The top two offenses in the league square off for three games in the Bronx this weekend as the Yankees (7-4, 1st in the AL East) host the AL West-leading Rangers and try to exact some measure of revenge on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in the 2010 American League Championship Series last October.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Rangers have been the hottest team in baseball, racing out to an MLB-best 9-3 record over their first 12 contests. The Rangers have done it by both clobbering the opposition (AL-leading .360 wOBA) and pitching out of their minds (AL-leading 2.55 staff ERA). I figured Texas was going to be good again, but I don’t think anyone thought they’d bust out of the gate this good.
Receiving outstanding pitching performances from three starters that weren’t even in the team’s rotation by the end of the year last season (one of whom didn’t even make Texas’ ALCS roster) has certainly helped, as Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando have combined to put up a — wait for it — 1.15 ERA in 39 innings. The regression fairy will clearly be rearing its ugly head at some point in the not-too-distant future, but considering that the team was rebuffed by departing free agent Cliff Lee; figured to at least experience something of a falloff in performances from both C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, who both had career years in 2010; saw emerging righthander Tommy Hunter hit the DL to start the season; signed former Cy Young and injury-magnet Brandon Webb in the hopes that he could regain some of his former glory, only to see him predictably hit the DL in spring training and is now trying to work his way back; and wavered on whether or not to install closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation, things couldn’t have possibly gone better for Texas starting pitching-wise, considering the circumstances. The fact that Wilson and Lewis have thus far been the least effective cogs in the rotation speaks volumes to the Rangers’ current pitching depth.
Pretty much everything has gone right for the reigning AL pennant winners — everything that is, except for the fact that they lost Josh Hamilton for 6-8 weeks after this past Tuesday’s game against Detroit. However, as I noted the other day, for as great as Hamilton is, Texas has the depth to withstand Hamilton’s loss, as David Murphy and his career .350 wOBA will slot into left field.
As it so happens, the Yankees will face Texas’ surprising triumvirate this weekend, with Ivan Nova (6.10 ERA/3.35 FIP/4.75 xFIP) getting the start tonight against southpaw Matt Harrison (1.29 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.51 xFIP). While it’s only been two starts, Harrison’s probably been the biggest surprise on the Ranger staff so far, considering that he posted a 5.29 ERA in 34 starting innings and a 4.26 ERA in 44.1 relief innings last season. Harrison last started against the Yankees on May 25, 2009, and gave up seven runs over five innings. He saw them in relief three times last season, giving up three earned runs in three total innings.
Harrison has great velocity on his heater for a lefty (93.0mph thus far this season; 91.2mph for his career), and his weighted fastball is currently the second-most valuable in all of baseball behind Justin Verlander‘s, at 5.7 runs above average. Thus far this season Harrison’s thrown more two-seamers than four-seamers (unlike last season), and if he’s experienced a breakthrough on the former pitch that could explain some of his newfound success. One thing possibly working against Harrison heading into tonight is that the Yankees have barely faced any lefties on the young season, and generally hit them pretty well (.348 wOBA vs. lefties last season, tied for 1st in the AL), although that doesn’t really have any bearing on this game.
Freddy Garcia (9.00 ERA/4.06 FIP/6.47 xFIP) finally makes his starting debut on Saturday afternoon, facing Derek Holland (2.25 ERA/2.22 FIP/3.73 xFIP). As you may recall, the lefty Holland memorably (well, at least for Rangers fans) shut the Yankees down in Game 4 of the 2010 ALCS after Tommy Hunter couldn’t get out of the 4th inning, keeping the Rangers within striking distance until Bengie Molina‘s home run put Texas ahead and ultimately led to the Rangers taking a decisive 3-1 advantage in the series. If it makes Yankee fans feel any better Holland is 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in two career starts and one career relief appearance against the Yanks.
And in a rare ESPN Sunday Night Marathon Heartbreaker at Yankee Stadium, CC Sabathia (1.45 ERA/2.52 FIP/3.69 xFIP) squares off against the nigh-unhittable-thus-far former reliever Alexi Ogando (0.00 ERA/2.52 FIP/3.91 xFIP). Seriously, Ogando’s given up four hits and zero runs in his 13 innings of work on the season. While his .095 BAA and .118 BABIP are laughably unsustainable, that doesn’t mean he isn’t the real deal. He did have to leave his last start due to a blister on his right index finger, which may bear watching. Ogando has of course never started against the Yankees, and held them scoreless in four regular season relief appearances last season.
Here are the two teams’ offense and pitching numbers:
Not to take the wind out of the Rangers’ sails, but there are several red flags in their pitching ledger signaling that the exceptionally good times probably aren’t going to last. For one, the staff’s AL-leading 2.55 ERA is more than a run higher than its FIP, while its xFIP — which has the highest correlation with future ERA of all the pitching metrics — of 4.20 and tERA of 4.38 also indicate that Texas’ pitching is due to come back to earth.
Additionally, despite the teeny-tiny ERA, the team really isn’t striking too many batters out (6.03 K/9, 11th in the AL), but that hasn’t mattered because they’ve barely allowed anyone to hit their way on base, as the staff boasts a completely unsustainable .204 batting average against and .232 BABIP, not to mention the fact that the few men who have reached (1.10 WHIP, 1st in the AL) have been stranded to the tune of 78% of the time, for a rate just below the 90th percentile. To put that in perspective, the top team strand rate in the AL last year belonged to the Rays, at 75.2%. Oh, and the Rangers have only yielded 0.59 home runs per nine innings, though that’s probably been partially artificially suppressed as a result of playing half their games thus far in Comerica Park and Safeco Field.
Oh, and the bullpen, which was the best in the AL last season? While the relief corps has posted the second-best ERA in the league, it’s also outpitched its peripherals perhaps even moreso than the rotation has, patching together a 4.46 FIP and registering a 5.50 tERA — dead-last in the AL.
Similar to our friends from Baltimore prior to this week’s two-game set, this is a stat ledger begging to be regressed, and it’s hard to imagine it not coming at least partially at the hands of the Yankees, who have hit the most home runs in baseball and play in one of the more homer-happy parks in the game.
Not that this is going to be a cakewalk for the Yankees by any stretch of the imagination — Texas’ offense is just as good, if not better than the Bombers’, and it’s not difficult to imagine three straight slugfests between these two offensive powerhouses. That being said, though Nova will have his work cut out for him, I feel confident in the Yankees being able to touch Harrison up for a few runs; and I also think they can get to Holland as well. Both have obviously been stellar in the early-going, but I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to have too much trouble with a pair of hard-throwing lefties. Now, if Harrison and Holland were members of the Can’t-Crack-90mph club, I’d be a bit more worried.
Of course, no one knows what Freddy Garcia will do on Saturday, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he dug the Yankees an early hole. The Sabathia-Ogando game should be a treat, and while Ogando has been very good, he’s not going to carry a 0.00 ERA for much longer — combined with the fact that CC is still winless, I’d hope the Yankees would figure out a way to win that one. In any event, the call here is Yankees two out of three, with the regression monkey hopefully emerging from its slumber.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- the tao of badass pdf on What about Austin Romine?
- Joey Parkhill on Dante Bichette Jr’s Swing
- lululemon factory outlet on Contact Us
- Cary on Will R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball Succeed In A Domed Stadium?
- Brenna on Links: Prospects, Support for A-Rod, Mariano is Love and Who’s in Center?
- Louis Vuitton Outlet Sale Singapore on The Monthly Prospector: April Edition
- Authentic Louis Vuitton Outlet Store on The Monthly Prospector: June Edition
- Louis Vuitton Outlet San Diego on Banuelos to Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Yankees Prospectors to Undergo Grief Counseling
- related web site on The Great Subway Race
- get your lover back on Contact Us
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees