After taking only one win against the Texas Rangers, the Boston Red Sox (49-50, 10.5 games behind in the AL East) move on to the Bronx to face their ancient rivals, the New York Yankees (59-39, 7.5 games ahead in the AL East). The Red Sox find themselves in last place in the AL East and have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Yankees are 5-5 in their last 10 games. With the trade deadline looming on Tuesday the Red Sox have to succeed or this team may look much different on Wednesday.
STARTING PITCHERS – Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda
Phil Hughes (versus Aaron Cook in the opener) has been average this season, which is an improvement from a terrible 2011. Hughes has lowered his ERA from 5.70 to 4.09, mainly due to an increase in strikeouts (to 8.03 from 5.67) and a decrease in walks (to 2.20 from 3.25). Hughes’s FIP has stayed steady (4.58 in 2011, 4.60 in 2012) and his FIP is lower (4.90 in 2011, 4.27 in 2012). However, Hughes is surrendering the longball in 2012 like they’re going out of style. Even in a bad 2011 he only gave up 9 homers in 17 appearances. This season, Hughes has given up a stunning 22 homers in 19 appearances. Yikes. Let’s take advantage of that short porch!
CC Sabathia (against Jon Lester) is as steady as they come. His Yankee career is littered with low 3 ERAs, 230-ish innings a season, and an increasing K/BB (3.77 this year). Sabathia’s 2011 home run rate of 11.0% is a touch above his usual mid-to-low 8% rate but not dramatically so. What impresses me about Sabathia is his “minus” statistics. In 2012, Sabathia’s ERA- is 79 (which means his ERA is 21% better than the average pitcher), his FIP- is 76 and his xFIP is 80. And he’s been there or thereabout since 2006. Another set is impressive statistics is Sabathia’s “predictive” stats versus what he’s actually done. His ERA is 3.30, compared to his 3.27 FIP, 3.30 xFIP and 3.34 SIERA. With Sabathia what you see is what you get – excellence.
Hiroki Kuroda (facing Felix Doubront in the finale) has been a great signing by the Yankees. With a 3.34 ERA/3.88 FIP/3.75 xFIP and already having 2.3 fWAR (compared to 2.4 fWAR all last season), Kuroda is everything you want in a free agent pitcher. Throw in a 50.4% ground ball rate (due to his 92 mph sinker), a 3.03 K/BB and a 1.18 WHIP, and you have a darned good pitcher. Kuroda’s HR rate of 12.4% is a touch higher than last year’s 11.3% but that can be attributed to the short right field porch. Kudos to Brian Cashman. Damn.
1. Ichiro Suzuki, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
5. Curtis Granderson, CF
6. Raul Ibanez, DH
7. Eric Chavez, 3B
8. Andruw Jones, LF
9. Russell Martin, C
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, Mark Teixeira (.341/.415/.682, .450 wOBA, 186 wRC, 4 homers), Robinson Cano (.353/.389/.529, .387 wOBA, 142 wRC) and Derek Jeter (.333/.385/.458, .369 wOBA, 130 wRC) have been the hot hitters for the Yankees. On the other hand, Andruw Jones (.120/.120/.240, .152 wOBA, -18 wRC), Eric Chavez (.185/.290/.296, .240 wOBA, 42 wRC), Raul Ibanez (.206/.270/.294, .242 wOBA, 43 wRC) and Russell Martin (.207/.281/.414, .310 wOBA, 90 wRC) have been in the freezer.
In the bullpen, Rafael Soriano (1.58 ERA/2.42 FIP/3.52 xFIP) has been excellent in replacing Mariano Rivera as the Yankee closer, and David Robertson (2.05 ERA/2.09 FIP/2.44 xFIP) is turning into one of baseball’s best set-up men. Of those pitchers currently in the pen, only Chad Qualls (6.75 ERA/3.82 FIP/5.58 xFIP) has had a shaky season but his FIP is decent.
LF Brett Gardner (recovery from right elbow surgery) , 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), LHP Pedro Feliciano (recovery from shoulder surgery), RHP Brad Meyers (right shoulder strain), LHP Andy Pettitte (fractured left ankle) and C Austin Romine (back) are on the 60-day DL. 3B Alex Rodriguez (fractured left hand) is on the 15-day DL. RF Nick Swisher (left hip flexor strain) is day-to-day but is not expected to play in this series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the last two weeks, Adrian Gonzalez (.349/.364/.558, .396 wOBA, 147 wRC, 3 homers) continued his post-All Star torrid streak. Adrian is joined by Jacoby Ellsbury (327/.340/.442, .343 wOBA, 111 wRC) on the hot list. The bad news is that Carl Crawford (.219/.265/.219, .237 wOBA, 38 wRC) has cooled off after a hot start, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.179/.258/.429, .296 wOBA, 79 wRC, but 2 homers) is confirming his reputation as a streaky hitter, Daniel Nava (.048/.286/.190, .246 wOBA, 45 wRC) and Ryan Sweeney (.067/.222/.133, .184 wOBA, 2 wRC) are having some bizarre competition as to who can suck more, and Nick Punto (.167/.167/.167, .147 wOBA, -24 wRC) is Puntonian.
As for the starters, Clay Buchholz (2.53 ERA/2.64 FIP/4.09 xFIP) had a great fortnight and Aaron Cook (2.03 ERA/5.09 FIP/4.13 xFIP) continued to defy statistical analysis, although he did get in trouble by surrendering two homers. Meanwhile, Josh Beckett (5.21 ERA/2.70 FIP/4.17 xFIP) keeps getting in trouble with “one bad inning” syndrome (at least it wasn’t the first inning in his last start) and the struggles of Jon Lester (19.13 ERA/12.69 FIP/6.59 xFIP) reached a new low on Sunday, when he surrendered 11 runs in four innings.
In the bullpen, Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/0.82 FIP/1.18 xFIP) seems to have a stranglehold on the Blutarsky ERA award. Padilla is joined in the Bluto by Alfredo Aceves (0.00 ERA/4.57 FIP/6.52 xFIP), although Aceves is getting by with terrible peripherals (4.50 K/9, 7.50 BB/9, .176 BABIP). Junichi Tazawa (2.00 ERA/1.40 FIP/2.38 xFIP) is having a fantastic stretch of appearances, while Mark Melancon (7.94 ERA/3.07 FIP/3.84 xFIP) is not.
With a sweep, the Yankees can deliver a knockout blow to any hope of the Red Sox to win the AL East. At this point, it would seem more like a mercy killing. A sweep would turn the Red Sox into sellers, even despite the second Wild Card slot, as you really shouldn’t gut your team for a one-game chance at the post-season. Now excuse me whilst I start drinking heavily.