I don’t know who the Yankees have to thank, but after three games against the Royals and four against the Twins, the Bombers not only get to come back home and play the A’s this week, a team they basically dominate just as much as they do the Twins, but then get five games against the O’s at Camden yards this weekend!. Per RAB, the Yankees are 59-19 against Ron Gardenhire‘s Twins (including the playoffs), and by my own calculations 53-35 against Oakland during that same time period, including an insane 26-5 since the beginning of 2008.
When the Yankees last saw the A’s a month ago they were sporting an 83 wRC+, but things have picked up a bit for Oakland over the last 30 days, as they now sit at 91 wRC+ and have gotten their team wOBA above .300. Still, though one might be able to get away with that kind of low-scoring effort in the National League, that kind of offensive ineptitude could get a GM killed in the AL.
Several members of the A’s who’d been slumping pretty severely coming into last month’s series at Yankee Stadium have picked things up considerably, and the lineup now actually boasts six regulars above a wRC+. Josh Willingham has been the team’s offensive leader all season (127 wRC+), and he’s supported by Scott Sizemore (108), Coco Crisp (104) a solid rookie campaign from Jemile Weeks (100) and a rejuvenated Hideki Matsui (104).
Surprisingly, despite the uptick in offense, the A’s’ pitching has taken a bit of a hit, with the team’s road ERA/FIP going from 3.61/3.77 on July 22 to 4.01/3.86. Still, the bullpen remains a reliable component (3.27 ERA/3.49 FIP/3.98 xFIP) even if it’s not as good as the Yankees’ (2.98/3.19/3.67), although then again, no one’s is.
The A’s’ best starter this season has been former reliever Brandon McCarthy, whose 1.37 BB/09, 0.46 HR/9, 2.82 FIP, 3.39 xFIP and 3.2 fWAR all lead the staff. McCarthy’s managed all this success despite a below-average K/9 (sub-6.00) and the highest BABIP on the staff, which has led to a brutal strand rate of 63.7%. McCarthy’s success appears to be due in part to the addition of a new cutter (Fangraphs has no cutter data on McCarthy prior to this season), which has been worth 8.7 runs above average. He also throws a low-90s four-seamer and a low-90s two-seamer and a curveball, with the occasional slider and changeup, though the latter have been his two least-effective pitches. McCarthy’s actually a free agent after this season, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can parlay his breakout year into a multi-year deal. If the market is cool for McCarthy, depending on how the free agent market shakes out I wouldn’t mind the Yankees giving him a shot if they could land him on a one-year deal.
The one Athletic in the current rotation the Yankees have not previously seen, and still won’t this week, is Guillermo Moscoso, who’s still not striking anyone out but nevertheless appears to be keeping his team in games, even though his peripherals say he’s due for a hurting in a bad way (3.29/4.43/5.15). Moscoso’s managed to make his 91mph four-seamer work very well for him (9.2 wFB), though nothing else in his arsenal has been overly impressive.
In tonight’s game we get Brandon McCarthy vs. Bartolo Colon. I just told you about McCarthy’s stuff two paragraphs ago, so the other tidbit of information you might find useful is that he last started against the Yankees as a member of the Rangers on June 4, 2009, at Yankee Stadium and got killed — six earned runs over four innings. In a very small sample size both Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher have previously crushed McCarthy (>1.500 OPSes). Colon of course threw his finest game of the year (a complete-game shutout) against Oakland back on Memorial Day, and also handled them well in July, so I’d expect him to fare a bit better against the A’s than he did the Royals this past week.
Tomorrow evening’s affair see Trevor Cahill take on CC Sabathia. A year after outpitching his FIP by a greater margin than anyone in the league save Clay Buchholz, a rise in BABIP by nearly .060 has Cahill’s ERA right around where it should be, while his peripherals have stayed largely the same. Not to take anything away from Cahill, but I was far from convinced that last year revealed his true talent level, and not that I want to see anyone needlessly struggle, but it’s a bit satisfying from a statistician’s perspective to see the numbers align with what you expected them to look like. My estimation of Cahill has also taken a beating due to the regular beatings the Yankees always seem to administer to the sinkerballing righty. In his short career Cahill has a 3.89 ERA and 1.31 WHIP against everyone, but those numbers jump to 13.50 and 1.93 across 91 plate appearances against the Yankees. Of course, watch this be the start where he finally figures the Yankees out. Thankfully he’ll be opposed by CC Sabathia.
And the Thursday afternoon (1:05pm) finale features Rich Harden against Phil Hughes. Word came this past weekend that the Yankees are looking at Harden, to which I say if they — unlike Boston — decide they can live with his medicals, sign me the heck up. I’m a firm believer in stockpiling as much pitching depth as you can, and considering how blurry the Yankees’ theoretical playoff rotation looks right now after Sabathia, I’d love to add a strikeout artist like Harden into the mix. The worst that happens is he gets injured — it’s not as if the Yankees don’t have rotation depth right now. Harden’s put together a pretty nice bounceback year — 3.91/4.12/3.74 — and has a shiny 10.19 K/9. Although unfortunately it comes with some ugly BB/9, HR/9 and GB% rates. Harden’s a fastball-slider-splitter-changeup artist, and though his fastball’s not what it once was, it’s still been a fairly effective pitch for the righty. Harden managed to keep the Yankees at bay back in July (5.1 innings, 2 ER) and actually has Oakland’s only win against the Yanks since April 2010. Hughes, for whatever reason, had his worst start since returning from the DL against Oakland on July 22, though he hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of his five outings since, and there’s no reason to expect him not to be competitive against one of the league’s lesser offenses.
The Yankees have just two series losses in the 14 series they’ve played since the beginning of July — Cleveland and Boston, though there are three ties in there as well — and there’s no reason to think they won’t take two of three from one of their favorite patsies this week, especially on their home turf.
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