Archive for Series Preview

(Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Despite yesterday’s win, the Yankees just wrapped up a pretty terrible homestand in which they went 2-5 and were outscored 37-16. So far this season they are 13-16 with a -39 run differential at home compared to 17-13 with a +11 run differential on the road. So I guess this ten-game road trip came at a good time? The Yankees are in Kansas City this weekend for a four-game wrap around series with the Royals.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals just took three of four from the Cardinals in one of those newfangled home-and-home series, but before that they’d lost eleven of 17. Overall, Kansas City is 29-31 with a -18 run differential. They are tied for last place in the AL Central.

Offense
The Royals are one of the worst hitting teams in baseball this season. They rank dead last with a team 81 wRC+, and their average of 3.87 runs per game is third worst in the AL. They’ve only hit 26 homers in 60 games, or five more than Nelson Cruz has hit in 57 games. Kansas City replaced their hitting coach less than two weeks ago and have averaged 4.38 runs per game since. Their only injured position player is 3B Danny Valencia (80 wRC+).

Hosmer. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Hosmer. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

Manager Ned Yost’s lineup is supposed to revolve around OF Alex Gordon (124 wRC+), 1B Eric Hosmer (81 wRC+), and DH Billy Butler (68 wRC+), but only Gordon is pulling his weight. Between Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas (41 wRC+), Kansas City is quickly replacing Seattle as the place young hitters go to have their careers stall out entirely. Those two were the third and second overall picks in their draft classes, respectively. OF Lorenzo Cain (113 wRC+) has been good and C Salvador Perez (99 wRC+) average.

OF Norichika Aoki (79 wRC+) has been something of a disappointment while 2B Omar Infante (76 wRC+) has dealt with a few injuries this year. SS Alcides Escobar (95 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (80 wRC+ in limited time) lead the team with 16 and ten steals, respectively. C Brett Hayes (-44 wRC+ in very limited time) is the backup catcher and IF Pedro Ciriaco (46 wRC+ in limited time) is the backup infielder. Yes, the same Pedro Ciriaco who tormented the Yankees a few seasons ago with the Red Sox. That was a long time ago though. He stinks now.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (vs. NYY)
Guthrie is 35 already. Am I the only one surprised by that? I thought he was still 32 or 33. Anyway, Guthrie has a 4.00 ERA (5.17 FIP) in a dozen starts and 78.2 innings so far this year. He throws strikes (2.17 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%) but doesn’t miss bats (4.46 K/9 and 11.8 K%), doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.49 HR/9 and 12.4 HR/FB%), and doesn’t really get grounders (42.6%). That’s nothing new though. Guthrie has been doing that for nearly a decade now. He’s always outperformed his peripherals and after nearly 1,500 innings, it’s not a fluke. Lefties, by the way, have it him pretty hard (.358 wOBA). Righties (.289 wOBA) have not been as lucky. Guthrie still sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seamers, and he will throw a handful of cutters per start as well. A mid-70s curveball and mid-80s sliders and changeups are his three offspeed pitches. Guthrie is a bit of a kitchen sink guy despite still having good velocity.

Saturday: RHP David Phelps (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, returned from Tommy John surgery late last season and has spent the better part of this year bouncing between the rotation, the bullpen, and Triple-A. He has a 3.05 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 41.1 innings spanning six starts and and six relief appearances. The strikeout rate is a little low (6.31 K/9 and 17.0 K%), the walk rate a little high (3.92 BB/9 and 10.5 BB%), and the ground ball rate very low (30.5%). Duffy’s homer rate is fine (0.87 HR/9 and 7.4 HR/FB%) and righties have hit him a kinda hard (.315 wOBA), but man, he’s demolished lefties (.077 wOBA!) in a small sample. He throws his mid-90s fastball more than 70% 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 has not yet thrown more than 97 pitches in a start and only once has he thrown more than 88 pitches.

Shields. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Shields. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Here’s a very familiar face. Shields, 33, has a 3.68 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 13 starts and 85.2 innings in his second season with the Royals, and he’s on pace to top 200 innings for the eighth straight season. Only once in that time did he throw fewer than 215 innings. Crazy. Shields is giving up a few more homers than usual (1.26 HR/9 and 14.1 HR/FB%), but otherwise his strikeout (7.35 K/9 and 19.3 K%), walk (2.00 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%), and ground ball (47.1%) numbers are in line with previous years. He has a tiny platoon split. The mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cuttera. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees and Shields have had many, many battles over the years, but this is a new lineup and he’s in a different uniform.

Monday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. KC) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (vs. NYY)
The Royals gave the 31-year-old Vargas a four-year contract over the winter, and so far this season he has a 3.28 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 13 starts and 85 innings. There’s a lot of value in eating innings at a league average-ish rate, which Vargas has done for about five years now. He keeps walks down (2.44 BB/9 and 6.5 BB%) but otherwise does not have great strikeout (6.56 K/9 and 17.5 K%), ground ball (38.9%), or homer (1.16 HR/9 and 10.6 HR/FB%) numbers. His platoon split is pretty small as well. Vargas is definitely a finesse southpaw, sitting in the mid-to-upper-80s with his two and four-seamer. A changeup right around 80 mph is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw some mid-70s curveballs. These two came right out of the generic lefty factory.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Royals have one of the very best setup man/closer combinations in baseball in RHP Wade Davis (1.17 FIP) and RHP Greg Holland (1.25 FIP). They have 41.5% and 40.2% strikeout rates, respectively. The good news for the Yankees is that Holland has pitched in each of the last three games and Davis has pitched in three of the last four. Seems unlikely Holland will pitch tonight, and if Davis does, he probably won’t be available tomorrow.

RHP Aaron Crow (4.53 FIP), RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.00 FIP), and LHP Tim Collins (4.83 FIP) figure to pick up the high-leverage slack these next few days. Herrera throws very, very hard. Regularly hits triple digits. LHP Francisley Bueno (2.07 FIP in limited time), RHP Michael Mariot (2.76 FIP), and RHP Wilking Rodriguez (3.07 FIP in limited time) round out the rest of the eight-man bullpen. They’ve been carrying an eight relievers almost all year. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the team’s opponent these next four days.

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(Presswire)

(Presswire)

The soft part of the schedule is over. The Yankees had their fun with the Mets and Pirates and Cubs and White Sox and Twins of the world (8-8 in 16 games, great job!) these last few weeks, and now it’s time to deal with the elite. The Athletics are in the Bronx for the final three games of the homestand and they bring the best record in the league with them.

What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, Oakland has the best record in the AL at 35-22. Their +115 run differential is just about double the next best in baseball. Seriously. That’s what happens when you score the most runs (296) and allow the fewest runs in baseball (181). Some combination, huh? The A’s just swept a three-game series from the Angels, but before that they actually lost six of eight.

Offense
Again, the Athletics have scored the most runs in baseball (5.19 per game), and their team 115 wRC+ is obviously sky high. Manager Bob Melvin’s lineup is mostly healthy, though 1B/OF Brandon Moss (160 wRC+) and OF Josh Reddick (75 wRC+) are a little banged up with nagging calf and knee injuries, respectively. They sat a few games this weekend and are expected to return to the lineup soon.

Donaldson. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Donaldson. (Getty)

OF Yoenis Cespedes (116 wRC+) is Oakland’s big name on offense, but 3B Josh Donaldson (161 wRC+) is their best all-around player by a rather large margin. The catching platoon of C John Jaso and C Derek Norris (both 149 wRC+) is unfairly productive, and SS Jed Lowrie (110 wRC+) hits enough to make up for his occasionally sketchy defense. Oh, and OF Coco Crisp (115 wRC+) is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.

The A’s have an incredibly deep bench loaded with platoon options, including OF Craig Gentry (93 wRC+), 1B Kyle Blanks (144 wRC+ in limited time), IF Alberto Callaspo (96 wRC+), and IF Nick Punto (93 wRC+). IF Eric Sogard (52 wRC+) is the weak link. He’s been losing playing time at second to Callaspo and Punto. C Stephen Vogt was just called up and allows Melvin to pinch-hit liberally for Jaso and Norris to get the platoon matchup. They hit homers, they steal bases, and they draw walks. It’s brutally effective.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Kazmir, 30, turned his successful comeback attempt with the Indians into a two-year, $22M contract with the Athletics over the winter. He has a 2.36 ERA (3.02 FIP) in eleven starts and 68.2 innings this year, though his strikeout rate (6.85 K/9 and 19.9 K%) is way down compared to even last season. His walk (1.70 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%) and homerun (0.52 HR/9 and 5.6 HR/FB%) rates are way down and his ground ball (49.2%) rate is way up. Kazmir has a reverse split so far — righties have a .248 wOBA while lefties are at .290 — and he’s been much better in the spacious O.co Coliseum (.237 wOBA) than on the road (.275 wOBA). No longer the mid-to-high-90s flamethrower he was with the (Devil) Rays, Kazmir now operates right around 90 mph with his sinking two-seam fastball, and he still throws that nasty low-80s slider. He is still throwing his upper-70s dead fish changeup and has added a mid-70s curveball to his repertoire this season. It’s hard to believe that after all those arm injuries, Kazmir is not only back in the show, but he’s back and is damn good too.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

(Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
When the A’s lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, the pulled the 30-year-old Chavez out of the bullpen and stuck him in the rotation. The result? A 2.78 ERA (3.55 FIP) in eleven starts and 68 innings. Only the A’s, man. Chavez gives up some more homers than his teammates (1.06 HR/9 and 12.9 HR/FB%), but otherwise his strikeout (8.47 K/9 and 22.7 K%), walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%), and ground ball (47.0%) numbers are all very good. Lefties (.327 wOBA) have hit him much, much harder than righties (.246 wOBA). As a starter, Chavez sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs, and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his two secondary pitches. Chavez bounced around the league for a few years — he was the guy the Rays traded to the Braves for Rafael Soriano back in the day — but after joining the Athletics he dropped a ton of weight and took his career more seriously. Now he’s in a contender’s rotation. Baseball, man.

Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. OAK) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
Pomeranz, 25, was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he has since been traded for Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Anderson. He opened the season as a long reliever, but moved into the rotation a few weeks ago because Dan Straily was really, really bad. Pomeranz has a 2.37 ERA (4.28 FIP) in 38 innings spread across five starts and nine relief appearances so far this season. His strikeout (8.29 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and ground ball (49.0%) rates are very good, his walk (4.03 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%) and homer (1.18 HR/9 and 13.5 HR/FB%) rates a little too high. He has absolutely crushed lefty batters (.236 wOBA) while righties have been a bit more successful (.292 wOBA). Pomeranz also has a massive home (.219 wOBA)/road (.340 wOBA) split. As a starter, he’ll sit right around 90 with four and two-seam fastballs, which he throws almost 80% of the time combined. An upper-70s/low-80s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll mix in a few show-me mid-80s changeups per start. Pomeranz went from Coors Field to the O.co Coliseum, which is like a hitter going from Citi Field to Yankee Stadium. Just a much friendlier environment.

Norris, Doolittle, and their beards. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Norris, Doolittle, and their beards. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Bullpen Status
In a very out of character move, the Athletics traded for a big money closer in RHP Jim Johnson (3.66 FIP), and he has been a total bust (6.55 ERA). LHP Sean Doolittle (1.26 FIP) has taken over as closer with RHP Luke Gregerson (2.63 FIP) as the primary setup man. RHP Dan Otero (3.54 FIP), who was Yankees’ property for about three days between waiver claims last spring , also gets some high leverage work.

Believe it or not, the A’s are only carrying eleven pitchers right now, so the only guys in the bullpen are LHP Fernando Abad (2.23 FIP) and LHP Jeff Francis (4.06 FIP in limited time). RHP Ryan Cook (3.88 FIP) is expected to come off the disabled list very soon, and I assume that will put an end to the five-man bench/six-man bullpen experiment. Vogt seems most likely to go down. Oakland was off yesterday, so their bullpen is rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out Athletics Nation and Beaneball for everything you need to know about New York’s opponent for the next three days.

Update: The A’s activated Cook and placed Reddick on the 15-day DL with a hyper-extended knee this afternoon.

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(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Thanks to a rainout on April 30th, the Mariners are back in the Bronx for one night only. The Yankees and Mariners are making up that postponed game tonight, on what should have been an off-day. Seattle did win the two other games in the series back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Mariners just took two straight from the Tigers but have still lost five of their last eight overall. They played in Seattle yesterday afternoon and had to fly in overnight for this game. They leave for Atlanta later tonight. That must suck. Overall, the Mariners are 28-28 with a +13 run differential on the season, which has them sitting in fourth place in the top heavy AL West.

Offense
At 4.07 runs per game with a team 83 wRC+, manager Lloyd McClendon’s squad is comfortably below-average offensively. They are without 1B Logan Morrison (8 wRC+) and DH Corey Hart (82 wRC+), who are on the disabled list with knee and hamstring problems, respectively. Neither will be back tonight. 2B Robinson Cano (115 wRC+) has not played the last three games due to a bruised hand after being jammed by a pitch. If he doesn’t play tonight, then it must be a really bad bruise. I can’t imagine Robbie will pass up an opportunity to torch his old team.

3B Kyle Seager (125 wRC+) has been the team’s best hitter on a rate basis this year, and that is especially true right now with Cano banged up. OF Michael Saunders (109 wRC+) and OF James Jones (107 wRC+ in limited time) are the only other hitters who have been even average for Seattle. 1B Justin Smoak (88 wRC+) and OF Dustin Ackley (85 wRC+) continue to be monumental disappointments, as is SS Brad Miller (42 wRC+). Miller might legitimately be the worst regular player in baseball. It’s amazing he’s not back in Triple-A yet.

Aside from that group, the Mariners are trotting out C Mike Zunino (88 wRC+) and IF Nick Franklin (-1 wRC+ in limited time) fairly regularly right now. OF Stefen Romero (56 wRC+) plays against lefties, OF Cole Gillespie (88 wRC+ in limited time) plays against righties, and UTIL Willie Bloomquist (53 wRC+ in limited time) is the veteran bench guy every team loves to have. C John Buck (65 wRC+) is the backup catcher and OF Endy Chavez (79 wRC+) the designated “holy moly he’s still in baseball?” guy.

(Tom Pennington/Getty)

(Tom Pennington/Getty)

Pitching Matchup: RHP David Phelps (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY)
One game series and of course it’s Felix. How could it not be? The rainout pushed the 28-year-old Hernandez out of the series in New York, but I guess the Yankees can’t escape him that easily. Felix has been superb this season, as usual, with a 2.57 ERA (2.23 FIP) in 12 starts and 84 innings. Lots of strikeouts (8.89 K/9 and 24.8 K%), lots of grounders (51.7%), few walks (1.71 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%), fewer homers (0.32 HR/9 and 5.9% HR/FB). Definition of elite. He also has a bit of a reverse split this year — righties have a .271 wOBA while lefties have a .248 wOBA — but still, he’s good against everyone. Felix has probably the nastiest stuff in the game, with a low-90s fastball that runs back in on righties, an upper-80s changeup that falls off the table, an unhittable mid-80s slider, and knee-buckling low-80s curveball. Every positive pitching adjective in the book applies to this guy.

Bullpen Status
Left-hander Roenis Elias threw a complete game shutout against the Tigers yesterday, so McClendon’s bullpen got a nice day of rest. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney (3.02 FIP) is the anchor and he has been a high-wire act all season. Every time I watch him he’s putting the tying run on base. RHP Yoervis Medina (4.07 FIP) and former Yankees farmhand RHP Danny Farquhar (2.76 FIP) are the primary setup men. Farquhar went to Seattle in the Ichiro Suzuki trade.

LHP Charlie Furbush (4.09 FIP) and LHP Joe Beimel (2.95 FIP) are the team’s two lefties while RHP Dominic Leone (3.24 FIP) and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (3.97 FIP) handle pretty much all other situations. Outside of David Robertson, who has thrown a ton of pitches the last two days, the Yankees’ bullpen should be in good shape behind Phelps tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing for everything you need to know about the Mariners over the next like, ten hours or so.

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(Ed Zurga/Getty)

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Even as the Yankees struggled last season, their dominance over the Twins remained. They took five of seven from Minnesota and have won 72 of 94 games against the Twins during the Ron Gardenhire era, including the postseason. Four of those 22 losses came against peak Johan Santana. Gardenhire’s team is in the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Twinkies lost a close game to the Rangers yesterday afternoon and have dropped two in a row. They’ve also lost six of their last seven games. Minnesota is 24-27 with a -27 run differential overall, which has them sitting right smack in the middle of the AL Central.

Offense
Despite one of the highest walk rates in baseball (10.1%), the Twins are a slightly below-average club offensively, with a team 95 wRC+ and an average of 4.24 runs per game. They are currently without OF Sam Fuld (87 wRC+) long-term due to a serious concussion, but otherwise Minnesota is perfectly healthy on the position player side.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

As always, Gardenhire’s lineup is built around 1B Joe Mauer (96 wRC+), who had the tools of ignorance taken away this offseason in an effort to keep him healthy. 2B Brian Dozier (122 wRC+) has been very good (11 homers and 12 steals) and the catching platoon of C Yosmil Pinto (120 wRC+) and C Kurt Suzuki (114 wRC+) has been excellent. 3B Trevor Plouffe (108 wRC+) has had his moments and OF Josh Willingham (147 wRC+ in limited time) is just returning from a wrist injury. SS Eduardo Escobar (134 wRC+) has been awesome since taking over as the starter a few weeks ago.

OF Aaron Hicks (74 wRC+) stopped switch-hitting like four days ago and is still going through the adjustment of facing right-handed pitchers as a right-handed batter. OF Jason Kubel (83 wRC+) got off to a crazy start but has really cooled off of late. OF Chris Parmelee (62 wRC+), OF Oswaldo Arcia (108 wRC+), and IF Danny Santana (151 wRC+ in limited time) are also on the roster. Oh, and they’re carrying UTIL Eduardo Nunez (82 wRC+) too. He’s on outfielder now. Yep, playing left field. How about that?

Pitching Matchups (Pitcher GIFs is still down for whatever reason)

Friday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
The Twins spent a lot of money this winter to improve their rotation, and most of that money went to the 31-year-old Nolasco. He signed a four-year deal worth $49M. The early returns: a 6.12 ERA (4.67 FIP) in ten starts and 60.1 innings. Ouch. Nolasco has a very good walk rate (2.39 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%), but he isn’t missing bats (5.97 K/9 and 15.0 K%), getting ground balls (41.7%), or keeping the ball in the park (1.49 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB). Lefties (.431 wOBA) are hitting him hard and righties (.358 wOBA) aren’t being so kind either. Nolasco is basically a kitchen sink guy these days. He throws upper-80s/low-90s two and four-seam fastballs, an upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeups and sliders, an upper-70s splitter, and a mid-70s curveball. Seven pitches. The cutter and changeup are show-me pitches more than anything, but he uses the other five regularly.

Saturday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (vs. NYY)
Correia, 33, is the prototypical Twins pitcher in that he doesn’t strike anyone out (5.04 K/9 and 12.6 K%). It’s amazing a pitcher can have a strikeout rate that low. Then again, Correia has a 6.34 ERA (3.86 FIP) in ten starts and 55.1 innings, so it’s not like it’s working either. His walks are low (2.11 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) and he hasn’t had any homer problems (0.81 HR/9 and 6.0% HR/FB) despite a low ground ball rate (42.2%). He actually has a reverse split so far this season: righties have a .373 wOBA while lefties are at .340. Correia is another kitchen sink guy, and believe it or not, he uses his upper-80s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter fewer than 40% of the time combined. A hard upper-80s slider is his top pitch, and he’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs. I get the sense PitchFX might be misclassifying some of his cutters as sliders.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Sunday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (vs. NYY)
After years of watching Hughes give up dingers and struggle to put hitters away, we’ll finally get to see how the other half lives. Hughes, 27, has actually been very good this year, with a 3.23 ERA (2.61 FIP) in ten starts and 61.1 innings. His strikeout (7.34 K/9 and 19.8 K%) and ground ball (32.6%) rates are right in line with his career norms, but he isn’t giving up as many homers (0.59 HR/9 and 4.7% HR/FB). Spacious Target Field certainly has something to do with that (1.9% HR/FB at home, 8.9% on the road). The biggest improvement in Hughes’ game is his walk rate. He always limited walks, but now he’s taken it to the extreme: 0.88 BB/9 and 2.4 BB%. Phil hasn’t walked a batter in his last 44.2 innings (!), a span of 125 batters. His streak of six straight walk-less starts is the longest in baseball since Stephen Strasburg also went six straight back in 2011. Go figure. Righties (.353 wOBA) have hit him much harder than lefties (.232 wOBA) so far. Hughes has always been a tinkerer and he again changed his repertoire this year, bringing back his upper-80s cutter and shelving his low-80s slider. He’ll throw a few mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but for the most part it’s straight heat, low-90s fastballs in the zone. What do you think, two runs in seven innings or seven runs in two innings? I feel like there’s no middle ground. Hughes will either dominant on Sunday or get hammered.

Bullpen Status
Gardenhire quietly has a strong back end of the bullpen, led by closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.33 FIP). He might be the second best lefty reliever in baseball behind Aroldis Chapman. Top five for sure. RHP Casey Fien (2.41 FIP) has been very good in a setup role and LHP Caleb Thielbar (3.63 FIP) gets the call to face the toughest left-handed batters.

RHP Jared Burton (5.62 FIP) is having a terrible year after being very effective the last few seasons. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.17 FIP) is the long man while perpetual Twins RHP Matt Guerrier (2.93 FIP) and LHP Brian Duensing (4.62 FIP) round out the rest of the bullpen. Duensing, Swarzak, Fien, and Guerrier all pitched yesterday and Guerrier has pitched in each of the last two days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees bullpen, then check out Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman’s Blog for everything you need to know about the Twins.

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(Joe Robbins/Getty)

(Joe Robbins/Getty)

After a one series reprieve, the Yankees are right back in an NL park for another interleague series. Thankfully this is their final visit to the so-called Senior Circuit this year, at least until the World Series, of course. The Yankees are visiting the new Busch Stadium for the first time this week for three games against the defending NL champion Cardinals. It is their first trip to St. Louis in general since 2005.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Cards are coming off two straight wins over the Reds and they’ve won nine of their last eleven games overall. They were scuffling a bit earlier in the season, but they’ve definitely turned it around of late. St. Louis is 28-22 with a +24 run differential overall, which is the second best record in the NL Central and fourth best record in the NL overall.

Offense
At 3.84 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+, the Cardinals are a bit below average offensively. Unsurprisingly, their historic success with runners in scoring position last year (.330/.402/.463 (!!!)) has not carried over to this year (.242/.324/.334). That’s just not something a team will do year after year. OF Peter Bourjos (87 wRC+) has been sidelined by a stomach bug the last few days, but otherwise the Cardinals are perfectly healthy on the position player side.

Craig. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Craig. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Manager Mike Matheny’s lineup is anchored by C Yadier Molina (133 wRC+), who also happens to be the best defensive catcher in all the land. Life will not be easy for the Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led running game this week. SS Jhonny Peralta (123 wRC+) and 1B Matt Adams (124 wRC+) are having very strong years while 3B Matt Carpenter (110 wRC+) and OF Matt Holliday (111 wRC+) have been good but not great. Certainly not as good as they were last season. OF Jon Jay (101 wRC+) has been solid.

The lack of production from RF Allen Craig (89 wRC+) has really hurt the Cardinals these first few weeks. He was expected to be one of their top middle of the order guys. 2B Kolten Wong (83 wRC+) and 2B Mark Ellis (32 wRC+) have more or less shared time at second, though Wong is getting more of the at-bats of late. OF Shane Robinson (24 wRC+), IF Daniel Descalso (10 wRC+), and C Tony Cruz (115 wRC+) round out the bench, which is surprisingly weak for an NL team. It was especially noticeable in the World Series last fall.

Pitching Matchups (Pitcher GIFs is still down for whatever reason)

Monday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. STL) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (vs. NYY)
Wacha, 22, shot from college to (near) the front of the Cardinals rotation in less than two full years, which is damn impressive. He has a 2.54 ERA (2.77 FIP) in ten starts and 60.1 innings this season thanks to excellent strikeout (9.58 K/9 and 26.4 K%), walk (2.54 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), and homer (0.60 HR/9 and 7.5% HR/FB) rates. His ground ball rate (43.0%) isn’t great and he has a tiny platoon split. Wacha’s performance this year is almost exactly the same as last year, and it’s kinda freaky. After relying on his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and knockout mid-to-high-80s changeup almost exclusively last season, Wacha is using his upper-80s cutter and mid-70s curveball much more often this year. It’s very hard to believe he won’t turn 23 until later this summer.

Lynn. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Lynn. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. STL) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (vs. NYY)
At 27 years and 14 days, Lynn will be the oldest starting pitcher the Yankees see in this series by more than three full years. He comes into the series with a 3.60 ERA (3.10 FIP) in ten starts and 60 innings, and his peripherals — 8.85 K/9 (22.6 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 0.60 HR/9 (7.0% HR/FB), and 44.5% grounders — are career bests as a starter across the board. Lefties (.348 wOBA) are hitting him much harder than righties (.273 wOBA). Lynn is something of a 4.5-pitch pitcher. He uses his low-90s two and four-seam fastballs to set up his mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball, plus he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. For whatever reason, Lynn has really scaled back his changeup usage the last two seasons. He’ll look like a legitimate ace on his best days.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this will be a homecoming for Phelps, who was born and raised in the St. Louis suburbs. He told George King he was a die-hard Cardinals fan growing up. I’m sure he’s excited for this game.

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. STL) vs. RHP Shelby Miller (vs. NYY)
The Cardinals reportedly shopped the 23-year-old Miller heavily over the winter, which made me think his arm was about to explode. Especially after they avoided using him in the postseason (faced only four batters despite being on the roster all three rounds). You don’t try to trade former first round pick after he pitched to a 3.06 ERA (3.67 FIP) as a rookie. Sure enough, Miller has taken a big step back this year, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at his 3.18 ERA. His strikeout rate (7.15 K/9 and 18.7 K%) has dropped quite a bit, his walk rate (4.76 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) has nearly doubled, and he’s been far more homer prone (1.43 HR/9 and 15.0% HR/FB) despite a relatively static ground ball rate (41.8%). Lefties (.381 wOBA) have pounded him as well (.310 wOBA for righties). His 5.22 FIP is no accident. Miller sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and will mix in the occasional upper-80s cutter. A sharp upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, though he also has a mid-80s changeup. Based on how he’s pitching this year compared to last year, I have to think something is very wrong with Miller. Either he’s hurt or his mechanics are a total mess. He went from budding ace to replacement level in an offseason.

Rosenthal. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Rosenthal. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Cardinals recently welcomed RHP Jason Motte (8.19 FIP in limited time) back from Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him all of last year. He is currently being eased back into things while RHP Trevor Rosenthal (2.96 FIP) continues to handle closing duties. He’s had some walk (13.3 BB%) problems this year. RHP Carlos Martinez (3.88) handles setup work.

LHP Kevin Siegrist just landed on the disabled list with a forearm problem, leaving former Yankee LHP Randy Choate (2.90 FIP) as Matheny’s top southpaw. RHP Seth Maness (3.70 FIP), RHP Pat Neshek (1.99 FIP), and LHP Sam Freeman (2.05 FIP in one whole inning) fill out the rest of the bullpen. The Cardinals don’t really have a true long man, though I’m not sure that’s a flaw. It’s just different. Only Choate and Neshek pitched last night, and they threw a combined 17 pitches. Their ‘pen is fresh.

Our Bullpen Workload page has everything you need to know about the Yankees’ bullpen heading into the series. For the latest and greatest on the Cardinals, check out Viva El Birdos.

Categories : Series Preview
Comments (45)
(Getty)

(Getty)

The Yankees just wrapped up a two-game series against the Cubs on Chicago’s north side, and now they move down to the south side for a four-game set against the Cubs. Chicago week continues with the team’s first non-interleague series in two weeks. Hooray for the DH.

What Have They Done Lately?
The White Sox dropped last night’s game to the Royals but still took two of three in the series. They have lost eight of their last 13 games and are 23-25 with a -11 run differential overall. That leaves them in fourth place in the top heavy AL Central.

Offense
After a scorching hot start to the season, the White Sox have slowed down offensively in recent weeks, but they still sport a team 101 wRC+ and an average of 4.88 runs per game. The Yankees catch a big break because 1B Jose Abreu (140 wRC+) was just placed on the 15-day DL with an ankle problem. He leads baseball with 15 homers. The Yankees will miss Abreu this week after missing Ryan Braun against the Brewers and Josh Hamilton against the Angels. Lucky. The ChiSox also lost OF Avisail Garcia (128 wRC+) to a season-ending shoulder injury a few weeks ago.

Dunn. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

Dunn. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

Even without Abreu, the White Sox still have a premier power hitter in 1B Adam Dunn (143 wRC+). SS Alexei Ramirez (126 wRC+), 3B Conor Gillaspie (128 wRC+), C Tyler Flowers (113 wRC+), and OF Dayan Viciedo (123 wRC+) have all been very good as well. Gillaspie missed some time with an injury earlier this year. All four of those guys were pretty bad just last season, so they’ve turned it around in a big way early on. 1B Paul Konerko (48 wRC+) is a shell of his former self and started the year on the bench, though Abreu’s injury has pushed him into the lineup full-time at the moment.

2B Gordon Beckham (98 wRC+) has been okay this year, though neither IF Marcus Semien (66 wRC+) nor UTIL Leury Garcia (63 wRC+) has done much with the bat. OF Adam Eaton (92 wRC+) now hits leadoff after OF Alejandro De Aza (41 wRC+) hit in that spot the last few seasons. OF Moises Sierra (22 wRC+) was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays a few weeks ago to help cover for Garcia’s injury. Backup C Adrian Nieto (107 wRC+) is a Rule 5 Draft pick who made the jump from High-A this year. The White Sox can still hit a little, but there’s no doubt the Yankees catch a break by missing Abreu.

Pitching Matchups (Pitcher GIFS is down temporarily)

Thursday: RHP David Phelps (vs. CWS) vs. LHP Chris Sale (vs. NYY)
Chris Sale, 25, will be activated off the 15-day DL later today and make this start. He missed a little more than a month with a flexor strain in his elbow. I guess we can’t complain with Abreu on the shelf. Sale had a 2.30 ERA (2.32 FIP) in 27.1 innings with an excellent strikeout rate (9.55 K/9 and 27.9 K%), an excellent walk rate (2.30 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), and an excellent home run rate (0.33 HR/9 and 4.2% HR/FB) before getting hurt. He gets a good amount of grounders (45.5%) and demolishes lefties (.063 wOBA). Righties (.262 wOBA) are a little more successful.  A low-to-mid-90s two-seam fastball sets up his upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup. There is always a little uncertainty when a pitcher makes his first start off the DL — Sale did strike out eleven in four shutout innings in his only rehab start — but when healthy, Sale is one of the five best pitchers in all of baseball. He’s a monster.

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CWS) vs. LHP John Danks (vs. NYY)
You might remember a few years ago that most of his here at RAB talked constantly about trading for the 29-year-old Danks. Then he tore his shoulder capsule and everything changed. The southpaw has a 5.64 ERA (5.10 FIP) in nine starts and 52.2 innings this year with mediocre to bad peripherals: 7.01 K/9 (17.3 K%), 4.44 BB/9 (10.9 BB%), 1.37 HR/9 (10.8% HR/FB), and 37.7% grounders. Both righties (.375 wOBA) and lefties (.340 wOBA) have had their way with him. Danks throws his two and four-seam fastballs in the mid-to-upper-80s post-torn capsule with his cutter a few ticks below that. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch, though he will throw a handful low-70s curveballs per start as well. Danks was very good a few years ago, but the shoulder injury changes everything. He’s replacement level now.

Carroll. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Carroll. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. CWS) vs. RHP Scott Carroll (No vs. NYY)
Carroll, 29, spent parts of eight seasons in the minors before getting his first call to the big leagues earlier this month. His first two starts were very good (two runs in 7.1 innings, two runs in six innings), but the last three have been disasters (six runs in four innings twice, six runs in five innings the other). Carroll has a 6.49 ERA (5.48 FIP) in 26.1 innings with the same number of walks as strikeouts (3.08 per nine and 6.9%). He has gotten ground balls (51.0%), given up some homers (1.03 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB), and been smacked around by both righties (.379 wOBA) and lefties (.453 wOBA). Carroll does throw five pitches and they’re pretty much the exact five pitches you’d expect a career minor league journeyman to throw: upper-80s two and four-seamers, low-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and mid-70s curves. This is essentially a matchup of seventh or eighth starters.

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. CWS) vs. RHP Andre Rienzo (vs. NYY)
The ChiSox have really had to dip into their farm system for arms due to injuries this year, a rarity for them. They’ve consistently been the healthiest team in baseball over the last few seasons. Unlike Carroll, the 25-year-old Rienzo is one of the team’s better prospects, and so far this season he has a 4.00 ERA (5.56 FIP) in 36 innings. The peripherals — 6.25 K/9 (16.0 K%), 4.00 BB/9 (10.3 BB%), 1.50 HR/9 (13.3% HR/FB), and 40.5% — aren’t anything special, and lefties (.347 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.270 wOBA). Rienzo throws three fastballs in the upper-80s (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) as well as an upper-70s curveball, plus he’ll mix in a few low-80s changeups. I’ve gotta say, these are some interesting pitching matchups this week. Not all of them in a good way either.

Petricka, who was once drafted by the Yankees. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Petricka, who was once drafted by the Yankees. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Bullpen Status
ChiSox manager and former Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura just lost closer RHP Matt Lindstrom (4.70 FIP) for several months with a severe ankle injury. I’m not sure who will step into the ninth inning, but it won’t be ex-Mets closer RHP Frank Francisco (9.88 FIP); Dan Hayes says he will be designated for assignment today to clear a roster spot for Sale. RHP Ronald Belisario (2.91 FIP) and LHP Scott Downs (3.46 FIP) have been handling setup duties.

RHP Jake Petricka (3.95 FIP), RHP Zach Putnam (2.91 FIP), RHP Daniel Webb (4.27 FIP), and former Yankee RHP Hector Noesi (4.19 FIP) are also in the bullpen. Noesi has a 6.21 ERA in 162.1 innings since being traded away. I have no idea what happened there. He was pretty good in 2011. Blame the Mariners, I guess. RHP Javy Guerra is Chicago’s roster but has not yet pitched. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out South Side Sox for everything you need to know about the ChiSox.

Pitching Matchups Update: According to Jackson Alexander, Carroll has been moved to the bullpen now that Sale is back. Sale with start tonight, Noesi tomorrow, Danks on Saturday, and Rienzo on Sunday.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

(Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

For the fourth series in a row, the Yankees are playing a National League team. This time they’re on Chicago’s north side for two games against the Cubs. These clubs played two games at Yankee Stadium last month and the Yankees didn’t just win both games — the first game was rained out, so they played a doubleheader the next day — they shut the Cubs out both times. It was pretty great. Alfonso Soriano is returning to Wrigley Field for the first time since being traded back to New York last July, so it’ll be interesting to see the reception.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Lovable Losers took two of three from the Brewers over the weekend, winning both Saturday and Sunday. They dropped three straight and ten of 12 before that. The Cubs have lost 90+ games in each of the last three seasons and they are again terrible in 2014, coming into today with a 15-27 record and a -3 run differential. That is the very worst win-loss record in baseball despite a decidedly average run differential.

Offense
The Cubs average 3.95 runs per game and have a team 82 wRC+, so they are well-below-average offensively. They are missing two outfielders in OF Justin Ruggiano (80 wRC+) and OF Ryan Sweeney (36 wRC+), both of whom are on the 15-day DL with hamstring problems. Ruggiano started a minor league rehab assignment yesterday, so I suppose he could be activated at some point during this series. Sweeney is out long-term.

Rizzo. (Presswire)

Rizzo. (Presswire)

Rookie manager Rick Renteria has two above-average bats in his lineup in 1B Anthony Rizzo (134 wRC+) and SS Starlin Castro (126 wRC+). Rizzo has bunted to beat the shift several times this year, including once against the Yankees, so expect them to pull the third baseman a little closer to the line. Castro has rebounded quite well following a brutal 2013 season. IF Luis Valbuena (114 wRC+) plays just about everyday, either at second or third. OF Junior Lake (103 wRC+) has been solid in left field.

OF Emilio Bonifacio (89 wRC+) got off to a ridiculously hot start but has cooled down considerably. He leads the team with eleven steals and is their only serious threat to run. 3B Mike Olt (89 wRC+) has hit a bunch of homers (nine) but also has a .254 OBP and a 31.6% strikeout rate. C Welington Castillo (94 wRC+) has been good by catcher standards. Everyone else on the active roster — OF Nate Schierholtz (33 wRC+), OF Ryan Kalish (69 wRC+), UTIL Chris Coghlan (-6 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (38 wRC+), and C John Baker (-46 wRC+) — has not hit at all.

Pitching Matchups
The Yankees are in serious need of rotation help following the CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova injuries, and it just so happens two prime pieces of trade bait will be on the mound for the Cubs this series. They aren’t shy about being terrible for the sake of accumulating prospects with an eye towards a future that may never come. Consider this a chance to do some advance scouting.

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CHC) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Hammel, 31, took a one-year “I know you’re going to trade me but hey, money” contract from the Cubs over the winter and has a 3.06 ERA (3.36 FIP) in eight starts and 53 innings so far this season. His strikeout (7.30 K/9 and 21.2 K%), homer (0.85 HR/9 and 8.5% HR/FB), and ground ball (43.9%) rates are alright, his walk rate (2.04 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) very good. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.207 wOBA), and his still ridiculously low BABIP (.217) has recently started to correct. Hammel has been throwing his low-90s two-seamer way more than ever before this year while cutting back on his mid-to-upper-70s curveball. A hard low-to-mid-80s slider is now his top breaking ball. He also throws the occasional mid-80s changeup. Hammel held the Yankees to three runs in seven innings a few weeks ago.

It’s worth noting tonight’s game will be the first time Tanaka faces a team for the second time this season, so the element of surprise will theoretically be gone. He held them to two singles and a walk with ten strikeouts in eight scoreless innings last month, and I’m not sure the Cubs will be the best litmus test for how Tanaka will pitch the second time around the league because they aren’t a great offensive team.

Samar .. d ... zija. (Presswire)

Samard … zija. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. CHC) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Some pitchers get undeservingly raised to ace status for some reason, and the 29-year-old Samardzija is one of those guys. He’s been excellent so far this year — 1.62 ERA (2.86 FIP) in nine starts and 61 innings, and prepare yourself for a lengthy discussion about his 0-4 record — but there’s also nothing in his track record as a starter to suggest his homer rate (0.30 HR/9 and 4.2% HR/FB) is close to sustainable. Samardzija’s strikeout rate (7.50 K/9 and 20.7 K%) has fallen off big time this year while his walk (2.80 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) and ground ball (50.3%) numbers are right in line with the last two seasons. Like Hammel, he’s been getting knocked around by lefties (.308 wOBA) but not righties (.228 wOBA). I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s very good. Let’s pump the breaks on the ace talk for a bit though. Samardzija sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his running two-seam fastball and a couple ticks lower with his cutter. A low-80s slider is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll use a mid-80s splitter as a changeup. The Yankees did not see Samardzija in the Bronx earlier this year.

Bullpen Status
The Cubs are carrying eight relievers for the time being, presumably until Ruggiano is ready to come off the DL. Former Yankee RHP Jose Veras (10.03 FIP) just came off the DL himself and is being eased back into things right now. Renteria has been using RHP Hector Rondon (1.60 FIP) as his closer even though he’s stopped short of declaring him the guy. RHP Pedro Strop (4.65 FIP) and former Yankees property RHP Brian Schlitter (3.45 FIP) have been seeing most of the setup time. Schlitter never actually pitched for the Yankees; he was briefly with the team between waiver claims in 2011.

LHP Wesley Wright (3.46 FIP) and LHP James Russell (5.77 FIP) are Renteria’s two lefties, and both are specialists more than anything. RHP Justin Grimm (3.66 FIP) and RHP Neil Ramirez (1.89 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen. The Cubs were off yesterday, so their bullpen is nice and fresh. The same is true for the Yankees. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on the recent reliever usage, then check out Bleacher Nation for whatever you need to know about the Cubbies.

Categories : Series Preview
Comments (11)
I don't know either. (Presswire)

I don’t know either. (Presswire)

I thought all the interleague games were supposed to be spread out now? The Yankees begin the third of four straight interleague series tonight tomorrow as the Pirates come to town for a three-game weekend series. This is the Pirates’ first trip to the new Yankee Stadium and their first trip to the Bronx in general since 2007. They are 0-6 all-time in Yankee Stadium during interleague play.

What Have They Done Lately?
Pittsburgh was handed a walk-off loss by Khris Davis and the Brewers yesterday, and they have lost three of their last four games overall. They won four straight before that. Following their stellar 94-win campaign last season, the Pirates are 17-23 with a -13 run differential in 2014 and are again looking for a way out of the NL Central cellar.

Offense
At 3.95 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, reigning NL Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle has a decidedly average offense. It doesn’t help that former Yankee C Russell Martin (103 wRC+) is out with a hamstring injury. He’s on the 15-day DL and it doesn’t sound like he will return this weekend. OF Starling Marte (96 wRC+) has been dealing with back tightness and has been limited to pinch-hitting duties these last few days.

McCutchen. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

McCutchen. (Getty)

Hurdle’s lineup revolves around reigning NL MVP OF Andrew McCutchen (159 wRC+), who is actually performing better this year than he did last year. He’s an elite all-around player. Second best outfielder in the game behind Mike Trout. 2B Neil Walker (128 wRC+) has been very good this year, as has the first base platoon of 1B Gaby Sanchez (159 wRC+) and 1B Ike Davis (127 wRC+). I assume both guys will play this weekend thanks to the DH. Washington Heights native 3B Pedro Alvarez (101 wRC+) has enormous power and may be in for quite a weekend thanks to the short porch.

With Martin hurt, C Chris Stewart (47 wRC+) has more or less taken over as the everyday catcher. I’m sure you remember what that was like. The platoon of OF Travis Snider (88 wRC+) and former Yankees farmhand OF Jose Tabata (78 wRC+) is just keeping right field warm for top prospect OF Gregory Polanco, who figures to be called up after the Super Two deadline passes late next month. SS Clint Barmes (38 wRC+) and SS Jordy Mercer (47 wRC+) share shortstop duty and UTIL Josh Harrison (125 wRC+) has had a nice year off the bench. C Tony Sanchez (79 wRC+) is Stewart’s backup. It’s a top heavy (really middle heavy) lineup.

Pitching Matchups
Tonight’s game has already been postponed due to rain, so the Yankees and Pirates will play one game on Saturday and two games on Sunday. There’s no word on how the pitching staffs will shake out, so here are the matchups that were scheduled coming into today. I assume the same six pitchers will start these three games, just not necessarily in the same order.

Friday: RHP David Phelps (vs. PIT) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
I’m not sure there is a more frustrating pitcher to watch in all of baseball than Volquez. He’s like A.J. Burnett times three. Volquez, 29, has a 4.36 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 43.1 innings across seven starts and one relief appearance this season, though his strikeout rate (5.19 K/9 and 13.9 K%) is way, way down. He has cut down on his walks (2.70 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%), and while that may be an early season fluke, the Pirates did manage to help Burnett curb his walk problem, so it might be real improvement. Volquez is getting grounders (50.4%) and allowing homers (1.04 HR/9 and 11.9% HR/FB) at almost exactly his career rates. Lefties (.269 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.277 wOBA) this season. Volquez’s stuff is usually electric, as he uses low-to-mid-90s two and four-seam fastballs to set up his hard upper-70s/low-80s curveball and a mid-80s changeup. It’s just that his command is so bad he often has no idea where the ball is going, though when it clicks and he’s having a good day, he is dominant.

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. PIT) vs. RHP Charlie Morton (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Morton, 30, made a name for himself a few years ago by copying Roy Halladay’s mechanics and essentially saving his then stalled out career. “We made a change, and things are going better. Did I reinvent myself? Reinventing is a fairly accurate term,” he said to Paul Daugherty about copying Halladay. This season he owns a 3.22 ERA (4.14 FIP) in eight starts and 50.1 innings. He’s a ground ball guy (55.3%) who does an okay job limiting walks (3.04 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) and homers (0.54 HR/9 and 8.8% HR/FB), but he can’t miss bats (5.54 K/9 and 14.2 K%) to save his life. Morton has a reverse split this season — .274 wOBA by lefties and .327 wOBA by righties — but that is the exact opposite of the last few seasons. He usually gets destroyed by left-handers. Morton is basically a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his sinking low-90s two-seamer and upper-70s curveball more than 90% of the time combined. He’ll throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start, but that’s it. Think of him as a lesser version of vintage Chien-Ming Wang.

Cole. (Elsa/Getty)

Cole. (Elsa/Getty)

Sunday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. PIT) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (No vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Of course. Of course Cole is going to pitch against the Yankees this weekend. Of course the team’s first round pick in 2008 who didn’t sign and wound up going first overall to Pittsburgh in 2011 after three years at UCLA is going to make his Yankee Stadium debut on Sunday. The baseball gods wouldn’t have it any other way. The 23-year-old Cole has a 3.76 ERA (3.96 FIP) in eight starts and 52.2 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.69 K/9 and 20.2 K%) doesn’t match the quality of his stuff. He is getting grounders (54.5%), limiting walks (2.73 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%), and doing an okay job of keeping the ball in the park (1.03 HR/9 and 14.6% HR/FB), however. Lefties (.351 wOBA) have had much more success than righties (.317 wOBA) this season, which is the exact opposite of last season. Cole’s arsenal has evolved a bit since the Yankees drafted him, but he still has his trademark high-octane fastball. It is averaging 95.6 mph this season, the fourth fastest fastball in the game. Cole backs it up with a nasty upper-80s slider and mid-80s curveballs and changeups. The changeup is arguably his best offspeed pitch and more than a few people think he needs to throw it more often. Right now Cole only throws it 4.2% of the time. Get ready for a whole lotta “what could have been” chatter this weekend.

Bullpen Status
Hurdle has been without closer RHP Jason Grilli (oblique) since last month, so former Yankee RHP Mark Melancon (2.63 FIP) has been handling ninth inning duties in his place. He blew the save and took the walk-off loss yesterday. The Pirates have two very good, hard-throwing lefties in LHP Justin Wilson (2.39 FIP) and LHP Tony Watson (1.95 FIP).

RHP Bryan Morris (4.88 FIP), RHP Vin Mazzaro (8.77 FIP), and RHP Jared Hughes (3.80 FIP) handled the middle innings while  RHP Jeanmar Gomez (5.88 FIP) is the long man. Melancon, Wilson, and Watson all have had high workloads recently and may not have been available tonight. The rainout comes at a good time for Pittsburgh. Check out the status of New York’s relievers at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Pirates Prospects, Raise the Jolly Roger, and Bucs Dugout for everything you need to know about the Pirates. There are some really good Pirates blogs out there.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

It’s that time of year again, the Subway Series. The Yankees and Mets will meet four times this week, and, like last season, they will play a four-game home-and-home series. The battle for bragging rights opens tonight at Yankee Stadium and will wrap-up on Thursday at Citi Field. Two games at each building.

What Have They Done Lately?
Following a surprisingly strong start to the season, the Mets have lost eight of their last ten games. They did win yesterday (via walk-off), however. The Amazin’s are 17-19 with a -8 run differential overall this season, which has them tied for last in the top heavy NL East.

Offense
The Mets have a below league average offense at 3.94 runs per game with a team 83 wRC+. They also have a 23.0% strikeout rate as a team, the seventh highest in baseball, so they struggle to score runs and struggle to put the ball in play. Manager Terry Collins does not have any position players on the DL but 1B Lucas Duda (118 wRC+) has missed the last few games with a stomach problem.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

As usual, the Mets’ lineup is anchored by 3B David Wright (104 wRC+), who is off to a relatively slow start. Former Yankee OF Curtis Granderson (72 wRC+) got off to a brutally slow start but has been much better over the last two weeks or so (151 wRC+). Defensive wiz OF Juan Lagares (121 wRC+) has had an unexpectedly strong start to the season. He was always a glove first guy. 2B Daniel Murphy (133 wRC+) has been excellent and Duda has been more than solid since taking over as the full-time first baseman following the Ike Davis trade.

Other than those five, the Mets have OF Chris Young (97 wRC+), C Travis d’Arnaud (67 wRC+), OF Eric Young Jr. (79 wRC+), and SS Ruben Tejada (54 wRC+) playing everyday. IF Wilmer Flores and UTIL Eric Campbell were just called up to add some spark. Flores has played three games and Campbell made his MLB debut yesterday. C Anthony Recker (103 wRC+) and former Yankee OF Bobby Abreu (91 wRC+) round out the bench. Yes, Bobby Abreu is in the big leagues.

It’s worth noting Mets’ pitchers are 0-for-63 this year, the longest hitless streak by a pitching staff to start a season in baseball history. The chances of them picking up their first pitcher hit on Wednesday or Thursday is roughly 10,000%.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. NYM) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Remember when the Yankees dragged Colon out of winter ball and we all laughed? Three years later, he’s still going strong in the big leagues. Who would have guessed? The 40-year-old Colon has a 5.36 ERA (4.09 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings this year, with his best strikeout (7.01 K/9 and 17.8 K%) and walk (1.03 BB/9 and 2.3 BB%) rates since his stint in pinstripes. Homers (1.44 HR/9 and 12.1 HR/FB%) and a lack of grounders (37.4%) have been his biggest problems. Colon still throws almost nothing but fastballs, upper-80s four-seamers and mid-80s two-seamers. His velocity isn’t what is was three years ago. On occasion he’ll throw low-80s sliders and changeups. There’s no mystery here. Colon comes right at guys with fastballs.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Tuesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. NYM) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wheeler, 23, is the second of the Mets’ three big pitching prospects, sandwiched between Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. He has a 4.35 ERA (3.13 FIP) in seven starts and 39.1 innings this season, and his only real problem has been walks (4.12 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%). Young pitchers, man. The two things they do better than anything is walk guys and get hurt. Wheeler has very good strikeout (8.92 K/9 and 22.9 K%), homerun (0.46 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (52.3%) rates, though he’s been getting clobbered by left-handers (.393 wOBA). Righties haven’t had as much luck (.277 wOBA). Two mid-90s fastballs (four and two-seamer) set up his upper-80s slider and upper-70s curveball. Wheeler throws only a handful of changeups per start. He’s got nasty stuff, but like most young pitchers at this point of their careers, Wheeler is still rough around the edges.

Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. NYM) vs. TBA
This start was supposed to go to RHP Jenrry Mejia, but after three straight rough outings, Collins told David Lennon they may skip his start and give him some time in the bullpen. They need to limit his workload anyway. If that does happen, either RHP Rafael Montero or RHP Jacob deGrom figures to get the call for the spot start. Both would be making their big league debuts. Montero, 23, has a 3.67 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 42.2 Triple-A innings this season and is by far the better prospect of the two. He was really impressive in Spring Training. Everything (delivery, ball out of his hand, etc.) looks easy. The 25-year-old deGrom has a 2.58 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 38.1 innings at Triple-A this season. He spent all of last year at Triple-A, so if the Mets make this decision based on seniority, deGrom would be the guy.

Thursday: TBA vs. RHP Dillon Gee (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Gee, 28, turned his season and to some extent his career around during the Subway Series last season, when he held the Yankees to one run in 7.1 innings while striking out 12. He went into that start with a 6.34 ERA and has pitched to a 2.72 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 202 innings since. Gee comes into this series with a 2.73 ERA (4.28 FIP) and just okay peripherals — 5.64 K/9 (15.6 K%), 2.56 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), 1.03 HR/9 (9.5 HR/FB%), 40.9% grounders, .302 wOBA against lefties, and .262 wOBA against righties — though he’s obviously doing something right. He’s one of those guys who defies the usual ERA/FIP relationship. Gee has the standard issue four-pitch mix: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. Far from flashy, but it’s damn effective, especially over the last year.

As for the Yankees, they seem likely to start Alfredo Aceves in the series finally now that CC Sabathia is on the 15-day DL with a knee issue. Chase Whitley, the other starter candidate, is pitching for Triple-A Scranton today according to Donnie Collins. It could be a short tune-up outing for Thursday or remove him from consideration all together. If that happens, maybe they’ll just stick with Matt Daley as the extra reliever.

Update: Whitley threw only one inning and seven pitches this afternoon, so it was just a tune-up appearance. He is very likely coming up to either make the spot start or replace Aceves as the long man. I assume it’s the latter.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Bullpen Status
It seems like the Mets have had one of the very worst bullpens in baseball this year thanks to some high-profile meltdowns, but they’re closer to middle of the pack with a 3.99 ERA (4.31 FIP). It could be worse, I guess. Believe it or not, former Yankee RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.39 FIP) is closing with RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.52 FIP) getting most of the setup innings. That’s a real thing that is happening. RHP Carlos Torres (2.94 FIP) will also see some late-inning time.

LHP Scott Rice (3.97 FIP) is Collins’ only lefty right now. RHP Gonzalez Germen (4.21 FIP), RHP Jeurys Familia (3.77 FIP), and RHP Jose Valverde (5.36 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen, which could get a boost from Mejia this week. We’ll find out soon enough. Dice-K threw two innings and 34 pitches yesterday, so he might not be available tonight. Valverde, Familia, and Rice also pitched briefly on Sunday. Our Bullpen Workload page has the status of the Yankees’ relievers. Check out Amazin’ Avenue for the latest and great on the Mets.

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Mike Scioscia

The Yankees are out on the West Coast for the first time this season, though they’re only there for three games. They open a three-game series with the Angels tonight before heading to the Midwest. Angel Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Yankees, who have lost each of their last three series and five of their last seven series in Anaheim.

What Have They Done Lately?
Since these clubs met last week, the Angels swept the Indians and lost two of three to the Rangers. They are 15-15 with a +28 run differential overall. That’s actually the second best run differential in the AL. Only four AL teams have a positive run differential this year. April and May are weird.

Offense
As you probably remember from last weekend, the Angels can really hit. Their team 115 wRC+ is the best in baseball and their average of 5.30 runs per game is the second best. That’s without OF Josh Hamilton, who suffered a thumb injury (sliding into first base!) about a week into the season and has yet to return. OF Kole Calhoun has an ankle problem and 3B David Freese just had his finger broken by a errant pitch. Those are three pretty important players are none are due back until the end of the month at the earliest.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Manager Mike Scioscia’s lineup is anchored by OF Mike Trout (161 wRC+) and 1B Albert Pujols (160 wRC+), both of whom are just tearing the cover off the ball. Trout does everything and while Pujols doesn’t hit for average or get on base like he did a few years, his ten homers are the second most in the league. 2B Howie Kendrick (130 wRC+) always kills the Yankees and SS Erick Aybar (106 wRC+) is having a nice year. He always seems to be annoying.

With Freese hurt, 3B Ian Stewart (90 wRC+) has taken over at the hot corner full-time. The catching platoon of C Chris Iannetta (122 wRC+) and C Hank Conger (147 wRC+) has been very productive. OF Raul Ibanez (45 wRC+) and OF Collin Cowgill (160 wRC+ in limited time) are stuck playing the outfield regularly with Hamilton and Calhoun hurt. UTIL Grant Green (6 PA), IF Luis Jimenez (4 PA), and IF John McDonald (16 PA) fill out the bench. Top prospect 1B/DH C.J. Cron has five hits in two games since coming up to replace Freese.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP David Phelps (vs. LAA) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Weaver, 31, has always been an unconventional ace because he’s a kitchen sink guy, not a power pitcher. He’s off to an alright start (4.00 ERA and 4.83 FIP) in six starts and 36 innings so far, with just okay strikeout (7.00 K/9 and 18.8 K%) and walk (3.00 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) rates. Weaver has given up an inordinate number of homers (1.50 HR/9 and 11.3 HR/FB%) so far in 2014. He doesn’t get grounders (35.3%). Never has and never will. He’s always been a high pop-up rate/weak contact guy that defies the usual ERA/FIP relationship. Lefties (.327 wOBA) are hitting him harder than righties (.290 wOBA). Weaver throws four pitches and he throws them almost interchangeably: mid-80s fastballs, low-80s slider, upper-70s changeup, and low-70s curveball. Yes, his fastball sits in the mid-80s. He cuts and sinks it on occasion too. The Yankees didn’t see Weaver during their series with the Angels last weekend.

Wilson. (Presswire)

Wilson. (Presswire)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. LAA) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wilson, 33, has gotten better and better in each of his three seasons with the Halos. He’s pitching to a 3.18 ERA (3.43 FIP) in six starts and 39.2 innings this year thanks to stellar strikeout (9.30 K/9 and 26.1 K%) and ground ball (50.0 K%) rates. His walk rate is good (2.95 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) and his homer rate (0.91 HR/9 and 11.8 HR/FB%) is fine. Lefties (.252 wOBA) haven’t have much luck against him, but neither have righties (.297 wOBA). Wilson throws five pitches — low-90s fastball, upper-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, upper-70s curveball — and he uses all of them a lot, so it’s a bunch of different looks. He held the Yankees to one run in six innings last weekend.

Wednesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. LAA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
This is a rematch of last Saturday’s game. The 26-year-old Newark native is off to a rough start (5.01 ERA and 4.99 FIP) even though he’s missing bats (7.79 K/9 and 19.7 K%). He walks too many (4.18 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%), doesn’t get grounders (30.2%), and gives up homers (1.39 HR/9 and 10.2 HR/FB%), which isn’t any way to live. Santiago doesn’t have a platoon split even though he’s a two fastball (low-90s four and two-seamer), one changeup (low-80s) pitcher. He will mix in the occasional mid-70s screwball but that’s really it. Three and a half pitches, basically. The Yankees roughed Santiago up for four runs in 4.1 innings in their previous series.

Smith. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Smith. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Scioscia’s bullpen hasn’t been very good this season — 19th in ERA (4.07) and 26th in FIP (4.46) — and he’s already replaced RHP Ernesto Frieri (7.11 FIP) with RHP Joe Smith (2.29 FIP) at closer. LHP Nick Maronde (4.24 FIP) is the only lefty and both RHP Michael Kohn (3.64 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (4.28 FIP) tend to see the higher leverage work.

Right now, the rest of the relief unit includes RHP Fernando Salas (4.45 FIP) and RHP Michael Morin (1.77 FIP in very limited time). Kohn, Jepsen, Maronde, Morin, and Salas all pitched in yesterday’s blowout loss, and after the game Scioscia hinted that a fresh arm or two could be called up before tonight’s game. There’s no word on those moves just yet. Al Aceves will be unavailable for a few days following yesterday’s long relief outing, but otherwise the Yankees’ key relievers are rested. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and Halos Daily for the latest and greatest on the Angels.

Categories : Series Preview
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