The season is halfway over but the Yankees have Red Sox have only played each other twice so far. New York won both games — including that epic 15-9 comeback win — back in April before rain suspended the final game of that would-be three-game series. That rain out will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader this weekend.
What Have They Done Lately?
Boston was just swept by the Athletics, part of a 2-5 road trip through Seattle and Oakland. Before that they’d won nine of 11 against mostly interleague competition. The Sox are 42-40 with a +50 run differential, good for fourth place in the AL East and the fourth best run differential in the league. I don’t get it either.
With a team 103 wRC+ and a 5.01 runs-per-game average, the Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball. They’re led by the still dynamic David Ortiz (157 wRC+), a legitimate Yankees killer and one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. He’s going to go deep at some point this weekend, just accept it and move on. The Yankees will catch a bit of a break because Dustin Pedroia (94 wRC+) will be placed on the DL with a thumb issue today, and we know how pesky he can be. Hotshot rookie Will Middlebrooks (130 wRC+) is questionable for the weekend as well with a hamstring issue. Good timing, eh?
As for the guys that are healthy, the Red Sox will rely on the disappointing Adrian Gonzalez (92 wRC+), the powerful Jarrod Saltalamacchia (114 wRC+), the scorching hot Daniel Nava (134 wRC+), the dreadful Mike Aviles (80 wRC+), and the bat-flippy Cody Ross (135 wRC+). Ryan Kalish (34 wRC+ in limited time), Brent Lillibridge (7 wRC+), Nick Punto (57 wRC+), Mauro Gomez (19 wRC+ in limited time), and Kelly Shoppach (135 wRC+) round out the rest of the actives. No word on what the roster move will be for Pedroia, but it’s unlikely to be any kind of impact bat. With Kevin Youkilis in Chicago and both Pedroia and Middlebrooks on the bench, Bobby Valentine’s lineup is a lot thinner than we’re used to seeing.
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Josh Beckett
A noted Yankees killer (depending on your endpoints), Beckett is making his second start back from the DL after a bout with shoulder inflammation. He held the Mariners to two runs in six innings last week and overall has pitched to a 4.06 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 13 starts this season. Beckett’s strikeouts are way down (6.40 K/9 and 17.4 K%) and he’s still giving up just about a homer-per-nine (0.96 to be exact), though his walk (2.13 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%) and ground ball (42.4%) rates are unchanged from the last few years. His fastball velocity is down about a mile and a half per hour this season, meaning his two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter now sit low-90s instead of mid-90s. Beckett still has the hammer upper-70s curve and upper-80s changeup. We’ve seen enough of him, the Yankees have seen enough of him … no surprises here.
Saturday Game One: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. LHP Franklin Morales
Boston put Morales in the rotation when the Daniel Bard as a starter experiment failed spectacularly and he’s rewarded them by allowing just two runs across 13 innings in his first two starts. His overall season performance — 2.59 ERA (2.66 FIP), 9.50 K/9 (25.4 K%), 2.38 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 52.5% grounders in 41.2 IP — has been stellar, the kinda stuff the Rockies were expecting when Baseball America ranked him as the eighth best prospect in the game prior to the 2008 season. Morales uses a pair of mid-90s fastballs from the left side (two and four-seamer) to setup his mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen him for a whole nine plate appearances — four in April — so they’re pretty much going in blind.
Saturday Game Two: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Felix Doubront
The starting pitcher for that 15-9 comeback, Doubront carried a 3.86 ERA into June but has since allowed 20 runs in his last 33.1 innings. His season 4.42 ERA is a touch higher than the peripherals (4.19 FIP) but nothing crazy. He can strike guys out (9.13 K/9 and 23.2 K%) but isn’t anything special in the walk (3.41 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) or ground ball (40.3%) departments. Doubront’s bread-and-butter is a big breaking mid-70s breaking ball, which he’ll setup with low-90s two and four-seamers. He’ll also mix in a mid-80s changeup. It’s worth noting that he ranks ninth in the league in stolen bases allowed, so run run run.
Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Jon Lester
It’s been subpar year for Boston’s ace left-hander, who’s pitched to a 4.33 ERA (3.63 FIP) with a great walk rate (2.33 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) but a mediocre strikeout rate (7.33 K/9 and 19.3 K%). He’s been fine as far as the ground balls go (48.2%). Lester uses three low-90s fastballs — sinker, cutter, four-seamer — to go with his mid-70s curve and mid-80s changeup. He gets himself into trouble when he falls in love with the cutter, using it exclusively for periods of time. Lester is still only 28, but he’s gone from being a truly elite starter to just a pretty good one over the last two years. Maybe he’s just burnt out by all the high-intensity innings at such a young age.
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox had yesterday off so everyone out in the bullpen is rested. Embedded Yankee Al Aceves (3.24 FIP) has taken over as closer with some rather spectacular meltdowns, but he’s gotten the job done more often than not. Scott Atchison (2.56 FIP) has very quietly been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, working multiple high-leverage innings at a time. Andrew Miller (2.61 FIP) is Bobby V.’s only left-hander. Vicente Padilla (2.88 FIP) has been the primary setup guy while Matt Albers (4.83 FIP) and Mark Melancon (8.56 FIP) handle middle relief work. Melancon has been much better since coming back from Triple-A two or three weeks ago. Right-hander Justin Germano was just recalled for long relief and has yet to appear in a game.
Expect to see quite a bit of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada this weekend, particularly against Ortiz and Gonzalez. My biggest concern is matching up with Cody Eppley, who struggles against southpaws due to his low arm slot. Same with Chad Qualls. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent usage details and Over The Monster for the very best Red Sox analysis on the netweb.
Just four questions this week, and they’re all geared towards potential roster moves. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send us something.
Matt asks: Given his current performance, do you think the Yankees are going to re-sign Russell Martin (and, should they)? If so, what kind of contract do you think he’s going to get?
I wrote about the catching situation yesterday and how the Yankees should look for an upgrade behind the plate, but that’s obviously easier said than done. I don’t think Martin’s true talent is a .178/.297/.347 batting line, he’s probably closer to a .225/.320/.380 guy. That’s not great but it’s at least tolerable, you can live with it behind the plate as long as he’s solid defensively and hitting eighth or ninth. I think that Martin’s back may still be bothering him, which would at least help explain the recent dreadful production.
Anyway, looking for an upgrade and potentially re-signing Martin after the season are two different thing. I’m sure Russ is kicking himself to turning down that three-year extension before the season but then again the catching market is weak. After Mike Napoli, Martin will be the best free agent catcher this offseason. Someone may and probably will overpay. If the Yankees could bring him back on one of those one-year, “re-establish your value” contracts, wouldn’t that be a pretty decent stopgap option until that 2014 payroll plan takes effect? Pair him with Austin Romine as a veteran caddy, they could do worse as long as they actually split time behind the plate.
Gabriel asks: What about trading for Kelly Shoppach as a back-up? I just read on MLBTR that the Red Sox were thinking of dealing him. Red Sox-Yanks deals are always tough, but what do you think?
Shoppach can hit a little, though he’s not really a .267/.359/.522 hitter like he has been this year. His primary value comes against left-handed pitchers, who he’s tagged for a .249/.348/.465 line over the last three seasons. That’s a useful platoon guy and would be a clear upgrade for the Yankees. The problem, as you know, is the whole Red Sox-Yankees thing. I can’t see those two teams getting together for a trade unless Boston just completely falls apart and decides to sell before the deadline (or even during the waiver trade period in August). I think they would have to get a real prospect in return as part of the trade, otherwise the negative PR from “helping the Yankees” probably isn’t worth it. He’d be a fit, he knows the division from his time with the both the Sox and Rays, but I just don’t think he’s actually obtainable.
Alex asks: According to Jayson Stark, the Angels are willing to give up Peter Bourjos in a deal for the right bullpen piece. Given that David Aardsma and Joba Chamberlain will be back this summer, would it be worth dealing Rafael Soriano to pick up an outfielder for the next few years?
No, I don’t think so and for a few reasons. For one, the goal is still to win this year and trading Soriano for Bourjos decreases the team’s chances of doing so. Aardsma just had his setback and despite all his progress, we have no idea what the Yankees will get out of Joba until he’s actually on a mound for them. They can’t start counting their chickens before they hatch.
Secondly, I’m just not a big Bourjos fan. I know he’s young and cheap and under control for the next half-decade and all that, but I’m just not a fan of defense-first players. We’ve — well not me specifically, but the baseball analysis community in general — come a long way with advanced defensive metrics but I still don’t have a ton of faith in them. That doesn’t mean I think Bourjos or Brett Gardner are bad players, just that I don’t think WAR accurately grades out their value. Plus could you imagine those two in the outfield at the same time? Even with Curtis Granderson the Yankees would still be lucky to get 45 homers out of their outfield.
The Bombers do need to add some kind of young outfielder for the long-term, but not enough to trade Soriano for him unless you’re getting a Mike Trout or something. Soriano may opt-out after the season and sign elsewhere and leave the Yankees with nothing to show for his tenure, who knows, but the best chance for the Yankees to win this season — before Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, etc. get a year older — is with him in the bullpen closing games.
Joe asks: What is Shin-Soo Choo’s contract status and do you think he would be a viable candidate to play right field and therefore let Nick Swisher walk?
Choo is making $4.9M this season and will be under team control one more time as an arbitration-eligible player next year. He’ll be a free agent after 2013. The Yankees would have to trade for him and any kind of extension would probably be in the range of whatever Swisher gets this winter. Choo’s a year or two younger, better defensively, and more of a on-base/gap power/stolen base guy that someone who hits the ball over the fence. Similar players and the difference between the two really isn’t worth arguing.
I think rentals are generally undervalued; there’s nothing wrong with giving up prospects for one year or even half-a-year of a player if he improves your chances of winning that year enough. Choo falls into that category but I’m not sure if the Indians would actually make him available, and if they did the price would be pretty high since he’s their like, franchise cornerstone guy. Him and Carlos Santana. He’d be a perfect fit for the Yankees but as always, it comes down to the price.
Hiroki Kuroda has settled in as a reliable starter for the Yankees in recent weeks, silencing concerns about his ability to adjust to the rough-and-tough AL East. As it turns out, switching leagues is hardly the toughest thing he’s had to endure in his baseball career. David Waldstein of The NY Times published a piece looking at Kuroda’s baseball upbringing in old school Japan, where physical abuse was an accepted and common form of punishment for failing at a game based on failure. It’s a great and in its own way, a terrifying read. Check it out, it gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.
For what it’s worth, the Cubs had a scout watching Double-A Trenton tonight. Could be routine coverage, could be something else. Speculate at your own risk.
Triple-A Empire State (8-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)
SS Doug Bernier: 0-5, 1 K
2B Corban Joseph & RF Cole Garner: both 1-3, 1 BB — CoJo scored a run and struck out … Garner committed a throwing error
LF Ronnie Mustelier & DH Jack Cust: both 0-4 — Cust struck out in all four at-bats
1B Russell Branyan: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
3B Brandon Laird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — third straight game with a homer
CF Ray Kruml: 1-4, 1 K, 1 SB
RHP Adam Warren: 6 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 8/1 GB/FB — 54 of 99 pitches were strikes (54.5%) … hooray for the ground balls but goodness, miss a bat will ya
RHP Preston Claiborne: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/5 GB/FB — 29 of 40 pitches were strikes (72.5%)
July 5th: Antonelli has been released, the team announced. With David Adams and Corban Joseph entrenched at second base at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, respectively, there was just no spot for him.
July 1st: The Yankees have designated Matt Antonelli for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for the recently acquired Chad Qualls. The 27-year-old infielder had been claimed off waivers from the Orioles back in May and hit .200/.286/.320 in a dozen games for Triple-A Empire State. Antonelli has been on the DL for more than a month, so you won’t even notice he’s gone.
The Mets have claimed right-hander Chris Schwinden off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. The Bombers claimed him from the Indians last week then designated him for assignment when they claimed Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox yesterday. Schwinden has gone full circle in the last month, going from the Mets to the Blue Jays, the Blue Jays to the Indians, the Indians to the Yankees, and the Yankees back to the Mets, all on waiver claims. Hopefully he can catch his breath a bit now.