Archive for Toronto Blue Jays
the series against the Astros did not go according to plan, but this weekend’s series against the Blue Jays in Toronto figures to be much more exciting. Not only are the Yankees playing a division rival for the first time in 2014, but we’re going to get our first regular season look at both Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as well. To say those two are important to the future of the franchise would be a massive understatement.
What Have They Done Lately?
Toronto opened their season with a four-game series against the Rays, which they split down in Tampa. As you know, they were a huge disappointment last season, finishing 74-88 with a -44 run differential. Tonight is their home opener.
On paper, few teams can match the powerful lineup the Jays trot out there each day. They only scored eleven runs in the four games against Tampa Bay, but don’t let that fool you. They had a team 99 wRC+ and averaged 4.40 runs per game last season despite all their injuries, and they are returning almost all the same personnel. Toronto will be without Jose Reyes (114 wRC+ in 2013) this weekend. He’s on the DL with another hamstring problem.
Manager John Gibbons has two elite right-handed power bats in his lineup. OF Jose Bautista (134 wRC+ in 2013/264 wRC+ in 2014) has been tearing the cover off the ball since the start of Spring Training, so he looks to be all the way back from his 2012 wrist surgery. 1B Edwin Encarnacion (145/-31) is a monster. Maybe the most underappreciated great hitter in baseball. I’m going to point out his 2013 stats again: 82 walks, 66 extra-base hits, 62 strikeouts. Pujolsian. DH Adam Lind (132/321) and OF Colby Rasmus (130/24) balance the lineup with some lefty pop.
With Reyes out, former Yankee OF Melky Cabrera (87/90) has been leading off while fellow former Yankee C Dioner Navarro (13/-4) bats fifth. 3B Brett Lawrie (94/-15) is still a maniac, and IF Ryan Goins (62/-100) and IF Maicer Izturis (63/285) have been splitting time at second base early on. SS Jonathan Diaz (-100/66) was called up to replace Reyes. OF Moises Sierra (125/-100) joins backups C Josh Thole (37/190) and C Erik Kratz (78/645). Yes, they’re carrying three catchers. Thole is R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher and I guess they want to keep Kratz around as well. Whatever. Remember, the wRC+ numbers for 2014 are tiny, tiny samples.
Friday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Dustin McGowan (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
It has now been seven years since the 32-year-old McGowan put together that promising 2.3 bWAR season in 2007. Arm injuries have completely derailed his career, limiting him to only 205.1 total innings since that breakout year. He pitched to a 2.45 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25.2 relief innings with strong peripherals — 9.12 K/9 (22.8 K%), 4.21 BB/9 (10.5 BB%), and 46.6% grounders — during his return to the mound late last year, and this spring he managed to win a rotation spot. Even after all the injuries, McGowan sat in the mid-90s with his fastball in 2014, though I would think he’ll lose a little with the move into the rotation. A mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup are his two secondary pitches. Given all the time he’s missed, it’s tough to know what to expect out of McGowan as a starter. I’m not sure how much help previous experience against him will be for the team’s hitters.
Saturday: RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Dickey, 39, had a solid but disappointing debut season with Toronto. Disappointing because he was the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. He threw 224.2 innings of 4.21 ERA (4.58 FIP) ball, with a good walk rate (2.84 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) but mediocre strikeout (7.09 K/9 and 18.8 K%) and ground ball (40.3%) numbers. Lefties (.339 wOBA) hit him quite a bit harder than righties (.298 wOBA). Dickey is a knuckleballer as you know, though he apparently dropped the harder low-80s version he threw with the Mets, sticking with the softer mid-70s version exclusively. He throws the knuckler roughly nine out of every ten pitches. His show-me fastball hums in right around 80 mph. The Rays roughed Dickey up on Opening Day, scoring six runs on five hits and six walks (four strikeouts).
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Drew Hutchinson (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
McGowan is the not the only guy in the rotation coming back from major injury. Hutchison, 23, made eleven mostly ineffective starts in 2012 (4.60 ERA and 4.48 FIP) before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. His strikeout (7.52 K/9 and 19.1 K%), walk (3.07 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), and ground ball (44.6%) rates were alright before the injury. Hutchison did not pitch in the big leagues at all last season and he only threw 35.1 rehab innings in the minors. And yet, he won a rotation spot in camp. A low-90s fastball is his bread and butter and he throws it a ton, more than 70% of the time. Mid-80s sliders and changeups round out the repertoire. As with McGowan, it’s unclear what Hutchison brings to the table post surgery.
The Blue Jays are without closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.74 FIP in 2013), who is nursing a shoulder problem. RHP Sergio Santos (1.84 FIP in 2013/2.96 FIP in 2014) and LHP Brett Cecil (2.88/-3.04) are in a closer platoon for the time being. RHP Steve Delabar (2.72/2.96) handles most setup situations.
RHP Esmil Rogers (4.73/7.87) and RHP Jeremy Jeffress (3.43/7.68) both pitched yesterday and threw quite a bit of pitches (41 and 29, respectively), so they’re probably unavailable for tonight’s game. LHP Aaron Loup (3.32/1.76) is a really good middle innings lefty specialist. RHP Todd Redmond (4.40 FIP in 2013) is the long man and he has not yet appeared in a game this season.
The Yankees used all of their relievers in the series against the Astros — only Shawn Kelley pitches twice — so everyone has gotten into a game and no one has been sitting around for a week waiting to a pitch. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for all the specific reliever usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, I recommend Drunk Jays Fans.
Over the last 15-20 years or so, no division has been as consistently tough as the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the top two spots, and in recent years both the Rays and Orioles have become more serious threats. The AL East has produced 15 of the 21 AL wildcard teams since the system was introduced in 1995, giving you an idea of how many great teams it’s housed. How is the division competition looking heading into 2014? Here’s a breakdown.
Notable Additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, OF/DH Delmon Young
Notable Losses: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth
This isn’t a loss in the sense that he was on the team and now he’s not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that third baseman Manny Machado will start the season on the DL following offseason knee surgery. He should return sometime in April.
The Orioles played the market well and landed both Jimenez and Cruz on favorable contracts. They sorely lacked an ace and while Ubaldo might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game, he can be absolutely dominant for long stretches of time. Baltimore got a weak .245/.293/.405 (87 wRC+) batting line out of their DHs last season, so Cruz and even Young should help correct that problem. Between Cruz, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, the O’s have three guys who could legitimately hit 30+ homers. They hit 24 more homeruns than any other team last season and added yet another power hitter this winter.
Even though Johnson always seems to blow games against the Yankees — he blew four of his last nine save chances against them and also took a loss after entering a tie game — the Orioles are worse off in the late innings without him. Webb is underrated and I’m sure Tommy Hunter will be fine in the ninth inning, but Johnson was a very good workhorse reliever and that will be missed. Baltimore is better than they were last season because of Jimenez and Cruz, though I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I guess it depends on how long Machado is out, which Jimenez shows up, and how the bullpen shakes out without Johnson.
BOSTON RED SOX
Notable Additions: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, C A.J. Pierzynski
Notable Losses: RHP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
I assume the Red Sox will not re-sign Drew at this point, which means they lost three key up-the-middle position players this winter. Grady Sizemore has had a great spring, but replacing Ellsbury with him is the poor man’s version of replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts. Jackie Bradley Jr., last spring’s MVP, is the backup plan there. Pierzynski takes over for Salty, and rookie Xander Bogaerts will replace Drew. He’s a stud and appears poised to be a force for years to come.
Boston has earned some leeway after winning the World Series, but they lost a lot of good players this winter and are counting mostly on internal solutions to replace the lost production. That’s dicey, especially when talking about prospects. If Bogaerts or either of the center fielders don’t produce, the Sox will be left scrambling. Luckily for them, the pitching staff is deep and stalwarts like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are still around to anchor the lineup. The Red Sox have a great farm system and a ton of money, so they have the wherewithal to address any needs at midseason. That said, they won the division by 5.5 games last year and the gap appears to have closed a bit.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Notable Additions: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
Notable Losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright
The Rays will be without Jeremy Hellickson for a few weeks following offseason elbow surgery. They still have David Price and Alex Cobb to front the rotation, but Matt Moore is having a real problem throwing strikes this spring. Like 15 walks in 14.1 innings problem. Chris Archer had a strong rookie season and rookie Jake Odorizzi will replace Hellickson for the time being. Tampa always seems to crank out quality young starters, but with Moore struggling and Odorizzi projecting as more of a back-end arm than anything else, their staff seems more vulnerable than it has been at any point in the last five of six years.
After getting great production from one-year gems like Casey Kotchman and Jeff Keppinger, the Rays doubled down on James Loney and re-signed him to a three-year, $21M contract this offseason. That is the largest free agent contract the team had handed out since the current ownership group took over in 2005. Full seasons of Wil Myers and David DeJesus should boost an offense — DeJesus isn’t great, but remember, he’s replacing Sam Fuld — that ranked third in baseball with a 108 wRC+ last summer. Going from Rodney and Wright to Balfour and Bell is probably an upgrade, especially in terms in 2014 performance. Rodney and Wright are 37 and 39, after all. Tampa improved this winter after winning 92 games a wildcard spot a year ago, so of course they’ll be right back in the thick of the race this year.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Notable Additions: C Dioner Navarro
Notable Losses: C J.P. Arencibia, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Josh Johnson
It’s unbelievable the Blue Jays did nothing this winter, isn’t it? They made all those moves last offseason and were such a colossal disappointment in 2013, yet nothing. They signed Navarro, who was nearly out of baseball three years ago. GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared to be playing the board a bit with the pitching market, presumably hoping to grab Jimenez or Ervin Santana on a cheap contract, but instead came up empty. The rotation includes the reliable Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the unpredictable Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and righty Drew Hutchison fresh off Tommy John surgery.
I guess the good news for Toronto is that their offense is dynamite, at least when healthy. Edwin Encarnacion might be the most unheralded great hitter in the game (82 BB, 66 XBH, 62 K in 2013) and Jose Bautista is still a force, so the middle of the order is set. Colby Rasmus has a ton of power and others like Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie will contribute from time to time. Jose Reyes is dynamic but also prone to injury, and sure enough an MRI revealed a minor hamstring strain just yesterday. He might not be ready for the start of the season. Ryan Goins, who is slated to be the regular second baseman, will move over to replace Reyes to short if need be. He might be the worst everyday player in baseball. In the conversation, at least. The Blue Jays are banking on health and steps forward from guys like Hutchison and Rasmus to improve the team, and even if they get that, they still might only be the fourth or fifth best team in the division.
* * *
On paper, I think you can argue the Yankees are anywhere from the best to fourth best team in the division. They’ve obviously upgraded but so have the Rays and Orioles, all while the Red Sox lost some key pieces. The top four teams in the division are more scrunched together this season, which means the race will be more tougher and more exciting deep into the season. Injuries and unexpected performances, both good and bad, will play an even bigger role in determining the AL East this summer. The division is again very good and there are four teams to be reckoned with. (Sorry, Blue Jays.)
Once upon a time, it looked like this series would play a huge role in the AL East race. The Blue Jays were offseason darlings and the Yankees are pretty much always in contention, so back in Spring Training it seemed like a late-season series between the two clubs would have a huge impact on the division. Instead, Toronto sits in last place and New York has already been relegated to wildcard or bust.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays were off yesterday just like the Yankees. They lost two of three to the Orioles over the weekend and have lost five of their last six games overall. Toronto is 68-81 with a -47 run differential, both the fifth worst marks in the league. Their next loss officially eliminates them from postseason contention.
At 4.4 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+, the Blue Jays are almost an exactly league average offense. They are without RF Jose Bautista (133 wRC+), IF Maicer Izturis (63 wRC+), and LF Melky Cabrera (86 wRC+) though, all of whom are out for the season with injury. CF Colby Rasmus (126 wRC+) recently came off the DL but is being eased back into things.
Manager John Gibbons has an elite power hitter in the middle of his lineup in 1B Edwin Encarnacion (144 wRC+). He still has more walks (82) and extra-base hits (66) than strikeouts (62). SS Jose Reyes (114 wRC+) is still as good as it gets in the leadoff spot and DH Adam Lind (127 wRC+) has had a strong bounceback year. 3B Brett Lawrie (95 wRC+) has been okay, as has UTIL Mark DeRosa (98 wRC+) in a reserve role. The lineup is pretty thinned out without Bautista and Rasmus.
C J.P. Arencibia (61 wRC+), OF Rajai Davis (84 wRC+), and IF Munenori Kawasaki (76 wRC+) are probably the only other guys on the roster everyone will recognize. OF Moises Sierra (152 wRC+ in very limited time) and 2B Ryan Goins (51 wRC+ in very limited time) both play regularly thanks to the injuries. CF Anthony Gose (76 wRC+ in limited time) and C Josh Thole (26 wRC+) are regulars on the bench while the crop of September call-ups include C Mike Nickeas and OF Kevin Pillar. Reyes and Encarnacion make this lineup dangerous by themselves, but the bottom of the order is really weak.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP R.A Dickey
Dickey, 38, has a 4.36 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 31 starts this season after taking home the NL Cy Young Award last summer. Can’t imagine that’s what the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they made the trade over the winter. Dickey’s peripherals have declined across the board: 6.89 K/9 (18.1 K%), 2.98 BB/9 (7.8 BB%), 1.38 HR/9 (12.4% HR/FB), and 40.8% grounders. he uses just one mid-70s knuckleball these days, having apparently lost the second low-80s knuckler that made him so effective last year. A low-80s fastball is his get-me-over-pitch. Lefties (.341 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.308 wOBA). The Yankees have faced Dickey a few times this season and he’s actually pitched quite well against them. He hasn’t dominated, but he hasn’t been a pushover either.
Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP J.A. Happ
The 30-year-old Happ was carted off the field after taking a line drive to the side of the head and suffering a very small skull fracture (and knee strain) four months ago. He’s made eight starts since returning from the DL and has pitched well in half of them, and overall he owns 5.15 ERA (4.14 FIP). The southpaw has missed enough bats (7.49 K/9 and 18.3 K%) and kept the ball in the park (0.98 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), but his walk (4.66 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%) and ground ball (37.9%) rates are well-below-average. Happ is a five-pitch guy, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. Both his slider and changeup come in in the low-80s, his curveball in the mid-70s. The Yankees have seen Happ three times this year and have hit him hard twice.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Todd Redmond
Redmond, 28, has a 4.10 ERA (4.19FIP) in eleven starts and three relief appearances this year as injuries have thinned out Toronto’s rotation. His strikeout (9.33 K/9 and 24.8 K%) and walk (2.69 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) rates are stellar while the homer (1.41 HR/9 and 11.8% HR/FB) and ground ball (31.0%) numbers are underwhelming. Redmond uses sinkers and four-seamers right around 90 mph to setup his bread-and-butter low-80s slider. He uses the slider almost three out of every ten pitches. Low-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs are his rarely-used fourth and fifth offerings. Redmond held the Yankees to two runs in 5.2 innings late last month, the only time he’s faced them.
Like I said, the Blue Jays were off yesterday, so their bullpen is well-rested. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.96 FIP) is setup by RHP Steve Delabar (2.72 FIP), LHP Brett Cecil (2.88 FIP), RHP Sergio Santos (2.47 FIP in limited time), and LHP Darren Oliver (4.23 FIP). LHP Aaron Loup (3.28 FIP) and RHP Neil Wagner (4.21 FIP) handle the middle innings. The army of September call-ups includes RHP Kyle Drabek, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Chad Jenkins, RHP Dustin McGowan, LHP Luis Perez, and LHP Ricky Romero. Yes, that Ricky Romero.
The Yankees are in good bullpen shape and not just because of the off-day. The late-game trio of Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Shawn Kelley did not pitch at all this weekend and should be very well-rested. Boone Logan is still out with his elbow problem, however. Our Bullpen Workload page has the full recent reliever usage details. Check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb for the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays.
If the Yankees are going to sneak into the postseason, they’re going to have to pound the crap out of bad teams like the Blue Jays. They did just that last week with four wins over the Jays in three days at Yankee Stadium. Now they’re up in Toronto for another three games. Time to pad that win total.
What Have They Done Lately?
After getting swept in the Bronx, the Blue Jays went to Houston and lost two of three to the Astros. They actually lost seven straight before winning yesterday’s series finale. Toronto is 58-73 with a -56 run differential overall. That’s good for last place in the AL East and the fourth worst record in the league.
With an average of 4.5 runs per game and a team 99 wRC+, the Jays are essentially league average offensively. Their entire starting outfield — Jose Bautista (134 wRC+), Colby Rasmus (122 wRC+), and Melky Cabrera (86 wRC+) — is on the DL, as is IF Maicer Izturis (63 wRC+). None of the four is expected to return this series.
Even without Bautista, manager John Gibbons still has an elite power hitter in 1B Edwin Encarnacion (145 wRC+). I said this in last week’s preview, but it’s worth repeating: Encarnacion has more walks (72) and extra-base hits (59) than strikeouts (55). Elite. SS Jose Reyes (116 wRC+) sets the tone atop the lineup while DH Adam Lind (125 wRC+) and 3B Brett Lawrie (103 wRC+) provide support in the middle. Lawrie has been hitting very well over the last month or so (145 wRC+ over the last 30 days).
The rest of the lineup is filled out by UTIL Mark DeRosa (100 wRC+), Yankee killer OF Rajai Davis (78 wRC+), C J.P. Arencibia (74 wRC+), IF Munenori Kawasaki (74 wRC+), OF Anthony Gose (73 wRC+), OF Kevin Pillar (31 wRC+ in very limited time), and OF Moises Sierra (-20 wRC+ in very limited time). IF Ryan Goins (104 wRC+ in very limited time) and backup C Josh Thole (37 wRC+) round out the bench. Although their overall season numbers are strong, the Blue Jays are much different team without Bautista and, to a lesser extent, Rasmus and Melky.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
Dickey, 38, dominated the Yankees pretty well last week before hanging a knuckleball and surrendering the go-ahead two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in the late innings. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has a 4.49 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 27 starts with peripherals that have declined across the board: 6.99 K/9 (18.3 K%), 3.01 BB/9 (7.9 BB%), 1.43 HR/9 (13.0% HR/FB), and 41.0% grounders. Dickey uses just one knuckleball in the mid-70 these days, having apparently lost the second low-80s knuckler that made him so effective last year. A low-80s fastball is his get-me-over-pitch. Lefties (.349 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.301 wOBA). The Yankees have faced Dickey a few other times this year aside from last week, plus they know him from interleague play against the Mets.
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP J.A. Happ
The 30-year-old Happ was carted off the field after taking a line drive to the side of the head and suffering a very small skull fracture (and knee strain) three months ago. He’s made four starts since returning from the DL and has pitched quite well in two of them, and overall he owns 5.10 ERA (4.35 FIP). The southpaw has missed enough bats (7.08 K/9 and 17.6 K%) and kept the ball in the park (0.83 HR/9 and 6.3% HR/FB), but his walk (4.94 BB/9 and 12.2 BB%) and ground ball (35.5%) rates are well-below-average. Happ is a five-pitch guy, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. Both his slider and changeup come in in the low-80s, his curveball in the mid-70s. The Yankees tagged Happ for four runs on three hits and five walks in 5.1 innings last week.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Todd Redmond
Redmond, 28, was the only Blue Jays starter the Yankees did not see during the four-game series last week. He’s got a 4.44 ERA (4.41 FIP) in eight starts and three relief appearances this year, though his strikeout (9.64 K/9 and 24.9 K%) and walk (2.86 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) rates are stellar. The homer (1.54 HR/9 and 12.1% HR/FB) and ground ball (30.8%) numbers … not so much. Redmond uses sinkers and four-seamers right around 90 mph to setup his bread-and-butter low-80s slider. He uses the slider almost three out of every ten pitches. Low-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs are his rarely-used fourth and fifth offerings. Redmond only has a dozen big league appearances to his credit and he’s never faced the Yankees.
Gibbons’ bullpen is in decent shape even though former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang lasted just three innings on Saturday. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.82 FIP) threw 20 pitches nailing down yesterday’s save and was the only reliever used thanks to Mark Buehrle’s eight innings of work. RHP Darren Oliver (4.40 FIP) and RHP Sergio Santos (2.89 FIP) handle setup duties while LHP Aaron Loup (3.53 FIP), LHP Brett Cecil (2.90 FIP), and RHP Neil Wagner (3.91 FIP) handle the middle innings. RHP Chad Jenkins (6.03 FIP in very limited time) is the long man. Wang was designated for assignment today to clear a roster spot for Loup, who returned from paternity leave. Remember when letting CMW go to a division rival was a huge mistake earlier this year? Me neither.
The Yankees have a bullpen mess on their hands thanks to yesterday’s extra innings affair as well as all the other recent close games. Things will get worse today when the club sends Preston Claiborne down to make room on the roster for Derek Jeter. Yeah, it’s great the Cap’n will be back, but keeping Joba Chamberlain over Claiborne will make the bullpen weaker in the short-term. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb for info on the Blue Jays.
Four games in three days. Thanks to a May 19th rainout, the Yankees will play their third doubleheader of the season today as the Blue Jays come to town for the third and final time in 2013. New York split their previous two doubleheaders — one with the Indians and one with the Dodgers. They’ve also won eight of nine meetings against the offseason champs so far this year, and these two clubs will play seven times in the next nine days.
What Have They Done Lately?
Like the Yankees, Toronto was off on Monday. They lost two of three to the Rays this past weekend and have dropped seven of their last eleven games. The Jays are 12-18 in the second half and 57-67 with a -37 run differential overall, good for last place in the AL East. They’re seven games back of New York in the loss column.
With an average of 4.5 runs per games with a team 99 wRC+, the Blue Jays are basically a league average offense. OF Colby Rasmus (122 wRC+) and former Yankee OF Melky Cabrera (86 wRC+) are both on the DL and will not return this series. SS Jose Reyes (117 wRC+) is day-to-day with a knee issue and could be back in the lineup as soon as this afternoon.
Manager John Gibbons’ lineup is anchored by the two big right-handed bats: 1B Edwin Encarnacion (146 wRC+) and RF Jose Bautista (134 wRC+). Encarnacion has more extra-base hits (57) and walks (65) than strikeouts (52). He’s become a truly elite power hitter these last two years. The other regulars you’ll recognize are 3B Brett Lawrie (104 wRC+), C J.P. Arencibia (70 wRC+), and DH Adam Lind (124 wRC+), who always seems to crush the Yankees.
With Cabrera and Rasmus hurt, the rest of outfield is filled out by LF Rajai Davis (83 wRC+), CF Anthony Gose (74 wRC+ in limited time), and OF Kevin Pillar (-100 wRC+ in very limited time). IF Maicer Izturis (63 wRC+) and IF Munenori Kawasaki (67 wRC+) handle middle infield duty while UTIL Mark DeRosa (104 wRC+) will sub in against southpaws. Backup C Josh Thole (33 wRC+ in limited time) rounds out the bench. Needless to say, Toronto’s lineup is much less potent without Reyes in the leadoff spot.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday Game One: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Esmil Rogers
I’m not sure who is starting what game of the doubleheader for either team, but these are the four guys getting the ball later today. Rogers, 28, has a 4.91 ERA (4.61 FIP) in 102.2 innings as a true swingman this summer — 14 starts and 23 relief appearances. His walk (2.72 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%) and ground ball (46.4%) rates are strong, but the strikeout (6.22 K/9 and 15.7 K%) and homer (1.31 HR/9 and 15.2% HR/FB) totals are not. Rogers is a two-fastball (mid-90s two and four-seamers), three-offspeed (mid-80s slider and changeup, low-80s curve) pitcher out of the rotation, and it’s worth noting he has a massive platoon split — righties have gotten him for a modest .316 wOBA while lefties have tagged him for a .389 mark. The Yankees have seen Rogers seven times since the start of last year, but never once as a starter.
Tuesday Game Two: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Mark Buehrle
The 34-year-old Buehrle has gotten over his early-season “welcome to the AL East” struggles and now owns a solid 4.29 ERA (4.18 FIP) in 25 starts. That’s pretty much the book on him, right? Solid. Buehrle has a career-high strikeout rate (6.06 K/9 and 15.6 K%) this year, but his walk rate (2.35 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%) is its highest in more than a decade as well. Still, that’s pretty good. He gets a decent amount of grounders (44.1%) but isn’t particularly adept at limiting the long ball (1.09 HR/9 and 10.6% HR/FB). Buehrle is the definition of a crafty lefty, a kitchen sink kinda guy. His two and four-seamer fastballs both sit in the mid-80s while his cutter is a touch lower in the low-80s. An upper-70s changeup and low-70s curve are his top offspeed offerings. Although he’s never had much of a platoon split, Buehrle has fared better against lefties (.288 wOBA) than righties (.338 wOBA) this season. The veteran-laden Yankees have seen former ChiSox southpaw plenty over the years, including three times a few months. They typically hit him hard.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
I don’t think the Blue Jays were expecting a 4.49 ERA (4.78 FIP) when they acquired the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner over the winter, but that’s exactly what the 38-year-old Dickey has given them in 26 starts. Every time it appears he’s ready to get on a roll and dominate, he throws up a clunker. Dickey’s peripherals — 6.84 K/9 (17.9 K%), 3.05 BB/9 (8.0 BB%), 1.44 HR/9 (13.0% HR/FB), and 41.0% grounders — have taken significant steps back across the boards. I guess that’s how you go from Cy Young to a mid-4.00s ERA. He’s a knuckleballer, as you know, but in the past he used two distinct knuckleballs — a soft one in the mid-70s and a harder one in the low-80s. Dickey has lost the hard knuckler for whatever reason and now consistently sits in the mid-70s with the pitch. He throws it roughly 90% of the time and will use a low-80s fastball as a get-me-over-pitch. Lefties (.355 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.300 wOBA). The Yankees have seen Dickey a few times over the years thanks to interleague play with the Mets, but earlier this season he held them to three runs in seven innings.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP J.A. Happ
Three months ago, the 30-year-old Happ was carted off the field after taking a line drive to the side of the head. He suffered a very small skull fracture, but the reason he missed so much time was a knee injury — he twisted his leg underneath him as the fell to the ground following the line drive and sprained a ligament. Happ has made three starts since returning from the DL and has pitched quite well in two of them, and overall he owns 4.93 ERA (4.09 FIP). The southpaw has missed enough bats (7.11 K/9 and 17.7 K%) and kept the ball in the park (0.73 HR/9 and 5.4% HR/FB), but his walk (4.56 BB/9 and 11.3 BB%) and ground ball (34.4%) rates are well-below-average. Happ is a five-pitch guy, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. Both his slider and changeup come in in the low-80s, his curveball in the mid-70s. His platoon split (.287 vs. .335 wOBA) is modest. Happ held New York to three runs in six innings earlier this year and hasfaced them a few other times in recent seasons, including during the 2009 World Series while with the Phillies.
There has apparently been some talk of starting Adam Warren on Wednesday — the Yankees will need a spot starter no later than Saturday due to the doubleheader — and pushing everyone back, which would allow Kuroda to start against the Rays over the weekend. That’s preferable given the playoff situation and all that. They could always start Warren on Thursday or Friday instead, it doesn’t have to be Wednesday.
As I said before, the Jays were off on Monday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be for mid-August. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.72 FIP) has been stellar, but primo setup man RHP Steve Delabar (2.44 FIP) is out with an elbow problem. Forgive me while I self-promote, but read this. LHP Brett Cecil (2.97 FIP) and RHP Sergio Santos (3.21 FIP in limited time) are now handling setup duties. LHP Darren Oliver (4.16 FIP), LHP Aaron Loup (3.54 FIP), RHP Neil Wagner (3.63 FIP), and RHP Brad Lincoln (5.35 FIP) fill out the rest of the seven-man relief corps.
The Yankees are in good bullpen shape thanks to yesterday’s off-day, though Warren might not be available after throwing 57 pitches on Saturday. Both Boone Logan and Shawn Kelley have made three appearances in the last five days, but neither has thrown more than nine pitches in a game since Thursday. Check out the Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.
Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and the Yankees have granted him his release, the team announced. I guess he had more opt-out clauses than the five that were originally reported. Ken Rosenthal says he will sign with the Blue Jays and join their rotation next week.
Wang, 33, pitched to a 2.33 ERA (3.36 FIP) with 58% ground ball rate in 58 innings across nine starts for Triple-A Scranton this year. Rumor has it he was seeking a big league contract before opting out of his contract, and it looks like Toronto is willing to give him one. The Jays are dealing with a ton of pitching injuries and need the help. The emergency of Vidal Nuno and Michael Pineda‘s encouraging rehab pushed Wang further out of the picture, so it’s no surprise he opted out. Oh well.
The Yankees and Blue Jays will make up their May 19th rainout as part of a doubleheader on August 20th at Yankee Stadium. The first game starts at 1:05pm ET and the second at 7:05pm ET, so it’s not a single admission doubleheader. Like that would ever happen.
August 20th is the first day of a scheduled three-game series between the two teams. Thankfully the Yankees don’t lose an off-day, and in fact both teams are off on the 19th. The Bombers will be returning from a weekend series in Boston, meaning easy travel. There’s no good time for a doubleheader in August, so that’s pretty much best-case scenario.
The Yankees and Blue Jays have seen quite a bit of each other so far this season. This will be their third series of 2013 already; New York won the previous two. They took two of three in Toronto last month, then all four in the Bronx a week later.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays have played much, much better of late. They just clobbered the Giants in a two-game series and have won four straight games overall, scoring double-digit runs in each of their last three games. Toronto has won seven of their last ten games overall, raising their season record to 17-24 with a -35 run differential. They remain in last place in the AL East by a decent margin.
Toronto is not far off from a perfectly league-average offense with a team 96 wRC+ and a 4.3 runs per game average. Like I said though, they’ve scored 10+ runs in each of their last three games. They’re swinging the bat well. SS Jose Reyes (175 wRC+) remains on the DL with his ankle injury, and OF Rajai Davis (96 wRC+) joined him on the shelf since the last time these clubs met. He’s dealing with an oblique problem.
OF Jose Bautista (146 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (115 wRC+) anchor the middle of the order and, as you know, are threats to drive in a run even when the bases are empty. They can mash. OF Melky Cabrera (84 wRC+) has poor overall numbers, but he’s figuring things out lately and has been tearing the cover off the ball for about two weeks now. Those three are batting 1-2-3 these days, so the top of the lineup is no joke. They can put up a crooked number all by themselves.
DH Adam Lind (140 wRC+) and CF Colby Rasmus (102 wRC+) have been surprisingly not useless, plus C J.P. Arencibia (96 wRC+) has been useful as well. He’s all power (.256 ISO) and nothing else (.236 AVG, .252 OBP, 1.4 BB%). 3B Brett Lawrie (72 wRC+) and Reyes replacement SS Munenori Kawasaki (84 wRC+) haven’t been anything special. Backup C Henry Blanco (-15 wRC+) has been awful, ditto UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (47 wRC+) and UTIL Maicer Izturis (52 wRC+). UTIL Mark DeRosa (102 wRC+) has fared well in limited time. The lineup revolves around those top three guys, they’re the ones who do the most damage.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Mark Buehrle
The AL East has not been kind to the 34-year-old Buehrle, who owns a 6.19 ERA and 5.81 FIP through his first eight starts of the year. His strikeout rate (5.63 K/9 and 14.0 K%) is right in line with his career norms, but the walk (2.44 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%) and ground ball (39.2%) totals are the worst of his career. Same goes for his homer rate (2.06 HR/9 and 16.4% HR/FB). Buehrle sits in the mid-80s with his two- and four-seamer, and a bit below that with the cutter. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw a low-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen the long-time White Sox twice already this year, scoring three runs in seven innings the first time and five runs in 5.1 innings the second time.
Saturday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Brandon Morrow
Like most of his rotation-mates, Morrow is off to a poor start (4.69 ERA and 4.61 FIP) this season. The 28-year-old has his worst peripheral stats in years — 7.59 K/9 (19.1 K%), 3.79 BB/9 (9.6 BB%), and 35.7% — so it’s not just bad luck. That first number isn’t good enough to compensate for the second two. Morrow still lives in the mid-90s with his four-seamer, and he backs it up with upper-80s sliders and low-80s splitters. He’ll also throw the occasional curveball right around 80, but only three or four a start. The Yankees roughed him up a few weeks ago (seven runs in 5.1 innings), and Morrow’s track record at the new Yankee Stadium is pretty poor (6.84 ERA and ~4.30 FIP). He’s always pitched well against the Bombers in Toronto, but not so much in the Bronx for whatever reason.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
I can’t imagine the Blue Jays were expected to see Dickey, 38, sitting on a 4.83 ERA (4.80 FIP) nine starts in the season. He is coming off two straight quality starts and three in his last four games, so the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is trending in the right direction. Dickey is missing plenty of bats (8.00 K/9 and 20.9 K%), but his walk (4.00 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%) and ground ball (41.4%) numbers are way off from where they’ve been in recent years, even the non-Cy Young years. The trademark knuckleball is sitting in the low-to-mid-70s this season, which is down a bit from the last few years with the Mets. It’s unclear a) why, and b) if that is the root cause of his struggles. Nine out of every ten pitches is the knuckler, with the one exception being a low-80s get-me-over fastball. The Yankees scored three runs off Dickey in seven innings a few weeks ago, but remember, he shut them down until hitting the wall in the later innings.
Manager John Gibbons and his Toronto team had Thursday off — doesn’t it seem like everyone has the day off before facing the Yankees lately? — so the bullpen is rested. RHP Casey Janssen (1.02 FIP) does the closing while RHP Steve Delabar (3.29 FIP) and LHP Darren Oliver (3.83 FIP) do the setting up. RHP Esmil Rogers (4.89 FIP) has been demoted to middle relief, where he now hangs with RHP Brad Lincoln (5.09 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (4.02 FIP). LHP Brett Cecil (2.45 FIP) is the multi-inning guy and former Yankees property RHP Mickey Storey (1.11 FIP in very limited time) is their eighth reliever. They’ve been carrying a 13-man staff all year because of the rotation issues.
Thanks to Phil Hughes‘ two-out start and Andy Pettitte‘s trap injury, the Yankees have taxed their bullpen quite a bit these last few days. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have both had two straight days off, so they should be good to go tonight. Kuroda will need to provide some length though. You can check out the Bullpen Workload page for the recent reliever usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.
The Blue Jays made all their big offseason moves with an eye on winning the AL East title, and if they’re going to win the division, these are the games they need to win. The Yankees are far from full strength due to injuries and these clubs are scheduled to play ten times through mid-May, which is right about when New York is expected to start getting some of their walking wounded back. If the Jays want to go from pretenders to contenders, these games are borderline must-wins.
What Have They Done Lately?
Well, Toronto is 1-2 so far in those borderline must-win games. The Yankees took two of three up north last weekend, then the Blue Jays lost another two of three to the Orioles in Baltimore this week. The Jays are 9-13 with a -29 run differential overall, and despite yesterday’s win they have lost six or their last nine games.
Manager John Gibbons’ club is averaging 3.9 runs per game so far, which is a bit below-average. They are closer towards the bottom of the league with a team 89 wRC+ and near the top with 26 homers. The Blue Jays lost a legitimate game-changer in SS Jose Reyes two weeks ago, when he suffered a severe ankle sprain sliding into second base. He had a team-leading 182 wRC+ and five steals in ten games before the injury.
The club’s new-look lineup is anchored by two big right-handed bats, RF Jose Bautista (112 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (96 wRC+). They aren’t off to torrid starts, but both guys can hit the ball out of any part of any park in a moment’s notice. Former Yankee LF Melky Cabrera (74 wRC+) is in the middle of the lineup mix as well, ditto the AL homerun leader C J.P. Arencibia (151 wRC+). He’s gone deep eight times … and has a .286 OBP.
Psychopath/3B Brett Lawrie (-3 wRC+) headlines the rest of the lineup, which also features SS Munenori Kawasaki (75 wRC+), CF Colby Rasmus (118 wRC+), DH Adam Lind (110 wRC+), 2B Maicer Izturis (30 wRC+), OF Rajai Davis (93 wRC+), and UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (39 wRC+). UTIL Mark DeRosa (59 wRC+) gives the veteran presents and C Henry Blanco (12 wRC+) is on the roster for one reason and one reason only. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Mark Buehrle
The Yankees will get yet another opportunity to excise their demons against left-handed pitchers in the series opener tonight. The 34-year-old Buehrle struck out seven in seven innings against New York last weekend, allowing three runs and walking one. He owns a 5.87 ERA (4.36 FIP) through four starts, and as always the peripherals are unimpressive: 6.26 K/9 (15.12 K%), 2.35 BB/9 (5.7 BB%), and 40.2% grounders. His ground ball rate has been heading south for a few years now, but Buehrle is a guy who has outpitched his peripherals his entire career. Can’t really evaluate him like we do everyone else. The long-time White Sox ace uses three different mid-80s fastballs — four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter — and an upper-70s changeup to keep hitters off balance. A low-70s curveball will also make an occasional appearance. The veteran New York lineup and veteran Buehrle have seen plenty of each other over the years. There are no surprises to be had.
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Josh Johnson
Johnson, 29, is three years removed from his last full season as an ace-caliber pitcher, but he isn’t nearly as bad as this year’s 6.86 ERA and 4.59 FIP indicate. The right-hander is missing a ton of bats (8.69 K/9 and 19.4 K%), but his walk (4.12 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%) and ground ball (41.8%) numbers are far off from the elite marks he posted with the Marlins before Tommy John surgery. Johnson’s four-seamer (and seldom used two-seamer) sits in the 91-95 mph range, and his swing-and-miss mid-80s slider is a wipeout pitch he’ll throw to both righties and lefties. A hard upper-80s splitter-changeup hybrid and upper-70s curveball round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Johnson just twice before — they hung four runs on him in 5.1 innings last week, and the other start came way back before elbow reconstruction in 2009.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP J.A. Happ
A few weeks ago, Happ went from being the guy the Yankees smacked around in the 2009 World Series to the guy who broke Curtis Granderson‘s forearm with an errant pitch in Spring Training. The 30-year-old southpaw has pitched to a 3.68 ERA (3.83 FIP) in his first four starts of the season, posting solid strikeout (7.77 K/9 and 20.7 K%) and walk (3.68 BB/9 and 9.8 BB%) rates to go along with extreme fly ball tendencies (35.5% grounders). Happ uses two- and four-seam fastballs that sit right around 90 mph to set up his low-80s changeup, his primary offspeed pitch. Low-80s sliders and upper-70s curves are his clear fourth and fifth pitches. The Yankees saw Happ twice last summer after was traded to Toronto, and they roughed him up both times.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
Dickey, 38, has yet to really get it going this season — 4.66 ERA and 4.26 FIP in five starts — after winning the NL Cy Young Award last year. He struggled last April as well — 4.45 ERA and 5.24 FIP in five starts — so I’m guessing he’ll figure out it and start dominating before long. Dickey is a feel pitcher after all, and the cold early-season months are conducive to, well, a lack of feel. His strikeout (7.45 K/9 and 19.1 K%) rate is fine but the walk (4.34 BB/9 and 11.1 BB%) and ground ball (41.4%) totals leave a lot to be desired at the moment.
Dickey’s trademark knuckleball is actually two knuckleballs — he throws a hard 76-81 mph knuckleball as a put-away pitch when ahead in the count and a softer 68-76 mph knuckleball almost like a get-me-over pitch when behind in the count. I highly recommend this 2010 Amazin’ Avenue post for more on the duel-knuckleball phenomenon. Dickey throws his knuckleball(s) roughly 90% of the time with the other 10% being filled by low-80s fastballs. He doesn’t have a UCL in his elbow, you know. The Yankees did not see Dickey last weekend but they faced him three times from 2011-2012 during the Subway Series. There’s really not much preparation you can do for a knuckleball, it’s the epitome of a see it and hit it pitch. Oh, remember when I said Blanco was on the team for one reason? Well, this is it. Here’s there to catch the knuckleball.
The Orioles did the Yankees a favor and forced the Blue Jays to play eleven innings yesterday, so Toronto’s bullpen is a little taxed coming into the series. Setup men LHP Darren Oliver (3.24 FIP) and RHP Esmil Rogers (2.77 FIP) both pitched yesterday, as did closer RHP Casey Janssen (0.27 FIP). Oliver threw two innings, the other two guys one each. LHP Aaron Loup (3.39 FIP) is the middle innings lefty and he’s pitched in each of the last two games.
Gibbons has two other lefties at his disposal, including one-time Yankees nemesis LHP Brett Cecil (3.02 FIP). He’s no longer a starter though, just a traditional middle reliever who will face both righties and lefties. Former Yankee LHP Aaron Laffey (4.62 FIP) was claimed off waivers from the Mets a few days ago and has yet to appear in a game for the Jays this season. He started on Saturday for the Amazin’s and should be ready to pitch by now. RHP Steve Delabar (2.86 FIP) rounds out the bullpen. The Yankees are in pretty good bullpen shape, but check out the Bullpen Workload page for exact usage details anyway. My preferred Blue Jays blogs are Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Blue Jays have claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Yankees. New York claimed the backstop off waivers from the Giants a few weeks ago, then re-signed him to a new $625k split contract about a week ago. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for the recently-re-signed Andy Pettitte. Toronto assumes Whiteside’s entire contract with the move.