012 Contract Issues

MLBTR guru Tim Dierkes covered the Yankees today in his 2012 Contract Issues series, looking at the team’s upcoming free agents and arbitration-eligible players. Give it a read because it’s a great preview of what the team will have to deal with after the season, but there’s one line I want to discuss: “[Nick Swisher]‘s option seemed like an easy choice to exercise, but his bat has yet to come alive in 160 plate appearances this year.  He’s got time to bounce back, but the option is not a lock.”

Swish is in the final guaranteed year of a contract he signed during his time in Oakland, and the option is worth $10.25MM with a $1MM buyout. The net value is $9.25M since they’re giving him a million bucks no matter what. Here’s the list of players due to become free agents after the season, do you see any worthwhile replacements for Swish among that group of outfielders? I know he’s had a poor season (.293 wOBA), but I don’t see anyone on that list that I’d rather have over Nick on a one-year, $9.25MM deal. He’s not old (turns 31 in the offseason), so even if he slumps all year I’ll take my chances with him rebounded next season instead of rolling the dice on David DeJesus or Ryan Ludwick or someone like that.

A-Rod will have hip checked out during homestand

Via Brian Costello, Alex Rodriguez will have his surgically repaired hip examined during the Yankees’ next homestand, beginning Friday. “That was something that came from Kevin [Long],” said A-Rod. “Kevin’s been working with me a long time. He just felt that we want to make sure that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s and are diligent about it and think big picture.”

Alex made it clear that the hip is nothing bothering him, and that he’ll have the joint checked out regularly for the rest of his career. “It’s not an excuse for poor performance,” said the third baseman. “It has nothing to do with a bad feeling or aching or anything. I’ve been actually working my tail off with Kevin and feeling better each and every day. Finally yesterday I got a little result.”

Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Don't squish Brian Roberts' head like that, that's not nice. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

The six-game losing streak is in the rear-view mirror, but not far enough that we can forget about it. Five games against the Red Sox and Rays are always tough, but things get a little easier for the Yankees tonight when they kick off a two-game set against the Orioles in Yankee Stadium South, a.k.a. Camden Yards.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

Believe it or not, the O’s come into this series having won five of their last seven games, sweeping the Mariners and taking two of three from the Rays over the last week. They blew a big early league against the Sox on Monday before getting rained out last night, so they’re rested. Baltimore is still 13-20 since their 6-1 start, and their -21 run differential is the worst in the division and the fourth worst in the AL

Orioles On Offense

Yes, lots of this. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

When we last saw the Orioles, they were a bottom five offense in terms of OBP and wOBA. They’ve improved somewhat, but still only sport a .314 OBP and .312 wOBA as a team. No longer bottom five, but still bottom half in the game. Derrek Lee will be placed on the disabled list before tonight’s game with a strained oblique, but that might be a good thing for the O’s since he was hitting just .174/.273/.370 over the last two weeks and has a .295 wOBA on the season.

Baltimore’s offense is being carried by four players at the moment. Adam Jones (.422 wOBA in May) and Vlad Guerrero (.398) have been monsters this month while Mark Reynolds (.364) and Nick Markakis (.363) have contributed at an above-average rate as well. Brian Roberts (.167) and Matt Wieters (.295) have cooled off this month, and Luke Scott is kind of moseying along with a .329 wOBA this month. Good, not great. J.J. Hardy came off the disabled list about a week ago and already has two homers in seven games since. That means no more Robert Andino or Cesar Izturis, for shame.

Orioles’ hitters have the highest walk rate (10.3%) and fifth lowest strikeout rate (19.0%) in the AL, which makes it hard to believe they rank so low on the team OBP leaderboard. They won’t get themselves out on pitches out of the zone as much as you might expect, but there are some definite holes that allow pitchers to work around guys and pick their spots in the lineup.

Orioles On The Mound

Just a kid. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Wednesday, LHP Zach Britton: Oh no, a rookie starter the Yankees haven’t seen before, and Britton’s no slouch either; Baseball America ranked him as the 28th best prospect in the game before the season. The 23-year-old southpaw has made eight starts since being called up, and he’s getting away with striking out just over five batters per nine (5.02 K/9, to be exact) thanks to a 2.77 BB/9 and a 54.4% ground ball rate. Britton is the rare true sinker-changeup pitcher, with the fastball coming in around 91-93 and the changeup in the mid-80’s. He’ll also break off a few sliders, but we’re talking one out of 20 pitches or so. He’s very good, trust me. The Yankees are going to have their hands full with this one.

Thursday, RHP Jeremy Guthrie: The Yankees got lucky and missed Baltimore’s two best starting pitchers the other two times these clubs have played, but they won’t be so fortunate this time. We’ve seen so much of Guthrie over the last few years that I don’t need to tell you too much about him, though I want to mention that he constantly outperforms his peripherals and is doing so again this year (3.98 ERA, 4.64 FIP). He’s like Matt Cain in that sense, it’s been so long that I don’t think we can call a mid-to-upper 4.00’s FIP his true talent level. The ERA is closer to what he really is. Anyway, wooo Jeremy Guthrie. Hopefully he doesn’t hit anyone tomorrow.

Bullpen: Kevin Gregg is perpetually shaky in the ninth and blew Monday’s game against the Red Sox, his second blown in his last three chances. Koji Uehara (3.87 FIP) and Jim Johnson (3.56) have been very good in setup roles while Mike Gonzalez has been questionable (5.29 FIP) from the left side. Jason Berken (5.08) crashed back to Earth after the great start, and then you have Jeremy Accardo (5.57) and lefty specialist Clay Rapada (6.93) doing forgettable work in low-leverage spots.

The Orioles bullpen is pretty well rested, they had last night (rain), Saturday (Brad Bergesen complete game), and Friday (Guthrie complete game) off. Hopefully we’ll see lots of them over the next two days because Mo knows the Yankees could use some games in which they score a ton of runs and force the starter out of the game early. Some blowout wins sure would be nice right about now.

Recommended Orioles Reading: Camden Crazies

Jeter not getting on base (and how it makes the Yanks offense more remarkable)

(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

We were prepared for a slow start from Derek Jeter. Given the new swing mechanics he worked on this spring, it seemed like an inevitability. Through the season’s first month we didn’t make any mention of Jeter’s performance outside of game recaps. In fact, the only post we’ve made all year that involved Jeter’s performance is this whimsical one by Mike. Unfortunately, this is the first of them.

Joe Girardi has said that they have to wait a while, specifically until 150 PA, until they start making judgments. Jeter is now at 175, and his numbers don’t look anything like a leadoff man’s should. Forget the batting average and slugging percentage. The most important number for a leadoff man is his OBP, and Jeter’s downright stinks. At .309 it ranks 133rd out of 192 qualified players. It also ranks eighth out of the nine Yankees who have 100 or more PA. That Jeter has more PA than anyone on the team further compounds the issue.

While the guy getting the most appearances making the most outs is a problem itself, it also causes problems for the rest of the lineup. Mark Teixeira is the biggest loser in all of this. He’s tied for fourth on the team with 22 RBI despite having the second most extra base hits. That’s because he’s not coming to bat with men on base. In 61.63 percent of his plate appearances he has seen a bases empty situation. That ranks 37th out of the 225 players who have 100 or more PA. The only Yankee who has seen more bases empty situations is the leadoff hitter himself.

(To be clear, he has seen the 37th fewest PA with runners on base.)

Part of that, of course, is that Curtis Granderson has done a good job of clearing the bases. But he’s hit only 10 homers in the two hole. Let’s be generous and turn all 10 of those homers into doubles. That would still put him at 109th in the league at 55.81 percent of his PA with the bases empty. This is not something you want to see for your No. 3 hitter. Even Alex Rodriguez at No. 4 hasn’t seen a ton of bases on PA. He has had the bases empty in 52.29 percent of his PA — and that’s with the benefit of Teixeira’s .378 OBP.

While the main issue here is of how ineffective Jeter has been atop the lineup, the secondary issue is of how highly this speaks of the Yankees offense. Despite the recent slump they’re still second in the AL in runs per game at 5.03. That they can do that while their leadoff man OBPs around .300, and while their second best hitter (performance-wise this season) has seen a great majority of his plate appearances with the bases empty, is a testament to the lineup’s depth. The Yankees can afford to continue the Jeter experiment, because they’ve scored runs. But as they showed during the winless skid, during which Jeter got on base in just five of 30 PA (.200 OBP), his presence at the top can hurt at times.

While Jeter can turn things around, even if it seems unlikely, he should have to do it from a lower spot in the order. If the Yankees want the most effective offense possible they need to have men on base when Teixeira and A-Rod come to the plate. To date they have not seen that. In fact, Nick Swisher has seen the most opportunities with men on base. (Which only makes matters worse, as things stand.) The No. 6 guys should see those opportunities, but not more than the Nos. 3 and 4 guys. That’s the inefficiency in the Yankees’ lineup. Make a change, and they could be even better. Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that one is coming.