The Mariners return to Yankee Stadium tonight to play the back-in-sole-possession-of-first-place Yankees (thank you A’s and thank you Angels, for finally showing up against Boston this season) for the last time in 2010. The Yankees are 4-3 against the M’s thus far this year, although the three losses were in games started by arguably the two best pitchers in the American League this season, Felix Hernandez (twice) and Cliff Lee. As you know, Lee is no longer with Seattle, having been traded several hours prior to his scheduled start against the Yankees back in July, but unfortunately King Felix is still front and center and having a season for the ages.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, they remain the worst-hitting team in all of baseball, with a .289 team wOBA. Believe it or not that number is actually worse than it was (.296) when we last previewed the Mariners back on July 8. That being said, they currently boast a top-five pitching staff with a 3.74 starters’ ERA (3.96 FIP) and 3.92 overall mark (4.10 FIP). A fair portion of those numbers are due to Lee’s two-plus month run of excellence, but in addition to Felix (4.8 WAR, 2nd-best in the American League), Doug Fister (2.2 WAR) and Jason Vargas (2.1 WAR) have both had excellent seasons in the rotation as well.
Taking all that into account, despite the Mariners’ poor play this year, the pitching match-ups rather heavily favor Seattle in this set.
A.J. Burnett (4.66 ERA; 4.66 FIP; 4.68 xFIP) vs. Felix Hernandez (2.62 ERA; 3.08 FIP; 3.35 xFIP). I’m not even going to thoroughly analyze this one. Even if A.J. is awesome in this game, King Felix has pitched two complete games in his two starts against the Yankees this season and the Bombers have mustered up a whopping one run in those 18 innings. Seattle’s winning this one.
Javier Vazquez (4.89 ERA; 5.15 FIP; 4.73 xFIP) vs. Jason Vargas (3.15 ERA; 3.96 FIP; 4.74 xFIP). This game has disaster written all over it. Vargas was masterful against the Yankees last time out, while Home Run Javy and his dead arm have been dreadful of late, going 0-2 over his last four starts with a 6.75 ERA while lasting between 4 and 6 1/3 innings. Of course, last time Vazquez faced Seattle he turned in his best outing of the year, throwing seven innings of shutout ball, so maybe the noodle-bat M’s will be just what the doctor ordered for Javy.
CC Sabathia (3.12 ERA; 3.66 FIP; 3.92 xFIP) vs. Luke French (4.02 ERA; 3.93 FIP; 5.42 xFIP). French has actually been very good over the last month, with a 2.93 ERA to go with a 3.09 FIP. However, Sabathia is a beast and should eat the Mariners’ lineup for breakfast, lunch and dinner. French’s numbers and handedness (left) are a bit of a concern for a Yankee lineup that’s had trouble scoring runs against good pitchers this month, but the Yankees must figure out a way to win this one, especially since there’s a decent chance they’ll drop the first two games of this series.
Not that this will be a surprise to anyone, but the Mariners are — across the board — the worst offensive team in the league, dead-last in the three slash stats and of course, wOBA. This is a complete mismatch as far as offenses go, but as we discussed, the Mariners boast some strong starting pitching.
Despite my concerns about The King and Vargas, the return of the Yankee offense this week has reinstilled some confidence and it would be nice to see the Yanks continue to play the way we know they’re capable of playing and take two of three from one of the worst teams in the American League.
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