Archive for Series Preview

(Photo Credit: Flickr user kyle.tucker95 via Creative Commons license)

(Photo Credit: Flickr user kyle.tucker95 via Creative Commons license)

Starting with this three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Yankees will play 27 of their final 30 games against AL East opponents. Those intra-division games always seem to be tough regardless of where each team sits in the standings. The Yankees are 7-5 against the Jays this year, including 3-3 at Rogers Centre.

What Have They Done Lately?
Toronto is in a month-long free fall. It wasn’t long ago that they were right in the thick of the wildcard race, but they’ve dropped ten of their last 14 games and are now 5.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and 2.5 games back of New York. “The difference between other years and this year is we believed,” said Adam Lind to TSN recently. Ouch. The Jays are 7-16 in August and 67-66 with a -2 run differential overall.

Offense
Manager John Gibbons watches over one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. His club averages 4.43 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, plus they rank fourth in baseball with 147 homers. The Blue Jays are currently without 3B Brett Lawrie (100 wRC+) and IF Maicer Izturis (79 wRC+) due to oblique and knee injuries. Neither is expected to return this series. OF Colby Rasmus (98 wRC+) has missed the last few days with flu-like symptoms.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

As usual, the Toronto lineup is built around OF Jose Bautista (149 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (151 wRC+). Those dudes are monsters. DH Adam Lind (136 wRC+) has been pretty awesome as well. SS Jose Reyes (106 wRC+) and OF Melky Cabrera (129 wRC+) set the tone from the one-two spots in the lineup. The top five spots in Gibbons’ lineup are as good as any top five around the league. Speed, power, high averages, on-base ability … this group does it all.

The lineup thins out considerably after those top five. Former Yankees C Dioner Navarro (92 wRC+) and C Josh Thole (84 wRC+) split time behind the plate — Thole is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher — and IF Juan Francisco (108 wRC+) and 3B Danny Valencia (109 wRC+) have been platooning at third with Lawrie out. IF Munenori Kawasaki (81 wRC+), OF Kevin Pillar (50 wRC+), and UTIL Steve Tolleson (82 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
This has gone from a career year to a pretty typical Mark Buehrle year these last few weeks. He’s slowed down considerably following his great start to the season. The 35-year-old has a 3.41 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 26 starts and 161 innings with his typically low strikeout (5.25 K/9 and 13.6 K%) and walk (2.29 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) rates. He hasn’t gotten many grounders (42.6%) and his homer rate (0.73 HR/9 and 6.9 HR/FB%) is unusually low. That’s been on the way up in the second half. Buehrle’s platoon split is tiny and he’s been much better on the road (.309 wOBA) than at home (.360 wOBA). As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-70s curves to keep hitters (even more) off balance. The Yankees have seen Buehrle three times this year and each start has gotten progressively worse (for him): three runs (two earned) in six innings in June, four runs in 6.2 innings later in June, and six runs in three innings in June.

Saturday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 24, has a 4.68 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 26 starts and 150 innings this season, his first following Tommy John surgery. His strikeout (8.04 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and walk (2.94 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) rates are very good, his homer (1.08 HR/9 and 9.0 HR/FB%) and ground ball (35.7%) numbers less so. He has had less success against lefties (.362 wOBA) and at home (.357 wOBA) than against righties (.276 wOBA) and on the road (.306 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is Hutchison’s main pitch and he throws it a ton, more than 65% of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out the repertoire. Hutchison has faced the Yankees four times this year, and, unlike Buehrle, he’s been progressively better each time out: six runs in 3.1 innings in April, four runs in 4.1 innings in June, four runs in six innings later in June, and two runs in 6.2 innings in July.

Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
I’m still pretty mad at Happ for breaking Curtis Granderson‘s forearm in Spring Training last year. The 31-year-old has pitched to a 4.40 ERA (4.34 FIP) in 118.2 innings across 20 starts and four relief appearances this year, and his peripherals are decidedly meh: 7.66 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.34 BB/9 (8.6 BB%), 8.6 HR/9 (10.8 HR/FB%), and 39.2% grounders. Both his platoon and home/road splits are small. Happ throws a lot of fastballs, using his low-90s two and four-seamers more than 70% of the time combined. A mid-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curveballs. The Yankees have faced Happ just once this year, scoring three runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings.

Bullpen Status
The Blue Jays were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get in late-August. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (4.14 FIP) is set up primarily by two lefties: LHP Brett Cecil (2.51 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (3.56 FIP). Top prospect RHP Aaron Sanchez (2.52 FIP) was called up recently and has also seen some late-inning work.

The rest of Gibbons’ bullpen includes RHP Chad Jenkins (3.48 FIP), RHP Dustin McGowan (4.76 FIP), and RHP Todd Redmond (3.27 FIP). Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then check out Drunk Jays Fans for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Leon Halip/Getty)

(Leon Halip/Getty)

Every series is an important one for the Yankees from here on out, but these three games against Tigers are crucial. The race for the second AL wildcard spot is essentially a battle between the Mariners and Tigers with the Yankees lurking behind. If the Bombers are going to climb back into the race — like, for real — winning this series in Detroit is a must. The Yankees took three of four from the Tigers in Yankee Stadium three weeks ago.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Tigers were off yesterday, and before that they split a four-game series with the Twins despite allowing 42 runs in the series. They are 70-59 with a +30 run differential overall, leaving them 1.5 games back of the Royals in the AL Central, a half-game back of the Mariners for the second AL wildcard spot, and two games up on the Yankees.

Offense
Manager Brad Ausmus’ club averages 4.65 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+, so they have been comfortably above-average overall at the plate this year. They did trade away OF Austin Jackson a few weeks ago though, plus 1B Miguel Cabrera (139 wRC+) is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Miggy has been very durable throughout his career and he’s played through a ton of injuries — he played through a torn groin in the postseason last year — so for him to miss a few days with an ankle injury, it must be pretty bad.

Castellanos. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Castellanos. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Even when healthy, Cabrera has only been the second most productive hitter in Detroit’s lineup behind DH Victor Martinez (156 wRC+), who has already hit a career-high 25 homers. OF J.D Martinez (149 wRC+) overhauled his swing after signing with the Tigers and has been very productive in about a half-season’s worth of plate appearances. 2B Ian Kinsler (108 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (111 wRC+) have been solid overall. OF Rajai Davis (102 wRC+) ranks sixth in baseball with 31 steals despite having roughly 100 fewer plate appearances than the five guys ahead of him.

The rest of the regular lineup includes 3B Nick Castellanos (98 wRC+), SS Eugenio Suarez (100 wRC+), and C Alex Avila (99 wRC+). C Bryan Holaday (57 wRC+) backs up Avila. The rest of the bench is filled out by IF Andrew Romine (50 wRC+), OF Ezequiel Carrera (64 wRC+), and UTIL Don Kelly (72 wRC+). Projected starters SS Jose Iglesias and OF Andy Dirks have not played at all this year due to leg and back/hamstring injuries.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. DET) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, 25, is in the middle of his best big league season, pitching to a 3.10 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 165.1 innings. He doesn’t miss many bats (5.44 K/9 and 15.2 K%) — never has and probably never will — but he does limit walks (1.74 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%), keep the ball in the park (0.71 HR/9 and 8.8 HR/FB%), and get grounders (49.4%). Lefties (.298 wOBA) have hit Porcello a bit harder than righties (.285 wOBA), and he’s been more effective on the road (.279 wOBA) than at home (.310 wOBA). Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs are Porcello’s main weapons, and he’ll also use mid-80s sliders, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs to keep hitters off balance. He’s scaled back on his slider usage and emphasized his curveball in recent years. The Yankees scored one run in seven innings against Porcello earlier this month.

Wednesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. DET) vs. RHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Again. Again with Price. The Yankees just can’t escape this guy. The 29-year-old Price has a 3.00 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 27 starts and 201.1 innings split between the Rays and Tigers so far this year. He strikeout (9.88 K/9 and 28.5 K%) and walk (1.30 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%) numbers are elite while his homer (1.03 HR/9 and 11.1 HR/FB%) and grounder (41.1%) rates are closer to average. Price has actually be tougher on righties (.271 wOBA) than lefties (.292 wOBA), though neither has had much success. As always, Price is a fastball machine, throwing his low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamer and mid-80s cutter more than 70% of the time combined. Mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. The Yankees have already seen Price four friggin’ times this year: six runs in five innings in April, two runs in seven innings in May, one unearned run in seven innings in July, and three runs in 8.2 innings earlier this month. Sick of this guy.

It’s worth noting the Tigers will be the first team to face Greene twice since he’s joined the rotation. (He was supposed to face the Orioles a second time a few weeks ago, but the rotation plans changed following a rainout.) Going through the league the second time is always a big test for a young pitcher.

Verlander. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Verlander. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. DET) vs. TBA
The Tigers have not yet officially announced their starter for the series finale, but all signs point to it being Justin Verlander. Rookie lefty Robbie Ray, the other obvious starter candidate, was just sent to Triple-A and can not be called up until next week due to the ten-day rule, barring injury. The 31-year-old Verlander is having a really rough year, pitching to a 4.82 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 26 starts and 164.1 innings. His strikeout rate (6.79 K/9 and 17.2 K%) is way down, though his walk (3.18 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), homer (0.88 HR/9 and 7.5 BB%), and ground ball (40.5%) numbers are all in line with his career norms. Righties (.384 wOBA) have hit a ton harder than lefties (.305 wOBA). Verlander’s fastball still sits in the low-to-mid-90s — he just missed a start with shoulder inflammation and was sitting 88-90 early in Saturday’s outing, for what it’s worth — though he doesn’t reach back for 100-101 anymore. The triple-digit heat is gone and probably for good. Mid-80s sliders and changeups as well as an upper-70s curve round out his repertoire. The Yankees scored two runs in seven innings off Verlander a few weeks ago.

Bullpen Status
The Tigers were off yesterday, so their bullpen is relatively fresh. Closer RHP Joe Nathan (4.14 FIP) has been a disaster (5.36 ERA), and backup plan RHP Joakim Soria (2.08 FIP) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury. That leaves ex-Yankee RHP Joba Chamberlain (3.04 FIP) in a setup role. RHP Al Alburquerque (4.08 FIP) is basically the seventh inning guy.

Ausmus’ makeshift bullpen also includes LHP Phil Coke (4.30 FIP), LHP Blaine Hardy (3.10 FIP), RHP Jim Johnson (5.30 FIP), LHP Kyle Lobstein (4.20 FIP in limited time), and LHP Pat McCoy (4.24 FIP in limited time). With Ray being sent down, Lobstein is the other candidate to start Thursday should the Tigers opt to give Verlander an extra day of rest. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Bless You Boys and Tiger Tales for everything you need to know about the Tigers.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Getty)

(Getty)

Today was supposed to be an off-day. Instead, the Yankees are in Kansas City for a quick little one-game series against the Royals. The two teams are making up their June 9th rainout game. The Royals took two of three during the rained-shortened four-game series back in June.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ned Yost’s squad lost to the Rangers yesterday, but they won two of three games in the series and have won a ridiculous 24 of their last 31 games. That surge has them sitting atop the AL Central at 72-57 with a +35 run differential, the fourth best record and fifth best run differential in the American League.

Offense
The Royals average 4.15 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they are a below-average offense overall. It’s worth noting they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than the next lowest team (Athletics at 17.5%). The Yankees have the sixth lowest at 18.5%. Anyway, 1B Eric Hosmer (91 wRC+) is out with a hand problem and is the team’s only injured position player.

Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Yost’s lineup is built around OF Alex Gordon (126 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the game these last few years. He’s every bit as good as Brett Gardner in left field defensively. Probably better, really. DH Billy Butler (99 wRC+) is having a very poor year by his standards. C Salvador Perez (96 wRC+) is a budding star and the duo of OF Josh Willingham (121 wRC+) and OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) give the all-important veteran presents.

OF Norichika Aoki (89 wRC+) and 2B Omar Infante (80 wRC+) set the table from the one-two spots in the lineup — good thing the Yankees didn’t give Infante four years, huh? — while OF Lorenzo Cain (108 wRC), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and OF Jarrod Dyson (97 wRC+) provide speed. All three have stolen at least 20 bases. (The Royals lead the AL with 112 steals, 20 more than the second place Yankees.) 3B Mike Moustakas (80 wRC+), IF Christian Colon (182 wRC+ in very limited time), and C Erick Kratz (78 wRC+) fill out the rest of the position player crop.

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Figures. The Yankees are in town for one night only, and they still get stuck facing Kansas City’s best pitcher. The 32-year-old Shields has a 3.28 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 27 starts and 178.1 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.22 K/9 and 19.2 K%) is his lowest in five years. He still limits walks (1.82 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) and does a decent job of keeping the ball in the park (0.96 HR/9 and 10.1 HR/FB%) and getting grounders (45.1%). Lefties (.327 wOBA) have a bit more success against Shields than righties (.311 wOBA). A mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees scored one unearned run in six innings against the ex-Rays righty back in June.

Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The reason David Robertson and Dellin Betances are only “arguably” the best closer/setup man tandem in baseball is because RHP Greg Holland (2.14 FIP) and RHP Wade Davis (1.30 FIP) exist. They’re both outstanding. Throw in the super-hard-throwing RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.87 FIP) and you’ve got the best late-game trio in the game. None of the three pitched yesterday either.

The rest of Yost’s bullpen includes LHP Bruce Chen (1.59 FIP), LHP Francisley Bueno (3.06 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.45 FIP), and RHP Jason Frasor (3.52 FIP). Both Frasor and Crow threw an inning yesterday. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess after this weekend’s series with the White Sox. Robertson has pitched in three straight games and surely won’t be available tonight. I guess that makes Betances the closer du jour. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

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One fourth place team leaves town, another comes in. Hopefully the Yankees do a better job of seizing the opportunity during this three-game weekend set against the White Sox than they did the Astros, eh? The Yankees and ChiSox split a four-game set on Chicago’s south side back in May.

What Have They Done Lately?
The White Sox were just swept by the Orioles in a three-game series at home and they’ve lost 12 of their last 17 games. They’re 14-17 in the second half and 59-68 with a -66 run differential overall. Chicago has the fifth worst record and third worst run differential in the AL.

Offense
At 4.24 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, the ChiSox are very close to a league average offense. They are currently without OF Adam Eaton (117 wRC+) and OF Moises Sierra (104 wRC+) due to oblique injuries. They also just traded IF Gordon Beckham (62 wRC+) to the Angels yesterday and have yet to call up a replacement. IF Marcus Semien (71 wRC+ in limited time) and IF Carlos Sanchez (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) are 40-man roster options.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Manager Robin Ventura’s lineup revolves around 1B Jose Abreu (158 wRC+), who is second in baseball with 32 homeruns. OF Avisail Garcia (138 wRC+) was expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing up his shoulder diving for a ball back in April, but he was just activated off the disabled list. DH Adam Dunn (117 wRC+) is probably going to hit a ball or two into the short porch this weekend. SS Alexei Ramirez (102 wRC+) and 3B Conor Gillaspie (122 wRC+) play the left side of the infield. Gillaspie’s having a sneaky good year.

OF Dayan Viciedo (84 wRC+) joins OF Alejandro De Aza (86 wRC+) and OF Jordan Danks (46 wRC+ in limited time) in the outfield with Eaton and Sierra hurt. C Tyler Flowers (82 wRC+) and Rule 5 Draft pick C Adrian Nieto (85 wRC+) split catching duties. 1B Paul Konerko (75 wRC+) is just a bench player as his career winds down and UTIL Leury Garcia (10 wRC+) is the last guy on the bench. Abreu is a major threat and the ChiSox have some nice secondary pieces in Dunn, Gillaspie, Garcia, and Ramirez, so they’re not a pushover.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. CWS) vs. LHP John Danks (vs. NYY)
It was only three weeks ago when the 29-year-old Danks was being fitted for pinstripes. The Yankees were said to have interest in the southpaw at the trade deadline, but obviously nothing came of it. Danks has a 4.94 ERA (5.08 FIP) in 25 starts and 153 innings this year, and he just hasn’t been the same since suffering a torn shoulder capsule a few years ago. His strikeout (5.88 K/9 and 14.7 K%), walk (3.41 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%), homer (1.35 HR/9 and 11.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (40.6%) rate are all weak, and righties (.371 FIP) hit him a ton harder than lefties (.313 wOBA). Danks throws his two and four-seam fastballs in the mid-to-upper-80s post-torn capsule with his cutter a few ticks below that. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch, though he will throw a handful low-70s curveballs per start as well. Danks threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees back in May, because of course.

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CWS) vs. RHP Scott Carroll (vs. NYY)
Carroll is a 29-year-old rookie and he’s pitching exactly like you’d expect a 29-year-old rookie to pitch: 4.99 ERA (4.93 FIP) in 97.1 innings across 14 starts and six relief appearances with a bad strikeout rate (4.62 K/9 and 11.6 K%) and okay walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) and homer (1.02 HR/9 and 13.1 HR/FB%) numbers. His ground ball rate (53.8%) is very good and lefties (.385 wOBA) hit him a lot harder than righties (.322 wOBA). Carroll does throw five pitches and they’re pretty much the exact five pitches you’d expect a career minor league journeyman to throw: upper-80s two and four-seamers, low-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and mid-70s curves. He allowed one run in two innings of relief against the Yankees the last time these two teams met.

Sale. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Sale. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Sunday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. CWS) vs. LHP Chris Sale (vs. NYY)
Sigh, they were so close to missing Sale this series. The 25-year-old is arguably the best pitcher in the AL, with a 2.12 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 20 starts and 136 innings, and the only reason he isn’t neck and neck with Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young race is an elbow injury that cost him about five weeks earlier this year. Sale has elite strikeout (10.46 K/9 and 29.9 K%), walk (1.72 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%), and homer (0.60 HR/9 and 6.8 HR/FB%) rates, though he isn’t much of a ground ball pitcher (42.0%). Righties (.270 wOBA) haven’t had much luck against him this year and lefties (.160 wOBA) are completely helpless. A low-to-mid-90s two-seam fastball sets up Sale’s upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup, both of which are high-end out pitches. He’s outstanding and doesn’t get enough attention for being one of the two or three best pitchers in baseball on a per inning basis. Sale struck out ten in six shutout innings against New York in May. He was fresh off the disabled list following the elbow injury, so the only reason he didn’t pitch deeper into the game was a strict pitch limit.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the White Sox were off yesterday, so their bullpen is fresh. One-time Yankees draft pick RHP Jake Petricka (3.35 FIP) has taken over as their closer after the team tried about four different pitchers in the ninth inning. The Yankees drafted Petricka in the 34th round of the 2009 draft but did not sign him. RHP Zach Putnam (3.23 FIP) and RHP Matt Lindstrom (5.09 FIP) usually handle setup duties.

RHP Maikel Cleto (6.40 FIP in limited time), RHP Daniel Webb (4.55 FIP), LHP Erik Surkamp (6.00 FIP in limited time), and RHP Ronald Belisario (3.62 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen. RHP Javy Guerra (3.92 FIP) is currently on the bereavement list and will likely be activated at some point this weekend. When he comes back, Surkamp figures to go down. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees relievers, then check out South Side Sox for everything you need to know about the ChiSox.

Categories : Series Preview
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No George Springer this week. (Presswire)

No George Springer this week. (Presswire)

After a six-game turned five-game because of a rainout road trip, the Yankees are back home in the Bronx for a six-game homestand. They’re going to face two really bad teams and winning four of the six is the bare minimum at this point if they want to get back in the postseason race. The Astros are in town for three games starting tonight. The Yankees lost two of three in Houston way back in April, the very first series of the season.

What Have They Done Lately?

Like the Yankees, the Astros were off on Monday. They split a four-game series with the Red Sox up in Fenway Park over the weekend and have lost eight of their last 13 games overall. Houston is 52-73 with a -91 run differential in 2014, both the third worst marks in baseball. To their credit, Houston has already won more games this year than they did last year (51-111).

Offense

Manager Bo Porter’s club averages 4.01 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, so they’re just a touch below-averageoffensively. Better than the Yankees (3.94 and 92, respectively), anyway. The Astros are currently without OF George Springer (125 wRC+) and OF Alex Presley (82 wRC+) due to quad and oblique injuries, and neither will return this series. Bummed we won’t see Springer. UTIL Jesus Guzman (56 wRC+) is out with a back problem but could be activated off the disabled list sometime this week.

Altuve. (Getty)

Altuve. (Getty)

The Houston lineup revolves around 2B Jose Altuve (131 wRC+), who leads the league in average (.339) and steals (46). His reputation outweighed his production the last few years — I’m convinced it’s because he’s really short, similar to how Melky Cabrera was overrated while with the Yankees because he had a cool name — but he is definitely performing like a true star right now. 1B/OF Chris Carter (127 wRC+) strikes out a ton (30.4%) but he has ten homers and a 186 wRC+ over the last 30 days. OF Dexter Fowler (129 wRC+) just came off the disabled list a week ago. Altuve, Carter, and Fowler are the stars of the show with Springer injured.

The rest of Porter’s lineup includes former first rounders C Jason Castro (94 wRC+) and 3B Matt Dominguez (72 wRC+). Castro has had a disappointing follow up to last summer’s breakout year. OF Robbie Grossman (94 wRC+) and OF Jake Marisnick (53 wRC+) both see time in the outfield and 1B Jon Singleton (87 wRC+) plays first. He signed a five-year, $10M extension before ever playing in a MLB game. I bet the lefty swinger takes advantage of the short porch at least once this week. IF Gregorio Petit (100 wRC+ in very limited time) and IF Marwin Gonzalez (96 wRC+) share time at shortstop. 1B/OF Marc Krauss (78 wRC+) and C Carlos Corporan (88 wRC+) fill out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (vs. NYY)

Oberholtzer, 25, has gone down to Triple-A a few times this year despite a solid 3.87 ERA (3.68 FIP) in 17 starts and 104.2 innings at the MLB level. He excels at limiting walks (1.89 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%) and does keep the ball in the park (0.77 HR/9 and 5.9 HR/FB%), but both his strikeout (5.68 K/9 and 14.9 K%) and ground ball (37.0%) numbers are unimpressive. Righties (.326 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than lefties (.300 wOBA), and he’s been more successful on the road (.305 wOBA) than at home (.330 wOBA). Oberholtzer is a classic finesse southpaw, sitting right around 90 mph with his fastball while throwing both his changeup and curveball in the low-80s. He held the Yankees to three runs in 5.2 innings back in April.

Wednesday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (vs. NYY)

The Astros finally decided to spend some money this past offseason, and most of it went to the 31-year-old Feldman. He got three years and $30M. Feldman has a 4.45 ERA (4.40 FIP) in 22 starts and 129.1 innings this year — he missed time with a biceps injury — even though his walk (2.78 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), homer (0.84 HR/9 and 8.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (44.7%) rates are more or less in line with his career norms. His strikeout rate (4.94 K/9 and 12.6 K%) is way down though, plus he has minimal platoon and home/road splits. Feldman is primarily a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/mid-70s curveball pitcher, though he will throw the occasional mid-80s splitter that serves as his changeup. The Yankees did not score in 6.2 innings against the right-hander on Opening Day.

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

Thursday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (vs. NYY)

Keuchel, 26, has broken out in a huge way this season, pitching to a 3.11 ERA (3.31 FIP) in 23 starts and 156.1 innings. His strikeout (6.91 K/9 and 18.8 K%), walk (2.30 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and homer (0.58 HR/9 and 10.6 HR/FB%) rates are lower than the league averages, and his 61.8% ground ball rate is the highest in baseball by roughly five percentage points. Also, as Mark Simon notes, Keuchel has the tenth lowest hard-hit ball rate in baseball, so he’s getting a ton of weak contact on the ground. That’s a great way to keep runs off the board. Righties (.311 wOBA) are a bit more successful than lefties (.286 wOBA), though he does not have a significant home/road split at all. Keuchel gets all those weak grounders with upper-80s two and four-seam fastballs, plus he’ll mix in some mid-80s cutters. An upper-70s slider is his top secondary pitch and he’ll also throw a handful of upper-70s changeups per start. He’s basically a two-seamer/slider pitcher who will show a four-seamer and changeup. The Yankees did not see Keuchel when these two teams met in April.

Bullpen Status

The Astros spent some money on relievers this year, and ex-Yankee RHP Chad Qualls (3.11 FIP) has taken over as closer. RHP Jesse Crain has not pitched at all in 2014 due to continued arm problems and RHP Matt Albers has missed most of the season with a shoulder issue. Veterans LHP Tony Sipp (2.87 FIP) and ex-Yankee RHP Jose Veras (4.92 FIP) are Qualls’ primary setup men, though RHP Josh Fields (2.17 FIP) will see important innings as well.

The rest of Porter’s bullpen includes RHP Jake Buchanan (4.36 FIP), LHP Kevin Chapman (7.88 FIP in very limited time), LHP Darin Downs (3.29 FIP), and RHP Mike Foltynewicz (5.26 FIP in very limited time). Foltynewicz is a top prospect who was called up not too long ago and he throws very, very hard. Like every other team these days (it seems), the Astros are carrying eight relievers at the moment. Both of these teams were off Monday, so the bullpens are as fresh as it gets in mid-August. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Astros County and Crawfish Boxes for the latest and greatest on the Astros.

Update: The Astros activated Guzman off the disabled list and sent Downs to Triple-A, the team announced. There you go.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Getty)

(Getty)

A few weeks ago, this series looked it would be a battle for postseason position. Instead it’s a trade deadline seller against an almost non-contender. The AL East isn’t what it once was, folks. The Yankees have lost seven of ten games to the Rays this season. They split four games at Tropicana Field back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just took three of four from the awful Texas Rangers and went 6-4 on their ten-game road trip overall. At 60-61 with a +21 run differential, Tampa is in fourth place in the AL East, two games behind the Yankees. The Bombers have to win at least one game this weekend to avoid falling into fourth place.

Offense
With an average of 3.99 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+, the Rays are both below-average and above-average offensively at the same time. They’re getting hits, just not bunched together. Tampa is currently without OF Wil Myers (94 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (134 wRC+), who are on the disabled list with wrist and shoulder injuries, respectively. Myers is on a rehab assignment but is not expected to rejoin the team this weekend. C Ryan Hanigan (88 wRC+) is also on the disabled list with an oblique problem and IF Desmond Jennings (106 wRC+) is day-to-day with a shoulder issue.

(Marilyn Indahl/Getty)

(Marilyn Indahl/Getty)

As usual, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup is built around 3B Evan Longoria (103 wRC+), though he is having a very down year by his standards. His six-year, $100M extension doesn’t kick in until 2017. They better hope this year is just a blip. OF Matt Joyce (130 wRC+) is having a strong year, ditto 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (128 wRC+). OF Kevin Kiermaier (130 wRC+) has been a pleasant surprise since coming up to replace Myers. 1B James Loney (105 wRC+) is having a typical James Loney year, which means not 2013.

C Jose Molina (31 wRC+) splits catching duty with C Curt Casali (41 wRC+ in limited time) now that Hanigan is on the disabled list. OF Brandon Guyer (111 wRC+) backs up in the outfield while UTIL Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) and UTIL Logan Forsythe (94 wRC+) play just about everywhere. Rodriguez destroys the Yankees, as I’m sure you know. SS Yunel Escobar (91 wRC+) is the everyday shortstop. Tampa Bay is carrying only three bench players at the moment.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
With David Price traded away and Matt Moore out following Tommy John surgery, the 26-year-old Cobb is the team’s de facto ace. He has a 3.41 ERA (3.43 FIP) in 18 starts and 108.1 innings this year while missing a few weeks with an oblique strain. His strikeout (8.47 K/9 and 22.5 K%), walk (2.66 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), homer (0.75 HR/9 and 10.6 HR/FB%), and ground ball (57.5%) rates all range from very good to excellent. Thanks to his knockout mid-80s changeup, lefties (.266 wOBA) have actually had less success against Cobb (.315 wOBA) than righties. His two and four-seamers sit in the low-90s and he’ll also throw a bunch of low-80s curveballs. The Yankees have not faced Cobb this year.

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
Smyly, 25, was part of the Price trade, arguably the centerpiece. He has a 3.73 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 118.1 innings across 20 starts and three relief appearances in 2014, though only his walk rate (2.74 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) stands out. His strikeout (7.91 K/9 and 20.9 K%), homerun (1.06 HR/9 and 9.6 HR/FB%), and ground ball (37.0%) numbers are nothing to write home about. Righties (.376 wOBA) have hit him a ton harder than lefties (.208 wOBA). Smyly has one of the biggest platoon splits in the game. He operates with a mid-80s slider and three fastballs: low-90s four-seamers, upper-80s two-seamers, and mid-80s cutters. He’ll also throw a handful of low-80s changeups per start. Smyly has not faced the Yankees this year and he went three runs in 5.1 innings and 7.2 shutout innings in his first two starts with the Rays.

Hellickson. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Hellickson. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (vs. NYY)
Elbow surgery kept the 27-year-old Hellickson on the shelf until early last month, so he’s only made five starts and thrown 26.2 innings this year. His walk rate (2.03 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) is low, as are his strikeout (6.75 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (30.5%) rates. Aside from 2013, Hellickson has consistently outperformed his peripherals because he’s adept at getting infield pop-ups and other weak contact. His homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 7.3 HR/FB%) is about average and lefties (.274 wOBA) have had a tougher time against him than righties (.330 wOBA). Hellickson works with both a four-seam and two-seam fastball at right around 90 mph, and his go-to secondary pitch is an upper-70s changeup. He’ll also throw some mid-70s curves per start. Hellickson has failed to complete five full innings of work in three of his five starts off elbow surgery.

Bullpen Status
RHP Grant Balfour (4.16 FIP) has struggled this year, so Maddon has been using a closer by committee for several weeks now. LHP Jake McGee (1.22 FIP) has been outstanding and gets the ball in the most important spots regardless of inning. Sometimes the seventh, sometimes the eighth, sometimes the ninth. RHP Joel Peralta (3.73 FIP) and RHP Brad Boxberger (2.66 FIP) also work the late innings.

The rest of the bullpen includes LHP Jeff Beliveau (3.92 FIP in limited time), RHP Brandon Gomes (5.34 FIP), RHP Kirby Yates (3.00 FIP), and LHP Cesar Ramos (4.25 FIP). McGee, Boxberger, and Beliveau all pitched yesterday. The Yankees had two of the last three days off, so their bullpen is generally well-rested. Dellin Betances might not be available tonight after his extended outing on Wednesday, but that’s it. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out The Process Report for everything you need to know about the Rays.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Rob Carr/Getty)

(Rob Carr/Getty)

For all intents and purposes, this three-game series against the Orioles in Camden Yards will determine whether the Yankees have a realistic chance of winning the AL East this season, or if they’ll have to focus solely on the wildcard. The O’s have won two of three in each of the first three series these two teams have played this year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles outscored the Cardinals 25-13 this weekend but “only” won two of three. They’ve won six of their last eight games and are 15-8 since the All-Star break. Baltimore is 67-50 with a +48 run differential, giving them the biggest division lead in baseball at five games. The Yankees are six games back.

Offense
At 4.29 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Orioles are only a slightly above-average offense despite leading baseball with 147 homeruns. They don’t get enough guys on base in front of the power hitters. Baltimore is without C Matt Wieters (131 wRC+), who is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. SS J.J. Hardy (94 wRC+) is currently day-to-day with a thumb sprain and may or may not be available this series.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Jones. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Manager Buck Showalter’s lineup is built around the 30-homer power of OF Adam Jones (117 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (129 wRC+). Cruz already has 30 homers and Jones will get there before season’s end. (He’s at 22.) 1B Chris Davis (90 wRC+) is having a relatively awful year, but OF Steve Pearce (139 wRC+) has picked up some of the slack. Steve Pearce, huh? Both OF Nick Markakis (114 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (107 wRC+) have been productive on both sides of the ball.

C Caleb Joseph (95 wRC+) recently went deep in five consecutive games. Corban’s brother splits catching duties with C Nick Hundley (68 wRC+) in the wake of Wieters’ injury. DH Delmon Young (129 wRC+ in limited time), OF David Lough (71 wRC+ in limited time), IF Jonathan Schoop (59 wRC+), and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. Flaherty has been filling in at short while Hardy’s been banged up.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Norris has arguably been his team’s most consistent starting pitcher, with a 3.68 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 19 starts and 115 innings. His peripherals don’t jump out at you — 6.73 K/9 (17.9 K%), 2.90 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 1.02 HR/9 (10.4 HR/FB%), and 42.3% grounders — but he has essentially zero platoon split and simply keeps runs off the board. After years of underperforming his peripherals, he’s now doing the opposite. Maybe it’s dumb luck. Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher with two other pitches. He relies heavily on his low-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider, throwing them roughly 80% of the time combined, but he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and low-90s two-seamers per start. He held the Yankees to one run in five innings back in June.

Tuesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
Chen, 29, has a 3.90 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 22 starts and 129.1 innings this year, his third straight year pitching at almost exactly the same level. The only thing he does exceedingly well is limit walks (1.60 BB/9 and 4.2 BB%). His strikeout (6.68 K/9 and 17.7 K%), homer (1.32 HR/9 and 12.8 HR/FB%), and grounder (40.9%) numbers aren’t special at all. Like Norris, he also has what amounts to no platoon split whatsoever. Chen has the standard issue four-pitch mix, so a low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-70s curveball. The changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees scored four runs in five innings when they faced the Taiwanese southpaw back in April.

It’s worth noting the Orioles will be the first team to see Greene a second time as a starting pitcher, which is always a big test. That mid-90s sinker and hard upper-80s slider won’t sneak up on them this time.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)

(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman started Opening Day for the Orioles but he’s been unable to build on last year’s success, instead posting to a solid 3.73 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 149.2 innings across 25 starts. His strikeout rate (6.13 K/9 and 15.9 K%) is his lowest since breaking into the league full time three years ago while his walk rate (3.19 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is its highest. Tillman has done a much better job of keeping the ball in the park this season (0.90 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) even though his ground ball rate (41.1%) continues to be no better than okay. Again, like Norris and Chen, he has zero platoon split, but he has pitched quite a bit better at home (.281 wOBA) than on the road (.332 wOBA) in 2014. Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up Tillman’s mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year. The Yankees have seen Tillman twice this year: seven shutout innings in June and three runs in 6.2 innings in July.

Rogers is still listed as the starter for the series finale though there are rumblings Michael Pineda may rejoin the rotation that day. He got up 72 pitches in his second rehab start this weekend, meaning he should be good for 85-90 pitches next time out. “That’s something we’ll have to talk about,” said Joe Girardi to Brian Heyman over the weekend. “Ideally you’d like to get someone to 90 pitches … We’ll sit down, Brian (Cashman) and the people who saw it, and decide what’s next for him.”

Bullpen Status
The Cardinals did the Yankees a favor by both forcing Kevin Gausman out of yesterday’s game early and keeping the score close enough that Showalter used his key relievers. Both closer RHP Zach Britton (3.15 FIP) and setup man/deadline pickup LHP Andrew Miller (1.73 FIP) not only pitched, but they also allowed runs and threw longer than usual innings. LHP T.J. McFarland (3.58 FIP) threw 51 pitches across two innings of work as well.

The rest of Showalter’s bullpen includes RHP Brad Brach (3.59 FIP), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.44 FIP), LHP Brian Matusz (4.30 FIP), and RHP Darren O’Day (2.88 FIP). Matusz is a pure lefty specialist while McFarland is a multi-inning lefty and Miller is a one-inning high-leverage guy who will face both lefties and righties. The eight-man Yankees bullpen is in relatively good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.

Categories : Series Preview
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Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Official photo of RAB Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

One AL Central opponent leaves town and another comes in. The Indians are in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. They split a four-game set with the Yankees in Cleveland last month.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians just lost three straight to the Reds but they had won four straight before that. They are 9-11 since the All-Star break and 57-58 with a +7 run differential overall this year, good for third place in the AL Central. They are 3.5 games back of the Yankees (and Mariners and Blue Jays) in the wildcard race, so this series is not nothing.

Offense
Cleveland quietly has one of the best offenses in the game, one that averages 4.43 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+. They are currently without OF Michael Bourn (97 wRC+) and DH Jason Giambi (26 wRC+) due to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Bourn just started a rehab assignment and is unlikely to return this weekend. Giambi is out long-term and there’s a decent chance he’s played his last MLB game. I’ll miss Big G.

Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is built around OF Michael Brantley (151 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best two-way players in baseball. He’s excellent. 1B Carlos Santana (131 wRC+) has been tearing the cover off the ball for two months after a terrible start while 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (135 wRC+) is going the other way — he started out hot and has slowed down big time of late. C Yan Gomes (127 wRC+) has established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball these last two seasons.

2B Jason Kipnis (95 wRC+) and OF David Murphy (102 wRC+) have been just about average this year while ex-Yankee OF Nick Swisher (73 wRC+) has been awful. IF Jose Ramirez (21 wRC+ in very limited time) has taken over at short since Asdrubal Cabrera was traded away. UTIL Ryan Raburn (52 wRC+) and ex-Yankee OF Chris Dickerson (122 wRC+ in limited time) see platoon duty while IF Mike Aviles (71 wRC+) and C Roberto Perez (87 wRC+ in very limited time) fill out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 23, has finally found some success at the MLB level after years of tinkering and having coaches try to “fix” his unique mechanics and workout routines. He has a 4.20 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 16 starts and 92.1 innings with a good strikeout rate (8.31 K/9 and 21.3%) and an okay walk rate (3.27 K/9 and 8.4 K%). Righties (.346 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.325 wOBA) and he’s been worst on the road (.351 wOBA) than at home (.326 wOBA). Bauer is an extreme fly ball pitcher (32.4% grounders) who gives up homers (1.03 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%), but that is by design — he’s said he likes pitching up in the zone because fly balls are higher percentage outs than ground balls, and he’ll live with the homers as a byproduct. He is definitely in the minority when it comes to that approach. Bauer throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a mid-to-upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He throws all five pitches regularly with the slider and curve being his go-to offspeed pitches. New York scored three runs (two earned) in seven innings against him last month.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and did not face the Klubot during their four-game series in Cleveland a few weeks. That aren’t getting that lucky twice. The 28-year-old Kluber has a 2.55 ERA (2.49 FIP) in 24 starts and 165.2 innings this year, and his peripherals are excellent across the board: 9.62 K/9 (26.7 K%), 1.90 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), 0.54 HR/9 (7.4 HR/FB%), and 49.2% grounders. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have had much more success against him than righties (.236 wOBA). Kluber is primarily a three-pitch pitcher with a low-to-mid-90s sinker, a hard upper-80s slider, and power low-80s curveball. Both breaking balls are legit out pitches. He’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start, but it is his clear fourth pitch. Kluber is not a big name, but the guy has pitched like an ace this year. He’s outstanding.

Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Tribe have had a revolving door at the back of their rotation all year. Carrasco, 27, is coming out of the bullpen to make this start after spending most of the season as a long reliever. He has a 3.88 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 26 relief appearances and four spot starts in 2014, and across the board he has very good strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.2 K%), walk (2.49 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), homer (0.69 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (56.4%) numbers. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have been more successful against him than righties (.269 wOBA). Obviously his numbers in relief will not translate perfectly over into a starting role. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer when he comes out of the bullpen, and he uses it to set up his upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. He throws all three secondary pitches at least 11% of the time, so he’s a true four-pitch pitcher. Carrasco made two relief appearances against the Yankees last month, three scoreless innings in one and one scoreless inning in the other.

Bullpen Status
Francona is currently on his third different closer in RHP Cody Allen (2.44 FIP). RHP John Axford (4.23 FIP) lost the job early in the season and RHP Bryan Shaw (3.45 FIP) only had it for about a week. Those two plus RHP Scott Atchison (3.32 FIP) serve as Allen’s primary setup men. Like the Yankees, the Indians are carrying eight relievers at the moment.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen includes LHP Marc Rzepczynski (2.93 FIP), LHP Kyle Crockett (3.28 FIP), LHP Nick Hagadone (3.36 FIP), and RHP C.C. Lee (3.96 FIP). Yes, the Indians have a dude named C.C. Lee in their bullpen. It’s like the ghost of Cy Young winners past has come back to haunt them. Lee threw two innings yesterday but the rest of the bullpen had the day off. Check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Once you’ve done that, head over to Wahoo’s on First for everything you need to know about the Indians.

Categories : Series Preview
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Weird. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Weird. (Leon Halip/Getty)

The soft part of the schedule is over. The Yankees played six games against the last place Rangers and Red Sox last week, went 3-3, and today they start a four-game set against the first place Tigers. This is their first meeting of the season — Detroit is the only AL team the Yankees had yet to play this season.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Tigers just swept three games from the awful Rockies, but before that they lost five of six games. They sit atop the AL Central with a 51-47 record and a +50 run differential, the third and sixth best marks in baseball, respectively.

Offense
At 4.72 runs per games with a team 111 wRC+, the Tigers have one of the best offensive attacks in baseball. They did just trade OF Austin Jackson (101 wRC+) though, so the lineup took a bit of a hit. Rookie manager Brad Ausmus is also without OF Andy Dirks (back) and SS Jose Iglesias (shins), both of whom have been out all season with injuries.

Martinez. (Duane Burleson/Getty)

Martinez. (Duane Burleson/Getty)

As always, Detroit’s lineup revolves around reigning two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (146 wRC+), who is having a down year by his insane standards. DH Victor Martinez (154 wRC+) has been outstanding and both 2B Ian Kinsler (110 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (113 wRC+) have been strong supporting players. OF J.D. Martinez (163 wRC+) made some mechanical changes after being picked up off the scrap heap and has been a monster for the Tigers in 70 games worth of playing time. Those five are the core of their lineup.

With Jackson traded, OF Rajai Davis (115 wRC+) has taken over as the everyday center fielder even though his defense leaves a lot to be desired. 3B Nick Castellanos (94 wRC+) is having a good but not great rookie year and SS Eugenio Suarez (99 wRC+ in limited time) is the shortstop du jour. C Alex Avila (94 wRC+) and C Bryan Holaday (68 wRC+) form the catching tandem and the bench is filled out by OF Ezequiel Carrera (two plate appearances), IF Andrew Romine (44 wRC+), and UTIL Don Kelly (75 wRC+). Yes, Andrew is Austin’s brother.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. DET) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (vs. NYY)
Scherzer, 30, has a 3.27 ERA (3.00 FIP) in 22 starts and 146 innings this year after posting a 2.90 ERA (2.74 FIP) while winning the AL Cy Young last year. His peripherals — 10.29 K/9 (28.0 K%), 2.53 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.7 HR/FB%), and 37.4% grounders — are ever so slightly worse than last season’s across the board but are obviously still excellent. Lefties (.312 wOBA) have given him a harder time than righties (.279 wOBA). Scherzer’s fastball is more low-to-mid-90s than mid-to-high-90s these days, though he will still run it up to 97 on occasion. Both his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup are out pitches — you don’t win a Cy Young without multiple dominant offerings — while his upper-70s curveball is a quality fourth offering. In a rotation full of aces, Scherzer has the best pure stuff at the moment.

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. DET) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The 28-year-old Price will make his first start for the Tigers against a familiar opponent. Just the Yankees’ luck, eh? He has a 3.11 ERA (2.94 FIP) in 23 starts and 170.2 innings and has been especially tough since the end of May, with a 2.03 ERA (2.58 FIP) in his final 12 outings with Tampa while averaging 7.2 innings per start. His strikeout (9.97 K/9 and 27.4 K%) and walk (1.21 BB/9 and 3.3 BB%) rates are elite, his homer (1.05 HR/9 and 11.2 HR/FB%) and ground ball (40.5%) rates less so. Lefties (.302 wOBA) have had a bit more success than righties (.279 wOBA) against the southpaw, surprisingly. As always, Price is a fastball machine, throwing his low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamer and mid-80s cutter more than 70% of the time combined. His ability to backdoor the cutter to righties is why he’s so effective against them. It’s an unhittable pitch. Mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. The Yankees have already seen Price three times this year and he’s gotten progressively better each time: six runs in five innings in April, two runs in seven innings in May, and one unearned run in seven innings in July.

(Leon Halip/Getty)

(Leon Halip/Getty)

Wednesday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. DET) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (vs. NYY)
Between Scherzer (2013), Price (2012), and Verlander (2011), the Tigers have the last three AL Cy Young Award winners on their roster. (They also have the last three AL MVPs in Cabrera and Verlander as well.) The 31-year-old Verlander has fallen victim to Ace Sucking Syndrome (ASS) this year, with a 4.66 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 23 starts and 150.2 innings this year, including a 5.77 ERA (4.59 FIP) in his last 15 starts. His strikeout rate (6.57 K/9 and 16.7%) is way down while his walk rate (3.11 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) is way up compared to his peak years. He is also allowing more homers (0.84 HR/9 and 7.3 HR/FB%) than ever before despite a ground ball rate (42.3%) in line with his career average. Verlander was always a weak contact guy who consistently posted lower than average BABIPs thanks to soft liners and pop-ups, but hitters are making harder contact this year. Righties (.376 wOBA) have hit him way harder than lefties (.302 wOBA) this season. Verlander’s fastball still sits in the low-to-mid-90s, though he doesn’t reach back for 100-101 anymore, topping out at “only” 98 this year. Mid-80s sliders and changeups as well as an upper-70s curve round out his repertoire. Verlander can still dominate on occasion, but he is no longer the pitching titan he was just a few years ago.

Thursday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. DET) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, a New Jersey native, continues to get better and better and he gains experience — turns out jumping from High-A to the big leagues at age 20 isn’t always as easy as Jose Fernandez made it look last season — posting a 3.18 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 21 starts and 141.1 innings this year. His strikeout rate (5.60 K/9 and 15.8 K%) stinks, but Porcello has always been more of a low walk (1.91 BB/9 and 5.4 BB%), high ground ball (49.7%) guy. He doesn’t give up many homers (0.76 HR/9 and 9.8 HR/FB%) and his platoon split is kinda small — lefties has a .289 wOBA against him this year while righties are at .300. Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs are Porcello’s main weapons, and he’ll also use mid-80s sliders, low-80s changeups, and upper-70s curveballs to keep hitters off balance. He’s scaled back on his slider and emphasized his curveball in recent years.

Joba Rules Returns. (Duane Burleson/Getty)

Joba Rules Returns. (Duane Burleson/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen has been the Tigers’ Achilles heel all season. Closer RHP Joe Nathan (3.87 FIP) has been a disaster (5.45 ERA), and he’s remained in that role even after they traded for RHP Joakim Soria (2.03 FIP). Soria’s the setup man. Former Yankee RHP Joba Chamberlain (2.90 FIP) also sees plenty of important late-inning situations. Ex-Yankee LHP Phil Coke (4.13) is the primary matchup southpaw.

The rest of Ausmus’ bullpen includes RHP Al Alburquerque (4.33 FIP), LHP Blaine Hardy (3.19 FIP in limited time), and LHP Pat McCoy (4.34 FIP in limited time). Ausmus’ bullpen is very fresh — his relievers have thrown a total of four innings in the last three days. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Bless You Boys and Tiger Tales for everything you need to know about the Tigers.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

This series will certainly have a different feel to it, don’t you think? Both teams remade their rosters with a series of moves prior to yesterday’s trade deadlines, though what the Yankees did was mere tinkering compared to the moves the Red Sox made. We will get our first look at several new faces in this series in addition to the usual Yanks-Sawx hoopla. The Yankees have won six of ten against the BoSox this year, including two of three at Fenway Park back in April.

What Have They Lately?
Oh, you mean besides take a sledgehammer to the roster that won the World Series ten months ago? The Red Sox were off yesterday, but before that they got swept by the Blue Jays at home in a three-game series. They have lost eight of their last nine games overall and currently sit in last place in the AL East at 48-60 with a -55 run differential. Something tells me they will be even worse these next two months because they’re going to allow all of the runs. All of them.

Offense
The Red Sox come into today’s game averaging 3.81 runs per game with a team 91 wRC+, so while they’ve been below-average overall, they did just add several new faces to the lineup. OF Shane Victorino (86 wRC+) is currently dealing with a back problem and GM Ben Cherington told reporters yesterday that he is a candidate to be placed on the disabled list.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Manager John Farrell’s new-look lineup still revolves around DH David Ortiz (124 wRC+) and 1B Mike Napoli (134 wRC+), though now they’ll have help from the just acquired OF Yoenis Cespedes (113 wRC+). He is expected to be in the lineup tonight. Ortiz and Napoli always destroy the Yankees. Adding Cespedes to the mix isn’t going to make life any easier. 2B Dustin Pedroia (98 wRC+) is having a down year and both CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (67 wRC+) and SS Xander Bogaerts (89 wRC+) have been very disappointing.

The just acquired 1B/OF Allen Craig (81 wRC+) will probably be in the lineup tonight but I’m not sure what position. He hasn’t hit much since hurting his foot/ankle last season. UTIL Brock Holt (114 wRC+) has cooled off but has still been very good overall. OF Daniel Nava (85 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mike Carp (73 wRC+) are platoon bats and there’s a good chance one will be dropped off the roster to make room for Craig today. C Christian Vazquez (75 wRC+) and C David Ross (71 wRC+) form the defensive-minded catching tandem. 3B Will Middlebrooks (75 wRC+) is expected to be called up from Triple-A today, likely replacing Victorino.

Pitching Probables

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (No vs. NYY)
With Jon Lester and John Lackey traded away, the Red Sox will turn to the 24-year-old Ranaudo to fill a rotation spot, at least temporarily. The New Jersey native has a 2.41 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 21 starts and 119.1 Triple-A innings this season, though his strikeout (7.47 K/9 and 20.3 K%), walk (3.70 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%), and ground ball (38.1%) rates aren’t all that impressive. He does keep the ball in the park though (0.45 HR/9). Ranaudo is a big guy at 6-foot-7 and 230 lbs., and he uses that size to unleash low-to-mid-90s four-seamers. Ranaudo throws a power curveball in the low-80s as well as an okay changeup.

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Allen Webster (vs. NYY)
Webster, 24, was part of that huge blockbuster with the Dodgers a few years ago and he took over the just traded Jake Peavy’s rotation spot recently. He allowed one run in 5.1 innings against the Rays while walking more batters (five) than he struck out (four) in his lone MLB start of the season last weekend. Webster has a 3.10 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 122 Triple-A innings this year and a 7.82 ERA (6.20 FIP) in 35.2 MLB innings over the last two years. His Triple-A strikeout (7.38 K/9 and 19.7 K%) and walk (3.25 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) numbers are just okay while his ground ball (48.2%) and homer (0.66 HR/9) rates are good. Webster sits in the low-to-mid-90s with two and four-seam fastballs, backing them up with low-80s sliders and changeups. The changeup has been his preferred secondary pitch in his brief big league time.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
In the span of one afternoon, the 29-year-old Buchholz became the ace of the Boston staff. He has a 5.87 ERA (4.64 FIP) in 17 starts and 96.2 innings this year. Yikes. Buchholz has underwhelming peripherals across the board — 6.52 K/9 (16.0 K%), 3.07 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 1.21 HR/9 (11.5 HR/FB%), and 45.4% grounders — and he gets hit harder by lefties (.368 wOBA) and at home (.392 wOBA) than by righties (.350 wOBA) and on the road (.335 wOBA). As always, Buchholz uses low-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter to set up his knockout low-80s changeup and occasionally knockout upper-70s curveball. He faced the Yankees back in April and allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox were off yesterday, so Farrell’s bullpen is rested. They traded away setup man LHP Andrew Miller but still have closer RHP Koji Uehara (2.47 FIP) and setup man RHP Junichi Tazawa (2.68 FIP) for the late innings. I assume LHP Craig Breslow (4.78 FIP) will take over as the primary matchup lefty.

At the moment, RHP Burke Badenhop (3.11 FIP) and RHP Edward Mujica (4.31 FIP) are the only other relievers on the team’s active roster. They’re going to have to make a series of roster moves before tonight’s game to accommodate all the new players, and part of that will be calling up some extra bullpen arms. Here is their 40-man roster if you want see the call-up candidates. I haven’t the slightest idea who it will be and won’t even bother to guess. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen and then check out Over The Monster for everything you need to know about the new-look Red Sox.

Categories : Series Preview
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