Archive for Series Preview
What was once a great battle between two of baseball’s best teams has devolved into a meeting of broken down fringe contenders. Yankees-Angels doesn’t have the same kind of excitement it once did … or should I say dread? The Angels had New York’s number for the better part of a decade. The two teams will play four games in Yankee Stadium this week, their second and final meeting of the season after the Yankees lost two of three in Anaheim back in June.
What Have They Done Lately?
Despite taking two of three from the Indians this weekend, the Halos have lost five of their last seven games and 14 of their last 21 games. At 53-63 with a -17 run differential, the Angels are in fourth place in the AL West and well out of a playoff spot.
This isn’t a surprise, but Mike Scioscia’s team can score a lot of runs. They average 4.6 runs per game with a team 109 wRC+, both well-above-average marks even though 1B Albert Pujols (111 wRC+) is done for the year with a foot problem. The Angels are also without certified Yankees killer 2B Howie Kendrick (116 wRC+), who just landed on the DL with a knee injury, and OF Peter Bourjos (142 wRC+), who has been out for a while with a broken wrist. That’s three pretty important players right there.
The team’s offense now revolves around Mike Trout (176 wRC+), baseball’s best all-around player. 1B Mark Trumbo (108 wRC+) and C Chris Iannetta (106 wRC+) are Scioscia’s only other healthy above-average regulars at the moment. OF Josh Hamilton (88 wRC+) has been a major disappointment and others like SS Erick Aybar (96 wRC+) and OF J.B. Shuck (97 wRC+) aren’t anything special. Personal fave OF Kole Calhoun (168 wRC+) has torn the cover off the ball in a whopping 51 plate appearances.
IF Grant Green (63 wRC+) came over from the Athletics at the trade deadline and has actually played well for the Halos (194 wRC+ in very limited time). He was awful during his brief time with Oakland, hence the poor overall numbers. OF Colin Cowgill (68 wRC+), IF Tommy Field (-31 wRC+ in very limited time), backup C Hank Conger (98 wRC+), and former Yankee IF Chris Nelson (57 wRC+) round out the rest of the position player crop. Because of their pitching issues, the Angels currently have a 13-man pitching staff and a three-man bench.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Garrett Richards
Richards, 25, moved into the rotation not too long ago because Joe Blanton was just terrible (5.52 ERA and 4.83 FIP). He’s got a 4.20 ERA (3.41 FIP) in seven starts and 30 relief appearances this year, though he’s more about limiting walks (2.52 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%) and getting grounders (57.5%) than missing bats (6.41 K/9 and 16.9 K%). Richards has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park (0.63 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB) by using three mid-90s fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter) to set up his mid-80s slider. He’ll also throw some rare upper-70s curveballs and upper-80s changeups. The Yankees have seen Richards just twice before, one start (six runs in five innings in 2011) and one relief appearance (scoreless inning in 2012).
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. TBA
This spot is technically listed as TBA, but is it expected to be right-hander Tommy Hanson. This been a really, really rough year for the 26-year-old, who has pitched terribly (5.59 ERA and 4.80 FIP), missed more than a month with a forearm strain, and missed about a month following the death of his stepbrother. Yeah, rough. None of Hanson’s peripherals stand out in a good way — 6.92 K/9 (17.1 K%), 3.72 BB/9 (9.2 BB%), 1.33 HR/9 (10.3% HR/FB), and 32.9% grounders — though his fastball has jumped back into the low-90s in recent starts. He also has three offspeed pitches in a low-80s changeup, upper-70s slider, and low-70s curveball. It’s worth noting lefties have crushed Hanson this year (.380 wOBA), though righties have hit him well too (.340 wOBA). The Yankees have seen him three times with mixed results over the years, including a two-run, 6.1-inning start earlier this season.
Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jered Weaver
A fractured left elbow sidelined Weaver for roughly six weeks earlier this season, but when healthy he’s been pretty great (2.87 ERA and 3.56 FIP). The 30-year-old has consistently outpitched his peripherals — 7.14 K/9 (19.4 K%), 2.09 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), 0.87 HR/9 (7.7% HR/FB), and 33.6% grounders — over the years in part because he generates a ton of infield and generally weak pop-ups. Weaver is a legitimate six-pitch pitcher, though he has been using mid-80s cutter less than ever before this season. His mid-to-upper-80s two and four-seam fastballs set up a low-80s slider, upper-80s changeup, and low-80s curveball. Weaver has faced the Yankees plenty of times over the years, and he’s typically had his trouble with them (5.19 ERA in 69.1 innings).
Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
Wilson, 32, had a subpar first season in Anaheim, but he’s been pretty damn good in his follow-up campaign (3.49 ERA and 3.28 FIP). He’s striking guys out (8.45 K/9 and 21.6 K%), limiting homers (0.59 HR/9 and 7.0% HR/FB), and getting grounders (46.0%). Wilson will hand out some free passes (3.49 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%), however. Three fastballs (low-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters) and three offspeed pitches (mid-80s changeup, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs) fill out his six-pitch arsenal. It’s worth noting Wilson has had some trouble against righties this year (.314 wOBA), but he’s done the job against lefties (.252 wOBA). The Yankees have faced the former Rangers southpaw a whole bunch of times these last few seasons. No secrets here.
With a 4.37 ERA (4.10 FIP), the Angels have one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Their big free agent signings (RHP Ryan Madson and LHP Sean Burnett) haven’t worked due to injury, and closer RHP Ernesto Frieri (4.11 FIP) has been meltdown-prone. RHP Kevin Jepsen (2.92 FIP) and former Yankees farmhand RHP Dane De La Rosa (3.03 FIP) has been very good in setup roles, but the rest of the bullpen is a skeleton crew: RHP J.C. Gutierrez (4.03 FIP), LHP Nick Maronde (7.55 FIP in very limited time), LHP Buddy Boshers (0.05 FIP in super limited time), RHP Michael Kohn (4.64 FIP), and Blanton.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have a heavily used and worn out bullpen at the moment. Their four best relievers all threw 19+ pitches yesterday and, outside of Adam Warren, their B-squad threw 30+ pitches on Saturday. Dellin Betances was called up yesterday to give the team a fresh arm, but it’s clear Joe Girardi doesn’t trust him in important spots yet — Joba Chamberlain was warming up for the potential tenth inning yesterday after throwing 30 pitches the day before. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out True Grich for the best Angels blogginess around.
After eight games and eleven days, the Yankees are finally back home in the Bronx for a six-game homestand. The Tigers are in town and they’re the hottest team in the league at the moment. They took two of three from the Bombers in Detroit way back in April, the second series of the year. That feels like a lifetime ago.
What Have They Done Lately?
Remember how the White Sox had lost ten straight games going into the last series? The Tigers have done pretty much the exact opposite of that. They’ve won each of their last 12 games — the Yankees, on the other hand, have won 12 of their last 29 games — and 16 of their last 17 games. They’re the first team to win 16 of 17 since the 2009 Rockies. Detroit sits atop the AL Central at 68-45 with a +151 run differential. That’s the best run differential in all the land.
At 5.2 runs per game with a team 114 wRC+, the Tigers are the highest scoring team in baseball. IF Omar Infante (113 wRC+) is on the DL and won’t be back this series, plus both IF Jose Iglesias (109 wRC+) and C Alex Avila (75 wRC+) are day-to-day with nagging injuries. Not sure if they’ll be available tonight or at all this weekend.
As usual, manager Jim Leyland’s lineup is anchored by 3B Miguel Cabrera (202 wRC+), the best hitter in the world. 1B Prince Fielder (117 wRC+) is having a good year that is not nearly up to his usual standard. OF Torii Hunter (121 wRC+) has been very good while OF Austin Jackson (102 wRC+) and UTIL Don Kelly (102 wRC+) are ever-so-slightly above-average. DH Victor Martinez (99 wRC+) has been just a touch below.
The rest of the lineup is filled out by OF Andy Dirks (83 wRC+), OF Matt Tuiasosopo (159 wRC+ in limited time), IF Ramon Santiago (59 wRC+), IF Hernan Perez (69 wRC+) in very limited time, and backup C Brayan Pena (85 wRC+). Obviously Cabrera and the rest of the guys in the top five spots of the lineup are the big concern. They’re as good as it gets. The Tigers can really, really hit.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Rick Porcello
One of these years, the 24-year-old Porcello is going to put it all together and become the dominant frontline starter everyone expected him to become a few seasons ago. This is not that the year. The New Jersey raised right-hander has a 4.28 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 20 starts (and one relief appearance), though he does have career-best strikeout (6.60 K/9 and 17.8 K%), walk (1.88 B/9 and 5.1 BB%), and ground ball (57.2%) rates. Maybe he really is putting it together. He has done a decent job limiting homers as well (0.90 HR/9 and 13.5% HR/FB). Porcello is a five-pitch pitcher, but he’s throwing more upper-70s curveballs and fewer mid-80s sliders than every before. Low-90s two and four-seamers set up those two offspeed pitches as well as his low-80s changeup. It’s worth noting he has a massive platoon split: righties have been held to a .269 wOBA while lefties are at .342. The Yankees have seen Porcello a bunch of times over the years, and he seems to pitch better and better against them each time out.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez, 29, would be in the Cy Young conversation right now had he not missed a month with a shoulder strain. He’s got a 2.58 ERA (2.37 FIP) in 19 starts with a career-high strikeout rate (9.94 K/9 and 27.0 K%) and a career-low homer rate (0.38 HR/9 and 5.0% HR/FB). His walk (2.81 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) and ground ball (42.6%) numbers are solid and a touch below his career norms. Sanchez uses three fastballs (low-90s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter) and three offspeed pitches (mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball) pretty regularly, so he’ll mix it up quite well. The Yankees faced Anibal once following his trade to Detroit last year, and they tagged him for seven runs in three innings. Like everyone else, he dominated them in the postseason.
Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Justin Verlander
A 3.74 ERA (3.33 FIP) in 24 starts constitutes a down year for for Verlander. The 30-year-old still has excellent strikeout (8.60 K/9 and 22.4 K%) and homer (0.71 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB) rates, but he was never big ground ball guy (42.1%) and his walk rate (3.32 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) is his highest in five years. Verlander has lost some oomph off his fastball, but he still sits comfortably in the mid-90s with a hammer upper-70s curveball and a nasty mid-to-upper-80s changeup. He’ll also mix in some mid-80s sliders. The Yankees and Verlander have a long history, and they’ve actually hit him rather well over the years. This is a different offense, however.
The Tigers played a 14-inning game on Wednesday, so their bullpen is a little bit taxed. LHP Phil Coke (3.95 FIP) pitched yesterday but is otherwise fresh. RHP Al Alburquerque (3.92 FIP) has pitched in each of the last two games while RHP Jeremy Bonderman (4.77 FIP) and RHP Bruce Rondon (2.60 FIP in limited time) both threw multiple innings on Wednesday.
RHP Joaquin Benoit (2.15 FIP) has settled in as the closer with former Yankees RHP Jose Veras (3.34 FIP) taking over as his primary setup man after being acquiring from the Astros at the trade deadline. LHP Drew Smyly (2.06 FIP) has been pretty stellar as a multi-inning reliever as well. Leyland has some very good power arms in his bullpen. The entire staff can miss bats, which is why Detroit has the very best strikeout rate (8.67 K/9 and 23.3 K%) in baseball.
The Yankees were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be. This is crunch time, so I expect Joe Girardi to push his top relievers a little more than usual these coming weeks. We saw him use Mariano Rivera for two innings for the first time in two years the other day, for example. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out Bless You Boys and Tiger Tales for all the Tigers info you can handle.
There is only one AL team the Yankees have yet to face this season, and they’ll take care of that this series when they play three in Chicago against the White Sox. It has been a full calendar month since the Bombers last won a series, so this would definitely be a good time to get off the schneid. Actually, it’s imperative if they truly intend to make a run at a wildcard spot.
What Have They Done Lately?
The ChiSox are really, really bad. So bad that they have lost each of their last ten (!) games. I’m pretty sure that makes this a trap series, no? Either way, Chicago’s south siders are 40-69 with a -87 run differential overall, both the second worst marks in the league behind the Astros. Ten losses in a row? Yikes.
Finally, a team that is worse offensively than the Yankees. The White Sox average just 3.6 runs per game with a team 80 wRC+, both the worst marks in the AL. The Yankees are the second worst in each category at 3.8 runs per game and an 81 wRC+. They’re two of the three worst offensive teams in baseball (Marlins are the worst by far). These three games are going to take like, seven hours total. The ChiSox do not have any position players on the DL.
Manager and former Yankee Robin Ventura has one legitimately above-average hitter at his disposal: 1B/DH Adam Dunn (114 wRC+). Both OF Alejandro De Aza (104 wRC+) and OF Alex Rios (101 wRC+) are slightly above-average at the moment but not comfortably. 2B Gordon Beckham (98 wRC+) is both flirting with league average and having the best year of his disappointing career. 1B/DH Paul Konerko (77 wRC+) has lost his power due to back problems and age (37). Sucks.
OF Dayan Viciedo (87 wRC+) has some pop and 3B Conor Gillaspie (79 wRC+) is actually better than what the Yankees have been running out there at the hot corner. SS Alexei Ramirez (74 wRC+), C Tyler Flowers (63 wRC+), and IF Jeff Keppinger (41 wRC+) have all been awful. The bench guys — C Josh Phegley (46 wRC+), OF Jordan Danks (28 wRC+), and OF Casper Wells (20 wRC+) — are terrible as well. It’s worth noting that as a team, the ChiSox have the second lowest walk rate in the AL (6.6%). They’re hackers.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Jose Quintana
After a season and two-thirds, it’s pretty obvious the Yankees made a major blunder by not adding the 24-year-old Quintana to the 40-man roster after the 2011 season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent following his breakout season with High-A Tampa (2.91 ERA and 2.96 FIP). He hooked on with the White Sox before last year and has a 3.69 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 268 big league innings since, including a 3.62 ERA (3.79 FIP) in 131.2 innings and 22 starts this season. The strikeout (7.18 K/9 and 19.0 K%), walk (2.67 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), homer (0.96 HR/9 and 9.4 BB%), and ground ball (44.0%) numbers are all rock solid but unspectacular. Quintana is a true five-pitch pitcher, using low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. The curve and change are his top two secondary pitches. Quintana has close to no platoon split in his relatively brief big league career and he’s faced the Yankees once before, getting hit around for six runs in six innings last June.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Chris Sale
Sale, 24, has established himself as arguably the best left-handed starter in the AL since moving into the rotation last season. It’s pretty much a toss-up between him and David Price at the moment. Sale’s got a 2.92 ERA (2.89 FIP) in 20 starts with stellar peripherals: 9.82 K/9 (27.0 K%), 1.96 BB/9 (5.4 BB%), 0.82 HR/9 (11.1% HR/FB), and 46.8% grounders. He’s essentially a three-pitch pitcher, using a low-to-mid-90s two-seamer, a low-to-mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s slider from a funky low arm slot. Sale does have a big platoon split, but only because he destroys lefties (.168 wOBA) and is merely very good against righties (.296 wOBA). This would be a good game to rest guys like Brett Gardner, Lyle Overbay, and Ichiro Suzuki. The Yankees have faced Sale a few times over the years but just once since he moved into the rotation; he held them to one run in 7.1 innings last August.
Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Hector Santiago
Five of the six scheduled starters this series are left-handed, including all three for the ChiSox. The 25-year-old Santiago grew up in Newark and has a 3.28 ERA (4.08 FIP) in a true swingman role this season — 107 innings spread across 15 starts and eleven relief appearances. He strikes out a ton of batters (9.34 K/9 and 24.4 K%), but is liberal with the free pass (4.12 BB/9 and 10.8 BB%) and will allow the ball to be hit in the air (34.2% grounders). His homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB) is up there but not a disaster. Believe it or not, Santiago is seven-pitch pitcher, and that’s only because he stopped throwing his two-seamer in 2012. His arsenal includes a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s cutter, a low-80s changeup, an upper-70s slider, a mid-70s curveball, and a mid-70s screwball. Here’s a .GIF of the screwball, if you don’t believe me. The four-seamer, slider, and changeup are his top three pitches, but he will throw all of the others in a given outing. Santiago faced the Yankees twice last season, allowing four runs in four relief innings.
Stalwarts LHP Matt Thornton and RHP Jesse Crain were sold off prior to the trade deadline, so Ventura’s current bullpen is headlined by closer RHP Addison Reed (2.64 FIP) and setup man RHP Nate Jones (2.48 FIP). RHP Matt Lindstrom (3.09 FIP) continues to be rock solid and rounds out a very good end-game trip. The parade of relievers you’ve probably never heard of before include RHP Dylan Axelrod (5.45 FIP), LHP David Purcey (4.43 FIP in very limited time), RHP Ramon Troncoso (4.54 FIP), and LHP Donnie Veal (5.85 FIP). Those middle innings can be an adventure.
Even though Phil Hughes lasted just 2.2 innings yesterday, the Yankees are in okay bullpen shape. Not great but good enough. You can check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on which relievers pitched when over the last ten days. For the latest and greatest on the White Sox, I recommend South Side Sox. The title of that blog is pretty much the only reason I remember the Cubs are on Chicago’s north side and the ChiSox on the south.
For the first time since the place opened in 2004, the Yankees are heading to Petco Park for an interleague series against the Padres. They never even got to play there before the walls were brought in. New ballparks are always fun, so this weekend will be pretty neat. New York wraps up the West Coast leg of the road trip with three games against their 1998 World Series opponent this weekend.
What Have They Done Lately?
At one point in late-June, the Padres got to two games over .500 for the first time since April 2011. No, really. They’ve gone 13-23 since, though they did win four straight before losing their last game. At 50-59 with a -57 run differential, the Friars sit in fourth place in the NL West and are nine games back of a playoff spot.
For about a decade, the Padres were a pitching and defense team that really struggled to score runs. That’s not the case anymore. Quite the opposite, really. They average 4.0 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+, slightly below-average marks that rank better than the Yankees (3.9/82). San Diego is currently without OF Cameron Maybin (29 wRC+ in limited time), C Yasmani Grandal (99 wRC+), and 1B/OF Kyle Blanks (109 wRC+), all of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series. OF Carlos Quentin (142 wRC+) is day-to-day with a knee problem but could be back in the lineup as soon as tonight.
Former Rule 5 Draft pick and current leadoff man SS Everth Cabrera (109 wRC+) quietly leads the NL in stolen bases (37) and is having a great year, but he’s reportedly about to be suspended for his ties to Biogenesis. Sucks. The under-rated OF Chris Denorfia (104 wRC+) bats second ahead of 3B Chase Headley (103 wRC+), who has been battling injuries all year. 1B Yonder Alonso (111 wRC+) cleans up with Quentin out, then they’ve got OF Will Venable (101 wRC+) and 2B Jeff Gyorko (97 wRC+). It’s pronounced Jerk-o. Seriously. C Nick Hundley (96 wRC+) catches full-time with Grandal out.
The Padres have a decent bench by NL standards. 1B/OF Jesus Guzman (102 wRC+ vs. LHP) hits lefties well, but 1B/OF Mark Kotsay (54 wRC+ vs. RHP) doesn’t do much against righties. Yes, Kotsay is still playing. UTIL Alexi Amarista (97 wRC+) can play anywhere and play it well. IF Logan Forsythe (70 wRC+) is more potential than production at the moment. Former Yankees farmhand C Rene Rivera (31 wRC+ in very limited time) backs up Hundley. San Diego doesn’t hit many homers, but they have stolen the third most bases in the game (82). It’s not just Cabrera.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Andrew Cashner
Cashner, 26, is one of those guys with ace stuff but not ace results or ace durability. The right-hander has been on the DL three times in three full big league seasons, each time with a shoulder issue. He also sliced a tendon in his thumb with a hunting knife over the winter. Cashner has a 3.88 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 17 starts (and five relief appearances), plus his walk (2.91 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), homer (0.81 HR/9 and 9.8% HR/FB), and ground ball (53.4%) rates are all strong. His strikeout rate (6.31 K/9 and 16.9 K%) leaves something to be desired. Cashner lives in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball and he’ll run it up to 98-99 on occasion, but his low-80s slider and mid-80s changeup are nasty secondary offerings. Many think he’s a reliever long-term because of he can’t stay healthy, but the Padres are giving him a chance to show he can start. The Yankees have never faced Cashner before.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Tyson Ross
How often does a pitcher leave the Athletics and actually get better? Not often, but the 26-year-old Ross is the rare exception. He’s got a 2.90 ERA (3.65 FIP) in five starts and 19 relief appearances for San Diego, pitching so well in relief that they moved him into the rotation. Ross walks a few too many (3.66 BB/9 and 9.9 BB%), but he has a decent strikeout rate (7.17 K/9 and 19.3 K%) and very good homer (0.61 HR/9 and 7.0% HR/FB) and ground ball (51.8%) numbers. Ross has five pitches but only really uses two, his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider. He’ll use those two pitches a combined 83% of the time or so. Low-to-mid-90s two-seamers and cutters as well as a mid-80s changeup round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Ross a few times over the years while he was with Oakland, and they roughed him up nearly every time.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Ian Kennedy
All we need is Joba Chamberlain to appear in this game and we can have a Save the Big Three! reunion party. The Padres made a nifty little move to buy low on IPK at the trade deadline, snagging him for two relievers (one in Double-A) and a draft pick. Of course, Kennedy was acquired so cheaply because he has been awful this year. The 28-year-old had a 5.23 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 21 starts before the trade — this will be his first start with San Diego — and his peripherals weren’t anything special: 7.84 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.48 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 1.31 HR/9 (12.5% HR/FB), and 36.1%. Kennedy is a true six-pitch pitcher with three fastballs (low-90s two and four-seamer, mid-80s cutter) and three offspeed pitches (mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, mid-70s curveball). He rarely uses the slider nowadays and the changeup is his bread-and-butter. It’s why he hasn’t had much a platoon split over the years. Kennedy has never faced the team that originally drafted him.
San Diego’s bullpen isn’t as strong as we’re used to seeing. In fact, the entire pitching staff isn’t all that good. RHP Huston Street (6.13 FIP) is a cardiac closer who gives up a freaking ton of homers. I’m talking ten homers in 35.1 innings this year (2.55 HR/9). Even Hughes is embarrassed for him. Setup man RHP Luke Gregerson (2.90 FIP) continues to be excellent, and RHP Nick Vincent (2.38 FIP) has impressed in his limited opportunities.
The Padres shipped primary lefty Joe Thatcher to Arizona for Kennedy, so their only southpaw right now is LHP Colt Hynes (6.98 FIP in very limited time). RHP Sean O’Sullivan (3.54 FIP in limited time) and RHP Tim Stauffer (3.60 FIP) round out what is currently a six-man bullpen. That will probably change at some point. It’s worth noting that manager Bud Black is a Showalter-level strategic manager who always seems to make the right pitching change and whatnot. There’s only so much he can do with this group, however.
Both the Yankees and Padres were off yesterday, so their bullpens are relatively fresh. David Robertson was unavailable on Wednesday because of a tired arm and it’s unclear if he’ll be available tonight or at all this weekend. We’ll find out soon enough. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Gaslamp Ball for the latest and greatest on the Friars.
For the second time this season, baseball’s two biggest payrolls will meet for a quick little two-game set. The Yankees and Dodgers split two games in the Bronx back in May, and now the series moves out west. It was much more fun when Don Mattingly returned to Yankee Stadium, that’s for sure.
What Have They Done Lately?
If the Rays are the hottest team in baseball, the Dodgers are the hottest team in the NL. They’ve won nine of ten games since the All-Star break and 26 of their last 32 games overall. At 56-48 with a +9 run differential, Los Angeles has a nice 2.5-game lead in the NL West.
With an average of 4.0 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+, the Dodgers are a below-average run scoring team and an above-average offensive team. Does that make sense? They hit well but don’t score as many runs as you’d expect. They have some timing issues, evidence by their 85 wRC+ with runners in scoring position. OF Matt Kemp (95 wRC+) is on the DL with an ankle issue and won’t return this series.
The top of manager Don Mattingly’s lineup is where all the fun happens. OF Carl Crawford (117 wRC+) leads off, and he is expected to return to the lineup tonight after being under the weather for a few days. OF Yasiel Puig (185 wRC+) bats second, 1B Adrian Gonzalez (130 wRC+) bats third, and the molten hot SS Hanley Ramirez (210 wRC+) cleans up. He’s been unbelievable after missing the start of the year with thumb and hamstring problems.
OF Andre Ethier (107 wRC+) and the underrated C A.J. Ellis (109 wRC+) provide some nice lineup help from the five and six spots. 3B Juan Uribe (104 wRC+) and 2B Mark Ellis (92 wRC+) round out the rest of the regulars. On the bench, Mattingly has C Tim Federowicz (61 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Hairston Jr. (87 wRC+), UTIL Elian Herrera (38 wRC+ in limited time), and OF Skip Schumaker (96 wRC+). They lack that big power bat for key pinch-hitting spots.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Zack Greinke
Two games against the Dodgers, two former Cy Young Award winners on the mound. Such is life. Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy winner, has a 3.49 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 16 starts this year, including strong walk (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) and homer (0.83 HR/9 and 10.2% HR/FB) rates. The 29-year-old’s strikeout (6.89 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (44.3%) numbers leave something to be desired though, especially for a guy who signed for close to $150M. Greinke is a true six-pitch pitcher, using three fastballs (low-90s two-seamer, low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter) to set up his three offspeed pitches (mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball). The curve and changeup see more time than the slider. Believe it or not, the Yankees have faced Greinke just once in the last five years. They punished him for seven runs in two innings back in 2011.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
For my money, Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world. The he 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner brings a 1.96 ERA (2.50 FIP) into this start, not to mention a gaudy strikeout rate (8.76 K/9 and 25.5 K%), a gaudier walk rate (1.96 BB/9 and 5.7 BB%), an excellent homer rate (0.51 HR/9 and 6.5% HR/FB), and a decent ground ball rate (45.2%). He’s a stud. The 25-year-old (!) Kershaw is basically a three-pitch pitcher, using a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a wipeout mid-80s slider, and a hammer mid-70s curve. All three are legit swing-and-miss pitches. He’ll also throw the rare mid-80s changeup. He’s ridiculous. Kershaw has actually pitched against the Yankees once before, holding them to two runs in seven innings back in 2010. You might remember him breaking a bone in Brett Gardner‘s wrist with a pitch in that game. That was before Kershaw made the leap from promising youngster to dominant ace.
After a few rocky weeks in May and June, Mattingly’s bullpen has fallen into place in recently. RHP Kenley Jansen (2.22 FIP) has replaced RHP Brandon League (4.80 FIP) as closer, and the team recently added RHP Carlos Marmol (9.42 FIP) as well. That’s three Proven Closers™, but only one is actually above-average. The other two see mostly low and medium-leverage situations.
LHP Paco Rodriguez (1.07 FIP vs. LHB), a 2012 draft pick, is already a shutdown lefty specialist. LHP J.P. Howell (2.65 FIP) is another strong matchup guy, and the Yankees are familiar with him from his days with the Rays. RHP Ronald Belisario (3.55 FIP) is the guy who did this, and he rounds out the bullpen alongside RHP Chris Withrow (3.31 FIP in limited time). Outside of the lefties, there are some seriously hard throwers in this ‘pen.
Both the Yankees and the Dodgers were off on Monday, so their bullpens are as rested as can be this time of year. Check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who pitched when, then check out Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and True Blue LA for the latest and greatest on the Dodgers. They’re two of my very favorite team-specific sites on the web.
The Yankees aren’t on the road anymore, but that doesn’t mean the second half schedule gets any easier. The Rays are the hottest team in baseball and they’re in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. New York and Tampa have split ten games this year with the Yankees outscoring their division rivals 44-38. No, really.
What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, the Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now. They were rained out yesterday, but they took two of three from the Red Sox in Fenway Park before that and have won 19 of their last 22 (!) games overall. At 60-42 with a +68 run differential, Tampa is a half-game back of Boston in the AL East with the fourth best record in baseball.
Unlike the last few years, manager Joe Maddon has an above-average lineup at his disposal. The Rays average 4.7 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+, the seventh and second best marks in baseball, respectively. Tampa is perfectly healthy on offense, not a single regular position player on the DL.
As usual, the focal point of Maddon’s offense is 3B Evan Longoria (140 wRC+). He’s a monster. 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (113 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (135 wRC), OF Wil Myers (134 wRC+ in limited time), 1B James Loney (130 wRC+), 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (121 wRC+), OF Desmond Jennings (118 wRC+), and OF Matt Joyce (112 wRC+) are all above-average contributors as well. That’s eight players as good or better than the Yankees second best hitter (Brett Gardner has a 112 wRC+).
The rest of the roster includes SS Yunel Escobar (90 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (100 wRC+ in limited time), OF Sam Fuld (55 wRC+ in limited time), and the tandem of C Jose Molina (73 wRC+) and C Jose Lobaton (98 wRC+). They split time behind the plate almost 50/50. Tampa is a top ten homer-hitting team (seventh with 115), but they’re just middle of the pack with 56 steals. These aren’t your older brother’s Rays anymore, they can hit.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
The Yankees caught a bit of a bad break with Tampa’s rainout yesterday, because instead of facing the eminently beatable Roberto Hernandez on Sunday, they will instead face the 26-year-old Hellickson tonight. He’s got a 4.62 ERA (3.85 FIP) with solid peripherals: 7.34 K/9 (20.0 K%), 2.13 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), 1.17 HR/9 (11.1% HR/FB), and 40.8% grounders. The one they call Hellboy outperformed his peripherals the last two years, but now he’s underperforming them for some reason. A 68.2% strand rate (78.9% career) will do that to a guy. Hellickson’s top pitch is a fading upper-70s changeup that he throws nearly 30% of the time. Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs set it up. He’ll also throw a mid-to-upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen Hellickson a few times over the years and he’s generally handled them well.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer
Another year, another Rays pitching prospect emerges at the big league level. This year it is the 24-year-old Archer, who has a 2.76 ERA (4.29 FIP) in ten starts. He is getting grounders (46.2%) and limiting homers (0.77 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), but his strikeout (6.29 K/9 and 16.9 K%) and walk (3.84 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) numbers leave something to be desired. Archer has shown four pitches this year, though his mid-90s four-seamer and wipeout mid-80s slider are his calling cards. He’ll also throw a low-to-mid-80s two-seamer and a low-to-mid-80s changeup. It’s worth noting that Archer has a massive platoon split this year, holding righties to a .223 wOBA while lefties have tagged him for a .321 wOBA. He started against the Yankees late last month and held them to one run in six innings.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore, 24, has a 3.17 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 20 starts this year but he’s been dynamite of late, allowing four total runs in his last five starts (35.2 innings). His strikeout (8.66 K/9 and 23.1 K%) and homer (0.62 HR/9 and 6.2% HR/FB) rates are very good, but the walk (4.33 BB/9 and 11.5 BB%) and ground ball (39.0%) numbers leave something to be desired. Moore’s fastball velocity has dropped off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his twojust 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. He’s got nasty, nasty stuff. The Yankees have seen Moore a few times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including three times this year. I suppose the good news is that each of those three starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, and three runs in six innings in July. Hopefully that trend continues.
Maddon’s bullpen is very well-rested coming into the series. Not only were the rained out yesterday, but David Price threw a complete-game on Wednesday and Moore threw a complete game on Monday. Their relievers have only had to work in just one of the last four days. Lucky them.
RHP Fernando Rodney (3.21 FIP) is the closer and has settled down after a rough start to the season. RHP Joel Peralta (3.55 FIP) is his primary setup man, and the Rays have an excellent pair of power southpaws in LHP Jake McGee (3.49 FIP) and LHP Alex Torres (1.70 FIP). Torres has been close to unhittable. RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.60 FIP), LHP Cesar Ramos (3.19 FIP), and the steady RHP Jamey Wright (3.09 FIP) round out the relief corps.
The Yankees are in decent bullpen shape. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched yesterday, but everyone else should be good to go. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for a look at the team’s recent … bullpen workload. DRays Bay and Process Report are my go-to Rays blogs.
Although the Yankees aren’t playing one of their AL East rivals, this four-game series against the Rangers in Texas has some pretty big playoff implications. New York is three back of the second wildcard spot and the Rangers are two games ahead of them, so this is a chance to leapfrog one of their wildcard competitors. Jumping over multiple teams in very hard to do, so winning these head-to-head games is crucial.
What Have They Done Lately?
Quite a bit of losing, actually. The Rangers got swept by the Orioles this weekend and have lost seven of their last eight overall. They’ve gone 22-27 their last 49 games as well. Texas sits in second place in the AL West at 54-44 with a +16 run differential, three games back of the Athletics.
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+, the Rangers are pretty close to a league average offense. They certainly aren’t the same run-scoring juggernaut they’ve been for the last decade or so. Texas has a full five-man starting rotation on the DL but just one position player: former Yankee DH Lance Berkman (98 wRC+). He’s out with a hip issue and won’t return this week.
Manager Ron Washington’s lineup structure will be a little different than what we’re used to seeing. 2B Ian Kinsler (116 wRC+) still leads off and 3B Adrian Beltre (138 wRC+) cleans up, but SS Elvis Andrus (58 wRC+) now hits in the bottom third of the order. OF Nelson Cruz (121 wRC+) bats third and one of OF Craig Gentry (75 wRC+ in limited time), CF Leonys Martin (96 wRC+), or IF Jurickson Profar (78 wRC+ in limited time) bats second.
C A.J. Pierzynski (98 wRC+), 1B Mitch Moreland (107 wRC+), and OF David Murphy (74 wRC+) usually fill out the rest of the lineup. UTIL Jeff Baker (190 wRC+ in limited time) will sub in against southpaws. Backup C Geovany Soto (68 wRC+) and OF Engel Beltre (53 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. The Rangers are a top five homer-hitting club (113) and a middle of the pack stolen base team (60).
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Texas took advantage of the All-Star break to manipulate the roster and give their ace a little extra rest. The 26-year-old Darvish will be activated off the DL for tonight’s start (technically, it was a trap strain), and he brings with him a 3.02 ERA (3.21 FIP) and a dynamite strikeout rate (11.84 K/9 and 32.5 K%). His walk rate (3.09 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%) is good and his ground ball rate is okay (43.9%), but he is homer prone (1.13 HR/9 and 15.2% HR/FB). Darvish is primarily a four-pitch pitcher who will mix in two other offerings as well. He sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his two- and four-seam fastballs and in the upper-80s with his cutter. His trademark slider — he throws it nearly 40% (!) of the time — comes in around 80 mph. A mid-80s splitter and a slow, mid-60s curve are those rarely used fifth and sixth pitches. He’ll throw two or three of each per start. The Yankees have faced Darvish twice before — he dominated them early last year and they tagged him for three solo homers in 5.1 innings a few weeks ago.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Alexi Ogando
Like Darvish, Ogando will come off the DL for this start. He was actually hurt though — shoulder inflammation has had him on the shelf since early-June. Ogando, 29, owns a 2.93 ERA (4.26 FIP) in ten starts with unspectacular peripherals: 6.99 K/9 (18.7 K%), 3.58 BB/9 (9.6 BB%), 0.98 HR/9 (8.8% HR/FB), and 37.9% grounders. He’s using his mid-80s changeup far more than ever before (nearly 20% of the time), so he’s no longer that two-pitch, low-to-mid-90s fastball/low-80s slider guy. His velocity is down a tick or two across the board this season. It’s a small sample, but Ogando has a massive reverse split this year (.360 wOBA vs. RHB and .255 vs. LHB). That’s the exact opposite of the rest of his career. The Yankees have seen Ogando plenty over the last few years, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Derek Holland
Very quietly, the 26-year-old Holland is having an excellent season (3.10 ERA and 2.93 FIP) thanks to his newfound ability to limit the long ball (0.61 HR/9 and 6.6% HR/FB). He doesn’t have a great ground ball rate (40.2%), so he’s probably due for some HR/FB regression considering his home ballpark. That doesn’t mean it will actually happen, of course. Holland has very good strikeout (8.55 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and walk (2.63 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) numbers. He’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher but will show three others as well. A low-to-mid-90s sinker and low-80s slider are his top two weapons — he throws them more than 80% of the time combined — but he’ll use the occasional low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. He’ll throw a handful of each per start. The Yankees have hit Holland very hard in the past, but he dominated them earlier this year. Surely you remember that 92-pitch complete-game shutout in late-June.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. TBA
The Rangers have not yet announced their starter for this game. They have a trio of internal candidates — righties Ross Wolf, Josh Lindblom, and Justin Grimm — but they’ve been working the trade phones hard and may or may not be close to landing Matt Garza. Grimm, 24, is currently in the bullpen after pitching to a 6.37 ERA (4.79 FIP) in 17 starts, though he did hold the Yankees to three runs in five innings a few weeks ago. The 26-year-old Lindblom has been up-and-down several times this year, and he has a 5.46 ERA (4.42 FIP) in five starts and three relief appearances for the big league club. Wolf, 30, has a 3.79 ERA (4.54 FIP) in three starts and eleven relief appearances. Obviously the Yankees would be better off facing any of those three guys rather than Garza, who is scheduled to start for the Cubs tonight. If he pitches for Chicago, you can forget about him for Thursday even if the two teams do swing a trade.
Washington’s bullpen now features two former All-Star closers. RHP Joe Nathan (2.42 FIP) handles the ninth inning while RHP Joakim Soria (2.30 FIP in limited time) handles the eighth. RHP Tanner Scheppers (4.23 FIP) and LHP Robbie Ross (3.33 FIP) are the late-inning matchup tandem, then there’s LHP Neal Cotts (2.21 FIP) and RHP Jason Frasor (3.20 FIP). RHP Cory Burns (4.32 FIP in limited time) and LHP Joe Ortiz (4.29 FIP) are likely to be sent down when Darvish and Ogando are activated.
The Yankees are in decent bullpen shape following yesterday’s extra-innings loss, but both Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne are unlikely to be available tonight. David Robertson has appeared in two straight games as well. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage info. Now that Baseball Time in Arlington is defunct, Lone Star Ball is my Rangers’ blog of choice.
It’s hard to believe this is the first time the Yankees have visited Fenway Park this season, isn’t it? That means nine of their final 37 road games — roughly one out of every four — will be played up in Boston. It is what it is. The Red Sox have won four of six meetings between the two historic rivals this season.
What Have They Done Lately?
Before the All-Star break, Boston lost two of three to the Athletics and split a ten-game West Coast trip right down the middle, five wins and five losses. At 58-39 with a +91 run differential, the Sawx are in first place in the AL East, have the best record in the AL, and have the third best record in MLB.
The Red Sox have no trouble putting runs on the board. They lead baseball with an average of 5.13 runs per game and rank second with a team 113 wRC+. They’re even better at home (119 wRC+), as you can imagine. Boston is currently without SS Stephen Drew (92 wRC+) and C David Ross (80 wRC+), but Drew is likely to return sometime this weekend. I suppose it could be as soon as tonight.
The top of manager John Farrell’s lineup falls right into place. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (113 wRC+) leads off, RF Shane Victorino (100 wRC+) bats second, 2B Dustin Pedroia (126 wRC+) bats third, DH David Ortiz (163 wRC+) bats fourth, and 1B Mike Napoli (113 wRC+) bats fifth. OF Daniel Nava (118 wRC+), OF Jonny Gomes (97 wRC+), and 1B/LF Mike Carp (159 wRC+ in limited time) rotate in based on matchups. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (113 wRC+) is the primary backstop with Ross injured.
IF Brock Holt (73 wRC+) has been playing third with Drew out while IF Jose Iglesias (141 wRC+) subs in at short. Once Drew is healthy, Iglesias will play third. UTIL Brandon Snyder (95 wRC+ in limited time) and C Ryan Lavarnway (77 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. The Red Sox are only a middle of the pack homer-hitting team with 98 dingers, but this lineup will wear pitchers down and capitalize on mistakes. It’s what the Yankees’ offense used to be.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Felix Doubront
The Sox aren’t stupid. They know the Yankees struggle against lefties (77 wRC+), so they made sure to line up their rotation accordingly this weekend. Doubront, 25, has a 3.91 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 16 starts and one relief appearance this year. His strikeout rate (8.45 K/9 and 21.6 K%) is down from last year and his walk rate (3.91 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%) is unchanged, so his improvement comes from more grounders (46.7%) and fewer homers (0.73 HR/9 and 8.5% HR/FB). Doubront will use low-90s two- and four-seamers as well as a mid-to-upper-80s cutter to set up his mid-70 curveball and low-80s changeup. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split because of that repertoire. The Yankees haven’t been able to touch Doubront since the start of the last season, and that includes a six-inning, one-run start earlier this year.
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP John Lackey
The 34-year-old Lackey has a brand new elbow following Tommy John surgery and the performance results are startling. He’s got a 2.78 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 16 starts with dynamite peripherals: 8.34 K/9 (22.5 K%), 2.06 BB/9 (5.6 BB%), 1.26 HR/9 (15.6% HR/FB), and 51.6% grounders. The homers are an eyesore, but you can live with them considering everything else. Lackey is primarily a three-pitch pitcher, using his low-90s four-seamer, mid-to-upper-80s cutter, and upper-70s curveball more than 90% of the time combined. He will, however, mix in the rare low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s slider, and low-80s changeup. Like, one or two of each per start. Lackey has been around a while; the Yankees have seen him plenty over the years.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
Lester, 29, has a 4.58 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 20 starts this year, but it’s been a tale of two seasons for him. He had a 2.72 ERA (3.01 FIP) in his first nine starts and a 6.27 ERA (4.98 FIP) in his last eleven starts. I don’t get it, he should be so much better. Lester’s strikeout (7.38 K/9 and 19.1 K%) and walk (3.22 BB/9 and 8.4 BB%) numbers are good but not great, and he gives up a decent amount of homers (1.07 HR/9 and 11.9% HR/FB) despite getting plenty of grounders (47.8%). He’s a true five-pitch pitcher who uses three distinct fastballs — low-90s four-seamer, low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter — as well as a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. Word on the street is he gets into trouble when he falls in love with his cutter and starts using it almost exclusively. There are no secrets here, the Yankees have seen Lester plenty of times over the years, both the good and bad versions.
Farrell’s bullpen is pretty beat up, with LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Franklin Morales, and RHP Joel Hanrahan out long-term. RHP Koji Uehara (2.40 FIP) is the closer right now while RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.11 FIP) and RHP Andrew Bailey (4.77 FIP) do the setup thing. The recently acquired LHP Matt Thornton (4.87 FIP) will be in the late-inning mix as well.
LHP Craig Breslow (3.43 FIP) headlines the rest of the Boston bullpen. RHP Pedro Beato (1.73 FIP in limited time) and LHP Drake Britton (has not pitched) fill out the last two spots. Britton’s next appearance will be the first of his big league career. If the Red Sox have a weakness, it’s definitely their middle relief.
I couldn’t think of a better way to finish off the traditional first half than with three games against the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Following last week’s four-game sweep in Target Field, the Yankees have won 71 of 91 games against Minnesota during the Ron Gardenhire era. That includes the postseason and is completely ridiculous.
What Have They Done Lately?
Since getting swept by the Yankees, the Twins lost two of three to the Blue Jays and four straight to the Rays. They’ve lost their last five games and ten of their last eleven games overall. Gardenhire’s team is 37-52 with a -55 run differential, the third and fourth worst marks in the league, respectively.
At 4.1 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, the Twins are a bit below the league average offensively. They are withing OF Josh Willingham (112 wRC+), who will miss several weeks following knee surgery. OF Darin Mastroianni (50 wRC+) and OF Wilkin Ramirez (57 wRC+) are both on the DL as well. None of the three will return in time for this series.
Obviously, the centerpiece here is C Joe Mauer (138 wRC+), who remains one of baseball’s great pure hitters. 1B Justin Morneau (102 wRC+) doesn’t have the same power he once did, and C/OF/DH Ryan Doumit (90 wRC+) isn’t having a great year. 3B Trevor Plouffe (107 wRC+) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (104 wRC+) have been productive though. OF Clete Thomas has had his moments as well (95 wRC+ in limited time).
There’s not much to see on the rest of he roster. IF Brian Dozier (92 wRC+) get regular reps at second base and IF Pedro Florimon (65 wRC+) is the starting shortstop. IF Jamey Carroll (46 wRC+) and IF Eduardo Escobar (62 wRC+) are the seldom-used reserves. OF Aaron Hicks (71 wRC+) was banged up the last two times these teams played but has since returned to the lineup full-time.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Scott Diamond
Diamond, 26, has become a rotation mainstay after being plucked from the Braves in the Rule 5 Draft a few years ago. He’s got a 5.52 ERA (5.08 FIP) in 16 starts with classic Twins peripherals, meaning a low strikeout rate (4.30 K/9 and 11.1 K%), a low walk-rate (2.15 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%), a high homer rate (1.53 HR/9 and 14.4% HR/FB), and a solid ground ball rate (46.8%). Diamond sits in the upper-80s with his four-seamer and in the low-80s with his curveball and changeup. The Yankees scored three runs in 6.2 innings off the southpaw two weeks ago.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Samuel Deduno
The 30-year-old Deduno was a star for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic and has been pretty good for the Twins in nine starts (3.90 ERA and 4.13 FIP). He’s a big-time ground ball guy (61.1%) who doesn’t miss bats (4.55 K/9 and 11.9 K%) but will limit walks (2.77 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and homers (0.65 HR/9 and 10.5% HR/FB). Deduno’s bread-and-butter is his low-90s four-seamer, but he also throws low-90s cutters, low-80s curveballs, and low-80s changeups. You might remember all those ground balls he induced from the Yankees the last time these two clubs met, when he held New York to three runs in six innings.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kyle Gibson
This will be the 25-year-old Gibson’s fourth career big league start, and in the first three he owns a 7.27 ERA but a 3.12 FIP. He hasn’t struck many batters out (5.19 K/9 and 12.8 K%) but he has gotten grounders (54.1%) and kept the walks to a minimum (2.60 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%). Gibson has yet to allow a homer. He is a three-fastball guy, with upper-80s two-seamers, four-seamers, and cutters setting up a mid-70s slider and rarely used low-80s changeup. The Yankees punished Gibson for eight runs in 5.2 innings two starts ago.
The Twins and Rays played a 12-inning game on Wednesday that wrecked the Minnesota bullpen. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.84 FIP) is fresh, but LHP Brian Duensing (3.10 FIP), RHP Casey Fien (2.88 FIP), and RHP Josh Roenicke (5.10 FIP) have each appeared in two of the last three games. RHP Jared Burton (3.73 FIP), RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.40 FIP), RHP Ryan Pressly (3.21 FIP), and RHP Michael Tonkin (1.57 FIP in very limited time) round out the eight-man bullpen.
The Yankees are in fine bullpen shape heading into the weekend; no workload concerns here. With the All-Star break coming up, I’m sure Joe Girardi won’t have any trouble using guys a little more than normal. Three days in a row, maybe four or five outs instead of three, stuff like that. Our Bullpen Workload page has all the details. Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman are my Twins blogs of choice.
The schedule could not be any more favorable leading up to the All-Star break. The ten-game homestand continues this week with four against the Royals, who are improved but continue to spin their wheels in the middle of the AL Central. The Yankees swept a three-game series in Kansas City back in May, as you surely remember.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals lost yesterday and lost two of three to the Athletics at home over the weekend. They’ve dropped ten of their last 17 games overall. At 41-44 with a +4 run differential, Kansas City is mediocrity defined in the middle of the division, not good enough to contend and not bad enough to sell.
Believe it or not, manager Ned Yost’s team has scored fewer runs (345) than the Yankees (348) this year. Of course, they’ve also played three fewer games, so don’t get too excited. Kansas City averages 3.92 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so they’re comfortably below average. They don’t have any position players on the DL but OF Alex Gordon (118 wRC+) is dealing with a substantial butt bruise (not joking) and might need a day or two to heal up.
The top four … well, three of the top four spots of Yost’s regular lineup are really good. Gordon typically leads off and DH Billy Butler (111 wRC+) cleans up, and these days 1B Eric Hosmer (107 wRC+) bats third. He’s got a 156 wRC+ with eight homers over the last 30 days, so it looks like he’s starting to live up to all that promise. SS Alcides Escobar (63 wRC+) bats second and is Yost’s way of sabotaging things. C Salvador Perez (104 wRC+) and OF David Lough (100 wRC+) have had nice years. Lough essentially led to Jeff Francoeur being released.
3B Mike Moustakas (65 wRC+) has been awful, as has IF Chris Getz (49 wRC+). 2B Johnny Giavotella (41 wRC+ in limited time) was just called up and plays everyday. OF Lorenzo Cain (91 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (118 wRC+ in limited) work the revolving outfield door with Lough. IF Elliot Johnson (42 wRC+) kinda stinks, but otherwise the Royals have a solid bench with IF Miguel Tejada (94 wRC+) and backup C George Kottaras (121 wRC+ in limited time). Kansas City has hit the fewest homers (55) in the league by a lot — the Twins have hit the second fewest at 78 — and have compensated by stealing the fourth most bases in the game (66).
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
The Royals have loaded up on former AL East pitchers over the last 12 months or so, and that crop of pitchers includes the 34-year-old Guthrie. He’s posted a 4.29 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 17 starts with very bad peripherals: 4.37 K/9 (11.3 K%), 3.28 BB/9 (8.5 BB%), 1.68 HR/9 (14.7% HR/FB), and 42.6% grounders. He was always a guy who outperformed his peripherals, but not to this extent. Guthrie still runs his four-seamer and sinker in the 92-94 mph range, and he backs them up mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and mid-70s curves. Despite that deep repertoire, lefties have tattooed him this year (.380 wOBA) and he’s got a huge platoon split (.309 wOBA vs. RHB). Although the Yankees saw Guthrie plenty during his time with the Orioles, they haven’t faced him since July 2011. Been a while.
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jamie Shields
Shields, 31, is in the middle of yet another marvelous season (3.23 ERA and 3.55 FIP) but is somehow getting even less recognition after moving from Tampa to Kansas City. His strikeout (7.85 K/9 and 21.3 K%) and walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) numbers are both pretty damn good and his worst rates in several years. The same goes for his ground ball rate (43.0%), though he is giving up fewer homers (0.88 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) than he has in recent years. Shields remains a master at pitching backwards, especially with his world-class mid-80s changeup. His two- and four-seamer sit in the low-90s while his cutter is a touch below that in the upper-80s. An upper-70s curveball and an infrequently used upper-80s slider round out his repertoire. Shields held to the Yankees to three runs in eight innings earlier this year, and of course they saw him plenty during his time with the Rays.
Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Wade Davis
Unsurprisingly, the 27-year-old Davis has reverted back to his 2009-2011 performance after spending 2012 in the bullpen. He was nasty last season, with a 2.43 ERA (2.78 FIP), but this year he’s sitting on a 5.42 ERA (4.20 FIP) with okay peripherals: 8.13 K/9 (19.6 K%), 3.81 BB/9 (9.2 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (12.4% HR/FB), and 38.8% grounders. As a starter, Davis sits in the upper-80s/low-90s with his three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) while using a low-80s slider as his primary offspeed pitch. A mid-80s changeup is his fifth offering. The Yankees pummeled Davis for seven runs in five innings back in May and saw him more than a few times during his years with Tampa.
Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Ervin Santana
A year ago, the 30-year-old Santana was one of the very worst starters in baseball. This year, he has a 2.90 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout (7.17 K/9 and 20.0 K%), walk (1.83 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%), homer (1.22 HR/9 and 13.6% HR/FB), and ground ball rate (47.6%) have all improved, substantially in some cases. Santana is basically a two-pitch pitcher, sitting in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball and the low-to-mid-80s with his slider. He throws that slider almost 40% of the time. A mid-80s changeup is his rarely used third offering. The Yankees scored four runs off Santana in 6.1 innings earlier this season, and they have faced him plenty of times over the years, mostly hitting him very hard. No real surprises here.
The bullpen is the strongest and deepest part of the Royals roster. Closer RHP Greg Holland (1.47 FIP) is the best reliever no one talks about, and these days he’s being setup by RHP Aaron Crow (3.69 FIP) and RHP Luke Hochevar (3.43 FIP). Hochevar seems to have found a niche in relief. LHP Tim Collins (3.80 FIP) is the matchup guy while LHP Bruce Chen (4.14 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (3.99 FIP in limited time) are multi-inning guys. RHP J.C. Gutierrez (3.66 FIP) rounds out the pen. Chen and Smith each had to throw 3+ innings and 50+ pitches yesterday because Luis Mendoza got clobbered, so their either going to make a roster move today or Yost will be short two arms for at least one day and probably more like two or three days.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have a pretty big bullpen mess on their hands. At least in the late innings. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have pitched in two straight and five of the last seven games, meaning both are likely to be unavailable tonight. I’m guessing Joe Girardi would love to get then both two days off if possible. The various middle relievers are in good shape and long man Adam Warren is probably nice and rusty after throwing a total of five pitches in the last 18 days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage and Royals Review for the latest on this week’s opponent.