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Previewing The Yankees Series

I haven’t done much of this in this blog since I started it back in September, but I thought it might be fun to look ahead at the Royals next opponent since there’s no news of any significance from an off-day. Beginning tonight, the Royals face off against the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. This whole six-game road trip is going to be an excellent test for the Royals as they figure out exactly what type of team they are going to be moving forward for the rest of the season. As you know, the Royals right now sit at 18-16 and in second place in the American League Central. Of course, the division is pretty much upside down, so essentially nobody thinks the Royals can keep this up. The encouraging this is that based on their run differential, they should be an 18-16 team, so regression to the mean in that sense is unlikely.

The Yankees, however, are 19-13 and tied with the Rays for first place in the American League East. Their run differential indicates that they should be 20-12, so they’re playing just a bit below their true talent level. Offensively, the Royals and Yankees have both scored 170 runs which is tied for the most in the American League with Texas. The Yankees, though, have scored more runs per game because they have played two less games than the Royals and four less games than the Rangers. Still, this is a battle of two very good offenses, which is something I never thought I’d be saying about a Royals/Yankees series. Let’s start with the offense of the Yankees.

They are led by Curtis Granderson who the Royals know well from his days with the Tigers. In his second year with the Yankees, he’s making the team look good for giving up Austin Jackson (along with others) to acquire him. He’s hitting .283/.359/.646 with 11 homers. The usual suspects are propelling the Yankees offense behind him with Mark Teixeira hitting .259/.382/.571 and Robinson Cano hitting .290/.313/.556. Alex Rodriguez started the season on a tear, but is down to .263/.364/.485 which is a line most teams would love to have, but I’m sure there’s hand wringing in New York over his decrease in production. The other player providing a lot of offense for the Yankees is Russell Martin who, right now, is a candidate for comeback player of the year as he is hitting .264/.368/.516 with six homers and what seems to be pretty good defense from the catcher position.

There are some Yankees struggling with the bat like Nick Swisher (.217/.338/.302) and Jorge Posada (.152/.257/.354). You also may have heard about the demise of the Yankees captain, Derek Jeter. I personally find the whole situation somewhat amusing as they bid against themselves to re-sign him, getting in a public shouting match along the way and then one of the Steinbrenners (I can never keep them straight) making a comment about building mansions that was clearly directed toward Cap’n Jetes (h/t to Rob Neyer for that name). He’s hitting .276/.331/.350, but it took a 4-6 day with two homers on Sunday to get him there. It happens. Players get old and they can no longer do what they once did. Most of them, though, aren’t on contracts that take them to their 40th birthday and pay them over $50 million in that time. When the Yankees make a misstep, I have to be honest when I say that I absolutely love it.

The area where the Yankees have the advantage as a team over the Royals is with their pitching staff where they have a 3.70 team ERA compared to the Royals 4.23 team ERA. The Royals will face Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova this week and the three of them have been okay for the Yankees this year. Surprisingly, Garcia has had the best numbers of any of them. He’s 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA and striking out almost a batter an inning. He’s allowing a fair number of baserunners, though, so the Royals have a chance to do well against him as they have in the past when he was with the Tigers and White Sox. Burnett is, as always, a bit of an enigma. He’s started off pretty well this year, but is always susceptible to getting rocked, and the Royals have a lineup this year that might actually be trouble for them. Ivan Nova has been the worst of the bunch, but has been much better recently, and might actually prove to be the toughest matchup of the series for the Royals.

The Yankees bullpen is pretty solid, and is of course anchored by the legendary Mariano Rivera. David Robertson has been somehow effective despite a WHIP of 1.54. A lot of that can be attributed to his 16 strikeouts in 12.1 innings, but at some point he’ll have to come back to Earth unless he stops giving up hits and walks. The bullpens figure to be important in this series as both teams are pretty adept at working the count and getting starters out of games a little earlier than their team would like. Boy, I never thought I’d write that about the Royals. Still, the Royals play a lot of games that are won in the late innings. Against the Yankees, you have to assume they won’t be able to do it in the ninth against Rivera, so they’ll have to get to Robertson, Soriano, Logan, Chamberlain, etc.

For the first time in a long time, I actually think this series might be pretty fun to watch. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m incredibly excited to see Eric Hosmer take aim at the short porch in right field. It’s a little bit strange to be so excited about seeing a guy ready to play his fourth game at Yankee Stadium, but that’s what a good weekend will do. The Royals will throw Davies, Chen and O’Sullivan out there, so that might end up being trouble, but if they’re in the game late, I expect the Royals to find a way to win. I think they pull one game out of this series, but are close in both the losses. This road trip is important, and one win in Yankee Stadium will be enough to keep things on track as long as they win two in Detroit, which is no easy task, but necessary if they want to keep their contention hopes alive.

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