Longtime readers know I am no fan of Interleague Play, and to me nothing is more emblematic of how pointless it is than the six games the Yankees and Mets are forced to play against each other each year. No offense to the Mets, but in the majority of seasons since the first regular-season interleague games began in 1997, the Yankees have simply been a better team. However, the nature of baseball is such that the Mets are almost always going to wind up swiping a handful of games — only twice in the 14-year history of this series has either team won a decisive five (Yankees in 2009) or all six games (Yankees in 2003) — but considering the New York teams aren’t fighting each other for a playoff spot (and the same of course goes for all AL teams facing NL teams), the corresponding loss of ground in the AL East division race feels that much more annoying.
In any event, the two “rivals” are on different paths once again, with the Amazins seemingly relegated to another year of transition while the Yankees again have World Series aspirations. Of course, in a bitter twist of fate, the Yankees have been doing a pretty good impression of the Mets of late, while the Mets are actually playing some pretty great baseball, having won nine of their last 13. The Mets also have to make due in this series without both their best hitter in David Wright, which the Yankees have to be thankful about given his propensity to feast on Bomber pitching (.314/.375/.540 in 152 career plate appearances), and Ike Davis, who had been tearing the cover off the ball (.398 wOBA). However, even with these two missing in action the Amazins have actually been a surprisingly potent offensive club this season (tied for 5th-best wOBA in the National League), with Jose Reyes ripping it up (.379 wOBA), and Carlos Beltran (.400 wOBA) playing like an All-Stars Even their role players haven’t exactly been offensive black holes, as third-base-replacement Justin Turner is off to a .386 wOBA start and Jason Pridie more than holding his own at a .348 wOBA.
Unfortunately for the Mets, they boast one of the less-effective pitching staffs in the National League (though of course they’re coming off two straight shutouts), with the 11th-worst staff ERA in the league (3.97) and worst FIP (4.34) and xFIP (4.18). This is a bit of a departure for the Mets, who, though they’ve struggled offensively for the last few seasons, had still managed to at least field respectable pitching units (3.73 ERA last season, 6th-best in the NL). Of course, most American League teams would kill for those pitching triple-slash numbers, so it’s not as if the Mets are throwing a bunch of arsonists out to the mound day in and day out, though the league does appear to have finally caught on to 2010 savior R.A. Dickey, while Mike Pelfrey continues to be the Mets’ version of Phil Hughes — flashes of brilliance, but still a ways off from figuring it all out.
In tonight’s game the Yanks get Dickey (5.19 ERA/4.59 FIP/4.29 xIP), and will counter with Freddy Garcia (3.06 ERA/4.76 FIP/3.81 xFIP). Dickey’s only managed three quality starts in eight tries, and most recently got tattooed by the Astros of all teams for six runs over 5.1 innings. Dickey missed out on the Interleague action against the Yanks last year, and last faced them as a reliever with the Twins in 2009, and amassed 9.2 innings of one-run ball over three appearances against the Bombers that season. Given Dickey’s assortment of slop combined with the Yankees’ limp offensive attack of late, this one could be ugly for the good guys, although I actually like Freddy Garcia against the Mets. His game seems ideal against a National League offense, and hopefully he proves me right.
Saturday night’s game features Chris Capuano (4.68 ERA/3.98 FIP/4.04 xFIP) against A.J. Burnett (3.99 ERA/4.68 FIP/3.94 xFIP). The Yankees have not seen Capuano since they went to Milwaukee in 2005, and hit him up for five earned runs in four innings. Of course, that was forever ago and barely anyone on the current Yankees was on that squad, so this may as well be another instance of “Soft-Tosser the Yankees Have Never Faced Before and Will Therefore Dominate.” Don’t be surprised if Capuano tosses a no-no. Burnett actually missed the Mets both times last year, but was great against them in 2009, authoring dual seven-shutout-inning performances. I know Burnett imploded on Monday against the Rays, but he’s still been a good deal more effective this season than many were expecting, and he should be able to beat the Mets.
The Sunday night matinee finale sees Ivan Nova (4.19 ERA/4.55 FIP/4.61 xFIP) take on Pelfrey (5.11 ERA/5.27 FIP/4.86 xFIP). Pelfrey outdueled Hughes at Citi Field last year (unbeknownst to us at the time, this essentially wound up being the beginning of the end of Phil’s previously spectacular season) but gave up five runs at the Stadium a month later in a Mets loss. Pelfrey’s also been much, much better of late — in his last five starts he’s gone seven-plus and only given up one earned run thrice — and a handful of rotten starts at the beginning are really weighing down his overall numbers. That being said, he still has the second-worst FIP among qualified pitchers in the NL, so he shouldn’t be that difficult for the Yankees to get to. Of course, it’s not like Ivan Nova is a lock for a good outing either, though to his credit he’s mostly kept the Yanks in his starts over the last month, and has occasionally shown flashes of brilliance, so who knows.
Here are the two teams’ offense and pitching numbers, with AL and NL ranks in parentheses:
Though the Yankees have superior season-long numbers in most of the above categories, the Mets have still been playing better baseball of late. Despite the Yankees’ 13-run outburst yesterday, one game isn’t anywhere near enough to declare their RISPFail woes dead, and with the Mets’ pitching staff boasting the top strand rate in the National League Yankee fans may end up continuing to tear their hair out re: leaving men on base this weekend. On the flip side, the Mets currently have the worst xFIP in the National League, so hopefully the Yankees will be the beneficiaries of some of that regression.
I’m not crazy about calling the outcome of any Yankee-Met series, because even when the Yankees have appeared to be far, far better than the Mets on paper in the past, the Mets always seem to manage to Met their way to at least one annoying victory. Still, anything less than two out of three for the Yanks this weekend would have to be considered pretty disappointing, considering that they are playing at home and seem to be turning something of a corner after hitting what was presumed to be bottom earlier this week.
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