Series Preview: Yankees @ Phillies (6/25-6/27)
The Yankees come into this series a bit cold after being swept by the lowly Tampa Bay Rays. They still sit at 50-25, tied for the best record in baseball with the Red Sox and Astros. The Phillies come into this series 2.5 games behind the division-leading Braves in the NL East, as they come in at 41-34. An array of young, rising stars, it should make for an intriguing series between these two.
Game One: Monday, June 25 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET
Jonathan Loaisiga (1-0, 3.12 ERA) vs. Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82 ERA)
The rookie that came out of nowhere from Double-A Trenton has had mixed results two starts into his Yankees career. His first one was a masterpiece, going five innings of three-hit ball without allowing a run. Loaisiga followed that up with a blunder against the Mariners, lasting just 3.2 innings while allowing six hits and three runs (all earned). Already his third start in the majors, this interleague matchup could decide whether his stay is short-term or long-term as the Yankees fifth starter.
Known to have above-average stuff, Velasquez has had a bumpy ride in 2018 but his numbers don’t tell the whole story. His ERA of 4.82 pops out as certainly a below-average pitcher, but if you exclude his June 8th start against the Brewers, his ERA drops nearly a full run down to 3.87. Velasquez, despite filthy stuff, has struggled to pull everything together in his short career. The right-handed has a career ERA of 4.54, but on the flip side a very good K/9 of 10.0. After a miserable 2017, Velasquez’s FIP this year suggests a drastic improvement, moving from 5.52 to 3.79. We’ll see how his stuff fares in the series opener against the league’s best.
Game One: Tuesday, June 26 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET
Luis Severino (11-2, 2.24 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42 ERA)
Severino continues his ascension to the top ranks when it comes to the best starting pitchers in baseball. In a year that’s seen Masahiro Tanaka continue his 2017 struggles and get injured, Jordan Montgomery receive Tommy John surgery, Sonny Gray not pitching to his potential, and youngsters like Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loaisiga receiving multiple starts, Severino has all but carried this rotation to the best record in baseball. If not for Justin Verlander regaining his magic, Severino would likely be the front runner to be the starting pitcher for the AL in the All-Star Game. He currently sits at third in the AL in ERA (2.24), sixth in strikeouts, tied-for-first in wins, and sixth in innings pitched.
Linked to the Yankees this offseason but never anything more than just rumors, Arrieta is enjoying a nice first season with his new ball club. Many, myself included, didn’t believe he was at all worth a massive contract like the one he received, especially as he ages. Well, he still may not live up to the contract, but so far he has. He’s made the Cubs long regret their decision to pick the slightly younger Yu Darvish over Arrieta who helped them to a World Series. Many remember his incredible run in 2015 when he won NL Cy Young as a member of the Cubs. Honestly one of the most dominant stretches a pitcher has ever had, he went 22-6 that year with a 1.77 ERA. Arrieta followed that up with his first career All Star Game appearance in 2016 before coming back down to earth in 2017 and showing signs of slowing down. Arrieta was one of the best pitchers in baseball the first month of the season before he’s cooled off his past four starts. In that span, he’s seen his ERA go from 2.16 to 3.42 as he’s given up a combined 16 earned runs while lasting 20.2 innings. Before those four starts, Arrieta had not allowed a run in three of his past four starts. We’ll see how he stacks up against another one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Game One: Wednesday, June 27 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET
Luis Cessa (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.44 ERA)
Yankees fans, he’s back! Highly disliked by pinstripe supporters, Cessa has been a spot starter and an injury fill-in for the past few seasons now. Cessa has made four appearances this season, all in relief situations. He’s pitched six innings, while allowing just three hits and two runs and striking out seven. With 14 career starts under his belt, Cessa has shown to be more effective as a reliever than a starter. In 2017, he pitched to a 3.14 ERA in relief appearances compared to a 5.82 ERA in starts. A below-average spot starter, don’t expect Cessa to be around too long after this start.
Zach Eflin, still just 24-years old, has broken out so far this year and been successful for the Phillies. In 2016 and 2017 combined, Eflin made 22 starts and had a 5.85 ERA, while having enormously high FIPs those two years of 5.48 and 6.10. This season, he’s turned things around, as his FIP is now an excellent 2.95 as well as lowering his WHIP down to 1.17. Eflin was also neither a strikeout guy at all pitching to K/9 of 4.4 and 4.9 the past two seasons, but he’s raised it up to 9.2 in 2018. He’s turned his career around all across the board this season and certainly has the pitching advantage in this one.
Players to watch:
Romine has easily been the most improved hitter on the Yankees this season and he’ll get to prove himself even more with Gary Sanchez on the DL possibly for a somewhat extended period of time. Although just a small sample size of 82 ABs, Romine’s hit .305 and has really broken out in the power department with four homers, six doubles, and a slugging percentage of .524. He’s also knocked in 20 runs which is well on pace to be his career-high. Heading into the season, his career WAR was -2.0, but he’s got a 1.3 WAR in 2018. He’s not only greatly improved offensively, but his defensive contributions have also gone unnoticed. Get used to Romine, as Sanchez could be down for awhile.
|Photo Credit: ESNY|
Throughout his Yankees career, Frazier has never really gotten the chance to fully prove himself with the outfield spots being accompanied by Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and then adding Giancarlo Stanton to the mix this year. He’s gotten just 20 ABs so far in 2018, accumulating seven hits for a .350 average. Frazier should be sitting at eight hits and a homer on the season, if not for the abysmal layout of Tropicana Field that resulted in Frazier popping out rather than hitting a homer. He’s been back and forth between Triple-A and the majors, but it seems all the trade rumors revolving his name have died down. On Monday, Brian Cashman told Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News that he’d “like to hold onto him” and that he’s a “big Clint Frazier fan”. The Yanks front office suddenly seems fully onboard to keep Frazier around and hopefully he get a decent chance to prove himself the rest of this season, although that could be difficult barring an injury.
One of the top prospects in baseball not too long ago, Hoskins came up from the minors in 2017 and shredded major-league pitching in his rookie season. In fact, he hit a homer every 9.4 ABs that season, hitting 18 of them in 170 ABs. Hoskins also hit 48 RBIs in just 50 games, which would be on pace for about 150 RBIs in a full season. He slashed .259/.396/.618, but still finished just fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Nearly impossible to keep up that kind of pace, Hoskins has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies thus far in 2018. In 230 ABs, Hoskins has hit 11 homers with 43 RBIs as well as slashing .257/.379/.478. He’s started to turn things around as of late, as he’s went 15-for-42 (.357) over his last ten games and also hitting four homers knocking in ten runs.
By far the best hitter for the Phillies this season, Herrera is well on his way to making his second All-Star Game. Sitting at 13 homers for the season, he’s already two HRs away from his career-high in nearly half as many ABs. While not stealing bases at the rate he did in 2015 and 2016, Herrera so far has a career-high in 2018 in batting average (.305) and slugging (.505). He put up WARs in the 4.0s in 2015 and 2016 before slowing down somewhat in 2017 with a WAR of 2.3. His WAR so far in 2018 of 1.9 is already about to surpass his 2017 total. Herrera was also a great defensive outfielder for several seasons, but according to Baseball Reference, he’s been below-average this season. His defensive WAR has fallen down to -0.4 compared to 1.4, 0.9, and 0.7 in season’s past. Herrera is still putting in a tremendous season and is a force to be reckoned with in this series.
With a rookie from Double-A and a journeyman making up two of the three starts for the Yanks in this series, it could be difficult to take a series win in Philadelphia if the bats don’t do their job. With that being said, expect the Yankees to bounce back from the series sweep and take two of three against the Phillies.
Article by: Spencer Schultz