The A’s roll into town this weekend for the first of six games they’ll eventually have to play at Yankee Stadium this season. The Yankees already got the hard part out of the way, sweeping the A’s — who pitch to a 2.71 ERA/3.37 FIP at home and 3.61/3.77 marks on the road — on their home turf back at the end of May. Now Oakland and its Overstock.com Field-aided pitching staff get to come to the Bronx, where there will be no endless acres of foul territory and a rather unforgiving short porch in right field. That’s not to take away from what the A’s pitchers have done on the season, but as you can see by their splits, they are a decidedly different staff on the road.
Add in the fact that the Yankees are 24-4 against the A’s since the beginning of 2008 — and 12-1 at home during that same time period — along with the A’s being the second-most inept offensive team in the AL this season (83 wRC+) and this weekend has all the makings of another nice series for the Yankees. Of course, on the other hand, one could argue that the A’s’ bad luck in the Bronx is way overdue to turn, though on paper the Yankees really should be able to dispose of Oakland pretty handily.
On offense the A’s are led by…well, no one. Rookie second baseman Jemile Weeks is one of a handfuf of A’s performing at an above-average level, with 111 wRC+. TYA favorite Josh Willingham has a 110 wRC+, and Scott Sizemore has been good for 111 wRC+, though he was hit in the neck by a pitch on Tuesday. Every other player in the regular starting lineup — save Coco Crisp, who is at exactly leagyue average (100 wRC+) is not only currently below-average per wRC+, but only Willingham, Sizemore and Cliff Pennington are even above-average on the road, where one might expect the A’s’ hitters to perform a bit better given their cavernous home ballpark, except that they’re somehow even worse away from home (75 wRC+).
If you want to look at one positive for the A’s then cast your eyes on the bullpen, which has received top-shelf work from Brad Ziegler, Grant Balfour, Andrew Bailey, Joey Devine and Craig Breslow. Only Michael Wuertz and Brian Fuentes have performed below expectations, with both men walking too many batters, though it hasn’t hurt the former as much due to an above-80% strand rate.
The Yankees won’t see him in this series, but it’s also worth noting that rookie starter Guillermo Moscoso features some crazy peripherals — only a 4.94 K/9 and absurdly low 25 GB%, but an even more absurd .209 BABIP has helped him to a 2.96 ERA despite a 4.63 FIP. Fangraphs says Moscoso’s a fastball-curveball-changeup pitcher, though Joe Lefkowitz seems to have those curveballs classified as sliders. Though it only averages 91mph, Moscoso’s actually had the most success with his fastball of anyone on the Oakland staff on a rate basis, with a wFB/C (per Fangraphs, this stat standardizes runs by pitch — showing run values on a per-100-pitch basis — since “it can be difficult to compare regular wFB numbers since pitchers throw different amounts of each pitch. In other words, when you see wFB/C, that represents the amount of runs that pitcher saved with their fastball over the course of 100 fastballs thrown.”) mark of 1.56, slightly higher than Gio’s 1.30.
In tonight’s contest, Trevor Cahill will take on the possibly-getting-his-mojo-back Phil Hughes. Cahill got knocked around a bit early last time these two teams met, but recovered and wound up pitching 6 2/3 fairly strong innings outside of a rough first. Cahill’s got the second-best GB% in the league, so you can basically put a lock on the Yankees grounding out around 10 times tonight. The slow-throwing (89mph sinker) righty gets all those ground balls by inducing weak contact off his sinker, complemented by a solid changeup (3.4 runs above average) and curveball. Hughes saw the A’s twice in 2010, throwing five innings of two-run ball on August 31 and authoring perhaps his best outing of the season on April 21. If any team can help Hughes continue to get back on track, it should be the light-hitting A’s.
On Saturday, Rich “Carl Pavano” Harden is slated to make his fourth start of the season since coming off the DL for the 8,000th time in his career. Harden’s been good, blech and good again in his three outings thus far, and who knows which Harden will show up this time. As you may recall, the Yankees beat him up when he was on Texas last year. Harden gets A.J. Burnett, who’s on pace for a season worth roughly half of what he’s making this year and who I’ve gotten tired of defending and I’d really like to see start pitching better and deeper into games.
In the Sunday finale, Bartolo Colon faces southpaw Gio Gonzalez. As you likely know, Gio has the best fastball on the team and it’s been worth 16.8 runs above average, the fourth-best mark in the American League. Gio complements his fastball — which he throws 65% of the time — with a big curveball and an occasional change. For whatever reason, the Yankees haven’t had much trouble with Gio of late, having scored 14 runs against him over the last 14.2 innings he’s seen them. Of course, he may well be due for a solid outing against them. Fortunately Colon got back on the winning track in his last outing against the Rays, and he also threw a complete-game shutout against the A’s last time out, so this could be a pretty great pitcher’s duel.
I don’t often call for sweeps, but even with their strong pitching staff the A’s are a brutally bad offensive team, and the Yankees really should be able to take all three from a flailing Oakland ballclub this weekend.
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