Archive for Series Preview

(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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(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Two weeks ago the Yankees and Rays played a wild four-game series in Tampa, a series that included three blowouts and one 12-inning affair. They split the four games. The division rivalry now shifts to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays are 13-16 with a -10 run differential overall, leaving them tied for last place in the AL East. They swept a doubleheader from the Red Sox yesterday but have still lost six of their last nine games and 11 of their last 17 games. Tampa is definitely down right now. Time to start kicking.

Offense
At 4.15 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Rays have been a slightly above-average offense so far this year. They were really struggling to score the last time these two clubs met and the Yankees’ pitching staff was kind enough to help them out of that funk. Tampa does not have any position players on the DL but OF David DeJesus (103 wRC+) is nursing a sore shoulder and has been limited to DH duties for about a week now.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Through the first month of the season, manager Joe Maddon has been getting excellent production from OF Matt Joyce (154 wRC+), OF Desmond Jennings (139 wRC+), 1B James Loney (134 wRC+), and 2B Ben Zobrist (129 wRC+). I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where James Loney is a productive big leaguer. 3B Evan Longoria (106 wRC+) is off to an un-Longoria-like start but he always kills the Yankees. He has hit the most homers at the new Yankee Stadium among visiting players.

The Rays have not gotten much from OF Wil Myers (87 wRC+) and SS Yunel Escobar (78 wRC+) so far, though Escobar hit a monster solo homer off Koji Uehara to win last night’s game. C Ryan Hanigan (127 wRC+) has been the more productive half of the catching platoon with C Jose Molina (-4 wRC+). UTIL Sean Rodriguez (175 wRC+) has been really good in limited playing time, UTIL Logan Forsythe (44 wRC+) not so much. OF Brandon Guyer (-14 wRC+) rounds out the bench. Tampa has only stolen nine bases this year, the third fewest in MLB, so this isn’t the run crazy Rays team we’ve seen for most of the last decade.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. TB) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Price, 28, has been alternating good starts with not good starts all season (he’s due for a good one, if the trend continues). He owns a 4.75 ERA (3.49 FIP) in six starts and 41.2 innings this year, though his strikeout (10.15 K/9 and 27.2 K%) and walk (1.08 BB/9 and 2.9 BB%) rates are elite. The homer (1.51 HR/9 and 15.9 HR/FB%) and ground ball (40.5%) numbers … not so much. Lefties (.345 wOBA) are uncharacteristically giving him a harder time than righties (.323 wOBA) early on. Price throws his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-to-upper-80s cutter roughly 70% of the time combined. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his secondary offerings. The Yankees scored six runs in five innings against the 2012 AL Cy Young winner two weeks ago. Last time out, Price allowed eight runs in six innings to the White Sox.

Odorizzi. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Odorizzi. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
The Rays have been adding one young stud pitcher to their rotation per year for what feels like seven or eight years now, but the 24-year-old Odorizzi is a sign times have changed. He has a 6.85 ERA (4.44 FIP) in five starts and 23.2 innings, and he generally isn’t expected to be much more than a back-end starter. The strikeout rate (8.37 K/9 and 20.0 K%) is good, but the walk (4.56 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%), homer (1.14 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (39.2%) rates are not. Righties (.400 wOBA) have crushed him early on, lefties (.363 wOBA) slightly less so. Odorizzi does throw four different pitches, including a low-90s heater, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees did not face Odorizzi in Tampa two weeks ago and he’s failed to complete five innings in each of his last two starts (four runs in 4.1 innings, four runs in 3.1 innings)

Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
You know the Rays are out of young pitchers when Bedard is in their rotation. The 35-year-old has a 5.52 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 14.2 innings across three starts and one relief appearance so far. He’s walked exactly as many men as he’s struck out (6.14 per nine and 14.1%) and, despite a low ground ball rate (36.7%), he’s yet to allow a dinger. Bedard has had no platoon split whatsoever early on. An upper-80s fastball sets up his mid-70s changeup and trademark mid-70s curveball. Bedard allowed four runs in 3.2 innings against the Yankees two weeks ago, though he held the Red Sox to one run in five innings last time out.

Bell. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

Bell. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Yesterday was a rough day for the Rays bullpen in terms of their workload: they threw 8.1 scoreless innings. Both closer RHP Grant Balfour (6.28 FIP) and setup man LHP Jake McGee (1.92 FIP) pitched in both ends of the doubleheader, so they might not be available tonight. In fact, the only relievers who didn’t pitch yesterday are RHP Heath Bell (4.26 FIP) and RHP Josh Lueke (4.33 FIP).

The rest of Maddon’s bullpen features RHP Joel Peralta (4.06 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (3.80 FIP), and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (2.43 FIP). Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Marlins closer Leo Nunez. If Balfour is unavailable tonight, I’m guessing Peralta will be the closer du jour. The Yankees were off on Monday and rained out on Wednesday, so their bullpen is in good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details, then check out The Process Report for the best Rays analysis out there.

Categories : Series Preview
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Don't worry Robbie, I'm sure the Yankees will find someone else to fill that extra spot in Monument Park. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Don’t worry Robbie, I’m sure the Yankees will put that extra spot in Monument Park to good use. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

For the first time in his career, Robinson Cano will be a visiting player in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees’ best player from 2010-13 returns to New York this week after leaving the team for the greener pastures of Seattle and the Mariners over the winter. The Bombers made his a strong offer but the M’s blew it right out of the water. Such is life. This will be kinda weird.

What Have They Done Lately?
As expected, the Mariners are still terrible even with Cano. They did just take two of three from the Rangers but have won just four of their last 13 games overall. At 10-14 with a -8 run differential, the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar is the Astros.

Offense
Both in terms of runs per game (3.85) and wRC+ (79), the Mariners have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. It’s kind of amazing Cano left the 2013 Yankees (85 wRC+) for a team that is somehow worse offensively. Anyway, Seattle’s only injured position player is 1B/OF/DH Logan Morrison (hamstring), who won’t be coming off the DL this series.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Just like last season, 3B Kyle Seager (123 wRC+) has been the Mariners best position player in the early going. Cano (100 wRC+) is off to a slow start, but come on, you know as well as I do that he’s going to rake before long. 1B/DH Corey Hart (117 wRC+) has been productive around miscellaneous nagging injuries and 1B Justin Smoak (101 wRC+) continues to do just enough to keep people interested. This season it was a huge opening series against the Angels. Eventually they’ll move on.

C Mike Zunino (91 wRC+) has a ton of power but his 21/1 K/BB is pretty funny. Others like OF Dustin Ackley (74 wRC+), SS Brad Miller (46 wRC+), OF Michael Saunders (66 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (53 wRC+) have been predictably awful. Almonte was the guy the Yankees traded for Shawn Kelley. OF Stefan Romero (64 wRC+), OF Cole Gillespie (-15 wRC+), UTIL Willie Bloomquist (30 wRC+), and backup C John Buck (54 wRC+) fill out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
When Randy Wolf made the Mariners out of Spring Training but opted out of his contract because the team tried to re-negotiate the terms (true story), the club picked up the 35-year-old Young. The 6-foot-10 right-hander has a 3.50 ERA (5.25 FIP) in 18 innings across three starts and one relief appearance this year, walking (5.50 BB/9 and 14.3 BB%) more batters than he’s struck out (5.00 K/9 and 13.0 K%). He also continues to be one the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball (25.0% grounders). That’s been true his entire career. His reverse split — righties has a .341 wOBA, lefties a .307 wOBA — is a sample size issue and not consistent with the rest of his career. Young is a pure two-pitch pitcher these days, throwing a mid-80s fastball about 75% of the time and filling in the gaps with upper-70s sliders. He survives because of his funky delivery, which hides the ball very well.

(Marc Serota/Getty)

(Marc Serota/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. SEA) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (No vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Elias, 25, defected from Cuba a few years ago and made the rotation in Spring Training (despite never pitching above Double-A) thanks to the Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker injuries. He has a 3.54 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 28 innings across five starts, pairing a strong ground ball rate (50.6%) with mediocre at best strikeout (6.75 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and walk (4.50 BB/9 and 12.1 BB%) rates. Righties (.332 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.299 wOBA) in his brief MLB career. Elias uses a low-90s fastball to set up his mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball, both of which are quality offerings. Since no one on the Yankees has ever faced him before, Elias has the element of surprise working in his favor this week.

Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
You didn’t think the Yankees would get through a series against Seattle and not face Felix, did you? You should know better by now. The King is as good as ever this year, with a 2.40 ERA (2.41 FIP) in six starts and 41.1 innings. His peripherals are, as the kids say, stupid good: 10.23 K/9 (28.7 K%), 1.52 BB/9 (4.3 BB%), and 47.7% grounders. That’ll work just fine. He also has a tiny platoon split, so left or right, it doesn’t matter. Felix, 28, probably has the nastiest stuff in the game, starting with a low-90s fastball that runs back in on righties. His upper-80s changeup is unhittable, his mid-80s slider is unhittable, and his low-80s curveball is unhittable. It’s all unhittable. The guy is a video game. Felix’s career numbers against the Yankees aren’t as ridiculous as you might expect but they’re still excellent. In an age in which Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez are all the pitching rage, Hernandez is every bit as good as those guys and he’s been doing it a lot longer.

Farquhar. (Thomas B. Shea/Getty)

Farquhar. (Thomas B. Shea/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Mariners were off on Monday, so new manager Lloyd McClendon’s bullpen is pretty fresh. RHP Fernando Rodney (2.72 FIP) is the closer and remains a high-wire act. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Danny Farquhar (2.75 FIP) and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (5.38 FIP) have been his primary setup men. Farquhar is one of the guys the Bombers traded to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki a few years ago.

McClendon has three lefties in his bullpen: LHP Joe Beimel (3.18 FIP), LHP Charlie Furbush (4.46 FIP), and LHP Lucas Luetge (9.51 FIP). RHP Dominic Leone (3.58 FIP) and RHP Yoervis Medina (5.47 FIP) fill out the rest of the eight-man relief crew. The schedule has allowed them to use a four-man rotation the last turn or two, so they’ve been carrying the extra reliever in the meantime. That’ll change next weekend. For the status of the Yankees bullpen, check out our Bullpen Workload page. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.

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Mike Scioscia

Following a successful seven-game road trip, the Yankees return home to the Bronx to kick off a nine-game homestand tonight. The first of three teams to visit is the Angels, who have won just seven of 22 games at the new Yankee Stadium. The Halos used to give the Yankees fits but that really isn’t the case these days.

What Have They Done Lately?
Mike Scioscia’s team has split the first six games of their nine-game trip to the East Coast. They just took two of three from the Nationals in Washington and were a spectacular blown save away from a sweep (four-run ninth!). The Angels are 10-11 with a +17 run differential overall. That’s actually the second best run differential in the league.

Offense
At 5.3 runs per games with a team 111 wRC+, Scioscia’s club has been one of the very best offensive teams in baseball so far this season. They are without two key players in OF Josh Hamilton (thumb) and OF Kole Calhoun (ankle) right now. That’s their cleanup and leadoff hitters, respectively. Both were off to strong starts and will be out for several weeks. They aren’t returning this weekend.

Trout. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Trout. (Leon Halip/Getty)

The Angels are led by the best player in baseball. New Jersey kid OF Mike Trout (172 wRC+) is still amazing and not in anyway underperforming this year. He’s amazing. 1B Albert Pujols (171 wRC+) leads the league with eight homers and is having a great year, but he isn’t all the way back to being his old self. This version is hitting .284 with a .351 OBP. The old Pujols hit like .330 with a .440-something OBP. He’s still super dangerous though. These two bat second and third in the lineup and will be scary as hell all weekend.

Yankees killer 2B Howie Kendrick (121 wRC+) is off to a nice start, as is the catching tandem of C Chris Iannetta (114 wRC+) And C Hank Conger (97 wRC+). OF Collin Cowgill (178 wRC+ in limited time) has done a fine job filling in during the injuries. Former Yankees OF/DH Raul Ibanez (46 wRC+) and OF Brennan Boesch (61 wRC+ in very limited time) have had poor starts, ditto SS Erick Aybar (71 wRC+) and 3B David Freese (21 wRC+). Freese has been losing playing time to 3B Ian Stewart (102 wRC+ in limited time) lately. OF J.B. Shuck (44 wRC+) and IF John McDonald (160 wRC+) fill out the bench and have played sparingly.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. LAA) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Of all the big money pitching contracts handed out in recent years, I think Wilson’s get the most undeserved crap. He has been a steady and reliable horse for the Halos. The 33-year-old comes into tonight’s start with a 4.21 ERA (3.92 FIP) in four starts this year, pairing an excellent strikeout rate (9.82 K/9 and 26.4 K%) with good ground ball (46.4%) and walk (3.16 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%) totals. Righties (.344 wOBA) has roughed him up a bit this year, but not lefties (.294 wOBA). Wilson throws five pitches pretty frequently: low-90s fastball, upper-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. That’s a lot of different looks at different velocities. He took a pounding in his first start but has been solid since.

(Leon Halip/Getty)

(Leon Halip/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. LAA) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Santiago, 26, is a local guy from Newark. He has a 3.68 ERA (4.17 FIP) in four starts this year after being acquired from the White Sox in the three-team Mark Trumbo trade over the winter. As usual, his strikeout (8.18 K/9 and 21.1 K%) and walk (4.91 BB/9 and 12.6 BB%) rates are high while his ground ball rate (29.5%) is low. Righties (.321 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.285 wOBA). Santiago is best described as a three and a half pitch pitcher. He uses low-90s four and two-seam fastballs to set up his low-80s changeup, and every once in a while he’ll bust out a mid-70s screwball. Click the link for the requisite GIF. Santiago’s first two starts were rough, but the last two have been very good.

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. LAA) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
The Angels have a young back of the rotation and Richards has been the standout so far. The 25-year-old has pitched to a 2.52 ERA (2.91 FIP) in his first four starts with very good strikeout (8.64 K/9 and 24.2 K%) and grounder (51.7%) rates. He does walk too many (5.04 BB/9 and 14.1 BB%), which has been an issue in his previous three big league seasons. Richards has a reverse split early this year — righties have a .301 wOBA, lefties a .201 wOBA — and he’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider. He’s throw a handful of upper-70s curveballs per start, but that’s it. No changeup to speak of. The Athletics roughed Richards up two starts ago, but otherwise he’s allowed two runs in his other three starts combined.

Frieri. (Harry How/Getty)

Frieri. (Harry How/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Angels were off yesterday, so Scioscia’s bullpen is as rested as can be right now. RHP Ernesto Frieri (8.80 FIP) melted down big time on Wednesday but remains the closer. RHP Joe Smith (2.33 FIP) and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.57 FIP) have been the primary setup guys. LHP Nick Maronde (0.69 FIP in very limited time) is Scioscia’s only lefty reliever.

The rest of the team’s bullpen is … an interesting mix. RHP Yoslan Herrera (4.03 FIP) last pitched in the big leagues in 2008 before being called up a few weeks ago. RHP Fernando Salas (4.58 FIP) closed for the Cardinals for a few months back in 2011 but has been derailed by control problems. RHP Michael Kohn (3.71 FIP) is just a guy named Michael Kohn. Can’t find anything interesting about him. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees bullpen, then check out Monkey with a Halo for some Angels analysis. The Angels blogosphere really leaves something to be desired now that True Grich seems to be dead.

Categories : Series Preview
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(Presswire)

(Presswire)

For the second time in a little more than a week, the Yankees and Red Sox meet for what is sure to be a tense, time-consuming, over-hyped, and over-analyzed series. This time the scene shifts to Boston and Fenway Park. The Yankees won three of four from their rivals in the Bronx the weekend before last. This will be Jacoby Ellsbury‘s first trip back to Boston since signing with New York.

What Have They Done Lately?
Since these two teams last met, the Red Sox took two of three from the White Sox and split a four-game series with the Orioles. They are 9-11 with a -6 run differential overall, which currently has them in the AL East cellar. Little too early to start worrying about division standings, but that’s just me.

Offense
The BoSox were really struggling to score runs when they were in town a week and a half ago, but they scored six runs in each of their last two games and appear to be coming around offensively. They currently average 3.8 runs per game with a team 92 wRC+, both below-average marks. The Red Sox are currently without OF Shane Victorino (hamstring) and 3B Will Middlebrooks (calf), neither of whom is expected to return this series even though they are out on minor league rehab assignments.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

As usual, manager John Farrell’s lineup is anchored by 2B Dustin Pedroia (95 wRC+) and DH David Ortiz (100 wRC+), both of whom are off to slow starts compared to their usual levels of production. 1B Mike Napoli (140 wRC+) has been the team’s best hitter, and the recently called up Brock Holt (173 wRC+) has taken over at third base and the leadoff spot. SS Xander Bogaerts is having a strong rookie campaign (123 wRC+) as well.

Platoon OF Jonny Gomes (98 wRC+) is seeing more playing time than he should, mostly because OF Daniel Nava (38 wRC+) has been awful. OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (82 wRC+) is starting to take playing time away from OF Grady Sizemore (80 wRC+). The catching platoon of C A.J. Pierzynski (61 wRC+) and C David Ross (125 wRC+) has been okay overall. IF Jonathan Herrera (55 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mike Carp (89 wRC+) fill out the bench. Obligatory it is still early and those numbers came from small samples reminder.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Jon Lester (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Lester, 30, has been as good as ever in 2014, just as he’s getting ready to test the free agent waters this coming offseason. He has a 2.17 ERA (2.39 FIP) in four starts and 29 innings, pairing excellent strikeout (9.00 K/9 and 25.7 K%) and walk (1.24 BB/9 and 3.5 BB%) rates with a strong ground ball rate (46.1%). Lester has crushed left-handed batters (.237 wOBA) and been slightly less successful against righties (.280 wOBA). A low-90s fastball and upper-80s cutter set up his mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. Lester held the Yankees to two runs in 6 2/3 innings the weekend before last.

Rare photo of Lackey being uphappy about something. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Rare photo of John Lackey being uphappy about something. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP John Lackey (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
One reason the Red Sox won the World Series last year was Lackey going from injured and awful to a reliable workhorse starter. The 35-year-old has a 5.25 ERA (4.74 FIP) in 24 innings and four starts so far, though his strikeout (8.63 K/9 and 22.1 K%) and walk (2.63 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%) numbers remain very good. He is very air ball prone (38.0% grounders), however, and righties have just mashed him (.416 wOBA). Lefties aren’t doing so bad either (.331 wOBA). Lackey throws both a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s cutter, and his upper-70s curveball remains his go-to pitch. He doesn’t throw a changeup anymore. The Yankees roughed Lackey up for six runs in 5.2 innings in their last series.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Felix Doubront (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Doubront, 26, has a 5.48 ERA (4.30 FIP) in four starts and 21.1 innings this year, making him the clear weak link in Boston’s rotation. His strikeout rate (6.33 K/9 and 15.6 K%) has fallen quite a bit these last two years, but he still walks a bunch (3.80 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%) and his ground ball rate (44.3%) has remained static. Lefties has crushed him so far this year (.438 wOBA), but that’s a sample size problem. Righties have gotten him for a .309 wOBA. Doubront’s big breaking mid-70s curveball is his money pitch, and he’ll also throw low-90s heaters, mid-80s cutters, and some low-80s changeups to righties. The Yankees scored three runs in 6.2 innings against the southpaw in their last series.

Tazawa and Uehara. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Tazawa and Uehara. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Orioles did the Yankees a real favor yesterday. Baltimore knocked Clay Buchholz out of the game in the third inning, forcing Farrell to get 6.2 innings out of his bullpen. RHP Burke Badenhop (4.31 FIP) threw 3.2 innings and 40 pitches, so he’ll be out of commission tonight. LHP Craig Breslow (2.48 FIP) threw two innings and 23 pitches, and could be limited tonight if he’s even available. LHP Andrew Miller (2.39 FIP) has pitched each of the last two days. Their lefty relievers have been worked hard these last few days.

Closer RHP Koji Uehara (0.36 FIP) recently returned from a little shoulder issue. He’s set up by RHP Junichi Tazawa (1.19 FIP) and occasionally RHP Edward Mujica (2.37 FIP). LHP Chris Capuano (1.48 FIP) has graduated from strict long relief work to more of a medium-to-high-leverage guy. All of them except Uehara pitched Sunday night. The Yankees had yesterday off and are in good shape bullpen-wise, especially since David Robertson was activated off the 15-day DL this morning. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details, then check out Over the Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.

Categories : Series Preview
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(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

After spending close to two months in Tampa for Spring Training, the Yankees return to the area for a four-game series against the Rays this weekend. Well, technically Tropicana Field is in St. Petersburg, so I guess they aren’t actually in Tampa again. Whatever. With any luck, this series will go as well as the four-gamer against the Red Sox last weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays have lost three games in the last four days with a rainout mixed in. They’ve lost six of their last nine games overall. Tampa Bay is 7-8 with a -8 run differential on the season.

Offense
Manager Joe Maddon’s ball club comes into this series averaging only three runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they’re getting some guys on base but can’t bring them home. They have scored 14 runs total in their last nine games. Yikes. Tampa is perfectly healthy on the position player side with no one on the DL. The same can not be said of their pitching staff.

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Myers. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

As usual, Maddon’s lineup is anchored by 3B Evan Longoria (118 wRC+), who remains annoyingly great. 2B Ben Zobrist (158 wRC+) has had a better year than Longoria to date, and OF Desmond Jennings (149 wRC+) is doing a fine job in a supporting roles. Reigning Rookie of the Year OF Wil Myers (47 wRC+) is off to a slow start and 1B James Loney (91 wRC+) has not yet carried over last summer’s surprising success.

OF Matt Joyce (198 wRC+) and OF David DeJesus (56 wRC+) split time in left field, though Joyce is seeing more at-bats lately due to his hot start. SS Yunel Escobar (54 wRC+) isn’t doing much of anything, ditto the catching platoon of C Ryan Hanigan (73 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (-48 wRC+). OF Brandon Guyer (11 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (146 wRC+), and UTIL Logan Forsythe (46 wRC+) round out the bench. This year’s club features fewer platoons than what Tampa has employed in recent years.

Pitching Matchups
Injuries have hit the Rays’ rotation really hard this year, so their staff is not nearly as strong as we’re used to seeing. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Jeremy Hellickson (elbow), and Alex Cobb (oblique) are all on the DL and not particularly close to returning. The pitching prospect pipeline has dried up too, so Tampa has had to scramble to cobble together a rotation over the last ten days or so.

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Had Tuesday night’s Rays-Orioles game not been rained out, the Yankees would have missed Price in this four-game series. Instead, it rained, and he was pushed back a day. It’s because I opened by big mouth earlier that afternoon. Anyway, the 28-year-old Price had a 3.33 ERA (3.03 FIP) in 186.2 innings last season, which almost constitutes a down year for him. His strikeout rate dropped (7.28 K/9 and 20.4 K%), but so did his walk rate (1.30 BB/9 and 3.7 BB%). Price’s ground ball rate (44.9%) was down from 2012 but in line with his career norms, and as usual he crushed left-handed batters (.220 wOBA). Righties had a little more success (.311 wOBA). Price is still a fastball-first pitcher, throwing his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-to-upper-80s cutter roughly 70% of the time combined. When right, he backdoors the cutter to righties and it is just unhittable. It looks like a ball right up until darts over the outside corner. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his secondary offerings. Price is throwing the ball as well as he ever has right now, and last time out he struck out ten Reds in 8.1 innings of one-run ball.

Bedard. (Presswire)

Bedard. (Presswire)

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Erik Bedard (Career vs. NYY) (No Pitcher GIFs)
Bedard, 35, opened the season in Triple-A before getting the call to help cover for injuries. This will be his first start for Tampa. Last season, the veteran southpaw had a 4.59 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 151 innings for the Astros, with a strong strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 20.8 K%) but poor walk (4.47 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%) and ground ball (36.4%) rates. He also had a reverse split, holding righties to a .333 wOBA while lefties tagged him for a .368 wOBA. Bedard’s fastball is mostly upper-80s these days, and he backs it up with his trademark big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’ll also throw a low-70s changeup. Bedard allowed one run in four innings in his only Triple-A start, and one run in two relief innings for the Rays a few days ago.

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Archer finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last season thanks in part to his success against the Yankees. He dominated them, allowing just three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings across three starts. The righty also threw a two-hit, 97-pitch shutout in Yankee Stadium. Archer, 25, had a 3.22 ERA (4.07 FIP) in 128.2 innings last season with good peripherals: 7.06 K/9 (19.2 K%), 2.66 BB/9 (7.2 BB%), and 46.8% grounders. He is mostly a two-pitch pitcher, living off his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. He’ll mix in the occasional mid-80s changeup, but only a handful per start. Unsurprisingly, he has a huge platoon split with that pitch mix, dominating righties (.227 wOBA) but getting dominated by lefties (.343 wOBA) in his short big league career. Archer got knocked around pretty good last time out (seven runs in five innings against the Orioles) but had two very strong starts to open the year.

Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
After losing out on the fifth starter’s job in Spring Training, the 29-year-old Ramos moved into the rotation following Moore’s injury. He has been a reliever the past four years, throwing 67.1 innings of 4.14 ERA (3.70 FIP) ball for Tampa Bay last year. His strikeout (7.08 K/9 and 18.4 K%), walk (2.94 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), and ground ball (40.9%) rates were solid but unspectacular. Ramos sits right around 90 mph with his fastball as a starter, and he has the usual complement of offspeed pitches: mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, low-70s curveball. He got demolished during his first start a few days ago, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks in only two innings against the Reds.

As for the Yankees, they need a spot starter for Sunday because of Tuesday’s rainout and Wednesday’s doubleheader. Since Shane Greene can not be called back up yet and there are no other realistic options on the 40-man roster, it seems like Vidal Nuno is the best candidate. Nothing has been officially announced, of course. The Yankees are off on Monday and can afford to go nuts with their bullpen on Sunday if need be.

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Balfour and Molina. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Closer Fernando Rodney joined Robinson Cano in Seattle, so Maddon now hands the ball off the RHP Grant Balfour (4.85 FIP) in the ninth inning. He returned to the Rays this offseason after his deal with the Orioles fell through. RHP Joel Peralta (6.36 FIP) is his primary setup man, and with Ramos now in the rotation, LHP Jake McGee (1.75 FIP) is the only southpaw.

The middle relief crew is a parade of right-handers, including RHP Josh Lueke (6.00 FIP), RHP Brad Boxberger (1.13 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (4.90 FIP), and whatever’s left of RHP Heath Bell’s (4.48 FIP) career. Boxberger, Peralta, and Gomes all pitched yesterday afternoon, but none threw more than 17 pitches. As for the Yankees, check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who has thrown what and when. For the best Rays analysis, head to The Process Report and DRays Bay.

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(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Before they played their first official game in their new home, the Yankees opened the current version of Yankee Stadium with a pair of exhibition games against the Cubs. I went to both and I couldn’t tell you anything about either game. Completely forgot. The Lovable Losers are returning to the Bronx for the first time since 2005 for a quick little two-game series to wrap-up the homestand. Since yesterday’s game was rained out, they’re playing a day/night doubleheader today.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Cubs were bad last year (66-96), they were bad the year before that (61-101), they were bad both years before that (146-178), and they’re bad this year. The north siders are 4-8 with a -8 run differential this season after dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend.

Offense
With a team 78 wRC+ and an average of 3.91 runs per game, the Cubs are a below-average offensive team. They also have the sixth highest strikeout rate in baseball at 24.1%. Rookie manager Rick Renteria’s lineup is completely healthy. They don’t have any position players on the DL.

Rizzo. (Brian Kersey/Getty)

Rizzo. (Brian Kersey/Getty)

Chicago’s early-season offense have been driven by UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (141 wRC+), who is off to a crazy start and has seven of the team’s nine stolen bases. He leads off and splits his time between second base and center field. 1B Anthony Rizzo (138 wRC+) and OF Nate Schierholtz (67 wRC+) are staples in the middle of the order with SS Starlin Castro (107 wRC+) usually slotted in somewhere around them. OF Justin Ruggiano (23 wRC+) will occupy a prime lineup spot against lefties.

3B Mike Olt (109 wRC+) and 3B Luis Valbuena (73 wRC+) are platooning at the hot corner, ditto OF Junior Lake (128 wRC+) and OF Ryan Kalish (32 wRC+) in left field. C Welington Castillo (88 wRC+) is the regular catcher whenever he’s not busy at the yacht club. C John Baker (-77 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (34 wRC+), and OF Ryan Sweeney (41 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. It should go without saying that it is still super early and the stats you see are all subject to small sample size noise.

Pitching Matchups
There’s no word on who will start which game for the Cubs today, but here are the pitchers who lined up to pitch in the series for both teams. They could be flipped between the day and night games.

Day Game: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jason Hammel (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
First interleague game of the year and we’re stuck watching a pitcher who’s been pitching against the Yankees for years. Hammel, 31, spent the last two years with the Orioles and was with the (Devil) Rays earlier in his career, but he signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Last summer he had a 4.97 ERA (4.93 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (6.20 K/9 and 15.7 K%), walk (3.10 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), and ground ball (40.1%) rates in 139.1 innings for Baltimore. Hammel has reinvented himself with the Cubs, throwing his low-90s two-seamer way more than ever before 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. It’s early, but Hammel has crushed right-handed batters (.091 wOBA!) while having less success against lefties (.291 wOBA), though his career split is far less pronounced. He has made two very good starts this year (one run in six innings, three runs in seven innings), both against the Pirates.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Night Game: RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP Travis Wood (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wood, 27, was Chicago’s token All-Star last summer, when he had a 3.11 ERA (3.89 FIP) in exactly 200 innings. His walk rate was fine (2.97 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), but the strikeout (6.48 K/9 and 17.5 K%) and ground ball (33.2%) numbers were okay at best. He didn’t have much of a platoon split, however. Wood’s pitch mix is pretty basic: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s cutter, upper-70s slider, and upper-70s changeup. He allowed four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings to the Phillies in his first start and one run in six innings to the Pirates in his second start.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Cubs were off Monday, so Renteria’s bullpen is rested. Former Yankees RHP Jose Veras (9.68 FIP) has already lost the closer’s job, so they’re now using a committee. RHP Pedro Strop (7.02 FIP) and RHP Hector Rondon (1.85 FIP) have since nailed down saves. LHP James Russell (8.59 FIP) and LHP Wesley Wright (7.50 FIP) are the two lefties, and RHP Justin Grimm (2.28 FIP) and RHP Blake Parker (3.14 FIP) are the extra arms. This bullpen is very beatable.

The Yankees sent Shane Greene to Triple-A Scranton yesterday, so they are back down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Both Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got a much-needed day off yesterday and David Robertson is eligible to come off the DL one week from today. Whether he will be healthy in time is another matter entirely. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out Bleacher Nation for more on the Cubs.

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