Series Preview: Yankees vs. Tigers II

The Yankees and Tigers last squared off in mid-May, with Yankeeist’s own MJR catching all four games in Detroit while visiting a friend. Unfortunately for Mike he not only saw the Yankees lose three times but bore witness to the horror of the Bombers inexplicably being shutout twice in those three games. Somewhat incredibly, this means that Mike has attended 33% of the six games in which the Yankees have been shutout this season, only two of which have come at home. Fortunately for the good guys Detroit’s been in a freefall since that series, going from 20-15 and 2.5 games out of first to 57-60 as of this writing, and 10 games out of first, essentially already eliminated from postseason play (CoolStandings has Detroit’s overall playoff chances at 0.1%). Unfortunately for the good guys they’re coming off a disappointing series against the Royals in which they only managed a split against one of the worst teams in baseball.

The Tigers have been simultaneously betrayed by their offense — save for Miguel Cabrera, in the midst of yet another MVP-caliber season (2nd in the AL with a .436 wOBA) — and their pitching, never a good sign for a team looking to contend. Outside of Cabrera, the only batters doing much of anything for the Tigers are Johnny Damon (.350 wOBA over the last 30 days, a touch under his .349 season wOBA), Austin Jackson (.326 wOBA over the last 30 days, with a .338 season wOBA) and Ramon Santiago (.337 wOBA over the last 30 days). Magglio Ordonez had been raking (.375 wOBA) before hitting the shelf with an ankle injury, and Brennan Boesch, who seemed to get a hit in every single at-bat against the Yankees back in May has plummeted back to earth, with a .188 wOBA over the last 30 days.

Detroit’s pitching has also been pretty awful during the past month, with a 4.85 ERA (12th in the AL in that span) and 4.63 FIP (also 12th in the AL). Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have been the team’s two best hurlers of late, though neither has been outright dominant (1.33 and 1.34 WHIPs, respectively).

In the first game Javier Vazquez (4.90 ERA; 5.12 FIP; 4.76 xFIP) faces the aforementioned Scherzer (4.03 ERA; 4.10 FIP; 4.11 xFIP). Javy had what was his best outing of the season at that point against the Tigers back in May, but was the hard-luck loser against Rick Porcello. Javy’s results have been a mixed bag this year, with the bad unfortunately outweighing the good. He’s also been quite a bit worse at home (6.02 FIP; 2.35 HR/9) than on the road (4.60 FIP; 1.17 HR/9). Scherzer has the opposite problem; pitching better in the friendly pitching confines of Comerica Park (3.87 FIP) than elsewhere (4.37 FIP). After a string of pretty terrible outings, one might suspect Javy would be due for a quality start, dead arm be damned, but then again it’s been near-impossible to predict what Vazquez will provide, so this contest could very well go to the Tigers.

In the second game CC Sabathia (3.14 ERA; 3.59 FIP; 3.95 xFIP) toes the rubber for a rematch with Justin Verlander (3.72 ERA; 3.21 FIP; 4.00 xFIP). Verlander got the best of CC last time, as Sabathia gave up six runs while Verlander threw 6 2/3 scoreless frames en route to a shutout of the Yanks. Sabathia’s been ol’ reliable during the second half, and I would expect the big man to exact a certain level of revenge this time out. Look for the Yanks to take this one.

The third game sees Dustin Moseley (4.41 ERA; 5.57 FIP; 4.62 xFIP) face Jeremy Bonderman (5.16 ERA; 4.37 FIP; 4.34 xFIP) in the battle of who can suck less. While Moseley’s shown flashes of brilliance, he’s far too inconsistent to count on getting a victory out of him. On the flip side, Bonderman has publicly stated that he’s contemplating retirement after the season, which, were that the case, would represent quite a fall from grace from the pitcher who looked like he might Perfect-Game the Yanks in the clinching game of the 2006 ALDS. Bonderman’s also been pretty lousy over the last 30 days, with a 6.43 ERA and 4.81 FIP, so hopefully the Yankees can capitalize.

And the finale has Phil Hughes (3.94 ERA; 3.95 FIP; 4.24 xFIP) facing Rick Porcello (5.53 ERA; 4.56 FIP; 4.75 xFIP), who, despite sh
utting the Yankees down in May has had a fairly rough season. Porcello’s had two good months (May and July) and two awful ones, and August hasn’t started out any better for the youngster. Despite being a weekday afternoon game, I feel pretty good about the Yankees again administering some payback for that May series. Plus, Hughes had one of his best outings of the year against the Tigers, throwing seven innings of shutout ball, and while that doesn’t have any predictive value for a game three months after the fact, it’s at least something to hang his hat on.

Here are the two teams’ offense and pitching numbers:

Yeesh. I knew the Tigers were struggling, but those are some rough numbers, particularly on the pitching side of the ledger. The Tigers are actually inferior to the Yankees in every category listed here, with the exception of HR/9, which is almost certainly due to their playing 81 games in Comerica Park.

The Yankees should take three of four, but I made the same prediction the last two four-game series and they wound up splitting both times, so I’m calling a split here. If the offense actually decides to find itself, then maybe we could see the Yanks take three of four, but I can only imagine Scherzer and Porcello will win, especially since they each possess the death knell of the 2010 Yankees in their respective repertoires: a changeup.