It’s no secret that Jose Bautista has, in seemingly record time, become the most feared hitter in baseball. What Bautista has accomplished thus far in 2011 this is insane — through a mere 38 games, Bautista has a .549(!) wOBA, which is comprised of a .353/.500(!)/.816(!!) triple slash (both his OBP and SLG lead MLB), and has already accumulated 4.3 fWAR.
ZiPS Update has him finishing the year at .292/.423/.649 (.459 wOBA), which, incredibly, seems almost conservative. Unless he falls off a cliff, Bautista seems like a near-lock to become the Majors’ first 10-fWAR player since both Barry Bonds and Adrian Beltre accomplished the feat in 2004.
All of which is to say, if someone is on base ahead of Jose Bautista, and the game is even remotely close, the Yankees shouldn’t even think about giving Bautista something to hit these next three days. As Mike Axisa found a few weeks back, the Yankees have been getting killed by the other team’s best player for much of the season, and you’d like to think they’ve learned their lesson.
In tonight’s game, reliever Carlos Villanueva (1.48 ERA/3.48 FIP/3.77 xFIP) takes on Bartolo Colon (3.16 ERA/3.52 FIP/2.88 xFIP). According to MLB.com, this is Villanueva’s first start since 2009, and his longest outing this year was a 69-pitch effort in 4 2/3 innings against the Tigers. The Yankees have only seen him on two occasions, both of which were scoreless relief innings, so there isn’t a lot of history here. Villanueva’s also a soft-tosser — though thankfully of the right-handed variety — so it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees do their can’t-hit-junkballers-they’re-seeing-for-the-first-time thing, although given that Villanueva isn’t exactly stretched out, they really should be able to hang a few runs on him.
They’ll need to get to Villanueva sooner rather than later though, because the Blue Jays — for seemingly the 800th year in a row — once again have one of the better bullpens in the league (2.93 ERA, 2nd-best in the AL; though only 8th-best FIP). In fact, the Jays’ bullpen has a 9.1-inning scoreless streak going against the Yankees dating back to Friday, April 29, and so the Bombers will need to do what they can against Toronto’s starters in this series.
For Colon’s part, as Mike Axisa noted, this is the first time this season Colon will be seeing a team for the second time as a starter, and so it’ll be interesting to see if and how he adjusts his gameplan.
In tomorrow night’s game, my favorite and yours Ricky Romero (3.10 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.01 xFIP) takes on CC Sabathia (3.06 ERA/2.80 FIP/3.24 xFIP). Ordinarily I’d be ready to toss a Romero start in the loss column, but for once the Yankees finally have their ace on the hill to counter young Ricky. The Yankees actually managed to get to Romero for two runs last month, and with Sabathia hopefully back in beast mode after last Thursday’s dominant outing, it’d be great to see the Yanks pick up a rare win against the Blue Jays’ ace.
In Wednesday afternoon’s finale, Jo-Jo Reyes (4.07 ERA/3.36 FIP/4.22 xFIP) faces Freddy Garcia (3.12 ERA/4.77 FIP/4.12 xFIP). At this point I think we pretty much know what to expect from Garcia. He seems to be good for around 6 innings of four-run-ish ball, which, on the Yankees, should be serviceable enough to get the job done. Reyes is a lefty and has never faced the Yankees, which, gulp. Fortunately nothing in his pitching profile suggests a particularly great pitcher (-2.3 wFB; 0.4 wSL; -1.7 wCH; 0.0 wCB), as he only gets 35% of his outs on the ground and doesn’t appear to be an overwhelmingly good strikeout pitcher (6.84 K/9; 6.12 career). He’s also been both lucky (0.55 HR/9) and unlucky (absurd .354 BABIP, 2nd-worst among qualified pitchers). Given the whole not-having-seen-him before thing along with the team’s difficulty with left-handed starters this season (.222/.306/.389 in 496 PAs; 79 tOPS+; 96 sOPS+), this could be an incredibly frustrating game.
Here’s who’s hot coming into this series (per wOBA over the last 14 days):
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Blue Jays’ offense has been the second-hottest in baseball during the last two weeks, putting up a .367 wOBA over that time period (second only to the Red Sox’ .370). The Yankees only have the 6th-best mark in the AL during the past 14 days, at .331.
As a team, the Blue Jays have thrown to a 3.73 ERA/3.95 FIP/3.63 xFIP line during the last two weeks, compared with the Yankees’ 3.34/4.29/3.89.
Between Toronto playing good baseball, Bautista hitting out of his mind and the team throwing two starters the Yankees have never seen before, this upcoming set has all the makings of yet another vintage Blue-Jays-Being-Annoying series. However, the Yankees are also playing some pretty good baseball of late themselves, and with their two best pitchers going in Sabathia and Bartolo (still seems weird saying that) they should have a pretty good opportunity to take this series.
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