Archive for New York Mets
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
Via Joel Sherman: The Mets and Curtis Granderson have agreed to a four-year contract worth $60M. The Yankees would have received a supplemental first round draft pick, but it will be forfeited due to the Jacoby Ellsbury signing. Thanks for the dingers, Curtis.
Robinson Cano has a been a Not A Yankee for a little less than three weeks now, but his market has yet to really take shape. He had not received any offers from other clubs as of November 10th. That isn’t all that surprising, however. Things have been relatively quite for other top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as well. The market for the big names usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings in early-December.
- Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team will meet with Cano’s people sometime this week, but also indicated they will continue to talk to other players in case things drag on too long. “We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics yet, but it’s the beginning of the process,” said Hal.
- Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez met with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, and assistant GM John Ricco at a Manhattan hotel yesterday. They supposedly made a “Scott Boras-like” presentation. Cano’s camp initiated the meeting and it sounds like they’re trying to drum up some leverage. The Mets aren’t handing out the type of contract it will take to sign Cano, especially under the risk-averse Alderson.
- “[Jay-Z is] going to be intimately involved in all areas, and that has been true for the last six months” said Van Wagenen recently. “Jay is a very, very successful businessman, who has a keen understanding of value, a keen understanding of brands, and a keen understand of what this player, Robinson Cano, wants to accomplish in his career. He’s been at the table both in strategy sessions and in preparation. And he absolutely has, and will continue to be, involved in the actual negotiations with potential suitors.”
- Cano’s camp has not yet budged off their ten-year, $305M request, but Randy Levine ain’t havin’ any of that. “We want Robbie back — we think Robbie is terrific — but we have no interest in doing any ten-year deals and no interest in paying $300M to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about,” said the team president.
- The Dodgers still insist they will not get involved in the bidding for Cano. We first heard that a few weeks ago. Los Angeles seems like an obvious fit for Robbie given their huge wallet and second base vacancy, but they appear to be saving the majority of their cash for the inevitable Clayton Kershaw extension. Maybe they’ll circle back if they have some extra cash once that is taken care of.
- Just in case you were wondering, the Marlins will not be in on Cano this winter. Shocking, I know. “We have to know our market and our payroll and our history, and our history is to build around young players and add pieces when it has become very clear that we are ready to win,” said GM Dan Jennings.
With the Astros moving to the AL and interleague play taking place everyday, the Subway Series has a new twist these days. Instead of two three-game series a month apart, the Yankees and Mets will play four games this week — the first two in Flushing, the next two in the Bronx. It’s a pair of back-to-back home-and-home series. I love the setup.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Amazin’s pulled off a Yankees-esque come-from-behind win last night, ending their five-game losing streak. They’ve won just four of their last 16 games and sit in fourth place in the NL West with a 18-29 record and a -42 run differential. They bad.
Much like the Yankees, the Mets have a below-average offense. They average just 4.0 runs per game with a team 89 wRC+ while the Bombers are at 4.3 and 93, respectively. The difference between the two is basically the DH. As far as position player injuries go, the Mets are perfectly healthy.
The conversion about manager Terry Collins’ offense starts with 3B David Wright (143 wRC+), who has again been one of baseball’s elite all-around players. OF Lucas Duda (136 wRC+) and 2B Daniel Murphy (123 wRC+) have been strong supporting players while C John Buck (111 wRC+) has cooled off following his strong start. CF Rick Ankiel (109 wRC+) strikes out a ton (44.9%) but also hits the ball a long, long way (.297 ISO).
The Mets have gotten nothing from SS Ruben Tejada (59 wRC+) and 1B Ike Davis (39 wRC+), though the platoon duo of OF Mike Baxter (82 wRC+ vs. RHP) and OF Marlon Byrd (103 wRC+ vs. LHP) have been better than expected. UTIL Jordany Valdespin (86 wRC+) is the pinch-hitter extraordinaire, C Anthony Recker (58 wRC+) the backup backstop, IF Justin Turner (86 wRC+) the backup infielder, and OF Juan Lagares (30 wRC+) the defensive specialist. Wright, Duda, and Murphy are dangerous, but everyone else can be pitched to.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday @ CitiField: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Jon Niese
Niese, 26, broke out last season and was rewarded with his first career Opening Day start this year. Rather than continue to improve, the left-hander has taken a step back in 2013 (4.80 ERA and 4.71 FIP). His strikeout (5.13 K/9 and 12.5 K%) and walk (4.47 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%) rates are both career worsts, though his ground ball rate (55.1%) is a career best. Niese is a true five-pitch pitcher, using upper-80s/low-90s two- and four-seamers as well as a mid-80s cutter to setup his mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The curve is his bread-and-butter. Niese throws all five pitches at least 10% of the time and four of the five pitches at least 16% of the time. The changeup is the exception. The Yankees faced Niese three times during interleague play these last two years, and he’s handled them well each time. Obviously he was much more effective overall back then.
Tuesday @ CitiField: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Matt Harvey
You’re not going to find a more exciting pitcher right now that the 24-year-old Harvey. The Connecticut native and former seventh overall pick owns a 1.93 ERA (2.45 FIP) in ten starts this year and a 2.30 ERA (2.84 FIP) in 20 big league starts overall. His strikeout (9.51 K/9 and 28.0 K%) and walk (2.19 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%) numbers are outstanding, and his ground ball rate (44.1%) is solid as well. Harvey throws three pitches regularly but lives off his mid-to-high-90s four-seam fastball. His wipeout upper-80s slider and fading mid-80s changeup are both swing-and-miss offerings. A low-80s curveball is his fourth pitch but is still a legit weapon. It’s nasty, nasty stuff. The Yankees have never faced Harvey before; he wasn’t called up until the second half last season.
Wednesday @ Yankee Stadium: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner
When Johan Santana went down with his second torn shoulder capsule, the 27-year-old Hefner took his rotation spot. He’s been pretty bad this year, pitching to a 4.76 ERA (5.25 FIP) in nine starts and one long relief appearance. Hefner’s peripherals aren’t anything special — 6.53 K/9 (17.5 K%), 3.53 BB/9 (9.4 BB%), 1.59 HR/9 (15.5% HR/FB), and 44.2% grounders — which isn’t surprising. The right-hander is another true five-pitch guy, using his upper-80s/low-90s two- and four-seamers basically half the time combined. A mid-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw a low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. He’s thrown each pitch at least 10% of the time this year. Hefner threw a perfect inning of relief against the Yankees last season, the only time they’ve seen him.
Thursday @ Yankee Stadium: LHP Vidal Nuno vs. RHP Dillon Gee
Gee, 27, hasn’t just been the worst pitcher on the Mets staff this year, he’s been one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. He owns a 6.34 ERA (4.93 FIP) in ten starts with not truly awful peripheral stats: 6.70 K/9 (15.9 K%), 3.08 BB/9 (7.3 BB%), 1.45 HR/9 (13.8% HR/FB), and 46.8% grounds. Still, when you allow 36 runs in 49.2 innings, you’ve stunk. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gee has lost about two miles an hour off his two- and four-seam fastballs this year, sitting in the upper-80s instead of the low-90s. A low-80s changeup is his go-to pitch, though he’ll also throw low-80s sliders and mid-70s curveballs. He’s a two-seamer/changeup guy, for the most apart. The Yankees have faced him once in each of the last two seasons and he’s put together solid outings both times. Not great, not terrible. Winnable.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson is a bright baseball guy, but his bullpens since taking over three years ago have been just dreadful. The team’s relief unit owns a 4.77 ERA (4.36 FIP) this year, the third worst in MLB. Take away the quietly elite closer RHP Bobby Parnell (2.20 FIP) and it would be a lot worse.
The rest of the bullpen is a mess of has-beens and never-wases. There’s former Yankee RHP LaTroy Hawkins (3.69 FIP) and RHP Brandon Lyon (3.43 FIP) in the former category and RHP Greg Burke (2.05 FIP), oft-used LHP Scott Rice (3.40 FIP), seldom-used LHP Robert Carson (10.18 FIP), and RHP Collin McHugh (10.39 FIP in very limited time) in the latter. Hawkins and Parnell pitched yesterday, but everyone else should be fresh.
Although CC Sabathia got crushed yesterday, he did manage to spare the bullpen by soaking up seven innings. The key late-inning relievers have all had plenty of rest these last few days and are good to go this week. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact usage details. For the best Mets analysis, I recommend Amazin’ Avenue. One of the best team-specific blogs in all the land.
The Winter Meetings officially come to a close today, and the rumor mill should start to dry up around noon (probably sooner) after the clubs flee the Gaylord Opryland. The two biggest free agents (Zack Greinke & Josh Hamilton) are still on the board and the Yankees haven’t done a thing other than announce Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury. Somehow they’re actually going to leave this week with more questions than when it started.
The Rule 5 Draft starts at 10am ET and I’ll have a liveblog up for that, but otherwise this is your thread for various Yankees-related rumblings throughout the day. Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. All times are ET.
- 3:49pm: The Yankees have not contacted the Padres about Chase Headley, which is a little surprising. Even though San Diego says he’s off-limits, you’d think they’d at least ask to hear it from the horse’s mouth. [Chad Jennings]
- 12:06pm: The Yankees spoke to the Mets about R.A. Dickey this week, but apparently they didn’t have the right pieces to swing a trade. I can’t imagine the PR hit the Mets would have taken had they dealt the reigning Cy Young Award winner to the Bronx. [Andy Martino]
- 10:53am: The Yankees did not inquire on Michael Young because they don’t believe he can handle third base full-time. Can’t say I disagree. [Joel Sherman]
- 10:49am: Cashman met with reporters during the Rule 5 Draft and said he’s been engaged in trades more than free agents so far. [Chad Jennings]
- 8:40am: Curtis Granderson is one of five players the Phillies are targeting for their center field opening. It’s unclear if (or how much) the two sides have talked and what Philadelphia could give up in return. [Danny Knobler]
- 8:00am: Agents who have spoken to the Yankees get the impression that a clamp has been placed on the team’s spending. Brian Cashman is supposedly frustrated by his inability to act and is working with ownership to see what he can spend. This is ridiculous. [Joel Sherman]
- Veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez is in the team’s mix of third base candidates. The 35-year-old has some pop, but he’s a sub-.300 OBP candidate. Gonzalez is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL and was considered a strong defender at short, though he’s never played a big league game at another position (even DH). The Yankees need to see him work out following surgery before discussing a contract. [George King]
- The Yankees are open to discussing Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in trades. This isn’t that surprising, they’ve always been a team that will listen on pretty much every player. [Andrew Marchand]
The Mets have claimed right-hander Chris Schwinden off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. The Bombers claimed him from the Indians last week then designated him for assignment when they claimed Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox yesterday. Schwinden has gone full circle in the last month, going from the Mets to the Blue Jays, the Blue Jays to the Indians, the Indians to the Yankees, and the Yankees back to the Mets, all on waiver claims. Hopefully he can catch his breath a bit now.
The Yankees and Mets close the 2012 Interleague slate out this weekend with three games at Citi Field in beautiful Flushing, New York. With 11 Interleague wins, the Yankees come into this series with an opportunity to not only secure their highest-ever win tally ever in Interleague play (their previous high-water mark was 13 wins, done once in 1998 when the Interleague schedule was 16 games, and also in 2003 and 2011), but also an opportunity for a rare Subway Series sweep, which has only ever happened once (2003, the only other season the Yankees swept the Mets at home) in the prior 15 seasons of Interleague play.
Despite getting swept by the Yankees in the Bronx two weeks ago, the Mets have continued to outperform expectations, sweeping the Rays at Tampa Bay last week before getting swept at home by the NL Central-leading Reds this past weekend, and then sweeping a surprisingly strong Baltimore team.
With Johan’s no-hitter but a memory, the Mets’ hype machine has gone into overdrive thanks to R.A. Dickey’s recent stretch of masterfully historical starting pitching. With his complete-game one-hitter on Monday, he not only became the first pitcher to throw two straight one-hitters since Dave Steib in 1988, but the first pitcher ever to allow no earned runs and strike out at least eight batters in five consecutive starts. Over his past six starts, Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed (h/t ESPN). Bananas.
This domination has unsurprisingly vaulted him into early conversation for Cy Young, and if the season ended today you’d be hard-pressed to find a more deserving candidate in the National League. The Yankees, as I noted prior to the last go-round with the Metropolitans, were fortunate to miss Dickey two weeks ago, as he has the lowest ERA against the Yankees, minimum two starts, of every starter the Bombers have faced since the beginning of 2010. Unfortunately they won’t be so lucky this go-round, as Dickey will meet CC Sabathia Sunday evening on national television in what will be one of the most overhyped games of the year. Both men have been great, but prepare to wring the crap out of your hands as Dickey induces harmless groundball after groundball off the Yankee bats. While it stands to reason that Dickey can’t possibly continue to pitch this well — and if any team was going to finally knock him off his perch, it may as well be one of the hottest teams in baseball — between both Dickey’s recent history against the Yanks along with his total domination of any and all comers, Sabathia is probably going to have to be close to flawless for the Bombers to topple Dickey on Sunday night.
In addition to Dickey, the Mets’ starting pitching has continued to turn in strong performance after strong performance. Dillon Gee held the Yankees to three runs over seven innings two weeks ago and also turned ina quality start against Cincinnati, though they won’t see either him or Johan this weekend. They do get another shot at Jonathon Niese — who was extremely tough against the Bombers on Sunday, June 10 — tonight, and, like fellow lefthander-who-bizarrely-stymied-the-Yankees-in-his-initial-go-round Mike Minor, one would hope the Yankees will figure Niese out this time. The Yankees will also see Chris Young, who has been effective in his three starts since coming off the DL.
A number of Mets have been wielding significantly potent bats of late, with Ike Davis seemingly awoken from his season-long slumber with a 167 wRC+ over the last two weeks, Jordany Valdespin playing over his head (116 wRC+), David Wright continuing to mash (163 wRC+), and Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston, Vinny Rotino and Kirk Nieuwenhuis all providing at or above-average offensive production. That makes for an unexpectedly deep Mets lineup.
The Yankees haven’t exactly been offensive slouches of late either, though the bulk of their production over the last 14 days has been more top heavy, with Robinson Cano (188 wRC+), Nick Swisher (173), Mark Teixeira (158), Russell Martin (109) and Curtis Granderson (126) leading the charge. Despite the huge grand slam last week and another home run yesterday, A-Rod‘s been pretty quiet at the plate (81 wRC+), hitting a sad .239/.320/.422 over his last 29 games, while Raul Ibanez (30) has been mired in a protracted slump.
Bullpen-wise the Yankees’ relief corps continues to be among the class of MLB, with a 2.60 ERA/3.11 FIP over the last two weeks, while the Met bullpen has continued to struggle, at 4.91/4.96 over the same timeframe.
The Pitching Match-Ups
Friday, June 22, 2012 at 7:10 p.m. LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Jonathon Niese
A rematch of two Sundays ago. Both southpaws pitched well last time out, with Niese slightly outdueling Pettitte until the Mets bullpen blew the lead in the 8th, followed by a rare Rafael Soriano blown save in the 9th, followed by a Russell Martin walkoff home run bailing the team out and securing the sweep. Niese in theory seems like the type of pitcher the Yankees should feast on — lefthander with a 91mph fastball, but he mixes in a top-10-in-the-NL (by wCT/C) cutter and solid curve (0.39 wCU/C) to make his fastball (also 10th-best in the NL by wFA/C) that much more effective. You know that stat I linked to earlier showing Dickey as ERA leader against the Yankees since 2010? Well Niese is fifth on that list. Again, two starts isn’t a whole heck of a lot to go on, but to date the Yanks haven’t shown much punch against either Niese or Dickey.
Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Young
Chris Young has two career starts against the Yankees, and they both came as a member of the Texas Rangers, the last being on August 12, 2005, in a game the Yankees tagged him for five runs in three innings. For all intents and purposes Young may as well be a starter-they’ve-never-faced.
Young is a bit of a slop artist, with an 88mph fastball he throws nearly 75% of the time, and a 79mph slider. How he has lived off essentially two pitches, neither of which are thrown very hard, is a bit hard to discern, though anecdotally I’ve read that his height — 6’10” — makes his pitches appear faster than they actually are as his exaggerated wingspan allows for a shorter delivery time to the plate. As mentioned earlier, Young has been solid enough in his three starts thus far, though he’s also gotten hit fairly hard (.353 BABIP) and gives up a ton of fly balls (29% GB%). He probably represents the Yanks’ best shot at putting up a crooked number this weekend.
Nova saw the Mets twice last year and was good at Yankee Stadium (6.2 innings, three ER) and good at Citi Field if a bit lacking in distance (5 IP, 1 ER).
Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
I mostly covered this match-up in the preamble above, but in case you weren’t aware, Dickey is a knuckleballer extraordinaire, throwing the pitch 80% of the time. You’d think hitters might have had some modicum of success against a hurler when they know what they’re getting, but two of the primary keys to Dickey’s success are his ability to not only hit his spots with arguably the toughest pitch to command, but also change speeds.
In addition to that lowest-ERA-since-2010 stat I keep citing, Dickey also has, believe it or not, the lowest ERA (2.30) among all pitchers with 30 or more IP against the Yankees (min. 1 start) since the start of the 2003 season. This year’s Yankee team has really been quite good at dispelling many a preconceived notion about pitchers they can or can’t hit, and so I’m reluctant to cast doubt, but the deck seems awfully stacked against the Yankees doing anything significant while facing Dickey in this contest.
Of course, Dickey’s mound opponent isn’t exactly chopped liver. Sabathia has once again been one of the very best pitchers in the Majors this year, though has been a bit up-and-down against the Mets in his Yankee career, throwing 7 innings of one-run ball in his lone start against them in 2009, getting lit up five ER in 5 innings during an ESPN Sunday Night telecast on May 23, 2010, and then firing eight shutout innings against the same lineup a month later on Father’s Day.
Though the win train came to a screeching halt this week against the Barves, the Yankees have still played excellent baseball in June, and should be able to win this weekend’s series.
That said, don’t be surprised to see Niese and Dickey totally own, especially given that they’ll each be pitching in their home ballpark, where they’ve both unsurprisingly done their best work. Oh, and in case you aren’t tired yet of Dickey stats, the man owns a 1.20 ERA at Citi Field this year.
On the flip side, with any luck, perhaps all of this Dickey nonsense will result in the biggest reverse jinx of all time, with the Yanks knocking him out after three innings on the strength of a 9-10 performance with RISP, moonshots to the deepest part of Citi Field and several amazing defensive plays by Raul Ibanez, forcing everyone’s heads to collectively explode.
The Yankees welcome the Mets to the Bronx this weekend for the first of two home-and-homes they’ve played against each other every season since 1999 — though there are rumblings that the annual six games against the Mets could be a thing of the past with Houston moving to the American League next year. The Yankees are 49-35 all time against the Mets during Interleague Play, though despite this relative dominance I certainly won’t miss playing the Metropolitans six times a year if changes do come to pass.
The Bombers went 4-2 last season against a bruised and battered Mets team, winning both series and marking only the 7th time in 15 seasons that the Yankees won the season series (the teams have split the season series six times). This year’s Mets team entered the season with almost no expectations — though I told anyone who would listen during the offseason that I thought their starting pitching would be very good, and while it hasn’t been lights-out it’s still been plenty effective (top seven NL in K/9, BB/9, ERA and FIP) — and to the surprise of everyone, have considerably outplayed expectations to the point of being 32-26 and only 1.5 games out of first place. I’d wager most Mets fans would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy if you told them they’d not only have a winning record on the morning of June 8 but also be within shouting distance of first place.
The staff has been led by a resurgent Johan Santana — still riding high after authoring one of the most important moments in franchise history last Friday after finally breaking the team’s 51-year no-hitter drought — who has come back from shoulder surgery looking every bit the pitcher the Mets gave one of the richest pitching contracts in history to, putting up a 2.38 ERA/2.72 FIP, striking out 9.0 per nine and as usual, limiting the walks, all contributing to him currently residing in the top 10 most valuable starters in the NL by fWAR.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has continued what has to be one of the quietest runs of sustained success in the Majors — he actually has the 11th-lowest ERA of all qualified starters in MLB since joining the Mets in 2010. If that weren’t enough, Dickey also has — believe it or not – the lowest ERA against the Yankees, minimum two starts, of every starter the Bombers have faced since the beginning of 2010. Granted, it’s only across two starts, but the Yankees should be very happy they don’t have to see Dickey this weekend. Saturday’s starter Dillon Gee has also been effective if a bit unlucky on the season (4.48 ERA/3.59 FIP, 8.32 K/9), while Sunday’s starter Jonathon Niese has probably been the least-effective hurler in the Mets’ rotation thus far but that’s not saying much, as Niese boasts a 4.11 ERA/4.26 FIP and 8.95 K/9.
However, the pitching hasn’t been the entire story for the 2012 New York Mets. The offense currently ranks 5th in the NL with a .318 wOBA/99 wRC+, and much of that is due to David Wright, currently perhaps the hottest hitter in all of baseball, with a .438 wOBA and 182 wRC+ that both clock in at 2nd-best in the NL. That said, if you can navigate around Wright there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of firepower surrounding him. Lucas Duda (122 wRC+) is a threat at cleanup; recently called up journeyman shortstop Omar Quintanilla (141) has hit well above his head in limited duty which means he’ll almost certainly get a key hit or two this weekend; and rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis (110) and even constantly injured Jason Bay (108) are also providing above-average production, so the Mets aren’t without their weapons, although none of these names instill the level of fear that Wright does.
Unfortunately it hasn’t been all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the Mets, as their bullpen has been the team’s worst-performing unit, with a worst-in-the-NL 5.38 collective ERA. Righties Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch set up closer Frank Francisco, while Tim Byrdak and Miguel Batista hold down the fort in the middle innings.
The Pitching Match-Ups
Friday, June 8, 2012 at 7:10 p.m. LHP Johan Santana vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
You already know about Santana’s season — who had his most recent start pushed back to this game in the aftermath of his career-high 134 pitches used to secure the no-no — and stuff-wise he’ll attack hitters with his 89mph four-seamer 46% of the time and knock them out with one of the best changeups (2.38 wCH/C) in the game. Santana also chucks an 81mph slider 18% of the time and a sinker 14% of the time. Despite a career 4.18 ERA vs. the Yanks, Johan has always been a tough assignment for the Bombers, who haven’t seen him since they beat him behind a Mark Teixeira grand slam on Father’s Day in 2010.
HIROK! has historically fared rather poorly against the Mets, pitching to a 5.75 ERA in 36 innings across seven career starts.
Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. RHP Dillon Gee vs. RHP Phil Hughes
The groundballing (54.6%) Gee throws a 90mph sinker 28% of the time, four-seamer 26%, 83mph changeup 23% and 74mph curve 10% of the time. Though he primarily relies on the sinker, his changeup is actually one of the better weapons on the team, as it currently ranks 11th-most effective by wCH/C in the National League. Gee has one career start against the Yankees which came last July 2, and he started out strong before they rallied for four runs in the 6th inning en route to a 5-2 victory.
Hughes missed the subway series last year, and has two career starts against the Mets, both coming in 2010. In the first, he got hit around at Citi Field for four runs in 5.2 innings, and was much better a month later, holding the Mets to three runs over seven at Yankee Stadium.
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. LHP Jonathon Niese vs. LHP Andy Pettitte
Niese is a fastball-heavy lefty, with a 91mph four-seamer (42%), 87mph cutter (21%) and 90mph sinker (13%). He also has a 75mph curve that he’ll throw roughly one-fifth of the time to both righties and lefties. Like Gee, Niese has also only faced the Yankees once, and held them to three runs in 6 innings last July.
The Mets always seem to find ways to win games they shouldn’t when playing the Yankees, even during their bad seasons, and so with the Mets currently playing very good ball this is a fairly tough call.
It’ll be interesting to see if Johan shows any ill effects from the career-high pitch count from last Friday — if he’s anything close to the guy that threw the no-hitter, he’ll be a tough match-up. The Gee-Hughes game seems like a complete wild card, as who knows whether Hughes will come out roaring like he did against the Tigers or follow up a superb outing with a clunker for seemingly the 1,000th time in his career. I also don’t know how I feel about the Niese-Pettitte game, as the Mets’ starters of recent seasons seem to be very good at bending slightly against the Yankees but not breaking. Of course, Pettitte’s been mostly ageless thus far in his comeback, and it’s hard to pick against him right now.
I think the Yankees probably lose the Santana-Kuroda game (although in one of those random scheduling quirks, the Yankees are actually 8-1 on Friday this season, with their one loss coming back on Opening Day) and then bounce back to take the Saturday and Sunday games behind continued strong performances from Hughes and Pettitte.
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This weekend marks the close of interleague play in 2011. After a two-series homestand the Yanks head across town to play their second to last series this year without the DH. The Yanks and the Mets met up during that brief interleague weekend in may, and after dropping the first one the Yanks took the next two. Overall they are 11-3 against National League opponents and have won their last five games.
What Have the Mets Done Lately?
The Mets have fared well since interleague play started. After dropping a series to Anaheim they won series against Oakland, Texas and Detroit. Included in those series wins is a string of four games in which they put up 52 runs, putting them over .500 for the first time since April 6th. They dropped the final game of the series to the Tigers, but they get a pass on account of facing Justin Verlander. Overall they’re playing some of their best baseball this season, which will certainly make this series a bit more exciting.
Mets on Offense
As a unit the Mets rank eighth in the majors with a .324 wOBA, and get a slight bump in the adjusted numbers because of their pitcher-friendly park. Understandably, they don’t hit for much power, ranking in the bottom third of the league in ISO. They are, however, fourth in OBP and BA and first in triples, so they do get the job done on offense. Their 4.56 runs per game ranks third in the National League.
Jose Reyes leads the way in every rate stat, hitting .352/.397/.529 while stealing 30 bases and scoring 65 runs. You’ll hear people, particularly announcers, saying that the key for the Yanks is to keep Reyes off base. That’s all find and good as a concept, but clearly it’s no easy task. Reyes is actually tied atop the WAR leader board right now with Jose Bautista with 5.3 WAR. Carlos Beltran isn’t far behind, hitting .281/.370/.493 with a team-leading 12 home runs. Reyes and Beltran are clearly the biggest threats on the team, but there are others who can do some damage.
The Mets were looking for big things from Angel Pagan, but a slow start followed by an injury set him, and them, back for a while. He’s finally starting to get into the rhythm, so don’t be fooled by his .326 wOBA. He’s produced .341 and .358 wOBAs in the last two years and is coming into the series 9 for his last 17 with three doubles. Daniel Murphy has been another threat, hitting .302/.346/.426 while playing around the diamond (though mostly at first).
There are a few underrated guys to look out for as well. Ronny Paulino has been getting a few more reps at catcher, and he’s been a bigger threat at the plate than Opening Day starter Josh Thole. Paulino is hitting .346/.387/.442 in 112 PA. That might not be a meaningful sample, but you never know how long a hot streak will last. I’d bet on him getting two out of three starts in the series. Jason Bay has also been quite a deal better lately, hitting .317/.371/.444 since June 11th. It’s not the Bay the Yankees came to know while he was in Boston, but then again he wasn’t that player last year and he still managed to kill them.
Mets on the Mound
Friday: LHP Jon Niese. A few weeks back I read somewhere that Niese’s rotation spot was in jeopardy. For a team with an already thin starting staff, I wasn’t sure why anyone would say that, but I guess they were frustrated by his 5.03 ERA on May 12th. Since then he’s pitched 49.2 innings to a 2.36 ERA, including 47 strikeouts to 13 walks. Overall on the season he’s thrown 98 innings to a 3.67 ERA and 3.62 FIP. On the whole he’s been the Mets most effective starter this year, and I’m sure they’re glad to have him going in the opener.
Saturday: RHP Dillon Gee. Gee has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets this year. In a way he’s like their Ivan Nova, but he’s produced better results. He has a below average strikeout rate and above average walk rate, but his ability to keep the ball inside the park helps his overall numbers: 3.32 ERA, 3.83 FIP. He started off June with three excellent starts in which he allowed one run combined, but he faced a few more struggled when facing American League lineups. Against Oakland and Texas he allowed seven runs in 10 innings. This time he faces his most difficult offense to date. It should be a bi gtest for him.
Sunday: RHP R.A. Dickey. On Sunday the Yankees will get their only repeat from the series earlier in the year. Unfortunately, it’s the one guy who held the offense in check. Dickey was going through a rough patch at that point, but since the Yanks series he’s pitched 51.1 innings to a 2.45 ERA, holding opponents to a .288 OBP. The Yankees have had trouble with knuckleballers — Dickey and Wakefield — this year, as well as guys who (according to John and Suzyn) they consider akin to knuckleballers (Doug Davis), so this could be another challenge. But it’ll be a day game, since ESPN mercifully picked up the Dodgers-Angels game.
Bullpen: The Mets bullpen has gotten beat up a bit this season, ranking 25th in WAR and sporting a 4.38 ERA. Francisco Rodriguez has been serviceable, if not good, in the closer role, but there have been problems setting him up. In particular watch out for Bobby Parnell. he was ineffective and then got hurt earlier in the year, but in June he’s allowed just two runs while striking out 12 and walking three in 12 innings.
Has the Subway Series lost some of its luster over the years? Maybe as the quality of the competition has dropped (zing!), but I still enjoy these games because I know and am related to a lot of Mets’ fans, and it’s always fun to rub it in. Believe you me, they still hear about Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up on the holidays. I’m not sure if there will be anything that memorable at Yankee Stadium this weekend, but are you putting to past them?
What Have The Mets Done Lately?
Quite a bit of winning, actually. The Amazin’s have won two in a row, three of four, six of eight, and nine of 13, and they’ve also thrown two straight shutouts. The last run allowed by a Mets’ pitcher was on an RBI single by Marlins’ reliever Burke Badenhop in the 11th inning of Monday’s game. Go figure. They’ve won four of their last five series, and have outscored opponents 47-36 in the process. The Mets are coming in hot and feeling good about themselves, no doubt about it.
Mets On Offense
Could you imagine if the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez at the same time? That’s basically what has happened to the Mets, who will be without Ike Davis (ankle) and David Wright (stress fracture in his back) for the next few weeks. That’s not just a straight first base and third base comparison, the position stuff is actually just a coincidence. Davis (.397 wOBA) and Wright (.346 wOBA) have been the Mets’ second and fourth best hitters this season, respectively, like Tex and A-Rod have been for the Yankees. You don’t replace guys of that caliber, you just hope to survive.
Luckily for them, the Mets still have the resurgent Carlos Beltran, who’s hit .277/.368/.539 on the season and .286/.388/.643 this month. Like Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers or Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, this is the guy the Yankees can’t let beat them this weekend. He’s easily their biggest bat the moment. Jose Reyes is doing a fine job from the leadoff spot (.317/.373/.468 with a league leading 16 steals), but Jason Bay just has not hit as a Met. Last year’s disaster (.336 wOBA and injuries) has been followed by .238/.330/.357 batting line this season, and that’s after yesterday’s 3-for-4 effort. I still don’t feel comfortable when he’s at the plate though, he hurt the Yankees too many times while with the Red Sox. Those are the guys you know about, so let’s talk about everyone else.
Former Yankees’ draft pick Justin Turner (unsigned 29th rounder in 2005) was called up when Davis got hurt and played some second before moving to third once Wright got hurt. He’s hitting .333/.393/.490 in 18 games and is making plays all over infield, so he’s my early pick for the guy that annoys the crap out everyone all series with curiously long at-bats and timely hits and great defense. Daniel Murphy eventually took over at second but has since moved to first, and he’s hitting .233/.298/.367 after a wretched .167/.234/.228 stretch during his last 18 games. Jason Pridie is playing center for the injured Angel Pagan, and he’ll probably be best remembered as the third guy the Twins received in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young swap despite his respectable .235/.325/.441 line. The punchless Ruben Tejada (.500/.571/.500 in all of seven plate appearances) is the second baseman, and Josh Thole (.221/.300/.260) splits time behind the plate with Ronny Paulino (.313/.405/.344).
I have no idea who is going to DH for the Mets this weekend, but they’ve already indicated that it won’t be Beltran despite his grenade with the pin pulled knees. Their best bench bats are my boy Scott Hairston (.244/.309/.327) and a pair of recent call-ups in Nick Evans and Fernando Martinez. You might actually see Bay serve as the DH with one of those three in left field. I guess we’ll find out tonight.
Mets On the Mound
Friday, RHP R.A. Dickey: The Yankees have seen as many knuckleballs as any team in the league thanks to Tim Wakefield, but not all knuckleballs are created equal. The UCL-less wonder actually throws two of them, a hard one and a soft one that he uses to disrupt timing. He also throws a helluva lot more fastballs than Wakefield ever did, about one for every five pitches and it hums in around 82-84. Dickey has not pitched as well this year as he did last mostly because a) his walk rate shot back up to his career norms (3.16 BB/9 this year after 2.17 last year), b) some bad BABIP luck (.328), and c) far fewer swings and misses (6.8% after 8.4%). That said, his 4.52 FIP is probably more indicative of his true talent than his 5.08 ERA. Dickey is coming off three straight disaster starts, I’m talking 16 runs in 18.1 innings with a .350/.381/.500 batting line against. Also: Dickeyface!
Saturday, LHP Chris Capuano: Chris Young is out for the rest of the season with yet another shoulder issue, but Capuano has held up pretty well so far. His ugly ERA (4.78) is BABIP-inflated (.340) and masks some solid peripherals (4.03 FIP). He’s struck out 7.06 men per nine (11.2% swings and misses) while unintentionally walking just 2.91 per nine and getting a ground ball 43.8% of the time. Capuano has crushed lefties (.255/.305/.291) and gotten crushed by righties (.315/.380/.532) with his upper-80′s fastball, low-80′s slider, and upper-70′s changeup mix, splits in line with his career norms but a little on the extreme side at the moment. He’s coming off three pretty good starts (six runs in 18 IP total) and is a pretty safe bet for six innings if the Yankees right-handed bats do not do their jobs.
Sunday, RHP Mike Pelfrey: Has anyone figured out what Pelfrey is yet? He’s supposedly a sinkerballer but he doesn’t get a ton of ground balls (44% this year, 49% career) and he certainly doesn’t strike anyone out (4.38 K/9 this season, 5.06 career). The walk numbers aren’t anything special (3.28 BB/9 both this year and career) and his platoon split isn’t huge (.292/.370/.461 vs. RHB career, .283/.333/.487 vs, LHB). Pelfrey has some Jon Garland in him, in that he throws a ton of innings every year and has gotten labeled as a ground ball pitcher without actually being one. Anyway, he’s coming off three fine starts (three runs or less and 6.2 IP or more in each) and is going throw low-90′s fastball after low-90′s fastball (both four and two-seamers) with the occasional split and slider thrown in for effect. The Yankees have seen plenty of him in the Subway Series throughout the years, though haven’t really seen the “new” version of Dickey and have faced Capuano just once, many years ago.
Bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez is having a very typical Francisco Rodriguez year as the closer (lots of walks, lots of strikeouts), but his ERA is a shiny 0.83 thanks to a 93.8% strand rate. He’s putting nearly three runners on base for every two innings pitched. K-Rod has thrown in each of the last two days and in six of last eight, so his availability tonight is very much up in the air and who really knows for the rest of the weekend.
Like the Yankees, the Mets have a former closer working the eighth inning, except Jason Isringhausen has actually been pretty solid for new manager Terry Collins (3.56 ERA in 14 IP). He had yesterday off but has pitched in three of the last five days, and at 38 years old with an elbow that’s undergone two Tommy John surgeries, who knows what kind of restrictions he’ll have this weekend. Tim Byrdak is a lefty specialist in every sense of the term (.231/.259/.385 vs. LHB this season), and former Rockie Taylor Buchholz is the secret weapon. He’s struck out 9.97 batters per nine while walking just 2.91 per nine in 21.2 middle relief innings this season. He’s their David Robertson, and he’s nice and fresh after having four days off.
The rest of the relief corps consists of second lefty Michael O’Connor (just 4.2 IP since being recalled, though he’s another LOOGY), third lefty Pat Misch (just four innings since being recalled, but he can throw multiple innings if needed), and surprising Rule 5 Draft pick Pedro Beato. The young right-hander grew up in Brooklyn and was just activated off the disabled list (elbow trouble), and before the injury he pitched to a 0.00 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 17 IP thanks to a 5.29 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, and 42.4% ground ball rate. Pretty good for a kid that skipped right over Triple-A. Beato has worked mostly lower leverage situations, and we hope to see a lot of him late in the game when the Yankees have the lead.