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Floyd looks to stay hot against Yankees

8/3/2011

A.J. Burnett faces Gavin Floyd when the New York Yankees visit the Chicago White Sox. Here are five things to watch on Wednesday Night Baseball (ESPN, 8 ET):

Gavin Floyd Past 9 Starts

• Gavin Floyd has pitched well over his past three starts -- especially compared to his previous six -- and his biggest improvement has been getting ahead of hitters.

He’s thrown 76 percent first-pitch strikes since the All-Star Break compared to 66 percent in his previous six starts. He’s also had success by throwing his changeup more often, in place of his slider.

• A.J. Burnett will try to avoid losing his 10th game for the second time in three seasons with the Yankees -- he lost 10 games just twice in eight seasons before joining the Yanks (in seasons with at least 10 starts).

A.J. Burnett With Changeup

Burnett has been fighting a disturbing career trend as his average fastball velocity has decreased for four consecutive seasons -- from 95.1 MPH in 2007 to 92.6 MPH this season. Not surprisingly, he’s using it less this season (58 percent of his pitches) than he has in any other season in his career.

Due to the decreased velocity, his changeup isn’t nearly as effective even though he’s throwing it at the highest rate of his career (10 percent of his pitches). And it just hasn’t been any good.

• Adam Dunn, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox in the offseason, is having by far the worst season of his career. Among qualified hitters he’s last in the majors this season in batting average, batting average against lefties, strikeout percentage and Wins Above Replacement.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that if this holds up, Dunn’s OPS this season when compared to his career mark would be the largest difference in major league history (among players with 6,000 career plate appearances).

Brett Gardner

Gardner• With Derek Jeter starting slowly and spending time on the DL, there’s been debate about who should lead off for the Yankees. It’ll be interesting to see who hits there tonight. Brett Gardner is the popular choice because of his speed and it appears that the team performs better with him at the top of the lineup -- but HE hits better when he’s anywhere else in the order.

The Yanks score 5.6 runs per game and hit .270 when Gardner leads off but score just 5.1 runs per game and hit .260 with him lower in the order. Gardner’s batting average and on-base percentage are both 100 points higher when he bats anywhere from 2-9 than when he hits first.

• If the White Sox fall behind, this game will be over. Chicago has 16 comeback wins this season, tied for third-fewest in the majors. The Yankees only have 18 comeback losses, tied for third-fewest in baseball.

Along the same lines, don’t expect much late-inning drama. Both teams have just three walk-off wins this season, only the Rockies have fewer. As for walk-off losses, the Yankees have three and the White Sox have five -- only the Red Sox (one) have fewer than New York.