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W2W4: Yankees at Rangers (April 23)

4/23/2012

Sabathia Matchups to Watch

CC Sabathia has made seven regular-season starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, with a 4.68 ERA.

For those who think the Texas heat may be a contributing factor, there could be something to that. Baseball-Reference.com has a tool that allows you to sort performance by weather. It showed that in every start Sabathia has made there, the game-time temperature was at least 80 degrees.

That won’t be the case tonight. Weather.com has a forecast of 71 degrees at game time in Arlington, dropping into the mid-60s as the game goes on.

As a Yankee, Sabathia is 22-7 with a 2.66 ERA when pitching outside (or with a dome roof open) on the road and the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees. He's 11-9 with a 4.35 ERA in his other road starts.

Sabathia will have a tough time with the Rangers lineup, which is hitting over .300 this season. Though Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young may pose the biggest threats, one player not to be overlooked is Elvis Andrus.

Andrus is 7-for-18 against Sabathia, combining regular season and postseason. Also of note is that despite managing only a .230 batting average, Andrus is hitting the ball hard.

One of our video-tracking groups charts “hard-hit balls,” an imperfect measurement based on observation, but one that can reveal things nonetheless.

Andrus has had 31 percent of his at-bats end with a hard-hit ball, the fifth-best rate in the majors in 2012. That holds up if you look only at balls where Andrus made contact. His 38 percent “hard-hit rate” ranks eighth.

Andrus got hits on about three-quarters of his line drives last season. This season, he’s 4-for-10 when hitting a line drive, a small-sample blip that will likely self-correct with time. The Yankees just hope it won’t be against them.

Holland Matchups to Watch

The Yankees have rapped Derek Holland around before, but the Rangers lefty has emerged as one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Holland is a hard-throwing strike-thrower. His fastball velocity ranks up with David Price among the hardest for a lefty starter in the majors.

Holland has allowed nine home runs in 28 innings pitched against the Yankees. He’s allowed three to the 40 Yankees lefties he’s faced in regular-season play. All other left-handed hitters combined have four home runs against him in 384 plate appearances.

Among active pitchers who have thrown at least 25 innings against the Yankees, Holland has the second-higest ERA against them, 9.00. Jeremy Affeldt’s 9.10 is the only one higher.

Battle of the Bullpens

As good as the Yankees' bullpen has been this season, the Rangers' relievers have been just as good, if not better.

The most impressive thing about the Rangers' bullpen might be the strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 38 2/3 innings, Rangers relievers have struck out 36 and walked only three. Alexi Ogando, put back in the bullpen, has 10 strikeouts and no walks in relief this season.

Ogando has thrown 72 percent strikes this season. The only pitcher with a higher strike rate is Ogando’s teammate, Mike Adams, at 75 percent.

Jeter Watch

Derek Jeter has been a major pest against the Rangers over the last six seasons. In that span, he’s hit .369 against them during the regular season.

That’s third-best among all players in that span, trailing two pretty good hitters -- Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Cabrera, who are each at .373.

Look for another detailed preview from Stats & Information's John Fisher on the Stats & Information blog later today.