The Yanks and O’s meet for the third time this season, though the teams have only been able to play four of the six games they were previously scheduled for, with the Yankees taking all four contests. Unfortunately there’s rain in the forecast once again, and it’s possible tonight’s game will be rained out by the time this post is published. However, we’ll go and preview the two teams anyway as they embark on a brief two- (or one-) game set.
You already know the story with the Yankees — 9-13 since they last played Baltimore, and scuffling in seemingly every which way possible before finally picking up a much-needed win last night. The Orioles are 11-9 over that same time period, though they are currently in last place in the American League East.
On the offensive side of things, the O’s have outdone the Yankees over the last 14 days, with a .329 team wOBA to the Yankees’ .323. Pitching has been a significantly different story, as the O’s starters have thrown to a 3.86 ERA/3.77 FIP/3.71 xFIP over the last two weeks, while Yankee starters have an ugly 4.58 ERA/5.44 FIP/4.29 xFIP line during that time. It’s been a slightly rosier picture for the Yankees on the relief end, with the bullpen putting up a 3.05 ERA/3.73 FIP/3.78 xFIP over the last 14 days, and the O’s relievers a 4.30 ERA/4.17 FIP/4.15 xFIP line.
In tonight’s game, the Yankees get their first-ever look at O’s wunderkind Zach Britton, who’s off to a sterling start in his rookie campaign, throwing up a 2.42 ERA/3.73 FIP/3.80 xFIP over 52 innings. Britton appears to be a disciple of the Rick Porcello don’t-strike-anyone-out-but-get-a-million-ground-balls school of pitching (though Porcello has notably upped his K/9 this season), with a meager 5 K/9, but a superb 54% GB%. Though Britton’s been very good, he also appears to have been the beneficiary of a healthy dose of luck, with one of the larger negative deltas between his ERA and FIP in the league (-1.31, 7th-worst in the AL) to go with a miniscule .219 BABIP and insanely high 82.3% strand rate. Of course, given that groundballers anecdotally seem to post lower BABIPs and higher LOB%s due to the nature of limiting outs made in the air, it’s probably not fair to ascribe all of Britton’s success to luck — I’d love to see someone come out with a study showing that groundball pitchers have some degree of control over the BABIP and LOB% — but he’s still likely due for something of a correction.
Though it seems unlikely that Britton will continue to be a 2.42 ERA pitcher going forward, especially with such a low K/9 and as the league begins to make adjustments, unfortunately for the Yankees they’ve never seen him before. Considering that no-name guys the Yankees haven’t previously seen are one of the team’s death knells, I shudder to think how the Yankee offense will roll over and die against a highly touted lefty in Britton. If there’s any chink in Britton’s armor, it’s that he appears to have had slightly more trouble with lefties than righties, but of course there’s a far smaller sample of lefties in this particular data pool.
The Yankees will counter Britton with Bartolo Colon (3.66 ERA/4.36 FIP/3.23 xFIP), who was decent enough in his last outing against the Red Sox, and still has the best K/9 and BB/9 rates on the staff. Even if the Yankee offense does its usual scuffling-against-a-rookie thing, Colon should at least be able to keep it close against a not-terribly-impressive Oriole offense.
In Thursday night’s game, CC Sabathia (3.47 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.49 xFIP) will look to get back on track after three middling (for him) starts. Sabathia hasn’t recorded a positive WPA score in a start since April 28 against the White Sox, and the Yankees really need a strong outing from their ace as they look to get back on the winning track. The O’s counter with Jeremy Guthrie (3.98 ERA/4.64 FIP/4.08 xFIP), who has actually been the least valuable member of the rotation by fWAR (0.3), but who seems to be capable of spinning a gem just as much as he might implode. The Yankees never seem to have a tremendous amount of trouble with Guthrie — who, though he isn’t walking anyone (1.56 BB/9) is also giving up a ton of home runs (1.56 HR/9, 4th-worst in the AL) — and the Yankees really need to take this game with their ace on the hill.
Here’s who’s hot coming into this series (per wOBA over the last two weeks):
Curtis Granderson – .456
Well, those are some scary numbers. More than half the Baltimore lineup has been raking, while seven of the Yankees’ nine regulars have hit below a .320 wOBA over the last 14 days. Not that you needed me to tell you the offense has been bad, but man has it been ugly when you take a closer look at it.
The smart money is on a split, but it’ll still be disappointing if the Yankees can’t sweep this mini two-game set, even with the specter of a Rookie-They’ve-Never-Seen-Before™ looming.
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