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New York Highlanders series preview: Here we are, born to be kings, we’re the princes of the universe

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Look, anyone who doesn’t understand that the possessors of the best record in baseball might be good isn’t paying attention. These guys are immortal. We’ve all seen the movies. This could be a problem for a while.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Friday, May 18 - 7:15 PM CDT - CC Sabathia (L) versus Jake Junis
  • Saturday, May 19 - 6:15 PM CDT - Luis Severino versus Danny Duffy (L)
  • Sunday, May 20 - 1:15 PM CDT - Sonny Gray versus Eric Skoglund (L)

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

Highlanders at Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Game 1
CC Sabathia (L) 7 36.1 28 18.8 5 3.4 2.23 3.61 4.11 3.98 0.8 0.9
Jake Junis 8 51.0 45 21.7 11 5.3 3.53 5.01 4.32 3.97 0.2 1.3
Game 2
Luis Severino 9 59.0 70 30.8 14 6.2 2.14 1.97 2.84 2.92 2.4 2.5
Danny Duffy (L) 9 47.0 41 18.7 22 10.1 6.51 6.19 5.27 4.92 -0.4 -0.4
Game 3
Sonny Gray 8 38.0 32 17.2 24 12.9 6.39 5.14 5.24 5.32 0.2 -0.3
Eric Skoglund (L) 7 40.1 32 18.9 10 5.9 5.58 4.21 4.30 4.21 0.4 0.0

The Royals draw a resurgent CC Sabathia in the first game of the series. Any way you look at it, the Carsten Charles taking the mound this year for the Yankees is the best one they’ve seen since his first couple years in pinstripes. He has been allergic to issuing walks this year. He hasn’t had a full season in which he’s posted a K-BB% this high since 2012. He’s posting the highest percentage of soft contact since 2011, and (small-sample-size alert) his IFFB% is the highest of his career (16.3%). It’s been a couple years since he abandoned his four-seamer, throwing his slider (35.0%) and cutter (34.8%) most often, followed by his sinker and changeup. He’s getting more swings outside the strike zone (38.1% per Pitch Info) than he ever has, which along with his high IFFB% might help account for his atypically low BABIP (.255).

Luis Severino has been completely dominant this season. The numbers don’t lie. He’s the fourth-most valuable pitcher in the game per fWAR, trailing just Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Gerrit Cole. Granted the company he is keeping this season, it’s safe to say the Royals will have a tough go of it on Saturday. He’s looking more and more like a legitimate ace/#1 starter in the real sense (not that nonsense where every team has a #1 starter/participation trophy kind of way).

Unlike his other rotation mates, Sonny Gray has been a disaster. Adjusting to their park the Yankees as an organization have adopted the overarching strategy to shy away from the fastball, and FanGraphs’ Sheryl Ring hypothesized a couple weeks ago that this approach is breaking Gray. It looks like his command is a problem, as he’s not getting ahead of batters at a rate anywhere near where he was before the trade, and his O-Swing% is down.

New York Highlanders position players

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Aaron Judge RF 188 11 33 35 2 .307 .441 .593 .437 178 2.4 2.3
Didi Gregorius (L) SS 175 10 30 31 3 .255 .343 .537 .364 129 1.6 1.4
Giancarlo Stanton DH/OF 180 10 29 26 2 .255 .344 .516 .366 130 1.4 1.2
Gary Sánchez C 155 10 25 30 0 .211 .316 .504 .349 119 1.2 0.9
Brett Gardner (L) LF 177 1 32 13 4 .225 .351 .296 .299 85 0.8 1.1
Gleyber Torres 2B 79 3 10 12 1 .324 .372 .493 .368 131 0.6 0.9
Aaron Hicks (S) CF 117 3 14 15 5 .208 .319 .365 .302 87 0.5 0.4
Ronald Torreyes IF 54 0 5 6 0 .340 .352 .434 .341 113 0.4 0.4
Tyler Austin 1B 92 6 14 19 1 .241 .304 .530 .352 120 0.3 0.4
Austin Romine C 43 0 4 7 0 .289 .372 .368 .332 107 0.2 0.3
Miguel Andújar 3B 138 3 18 14 1 .284 .297 .463 .323 101 0.1 0.0
Clint Frazier OF - - - - - - - - - - - -
Neil Walker (S) 2B/1B 120 0 17 10 0 .210 .300 .257 .254 54 -0.5 -0.4

It’s pretty obvious when looking at their lineup that the Yankees are good. Youngsters Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez have broken out over the past two seasons. Now Gleyber Torres looks to be grabbing the torch. The Yankees are the third-most valuable unit of position players (8.1 fWAR) behind the Braves (?) and Cubs. While the Braves and Cubs get to their WAR differently (in addition to having solid offensive units, they are the fourth and second-most valuable defensive units in the game), the Yankees have a passable defense with arguably the best offense in the game—112 wRC+ is first, .339 wOBA is first, both slightly better than the Braves, who run the bases better than the Yankees, giving them slightly more total value in WAR calculations.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Highlanders?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Royals sweep
    (19 votes)
  • 7%
    Royals take two of three
    (17 votes)
  • 34%
    Highlanders take two of three
    (74 votes)
  • 49%
    Highlanders sweep
    (106 votes)
216 votes total Vote Now