W2W4: Yankees at Blue Jays (May 16)

Hiroki Kuroda Matchup To Watch

Kuroda and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista have faced each other three times, all in 2008. Bautista homered the first time, than flied out to deep left field the other two.

Bautista has not looked like the player of the last two seasons in 2012. He’s hitting just .195 with eight home runs.

Bautista’s fly balls aren’t traveling as far as they used to. Last season, he averaged a home run for every 4.5 fly balls he hit. That’s dropped to a rate of one of 7.7. And those that aren’t going for home runs are almost always outs.

Bautista hit 10 home runs and drew 35 walks against the Yankees over the last two seasons. The Yankees basically decided that if he was going to beat them, it was going to be against an outside pitch.

Of the 33 times they got Bautista out last season, 25 came on outside pitches, though he still managed nine hits against those offerings.

Kyle Drabek Stats To Watch

In his last two starts against the Yankees, Drabek walked eight in 7 2/3 innings. That’s not unusual. Over the last two seasons, Drabek has averaged six walks per nine innings.

Drabek has been a much better pitcher in his home starts this season than his road ones. He has a 1.93 ERA, with 18 strikeouts, six walks, and one home run allowed in three starts at Rogers Centre, compared to a 5.23 ERA with 15 strikeouts, 18 walks and five homers allowed on the road.

Home runs notwithstanding, a good effort from Drabek usually means a lot of ground balls. He ranks 10th among starting pitchers this season, getting ground balls on 57 percent of the balls hit against him.

The Blue Jays shift

Much like the Tampa Bay Rays employ a variety of shifts, so do the Blue Jays, though theirs are reserved exclusively for left-handed hitters.

The Blue Jays do some unorthodox shifting, sometimes playing their third baseman, Brett Lawrie (who likely earned himself a suspension for a helmet throw after whiffing in Tuesday’s loss to the Rays) behind second base, or even in short right field.

The bold maneuvers by manager John Farrell have worked for much of the season, though Tuesday, in a disastrous seventh inning, they didn’t.

The Blue Jays rank first in the majors in Defensive Efficiency, a stat that measures how often a team turns batted balls into outs.

Our friends at Baseball Info Solutions tell us that the Yankees are 8-for-51 when hitting a ground ball against a shifted defense this season, including Mark Teixeira’s ninth-inning hit against the Orioles. They are 7-for-11 when hitting a line drive.

The average major league hitter nets 12 ground-ball hits and eight line drive hits in that combination of at-bats, so the shift appears to have had some impact.

Also, for those unnerved by the three double plays the Yankees hit into on Tuesday, it should be noted that the Blue Jays lead the majors in double plays turned.

Jeter vs his nemesis

No active pitcher has had better success against Derek Jeter than Blue Jays reliever Casey Janssen, who inherited Toronto’s closer role after an injury to Sergio Santos and some struggles from Francisco Cordero.

Jeter is 0-for-12 with six strikeouts against Janssen. The only pitcher against whom Jeter is worse is Jorge Julio, against whom he was 0-for-14.

Janssen has the ability to get Jeter to chase pitches out of the strike zone. He’s whiffed Jeter four times since 2009, all on pitches that Jeter chased, including a pair of nasty sliders in the dirt.

Jeter had a rough time against the Blue Jays throughout 2011. He was 10-for-64 against them. His .154 batting average and .415 OPS against the Blue Jays last season are his worst single-season numbers against any AL East team.