Yankeemetrics: The last-place curse (Aug. 20-23)

Rare celebration against the Indians (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Rare celebration against the Indians (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Cy Tomlin
This might have been the most boring game of the season, until Joe Girardi got himself ejected in the ninth inning and the Yankees’ rally fell just short, sending them to a 3-2 loss to the Indians in the series opener.

Josh Tomlin held the Yankees to just two hits and one run in seven innings, becoming the first Indians pitcher to give up no more than two hits in at least seven innings pitched at Yankee Stadium since Bartolo Colon on Sept. 18, 2000. Of course, Tomlin entered this game with a 11.57 ERA at the new Yankee Stadium, the fifth-highest by any pitcher with at least two starts at the ballpark.

Cy Carrasco
The Yankees lost their second in a row to the last-place Indians on Thursday, which gave them a 1-4 record vs the Tribe this season and guaranteed they’d lose the season series. Combined with their 3-4 record against them last year, this is the first time that they Yankees have lost the season series to the Indians in back-to-back seasons since 1968-69.

Carlos Carrasco became the latest Indians pitcher to silence the Yankee bats, striking out 11 guys in 6 2/3 innings. He’s the only Indians starter in the last 100 years with that many strikeouts in fewer than seven innings pitched against the Yankees. The last pitcher on any team to do that to the Yankees was the Rays’ Matt Moore on Sept. 22, 2011.

Carrasco has now allowed one run in 18 2/3 innings pitched over three starts in the Bronx against the Yankees in his career. That’s the fewest runs allowed by any visiting pitcher in his first three major-league starts at Yankee Stadium (old or new).

Welcome to the club
It’s amazing what a little run support will do … Luis Severino finally earned his first career win, throwing six innings of three-hit, one-run ball on Saturday afternoon as the Yankees beat the Indians, 6-2.

The Yankees had scored a total of two runs when he was on the mound in his first three starts combined. And then Brett Gardner matched that total with one swing of the bat, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning.

Brian McCann extended the lead with a solo shot, giving him 75 RBI this season, the seventh time in his career he’s reached that number. The only other catchers in MLB history with at least seven 75-RBI seasons within their first 11 major-league seasons are Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza.

This is the second time in four games Severino has pitched at least five innings and allowed no more than three hits. Here’s the list of Yankee pitchers besides Severino with two starts like that within their first four career games in the last 100 years: Dave Righetti and Johnny Broaca.

Babe Lindor
This habit of losing to cellar-dwellars might really come back to haunt the Yankees. They dropped another game to the Indians on Sunday and are now 14-15 vs last-place teams this season; the Blue Jays are 16-11 against last-place teams and the Orioles are 23-7.

Dellin Betances took the loss when he allowed a tie-breaking homer to Francisco Lindor — the first homer that Betances had ever given up to a player batting left-handed. He had faced 302 lefties in his career before Lindor’s eighth-inning blast.

Lindor finished the season with a .433 batting average (13 for 30) in seven games against the Yankees. Over the last 100 years, the only players in their age-21 season or younger to have a higher batting average (min. 25 at-bats) against the Yankees are Claudell Washington (.452 in 1976) and Alex Rodriguez (.434 in 1996).

Brett Gardner reached a milestone in this game, becoming the sixth Yankee with 200 career stolen bases. He’s also just the second player in franchise history to get 200 steals within his first eight seasons, joining Hal Chase, who racked up 243 steals in his first eight seasons from 1905-12.

8/20 to 8/23 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The ten-game homestand continues with a four-game weekend series against the Indians. The Yankees were just in Cleveland last week, when they lost two of three to the Tribe. That was when the Yankees were really struggling to score runs, however. Hopefully things will go a little better this time around.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

Cleveland lost two of three in Fenway Park earlier this week. They’re 55-64 with a -26 run differential this season, and that has them in last place in the AL Central and well out of the postseason race. The Indians have been a huge disappointment this season. Uuuuge.

Offense & Defense

At 4.00 runs per games with a team 98 wRC+, the Indians are a below-average offensively club this season. And remember, most of that offense came before they traded away David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn. They’ve been disappointing in many ways. Their only injured position player is IF Chris Johnson. He just landed on the DL with a hand issue. That bites. Johnson seemed to kill rally after rally in Cleveland last week.

Lindor. (Presswire)
Lindor. (Presswire)

The biggest difference between the Indians the Yankees saw last week and the Indians the Yankees will see this week is 2B Jason Kipnis (142 wRC+). He was on the DL with shoulder inflammation when these two teams played a week ago but was just activated Tuesday. Kipnis has been the Tribe’s best player this year. OF Michael Brantley (139 wRC+) always seem to kill the Yankees and 1B Carlos Santana (107 wRC+) is still quite productive. SS Francisco Lindor (99 wRC+) has been both slightly below-average overall and on fire of late — he’s got a 130 wRC+ over the last 30 days.

C Yan Gomes (77 wRC+) and IF Jose Ramirez (54 wRC+) are having poor years, though Ramirez did tear up the Yankees last week. They couldn’t get him out. 3B Giovanny Urshela (85 wRC+) plays third everyday and the quartet of UTIL Ryan Raburn (131 wRC+), UTIL Lonnie Chisenhall (85 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Sands (91 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (122 wRC+) rotate around Brantley in the outfield. IF Mike Aviles (67 wRC+) is the backup infielder and C Roberto Perez (106 wRC+) is the backup catcher.

As I said last week, the Indians are a below-average defensive club, especially now that Kipnis has returned and will take playing time away from Ramirez. Lindor and Urshela are great on the left side of the infield and Almonte is strong in center, but otherwise every other regular on the roster is a below-average defender. Cleveland is one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. They were the worst before calling up Lindor and Urshela.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
Boy do the Yankees catch a break this series. Four-game set with the Indians and they’re missing reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who started last night. Missed him in Cleveland last week too. Pretty great. Tomlin, 30, has missed most of the season with shoulder trouble and has made just one start since returning, holding the Twins to two runs in 6.1 innings. He had a 4.76 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 104 innings last season, with a good strikeout rate (21.1%), a great walk rate (3.1%), and well-below-average grounder (37.5%) and homer (1.56 HR/9) numbers. When healthy, Tomlin operates with an upper-80s four-seamer and mid-80s cutter — PitchFX says his velocity in his first start off the DL was in line with last year — which set up his mid-70s curveball. He’s rarely thrown his low-80s changeup since the start of last season.

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Yankees will miss Kluber again but they will get stuck facing Carrasco one more time. The 28-year-old has a 3.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 24 starts and 151.1 innings this year with phenomenal peripherals: 27.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 50.8 GB%, and 0.83 HR/9. That’s as good as it gets. Righties (.300 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.264 wOBA) both this year and last year, so the reverse split is probably not a fluke. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion. He throws everything hard. The Yankees scored two runs (on solo homers) in eight innings against Carrasco last week. Tough assignment.

Salazar. (Presswire)
Salazar. (Presswire)

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar, 25, is another hard-throwing Indians pitcher. He’s pitched to a 3.15 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 22 starts and 139.2 innings in 2015, and he’s done a better job neutralizing righties (.274 wOBA) than lefties (.291 wOBA). Salazar has a great strikeout rate (27.7%), a below-average homer rate (1.16 HR/9), and average-ish walk (7.3%) and grounder (44.5%) numbers. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season. The Yankees scored just one run in 7.1 innings against Salazar in the series last week.

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
I’m pretty sure Bauer is the most enigmatic pitcher in baseball. He’s an extreme great stuff/bad results guy. He has a 4.62 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.1 innings this year, and he’s allowed at least five runs in five of his last seven starts. Bauer, 24, has a slightly above-average strikeout rate (22.9%) but below-average walk (9.6%), grounder (38.2%), and homer (1.45 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.337 wOBA) have done more damage against him that righties (.306 wOBA). Bauer throws low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015. The Yankees punished Bauer for six runs in 3.1 innings last week.

Bullpen Status
Francona’s club is down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Closer RHP Cody Allen (3.94 ERA/2.08 FIP) has been much better the last few weeks after a really rough start to the season. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (3.09/2.76) has settled in as Allen’s primary setup man, and RHP Bryan Shaw (2.68/4.32) also sees some late-inning work. LHP Kyle Crockett (2.61/4.46 in limited time) is the lone southpaw.

RHP Austin Adams (3.96/3.63), RHP Jeff Manship (1.23/2.79), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.45/3.72) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Aside from Manship, all of these guys throw hard. The Indians love their power arms. Crockett has pitched the last two days and both Shaw and McAllister pitched yesterday, by the way. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the tired Yankees’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back, Offense (August 11-13)

(AP/Aaron Josefczyk)
(AP/Aaron Josefczyk)

Can it get any worse?
Just when you thought the Yankees had hit rock bottom last week … Well, they somehow managed to break that unbreakable rocky crust and dig themselves into an even deeper hole to start this week.

Yeah, Tuesday night’s marathon loss to the Indians was that bad.

The Yankees finally scored more than one run — progress! — and actually had a lead in the game — even better! — but Andrew Miller picked the wrong time to blow his first save of the season. Miller’s streak of 24 straight saves was the longest in franchise history to begin a Yankee career, the second-longest in franchise history to start a season and the third-longest in major-league history to begin a career with a new team.

Before Miller blew the save and the rest of the extra-inning sadness played out, the Yankees snapped a 31-inning scoreless streak — their longest since 1991 — and Luis Severino delivered another terrific outing (6 IP, 2 R, 7 H). Severino has now pitched at least five innings and given up no more than two runs in each of his first two career games, but has zero wins on the back of his baseball card. The last Yankee pitcher to start his major-league career like that was … um … yeah, no one in the last 100 seasons.

In the end, the Yankees were beaten 5-4 in the 16th inning, the first time they lost a game that long to the Indians since a 19-inning loss on May 24, 1918. Amazingly, the Indians starting pitcher that day — Stan Coveleski — threw a complete game (yes, 19 innings!) for the win.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time the Yankees lost a game this season that went at least 16 innings. (I tried to forget that 19-inning loss to the Red Sox in April, too.) This is the only season in the last 100 years that the Yankees have lost two games lasting 16-plus innings. Wut?!

Jacoby Ellsbury (0 for 7), Brett Gardner (0 for 6) and Mark Teixeira (0 for 6) — aka, the top of the order — had the worst “hitting” performances of the night at the plate. The last time the Yankees had three of the top four hitters in the lineup go 0 for 6 or worse was July 26, 1967 (Roy White, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard).

Is it winter yet?
The Yankee bats went into hibernation again on Wednesday night, wasting a second straight solid performance by CC Sabathia in a 2-1 loss to the Indians. And thanks to the fact that the Blue Jays will never lose another game this season, the Yankees fell out of first place in the AL East for the first time since the morning of July 2.

Sabathia has now thrown a quality start in all five games he’s pitched against the Indians in Cleveland. He’s the first Yankee with a streak of five straight road starts of at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer against the Indians since Mel Stottlemyre from 1967-71.

Return of the bats
The Yankees finally broke out of their deep offensive slump with 10 hits and eight runs in Thursday’s win, and avoided being swept in Cleveland for the first time since September 11-13, 1970.

Brian McCann got the fireworks started with his 20th homer of the season, a three-run shot in the top of the first inning. He joins Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and Gary Carter as the only catchers in major-league history with at least nine 20-homer seasons.

Stephen Drew clubbed a solo homer in the second inning to make it 4-0, his 15th dinger of the year, and added a double in the fourth inning to raise his season batting average to .195. That’s better! (But still pretty awful.) Looking ahead … the lowest batting average by any Yankee to hit at least 15 homers in a season was .192 by Steve Balboni.

Despite the offensive outburst, the Yankees running game remained dormant; no one even attempted to steal a base. The Yankees have now gone 18 straight games without a stolen base, their longest streak since 1975.

Greg Bird, the latest Baby Bomber to be called up to The Show, wasn’t invited to the scoring party; he went 0 for 5 in his major-league debut. Bird is the first Yankee to go hitless with at least five at-bats in his first career game since a 20-year-old shortstop named Derek Jeter on May 29, 1995. That guy turned out okay, I guess.

8/11 to 8/13 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Indians are the only AL team the Yankees have yet to play this season, and that’ll change today, with the first of three games in Cleveland. This is the start of a six-game road trip for the Yankees and the first of 16 games in 16 days.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

The Tribe took two of three from the fading Twins at home over the weekend and they’ve won three of their last five games overall. I picked the Indians to go to the World Series! So, naturally, they are in the AL Central cellar and way out of the wildcard race at 51-59 with a -21 run differential. Not this year, Cleveland.

Offense & Defense

The Indians have failed to meet expectations in many ways this season, including offensively. They’re a slightly below-average club that is scoring 4.02 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+. Cleveland is missing 2B Jason Kipnis (146 wRC+), who is having an incredible season, but had to be placed on the DL last week with a shoulder issue. He’s out this series. The Yankees catch a bit of a break there.

Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is led by OF Michael Brantley (137 wRC+), who was a legitimate MVP candidate last year and has been merely excellent this season. 1B Carlos Santana (109 wRC+) is the team’s only other reliably above-average everyday hitter. UTIL Ryan Raburn (137 wRC+) has performed well in a platoon role and C Roberto Perez (111 wRC+) is a productive backup catcher, but that’s really it. No one else still on the team has been above-average at the plate in 2015.

Top prospect SS Francisco Lindor (88 wRC+ in limited time) and 3B Giovanny Urshela (79 wRC+) were called up a few weeks ago and form the new-look left side of the infield. IF Jose Ramirez (61 wRC+) is filling for Kipnis at second and Brantley is currently joined by former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (106 wRC+ in very limited time) and UTIL Jerry Sands (102 wRC+) in the outfield. They traded Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Brandon Moss within the last two weeks or so. C Yan Gomes (72 wRC+), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (70 wRC+) and IF Chris Johnson (75 wRC+) are also on the roster.

Aside from Lindor and Urshela, who are top notch glove men, the Indians have a brutal team defense. Well, it has gotten better with Almonte playing center and Ramirez filling in at second, but otherwise this one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. Santana, Sands, Brantley … all below-average in the field. Hit it anywhere but the left side of the infield.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The 28-year-old Carrasco was reportedly on the market before the trade deadline and there was a ton of interest, but the Tribe decided to keep him. Carrasco has a 3.76 ERA (2.82 FIP) in 22 starts and 136.1 innings this season with excellent strikeout (27.1%), walk (5.2%), grounder (51.7%), and homer (0.79 HR/9) rates. He’s also owed just $19M from 2016-18 with affordable club options for 2019 and 2020. So yeah, easy to see why teams wanted him and why the Indians kept him. Carrasco has a weird reverse split (.302 vs. .271 wOBA in favor righties) and did last year as well. He’s a five-pitch pitcher though it’s really more like a four and a half pitch pitcher. He sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion, which is his fifth pitch. If it wasn’t clear, this dude is a power pitcher. Don’t be fooled by the ERA. Blame the defense for that. Carrasco is very good.

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
The Indians have nothing but power pitchers in their rotation and Salazar might throw the hardest out of all of ’em. The 25-year-old has a 3.38 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 20 starts and 125.1 innings this season, and both his strikeout (28.1%) and walk (6.9%) rates are dynamite. His grounder (45.0%) and homer (1.15 HR/9) numbers aren’t too eye-popping though. Salazar has a tiny platoon split (.286 vs. 281 wOBA in favor of lefties) which isn’t too surprising because he’s a fastball/changeup pitcher. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Huge difference in velocity. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 24, is a classic enigma pitcher with tremendous stuff but infuriating inconsistency. He has a 4.06 ERA (4.38 FIP) in 22 starts and 137.1 innings on the year, but aside from his strikeout rate, his peripherals aren’t all that good: 23.8 K%, 9.6 BB%, 39.0 GB%, and 1.38 HR/9. Righties (.308 wOBA) have been insignificantly more successful against him than lefties (.306 wOBA). Bauer is a power kitchen sink guy, if that makes sense. He throws hard and will throw just about anything. Low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Indians had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. Closer RHP Cody Allen (4.06 ERA/2.04 FIP) recovered from a brutal start to the season, and these days his primary setup man is former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (2.89/2.50), who has found a home in the bullpen. I thought that might happen.

LHP Kyle Crockett (2.57/4.53) is Francona’s lone lefty reliever. RHP Bryan Shaw (1.99/3.91), RHP Austin Adams (3.22/3.50), RHP Shawn Armstrong (one inning this year), RHP Jeff Manship (1.56/3.16), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.70/4.03) are the other righty relievers. They’re carrying eight relievers right now because they only have a four-man rotation — Cody Anderson landed on the DL not too long ago and they’ve been able to skip that rotation spot thanks to off-days. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the Yanks’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

8/8-8/10 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Official photo of RAB Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

One AL Central opponent leaves town and another comes in. The Indians are in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. They split a four-game set with the Yankees in Cleveland last month.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians just lost three straight to the Reds but they had won four straight before that. They are 9-11 since the All-Star break and 57-58 with a +7 run differential overall this year, good for third place in the AL Central. They are 3.5 games back of the Yankees (and Mariners and Blue Jays) in the wildcard race, so this series is not nothing.

Offense
Cleveland quietly has one of the best offenses in the game, one that averages 4.43 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+. They are currently without OF Michael Bourn (97 wRC+) and DH Jason Giambi (26 wRC+) due to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Bourn just started a rehab assignment and is unlikely to return this weekend. Giambi is out long-term and there’s a decent chance he’s played his last MLB game. I’ll miss Big G.

Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is built around OF Michael Brantley (151 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best two-way players in baseball. He’s excellent. 1B Carlos Santana (131 wRC+) has been tearing the cover off the ball for two months after a terrible start while 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (135 wRC+) is going the other way — he started out hot and has slowed down big time of late. C Yan Gomes (127 wRC+) has established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball these last two seasons.

2B Jason Kipnis (95 wRC+) and OF David Murphy (102 wRC+) have been just about average this year while ex-Yankee OF Nick Swisher (73 wRC+) has been awful. IF Jose Ramirez (21 wRC+ in very limited time) has taken over at short since Asdrubal Cabrera was traded away. UTIL Ryan Raburn (52 wRC+) and ex-Yankee OF Chris Dickerson (122 wRC+ in limited time) see platoon duty while IF Mike Aviles (71 wRC+) and C Roberto Perez (87 wRC+ in very limited time) fill out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 23, has finally found some success at the MLB level after years of tinkering and having coaches try to “fix” his unique mechanics and workout routines. He has a 4.20 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 16 starts and 92.1 innings with a good strikeout rate (8.31 K/9 and 21.3%) and an okay walk rate (3.27 K/9 and 8.4 K%). Righties (.346 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.325 wOBA) and he’s been worst on the road (.351 wOBA) than at home (.326 wOBA). Bauer is an extreme fly ball pitcher (32.4% grounders) who gives up homers (1.03 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%), but that is by design — he’s said he likes pitching up in the zone because fly balls are higher percentage outs than ground balls, and he’ll live with the homers as a byproduct. He is definitely in the minority when it comes to that approach. Bauer throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a mid-to-upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He throws all five pitches regularly with the slider and curve being his go-to offspeed pitches. New York scored three runs (two earned) in seven innings against him last month.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and did not face the Klubot during their four-game series in Cleveland a few weeks. That aren’t getting that lucky twice. The 28-year-old Kluber has a 2.55 ERA (2.49 FIP) in 24 starts and 165.2 innings this year, and his peripherals are excellent across the board: 9.62 K/9 (26.7 K%), 1.90 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), 0.54 HR/9 (7.4 HR/FB%), and 49.2% grounders. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have had much more success against him than righties (.236 wOBA). Kluber is primarily a three-pitch pitcher with a low-to-mid-90s sinker, a hard upper-80s slider, and power low-80s curveball. Both breaking balls are legit out pitches. He’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start, but it is his clear fourth pitch. Kluber is not a big name, but the guy has pitched like an ace this year. He’s outstanding.

Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Tribe have had a revolving door at the back of their rotation all year. Carrasco, 27, is coming out of the bullpen to make this start after spending most of the season as a long reliever. He has a 3.88 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 26 relief appearances and four spot starts in 2014, and across the board he has very good strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.2 K%), walk (2.49 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), homer (0.69 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (56.4%) numbers. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have been more successful against him than righties (.269 wOBA). Obviously his numbers in relief will not translate perfectly over into a starting role. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer when he comes out of the bullpen, and he uses it to set up his upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. He throws all three secondary pitches at least 11% of the time, so he’s a true four-pitch pitcher. Carrasco made two relief appearances against the Yankees last month, three scoreless innings in one and one scoreless inning in the other.

Bullpen Status
Francona is currently on his third different closer in RHP Cody Allen (2.44 FIP). RHP John Axford (4.23 FIP) lost the job early in the season and RHP Bryan Shaw (3.45 FIP) only had it for about a week. Those two plus RHP Scott Atchison (3.32 FIP) serve as Allen’s primary setup men. Like the Yankees, the Indians are carrying eight relievers at the moment.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen includes LHP Marc Rzepczynski (2.93 FIP), LHP Kyle Crockett (3.28 FIP), LHP Nick Hagadone (3.36 FIP), and RHP C.C. Lee (3.96 FIP). Yes, the Indians have a dude named C.C. Lee in their bullpen. It’s like the ghost of Cy Young winners past has come back to haunt them. Lee threw two innings yesterday but the rest of the bullpen had the day off. Check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Once you’ve done that, head over to Wahoo’s on First for everything you need to know about the Indians.

7/7-7/10 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Pretty sure I will never not use this photo for Yankees-Indians. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
I will never not use this photo for Yankees-Indians. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Yankees have played 11 of the 14 other AL teams so far this season, and this week they’ll make it 12 of 14 when they face the Indians for the first time. (They still have yet to play the Tigers and Rangers.) The Bombers are in Cleveland and will open a four-game set against the Tribe later tonight.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians took two of three from the Royals over the weekend and have won four of their last five games overall. They lost eight of eleven before that. Cleveland comes into the series sitting in third place in the AL Central with a 43-44 record and a -13 run differential. They’re six games back in the division but only 4.5 back of the second wildcard spot. The Indians and Yankees are separated by one game in the wildcard standings, so this series is not insignificant.

Offense
At 4.41 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+, the Tribe is one of the better offensive teams in the game this year. They won’t have OF Michael Bourn (97 wRC+) this series after placing him on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury just yesterday. OF Nyjer Morgan (knee) and DH Jason Giambi (knee) are also hurt and won’t play this series. Kinda bummed we won’t get to see Big G.

Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is built around deserving All-Star OF Michael Brantley (155 wRC+), who has finally broken out this season. They acquired him from the Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade back in the day, just in case you needed a reminder that it often takes years for a young player to find his way in MLB. C/IF Carlos Santana (118 wRC+) got off to a brutal start but has been much better of late. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (166 wRC+) if starting to live up his potential in a mostly platoon role, and C Yan Gomes (110 wRC+) is the reason Santana moves all around the field.

Former Yankee OF Nick Swisher (74 wRC+) is having an awful year and the double play combo of 2B Jason Kipnis (99 wRC+) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (98 wRC+) has been just average. IF Mike Aviles (80 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Raburn (46 wRC+) haven’t been anything special in reserve roles. OF David Murphy (96 wRC+) does his best work against righties. C George Kottaras (197 wRC+ in very limited time) is effectively the third catcher and OF Tyler Holt was called up to replace Bourn. He went 0-for-1 in his MLB debut yesterday.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Masterson is going to be a free agent after the season and so far things are not going well this year. He has a 5.16 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 18 starts and 96 innings, so he’s still taking the ball every fifth day, but his walk rate (4.97 BB/9 and 12.1 BB%) has ballooned to a career high by quite a margin. Masterson is still missing bats (8.63 K/9 and 21.0 K%) and using his sinker to keep the ball on the ground (59.3%) and in the park (0.56 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), but hitters are reaching base against him more than ever. As usual, lefties (.395 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.303 wOBA). Masterson’s velocity drop is scary — he went from averaging 93.1 mph with his four-seamer and 91.1 mph with his sinker last season to 90.6 and 88.7 this year, respectively. Yikes. Losing two and a half miles an hour off your fastball in an offseason usually means something is physically wrong. A low-80s slider is Masterson’s primary secondary pitch, though he will throw a few mid-80s changeups per start.

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 23, appears to have gotten his career back on track after some tinkering, though his 4.42 ERA (4.43 FIP) in ten starts and 59 innings this season isn’t anything to get excited about. He misses bats (8.24 K/9 and 21.1 K%) and does a good job not handing out free passes (3.36 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%), but he is an extreme fly ball pitcher (30.2% grounders) and very homer prone (1.37 HR/9 and 11.5 HR/FB%). That is by design too — Bauer has said he likes pitching up in the zone because fly balls are higher percentage outs than ground balls, and he’ll live with the homers as a byproduct. He is definitely unique when it comes to that line of thinking. Anyway, his platoon split is small and he throws his mid-to-upper-90s fastball roughly half the time. Bauer also throws a mid-to-upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He throws all five pitches regularly with the slider and curve being his go-to offspeed pitches.

Bauer. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Bauer. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
The Indians seem to have a lot of homer prone pitchers on the staff this season. Tomlin, 29, has a 4.11 ERA (3.71 FIP) in 70 innings across eleven starts (and one relief appearance) despite a ridiculous 1.41 HR/9 (13.6 HR/FB%). That’s right in line with his 1.37 HR/9 (11.1 HR/FB%) career norm too. Tomlin’s sky high strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 22.0 K%) is by far the best of his career. We’re talking about a guy with a career 5.48 K/9 (14.8 K%) here. He has never walked anyone (1.16 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) and isn’t much of a ground baller (36.2%) either. Unless the improved strikeout rate is real, the only thing Tomlin does well is limit walks. He actually has a reverse split too — lefties have a .270 wOBA against him while righties are at .361. Tomlin uses upper-80s four-seam fastballs and mid-80s cutters to set up his mid-70s curveball and occasional low-80s changeup. Pretty generic repertoire.

Thursday: TBA vs. LHP T.J. House (No vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and will not face All-Star Final Vote candidate Corey Kluber this weekend. He’s been awesome this year and started yesterday. Instead, they will face the 24-year-old House in the series finale. He has a 4.24 ERA (4.62 FIP) in seven starts (and one relief appearance) and 40.1 innings this year thanks mostly to his low walk rate (2.01 BB/9 and 5.2 BB%) and high ground ball rate (61.0 K%). House doesn’t miss many bats (5.58 K/9 and 144 K%) and yes, he is homer prone (1.34 HR/9 and 26.1 HR/FB%). Like I said, everyone on the staff seems to give up the long ball. Righties (.386 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than lefties (.323 wOBA), though that’s probably a sample size thing. House is a true four-pitch pitcher, using low-90s four and two-seamers to complement low-80s sliders and changeups. He throws all four pitches at least 16% of the time.

The Yankees’ starter for this game depends on whether Chase Whitley is needed out of the bullpen at some point in the next few days. If he is, David Phelps will probably get the ball on Thursday instead of getting an extra day of rest following the McCarthy trade. Heck, it might be Phelps anyway even if Whitely isn’t needed in relief because Greene could pitch well enough tonight to earn another start. The schedule allows them to avoid giving Whitley a start this week.

Gomes and Allen. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Gomes and Allen. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Francona is already on his third closer this season. RHP John Axford (4.60 FIP) started the year in the ninth inning, melted down, then RHP Bryan Shaw (3.14 FIP) got a chance. When he had some hiccups, the job went to RHP Cody Allen (2.92 FIP), who has run with it. Allen has pitched each of the last two days, though he only threw four pitches yesterday, so he should be available tonight. Otherwise the rest of the bullpen is fresh.

Axford and Shaw still see some setup work while LHP Marc Rzepczynski (3.51 FIP) faces the tough lefties. RHP Scott Atchison (3.16 FIP), RHP Vinnie Pestano (2.51 FIP in limited time), and LHP Kyle Crockett (4.43 FIP in limited time) handle the middle innings and RHP Carlos Carrasco (3.23 FIP) is the team’s swingman. Yes, the Indians are currently carrying eight relievers and only three bench players. The Yankees’ bullpen is pretty overworked, so check up on their status with our Bullpen Workload page. Once you’ve done that, head over to Wahoo’s on First for everything you need to know about the Indians.