First Pitch: A-Rod ok; Pujols next?
April, 14, 2012
By Mark Simon | ESPNNewYork.com
Now that Alex Rodriguez has gotten past the struggles that kept him down through the season's first six games, who's next to break out?
Albert Pujols is due and the Yankees should take heed.
Pujols is off to a Mark Teixeira-like slow start to 2012. They actually have almost identical numbers in 2012. Pujols has one more hit hit (6) and one fewer at-bat (27), giving him a .222 batting average to Teixeira's .179. Neither has a home run yet. Each has struck out four times.
Pujols is off to a rough beginning for the second straight season. Last season, he hit .179 through his first with one home run through his first seven games.
Pujols shares a common thread with Rodriguez in that he's getting jammed inside a lot early this season, much like Rodriguez was by the Rays and Orioles.
But he's also missing the pitches he should crush. Our pitch-performance data has him as just 4-for-20 on pitches inside the strike zone in 2012, including all three outs in Friday's loss. That's not anything close to Pujols' usual standards.
It leads you to think that his opponents have been getting lucky. And that Pujols is due for a breakout. Phil Hughes, you've been warned.
C.J. WILSON MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each have trouble with Wilson. Teixeira is 0-for-9 against him in the regular season and was 0-for-3 against Wilson in the 2010 ALCS. Rodriguez is 1-for-13 in the regular season, 1-for-5 against Wilson in postseason play.
The binder-consulting decision of the day will come in left field, as Brett Gardner is 1-for-9 against Wilson, but the alternative, Andruw Jones is 0-for-6 against Wilson, and has five strikeouts.
Combining the regular season and postseason, Wilson is winless in six career starts against the Yankees.
The key for the Yankees against him will be lifting the ball. In his first start of the season in Minnesota, Twins hitters hit 17 balls against Wilson, but only hit two in the air.
PHIL HUGHES MATCHUPS TO WATCH:Leftfielder Vernon Wells, who has been in a funk against most of the American League over the last two seasons, has good numbers against Hughes. In his last six at-bats against him, he has two home runs, a triple, and a single.
Both Wilson and Hughes have had issues walking hitters in their matchups with these teams. Hughes has 17 walks in 20 1/3 career innings against the Angels.
In his first start against the Rays, Hughes' success came up in the strike zone and above, where he got nine of his 14 outs.
UP NOW: Wallace Matthews on A-Rod tying Ken Griffey Jr. Johnette Howard on Robinson Cano's move up the Yankees' ladder. Mike Mazzeo on Hiroki's Kuroda's scoreless Stadium debut. Matt Ehalt on Nick Swisher's big hit. Ehalt and Mazzeo on Jorge Posada's first pitch to his dad.
ON DECK: Game time is 1:05 for the Yankees and Angels today. Mazzeo and Ehalt will be on the blog all day.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: How much confidence do you have in Phil Hughes to reach his full potential?
- There are no games scheduled for today.