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New York Yankees series preview: Whippersnappers taking charge

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These ain't your daddy's Yankees.

Gary Sanchez, hanger of dongs
Gary Sanchez, hanger of dongs
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

After taking two straight series on the road against playoff contenders, the World Champion Kansas City Royals come home to face the New York Yankees, having won 17 of their last 21 games, rocketing into the playoff conversation. The Yankees come to town somewhat miraculously still just half a game behind the Royals in the hunt for a playoff spot. They sold off two-thirds of their monster bullpen at the deadline, traded Carlos Beltran, and forced retirement upon Alex Rodriguez. A look up and down their roster shows a lot of new names, but their youth and inexperience doesn't seem to be costing them games, despite embracing a youth movement.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Monday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Michael Pineda 25 141.2 160 40 5.02 3.86 3.40 3.47 2.4 0.6
Dillon Gee 26 99.0 80 30 4.55 5.06 4.55 4.32 -0.1 0.3

To look at Pineda's peripherals, he has been relatively solid. Of course, those peripherals normalize his home run rates. His 16.8 HR/FB% is above his career mark of 11.6%. That mark is sixth-worst amongst qualified pitchers. Only his ground-ball tendencies have saved him from a totally disastrous season, but his ERA is still on the wrong side of 5.00, thanks to the dongs and a .338 BABIP. That he has the 20th-best K/BB ratio and tenth-best K-BB% of qualified pitchers certainly supports his claim to have suffered hard luck. Given his high K rates and low walk rates, he should be enjoying a better season, but instead he's been the unluckiest starter when comparing ERA to FIP with a 1.16 run disparity.

Game Two - Tuesday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Masahiro Tanaka 26 168.0 142 28 3.11 3.23 3.50 3.70 4.4 4.1
Edinson Volquez 27 156.2 114 56 4.88 4.38 4.43 4.55 1.6 -0.2

Despite electing not to repair his partially torn UCL last year, Tanaka has stayed off the DL this year and has been worth 4.4 fWAR, tied for the fifth-best mark in baseball. He has kept the dongs down, offsetting an uptick in BABIP to a still lucky .278 mark from last year's .242. His Ks are down a bit, but that hasn't seemed to matter thus far.

Game Three - Wednesday, 7:08 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Luis Cessa 10 30.2 21 8 4.11 5.73 4.57 4.34 -0.1 0.2
Ian Kennedy 26 153.2 153 48 3.57 4.68 4.51 4.04 1.3 3.1

Traded first from the Mets to the Tigers with Michael Fulmer for Yoenis Cespedes and then months later to the Yankees along with Chad Green for Justin Wilson, Cessa has made two starts since getting the call to the bigs. In those starts he twice went six innings. His repertoire and secondary pitches had scouts pegging him for the back of the rotation. Given his relatively pedestrian results thus far, those scouting reports seem to hold water.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Brett Gardner (L) LF 490 7 64 34 13 .259 .346 .367 .316 96 1.6 2.3
Jacoby Ellsbury (L) CF 498 6 56 43 18 .263 .324 .370 .304 87 1.4 2.2
Gary Sanchez C 90 11 18 21 1 .400 .467 .900 .552 258 2.3 2.4
Mark Teixeira (S) 1B 364 11 36 33 2 .204 .288 .346 .280 71 -1.0 -0.4
Didi Gregorius (L) SS 472 17 56 58 6 .285 314 .464 .331 106 2.4 2.1
Starlin Castro 2B 512 18 56 60 4 .269 .303 .431 .313 94 1.1 1.1
Brian McCann (L) DH 396 16 49 50 1 .234 .336 .406 .324 101 1.1 1.2
Aaron Judge RF 47 2 7 7 0 .225 .319 .425 .320 99 0.0 0.3
Ronald Torreyes 3B 109 1 17 19 1 .287 .339 .436 .334 108 0.5 0.6
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Austin Romine C 148 4 12 20 1 .246 .272 .406 .284 73 0.0 -0.0
Tyler Austin 1B 29 1 1 2 1 .138 .138 .241 .160 -12 -0.4 -0.3
Chase Headley (S) 3B 424 12 50 42 4 .255 .330 .396 .315 95 2.0 1.9
Aaron Hicks (S) OF 307 7 27 28 2 .218 .275 .339 .267 62 -0.1 -0.1

Stats through Saturday, August 27

Having bounced up and down prospect lists since what seems like 1990, Gary Sanchez clearly elected to waste zero time establishing himself as a real major-leaguer. In a mere 21 games, he's been worth more than two wins by either WAR measure. Sporting a .552 wOBA will do that for a player. Of course it's unlikely that he'll sustain his .500 ISO or his 45.8 HR/FB%, so hopefully the cool down starts in Kansas City. Other than their smoking hot catcher, the Yankees haven't had a lot of players set themselves apart with star-level performance. Gregorius, Gardner, Headley, and Ellsbury have all been in the neighborhood of slightly above average, if just barely. The Yankees' offensive unit as a whole has been below average, sporting a .311 wOBA and 92 wRC+. With a poor defense hurting them, the 11.5 fWAR that the position players have accumulated ranks 24th in baseball.

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