9/18-9/21 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The final homestand of the 2014 season and Derek Jeter‘s career is about to begin. The Yankees open the eight-game homestand with four games against the Blue Jays, starting tonight. I swear, it feels like I’ve had to write a Blue Jays series preview every other week this season. Anyway, the Yankees are 8-7 against Toronto this year, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays were just swept by the Orioles in Baltimore, allowing the O’s to clinch the team’s first AL East title since 1997. Toronto lost two of three to the Rays before that. Overall, the Yankees have Blue Jays are tied for second place in the division with identical 77-74 records. The Jays have the run differential edge +20 to -34, however. This weekend is a battle for second place. Feel the excitement.

Offense
With an average of 4.45 runs per game and a team 105 wRC+, manager John Gibbons watches over a solidly above-average offense. They are without ex-Yankees OF Melky Cabrera (125 wRC+), who broke a finger sliding into a base a week or two ago and is done for the season. 3B Brett Lawrie (101 wRC+) and IF Maicer Izturis (79 wRC+) are also done for the year with oblique and knee injuries, respectively. C Dioner Navarro (103 wRC+) is day-to-day after taking a foul tip to the face mask.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Even without Melky, the Blue Jays have a scary middle of the order thanks to OF Jose Bautista (155 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (149 wRC+). They both have 32 homers. DH Adam Lind (147 wRC+) is also having a strong year and is a nice left-handed complement to Bautista and Encarnacion. SS Jose Reyes (102 wRC+) sets the table from the leadoff spot and OF Anthony Gose (72 wRC+) has taken over as the everyday center fielder. OF Colby Rasmus (103 wRC+) is now just a bench player.

3B Danny Valencia (77 wRC+) is playing the hot corner regularly with Lawrie out. IF Juan Francisco (108 wRC+) had been platooning with him but he’s been slumping hard since about June. IF Ryan Goins (26 wRC+ in limited time) is the everyday second baseman. C Josh Thole (73 wRC+) is the starting catcher while Navarro is out. OF Kevin Pillar (71 wRC+), IF Munenori Kawasaki (81 wRC+), IF Steve Tolleson (82 wRC+) ,and OF John Mayberry Jr. (117 wRC+) are the regular bench players. C George Kottaras, 1B Dan Johnson, and OF Dalton Pompey are the September additions.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
The 39-year-old Dickey is about to wrap up his fourth straight 200+ inning season, and he was better this year than he was during his first season with the Jays. He has a 3.84 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 31 starts and 196.2 innings with good but not great peripherals: 7.41 K/9 (19.2 K%), 3.11 BB/9 (8.1 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (11.1 HR/FB%), and 42.7% grounders. As a knuckleballer, Dickey relies on weak contact more than anything. Righties (.325 wOBA) have been better against him than lefties (.307 wOBA) and he’s been better on the road (.308 wOBA) than at home (.327 wOBA). Dickey threw two knuckleballs with the Mets a few years ago, but he has since dropped the harder low-80s version and now sticks with the softer mid-70s version. He throws the knuckler roughly 80% of the time while filling in the gaps with low-80s show-me fastballs. The Yankees have only faced Dickey once this year, way back in early-April, in the second series of the season. He held them scoreless for 6.2 innings.

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
Buehrle, 35, is 12 innings away from his 14th (!) straight 200+ inning season with two starts to go. Unless they start him on three days’ rest in the season finale or something. He’s thrown at least six innings in each of his last five starts, but one short start could cause him to fall short of 200 innings. Buehrle has a 3.40 ERA (3.71 FIP) in 30 starts and 188 innings this year, plus he’s sporting his usually low strikeout (5.07 K/9 and 13.2 K%) and walk (2.06 BB/9 and 5.4 BB%) rates. His ground ball rate (43.9%) is right in line with his career norm but his homerun rate (0.67 HR/9 and 6.6 HR/FB%) is the lowest of his career. Buehrle’s platoon split is small and he has been much better on the road (.300 wOBA) than at home (.360 wOBA). As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter while mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-70s curves to keep hitters off balance. The Yankees have seen Buehrle four times this year: three runs (two earned) in six innings in mid-June, four runs in 6.2 innings in late-June, six runs in three innings in late-July, and four runs in six innings in late-August.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
Stroman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Saturday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Last time out, the 23-year-old Stroman created a ruckus when he threw a retaliation pitch behind the head of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph. He was ejected and has since been suspended six games, but he is appealing and is expected to make this start. Stroman has made 19 starts and five relief appearances this year, pitching to a 3.80 ERA (2.99 FIP) in 120.2 innings. His strikeout rate is alright (7.46 K/9 and 20.2 K%) but his walk (2.09 BB/9 and 5.7 BB%), homer (0.52 HR/9 and 7.1 HR/FB%), and ground ball (54.7%) numbers are spectacular. He has been way better at home (.251 wOBA) than on the road (.355 wOBA) but has a negligible platoon split. The Long Island raised Stroman uses mid-90s two and four-seamers as well a low-90s cutter to set up his mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-80s curve. The four-seamer, cutter, and curve are his main pitches. The Yankees have faced him twice this year, first scoring two runs in 3.2 innings and then scoring one run in eight innings, both times in June.

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Again with Hutchison. The 24-year-old will be the first non-James Shields pitcher to make six starts in one season against the Yankees since both Edwin Jackson and Roy Halladay did it in 2008. (Shields did it in 2010 and 2012.) They’ve faced him in every series this year. Geez. Hutchison has a 4.51 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 30 starts and 175.2 innings after missing just about all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Both his walk (2.87 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) and strikeout (8.71 K/9 and 22.9 K%) rates are very good, the homer (1.08 HR/9 and 9.3 HR/FB%) and grounder (36.7%) rates less so. He gets hit hard by lefties (.348 wOBA) and at home (.333 wOBA), though not so much by righties (.274 wOBA) and on the road (.305 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is Hutchison’s main pitch and he throws it roughly two-thirds of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out his repertoire. Amazingly, each of Hutchison’s five starts against New York have gotten progressively better this year: six runs in 3.1 innings in April, four runs in 4.1 innings in early-June, four runs in 6.1 innings in late-June, two runs in 6.2 innings in July, and no runs in seven innings in August. I guess a no-hitter’s coming this weekend.

Oh, and yeah, Tanaka is returning to the rotation this weekend. It will either be totally awesome or the worst thing ever. Lots riding on his right elbow.

Sanchez. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Sanchez. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Because they have been losing so much recently, Gibbons had to use closer RHP Casey Janssen (4.24 FIP) and setup man RHP Aaron Sanchez (2.57 FIP) yesterday just to get them work. Janssen’s had an up and down season and he’ll be a free agent this winter. I wonder what kind of contract he’ll get. Anyway, LHP Brett Cecil (2.48 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (3.70 FIP) are the team’s other regular late-inning relievers.

RHP Dustin McGowan (4.92 FIP) and RHP Todd Redmond (3.44 FIP) are Toronto’s other bullpen regulars. RHP Brandon Morrow (3.83 FIP) is now working in relief after missing most of the season with a finger injury. LHP Daniel Norris, LHP Sean Nolin, and RHP Kendall Graveman are the club’s September pitching call-ups. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then head over to Drunk Jays Fans for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays.

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8/29-8/31 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user kyle.tucker95 via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user kyle.tucker95 via Creative Commons license)

Starting with this three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Yankees will play 27 of their final 30 games against AL East opponents. Those intra-division games always seem to be tough regardless of where each team sits in the standings. The Yankees are 7-5 against the Jays this year, including 3-3 at Rogers Centre.

What Have They Done Lately?
Toronto is in a month-long free fall. It wasn’t long ago that they were right in the thick of the wildcard race, but they’ve dropped ten of their last 14 games and are now 5.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and 2.5 games back of New York. “The difference between other years and this year is we believed,” said Adam Lind to TSN recently. Ouch. The Jays are 7-16 in August and 67-66 with a -2 run differential overall.

Offense
Manager John Gibbons watches over one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. His club averages 4.43 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, plus they rank fourth in baseball with 147 homers. The Blue Jays are currently without 3B Brett Lawrie (100 wRC+) and IF Maicer Izturis (79 wRC+) due to oblique and knee injuries. Neither is expected to return this series. OF Colby Rasmus (98 wRC+) has missed the last few days with flu-like symptoms.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

As usual, the Toronto lineup is built around OF Jose Bautista (149 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (151 wRC+). Those dudes are monsters. DH Adam Lind (136 wRC+) has been pretty awesome as well. SS Jose Reyes (106 wRC+) and OF Melky Cabrera (129 wRC+) set the tone from the one-two spots in the lineup. The top five spots in Gibbons’ lineup are as good as any top five around the league. Speed, power, high averages, on-base ability … this group does it all.

The lineup thins out considerably after those top five. Former Yankees C Dioner Navarro (92 wRC+) and C Josh Thole (84 wRC+) split time behind the plate — Thole is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher — and IF Juan Francisco (108 wRC+) and 3B Danny Valencia (109 wRC+) have been platooning at third with Lawrie out. IF Munenori Kawasaki (81 wRC+), OF Kevin Pillar (50 wRC+), and UTIL Steve Tolleson (82 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
This has gone from a career year to a pretty typical Mark Buehrle year these last few weeks. He’s slowed down considerably following his great start to the season. The 35-year-old has a 3.41 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 26 starts and 161 innings with his typically low strikeout (5.25 K/9 and 13.6 K%) and walk (2.29 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) rates. He hasn’t gotten many grounders (42.6%) and his homer rate (0.73 HR/9 and 6.9 HR/FB%) is unusually low. That’s been on the way up in the second half. Buehrle’s platoon split is tiny and he’s been much better on the road (.309 wOBA) than at home (.360 wOBA). As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-70s curves to keep hitters (even more) off balance. The Yankees have seen Buehrle three times this year and each start has gotten progressively worse (for him): three runs (two earned) in six innings in June, four runs in 6.2 innings later in June, and six runs in three innings in June.

Saturday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 24, has a 4.68 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 26 starts and 150 innings this season, his first following Tommy John surgery. His strikeout (8.04 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and walk (2.94 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) rates are very good, his homer (1.08 HR/9 and 9.0 HR/FB%) and ground ball (35.7%) numbers less so. He has had less success against lefties (.362 wOBA) and at home (.357 wOBA) than against righties (.276 wOBA) and on the road (.306 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is Hutchison’s main pitch and he throws it a ton, more than 65% of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out the repertoire. Hutchison has faced the Yankees four times this year, and, unlike Buehrle, he’s been progressively better each time out: six runs in 3.1 innings in April, four runs in 4.1 innings in June, four runs in six innings later in June, and two runs in 6.2 innings in July.

Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
I’m still pretty mad at Happ for breaking Curtis Granderson‘s forearm in Spring Training last year. The 31-year-old has pitched to a 4.40 ERA (4.34 FIP) in 118.2 innings across 20 starts and four relief appearances this year, and his peripherals are decidedly meh: 7.66 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.34 BB/9 (8.6 BB%), 8.6 HR/9 (10.8 HR/FB%), and 39.2% grounders. Both his platoon and home/road splits are small. Happ throws a lot of fastballs, using his low-90s two and four-seamers more than 70% of the time combined. A mid-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curveballs. The Yankees have faced Happ just once this year, scoring three runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings.

Bullpen Status
The Blue Jays were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get in late-August. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (4.14 FIP) is set up primarily by two lefties: LHP Brett Cecil (2.51 FIP) and LHP Aaron Loup (3.56 FIP). Top prospect RHP Aaron Sanchez (2.52 FIP) was called up recently and has also seen some late-inning work.

The rest of Gibbons’ bullpen includes RHP Chad Jenkins (3.48 FIP), RHP Dustin McGowan (4.76 FIP), and RHP Todd Redmond (3.27 FIP). Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then check out Drunk Jays Fans for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays.

7/25-7/27 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

So this is kind of a big series. The Yankees and Blue Jays are essentially tied in the standings and chasing the same AL East title/second wildcard spot. The Jays have lost 16 (!) consecutive games in Yankee Stadium dating back to 2012. That includes a three-game sweep earlier this year. The Yankees are 6-3 against Toronto overall this year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Blue Jays just won three straight at home against the Red Sox and they’ve won five times in seven tries in the second half. At 54-49 with a +22 run differential, Toronto is percentage points behind the Yankees in standings. Like I said, big series.

Offense
Manager John Gibbons’ team averages 4.54 runs per game with a team 107 wRC+ this year, so they’ve been solidly above-average overall. Their lineup is decimated by injuries, however. 1B Edwin Encarnacion (161 wRC+), DH Adam Lind (142 wRC+), and 3B Brett Lawrie (96 wRC+) are currently on the disabled list with quad, foot, and finger injuries, respectively. None are expected back this weekend. IF Maicer Izturis, OF Nolan Reimold, and OF Cole Gillespie are hurt as well.

Reyes. (Getty)
Reyes. (Getty)

Even with all those injuries, Gibbons still trots out an upper third of the lineup with SS Jose Reyes (106 wRC+), OF Melky Cabrera (129 wRC+), and OF Jose Bautista (151 wRC+). Those three are as dangerous as it gets and the key to this weekend for New York is keeping them in check. The lineup really softens after that. OF Colby Rasmus (96 wRC+), C Dioner Navarro (88 wRC+), and the just called up DH Dan Johnson (93 wRC+ in very limited time) have been hitting in the middle third of the lineup, for example.

IF Juan Francisco (128 wRC+) has power as big as the holes in his swing. OF Anthony Gose (78 wRC+), IF Steve Tolleson (99 wRC+), IF Ryan Goins (33 wRC+ in limited time), and IF Munenori Kawasaki (78 wRC+) rotate in and out of the lineup on a daily basis. C Josh Thole (94 wRC+ in limited time) backs up Navarro and is on the roster primarily because he is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher. They’ve been paired together since their days with the Mets. The Yankees are catching a huge break with Encarnacion, Lind, and Lawrie out.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
Buehrle was an All-Star for the first time in five years a few weeks ago thanks to his excellent start to the season. The 35-year-old has a 2.86 ERA (3.68 FIP) in 20 starts and 132.1 innings this year, and he’s been outperforming his FIP for about a decade now. No reason to think it’ll stop anytime soon. Buehrle’ strikeout (5.30 K/9 and 14.1 K%), walk (2.38 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and ground ball (40.9%) rates are the same as they always been, though his homer rate (0.61 HR/9 and 5.8 HR/FB%) is his lowest in a long, long time. It was lower earlier in the year and it’s started to correct in recent starts. Lefties (.327 wOBA) have hit Buehrle slightly harder than righties (.311 wOBA). As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-80s curves to keep hitters (even more) off balance. The Yankees have faced Buehrle twice this season, scoring three runs in six innings at Yankee Stadium and four runs in 6.2 innings at Rogers Centre, both back in June.

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 23, has made 20 starts and thrown 113 innings this year, his first following Tommy John surgery. There’s been some talk of shutting him down or at least easing up on his working in the coming weeks. Hutchison has a 4.54 ERA (3.80 FIP) in those 20 starts with a very good strikeout rate (8.12 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and solid walk (3.03 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) and homer (0.96 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) numbers, though he doesn’t get any grounders (34.9%). Lefties (.347 wOBA) have hit him a ton harder than righties (.299 wOBA), and it’s worth noting he’s been much better on the road (.279 wOBA) than at home (.407 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is Hutchison’s main pitch, and he throws it a lot, more than 60% of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out the repertoire. The Yankees have faced him three times this year and he’s been progressively better: six runs in 3.1 innings in April, four runs in 4.1 innings in mid-June, and four runs in six innings in late-June.

Still mad at Happ for hitting Curtis last spring. (Abelimages/Getty)
Still mad at Happ for hitting Curtis last spring. (Getty)

Sunday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
These teams have played three series this year and yet somehow the Yankees have not seen Happ. The 31-year-old has a 4.55 ERA (4.18 FIP) in 83 innings across 14 starts and four relief appearances this year, with mostly mediocre peripherals: 7.37 K/9 (18.5 K%), 3.69 BB/9 (9.3 BB%), 0.98 HR/9 (8.9 HR/FB%), and 41.9% grounders. Happ’s platoon split is tiny. He throws a lot of fastballs, using his low-90s two and four-seamers more than 70% of the time combined. A mid-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curveballs.

Bullpen Status
The Jays blew out the Red Sox yesterday and rookie righty Marcus Stroman went seven innings, so Gibbons was able to rest his key late-inning relievers. Only RHP Todd Redmond (3.05 FIP) and LHP Rob Rasmussen (4.96 FIP in limited time) pitched, and they threw an inning apiece. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (2.69 FIP) has pitched three times in the last five days, just not yesterday.

As they’ve been doing just about all year, the Jays are currently carrying eight relievers. RHP Dustin McGowan (5.02 FIP), LHP Brett Cecil (2.56 FIP), and LHP Aaron Loup (3.54 FIP) are Janssen’s primary setup crew these days. Top prospect RHP Aaron Sanchez (1.14 FIP in two innings) was just called up and will be given high-leverage work right away. They aren’t going to be shy with him. RHP Esmil Rogers (5.41 FIP) is the last guy in the ‘pen. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then check out Drunk Jays Fans for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays.

6/23-6/25 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

For the second time in a week, the Yankees and first place Blue Jays will meet for three games, only the scene shifts from the Bronx to Toronto. Much like last week, this series is pretty important by late-June standards. The Yankees could leave Canada in first place if things go well. They swept the Jays at home last week but lost two of three at Rogers Centre back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Blue Jays lost two of three to the Reds in Cincinnati over the weekend, and they had to rally back from eight runs down for the one win. Toronto has lost eleven of their last 15 games overall and they come into the series 42-35 with a +25 run differential. They lead the Yankees (and Orioles) by 1.5 games in the AL East.

Offense
Manager John Gibbons watches over one of the best offenses in baseball, which averages 4.67 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+. They did lose both 3B Brett Lawrie (98 wRC+) and OF Jose Bautista (168 wRC+) to injury on Sunday, however. Lawrie had a finger broken by a Johnny Cueto pitch while Bautista left the game with a hamstring problem. He is having an MRI today to determine the extent of the damage. SS Jose Reyes (94 wRC+) is day-to-day with sore knee and IF Maicer Izturis (78 wRC+) is done for an extended period of time with a torn knee ligament. They’re pretty banged up.

The Melkman. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
The Melkman. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Even with all those injuries, Gibbons can still build his lineup around the trio of OF Melky Cabrera (128 wRC+), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (159 wRC+) and DH Adam Lind (157 wRC+). Melky has a 19-game hitting streak against the Yankees and is hitting .346/.378/.679 with six homers during that stretch. 3B Juan Francisco (135 wRC+) has been good in a platoon role and OF Colby Rasmus (118 OPS+) just came off the DL last week. Francisco figures to see more playing time with Lawrie hurt.

The Jays are currently carrying three catchers in former Yankee C Dioner Navarro (79 wRC+), C Erik Kratz (73 wRC+), and C Josh Thole (91 wRC+ in limited time). Thole is basically R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher. That’s all. IF Munenori Kawasaki (53 wRC+) and UTIL Steve Tolleson (99 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Toronto’s going to have to make at least one roster move today to replace Lawrie and may need to make another depending on Bautista’s test results.

Pitching Matchups
The Blue Jays are scheduled to start the same three pitchers this week that they started in New York last week thanks to a spot start over the weekend. Dickey had a minor groin injury, so they simply called up a sixth starter on Friday and pushed everyone back a day.

Monday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Stroman, 23, has a 5.14 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 28 innings covering four starts and five relief appearances this season to start his MLB career, though his walk (1.93 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) and ground ball (51.5%) rates are excellent. His strikeout (7.39 K/9 and 17.8 K%) and homer (0.96 HR/9 and 10.0 HR/FB%) numbers are closer to league average. Lefties (.419 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.307 wOBA) so far. The Long Island raised Stroman uses a mid-90s four-seamer and a low-90s cutter to set up his mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-80s curve. He held the Yankees to two runs last week, but they worked him hard and forced him to throw 98 pitches in only 3.2 innings.

Tuesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Buehrle is off to a fantastic start (2.32 ERA and 3.45 FIP) that is due almost entirely to his miniscule homerun rate (0.45 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%). His strikeout (5.27 K/9 and 14.3 K%), walk (2.50 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), and ground ball (42.0%) rates are right in line with his career averages through 15 starts and 100.2 innings. Buehrle has no left/right split but he has been better on the road (.270 wOBA) than at home (.338 wOBA) this year. As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-80s curves to keep hitters (even more) off balance. Buehrle allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings against the Bombers last week.

Hutchison. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Hutchison. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 23, has been rock solid following his return from Tommy John surgery, posting a 3.86 ERA (3.90 FIP) in 15 starts and 86.1 innings. His strikeout (7.61 K/9 and 20.2 K%), walk (2.81 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%), homer (1.04 HR/9 and 9.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (36.7%) numbers are all good. Not great but not awful either. Lefties (.328 wOBA) have been a bit more successful against the Hutchison than righties (.302 wOBA), though he’s been far better on the road (.266 wOBA) than at Rogers Centre (.439 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is his main pitch and he throws it a lot, more than 60% of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out the repertoire. The Yankees scored six runs in 3.1 innings off Hutchison back in April, then managed four runs in 4.1 innings against him last week.

Bullpen Status
Despite Dickey’s groin issue, he was able to give the team 7.2 innings in the losing effort yesterday. RHP Sergio Santos (5.04 FIP) was the only reliever used and he threw all of two pitches. Gibbons’ bullpen is pretty fresh. RHP Casey Janssen (1.68 FIP) is the closer, and with LHP Brett Cecil (2.28 FIP) on the disabled list, LHP Aaron Loup (3.31 FIP) is the primary late-inning lefty.

The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Chad Jenkins (4.77 FIP), RHP Dustin McGowan (4.65 FIP), RHP Todd Redmond (3.16 FIP), and LHP Rob Rasmussen (5.08 FIP in limited time). There really aren’t any clearly defined roles at this point outside of Janssen in the ninth. Gibbons just sorta rides the hot hand in the late innings. You can check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, and for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays, head over to Drunk Jays Fans.

Update (2:15pm): The Blue Jays officially placed Lawrie on the 15-day DL and sent Kratz to Triple-A. OF Anthony Gose and OF Kevin Pillar were called up in corresponding moves. No word on Bautista’s test results just yet, but the fact that they called up two outfielders suggests he will miss a few games.

6/17-6/19 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees are home from their nine-game road trip and will play their biggest series of the season (to date) starting tonight. The first place Blue Jays are in the Bronx for a three-game series, giving the Yankees a chance to make up some ground in the AL East race. The alternative is getting buried. The Bombers took two of three in Toronto back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays went on an insane run last month, winning 20 of 24 games at one point. They’ve since lost six of nine, including two against the Orioles this past weekend. Toronto comes into the series with a 41-30 record and a +39 run differential. They are 4.5 games up on the Yankees.

Offense
The Blue Jays have one of the very best offenses in all of baseball. They average 4.70 runs per game with a team 112 wRC+, and they currently lead baseball with 92 homers. The Yankees have hit 55, by comparison. Toronto is currently without OF Colby Rasmus (105 wRC+), DH Adam Lind (155 wRC+), and IF Maicer Izturis (78 wRC+) due to injury. Rasmus (hamstring) could be activated off the disabled list this week and Lind (foot) is only day-to-day with a bruise. Izturis (knee) is out long-term.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Manager John Gibbons builds his lineup around baseball’s best three-four hitter combination: OF Jose Bautista (173 wRC+) and 1B Edwin Encarnacion (152 wRC+). They have 35 homers, 70 extra-base hits, 86 walks, and 91 strikeouts combined. SS Jose Reyes (105 wRC+) leads off and former Yankee OF Melky Cabrera (119 wRC+) gets the cushy job of batting second between Reyes and Bautista. Add in a healthy Lind and the top five of the Toronto lineup is devastating. I remember when the Yankees had a lineup like that.

3B Brett Lawrie (92 wRC+) headlines the rest of the lineup, and he has been spending some time at second base so 3B Juan Francisco (135 wRC+) and his huge lefty power can play against righties. OF Anthony Gose (89 wRC+) has been playing center while Rasmus is out and IF Steve Tolleson (122 wRC+ in limited time) is the backup infielder. Yes, he is Wayne’s son. The Jays are currently carrying three catchers — former Yankee C Dioner Navarro (83 wRC+), former Met C Josh Thole (106 wRC+ in limited time), and C Erik Kratz (80 wRC+) — for whatever reason.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (No vs. NYY)
Stroman, 23, was the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft and he zoomed to the big leagues in less than two years. He has a 5.18 ERA (3.04 FIP) in 24.1 innings spread across three starts and five relief appearances so far, and both his walk (1.11 BB/9 and 2.7 BB%) and ground ball (56.0%) rates are excellent. Stroman has also kept the ball in the park (0.74 HR/9 and 7.7 HR/FB%) and kept righties in check (.303 wOBA), though lefties have crushed him (.426 wOBA) and his strikeout rate isn’t anything special (7.77 K/9 and 18.9 K%). A mid-90s four-seamer is his main offering and he uses it a lot, nearly 60% of the time. Stroman also throws a low-90s cutter, mid-80s sliders and changeups, and a low-80s curve. He’s a tiny little guy at 5-foot-9 and 185 lbs., but he’s got a huge arm.

Wednesday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Buehrle is currently in the middle of his best big league season, pitching to a 2.28 ERA (3.36 FIP) in 14 starts and 94.2 innings. His strikeout (5.23 K/9 and 14.2 K%) and ground ball (43.3%) rates are right in line with the rest of his career, but Buehrle has enjoyed an exceptionally low homerun rate so far (0.38 HR/9 and 4.0 HR/FB%). I can’t imagine that’ll stick given his division and home park. Buehrle is walking a career high number of batters (2.47 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%) and righties (.315 wOBA) are having some more luck against him than lefties (.273 wOBA). As always, Buehrle works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter combination, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-80s curves. His current four-seam fastball average velocity (83.6 mph) is the lowest by a non-knuckleballer, non-Jamie Moyer pitcher during the PitchFX era.

Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Hutchison. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Thursday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 23, missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. He’s come back well, with a 3.62 ERA (3.88 FIP) in 14 starts and 82 innings so far this year. His peripherals — 7.68 K/9 (20.6 K%), 2.52 BB/9 (6.8 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (9.5 HR/FB%), and 36.5% grounders — are solid but unspectacular across the board. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split at all, but it’s worth noting Hutchison has been far better on the road (.254 wOBA) than at home (.439) this season. A low-90s fastball is his bread and butter and he throws it a ton, more than 60% of the time. Mid-80s sliders and changeups round out the repertoire. The Yankees roughed Hutchison up for six runs in 3.1 innings back in April.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays were off yesterday, so both bullpens are pretty well rested coming into the series. Closer RHP Casey Janssen (1.73 FIP) anchors a relief crew that also includes setup men RHP Sergio Santos (5.75 FIP in limited time) and RHP Steve Delabar (5.24 FIP). LHP Brett Cecil (2.15 FIP) is currently dealing with a nagging groin issue and could be headed for the disabled list.

If Cecil does wind up on the shelf, Gibbons still has a solid southpaw in LHP Aaron Loup (3.37 FIP). He’s one of those classic funky delivery, low arm slot guys. RHP Todd Redmond (2.91 FIP) is the long man while RHP Dustin McGowan (4.70 FIP) and RHP Chad Jenkins (5.17 FIP) handle the middle innings. You can check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. For everything you need to know about the Blue Jays, head over to Drunk Jays Fans.