After a horrible 2-5 road trip, capped off by a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics, the Boston Red Sox (42-40, 7.5 games back) return to Fenway Park to host a four-game series against those damn New York Yankees (49-32, first place). The Yanks are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Red Sox are 4-6 in their last 10. With the Red Sox bats having gone cold and the Yankees pitching well, especially in the bullpen, this series could be a turning point for the Red Sox or a steppingstone to the AL East title for the Yankees.
Hiroki Kuroda (facing Josh Beckett in the opener) has been exactly what the Yankees needed – an innings eater. Kuroda has pitched 102.1 innings this season and has compiled a line of 3.17 ERA/4.00 FIP/3.86 xFIP. Kuroda’s BB/9 of 2.73 is the highest of his career but he’s also striking out 7.04 batters per nine. Kuroda has been a touch susceptible to the long ball this season, giving up 12 this season. Of note is Kuroda’s splits – he a much better pitcher at home than on the road (I know, go figure). Kuroda’s home ERA is 2.56 and has given batters a .216/.277/.343 line at Yankee Stadium but has a 4.01 ERA and has given batters a .277/.341/.473 line on the road. Also, Kuroda is ranked 9th from the bottom of all Major League pitchers in run support with 5.01. So the Sox have that going for them… which is nice.
Phil Hughes (against Franklin Morales in the daytime portion of Saturday’s doubleheader) has not panned out as the ace the Yankees envisioned. He has been better than he was in 2011, but that’s not saying much. Hughes raised his K/9 to 8.49 from a terrible 5.67 in 2011 and lowered his BB/9 to 2.10 from 3.25. Worrying for Hughes is that he is surrendering 1.81 homers per nine innings pitched. With an ERA- of 103 and an FIP- of 109, Hughes commits the biggest sin in Yankeeland – he is average.
Freddy Garcia (versus Felix Doubront Saturday evening) is pitching better than his ERA of 5.94 would suggest. Garcia has a 4.48 FIP, a 3.98 xFIP and a 3.91 SIERA, which is much better than his ERA. Garcia doesn’t walk that many (1.98 BB/9) but hitters just hit ’em where they ain’t, as evidenced by his .283 BA against. As a result, Garcia is only stranding 58.7% of runners on base. That won’t do.
Ivan Nova (up against Jon Lester in Sunday night’s finale) has been a statistical enigma in 2012. For every stat you can find that says he’s been average, you can find one that says he’s been better than average and another that says he’s been worse than average. Nova’s ERA is 4.05, 3% better than average (97 ERA-). His FIP is 4.53 (107 FIP-) but his xFIP is 3.91 (95 xFIP-) and his SIERA is 3.80. One thing is certain – Nova has surrendered 17 homers in 104.1 innings and that’s bad, mm’kay?
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks Robinson Cano has been carrying the Yankees on his back, hitting .404/.426/.788, .503 wOBA, 222 wRC with six homers. Also hitting well in limited action have been DeWayne Wise (.474/.500/1.105, .660 wOBA, 330 wRC), Andruw Jones (.375/.412/.688, .464 wOBA, 196 wRC) and Eric Chavez (.318/.423/.636, .447 wOBA, 184 wRC). On the cold side in the last fortnight have been Mark Teixeira (.195/.314/.390, .307 wOBA, 88 wRC), Nick Swisher (.234/.294/.383, .297 wOBA, 81 wRC) and Curtis Granderson (.178/.333/.333, .318 wOBA, 96 wRC).
In the bullpen, Rafael Soriano is having a stellar season as erstwhile closer, posting a line of 1.72 ERA/2.47 FIP/4.00 xFIP. As xFIP tries to calculate how many runs a pitcher should have surrendered, and as Soriano has a ground ball rate of only 38.0% and has yet to give up a homer, it’s no surprise that his xFIP is on the high side. Also having an excellent season is David Robertson (2.42 ERA/2.13 FIP/2.28 xFIP), he of the gaudy 14.91 K/9. No current member of the Yankee bullpen is having a bad season. Damn.
RHP Michael Pineda (right anterior labral tear) and RHP Mariano Rivera (torn right ACL) are out for the season. RHP David Aardsma (recovery from Tommy John surgery), LHP Cesar Cabral (stress fracture in left elbow), RHP Joba Chamberlain (torn medial collateral ligament, dislocated ankle), LHP Pedro Feliciano (recovery from shoulder surgery), LF Brett Gardner (right elbow), RHP Brad Meyers (right labrum strain), LHP Andy Pettitte (fractured left ankle) and C Austin Romine (back) are on the 60-day DL. LHP CC Sabathia (left groin strain) is on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
The Red Sox need Jobu to take the hex off their bats. On the West Coast road trip, the Red Sox hit .200, scored only 14 runs total and hit .114 (5 for 44) with runners in scoring position. Ugg Lee. In the last two weeks Cody Ross has hit well (.283/.353/.565, .389 wOBA, 143 wRC). Adrian Gonzalez has an excellent batting average of .364 in the last two weeks but that’s it. His other numbers are not impressive: .375 OBP (batting average heavy), .455 SLG, .361 wOBA (below batting average, hard to do), 124 wRC (again, batting average heavy) and a terrible .091 isolated power mark. Other than batting average, this is not what you pay a slugger for.
On the cold side for the Red Sox hitters are pretty much the rest of the Red Sox hitters: Mike Aviles (.231/.268/.308, .260 wOBA, 54 wRC), Will Middlebrooks (.229/.275/.486, .321 wOBA, 96 wRC, rescued by two homers), Ryan Kalish (.216/.237/.270, .217 wOBA, 25 wRC), Daniel Nava (.167/.273/.292, .259 wOBA, 53 wRC), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.158/.220/.395, .265 wOBA, 58 wRC, three homers of six hits), Nick Punto (.059/.111/.059, .087 wOBA, -64(!), glad he’s signed through 2013) and Brent Lillibridge (.000/.000/.000, .000 wOBA, -100 wRC, at least he’s consistent). And for more good news, Dustin Pedroia is going on the disabled list. Beer me, stat!
On the mound, Franklin Morales continues to astound, posting a 1.38 ERA/1.46 FIP/3.03 xFIP in the last two weeks. Aaron Cook (2.25 ERA/3.67 FIP/4.78 xFIP) has pitched well even though advanced stats hate him because he doesn’t strike anyone out (0.90 per nine), although he doesn’t walk anyone (0.45 per nine). Felix Doubront (5.23 ERA/6.46 FIP/5.78 xFIP) continues in a rough patch. In the bullpen during the last two weeks, Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/1.69 FIP/3.04 xFIP) joins Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/2.47 FIP/4.23 xFIP) for the Blutarsky ERA award, with an honorable mention to Franklin Morales who, in the midst of selling beer and washing the cars of his teammates, pitched 1.1 innings of perfect relief. On the flipside, Matt Albers (7.36 ERA/11.80 FIP/5.51 xFIP, 0.00 K/9, 4.91 BB/9) has had a terrible two week stretch.
The New York Yankees could bury the hopes of the Red Sox in 2012 with a repeat of the Boston Massacre this weekend. If the Sox go into the All-Star break 11.5 games back, they could become sellers. The Red Sox could get right back into the AL East race with a sweep of the Yankees. Thank goodness for the second Wild Card spot.