New York Yankees: Bryce Harper
June, 15, 2012
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com
By November, 2018, The Decision could be in the hands of Bryce Aron Max Harper. At that time, Harper will just have turned 26 ... and he may be the undisputed king of baseball.
The Yankees will no longer have the contracts of Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira. There will likely be new big names with big deals that take their place, but surely they will find enough money to pay Harper, if he wants to come.
And he might want to come. During last year's post-season, the 19-year-old got caught on Twitter rooting for the Yankees. Still rooting for the Yankees, that is.
He grew up -- is growing up? -- a Yankees fan and still considers them his second favorite team. At least, publicly, he has them behind the Nationals.
In October on Twitter, Harper caused a little ruckus by saying, "Really CC getting in this game right now!? Yankees (let's) go, get some runs for ya boy CC!"
After getting flack from some of his followers, he deleted the tweet before clarifying, “I love my Nationals, but if I’m going to root for a team in the postseason it's going to be the Yanks!”
So if Harper is the LeBron James of baseball, the drumbeat is just going to grow. After all, he wears 34 because it adds up to Mickey Mantle's 7. Eventually, Harper may just take his talents to the Bronx.
It might even be inevitable.
UP NOW: My column on the Yankees and the Nats and how Harper and Stephen Strasburg are like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden in 1984. Oh, and this weekend might be a late October preview. Plus, my other column that asks the question if A-Rod is a table-setter and if Derek Jeter will hit .300? Plus, reasons why the Yankees may get better.
ON DECK: I have a Bombers Beat coming up. Plus, the must-read What2Watch4 from Mark Simon.
IN THE HOLE: Live from D.C., it's Wallace Matthews. Wally will guide you through the weekend. The pitching matchups: Tonight, Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76) vs. Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35); Saturday, Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (3-5, 2.91); Sunday, Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64) vs. Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02).
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Will Bryce Harper one day be a Yankee?
June, 15, 2012
By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information
Phil Hughes Stats To Watch
Hughes was very good in his last start against the Mets, taking advantage of their hitters' tendency to take pitches. He got a season-high 24 called strikes and was able to get a strike on pitches that were on (or just off) the outside edge.
Hughes' home run streak has continued into the season. The road portion of this is an oddity. He has allowed one home run in each of his six road starts this season.
Nationals Park is on the spacious side. On ESPN.com's Park Factors, it checks in just below average for home-run friendliness, ranking 17th. Hughes has allowed home runs this season in two parks that were more pitcher-friendly -- Angel Stadium and Tropicana Field.
Gio Gonzalez Stats To Watch
Though Gonzalez is having great success this season, he'll have to overcome a lack of success against the Yankees. He's 1-4 with a 7.27 ERA in five career starts against them.
Gonzalez allowed one run and two hits in 6 2/3 innings in his debut against them in 2009, but has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts versus the Yankees since then. His primary issue has been throwing strikes. He has walked 20 in 26 innings against the Yankees.
He has handled Yankees lefties fairly well. Curtis Granderson is 2-for-13 against him (with a home run), Robinson Cano is 0-for-9 and Raul Ibañez is 0-for-4.
Bryce Harper Stats To Watch
We're guessing you'd name Ken Griffey Jr. as the last teenager to homer against the Yankees, but that would be incorrect.
It was actually Ivan Rodriguez, who was a little less than three months shy of his 20th birthday when he homered against reliever Eric Plunk and the Yankees on Sept. 3, 1991.
Harper, 19, will be a formidable foe for Hughes, though he actually has better numbers against lefties (a Boone Logan or Clay Rapada/Harper matchup late in a game will be fascinating). Overall, he's hitting .303 with a .933 OPS, seven home runs and 19 RBI.
Righties have been able to find holes in Harper's swing down in the strike zone, though that doesn't play to Hughes' primary pitch location. He's 9-for-24 in at-bats versus right-handers that end in the upper-third of the strike zone, but 6-for-43 when the at-bat ends in the lower third. That's partly a product of being susceptible to a good breaking ball.
With two straight series sweeps, the Yankees have won six straight interleague games. Another win would give them their second seven-game interleague winning streak in as many years. Their longest interleague winning streak, thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, is a 13-gamer, overlapping the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
June, 14, 2012
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
The Yankees are at their high-water mark of the season: six wins in a row, two consecutive series sweeps, a dozen games over .500 and, for the second day in a row, alone atop the AL East.
They are, without question, the hottest team in the American League. So what better time could there be than to travel to Washington, D.C., and test themselves against the hottest team in the National League?
Well, how about tomorrow?
Fresh off their sweep of the Braves in Atlanta, which came on the heels of their sweep of the Mets at home, the Yankees will start a three-game series against the NL East-leading Nationals -- who, like the Bombers, are coming off consecutive series sweeps, over the Blue Jays and Red Sox. The Nats have won nine of their last 11, have the second-best record in all of baseball (38-23) and a five-game lead over the second-place Braves.
It might be too early to call this one a possible World Series preview. Or it might not. In any case, it should make for a great weekend of baseball, which just one disappointment: The Yankees will not get to face Stephen Strasburg, who pitched Wednesday and will miss the series.
But they will get a look at 19-year-old slugger Bryce Harper and a couple of pitchers they know rather well, Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez, and one they do not, Jordan Zimmerman.
"I'm excited about it," Joe Girardi said. "They're playing great right now and it's a lot of young kids that seem to be aggressive. They've pitched extremely well. I think they're No. 1 in pitching, No. 1 in defense. They're just playing good baseball, so it should be an exciting weekend."
Alex Rodriguez is particularly interested to get a look at Harper, who he said reminds him of himself at the same age.
"I love big talent. I love unique talent," A-Rod said. "I'm just a baseball fan like you guys are. To see a 19-year-old do some of the things that he's doing, it's pretty darn special. I'm excited to see him."
Rodriguez has obviously watched a lot of highlights, because he was able to break down Harper like a scout: "He's got power, he's electric, a very good baserunner. He reminds me a little bit of Larry Walker as a very good baserunner -- fearless. He's the kind of guy I would pay my money to watch play. I'm sure well after I'm done, I'll be paying my money to watch him play and break all the records."
But one guy A-Rod said he will not mind not seeing live is Strasburg. "I said I'd pay to watch these guys play," he said. "I don't need to be that close."
The Yankees have Phil Hughes going Friday night against Gonzalez, Andy Pettitte going Saturday against Zimmerman and Ivan Nova on Sunday against Jackson.
"They're playing extremely well. We're playing well," Girardi said. "We've got a day to rest up and think about it, and then we'll go at it."
Question: Who do you think is the best team in the National League right now, Davey Johnson's Nationals, or Don Mattingly's Dodgers?
Up now: A bunch of blog items on last night's game, including the Home Run Hitter Who Really Isn't, the starting pitcher pitching like his old self, and the young bullpen coming into its own.
On deck: The fabulous Katie Sharp will have another fine Yankeemetrics post later this morning, and the one and only Andrew Marchand will have an off-day story projecting the performances of some key Yankees off what they've done so far this season. I'll be joining you tomorrow night at Nationals Park to take you through the weekend.
Question No. 2: With David Robertson due to be reactivated tomorrow, which of the relief pitchers would you send down? Cody Eppley? Clay Rapada? David Phelps? Freddy Garcia? Let us know below. (My money's on Phelps). As always, thanks for reading.