The Jays get back on the road tomorrow afternoon for a four-game series (all afternoon games) at the new Yankee Stadium 3 - 6 July (I guess they're technically in New York already, but you get the idea). After dropping the series to the Rays at home, it is even more important to have a good showing this weekend.
The Jays hope Brian Tallet can bounce back from his mediocre start last weekend (six walks in six innings is too many) and the Yankees turn to A.J. Burnett, who dominated the Mets last week. On Independence Day here in the States, we send out the Doc to try continue his fine pitching against the Yankees (6-1, 54.0 IP, 13 R, 31 K, 7 BB since last year) and the Yankees counter with Chien-Ming Wang. On Sunday afternoon, Scott Richmond looks for a little revenge against the lineup that tagged him for five runs in less than two innings on 13 May and Joba Chamberlain starts for the Yanks. Finally, the series wraps up on Monday with Ricky Romero, who's been lights out since the beginning of June (5-1, 42 1/3 IP, 40 K, 14 BB), facing Andy Pettitte. C.C. pitches tonight, so we won't be facing him (though it would be hard not to see his "Purpose-built Body"). Thanks to the Kinks, by the way, for today's post-title, which refers to the Yankees writing off the construction of their stadium from revenue-sharing responsibilities.
A.J. Burnett (6-4, 3.93, 1.372 WHIP)
We all know A.J. well enough. Through 94 innings over 15 starts this season, Burnett has been pretty fortunate, sporting a 3.93 ERA in spite of issuing 47 walks (4.5 BB/9) thanks to a tidy BABIP of .284 and a very high strand-rate of 77.9%. He's been a bit prone to giving up homers this season, but flyball pitchers tend to give up homeruns and sometimes those homeruns are in bunches. His HR/Flyball rate (13%) is not terribly out of line with his career norms and any variation that we have seen could likely be due to pitching in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. His FIP is a much higher 4.66, so as his strand-rate comes back down to Earth, his ERA should move in the opposite direction
In his 15 starts, Burnett as PQSed 3, 5, 2, 2, 4, 5, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 0, 5, 5 and 5 for a mean of 3.6, a Dominance-rate of 60% and a Disaster-rate of just 7%. Hopefully the Jays can give him his second zero in seven starts, but Burnett may be hitting his stride.
Bizarrely, Burnett has exhibited strong reverse platoon splits this year, keeping lefties in check (.209 / .320 / .351; 2.07 KBB) but having trouble with righties (.275 / .358 / .458; 1.78 K/BB). Some of this difference could be attributable to difference in BABIP between lefties (.268) and righties (.302), but certainly not all of it. Over his career, Burnett has been about equally tough on both lefties and righties.
Burnett, as we know, pairs a 94 mph four-seam fastball with a devastating curve. Although he also throws a change on occasion, Burnett is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, and he uses his big hook as a change of both pace and plane in relation to his fastball.
Chien-Ming Wang (1-6, 10.06, 2.127 WHIP)
After his 2008 season was cut short by a baserunning injury last year, hopes were high for Wang's return. Unfortunately for Wang, he ran into trouble almost immediately and the Yankees DLed him after giving up 23 runs on as many hits and six walks in just six innings over his first three starts. Since his return on 22 May, Wang has been much improved but has not necessarily been great either (30 2/3 IP, 37 H, 26 K, 12 BB). Overall, with 28 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings, Wang's actually improved his strikeout-rate dramatically (5.8 K/9 in 2008 vs. 4.2 K/9 career), but his walk-rate has also jumped (4.4 BB/9 in 2008 vs. 2.7 BB/9 career). Wang's real problems this year stem from his atrocious luck on balls in play (.422 BABIP), but that will come down. His linedrive-rate is actually a tad lower this season than last, so Wang should be okay the rest of the season, in spite of currently sporting an ERA over 10. Nonetheless, an FIP of 5.28 is nothing to brag about.
So far this season, lefties have absolutely mashed Wang (.409 / .481 / .677; 0.82 K/BB), while righties have also mashed him (.324 / .382 / .485; 2.71 K/BB), but not absolutely. Over his career, lefties (.284 / .344 / .417; 0.99 K/BB) have hit him better, but not to an insane degree, than righties (.261 / .312 / .345; 2.36 K/BB).
Wang is a two-seam fastball pitcher who, like most sinkerball pitchers, is most effective when he keeps the ball down in the zone. He mixes in a slider occasionally, but it's really just the sinker over and over.
Joba Chamberlain (4-2, 3.89, 1.469 WHIP)
I can't really stand Chamberlain. I really hope we hit him hard. I tried to find the clip of Aubrey Huff's homerun off him for us all, but I don't know if mlb.com is hosting it. Anyway, Chamberlain has pitched 81 innings over 15 starts so far and, outside of some control issues (40 BB and 9 HBP) he's been pretty good. He's struck out 73 (8.1 K/9) against those 40 walks (4.4 BB/9), so although he has been putting runners on, he has also been keeping bats off the ball. Those high strikeout- and walk-rates do come at a pretty costly price, though. His inefficiency has frequently kept him from getting through the seventh (he's pitched seven innings once and eight innings once) and he averages around 5 1/2 innings per start. The Yankees have been limiting his innings, but that is not the reason for it, as he has thrown at least 100 pitches in seven of his starts (and at least 90 in four others). He's also been assisted by a strand-rate of 77%, though his BABIP is pretty normal. Last season, in Chamberlains first career start, the Jays were quite patient against him and he was out of the game very early (granted, he was on a strict pitch count of 65). They might be wise to employ that strategy again on Sunday.
In 15 starts, Chamberlain has PQSed 5, 0, 1, 5, 3, 4, 4, 0, 0, 4, 5, 0, 3, 4 and 2 for a mean of 2.7 and Dominance-/Disaster-rates of 47% and 33%, respectively. The disaster-rate is so high because Chamberlain has been so inefficient that he's had trouble getting through the fifth inning at times.
Chamberlain has had some trouble this season against righties (.276 / .347 / .470; 2.67 K/BB), but he's kept lefties at bay pretty well (.250 / .373 / .357; 1.46 K/BB). Over his career, Chamberlain's been about equally effective, regardless of batter handedness, but he does tend to nibble against lefties and generally prefers walking them to coming over the plate when he's behind in the count.
Chamberlain is another primarily two-pitch pitcher. He throws a fastball in the mid-90's or so (do not be alarmed if you have the Yankees broadcast and they claim it is in the high 90's or even 100, I think the Yankee Stadium radar gun measures the speed of the ball as it leaves the pitchers' hands), that has plenty of movement on it. His best pitch, though, is his slider, which is considered one of the best righthanded sliders in baseball. He has experimented with a curve and a change this year, but he's had some trouble locating them.
Andy Pettitte (8-3, 4.25, 1.500 WHIP)
Pettitte's managed to win eight games so far, but his best days are behind him. He's struck out 66 over 97 1/3 innings (5.9 K/9) and walked 37 (3.3 BB/9) en route to 4.57 FIP. As his strand-rate comes down from 74%, his ERA will approach that FIP. Pettitte beat the Jays earlier this season when he pitched six innings and gave up two runs (only one earned), but did walk four and strike out only two. Hopefully his luck catches up to him on Monday and the Jays bats get and stay hot through the series.
Pettitte's started 16 games and has PQSed 5, 4, 3, 4, 1, 3, 3, 3, 4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 5, 0 and 5 for a mean of 3.2 a Dominance-rate of 44% and a Disaster-rate of 19%. I'd like to see the Jays hand him his fourth disaster and his fourth loss on Monday.
As Pettitte has aged, he's platoon splits have become stronger. His career numbers show very muted platoon splits (732 OPS vs. righties, 710 OPS vs. lefties), but in 2009 righties (.291 / .369/ .442; 1.20 K/BB) have killed him, while he's been just as effective against lefties as ever (.268 / .304 / .721; 5.00 K/BB). In 2008, righties OPSed 787 against him and he held lefties to 731.
Pettitte throws a four-seamer in the high-80's and a two-seamer in the mid-80s. He throws a lot of changeups to righties and will throw the cutter to both righties and lefties. He also throws a big curveball.