9/21-9/23 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Blame the Athletics. The Yankees’ second half slide all started out in Oakland, with a four-game sweep that featured four one-run losses. The Bombers have started to right the ship these last two weeks and now the A’s are coming to the Bronx for three games. I think payback is on everyone’s mind.

What Have They Done Lately?

Although they hammered the Tigers yesterday, Oakland lost three straight prior to that and four of their last seven overall. The A’s are no pushover; they’re within shouting disaster of the Rangers in the AL West and are just one game worse than the Yankees at 85-64 with a +74 run differential.

Offense

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Athletics have a middle of the road offense, featuring a team 96 wRC+ with an average of 4.3 runs per game. I think they have the offense people think the Yankees have, meaning homer-reliant (172 HR, ninth in MLB) with a super-low batting average (.236, 29th in MLB). They will draw some walks but generally just sit around waiting for the long ball, far more than the Yankees have this year.

Oakland’s two best hitters this season have been Josh Reddick (114 wRC+) and Yoenis Cespedes (134 wRC+), the latter of whom just crushed the Yankees during the four-game set in July. Coco Crisp (108 wRC+) has been solid at the leadoff spot and Chris Carter (140 wRC+) has hit the snot out of the ball since coming up at midseason. Josh Donaldson (94 wRC+) and Stephen Drew (61 wRC+) hold down the left side of the infield. The various platoon bats including Jonny Gomes (162 wRC+ vs. LHP), Seth Smith (125 wRC+ vs. RHP), Brandon Moss (155 wRC+ vs. RHP), and catchers Derek Norris (59 wRC+ vs. LHP) and George Kottaras (124 wRC+ vs. RHP).

The list of September call-ups is quite lengthy and is highlighted by former everyday guys Daric Barton (82 wRC+), Cliff Pennington (64 wRC+), and Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+). Pennington never actually went down, but Drew gets the majority of the playing time at short these days. Infielder Brandon Hicks, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and utility man Adam Rosales round out the rest of the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jarrod Parker
The 23-year-old Parker picked a bad year to be a good rookie. Guys like Mike Trout, Yu Darvish, and Cespedes mean he will be a Rookie of the Year afterthought despite a rock solid 3.54 ERA (3.48 FIP). He doesn’t miss a ton of bats (6.64 K/9 and 17.7 K%), doesn’t walk a ton (3.24 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%), and doesn’t get an overwhelming amount of ground balls (44.1%). I suspect he’ll be a Matt Cain type down the road in that his actual performance is greater than the sum of his peripherals. Anyway, Parker is a two fastball guy, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with both the two- and four-seamers. His money pitch is a low-80s changeup that he’ll throw to both lefties and righties. A low-80s slider is a distant fourth pitch. Parker dominated the Yankees earlier this season, holding them to one run in eight innings.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Travis Blackley
Blackley, 29, is well-traveled. He was a hotshot prospect with the Mariners once upon a time, but after flaming out he wound up pitching in his native Australia as well as Mexico and Korea. He resurfaced in the big leagues this season, and has pitched to a 3.65 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 98.2 innings as a swingman. He’s a ground ball (47.3%) guy who limits walks (2.46 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), though he isn’t a threat to strike many people out (5.93 K/9 and 16.3 K%). Blackley is a four-pitch guy who will sit right around 90 with his four-seamer, backing it up with a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees didn’t see him earlier this season, and it’s worth noting that right-handers (.296 wOBA) have much more success against Blackley than lefties (.249 wOBA). He’s starting this game because Brett Anderson suffered a season-ending oblique injury earlier this week.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP A.J. Griffin
One of four rookies in the Athletics’ rotation, the 24-year-old Griffin has been superb (2.45 ERA and 3.50 FIP) since coming up at midseason. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (38.2% grounders) who won’t walk anyone (1.55 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) and will miss enough bats (7.23 K/9 and 20.5 K%). A big, slow, upper-60s (yes, 60s) curveball is Griffin’s moneymaker, a frustrating little floater that catches everyone out in front. His fastball sits in the upper-80s and he’ll also mix in low-80s sliders and changeups. Griffin has a bit of a reverse split (.227 wOBA vs. LHB and .265 vs. RHB) and he held New York to two runs in six innings back in July.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Bullpen Status
There’s no such thing as a short bullpen these days, not with tight division races and September call-ups crowding the roster. Closer Grant Balfour (3.42 FIP) hasn’t pitched in a week, but setup men Ryan Cook (3.21 FIP) and Sean Doolittle (1.31 FIP) both pitched yesterday. Doolittle, a left-hander and former first baseman, is especially ridiculous, with a 12.34 K/9 and 1.86 BB/9 since being recalled a few months ago. Nearly 40% of the lefties he’s faced as a big leaguer have struck out. The guy has been crazy good.

Righties Pat Neshek (3.04 FIP) and Evan Scribner (3.32 FIP) join southpaws Jerry Blevins (4.22 FIP) and Jordan Norberto (3.91 FIP) in the middle innings. Blevins is the specialist, Norberto the multi-inning guy. The crop of September call-ups includes righty Jesse Chavez, lefty Pedro Figueroa, righty Jim Miller, and righty Tyson Ross. The Athletics are carrying 34 total players at the moment, so they’re certainly taking advantage of the expanded rosters. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the details on the Yankees’ relief corps, then check out Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest on this weekend’s opponent.

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7/19-7/22 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Oaks? (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It all started with the trip out to Oakland. The Yankees were in fourth place with a 23-21 record when they arrived at the Coliseum in late-May, but they swept that series and have since won 34 of 47 games to vault into first place in the division. This weekend they’ll be in the East Bay for a four-game set.

What Have They Done Lately?

The A’s are on fire. They walked off with a win over the Rangers yesterday and have won four of five since the All-Star break. If you back to the first of the month, they’ve won ten of their last 12. At 47-44 with a +13 run differential, Oakland is in third place in the AL West and is right in the mix for one of the two Wild Card spots.

Offense

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Although they average just 3.8 runs per game, the A’s have scored 51 runs during this 12-game hot streak (4.3 per game). Their best hitter all season has been Josh Reddick (140 wRC+), who leads the club in every meaningful offensive statistic. Big money signing Yoenis Cespedes was out with a hand injury the last time these two clubs met, but he’s healthy now and brings 134 wRC+ to the cleanup spot. It’s been a while since they’ve had a middle of the order that powerful; you probably have to go back to the Milton Bradley/Frank Thomas/Nick Swisher trio in 2006.

Recent call-ups Brandon Moss (159 wRC+ in 104 PA) and Chris Carter (243 wRC+ in 36 PA) have hit the snot out of the ball lately, adding some depth to the lineup. Seth Smith (128 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Jonny Gomes (146 wRC+ vs. LHP) form a mean DH platoon while Coco Crisp (80 wRC+) is flanked by Reddick and Cespedes in the outfield. Infielders Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+), Brandon Inge (68 wRC+), and Cliff Pennington (53 wRC+) haven’t done much of anything, ditto backstops Kurt Suzuki (40 wRC+) and Derek Norris (56 wRC+). Spare infielder Brandon Hicks (49 wRC+ in limited time) hit the walk-off dinger yesterday.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP A.J. Griffin
A former college reliever turned starter, Griffin will be making his fifth career big league start tonight. He’s pitched to a shiny 2.63 ERA (4.65 FIP) in his first four starts (24 IP) with less than stellar rate stats: 6.00 K/9 (17.2 K%), 2.25 BB/9 (16.5 BB%), 1.50 HR/9, and 39.4% grounders. My expert analysis says his .194 BABIP will correct at some point. The 24-year-old sits right around 90 with his four-seamer fastball, but his upper-60s (!) curveball is his bread-and-butter. Here, check it out. Griffin also throws low-80s sliders and changeups.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Tommy Milone
The Yankees didn’t do anything to debunk the whole “can’t hit soft-tossing lefties they’ve never seen before” narrative by scoring just two runs off Milone in 6.2 innings back in April. Part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, Milone owns a 3.54 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 18 starts this season, relying on control (2.05 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) more than anything else. He doesn’t strike guys out (5.98 K/9 and 16.2 K%), doesn’t limit homers (1.26 HR/9), and doesn’t get ground balls (39.4%). A mid-to-upper-80s fastball sets up a wide array of offspeed pitches, including a changeup right around 80, a mid-70s curve, and a mid-80s cutter. The changeup is his top secondary pitch and he has a reverse split because of it, so stacking the lineup with righties only helps him out.

Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jarrod Parker
Everyone’s talking about Mike Trout and rightfully so, but Parker is having himself one helluva rookie campaign as well. The 23-year-old right-hander came over from the Diamondbacks in the Trevor Cahill trade and has pitched to a 3.16 ERA (3.49 FIP) in 91 innings across 15 starts. His strikeout rate is solid (7.02 K/9 and 18.9 K%) and he limits homers (0.40 HR/9), but he will walk guys (4.05 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%) and give up fly balls (39.3% grounders). Parker works off his two low-to-mid-90s fastballs (two and four-seamer) and mixes in low-80s changeups and sliders. The Yankees have never seen him and he’s had some really good starts against good teams — like this one, this one, and this one — so this will be an interesting one.

Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
The Yankees tagged their former teammate for six runs in six innings back in May, but otherwise Colon has provided the A’s with a 3.88 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 111.1 innings this year. His strikeouts (5.50 K/9 and 14.6 K%) are way down from last year, though his ground ball (47.7%) and walk (1.46 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%) rates have improved to help mitigate the damage. Bartolo remains a fastball-only pitcher, though he’s mostly low-90s with a four-seamer and upper-80s with the two-seamer now. Those 95s and 96s of last year are a thing of the past. Colon will break out a low-90s slider and low-80s changeup but very rarely. Handful of times per start, if that.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Manager Bob Melvin ran through half his bullpen yesterday, including closer Ryan Cook (2.77 FIP), right-handed setup man Grant Balfour (3.63 FIP), and left-handed setup man Sean Doolittle (0.76 FIP in limited time). The recently recalled Evan Scribner (2.37 FIP) has pitched his way into higher leveraged work despite only making seven appearances. Lefty Jordan Norberto (4.15 FIP) is more of a multi-inning guy than a specialist while Jerry Blevins (3.89 FIP) is that one batter matchup southpaw. Right-hander Jim Miller (4.47 FIP) rounds out the seven-man bullpen. Oakland had Monday off and none of their relievers have pitched in even two straight games, so the bullpen is fresh.

The Yankees’ relief corps got a much needed break yesterday thanks to Hiroki Kuroda‘s rain-shortened complete game. The late-game guys, particularly Rafael Soriano, had been worked pretty hard since the All-Star break. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage and both Athletics Nation and Beaneball for the latest and greatest on the Athletics.

Yankees claim right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers

The Yankees have claimed right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers from the Athletics and optioned him to Double-A Trenton. Brett Gardner was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Farquhar, 25, is very well traveled. He was drafted by the Blue Jays, traded to the Athletics for Rajai Davis, traded back to the Blue Jays for David Purcey, then claimed off waivers by the Athletics before coming to New York. He has two career big league innings to his credit, both coming with Toronto last season. Back in 2010, Baseball America said he threw a 92-94 mph four-seamer and an 88-92 two-seamer in addition to both a slider and curveball. Here’s some old video. Farquhar is strictly a reliever and one without much success above the Double-A level.

5/25-5/27 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

It's the O.co Coliseum now. Seriously. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Yankees are kicking off their first of two trips to Oakland and the West Coast this weekend. They’ve won 22 of 28 games against the Athletics over the last three seasons, including 10 of 12 on the road in California.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Athletics are flirting with .500 at 22-23, though their -20 run differential is the third worst in the AL. They just lost two straight to the Angels but had won two straight before that. They lost two straight before that and … well you get the idea. Teams sitting near .500 tend to alternate wins and losses.

Offense

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

At 3.40 runs per game, the A’s are the lowest scoring team in the AL this season. Their 77 wRC+ is the second worst in baseball to the Pirates, ditto their .287 team OBP. Former Red Sox Josh Reddick has been their best offensive player by far, with a 143 wRC+ and 11 homers to his credit. Yoenis Cespedes is on the DL with a hand injury and his 112 wRC+ is sorely missed. Seth Smith (106 wRC+) is the only other player on the club with at least 120 plate appearances and above league average production to his credit.

Leadoff man Jemile Weeks (75 wRC+) is off to a terrible start just like his brother, and the number two spot in the lineup has rotated between Coco Crisp (28 wRC+) and Cliff Pennington (64 wRC+) for the most part. With Cespedes out, cleanup duties behind Reddick belong to Smith and Jonny Gomes, who is destroying left-handers (147 wRC+) and holding his own against righties (109 wRC+). Brandon Inge has hit well since being released by Detroit (126 wRC+) but no one really expects him to keep that up. First baseman Daric Barton (86 wRC+) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (48 wRC+) have just stalled out after promising starts to their careers.

Oakland’s bench is just unfathomably bad. Part-time DH/first baseman Kile Ka’aihue is the bright spot with an 89 wRC+, but backup catcher Anthony Recker (26 wRC+), extra outfielder Colin Cowgill (-1 wRC+), and corner infielder Josh Donaldson (-11 wRC+) have been inexcusably bad. I have no idea how you can carry two guys with negative production like that on your bench. Infielder Adam Rosales has one single and four walks in his eight plate appearances. I know the Yankees have been dreadful offensively, but sheesh. This is what a below average lineup really looks like, folks.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Tyson Ross
With three starters — Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson — on the DL, the Athletics’ rotation is patchwork at the moment. Ross has pitched to a 5.73 ERA (4.07 FIP) in seven starts with few strikeouts (4.54 K/9 and 11.2 K%) and too many walks (3.82 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%). He does get a healthy amount of ground balls though (55%). Ross has a very funky, upright delivery that adds deception to his low-90s two and four-seamers and mid-80s slider. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, so it’s basically the two fastballs and one breaking ball. The Yankees briefly saw him out of the bullpen a year or two ago.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Bartolo Colon
Colon threw a complete game shutout for the Yankees in Oakland on Memorial Day last season, and now he’s looking to turn the tides this Memorial Day weekend. The hefty right-hander has a 4.09 ERA and a 3.95 FIP through ten starts, right in line with what he did last season (4.00 ERA and 3.83 FIP) despite the move out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Colon’s strikeouts are way down (5.55 K/9 and 14.6 K%) but so are his walks (1.46 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (44.1%) is identical to last season. He’s still primarily an all-fastball guy, though he now sits right around 90 with the four-seamer and in the upper-80s with the two-seamer. His velocity this year is consistent with his second half fade last year (four-seamer and two-seamer). Colon has a slider and changeup, but as you know he rarely uses them.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Tom Milone
Part of the Gio Gonzalez trade, Milone is another low strikeout (4.99 K/9 and 13.9 K%), low walk (2.18 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), moderate ground ball (44.2%) type. It’s like the Twins are spreading. Anyway, Milone is a classic finesse lefty. He sits in the mid-to-upper-80s with two and four-seamers and uses an upper-70s changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch. A mid-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball are rarely used fourth and fifth offerings. Soft-tossing rookie left-handers usually give the Yankees fits, especially if they’ve never seen them before, but they did take care of business against Will Smith on Wednesday night.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Bullpen Status
With a 2.57 ERA and a 3.74 FIP, the Athletics boast one of the game’s most effective bullpens. Setup man Ryan Cook (2.69 FIP) is the only pitcher in baseball who has spent the entire season on the active 25-man roster and not allowed run. His scoreless streak is up to 22.2 IP. Brian Fuentes (2.79 FIP) replaced Grant Balfour (4.28 FIP) at closer after he had some rough outings a few weeks ago. Those three are manager Bob Melvin’s go-to relievers in the late innings.

Travis Blackley (1.63 FIP in six innings), Jerry Blevins (4.61 FIP), and Jordan Norberto (3.00 FIP) give Oakland three more lefties in addition to Fuentes. Blevins is a specialist but Norberto has the stuff to face both righties and lefties, which he’s been doing all season. Blackley had been out of baseball and playing all over the world until resurfacing this season, so his role hasn’t really been defined yet. Jim Miller (3.99 FIP) is the only other right-hander in their bullpen. Like the Yankees, the Athletics had yesterday off so their entire bullpen is fresh. For the latest and greatest from Oakland, we recommend Athletics Nation and Beaneball.

2012 Season Preview: Rest of the AL

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Last week we took a nice long look at the teams who figure to be the Yankees’ primary competition this season, meaning the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. There are eight other clubs in the American League though, and the Yankees are going to play those eight teams quite a bit more than the five other contenders. Most of those eight teams aren’t very good, but every game counts the same.

Rather than doing a boring old offense/defense/pitching preview for each of those eight non-contenders, I decided to have a little fun with this one and put together some haikus. I encourage you to leave your own in the comments.

Baltimore Orioles
No pitching, few bats.
Buck is all talk and no bite.
Don’t dare dis Flanny!

Chicago White Sox
Rebuild or contend?
Kenny can’t seem to decide.
I wish we had Danks.

Cleveland Indians
Some funny names,
Asdrubal and Ubaldo?
Not winning this year.

Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is the shizz.
Young pitching ain’t quite there yet.
LOL Frenchy.

Minnesota Twins
Mauer and Morneau
Used to be really awesome.
Now they are broken.

Oakland Athletics
Yoenis is here.
Trade all of the pitchers!
Where are the fans?

Seattle Mariners
Felix is the man,
The rest of the team sucks.
I miss Montero.

Toronto Blue Jays
AA the best,
Until he gets Jeff Mathis.
New unis do rule.

Scouting The Trade Market: The A’s Rotation

Yesterday I took a look at Gio Gonzalez, the Athletics left-hander that might be on the trade market and of interest to the Yankees. Today I’m going to follow up and look at some other members of Oakland’s rotation, since apparently everyone on their roster other than Jemile Weeks is available. I am leaving Dallas Braden out of this post because a) he’s insufferable, b) he’s rehabbing from major shoulder surgery, and c) he’s a soft-tossing, fly ball machine. Not exactly an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium. Here are three other guys in Oaktown’s starting staff…

Brett Anderson

In terms of raw talent and upside, Anderson is best pitcher on the Athletics’ roster. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay on the field. He missed half of the 2010 season due to a flexor strain and inflammation in his left elbow, then hit the DL with more inflammation this past June before eventually having Tommy John surgery in mid-July. He’s expected back at midsummer, but since control is the last thing to come back after elbow reconstruction, he’s unlikely to be 100% back to normal until Opening Day 2013.

When right, the 23-year-old southpaw (24 in February) can throw strikes (2.23 BB/9) and generate a ton of ground balls (career 53.5%) with a pair of low-90’s fastballs (two- and four-seamer) while missing bats with a devastating low-80’s slider. His strikeout rate (6.94 K/9 with 6.9% swings-and-misses) in 371 big league innings isn’t great, but his minor league numbers (9.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9) and raw stuff suggest he could improve with better health and more experience. Anderson is locked up through 2013 at a reasonable price ($8.5M plus club options for 2014 and 2015), but he’s very risky. The upside is considerable though.

Trevor Cahill

Cahill, 24 in March, broke out in 2010 thanks in part to a .236 BABIP-fueled 2.97 ERA across 196.2 IP. His 4.19 FIP told a much more accurate story, and sure enough, the righty pitched to a 4.10 FIP in 2011 and saw his ERA climb to 4.16 thanks to a much more normal .302 BABIP. He still got a ton of grounders (56% in 2010, 55.9% in 2011), though his strikeout and walk rates climbed more than one full event per nine innings to 6.37 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9 this past season.

A sinkerball specialist, Cahill gets opponents to beat the ball into the ground with a two-seamer right around 90 mph. He backs it up with a low-80’s changeup and a high-70’s curve, and will occasionally mix in a slider. Cahill is signed through 2015 ($28.7M) with club options for 2016 and 2017, so his contract situation is favorable. He has the potential to beef up his strikeout rate (9.9 K/9 in the minors), but he doesn’t really have that go-to offspeed pitch and instead relies on that two-seamer to get outs, one way or the other.

Brandon McCarthy

Do you know who led the American League in FIP in 2011? It wasn’t CC Sabathia (2nd) or Justin Verlander (4th). It was McCarthy. The 28-year-old right-hander returned to the big leagues with the A’s after missing most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons with stress fractures in his throwing shoulder. Sure enough, he spent about seven weeks on the shelf this summer with another stress fracture in that shoulder, though he still made it to the mound for 170.2 stellar innings.

McCarthy spoke to FanGraphs’ Ryan Campbell (part one, part two) recently about how he’s reinvented himself following his injuries, specifically by lowering his arm slot, scrapping his curveball, and adding a two-seamer and cutter to go along with a four-seamer and slider. It really is a must read; I can’t recommend it enough. McCarthy misses a few more bats (6.49 K/9 and 7.7% swings-and-miss) with his new approach, and he drastically improved his ground ball (46.7% after years around 35%) and walk (1.32 BB/9 after years north of 3.00) rates. That helped cut down on the homers (as did Oakland’s park) and prolonged at-bats, allowing him to throw fewer pitches per inning and more innings per start.

MLBTR projects a bargain bin salary of $2.6M for McCarthy in 2012, his fourth and final time through arbitration as a Super Two player. He’s risky just because the healthy of his shoulder is such a gigantic question mark, but the cost shouldn’t be exorbitant since you’re only trading for one year of him. I’m a fan, much more than I am of Gonzalez, Anderson, and Cahill in terms of expected production vs. cost (both salary and acquisition). As an added bonus, McCarthy is must-follow on Twitter, one of the few interesting baseball players out there.

Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Photo Credit: Flickr user greenkozi via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees just finished a series with a team they typically dominate, and now they’re welcoming another one to the Bronx. The Athletics have won just five of 31 games against the Yankees since the start of the 2008 season, and they’re already 1-5 against them this year. That domination, homes.

What Have The Athletics Done Lately?

Although they lost Sunday, the A’s are actually pretty hot, having won four of their last six games against AL East competition. Okay fine, it was the Orioles and Blue Jays, but it still counts. They’ve scored just seven runs in the last four games though, the story of their season. The Athletics are well below .500 at 57-70 with a -24 run differential.

Athletics On Offense

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

When Oakland was in town a few weeks ago, it was former Yankee Hideki Matsui that did most of the damage. He went 7-for-13 with two doubles and homer in the three games, and he’s hitting .372/.424/.543 in 33 games since the All-Star break. Josh Willingham is also coming in hot, with a .277/.354/.675 batting line with nine homers in his last 22 games. Recent call-up Brandon Allen (part of the Brad Ziegler trade) is hitting .379/.424/586 in limited time. Those three are the meat of the order, the guys with some pop that can drive in a run even when no one’s on base.

At the top of the order you have Jemile Weeks (.289/.319/.402 with 14 steals in just 64 games) and Coco Crisp (.268/.324/.380 with 37 steals), two guys that will run at will. Further down in the lineup you have David DeJesus (.229/.315/.367), Kurt Suzuki (.230/.291/.381), Scott Sizemore (.235/.333/.358), and Cliff Pennington (.258/.317/.348). Conor Jackson will work his way into the lineup against left-handers as well (.274/.352/.381 vs. LHP). Bench pieces Eric Sogard (.176/.243/.265), Ryan Sweeney (.283/.358/.356), and Landon Powell (.176/.257/.235) don’t pose much of a threat. The trio of Matsui, Willingham, and Allen can do some damage, but the rest of the offense can be pitched too without much of a concern.

Athletics On The Mound

Tuesday, RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. Bartolo Colon): Other than being a fine follow on Twitter, McCarthy has had a nice comeback year after dealing with injuries for several years. His 2.83 FIP is off the charts, though his ERA (3.74) is much more pedestrian. McCarthy is all about avoiding walks (1.30 uIBB/9) and getting ground balls (47.1%), and he’ll occasionally mix in strike three (5.87 K/9). He’s a big dude (6-foot-7, 200 lbs.) and he uses his size to get good downhill plane on his 90-ish mph fastballs (both two and four-seamer). A high-80’s slider is his third pitch (really second counting the fastballs as one entity). McCarthy’s a tough assignment, he might sneak up on the Yankees.

Wednesday, RHP Trevor Cahill (vs. CC Sabathia): Poor Mr. Cahill, he just can’t beat the Yankees. Hell, forget about beat them, he can’t even put together a half-decent start against them. Cahill is 0-4 in four career starts against New York, allowing 28 runs in 18.2 IP for his career and 14 runs in 8.2 IP in two starts this year. That’s pretty rough. The righty is a sinker-curveball-changeup pitcher, typically getting a ton of grounders (56%) and just enough strikeouts (6.51 K/9). Four games spread out over the last two years is nothing, but you have to feel confident whenever the Yankees step in the box against Cahill.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user rocor via Creative Commons license)

Thursday, RHP Rich Harden (vs. Phil Hughes): The Yankees have been scouting Harden’s recent starts, and now they’ll get a(nother) first hand look at him. He held the Yanks to two runs in 5.2 IP at the end of July, but he walked four and threw 104 pitches. Harden’s coming off his best start of the year, an eleven strikeout, two hit gem against the Jays last over the weekend. He’s still primarily a fastball-slider guy, but he’s mixing in his strikeout splitter more and more these days as he gets further away from his latest arm problem.

Bullpen: All-Star closer Andrew Bailey (2.23 FIP) is back from injury and as good as ever, allowing Grant Balfour (3.27 FIP) and Brian Fuentes (3.92 FIP) to work roles more suited to their abilities (setup, basically). Lefties Craig Breslow (3.36 FIP) and Jordan Norberto (3.18 FIP in a small sample, also part of the Ziegler trade) will matchup with righties Fautino De Lo Santos (3.29 FIP) and Bruce Billings (just 3.2 IP to his credit since being called up). It’s a solid relief corps overall, especially in the eighth and ninth innings.

Recommended Athletics Reading: Athletics Nation and Beaneball

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