Archive for Series Preview
Depending on what happens with the fifth starter spot, the Yankees have either two or three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp. There are something like eight or nine relievers competing for those spots, though some obviously have a better chance than others. Dellin Betances and Cesar Cabral, both of whom pitched with the team last September, have already emerged as the early favorites for big league jobs just two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule.
Betances, who turns 26 in less than two weeks, continued his strong spring yesterday by pitching around a one out double in an inning of work. He didn’t just pitch around the double, he did it by throwing six straight curveballs to big leaguers Matt Joyce (strikeout) and Wil Myers (ground out). That’s not something Betances would have been able to do in the past. Emphasizing his offspeed stuff is something he’s been working on this spring.
“I feel good right now. I feel good with where my offspeed is. I feel like I can throw it for strikes. It’s been working for me. I’m just trying to better myself with each outing,” said Betances to Bryan Hoch. “I know my offspeed was one of the things that helped me out when I got in trouble with my fastball. I would try to use that to keep myself a little calm with my mechanics. I just tried to take that into this spring, mix my pitches. In the big leagues, everybody can hit fastballs, no matter how hard you throw. I’m just trying to use all my pitches the best way I can.”
Betances is up to 6.1 scoreless innings in camp, striking out five against two walks and two hits. The opponent quality stat at Baseball Reference says he’s been facing mostly big leaguers, which isn’t surprising. He’s been the first guy out of the bullpen in most games. Betances has the size and power stuff the Yankees love, so maybe a roster spot was his to lose coming to camp following last season’s bullpen breakout. If it was, he’s done nothing to lose the spot. If it wasn’t, he’s pushed himself towards the top of the depth chart.
With Cabral, on the other hand, it always felt like he was on the outside of the bullpen competition looking in. At least it did to me. Carrying a second lefty specialist is a luxury, and with Matt Thornton already on board to be the primary guy, passing on Cabral to take a more versatile right-hander makes some sense. It still does, actually. Then again, the best pitchers are the best pitchers, and if another southpaw is one of the seven best relievers in the organization, he should be on the roster come Opening Day.
In 4.1 innings across four appearances this spring, the just-turned-25-year-old Cabral has allowed one hit and two walks, striking out four. Lefties are 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk against him. Cabral has not faced the best competition however, basically Double-A level according to that opponent quality metric at B-Ref. He can only face the guys he’s put out there against though, and if he keeps getting outs and handling lefties, he’ll get a longer look and more serious consideration as camp progresses.
So far, after only a handful of Grapefruit League appearances, both Betances and Cabral have done everything they’ve needed to do to secure a big league bullpen job. Neither guy has a spot locked up of course, but they have moved to the front of the pack. Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, and Fred Lewis have pitched well too, so they’re not alone, but others like Robert Coello and Brian Gordon have already managed to pitch themselves out of bullpen consideration. Both Betances and Cabral have made a nice little statement early on and put themselves in good position for a big league job when roster decision time comes.
If the Yankees and Astros play three meaningless games in Minute Maid Park to close out the season and no one sees them … did it actually happen? A recent Astros television broadcast received a 0.0 Nielsen rating, so pretty much no one watched the game. I’m guessing more than a few people will tune in to see the Bombers this weekend, however.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Astros have lost 12 straight games and come into this series with the very worst record in baseball: 51-108 with a -232 run differential. They are, as the kids say, stupid bad.
At 3.8 runs per game with a team 87 wRC+, Houston is a below-average offensive club. No surprise there. They’re without C Jason Castro (130 wRC+), their best player, who is done for the season with a knee injury. OF Robbie Grossman (97 wRC+) is out with an oblique issue as well.
Manager Bo Porter doesn’t have a lot of firepower at his disposal. Aside from Castro, the team’s only legitimate above-average everyday hitter is 1B Chris Carter (115 wRC+), who has huge power (29 homers and .232 ISO) and will strike out a frickin’ ton (36.5%). 2B Jose Altuve (86 wRC+) and 1B Brett Wallace (96 wRC+) are two other guys you might recognize, along with former Yankees farmhands 3B Brandon Laird (94 wRC+ in limited time) and OF Jimmy Paredes (33 wRC+ in limited time). OF L.J. Hoes (96 wRC+ in limited time) and 3B Matt Dominguez (91 wRC+) have been useful.
Aside from those guys, there’s not much to see here. C Carlos Corporan (85 wRC+), C Max Stassi (96 wRC+ in super duper limited time), and C Cody Clark (-37 wRC+ in very limited time) handle things behind the plate with Castro hurt. IF Jake Elmore (83 wRC+ in limited time), IF Marwin Gonzalez (55 wRC+), and SS Jonathan Villar (83 wRC+) are the various infielders. OF Brandon Barnes (77 wRC+), OF Trevor Crowe (72 wRC+ in limited time), OF J.D. Martinez (77 wRC+), and OF Marc Krauss (76 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. Nineteen position players in all.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Adam Warren vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer
Oberholtzer, 24, has a 2.71 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 66.1 innings across nine starts and three relief appearances this season, his rookie season. The southpaw doesn’t miss bats (5.56 K/9 and 15.5 K%), doesn’t walk anyone (1.63 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%), and doesn’t get ground balls (36.6%). He does kinda keep the ball in the park though (0.95 HR/9 and 7.6% HR/FB). Oberholtzer sits right around 90 with his two and four-seam fastballs, using them to set up his low-80s changeup and upper-70s knucklecurve. Obviously, the Yankees have never seen him before.
Saturday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Paul Clemens
No relation to Roger, the 25-year-old Clemens has a 5.69 ERA (5.97 FIP) in 68 innings covering four starts and 30 relief appearances. He’s in the rotation because there’s no one else, basically. The peripherals are just terrible: 5.96 K/9 (14.9 K%), 3.31 BB/9 (8.3 BB%), 2.12 HR/9 (14.4% HR/FB), and 36.1% grounders. Clemens has good stuff, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and low-90s with his two-seamer. A hard mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. The Yankees actually saw Clemens earlier this season, scoring a run against him in 1.1 innings of relief.
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Finally, a pitcher we’ve heard of. Bedard, 34, has pitched to a 4.81 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 144 innings this year, his most since 2007. His strikeout rate (8.06 K/9 and 20.3 K%) is good but the walk (4.69 BB/9 and 11.8 BB%), homer (1.13 HR/9 and 9.6% HR/FB), and ground ball (36.8%) numbers aren’t. Bedard still has that knee-buckling mid-70s curveball, but his fastballs (two and four-seamer) have slipped into the upper-80s with age and injury. An upper-70s changeup is his fourth pitch. The Yankees have seen Bedard a bunch of times over the years, both the good version with the Orioles and the broken down version with the Mariners.
The Astros were off yesterday, but that doesn’t really matter with September call-ups and the season about to end. Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Josh Fields (5.45 FIP) has taken over as closer and LHP Kevin Chapman (4.44 FIP) does most of the setup work. RHP Rhiner Cruz (5.36 FIP in limited time) and RHP Josh Zeid (4.75 FIP in limited time) tend to get the ball in the middle innings. Thanks to expanded rosters, Porters also has inexperienced arms RHP Jorge De Leon, RHP Chia-Jen Lo, and RHP David Martinez in the bullpen.
The Yankees are in fine bullpen shape at this point. I don’t know if we’ll see Mariano Rivera again this season, and as sad as that would be, I would be perfectly cool with that given the send-off last night. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details, then check out Crawfish Boxes for the latest and great on the Astros.
This had the potential to be a huge, season-defining series. Instead, the Yankees have lost six of their last nine games and are holding onto a microscopic chance — 0.3% according to Baseball Prospectus — of making the postseason. Their tragic number is three
meaning they could be eliminated this series even if they sweep.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays just buried the Orioles by sweeping a four-game series in Tampa. That series included two walk-off wins, one of which came in the 18th inning. Tampa has won nine of their last 12 games and is 87-69 with a +42 run differential. They are two games up on a wildcard spot and five games up on New York.
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+, the Rays have their best offensive team in a few years now. The days of scratching across a few runs and relying on the pitching are over, for at least one year. OF Desmond Jennings (111 wRC+) is nursing a minor hamstring injury and may sit out a few games as a precaution. Other than that, Tampa’s healthy.
As usual, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup revolves around 3B Evan Longoria (128 wRC+). 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (114 wRC+) always seems to punish the Yankees and OF Wil Myers (131 wRC+) has proven to be a tough out in his relatively young big league career. OF Matt Joyce (115 wRC+) and 1B James Loney (116 wRC+) have both been productive this year while 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (104 wRC+), OF David DeJesus (100 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (108 wRC+), and SS Yunel Escobar (101 wRC+) have been closer to average.
The Joses — Lobaton (109 wRC+) and Molina (76 wRC+) — split catching duties while OF Delmon Young (93 wRC+) and UTIL Sean Rodriguez (106 wRC+) will see time against lefties off the bench. OF Sam Fuld (52 wRC+) is more of a defensive replacement than anything. Maddon’s bench also includes C Chris Gimenez, IF Tim Beckham, and OF Freddy Guzman thanks to September call-ups. Remember Guzman? He was on the Yankees playoff roster in 2009 as a pinch-running specialist. Only appeared in two games though, both in the ALCS against the Angels.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
You’d never know it based on win-loss record and ERA, but the 24-year-old Moore has pitched almost exactly the same this year as he did during his rookie season last year. Here, look:
|Strikeout Rate||8.88 K/9 (23.1 K%)||8.68 K/9 (22.8 K%)|
|Walk Rate||4.11 BB/9 (10.7 BB%)||4.31 BB/9 (11.3 BB%)|
|Homer Rate||0.91 HR/9 (8.6% HR/FB)||0.90 HR/9 (8.8% HR/FB)|
|Ground Ball Rate||37.4%||39.1%|
The rate stats are essentially identical. Kinda neat. Also goes to show how much a 36-point drop in BABIP can help a pitcher’s record and his ERA. Anyway, Moore has seen his fastball velocity drop off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his two and four-seamers. His low-80s slurve — it’s more slider than curve at this point — and low-80s changeup are both legit put-away pitches. The Yankees have seen Moore a whole bunch of times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including four times this year. The good news is that each of those four starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, three runs in six innings in June, and five runs in five innings July. Would be cool if that trend continued.
Wednesday: TBA vs. LHP David Price
A triceps problem earlier this year really hampered the 28-year-old Price, but he’s been excellent the last three months and has a 3.43 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 25 starts overall. Both his strikeout (7.33 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and ground ball (45.0%) rates have taken big step downs this year, but his walk rate is a career-low (1.37 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%) and his homer rate is in line with his career norms (0.79 HR/9 and 8.8% HR/FB). Price is still the same fastball-heavy guy he’s always been, using mid-to-high-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter approximately 70% of the time combined. He’ll backdoor that cutter to righties for called strikes and there’s nothing they can do about it. Unhittable pitch. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball round out his arsenal. The Yankees and Price have seen plenty of each other over the years, so there are no surprises.
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb, 25, is in the process of emerging as the next great homegrown Rays ace. He’s got a 2.90 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 21 starts while missing a whole bunch of time after taking a line drive to the head. You probably remember that. Scary stuff. The combination of his strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.5 K%), walk (2.84 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), and ground ball (56.0%) rates is elite, and he’s pretty good at keeping the ball in the park too (0.86 HR/9 and 15.9% HR/FB). Cobb is a changeup master, using low-90s two and four-seamers to setup his fading mid-80s put-away pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball that can be absolutely filthy when it’s on. That pitch has really helped him this summer. Cobb has faced the Yankees a few times since breaking into the league three years ago and he tends to pitch very well against them — they’ve scored four runs in 22.1 innings against him this season (1.61 ERA).
Maddon had to really work his sore relievers hard during the Orioles series, and not just because of the 18-inning game. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (2.85 FIP) was off yesterday but pitched in three straight and four of five days before that, including two innings on Friday. Setup man RHP Joel Peralta (3.66 FIP) has pitched the last two days, three of the last four days, and four of the last six days. LHP Wesley Wright (4.05 FIP) and RHP Jamey Wright (2.99 FIP) have appeared in each of the last two days and three of the last four. Wright is just a lefty specialist though, so he only faced a batter or two each time out.
Setup LHP Alex Torres (2.40 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.41 FIP) both had two straight days off before pitching yesterday. RHP Roberto Hernandez (4.59 FIP) has taken over as the long man while LHP Cesar Ramos (3.96 FIP) is more a multi-inning lefty than a specialist. Trade deadline pickup RHP Jesse Crain (1.52 FIP) was just activated off the DL yesterday — the trade was structured so that the more he pitched for Tampa, the better the player to be named later would be — and has yet to appear in a game for Tampa. LHP Jeff Beliveau, RHP Brandon Gomes, RHP Jose Lueke, and RHP Jake Odorizzi round out the expanded roster bullpen.
The Yankees were off yesterday and are in fine bullpen shape. They haven’t used a single reliever other than David Robertson or Mariano Rivera since Thursday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, I recommend The Process Report and DRays Bay.
I have to think more than a few people (and television networks) were expecting this late-season interleague matchup to be more meaningful and interesting than it really is. Both the Yankees and Giants are big disappointments this year. Fun Fact: The Giants will be only the second defending World Series winner to play in the New Yankee Stadium, joining the Phillies in 2009. That isn’t counting the 2010 Yankees, obviously.
What Have They Done Lately?
Despite the down year, the Giants have actually played pretty well of late. They just took two of three from the Mets in Flushing and three of four from the Dodgers before coming East. San Francisco has won five of their last six games and sit in fourth place in the NL West at 71-84 with a -54 run differential. They’ve already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
For some reason the Giants are generally considered a poor offensive team — it’s a stigma that has stuck over the years — but they’re almost perfectly league average this year at 3.9 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+. That’s not great but it’s average, and average is … well … average. Could be worse, they could be the Yankees (86 wRC+). San Francisco is without 2B Marco Scutaro (111 wRC+) and OF Andres Torres (83 wRC+) due to injury. Scutaro (finger) is expected back at some this season but probably not this weekend. Torres (Achilles) is done for the year.
Manager Bruce Bochy’s lineup revolves around three guys: reigning NL MVP Buster Posey (137 wRC+), 1B Brandon Belt (138 wRC+), and OF Hunter Pence (137 wRC+). Posey has been dealing with a finger injury and comes into the series relatively slumping (99 wRC+ last 14 days) while Pence is currently on an insane contract drive (202 wRC+ last 30 days). 3B Pablo Sandoval (110 wRC+) is having a good but not great year and OF Angel Pagan (114 wRC+ in limited time) has been solid when not injured.
The rest of Bochy’s regular lineup includes SS Brandon Crawford (96 wRC+) and OF Gregor Blanco (97 wRC+). Backup C Hector Sanchez (103 wRC+ in limited time) figures to get some at-bats this weekend thanks to the DH. OF Juan Perez (70 wRC+ in limited time), OF Roger Kieschnick (53 wRC+ in very limited time), 1B/OF Brett Pill (82 wRC+), IF Tony Abreu (80 wRC+ in limited time), and former Yankees prospect/IF Joaquin Arias (77 wRC+) are the regular bench players. The crop of September call-ups includes C Johnny Monell, IF Ehire Adrianza, IF Nick Noonan, and OF Francisco Peguero.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Tim Lincecum
Boy would this have been a fun matchup as recently as 2011. Instead, we have too former Cy Young Award winners who are trying to figure out why they suddenly transformed into back-end starters. Lincecum, 29, has a 4.40 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 30 starts this season, so he’s been considerably better than last year (5.18 ERA and 4.18 FIP) but still much worse than his heyday from 2008-2011 (2.81 ERA and 2.81 FIP). His strikeout rate (8.85 K/9 and 23.1 K%) is excellent and his ground ball rate (45.2%) is very good, but he walks a few too many (3.52 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%) and is really homer prone (0.98 HR/9 and 12.4% HR/FB), especially considering his home park. Lincecum’s two and four-seam fastballs have tapered off in recent years and sit right around 90 mph these days. His best pitch is a low-to-mid-80s changeup with crazy movement down and away from lefties, but he’ll also throw low-80s sliders and mid-70s curveballs. That wide arsenal is why he has a tiny platoon split. Lincecum has never faced the Yankees in his career, and in fact only former NLers Mark Reynolds and Alfonso Soriano have seen him more than a handful of times.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong
The 36-year-old Vogelsong missed almost three months earlier this season when he needed surgery to repair a fracture in his pitching hand after being hit by a pitch — at least the NL has all that strategy amirite? — and overall this has been his worst big league season since resurfacing two years ago. He’s pitched to a 5.73 ERA (4.91 FIP) in 17 starts after putting up a 3.05 ERA (3.68 FIP) from 2011-2012. Vogelsong spent 2006-2010 bouncing around Japan and minors after flaming out with the Pirates in the early-2000s. His peripherals are mediocre across the board this year: 6.12 K/9 (15.0 K%), 3.21 BB/9 (7.9 BB%), 1.36 HR/9 (14.3% HR/FB), and 41.7% grounders. Vogelsong is a true five-pitch pitcher with two fastballs (upper-80s two and four-seamers), two breaking balls (mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball), and one offspeed pitch (low-80s changeup). Right-handers have destroyed him this season (.410 wOBA) and lefties haven’t had a hard time either (.329 wOBA), but that split is the reverse of the last two years. Lefties usually gave him a harder time than righties. Vogelsong made two relief appearances against the Yankees back in 2005 and they mean nothing right now.
Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Yusmeiro Petit
The Yankees probably aren’t going to make the playoffs, but at least we’ll get to see a Pettitte vs. Petit pitching matchup. John Sterling will have a field day. The 29-year-old Petit has a 3.08 ERA (2.10 FIP) in five starts and one relief appearance for San Francisco this year, and two weeks ago he got to within one out of a perfect game. Former Yankee Eric Chavez broke it up with a single with two outs in the ninth. Petit, who the Mets traded to the Marlins for Carlos Delgado back in the day, lives in the mid-to-upper-80s with his cutter and four-seam fastball. A low-80s slider headlines his array of offspeed offerings, which also includes a low-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. Like Lincecum and (for all intents and purposes) Vogelsong, Petit has never faced the Yankees in his career.
The Mets and Dodgers did the Yankees a solid these last few days and really worked Bochy’s bullpen hard. Closer RHP Sergio Romo (2.91 FIP) has pitched three of the last five and four of the last seven days. Setup men RHP
Jairo Garcia Santiago Casilla (3.68 FIP) and LHP Javier Lopez (2.21 FIP) have both pitched each of the last three days. Casilla has pitched four of the last five and six of the last eight (!) days as well. Even if those guys do pitch this weekend, they’ll probably be out of gas.
With those three having been worked hard, RHP Jean Machi (2.51 FIP) and former Yankee RHP George Kontos (3.98 FIP) figure to pick up the late-inning slack. LHP Jeremy Affeldt (4.44 FIP) is done for the year with a groin problem, so Bochy’s only other veteran lefty aside from Lopez is LHP Jose Mijares (3.13 FIP). RHP Guillermo Moscoso (4.94 FIP) is the regular long man. The Giants are carrying a 13-man bullpen that includes September call-ups RHP Jake Dunning, RHP Heath Hembree, LHP Mike Kickham, and RHP Sandy Rosario. LHP Barry Zito (5.02 FIP) is technically in the bullpen, but he hasn’t pitched since September 2nd and has made just one appearance since August 26th. He’s just kinda there as the team waits for his contract to expire after the season.
The Yankees bullpen is in decent shape coming into the series, and rumor has it Boone Logan (elbow) will be available for the opener tonight. That is still subject to change, however. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage details, then check out McCovey Chronicles for the latest and greatest on the Giants. It’s one of the very best and most entertaining team blogs you’ll find.
Once upon a time, it looked like this series would play a huge role in the AL East race. The Blue Jays were offseason darlings and the Yankees are pretty much always in contention, so back in Spring Training it seemed like a late-season series between the two clubs would have a huge impact on the division. Instead, Toronto sits in last place and New York has already been relegated to wildcard or bust.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays were off yesterday just like the Yankees. They lost two of three to the Orioles over the weekend and have lost five of their last six games overall. Toronto is 68-81 with a -47 run differential, both the fifth worst marks in the league. Their next loss officially eliminates them from postseason contention.
At 4.4 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, the Blue Jays are almost an exactly league average offense. They are without RF Jose Bautista (133 wRC+), IF Maicer Izturis (63 wRC+), and LF Melky Cabrera (86 wRC+) though, all of whom are out for the season with injury. CF Colby Rasmus (126 wRC+) recently came off the DL but is being eased back into things.
Manager John Gibbons has an elite power hitter in the middle of his lineup in 1B Edwin Encarnacion (144 wRC+). He still has more walks (82) and extra-base hits (66) than strikeouts (62). SS Jose Reyes (114 wRC+) is still as good as it gets in the leadoff spot and DH Adam Lind (127 wRC+) has had a strong bounceback year. 3B Brett Lawrie (95 wRC+) has been okay, as has UTIL Mark DeRosa (98 wRC+) in a reserve role. The lineup is pretty thinned out without Bautista and Rasmus.
C J.P. Arencibia (61 wRC+), OF Rajai Davis (84 wRC+), and IF Munenori Kawasaki (76 wRC+) are probably the only other guys on the roster everyone will recognize. OF Moises Sierra (152 wRC+ in very limited time) and 2B Ryan Goins (51 wRC+ in very limited time) both play regularly thanks to the injuries. CF Anthony Gose (76 wRC+ in limited time) and C Josh Thole (26 wRC+) are regulars on the bench while the crop of September call-ups include C Mike Nickeas and OF Kevin Pillar. Reyes and Encarnacion make this lineup dangerous by themselves, but the bottom of the order is really weak.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP R.A Dickey
Dickey, 38, has a 4.36 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 31 starts this season after taking home the NL Cy Young Award last summer. Can’t imagine that’s what the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they made the trade over the winter. Dickey’s peripherals have declined across the board: 6.89 K/9 (18.1 K%), 2.98 BB/9 (7.8 BB%), 1.38 HR/9 (12.4% HR/FB), and 40.8% grounders. he uses just one mid-70s knuckleball these days, having apparently lost the second low-80s knuckler that made him so effective last year. A low-80s fastball is his get-me-over-pitch. Lefties (.341 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.308 wOBA). The Yankees have faced Dickey a few times this season and he’s actually pitched quite well against them. He hasn’t dominated, but he hasn’t been a pushover either.
Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP J.A. Happ
The 30-year-old Happ was carted off the field after taking a line drive to the side of the head and suffering a very small skull fracture (and knee strain) four months ago. He’s made eight starts since returning from the DL and has pitched well in half of them, and overall he owns 5.15 ERA (4.14 FIP). The southpaw has missed enough bats (7.49 K/9 and 18.3 K%) and kept the ball in the park (0.98 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), but his walk (4.66 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%) and ground ball (37.9%) rates are well-below-average. Happ is a five-pitch guy, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. Both his slider and changeup come in in the low-80s, his curveball in the mid-70s. The Yankees have seen Happ three times this year and have hit him hard twice.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Todd Redmond
Redmond, 28, has a 4.10 ERA (4.19FIP) in eleven starts and three relief appearances this year as injuries have thinned out Toronto’s rotation. His strikeout (9.33 K/9 and 24.8 K%) and walk (2.69 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) rates are stellar while the homer (1.41 HR/9 and 11.8% HR/FB) and ground ball (31.0%) numbers are underwhelming. Redmond uses sinkers and four-seamers right around 90 mph to setup his bread-and-butter low-80s slider. He uses the slider almost three out of every ten pitches. Low-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs are his rarely-used fourth and fifth offerings. Redmond held the Yankees to two runs in 5.2 innings late last month, the only time he’s faced them.
Like I said, the Blue Jays were off yesterday, so their bullpen is well-rested. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.96 FIP) is setup by RHP Steve Delabar (2.72 FIP), LHP Brett Cecil (2.88 FIP), RHP Sergio Santos (2.47 FIP in limited time), and LHP Darren Oliver (4.23 FIP). LHP Aaron Loup (3.28 FIP) and RHP Neil Wagner (4.21 FIP) handle the middle innings. The army of September call-ups includes RHP Kyle Drabek, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Chad Jenkins, RHP Dustin McGowan, LHP Luis Perez, and LHP Ricky Romero. Yes, that Ricky Romero.
The Yankees are in good bullpen shape and not just because of the off-day. The late-game trio of Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Shawn Kelley did not pitch at all this weekend and should be very well-rested. Boone Logan is still out with his elbow problem, however. Our Bullpen Workload page has the full recent reliever usage details. Check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb for the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays.
The Red Sox demolished the Yankees in Yankee Stadium last weekend, or at least they demolished their pitching staff. The Bombers had no answer for Boston’s lineup in the first three games. The rivalry moves to Fenway Park this weekend for three huge games. Huge for New York, that is.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Red Sox lost to the Rays yesterday but otherwise took two of three in Tampa. They’ve won eleven of their last 14 games and own the league’s best record and run differential at 89-59 and +167, respectively. Boston leads the AL East by seven games in the loss column and has the division all but wrapped up with a little more than two weeks to play.
At 5.2 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+, Boston is one of the very best hitting teams in all the land. They have a 136 wRC+ as a team over the last two weeks. That’s an entire lineup hitting almost like Robinson Cano (140 wRC+) for a two week period. Insane. The Red Sox are without their catalyst CF Jacoby Ellsbury (111 wRC+), who has a broken bone in his foot and hopes to return in time for the postseason. Here’s their only injured position player.
It seems like manager John Farrell has nothing but good hitters in his lineup, and that’s because he usually does. 2B Dustin Pedroia (112 wRC+), OF Shane Victorino (118 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (149 wRC+), 1B Mike Napoli (124 wRC+), OF Daniel Nava (128 wRC+), and SS Stephen Drew (103 wRC+) play pretty much everyday. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (106 wRC+) catches regularly while OF Jonny Gomes (101 wRC+) subs in against left-handers. 3B Will Middlebrooks (91 wRC+) has been excellent for a few weeks now. That’s pretty much the regular lineup right there.
1B Mike Carp (152 wRC+ in limited time) has been a force off the bench and headlines the group of reserves. Backup C David Ross (82 wRC+ in limited time) usually plays against lefties and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (58 wRC+) has seen more playing time with Ellsbury hurt. Top prospect IF Xander Bogaerts (106 wRC+ in very limited time) hasn’t played all that much since coming up last month. September call-ups C Ryan Lavarnway, IF John McDonald, UTIL Brandon Snyder, and pinch-runner OF Quintin Berry fill out the rest of the position player crop.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP John Lackey
Lackey, 34, is having his best season as a Red Sox (Sock?) thanks to his new elbow. He has a 3.48 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 26 starts with very good walk (1.98 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) and ground ball (47.4%) rates. His strikeout (7.70 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and homer (1.13 HR/9 and 12.5% HR/FB) totals are just okay though. Lackey has thrown six different pitches this year but he leans heavily on three: his low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s cutter, and upper-70s curve. He’s thrown those pitches roughly 90% of the time combined. A low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s slider are rarely used fourth, fifth, and sixth offerings. Lackey has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .290 wOBA against him while righties are at .341 — for whatever reason. That’s an outlier compared to the rest of his career. The Yankees scored seven runs against Lackey in 5.2 innings last weekend and still managed to lose.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
The 29-year-old Lester has had a very up and down (and up again) season. He’s sitting on a 3.86 ERA (3.66 FIP) with strikeout (7.45 K/9 and 19.5 K%) and walk (2.84 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) rates that are damn near identical his disaster season a year ago. His ground ball rate (43.9%) has dropped and yet he’s giving up significantly fewer homers (0.84 HR/9 and 8.4% HR/FB), which doesn’t really make sense considering his home ballpark. Lester’s four-seam fastball recently jumped back into the mid-90s and he’s shelved his upper-80s cutter. That was the pitch he fell in love with and got him into trouble. A low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball round out his repertoire. Lester held New York to three runs in eight innings — the rare complete-game loss — last weekend. These two have seen each other plenty of times over the years. No surprises.
Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Clay Buchholz
Buchholz, 28, just came off the DL after missing more than three months with a neck problem. He held the Rays scoreless for five innings in his first start back and has a stellar 1.61 ERA (2.40 FIP) in 13 games this season. His strikeout (8.76 K/9 and 25.4 K%) and ground ball (48.4%) rates are very good, his walk rate (3.02 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) is pretty good, and his homer rate (0.20 HR/9 and 3.0% HR/FB) is off the charts. Unsustainably off the charts. Buchholz will rarely throw his low-90s two-seamer, instead preferring his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and upper-80s cutter when setting up his knockout low-80s changeup. He’ll also throw upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Buchholz a bunch of times over the years including twice this year: one run in seven innings in April and five scoreless innings in June.
Farrell’s bullpen is in decent shape, though both closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.68 FIP) and RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.13 FIP) have pitched twice in the last three days. That could impact their availability at some point this weekend. Uehara has retired 34 straight batters and it would be neat if that streak ended this weekend. Actually, I’d rather not see him at all. RHP Brandon Workman (3.48 FIP) has become a trusted late-inning reliever but threw two innings on Wednesday. LHP Craig Breslow (3.74 FIP) is Farrell’s top southpaw. LHP Drake Britton (3.15 FIP in limited time), LHP Franklin Morales (4.93 FIP in limited time) and LHP Matt Thornton (4.07 FIP) make up the rest of the bullpen alongside September call-ups RHP Rubby De La Rosa and RHP Allen Webster.
Joe Girardi, on the other hand, has a tired and worn out bullpen. Mariano Rivera has pitched each of the last three days and four of the last five, throwing 84 total pitches since Sunday. Hard to believe he’ll be available tonight, but I said the same thing yesterday. David Robertson has appeared in back-to-back games after missing about a week with shoulder fatigue. Boone Logan is still unavailable because his elbow is barking. Shawn Kelley might be the closer and a bunch of call-ups might be the setup men tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for a breakdown of the carnage, then check out Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
Despite yesterday’s walk-off win, the first four games of this incredibly important eleven-game stretch have been a disaster. The Yankees are now off to Baltimore for another four-game series after four nightmarish games against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. Needless to say, they can’t afford to get smacked around like that again. This is a huge series for both teams.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles lost yesterday but otherwise took three of four from the White Sox over the weekend. They lost two of three in three straight series prior to that, all against teams in the playoff hunt (Red Sox, Yankees, Indians). Manager Buck Showalter’s team comes into this series with a 76-66 record and a +45 run differential, two back of the Rays and one up on the Yankees in the second wildcard race.
Although they aren’t as deep and relentless as the Boston lineup, the Orioles are one of the best offensive teams in baseball with an average of 4.7 runs per game and a team 102 wRC+. It is a lineup full of hackers through, with a team 6.7% walk rate that is the lowest in the AL. You don’t need to attack the zone to beat them. Baltimore’s only two injured position players are OF Nolan Reimold (51 wRC+) and former Yankee OF/1B Steve Pearce (92 wRC+). Neither will return this series.
Showalter’s lineup revolves around three guys: 1B Chris Davis (173 wRC+), CF Adam Jones (125 wRC+), and 3B Manny Machado (108 wRC+). Davis has only hit two homeruns in his last 16 games, but don’t let that fool you. He can go deep at a moment’s notice. DH Danny Valencia (163 wRC+ in limited time) has done some mighty fine platoon work while SS J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and OF Nate McLouth (103 wRC+) have been solid as well. OF Mike Morse (86 wRC+ overall) hasn’t done a whole lot since coming over from the Mariners.
Neither OF Nick Markakis (84 wRC+) nor C Matt Wieters (87 wRC+) is hitting like expected. 2B Brian Roberts (83 wRC+) and UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) have part-tie roles. The Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups; Showalter has a nine-man bench that includes C Chris Snyder, C Steve Clevenger, IF Alexi Casilla, IF Ryan Flaherty, IF Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia, and former Yankee OF Chris Dickerson. The O’s lead baseball (by a lot) with 197 homers.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Chris Tillman
Tillman, 25, was an undeserving All-Star (over Hiroki Kuroda) because of his sexy win-loss record earlier this summer, but he has been legitimately above-average in the second half (3.26 ERA and 3.77 FIP) after a blah first half (3.95 ERA and 4.94 FIP). He’s sitting on a 3.71 ERA (4.53 FIP) overall in 28 starts this year with good but not great strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) rates and awful ground ball (38.7%) and homer (1.41 HR/9 and 14.0% HR/FB) rates. Tillman works primarily off a low-90s four-seamer but will also mix in the occasional low-90s cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his top two offspeed pitches, though he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s sliders in each start. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split this year. The Yankees have seen plenty of Tillman over the years and they usually crush him. He’s had one good (two runs in six innings) and one not so good (five runs in 5.1 innings) start against New York this year.
Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
The 29-year-old Gonzalez has been decent (3.98 ERA and 4.41 FIP) in 24 starts (and two relief appearances) this year after breaking out with a 3.25 ERA (4.38 FIP) in his big league debut last summer. He is getting a few more grounders (40.1%) in 2013 but otherwise his peripherals are almost entirely unchanged: 6.43 K/9 (17.1 K%), 2.88 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), and 1.22 HR/9 (11.6% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his wipeout low-to-mid-80s split-changeup hybrid, which is a true put-away pitch. He’ll also throw mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curves. He doesn’t have a platoon split thanks to the split-change. Gonzalez completely dominated the Yankees up until last weekend, when they hung seven runs on him in four innings. Their approach in that game seemed to be to swing early in the count to prevent him from using the split-change, so we’ll see if that’s how they attack this time around.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Feldman, 30, has been a nice little pickup for the Orioles and solid (3.54 ERA and 3.76 FIP) in 26 starts overall this season. He’s all about getting grounders (49.9%) and limiting walks (2.53 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%) and homers (0.79 HR/9 and 9.3% HR/FB). Strikeouts (6.46 K/9 and 17.3 K%) aren’t really his thing. Feldman is basically a three-pitch pitcher: low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter, and mid-70s curveball. He doesn’t use his mid-80s changeup all that often and like most of his rotation mates, he doesn’t have a platoon split. Feldman held the Yankees to one run in seven innings last time out and they’ve faced him a bunch of times in recent years while he was with the Rangers.
Thursday: LHP David Huff vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
An oblique injury has limited Chen, 28, to just 19 starts this season. He’s been rock solid (3.82 ERA and 4.04 FIP) with a good walk rate (2.65 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and tolerable homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). The Taiwanese-born southpaw has seen both his strikeout (6.32 K/9 and 17.2 K%) and ground ball (33.9%) totals drop big time this year. Chen’s five-pitch arsenal includes low-90s two and four-seamers, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. He doesn’t use the curve all that much but will throw the other four pitches regularly. Chen has a nice-sized platoon split — he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA while righties have tagged him for a .331 wOBA — and the Yankees got to him for three runs and five walks in four laborious innings last weekend.
None of Showalter’s core late-game relievers were used yesterday but all have worked a lot of late. Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.73 FIP) has pitched three of the last five days, RHP Tommy Hunter (3.70 FIP) has appeared twice in the last four days, and RHP Darren O’Day (3.62 FIP) threw two innings on Saturday. Opening Day starter RHP Jason Hammel (5.07 FIP) is working out of the bullpen now following an elbow strain. He threw two innings yesterday.
LHP Brian Matusz (3.07 FIP) is the team’s go-to southpaw while RHP Kevin Gausman (4.56 FIP) handles long relief assignments. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.71 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.48 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (3.72 FIP) get the call in the middle innings. Again, the Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups. They’re carrying an eleven-man bullpen at the moment. RHP Steve Johnson and RHP Josh Stinson fill out the rest of the reliever staff.
The Yankees have a bullpen mess on their hands right now. Mariano Rivera threw two innings and 35 pitches yesterday. Both David Robertson (shoulder) and Boone Logan (biceps, forearm) are out with injuries. Shawn Kelley threw an inning yesterday after missing a week with a triceps problem. There are currently 13 relievers on the roster, but fewer than that are actually available tonight and even fewer are actually trustworthy. Like I said, a bullpen mess. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for the usage details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the O’s.
Even though the Yankees don’t have much of a chance of catching the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East, this is a hugely important series for New York’s playoff chances. They’re no longer in direct competition with Boston for a postseason berth, but they are in desperate need of every win possible. Once again, this is the biggest series of the year. At least until the next one.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Red Sox absolutely clobbered the Tigers yesterday. Like 20-4 with a franchise record-tying eight homeruns clobbered. Boston took two of three from the defending AL champs and have won nine of their last eleven games overall. They sit atop the division at 84-57 with a +154 run differential, both the best marks in the league. The Yankees are seven games back of the Sawx in the loss column.
At 5.1 runs per game with a team 112 wRC+, the Red Sox have the best offensive team in baseball. That’s kinda scary considering how shaky the non-Ivan Nova/first 85 pitches of Andy Pettitte part of the rotation has been recently. OF Jacoby Ellsbury (110 wRC+) and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (108 wRC+) are both dealing with nagging injuries and are listed as day-to-day, but they’ll play tonight. Don’t worry.
Behind Ellsbury, manager John Farrell has the highly productive trio of OF Shane Victorino (116 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (114 wRC+), and DH David Ortiz (153 wRC+). Victorino recently abandoned switch-hitting and bats from the right side exclusively now. OF Jonny Gomes (102 wRC+) has been very productive of late as well. 1B Mike Napoli (115 wRC+) has been hot and cold, ditto SS Stephen Drew (108 wRC+) and OF Daniel Nava (129 wRC+). 3B Will Middlebrooks (84 wRC+) has been pretty good since returning from the minors a few weeks ago.
1B/OF Mike Carp (141 wRC+in part-time duty) has been a force off the bench for Farrell. The team is also carrying top prospect IF Xander Bogaerts (85 wRC+ in very limited time) and they recently welcomed back backup C David Ross (84 wRC+ in limited time) from a concussion. Their crop of call-ups and extra bodies includes OF Quintin Berry, C Ryan Lavarnway, IF John McDonald, and UTIL Brandon Snyder. I wouldn’t worry about those guys too much. Expect the Red Sox to rely on their regulars heavily this weekend in an effort to clinch the division and bury their oldest historic rival.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jake Peavy
The Red Sox went out and upgraded their rotation at the trade deadline by acquiring the 33-year-old Peavy in a three-team deal. He’s pitched to a 3.91 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 19 starts this year while missing more than a month with a fracture in his ribcage. His strikeout (7.52 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and walk (1.73 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) rates are in line with the last few years but his homer (1.35 HR/9 and 11.0% HR/FB) and ground ball (34.0%) numbers are career worsts by a decent margin. Peavy is a fastball-heavy six-pitch pitcher, using his low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, and upper-80s cutter about 75% of the time. A low-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw upper-70s curveballs and low-80s sliders. His platoon split is relatively small thanks to the changeup. Peavy actually made his big league debut against the Yankees back in 2002, but otherwise he hasn’t faced them very much by virtue of being in the NL and/or injured.
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Felix Doubront
Doubront, 25, has taken some steps forward this year and owns a 3.89 ERA (3.52 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance). Almost all of his improvement stems from cutting his homerun rate in half — he went from a 1.34 HR/9 (15.9% HR/FB) last year to a 0.66 HR/9 (7.4% HR/FB) this year. His true talent level is probably somewhere in between given his home ballpark and the other hitter friendly parks in the division. Doubront’s walk (3.59 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) and ground ball (46.5%) rates have improved slightly but his strikeout rate (7.96 K/9 and 20.5 K%) has dropped off big time from 2012. He uses four pitches regularly, including a mid-80s changeup that seems to give the Yankees fits. He sets that and his mid-70s curveball up with low-90s two and four-seamers. A mid-80s cutter is an infrequently used fifth offering. His platoon split is small. Doubront has pitched very well against the Yankees these last few years, but they did rough him up for seven runs in four innings last month.
Saturday: LHP David Huff vs. RHP John Lackey
Thanks to his brand new elbow, Lackey is having his best season since before signing with Boston. The 34-year-old has a 3.22 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 25 starts with very good walk (1.89 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%) and ground ball (47.1%) rates. His strikeout (7.71 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and homer (1.16 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB) totals are worse than what you’d like to see. Lackey has thrown six different pitches this year but he leans heavily on three: his low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s cutter, and upper-70s curve. He’s thrown those pitches more than 90% of the time combined. A low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s slider are rarely used fourth through sixth offerings. For whatever reason, Lackey has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .282 wOBA against him while righties are at .344 — that doesn’t jibe with the rest of his career. The Yankees have faced the big right-hander a bunch of times over the years and have one good game (four runs in 6.1 innings) and one bad game (one run in 6.2 innings) against him in two meetings this year.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Jon Lester
I’m not sure what to make of the 29-year-old Lester anymore. He started this season very well, was terrible for a good portion of the summer, but has been awesome of late. He’s sitting on a 3.88 ERA (3.70 FIP) with strikeout (7.48 K/9 and 19.6 K%) and walk (2.91 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) rates that are damn near identical his disaster season a year ago. His ground ball rate (44.2%) has dropped and yet he’s giving up significantly fewer homers (0.87 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). Furthermore, Lester’s four-seam fastball recently jumped back into the mid-90s and he’s begun to shelve his upper-80s cutter. A low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Lester plenty of times over the years and know everything there is to know about him. No surprises here.
Thanks to yesterday’s laugher, the Red Sox were able to rest all of their important late-game relievers and come into this series in good bullpen shape. Closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.83 FIP) has been untouchable for about two months now, but he doesn’t really have a set setup man. RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.15 FIP), LHP Craig Breslow (3.69 FIP), RHP Brandon Workman (3.38 FIP), and LHP Matt Thornton (4.00 FIP) all rotate in and out of the role depending on who’s pitching well at the time. LHP Drake Britton (2.80 FIP in limited time), RHP Rubby De La Rosa (7.54 FIP in very limited time), and LHP Franklin Morales (4.65 FIP in limited time) round out the eight-man bullpen.
Even though the Yankees had to use both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson yesterday, their bullpen is still in very good shape heading into tonight’s series opener. Those two have actually had a surprising amount of time off recently. Thanks to the expanded rosters, Joe Girardi has a whopping eleven relievers at his disposal. I’m guess we’ll see all eleven at some point this weekend. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
The White Sox are a big reason why the Yankees are four games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column and not much closer to the race. They swept three games from New York in Chicago last month, including a gut-wrenching walk-off win in the finale after Robinson Cano gave the Bombers the lead in extra-innings. That can’t happen again.
What Have They Done Lately?
The White Sox just got swept by the Red Sox in Boston, which is usually what happens when one of the worst teams in baseball goes on the road against the one of the best teams in baseball. Former Yankee player and current ChiSox manager Robin Ventura’s team actually won ten of 12 games before going to Fenway Park. At 56-79 with a -71 run differential, they sit in last place in the AL Central and have the third worst record in the entire game.
The south-siders average just 3.8 runs per game with a team 84 wRC+, making them the worst offensive team in the AL and second worst in baseball overall. Only a Marlins (70 wRC+!) are worse. The White Sox do not have any position players on the DL at the moment, though they did trade away OF Alex Rios (98 wRC+) since the last time these two teams met.
Ventura has just one legitimately above-average hitter on this roster: 1B/DH Adam Dunn (112 wRC+). The odds of him hitting a homer this series is like, infinity. OF Avisail Garcia (107 wRC+) has been very good since coming over at the trade deadline, but he’s only had 87 plate appearances with the team. OF Alejandro De Aza (100 wRC+), 2B Gordon Beckham (94 wRC+), and OF Dayan Viciedo (92 wRC+) are useful while SS Alexei Ramirez (83 wRC+) and 1B Paul Konerko (80 wRC+) aren’t. Konerko is pretty much done at age 37.
The rest of the regular lineup includes 3B Conor Gillaspie (81 wRC+) and C Josh Phegley (41 wRC+). IF Jeff Keppinger (52 wRC+) plays regularly because he signed a three-year contract this offseason. OF Jordan Danks (95 wRC+ in limited time), C Tyler Flowers (58 wRC+), IF Leury Garcia (23 wRC+ in very limited time), and C Brayan Anderson (has not played) round out the bench. The ChiSox are carrying 14 position players after rosters expanded yesterday.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Jose Quintana
Quintana, 24, is probably the best pitcher to come out of the Yankees farm system since Chien-Ming Wang. The southpaw has a 3.71 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 301 career innings and a 3.66 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 164.2 innings across 27 starts this season. His peripherals are solid across the board: 7.54 K/9 (20.0 K%), 2.60 BB/9 (7.0 BB%), 0.93 HR/9 (9.3% HR/FB), and 43.2% grounders. Quintana isn’t a star but he’s a rock solid mid-rotation arm already. Too bad he got away. A low-90s four-seamer is Quintana’s primary fastball, but he will mix in the occasional low-90s two-seamer and upper-80s sinker. A handful each start. An upper-70s curveball and mid-80 changeup are his two offspeed pitches with the curve ahead of the change. Quintana actually has a reverse split this year — lefties have a .332 wOBA against him, righties .289. The Yankees have faced their former farmhand just two before, including last month, when he held them to one run in 6.2 innings.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Chris Sale
Outside of Clayton Kershaw, I don’t think there’s a better left-handed pitcher in baseball than the 24-year-old Sale. He comes into this start with a 2.99 ERA (3.11 FIP) and spectacular peripherals, including a 9.63 K/9 (26.5 K%) and 1.95 BB/9 (5.4 BB%). Sale also gets a nice amount of grounders (46.3%) and generally limits homers (0.95 HR/9 and 12.3% HR/FB) considering his home park yields a ton of dingers. His nasty three-pitch mix includes a mid-to-upper-90s two-seamer, a wipeout upper-70s slider, and a fading low-80s changeup. All three are viable weapons and not any kind show-me pitch. Sale annihilates lefty batters (.178 wOBA against) and is merely pretty good against righties (.304 wOBA). The Yankees have faced the southpaw just twice since he moved into the rotation last year and he dominated them both times — one run in 7.2 innings (with 13 strikeouts) last year, one run in 7.1 innings last month. He’d be in the Cy Young mix he the White Sox weren’t terrible and his record was better than 10-12.
Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Hector Santiago
These are the same three pitchers in the exact same order the Yankees faced when they went to Chicago last month, so the Newark-raised Santiago gets the ball in the finale. The 25-year-old has been a true swingman for the ChiSox this year, pitching to a 3.43 ERA (4.33 FIP) in 133.2 innings across 20 starts and eleven relief appearances. He’s got a good strikeout rate (8.69 K/9 and 22.1 K%) and an okay homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 9.3% HR/9), but he walks too many (4.38 BB/9 and 11.2 BB%) and rarely gets ground balls (36.0%). Santiago will use seven different pitches, but his top three offerings are a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, and a low-80s changeup. He’ll also thrown an upper-80s cutter, an upper-70s slider, a mid-70s curveball, and a mid-70s screwball on occasion. Here’s a .GIF of the screwball. Santiago doesn’t have a platoon split and he gave up four runs to the Yankees in 5.2 innings last month.
Update: The ChiSox just announced they have pushed Santiago back to Thursday, so he will not pitch against the Yankees. Wednesday’s starter is currently listed as TBA.
Now that rosters have expanded, pretty much every team has fresh arms in the bullpen. ChiSox closer RHP Addison Reed (2.87 FIP) hasn’t pitched in about a week while setup man RHP Nate Jones (2.60 FIP) pitched yesterday just to get some work. RHP Matt Lindstrom (3.16 FIP) is fresh as well. Long man LHP Charlie Lessman (5.60 FIP in very limited time) soaked up 4.1 innings yesterday and won’t be available for a few days. LHP David Purcey (5.24 FIP in limited time), LHP Donnie Veal (4.89 FIP in limited time), RHP Dylan Axelrod (5.54 FIP), and RHP Jake Petricka (3.68 FIP in very limited time) round out the rest of the Ventura’s bullpen. They added just one extra arm yesterday, but I assume more are on the way.
The Yankees are in fine shape bullpen-wise, especially since David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have both pitched just once in the last seven days. Preston Claiborne will return today to add some more setup depth after Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, and Brett Marshall joined the team yesterday. Our Bullpen Workload page has all the recent reliever usage details and South Side Sox has everything you could possibly want to know about the White Sox.
Biggest series of the year? Biggest series of the year. At least until the next series, anyway. The Yankees have a tiny — 7.0% according to Cool Standings and 4.1% according to Baseball Prospectus — chance of making the postseason at this point and if they want to capitalize, they have to do some damage this weekend. Winning two of three probably isn’t good enough anymore.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Buck Showalter’s team held on to beat the Red Sox yesterday but lost the previous two games and the series. The Orioles have been playing roughly .500 baseball for about a month now and come into this series with a 71-61 record and a +39 run differential. They’re two games up on the Yankees in the loss column and three games back of the Athletics for the second wildcard spot.
Even though they average 4.8 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, Baltimore claimed Mike Morse (90 wRC+) off waivers and added him via trade this afternoon to bolster the offense for the stretch drive. It’s possible one or both of those guys will wind up playing against the Yankees this weekend. The Orioles’ only injured position player is OF Nolan Reimold (52 wRC+), who is done for the year with a knee problem.
The offensive conversation starts with 1B Chris Davis (181 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (111 wRC+), who lead the league in homers (47) and doubles (45), respectively. OF Adam Jones (123 wRC+) is always dangerous and OF Nate McLouth (104 wRC+) does a nice job setting the table. SS J.J. Hardy (99 wRC+) can hit the ball out of the park, if nothing else. OF Nick Markakis (88 wRC+) and C Matt Wieters (83 wRC+) are two guys who should be doing more but have simply stalled out.
2B Brian Roberts (86 wRC+) is back playing second base everyday, at least until his next injury. IF Danny Valencia (135 wRC+ in limited time) and former Yankee UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) form the DH platoon. IF Alexi Casilla (53 wRC+), OF Steve Pearce (92 wRC+ in limited time), and backup C Taylor Teagarden (26 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Reminder: Rosters expand on September 1st, so expect both clubs to have some extra players come Sunday.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 29, has been the Yankees kryptonite these last two years. He has a solid 3.77 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 22 starts (and two relief appearances) this season and a 3.54 ERA (4.34 FIP) since breaking into the league last year, but in six career starts against the Bombers he has a 2.27 ERA (~2.95 FIP). That includes last year’s ALDS. In three starts against New York this season, he’s gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs each time. The guy just dominates the Yankees.
Aside from a solid walk rate (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), nothing about Gonzalez’s underlying performance stands out. He doesn’t miss bats (6.55 K/9 and 17.4 K%) or get ground balls (39.3%), plus he allows a bunch of homers (1.19 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his bread-and-butter low-80 splitter/changeup hybrid. That’s the pitch that have given the Yankees fits. A mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball round out his five-pitch repertoire. Because of that split-change, Gonzalez has basically no platoon split. He’s solid overall and Cy Young against New York.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Scott Feldman
The Orioles acquired the 30-year-old Feldman from the Cubs to shore up their rotation a few weeks ago. He’s got a 3.87 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 24 total starts this year, which is pretty close to a career year for him. Feldman is a ground ball guy (49.3%) who limits walks (2.68 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) and homers (0.87 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) but doesn’t strike out many batters (6.67 K/9 and 17.7 K%). A mid-70s curveball and upper-80s/low-90s sinkers and two-seamers are his three main offerings. He will use mid-80s changeups and straight low-90s four-seamers on occasion, but not much. Sinker/curveball, basically. Feldman is another guy with no platoon split. Although they haven’t seen him since he arrived in Baltimore, the Yankees have faced Feldman a bunch of times over the years while he was with the Rangers. Some good games, some not so good.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Chen, 28, is in the rookie level Gulf Coast League at the moment. The Orioles manipulated their roster this week by sending Chen down for an extra bullpen arm, but they will call him back up for this start when rosters expand on Sunday. Because the GCL season ended yesterday, they can circumvent the ten-day rule. The Yankees did something similar with Preston Claiborne. Sneaky. Chen missed a bunch of time with an oblique strain this year and otherwise has a 3.76 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout rate (5.81 K/9 and 15.9 K%) fell off a cliff this year, but his walk (2.48 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), homer (1.03 HR/9 and 8.8 HR/9), and ground ball (34.3%) numbers are in line with last season, his first in MLB. Chen is a true five-pitch pitcher: low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. The slider and changeup are his top offspeed offerings. It’s worth noting right-handed batters (.332 wOBA) have been far more successful (.253 wOBA) against the Taiwanese-born southpaw this summer. The Yankees have fared quite well against Chen these last two years, though he did hold them to three runs in six innings earlier this season.
Showalter had to use all of his key late-game relievers yesterday, including closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.89 FIP), who leads the league in saves (41) and blown saves (nine). Setup men RHP Tommy Hunter (3.50 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.15 FIP) also pitched yesterday. RHP Darren O’Day (3.66 FIP), RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.95 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.32 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (4.03 FIP) fill out the rest of the regular relievers. RHP Kevin Gausman (5.02 FIP) is the extra arm they called up using Chen’s spot.
The Yankees are coming off an off-day and their core relievers didn’t have to work too hard in the Blue Jays series either. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Boone Logan are all well-rested and should be available for all three games of this super duper important series. Our Bullpen Workload page has the exact reliever usage details. The best Orioles blog around is Camden Chat.