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Downtown Train: a New York Yankees Preview

"I know you hate when they do this in movies."
"I know you hate when they do this in movies."

A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.

Offense: Derek Jeter-SS, Curtis Granderson-CF, Alex Rodriguez-3B, Robinson Cano-2B, Mark Teixeira-1B, Nick Swisher-RF, Raul Ibanez-LF, Eric Chavez-DH, Russell Martin-C. Bench: Chris Stewart-C, Andruw Jones-OF/DH, Jayson Nix-UTIL, Dewayne Wise-OF.

NYY R/G: 4.80. CHW R/G: 4.64. AL AVG R/G: 4.44.

Usually I ignore the opposing team's bench, other than just listing the players to cover myself from hearing "THIS GUY YOU DIDN'T MENTION IS STARTING! WHY ARE YOU SO BAD AT THIS?!?!" and such. But look at that bench. It's like Brian Cashman thinks "The New Colossus" applies only to players the White Sox have cast off. It's a bit creepy, though it will be kind of nice to see some familiar faces during the upcoming four game set. Still wondering when they'll make a move for Mark Teahen though. He's the most versatile bench player of all!

Derek Jeter has led me to believe that the Fountain of Youth is located within as many models and starlets as one can possibly send home with gift baskets. The 38-year-old will pass Cal Ripken Jr. on the career hits list sometime this weekend, all while sporting a .340 wOBA. Hate him all you want for being a Yankee (looking at you, blackoutsox), but the fact that he will still be able to pull off a 15-15 season at this age is beyond impressive. He's still bad defensively. Curtis Granderson may benefit from the short porch in right field more than any Yankee in recent memory not named Johnny Damon. Yes, he displayed good power for a center fielder in his time with the Detroit Tigers but a 41 homerun season when you're previous career high was 30 confirms most suspicions about the benefits of the New Yankee Stadium for lefties. Granderson already has 21 homeruns this year, though his triple slash line and wOBA are more in line with his career norms than they were during his monster 2011. Unless he goes on a tear, he won't be good for many more than 15 stolen bases this season. UZR hates the UIC grad's defense in center.

A-Rod's MVP days are officially behind him, but he should still be able to contribute over the next two or three years if his health holds up. I still get a kick out of the NTC he had included in his last monster contract, as no one in their right mind would trade for that soon to be albatross. The perks are fun to read up on as well. He still has 25-30 homerun power and should be able to swipe 10 bags or so, but expecting much more than a .350-.360 wOBA is asking too much. He's below average defensively and it will be interesting to see how the Yankees handle him and Jeter needing more reps at DH in the future. Robinson Cano continues to be the current hitting god all second basemen aspire to be. He should crack the 30 homerun plateau for the first time this season to go with another wOBA above .370. Once he started drawing walks, he became an even more dangerous hitter, which seems almost unfair. There isn't really a single type of pitch he struggles with either. He's improved defensively, but is still below average.

Mark Teixeira, for whatever reason(s), hasn't been quite the same hitter since signing with New York. His first season in the Bronx was great, but it's been a slow descent into the realm of good ever since. He's always dangerous (especially at home) because of his power, but he's getting less non-homerun hits every year which is a bit concerning. He is the only infielder in the lineup who plays good defense. Other than not drawing walks, Nick Swisher is having a very typical Nick Swisher season: play okay defense, on pace to hit 25+ homeruns, strikeout a good deal. He would maybe be a star player on a team not full of future Hall of Famers, but he's a pretty solid regular to have on a team as well. Sigh.

Raul Ibanez is playing in left field. Not DHing, not playing off the bench on Sundays, but starting on a regular basis. Yeah, it's because Brett Gardner's elbow is worse than soggy macaroni, but it's still an excuse for a gif storm. He's strong enough (11 homeruns so far) to warrant extended playing time, especially on a team with injuries, but he should never be allowed to play in the outfield on a regular basis. He's about a league-average hitter at this point in his career. Eric Chavez somehow has on OPS above .800. That's something he hasn't managed to do since the summer I got my driver's license. The former All-Star has shown a decent amount of pop left in his bat and that's good enough in this decreased run-scoring environment to warrant semi-regular to regular playing time. Russell Martin's strange career devolution continues. He'll be a league-averagish hitter with good power for a catcher and won't hurt you behind the plate. He's a bit above-average at throwing out runners.

Pitching: Hiroki Kuroda-RHP, Phil Hughes-RHP, Ivan Nova-RHP, Freddy Garcia-RHP, Adam Warren-RHP, Rafael Soriano-CL.

NYY RA/G: 3.95. CHW RA/G: 4.11. AL AVG RA/G: 4.34.

And as luck would have it, we get to miss the two most effective pitchers the Yankees have used so far this year, as CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte both landed on the DL yesterday. Pettitte's ankle done exploded and Sabathia pulled his groin on account of storing a superhero in his butt. That leaves Hiroki Kuroda as the de facto ace. Kuroda's HR/9 understandably went up. He did move from Dodger Stadium and the NL after all. His K/9 and BB/9 are a bit off, with the BB/9 being a bit more concerning. This could just be a result of no longer facing pitchers, but we'll have to wait to see. Kuroda keeps the ball down, inducing groundballs about half the time. He does so using a low-90s sinker, a four-seamer of the same speed, a slider, a splitter, and a curveball. Phil Hughes continues to be the Gavin Floyd of the New York rotation, alternating between pitching brilliantly and looking like something you regret stepping in at the drop of a hat. Hughes has good strikeout stuff and seems to finally learned great control, as demonstrated by his 3.86 K/BB ratio. His BABIP and LOB% are right about where they should be as well. So why is he scuffling? He's giving up just under two homeruns per nine innings, which makes things a lot more difficult. That number should come down some, but enough to make Hughes an ace. He tosses a mid-90s four-seamer, a strong curveball, and a changeup.

Ivan Nova had a pretty solid rookie year last season for the Yankees, despite not generating many strikeouts. He seems to have rectified that problem, pushing his K/BB up over 3 while managing to keep generating so many groundballs. If he keeps pitching like this, he could become a wealthy unheralded third or fourth starter for the near future. He's also been suffering on homerun balls this season. Nova uses a mid-90s four-seamer, a curveball, and a slider. Freddy Garcia just keeps on junk-balling along. Rash of injuries? Need someone to fill in for half a year until a prospect is ready to go? Too cheap to pay for a name-brand starter? Just call Sweaty Freddy's Emergency Reclamation Service. In all fairness though, for a guy whose career looked like so much powdered toast back in 2007, he's been pretty valuable to the White Sox and Yankees over the past four seasons. His velocity is gone, but he manages to get by fairly well complimenting his upper-80s sinkers and fastballs with an assortment of sliders, splitters, curveballs, and changeups.

Adam Warren is the emergency starter filling in until Sabathia comes back from the DL or Cashman makes a trade. Warren's future lies in the bullpen, as he really only has a mid-90s fastball. Secondary pitches include a curveball and a cutter, but they're not quite ready for prime time. After Mariano Rivera's knee was torn asunder by the vengeful land in Kansas City, the Bombers learned they would be without their established closer. Eventually the job fell to set-up man Rafael Soriano. He is yet to give up a homerun this year, which is kind of neat. Yeah it's only been 28.2 inning, but I like quirky stuff like that. He uses two pitches: a low-90s fastball and a slider about ten miles slower. Somehow that seems to work for him.

Outlook: The Yankees are the team just ahead of us in both runs scored and runs allowed per game, which makes this season's series seem a lot more doable. Yeah, they currently have the best record in baseball, but their rotation is officially in shambles. 4-3 season series win.

Oh, and thanks for all the kind words during the previews again this year. I'm always a bit sad when I finish the last one.