Monday, July 8, 2013

Series Preview: New York Yankees

Six games into Josh Vernier's "gauntlet", the Royals find themselves 3-3. Vernier has said over and over that how the Royals fair over this stretch will really shine light on the kind of season they will end up. While I partly agree with this sentiment, I think there is also an opportunity for the Royals to make up some ground over the final couple of months. By the end of the "gauntlet", the Royals will have played 99 games. Of their final 63 games, the Royals will play only 28 more against teams that are currently over .500. Of those, 17 will be at home.

If the Royals can finish the "gauntlet" with an even record, the remaining schedule could lend itself to a run. However, before we start looking to far ahead, let's hone in our focus on the Bronx Bombers.


Monday - Phil Hughes 4-7, 4.55 ERA

At one point in time, Phil Hughes was considered as close to a can't miss pitching prospect as you could find. Today, he is pitching in the final year of his indentured servitude to the New York Yankees. The 23rd overall selection of the 2004 Amateur Draft has rewarded to Yankees with 10.6 fWAR and an estimated $46.6 million worth of value as estimated by Fangraphs. Thus far in his career, Phil Hughes has earned $14.1 million.Despite all of this I think nearly everyone would classify Hughes as a major disappointment. He is half a season from free agency and he boasts a 56-43 record with a 4.41 career ERA.

This season, Hughes favorite secondary pitch has shifted from a curve to a much harder slider. This makes sense as last season, his slider was rated as his best pitch, while is curve wasn't fooling many hitters. Hughes has been very susceptible to lefties in 2013, who are hitting .297/.361/.528 against him. Look for Kansas City to sit Cain and Tejada and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Giavotella finds himself on the bench for the third straight game.

Tuesday - C.C. Sabathia 9-6, 4.06 ERA

Sabathia will enter Tuesday night with his highest season ERA since 2004. This number stems almost directly in the highest HR/9 of his 13 year career. Knowing the park in which Sabathia calls one would likely expect that these struggles were the result of Yankee Stadium. This would be an incorrect assumption. On the road Sabathia's HR/9 is 1.52, while it is 1.11 at home (1.11 would still be the highest total for his career).

Sabathia has already given up 18 home runs in 2013, nine of which have come off his fastball. While his fastball has maintained similar movement in 2013, the average velocity of the pitch has dropped from 92.3 mph in 2012 to 90.6 in 2013. Just four seasons ago, Sabathia's fastball averaged 94.2 mph. Despite all of this, the 6'7" lefty is throwing 57.3% of the time, a mark that is still 4% lower than his career norm.

Wendesday - Ivan Nova 3-2, 4.09 ERA

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was attempting to convince a Yankee fan that Ivan Nova wasn't the Yankees best pitcher. It was 2011 and Nova was coming off a campaign that saw him win 16 games despite a K:BB ratio of 1.72. The following year, Nova's ERA jumped from 4.50 to 5.02 and I was relieved.

What I failed to realize was that despite that jump in ERA, Nova had actually transitioned into becoming a halfway decent pitcher. His K:BB ratio jumped to a respectable 2.73. This season that number has climbed even higher to 3.43 and Nova has rediscover his ability to induce ground balls.  He's only started 6 games this season, but he is currently striking out a batter per inning and forcing daisy killers on over 50% of the balls in play. The combination of these two things makes Nova a dangerous pitcher.

Thursday - Andy Pettitte 6-6. 4.37 ERA

Series Notes

Underrated How long can a player be called underrated before that ceases to be the case? Whatever the answer may be, Bret Gardner is pushing the limit. The unheralded prospect from Holy Hill, South Carolina has provided the Yankees with 17.7 bWAR in his six seasons in the Bronx. Among players with at least 4000 innings in the outfield since 2008 (Gardner's debut), Gardner leads all of baseball in UZR/150 at 27.8. Second place is Carlos Gomez at 16.2 and only five other outfielders crack double digits. From about 2009-2011 I harped that the Royals should trade for Gardner, at this point the secret may finally be out.

One Sided All-time the Royals are 183-271 against the New York Yankees and 77-149 in New York. Since 1995, those numbers drop to 43-108 and 17-57. The Dayton Moore led Royals are 18-35 against the Pinstripes and 9-15 in the Bronx.

Decide on the Order So far in 88 games in 2013, Joe Girardi has already put forth 76 different batting orders. In fact, the only spot the he seems to feel comfortable with is lead off, where Bret Gardner has hit 81 times this season. The sixth and seventh holes in the order seem to be the most tumultuous with 15 players appearing in each of the spots. For comparison sake, the Royals have used 67 different orders this season.

Nothing Has Got to Give The Yankees pitching staff currently ranks third in baesball in strikeout to walk ratio, while the Royals rank 20th. Yankees hurlers have been particularly adept at limiting walks, walking just 6.7% of opposing batters, which is good for fourth in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Royals hitters are taking walks in just 6.9% of their plate appearances. Whatever the opposite of saying "something has got to give" is, it applies here.

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