Going In, In Brief
The Twins (43-40), who probably should have swept the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, managed to take two of three to win their fourth series in a row. In fact, Minnesota has only lost two series since the beginning of June, carrying an 18-13 record over that period of time. Six critical home games are on the docket before the All-Star break, and with first place within reach it's the most critical stretch of the season so far. The Yankees and the White Sox aren't pushovers by any stretch of the imagination either, meaning our boys will have to come to play.
Visiting Minneapolis are the Yankees (48-34), who are 10-2 in their last 12 games. As usual, the Bombers sport an All-Star lineup, supported by a couple of strong pitching performances. This morning, they're one game off the pace of the BoSox in the AL East, and with their current surge they're no doubt looking at the Twins like C.C. Sabathia [insert generic food joke here].
C.C. Sabathia: There's something different about Sabathia this summer. In spite of having a very solid season overall (balls are staying in the park, good run supression), the strikeouts are down. He's throwing fewer first-pitch strikes, guys aren't swinging at as many balls outside of the strike zone, and I have to believe that it's all coming from one place: his slider. It's been his knee-breaking slider that's been his best pitch for his entire career, but for some reason, this season it's not as sharp. His fastball has been more effective than it's been in three or four years, but FanGraphs charts runs over average on individual's pitch selections. Sabathia's slider, in 2008, was 33.9 runs above average (3.56 runs per 100 pitches); this season it's just 2.2 runs above average (0.59 runs per 100 pitches). Compare that to Francisco Liriano, whose slider is calculated to be 8 runs above average this year. With Sabathia's best pitch taken away, he's still good enough to be very effective with his total arsenal, particularly with the fastball. But there is a chink in the armor. Could it have something to do with his bicep tweak a couple of weeks ago?
|2009 - CC Sabathia||7-5||17||17||2||1||0||0||114.2||98||52||49||10||34||86||3.85||1.15|
A.J. Burnett: The 32-year old right-hander is on a hot streak, having allowed just three earned runs over his last four starts. In that stretch he's struck out 34 men in 27.1 innings, allowing just 16 hits. This is the enigma of A.J. Burnett. Usually he's very serviceable, reliable when healthy to be a good #2 starter in any rotation. But then he goes on streaks like this, absolutely demolishing anyone who steps into the box, and you're suddenly reminded why teams like the Yankees are willing to shell out Ace-esque dough to get him in uniform. His FIP is 4.54, a bit higher than the standard ERA of 3.83. He throws strikes, and it's his curveball that's been his best pitch for a couple of years now. If he can get it to work against some of our free-swingers, it could be another day of strikeouts for Burnett.
|2009 - A.J. Burnett||7-4||16||16||0||0||0||0||101.0||88||46||43||14||49||99||3.83||1.36|
#61 / Pitcher / New York Yankees
Feb 16, 1981
Sergio Mitre: MLB.com lists Mitre as the most likely candidate for the job on Thursday, but there's no guarantee that the Yankees won't choose someone else to pitch for the injured Chien-Ming Wang. If Mitre does get the callup, then the 28-year old right-hander will get his first shot at The Bigs with the Yankees, following stints with the Florida Marlins ('06 - '08) and Chicago Cubs ('01 - '05). He missed all of 2008, having spent three stints on the disabled list with the Marlins in 2007, to have Tommy John surgery last July. Yet the Yankees signed him in November, and after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for androstenedione (while on the DL) he pitched well in triple-A. This could be his first appearance in MLB since September 15, 2007. It should also be noted that Mitre doesn't like you. His mug shot confirms it, and I thought you should be aware.
Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod is still on his down year, hitting just .244, but when your OBP is .412 and you can still slug .517, nobody should care about a lousy batting average. This is what great hitters do. They find other ways to get on base and get the job done. I know he turns 34 in a couple of weeks, but I have to believe this is less telling of a decline on the part of Rodriguez, and more just a bump in the road. He's a .305 career hitter, and I'd bet he'll top that mark once or twice more in a season before he retires in about ten years. He'll hit a slider just as easily as a fastball, so the best thing to do against him is to mix up the speeds, mix up the locations and just keep the ball at his knees.
|2009 - Alex Rodriguez||52||176||28||43||6||0||14||43||45||31||2||0||.244||.412||.517|
Derek Jeter: I love to hate Jeter, I really do. I love to hate his over-rated defense, I love to hate his attitude when he turns around and complains to the umpire about a called third strike, and I love to hate how he represents the great dynasty of the Yankees over the last fifteen years. But there's no denying that he's one of the game's best hitters, in the history of baseball. You can't ask any more, at least offensively, from a shortstop who's put up numbers like Jeter year after year, and he's still not slowing down. He's a great fastball hitter, and a great contact hitter in general, so Twins pitchers shouldn't be afraid to feed him a steady diet of breaking balls.
|2009 - Derek Jeter||76||315||52||99||15||0||10||35||38||40||17||3||.314||.393||.457|
Robinson Cano: He's having a bounceback season, hitting more like he did in 2007 although not nearly as elite as he was in '06. Not particularly weak against either hand, Cano is another great fastball hitter. There are no easy outs in most of the Bomber batting order, so hopefully our boys are feeling their off-speed and breaking pitches this week.
|2009 - Robinson Cano||81||333||54||101||21||1||13||43||16||27||4||4||.303||.335||.489|
Mark Teixeira: He's just good. Really, really, realy good. Tex is hitting a few more fly balls than usual this year, and not as many line drives, meaning his BABIP and batting average have suffered a bit. In spite of it, he's still having a superb season at the dish (.928 OPS), and according to FanGraphs he's an even better fastball hitter than the guys I just mentioned.
|2009 - Mark Teixeira||78||304||52||83||23||0||20||61||48||52||1||0||.273||.382||.546|