9/9-9/11 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The second to last homestand of the season ends with this series, a three-gamer against the Rays. Neither team is whether they expected to be at the start of the year. The Yankees have won only five of 13 games against the Tampa this year, including only one win in six head-to-head meetings at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays were off yesterday and they took two of three from the Orioles at home over the weekend. They dropped eight of eleven games before that. Tampa is 69-75 with a +8 run differential on the season, leaving them comfortably in fourth place in the AL East.

Offense
With an average of 3.85 runs per game and a team 99 wRC+, manager Joe Maddon’s squad is essentially league average offensively. Actually about half-a-run per game below that when it comes to runs actually crossing the plate. Sequencing matters. OF Desmond Jennings (104 wRC+) is done for the season with a knee injury. Otherwise the Rays are healthy.

(Mike Fuentes, AP)
(Mike Fuentes, AP)

As always, Maddon’s lineup is built around 3B Evan Longoria (105 wRC+), who is having a very down year by his standards. UTIL Ben Zobrist (120 wRC+) is a perpetual pain in the behind and OF Matt Joyce (115 wRC+) is having a nice year as well. OF Wil Myers (86 wRC+) came off the disabled list not too long ago and he just destroys the Yankees. They can’t seem to get him out. 1B James Loney (106 wRC+) has been unable to repeat last year’s success and OF David DeJesus (133 wRC+) is having a nice year around a broken hand.

SS Yunel Escobar (84 wRC+) plays everyday while C Ryan Hanigan (95 wRC+) and ex-Yankee C Jose Molina (24 wRC+) split catching duties. OF Kevin Kiermaier (125 wRC+) has cooled off following his ridiculously hot start. He is playing center field regularly now that Jennings is hurt. The always annoying UTIL Sean Rodriguez (100 wRC+) is on the bench, as are IF Logan Forsythe (82 wRC+) and OF Brandon Guyer (109 wRC+). C Curt Casali is the third catcher now that rosters have expanded.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Back-to-back rough outings (14 runs in ten innings) have the 25-year-old Archer sitting on a 3.60 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 28 starts and 167.1 innings so far this year. His strikeout (8.18 K/9 and 21.1 K%), homer (0.48 HR/9 and 6.2 HR/FB%), and ground ball (46.7%) rates are all very good, though his walk rate (3.39 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) has jumped quite a bit from last year. It’s still not bad though. Righties (.310 wOBA) have actually fared better than lefties (.295 wOBA) against him so far this year, which is odd because Archer is a mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider guy. He throws only a handful of mid-80s changeups per start and those guys tend to have platoon splits, not reverse platoon splits. Archer has faced the Yankees twice this year, holding them to one run in 6.2 innings back in April and two runs in seven innings June. He never seems to not pitch well against New York.

Wednesday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Odorizzi, 24, has quietly had a solid rookie season for the Rays, posting a 3.84 ERA (3.49 FIP) in 28 starts and 154.2 innings. His strikeout rate is excellent (9.66 K/9 and 25.4 K%) and his walk rate is good (3.03 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), but he doesn’t get ground balls at all (30.4%). He has somehow managed to keep the ball in the park reasonably well despite that lack of grounder (0.99 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%). Like Archer, he has a reverse split (righties have a .312 wOBA, lefties .288). Odorizzi uses a four-seamer right around 90 mph to set up his mid-80s slider, which is his top secondary pitch. He’ll throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and big-breaking upper-60s curveballs per start. The Yankees scored three runs in four innings when they saw Odorizzi in May, then they scored another three runs in 5.2 innings in July.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Thursday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
With David Price gone and Archer still finding his way, the 26-year-old Cobb has taken over as the ace of Maddon’s staff. He missed time with an oblique injury earlier this season but otherwise has a 2.83 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 23 starts and 140 innings. Across the board he has posted very strong peripherals: 8.61 K/9 (23.3 K%), 2.57 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), 0.58 HR/9 (8.6 HR/FB%), and 56.4% grounders. Thanks to his knockout mid-80s changeup, lefties (.259 wOBA) have actually had less success against Cobb than righties (.296 wOBA). His two and four-seamers sit in the low-90s and he’ll also throw a bunch of low-80s curveballs. The Yankees scored no runs in 7.1 innings against Cobb last month, the only time they faced him in 2014.

Bullpen Status
The Rays continue to say they are using a closer by committee, but LHP Jake McGee (1.29 FIP) has more or less taken over the ninth inning. Maddon will use him in the eighth inning on some occasions depends on the matchups. RHP Joel Peralta (3.68 FIP) and RHP Brad Boxberger (2.50 FIP) will also see late-inning work. RHP Grant Balfour (4.01 FIP) still gets some high-leverage chances despite his poor year.

The rest of Maddon’s bullpen includes RHP Kirby Yates (3.67 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (4.87 FIP), and LHP Cesar Ramos (4.30 FIP). LHP Jeff Beliveau and RHP Steve Geltz are the extra September call-up arms. Tampa Bay was off yesterday, so their bullpen is relatively rested. The same goes for the Yankees. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent relieve usage then check out The Process Report for everything you could possibly want to know about the Rays.

9/5-9/7 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Believe it or not, this is the last series the Yankees will play against a non-AL East team this season. Well, at least until they make that huge September push to win the division and face the Angels in the ALDS. Anyway, the Royals are in town for a three-game set starting tonight. The two teams have split their first four games of the season, three back in June and one last week in the makeup game of a rainout.

What Have They Done Lately?
Prior to yesterday’s off-day, the Royals swept a three-game series from the lowly Rangers. They dropped five of seven before that. Kansas City sits atop the AL Central at 77-61 with a +27 run differential, though their one-game lead over the Tigers is hardly commanding even this late in the season.

Offense
Manager Ned Yost’s team averages 4.07 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, so the Royals are a bit below-average offensively. It’s worth noting they have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than any other team. They just don’t strike out. Their only injured position player is IF Christian Colon, who just broke a finger and is done for the season.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
Butler. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Kansas City’s lineup revolves around OF Alex Gordon (129 wRC+), who is getting a bunch of MVP love thanks to some recent clutch homers and his UZR-inflated 6.2 WAR. Both 1B Eric Hosmer (90 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (97 wRC+) are having down years, but both C Salvador Perez (101 wRC+) and OF Lorenzo Cain (106 wRC+) have been strong supporting players for Gordon. OF Josh Willingham (117 wRC+) plays based on matchups.

The rest of Yost’s regular lineup includes OF Norichika Aoki (90 wRC+), 2B Omar Infante (79 wRC+), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and 3B Mike Moustakas (78 wRC+). Ex-Yankees OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) and IF Jayson Nix (-1 wRC+ in limited) are on the bench alongside backup C Erik Kratz (78 wRC+) and the speedy OF Jarrod Dyson (96 wRC+). C Francisco Pena, IF Johnny Giavotella, OF Lane Adams, OF Terrance Gore, and OF Carlos Peguero are the September call-ups on the roster. Francisco is Yankees bench coach Tony Pena’s son.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Royals will technically play only two series this season, but New York is going to wind up facing Shields three times because of that stupid rainout. Just their luck, huh? Shields, 32, has a 3.38 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 29 starts and 192 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.03 K/9 and 18.7 K%) is the lowest it’s been in five years. His walk (1.88 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%), homer (0.98 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.3%) rates are right where they usually are. Both his home/road and platoon splits are small. A mid-80s changeup remains Shields’ go-to pitch, though he has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters instead. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees have faced ex-Rays righty twice this year, first scoring one unearned run in six innings, then scoring six runs in 6.2 innings.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, has a 2.42 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 141.1 innings across 22 starts and six relief appearances in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. His peripherals aren’t all that impressive outside of his homer rate (0.64 HR/9 and 5.4 HR/FB%) though: 6.88 K/9 (19.0 K%), 3.18 BB/9 (8.8 BB%), and 35.6% grounders. Duffy doesn’t have a home/road split but he is far better against lefties (.170 wOBA) than righties (.292 wOBA). He throws his mid-90s fastball more than two-thirds of the time, even as a starter, and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and a handful of mid-80 changeups per start. Duffy allowed three runs to the Yankees in 5.2 innings back in June.

Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Duckface Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The Yankees did not see the 23-year-old Ventura when these two clubs met in June because he was nursing an elbow injury. The hard-throwing rookie has a 3.38 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 152 innings in 2014 with very good homerun (0.77 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%) and ground ball (48.0%) rates. His strikeout (7.82 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.38 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers aren’t as strong, plus he has uncannily similar home/road (.295/.314 wOBA) and left/right (.295/.316 wOBA) splits. Freaky. Ventura is one of the hardest throwers in baseball, sitting in the upper-90s with both his two and four-seamer — his average four-seam fastball velocity (96.1 mph) is the second highest among qualified starters, behind only the injured Garrett Richards (96.4) — while also offering mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. Like I said, the Yankees did not see Ventura the last time(s) these clubs met.

Bullpen Status
Yost has the best seventh/eighth/ninth inning trio in baseball in his bullpen. RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.69 FIP) is the seventh inning guy, RHP Wade Davis (1.38 FIP) is the eighth inning guy, and RHP Greg Holland (1.94 FIP) is the ninth inning guy. They’re all dominant and effectively make it a six-inning game. It is worth noting Holland has shown some signs of fatigue recently and been less effective the last week or so.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, Yost has LHP Scott Downs (4.16 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.36 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (3.47 FIP), and LHP Francisley Bueno (3.85 FIP). The crop of September call-ups includes RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Liam Hendriks, and LHP Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan was the 17th overall pick in June’s draft. He’s the first 2014 draftee to reach MLB. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

9/2-9/4 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Labor Day weekend is over and it’s time for another surprisingly unimportant Yankees-Red Sox series. I mean, it’s not totally meaningless, the Yankees aren’t completely out of the second wildcard race, but the Red Sox are. In fact, they’re on pace to finish with the second worst record by a defending World Series champion in baseball history, behind only the ain’t even tryin’ 1998 Marlins. The Yankees are 8-5 against Boston this season, including 4-3 in the Bronx.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Sawx split four games with the Rays in Tampa over the holiday weekend and they’ve lost eleven of their last 15 games overall. Boston is 12-17 since trading away all their good pitchers at the deadline and they currently sit in last place in the AL East at 60-77 with a -73 run differential. That is the fifth worst record in all of baseball.

Offense
The Red Sox have averaged 3.84 runs per game with a team 89 wRC+ this year, giving them a comfortably below-average offense overall. Since the trade deadline they are averaging 3.83 runs per game with a 101 wRC+. So they’re hitting better without scoring more runs, if that makes sense. 2B Dustin Pedroia (101 wRC+) is unlikely to play this series due to concussion symptoms after getting elbowed in the head during a play at second base. OF Shane Victorino (87 wRC+) is done for the year following back surgery.

Bogaerts. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Bogaerts. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Manager John Farrell’s new-look lineup is built around the power bats of OF Yoenis Cespedes (112 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (135 wRC+), and 1B Mike Napoli (127 wRC+). Ortiz and Napoli always kill the Yankees, but you knew that already. New pickup 1B/OF Allen Craig (78 wRC+) hasn’t hit since hurting his foot last year and SS Xander Bogaerts (74 wRC+) has been a colossal disappointment this season. That guy was supposed to be well on his way to superstardom by now.

The rest of the regular lineup includes UTIL Brock Holt (101 wRC+), who has slowed down quite a bit in recent weeks, and platoon OF Daniel Nava (87 wRC+). 3B Will Middlebrooks (47 wRC+) still plays regularly for whatever reason. C Christian Vazquez (52 wRC+) and C David Ross (67 wRC+) split time behind the plate. 2B/OF Mookie Betts (119 wRC+ in limited time) is getting an extended audition this month and the bench includes September call-ups IF Jemile Weeks and IF Carlos Rivero.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (vs. NYY)
Boston acquired the 26-year-old Kelly from the Cardinals in the John Lackey trade and so far he has the same number of walks as strikeouts (18) with the Red Sox. He has a 4.14 ERA (4.57 FIP) in 12 starts and 63 innings overall this year, pairing mediocre strikeout (6.14 K/9 and 15.8 K%) and walk (4.00 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) rates with an excellent grounder rate (53.1%). Kelly has done an okay job keeping the ball in the park (0.86 HR/9 and 12.5 HR/FB%) and his platoon split is tiny. A mid-90s two-seamer is his main pitch, which he’ll use to set up low-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. He’ll throw a handful of mid-90s four-seamers and mid-80s sliders per start as well. The Yankees did not see Kelly when they played the Cardinals earlier this year or the Red Sox last month.

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (vs. NYY)
Ranaudo, 24, has three big league starts (18 innings) are under his belt, and he’s won them all despite a 4.50 ERA (6.57 FIP). He has more walks (4.00 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) than strikeouts (3.50 K/9 and 9.0 K%) and gives up a ton of homers (2.00 HR/9 and 12.9 HR/FB%) because he gets so few grounders (31.1%). Righties (.356 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.332 wOBA) in a small sample. Ranaudo is primarily a two-pitch pitcher who has thrown his low-90s four-seamer more than 75% of the time in the big leagues. An upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw a handful of low-80s changeups per start. Ranaudo held New York to two runs in six innings in his first career start a few weeks ago.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
Webster. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Thursday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Allen Webster (vs. NYY)
The 24-year-old Webster, who was part of the big blockbuster trade with the Dodgers a few years ago, was the first young pitcher to get the call when the Red Sox started trading away their veteran hurlers earlier this year. He’s been awful, pitching to a 6.69 ERA (4.70 FIP) in seven starts and 35 innings, with more walks (5.91 BB/9 and 14.4 BB%) than strikeouts (5.40 K/9 and 14.4 K%). The only thing he’s done exceptionally well is limit homers (0.26 HR/9 and 2.8 HR/FB%), and that is an unsustainably low homerun rate. Webster has done a good job keeping the ball on the ground (45.9%) and his platoon split is nonexistent (.353 vs. .352 wOBAs). He’ll sit in the low-to-mid-90s with two and four-seam fastballs, backing them up with low-80s sliders and changeups. The Yankees hammered him for four runs and six walks in only two innings a few weeks ago.

Bullpen Status
Since they’re out of it, the Red Sox have said they will ease up on closer RHP Koji Uehara (2.66 FIP) and setup man RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.09 FIP) these last few weeks to control their workload. Both pitched a ton the first five months of the season. RHP Edward Mujica (3.77 FIP) is going to see some save opportunities in the meantime.

RHP Burke Badenhop (3.22 FIP) and LHP Craig Breslow (5.18 FIP) are Farrell’s other bullpen regulars while guys like LHP Tommy Layne (3.13 FIP) and RHP Alex Wilson (3.89 FIP) were called up in recent weeks. Knuckleballer RHP Steven Wright was the club’s only pitching call-up when rosters expanded yesterday. Badenhop, Breslow, Tazawa, Mujica, and Layne all pitched yesterday, none more than an inning. Our Bullpen Workload page has details on Joe Girardi‘s relievers. Head over to Over The Monster for everything you need to know about the Red Sox.

8/29-8/31 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(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.

8/26-8/28 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

(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.