Stats & Info: New York Yankees

Top stats to know: Yankees at Tigers

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
ESPN Stats & InformationMiguel Cabrera is not as good against the inner-half fastball as he was in 2013.
The Detroit Tigers host the New York Yankees in the second game of their three-game series on “Wednesday Night Baseball” (7 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN). The Tigers took the first game of the series Tuesday as Rick Porcello earned his 15th win of the season, tied for the most in Major League Baseball.

Price changing pace

David Price will make his fifth start for the Tigers since being acquired from the Rays on July 31, and so far, his changeup has keyed his success in the Motor City (see chart).

Hitters have combined to bat .089 (4-for-45) against Price with just one extra-base hit in at-bats ending in a changeup since the trade. That’s the lowest opponent batting average against changeups by any pitcher since Aug. 1 (min. 20 batters faced).

It’s been quite a turnaround for Price as opponents hit .300 (36-for-120) against his changeup in 23 starts with Tampa Bay this season.

Cabrera’s power outage

Miguel Cabrera is on pace to hit .300 or better for the sixth straight season, but he’s not doing it with the power he has in years past. Consider the following:

• Cabrera hasn’t homered since Aug. 2 and ranks sixth on his team in slugging since hitting that home run (.350).

• Since the All-Star break, Cabrera has just 10 extra-base hits -- 3 HRs and 7 doubles -- which works out to an extra-base hit every 17 plate appearances. Cabrera recorded an extra-base hit every nine plate appearances in 2013.

• Cabrera has four homers and is slugging .525 with runners in scoring position this season. Last season, Cabrera hit 18 homers and slugged .782 in the same situations.

The biggest reason for the decline has been Cabrera’s inconsistency against pitches on the inner half of the plate, particularly fastballs. Cabrera is slugging .589 against fastballs on the inner half this season with six home runs. In 2013, Cabrera slugged .788 with 18 home runs on such pitches, both of which led the majors.

Another rookie start for Yankees

Rookie right-hander Shane Greene gets the ball for New York on Wednesday, and it would mark the 53rd start this season by a Yankees rookie.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s easily the most in baseball. Perhaps amazingly, the Bombers are 33-19 in games started by rookies this season (.635). Meanwhile, the Yankees are just 35-43 in all other games in 2014 (.449).

In Greene’s only career appearance against the Tigers, the righty earned the win after throwing eight shutout innings with five strikeouts on Aug. 7 at Yankee Stadium. Greene will be on the road Wednesday, but the righty has been even better away from the Bronx, going 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in four road starts this season.

Price latest of Tigers strong starters

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
It took one game for the newest member of the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, David Price, to make a name for himself in the team’s long history.

Price became the first Tigers pitcher to strike out at least 10 hitters in his debut with the team. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that the previous mark was nine, a record shared by Wild Bill Donovan (1903) and Milt Wilcox (1977).

Price was anything but wild in this one. In fact, Tigers pitchers combined to go walk-free over the 12 innings.

Price was fired up to pitch in this contest, the second of three straight games in which the Tigers would be throwing a Cy Young Award winner against the Yankees (Elias notes it’s the first time a team has faced its league's last three Cy Young Award winners over a three-game span).

He averaged 94.1 mph with his fastball, a mile-per-hour better than his season average (though it should be noted that the seven starts in which he’s averaged his best velocity on his fastball have all come on the road).

It wasn’t Price’s fastball, but rather his changeup, that was a difference-maker for him. He threw 37, resulting in 14 outs (and only two hits allowed). That’s the same number of outs he recorded with the pitch in his last three starts combined.

This was actually the worst of the starts by Tigers pitchers in the last five games, though it provided a preview of how formidable the team's rotation will be. You can see the numbers in the chart above.

Inside the At-Bat: Avila’s game-winning homer
The Yankees had the right idea in pitching to Alex Avila throughout the night, throwing 11 of 16 pitches to the outer half of the plate or off the outside corner.

Entering the night, Avila had put only 31 percent of his swings in play against those pitches. That’s the eighth-lowest rate in the majors this season.

But Avila turned a weakness into a strength, getting both the game-tying seventh-inning single and 12th-inning go-ahead home run on outer-half pitches.

Avila became the first Tigers player to hit a regular-season home run in the 12th inning or later against the Yankees since Lou Whitaker in 1984.

Have no fear, Joe Nathan is here
Tigers closer Joe Nathan earned his 23rd save, though there was a nervous moment when Chase Headley led off the inning with a long fly out to right field.

Nathan has been much maligned for his performance this season but has held the opposition scoreless in 10 of his last 11 appearances.

In that span, he’s netted misses on 34 percent of the swings against him. Prior to this stretch, he was netting misses 22 percent of the time.

Stat of the Night
Both teams actually went walk-free in this game. It marked the first game in which each team pitched at least 12 innings and did not allow a walk since a July 25, 1917, game between the Dodgers and Pirates, started by Hall of Famers Rube Marquard and Burleigh Grimes.

Top stats to know: Yankees at Red Sox

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBrett Gardner is helping the Yankees stay in contention with his career year.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), the Boston Red Sox host the New York Yankees with these teams in positions they’re not used to -- outside the top two in the division.

The Yankees enter the game third in the American League East, with the Red Sox fifth. The last time neither team finished in the top two in the division was 1992. That year, the Toronto Blue Jays won both the AL East and the World Series.

The teams’ relative lack of success hasn’t been due to a lack of spending, as the Yankees (second) and Red Sox (fourth) rank among the highest Opening Day payrolls in baseball, according to The Associated Press.

The Yankees are over .500 despite a negative-29 run differential, thanks in large part to contributions from unexpected players.

Brett Gardner
Gardner has 4.0 wins above replacement this season, a team high. If that number is prorated over 162 team games, he would finish with 5.9.

The last Yankees outfielder other than Gardner to post a season like that was Bernie Williams, who had a WAR of 6.4 in 1995. Gardner has already topped that in his career, with 7.3 in 2010.

The performance shouldn’t be unexpected for Gardner, who has 19.6 WAR since the start of 2010, ninth among all major league outfielders, despite playing just 16 games in 2012. His hard-hit average is up to .177 this season, more than 50 points higher than last year.

Dellin Betances
Dellin Betances
Entering Sunday’s game, no relief pitcher in baseball had more strikeouts this season than Betances’ 96. In fact, the second most is from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel with 75. That 21-strikeout separation is the same as the distance between second and 28th.

One could make an argument that Betances has been the best pitcher in baseball. Among hurlers with at least 50 innings pitched, Betances has the best ERA (1.52), WHIP (0.75), opponents’ batting average (.133), strikeouts per nine innings pitched (13.2) and strikeout percentage (39.2 percent).

The Yankees have used Betances a lot this year. He has 29 relief appearances of more than one inning this season, five more than any other pitcher in the majors.

Clay Buchholz
The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound tonight. Buchholz had a career year in 2013 (12-1, 1.74 ERA in 16 starts) but is having one of his worst seasons this year. His 16 percent strikeout rate and .299 opponents’ batting average this season are both career worsts.

Strangely, Buchholz has improved in certain areas. His 7.6 percent walk rate is the lowest of his career. He has also thrown more pitches on the outer third or farther outside (53 percent) than in any season the past six years. But he’s throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone (47 percent) than in any season over the past six years. He’s also allowing a .335 BA on balls in play, the second-highest mark of his career and 80 points higher than last season.

Kernels: A call to arms

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
To celebrate the induction of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux into baseball's Hall of Fame, our look at the interesting and unusual focuses on some quirky stats by pitchers this week. (Hint: Not all of them involve pitching.)

• The Toronto Blue Jays surrendered 14 runs to the Boston Red Sox on Monday. Starter Drew Hutchison gave up six before leaving in the third inning. Brad Mills didn't fare any better, allowing eight more. He's the first Jays reliever to allow eight runs since Lance Painter took one for the team in a 23-1 beatdown by the Baltimore Orioles in 2000.

Together Hutchison and Mills are the first pair of Toronto pitchers to each allow six runs in three innings or less since Luke Prokopec and Felix Heredia did it in a 16-3 loss to the New York Yankees on April 8, 2002.

• Speaking of the Yankees, Shane Greene had a forgettable outing on Monday as well, but not so much because of his pitching. The Yankees committed five errors (their most since July 2007), with Greene being three of those. Jacob Turner of the Marlins (2013) is the only other pitcher in the last nine seasons with three errors, and Greene is the first Yankee to do it since Tommy John made three on one play, 26 years ago today. On July 27, 1988, John bobbled a tapper back to the mound, threw into right field trying to recover for the out at first, and then airmailed the relay to the plate when the throw from right came back in.

• Atlanta Braves starter Julio Teheran pitched seven innings Monday, allowing one run and striking out 11. He got a no-decision because his offense only scored one run as well. He's the fourth Braves pitcher this season to strike out 11+, allow one run, and not win. Three of those performances have been against the Marlins. Prior to this year, the Braves had just four such starts in the last 18 seasons combined. The only other team in the live-ball era with four of those in a season was last year's Detroit Tigers.

• Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, never one to adhere to tradition, batted pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb eighth in their interleague series in St. Louis this week. Since interleague play began in 1997, only seven times has an AL starting pitcher batted somewhere other than ninth, and five of those are Rays.

Cobb then got hit by a pitch in Wednesday's game. If you assumed that the last AL pitcher to get plunked while not in the 9-hole goes back to before the DH, you'd be right. But it's a lot further back. It last happened on July 16, 1920, when Sad Sam Jones of the Red Sox pinch-ran in the 9th against Detroit (scoring the tying run), then pitched the top of
the 10th before coming up again in B10 and getting hit by George "Hooks" Dauss.

• Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish technically gets credit for a complete game in Wednesday's rain-shortened affair despite recording only 13 outs. It's the shortest CG for any team since Steve Trachsel pitched four innings in the New York Mets' 4½-inning loss to the Phillies on May 11, 2006. Overall Darvish recorded just the 10th CG of 13 outs or less in the past 70 years.

• Zack Greinke struck out four San Francisco Giants in the third inning Friday, thanks to a wild pitch which allowed Hunter Pence to reach. He's the first pitcher this year with the unusual 4-K inning, and the first Dodger since Brad Penny did it against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 23, 2006.

• Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians had another impressive outing when he threw nine innings against the Kansas City Royals. He allowed two hits, no walks, struck out 10, and the one run that scored was unearned. He didn't win. He was even on the hook for the loss until the top of the 9th when Greg Holland blew the save and forced B9 (which Kluber also threw). The Royals eventually walked off in the 14th (more at right).
Corey Kluber

The last Cleveland pitcher to work 9+ innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts, without winning, was Bert Blyleven, who gave up five runs in a complete-game loss on July 13, 1985. That game was also against Kansas City (who won their only World Series that year).

Yankees look to Headley at the hot corner

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22

Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesChase Headley looks to provide some help for the Yankees at third base.
The Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula.

Headley, who missed 14 games with a calf injury earlier this season, is having a down year offensively. Among 163 qualified hitters, his .229 batting average ranks 147th and his .651 OPS ranks 145th. These are a far cry from his career year in 2012, when he hit .286 with an .875 OPS and an NL-leading 115 RBIs.

However, his power numbers could see some improvement as he transitions from a pitcher-friendly Petco Park to a hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. At Petco, 9 percent of fly balls turn into home runs, whereas at Yankee Stadium that figure is 13.2 percent (major league average is 10.3 percent).

Yankees third basemen have been serviceable for the season, matching the major league average with a .260 batting average and a .723 OPS. However, this might be misleading, as the majority of the Yankees’ contributions at the hot corner came at the beginning of the season, particularly from Solarte.

Solarte hit .303 with a .404 on-base percentage in April, and as late as May 14 led the AL in batting average at .336. However he hit .164 in June and is 2-for-17 (.118 batting average) so far in July. Since June 1, Solarte has just three extra-base hits, with no homers and five RBIs.

Overall since June 1, Yankees third basemen are last in MLB with seven extra-base hits and 12 RBIs and second-to-last with a .302 slugging percentage. Headley is hitting .259 over that span with three home runs and 14 RBIs, including .323 in July.

Headley can also help the Yankees improve on the defensive side of the ball. Headley's seven defensive runs saved are tied for third in the majors at his position. Yankees third basemen have combined for minus-1 defensive runs saved, which ranks in the bottom half of the league at the hot corner.

Top stats to know: Rangers at Yankees

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21

Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
Jacoby Ellsbury and the New York Yankees face the Texas Rangers on "Monday Night Baseball."
The Texas Rangers (39-59, last in AL West) and New York Yankees (50-47, second in AL East) face off on ESPN’s "Monday Night Baseball" at 7 p.m. ET.

Here are the top stats to know about tonight’s young starters, the Rangers’ injury woes, and contributions from a speedy Yankees outfield and a dominant setup man.

Probable Pitchers

Miles Mikolas will make the fourth start of his career Monday night.

The 25-year-old Rangers righty is off to a rough start this season with a record of 0-2 and a 10.05 ERA. Mikolas is the first Rangers pitcher to allow at least 17 runs in his first three career starts since Tommy Hunter in 2008. He is also one of four Rangers pitchers to allow at least nine runs in a game this season. No other team has had more than two pitchers do that.

Shane Greene, another 25-year-old righty, is off to a much better start for the Yankees. Greene enters his third career start with a 2-0 record and 1.32 ERA.

Greene has been dominant against right-handed batters in limited action this season. Righties have a .105 batting average (2-for-19) and a strikeout percentage of 36.4 percent against Greene. Lefties are hitting .207 and are striking out far less frequently (12.5 percent).

Rangers Injuries

The Rangers are 11-33 in their last 44 games, going from four games behind the Oakland Athletics to 22 games back and in last place in the AL West.

Injuries have played a major role.

The Rangers have used 51 players so far this season, most in the majors and the most they have used since 2008 (55 players). They have already tied the most pitchers they have ever used in a single season with 30.

Speedy Outfielders Lead Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury is off to a strong start with the Yankees after signing a seven-year, $153 million deal in the offseason. Ellsbury leads the Yankees in hits (106), doubles (21), steals (27) and on-base percentage (.352) while batting primarily third in the order.

Ellsbury has become more of a line-drive hitter with the Yankees. After hitting line drives on 20 percent of balls in play during his last four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury has hit line drives more than 29 percent of the time in 2014 (first in AL).

Meanwhile, Brett Gardner continues to be one of the most valuable Yankees players while batting primarily leadoff. Gardner has the second-highest WAR (wins above replacement) among Yankees position players over the last five seasons at 18.7. Only Robinson Cano's 29.8 wins above replacement ranks better since the start of 2010.

Dominant Setup Man

Yankees reliever Dellin Betances has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season and already has 88 strikeouts, 23 more than any other relief pitcher.

Among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in 2014, Betances ranks first in ERA (1.46), WHIP (0.71), opponent batting average (.124), opponent OPS (.410), strikeouts per 9 (13.7) and strikeout percentage (41 percent).

Injury derails Tanaka's rookie season

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10

AP Photo/Tony DejakMasahiro Tanaka’s rookie season will be on hold due to a partially torn ligament in his throwing arm.
The partially torn ligament in Masahiro Tanaka’s throwing arm derails what’s been a solid rookie season for the New York Yankees ace.

Tanaka’s season has been a successful one: 2.51 ERA, 135 strikeouts to 19 walks in 129 1/3 innings, and the Yankees have won 13 of his 18 starts.

But Tanaka hadn’t pitched well of late, going 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA. And maybe more telling, his strikeout rate dropped 10 percentage points in that span, to 19 percent after he posted a 29 percent strikeout rate across his first 14 starts.

One of the big differences? Tanaka has had less success getting batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone.

• In his first 14 starts, Tanaka induced an average of 23 swings at pitches out of the strike zone per game. In his past four starts, he’s averaging a little more than 18. His two games with his fewest number of swings at pitches out of the zone have come in his past four starts.

• In his first 14 starts, 39 percent of Tanaka’s pitches out of the zone resulted in swings – the highest rate among starters in MLB. Since that point, he ranks a good-not-great 15th among starters.

• In his first 14 starts, batters hit .121 with two strikes, and 52 percent of his plate appearances that reached two strikes ended in a strikeout. In his past four, batters are hitting .260 with two strikes, and only 42 percent of his plate appearances that reached two strikes have ended in a strikeout.

• Perhaps because of this, he’s being forced to throw more strikes – and batters had more success against pitches in the strike zone. He threw 44 percent of his pitches in the zone in his first 14 and 48 percent since. In his first 14 starts, he allowed 23 hard-hit balls on pitches in the strike zone per 100 at-bats; in his past four, he’s averaged 33 hard-hit balls per 100 at-bats.

The injury is yet another blow to the Yankees starting rotation.

Of the pitchers on the Yankees starting rotation on Opening Day, all but Hiroki Kuroda are on the disabled list. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda are all on the 60-day disabled list.

Top stats to know: Yankees at Indians

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7

AP Photo/Kyndell HarknessNext week, Derek Jeter will make his ninth All-Star start at shortstop for the American League.
The New York Yankees take on the Cleveland Indians on Monday night as both clubs look to make up ground in their divisional races heading into the All-Star break.

Here's a look at some of the top storylines for both teams entering the day, including All-Star selections, a recent trade and an absent offense.

Jeter an All-Star again

Fans elected Derek Jeter a starter in next week’s All-Star Game. It will be his ninth career All-Star start at shortstop. Only Mickey Mantle (13) and Yogi Berra (11) will have started more All-Star Games as a Yankee. (Joe DiMaggio also has nine starts.)

Jeter hit his 2,542nd single Sunday, which moved him into fourth place in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pete Rose leads the league with 3,215 singles all time.

Yankees bring in McCarthy

On Sunday, the Yankees traded Vidal Nuno to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy entered Sunday with a 1.22 run difference between his ERA (5.01) and fielding independent pitching (3.79), the largest of any pitcher who was qualified for the ERA title. FIP is an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.

With McCarthy arriving, the Yankees designated Alfonso Soriano for assignment. Soriano ranked 1,020th out of 1,022 position players in wins above replacement this season.

Offense Absent for Free Agents

When New York brought in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, it added proven veterans who had delivered consistently over their careers. However, both have struggled this season.

McCann is hitting line drives at a higher rate, up to 23 percent from 21 percent this past season. But he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he did in 2013, and his hard-hit average has fallen from .209 to .155. McCann's lack of power has led to one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.

For Beltran, his power has also disappeared. Dips in his line-drive rate (19 percent) and hard-hit average (.170) have Beltran on pace for career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Beltran's offensive difficulties have the new Yankee on pace for his first season with negative wins above replacement (minus-0.6).

Masterson's ups and downs

Since shifting to primarily a starter role in 2010, Justin Masterson has seen his year-to-year ERA fluctuate wildly.

Masterson has especially struggled against left-handed batters this season and has seen his opponents' batting average jump from .248 in 2013 to .315 this year.

But Masterson has been remarkably steady for the Indians at home since 2010. His home ERA has been between 3.09 and 3.62 in each of his past four seasons.

Top stats to know: Red Sox-Yankees

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
Tonight features the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees squaring off on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) in the rubber game of a three-game series.

Here are some things our broadcast crew will be talking about as John Lackey takes the hill for Boston against Chase Whitley.

Life in the fast lane
Lackey's fastball will likely be the key for him tonight, as he has relied on his heater considerably more often since missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In 2011, Lackey turned to his fastball 49 percent of the time while using his curve on about 18 percent of pitches. A season ago, after returning from his elbow injury, his fastball usage was up to 57 percent, and this year it's at 66 percent while he turns to his curveball only 11 percent of the time.

No matter what he's using in his arsenal, Lackey has found the zone often this season. Overall, his strike percentage of 69 percent is third highest in the majors, behind only Phil Hughes and David Price.

Which Whitley?
Whitley will look to get back on track for the Yankees. Through his first seven career starts, Whitley was 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA. He had allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven starts, but his eighth start had no resemblance, as he allowed eight earned runs.

The difference was line drives. His ground-ball percentage remained nearly identical (43 percent in his first seven starts compared to 42 percent in his eighth start), but what were fly balls in his first seven starts became line drives in the eighth. He allowed eight of them in his loss to the Blue Jays, seven of which went for base hits.

Fresh face
Tonight will feature the major league debut of Mookie Betts, who will potentially be in right field for Boston. Betts has carved up the minors this season with both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He batted .355 in 54 games with Portland and .322 in 23 games with Pawtucket, and the table to the right shows just how successful he's been at getting on base.

He looks to provide a boost to a Boston team that has been struggling on offense lately. Since the start of June, the Red Sox have managed a .295 on-base percentage, better than only three teams in the majors.

Dustin's decline
While power hitting is not his calling card, Dustin Pedroia's slugging percentage has fallen off for the fourth consecutive year, sitting at just .377 this season (it was .493 in 2010). Pedroia simply hasn't been able to produce fly balls as he once did; only 28 percent of his batted balls have been classified as fly balls this season, down from 38 percent in 2012.

Pitchers have taken notice of Pedroia's diminished power and are challenging him more often. Of all the pitches Pedroia has seen this season, 57 percent have been located inside the strike zone, the highest rate of any hitter in baseball. Pitchers are throwing him fastballs 60 percent of the time, which is more often than all but 13 hitters this season.

Overall, Pedroia has slugged .365 in at-bats ending with fastballs this season, down from a .530 rate from 2010 to 2013.

Starting for the AL...Masahiro Tanaka?

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18

Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMasahiro Tanaka has 14 quality starts in 14 appearances in the major leagues. Is his record strong enough to make him the All-Star Game starter for the American League in his rookie season?
Masahiro Tanaka is the American League leader in ERA and wins, but has his performance warranted selection as the league's starting pitcher for the All-Star Game?

Let's take a closer look at his case.

Dominating the American League
Tanaka's AL superiority doesn't stop at wins and ERA this season.

He also leads the circuit in WHIP (0.95), and ranks 2nd in strikeout rate (29.1% of plate appearances), strikeouts per 9 innings (10.2).

He's also been remarkably consistent. Every one of Tanaka's 14 major-league starts has been a quality start (at least 6 IP and 3 or fewer ER allowed), which makes this the 2nd-longest such streak to start a career in MLB history.

Avoiding Contact
But it's not just what Tanaka is doing -- it's the overpowering manner in which he's doing it.

He gets batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone at a higher rate (38.5%) than any other pitcher in the majors, and when they swing, they miss at a 29.9% clip, the highest in the American League.

Batters are swinging on 15 percent of all the pitches he throws, the highest rate of any pitcher in the majors.

Difference-Making Pitch: Splitter
The difference-making pitch for Tanaka has been his devastating splitter. He throws the splitter at a higher rate than anyone else (nearly 1 out of every 4 pitches).

He has 60 strikeouts with his splitter this season, more than twice as many as any other pitcher in baseball, and the pitch has accounted for more than half of his strikeouts this season.

This season, batters have taken 246 swings against Tanaka's splitter and have missed 120 times, both the most of any pitcher on that pitch by far. Opposing batters are hitting .125 in at-bats ending with Tanaka's splitter.

When he's gotten into trouble this season, he's gotten out of it with the splitter, as batters are 2-35 with 20 K against Tanaka's splitter with runners in scoring position this season.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Yankees

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4

The Yankees and Athletics have been known for their different financial approaches.
Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN) features the Oakland Athletics, who bring the best record in the American League to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees.

The Athletics enter with the best road record in Major League Baseball (19-10) while the Yankees are currently under.500 at home, a mark they haven’t finished a season with since 1991.

In a classic matchup of David versus Goliath payrolls, here are a few key stats to know:

The A’s total payroll is $80.9 million this season while the Yankees have not spent less than $80 million on their payroll since 1998 when they spent $63.2 million.

Despite a 30.6 percent increase in spending from last season, the Athletics only jumped one spot in the MLB ranks from 27th to 26th in terms of payroll.

This is actually the first season since 2001 the Yankees do not have the highest payroll in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers claim that title this year with a payroll that's $38.5 million higher than the $197.2 million spent by the Yankees.

Only the Miami Marlins spent less on their starting rotation this year than Oakland’s $11.3 million, while the Yankees currently have three pitchers on the DL (CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda) who make a combined salary of almost $27 million.

Starting Pitchers
The Yankees will send Vidal Nuño to the mound in search of his first career win at Yankee Stadiuim. Nuño is 0-3 in six previous career starts at home.

Nuño will face Athletics starter Jesse Chavez, who takes the mound as part of a starting rotation that leads the American League in ERA, WHIP and Opponent Batting Average allowed.

Chavez throws his cutter 37.5 percent of the time, the highest mark of any qualified pitcher in MLB. Only Jon Lester (43) has more strikeouts with his cutter this season than Chavez (27).

The Donald Comes to New York
According to Wins Above Replacement, Josh Donaldson has been the most valuable player in baseball over the last two seasons.

Donaldson is one of only four players in the American League with .290 BA, .380 OBP and .500 Slug pct in the last two seasons (min. 100 games) along with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz.

Prior to an 0-5 performance last night, Donaldson had reached base in 30 straight road games. The last A’s player with such a streak was Mark McGwire from 1995 to 1996 (56 games).

Top stats to know: Yankees at Cardinals

May, 26, 2014
May 26
The St. Louis Cardinals host the New York Yankees in Game 1 of a three-game series today (4 ET, ESPN). Here are some of the key storylines we will be following.

Average Yankees
The Yankees are three games above .500 despite a negative-six run differential. The Toronto Blue Jays are the only team in the AL East with a positive run differential. Its combined negative-34 run differential is the
worst among the six divisions in baseball.

The Yankees are barely playing above league average in several categories this season. They rank 14th in OBP, 12th in slugging percentage, 11th in runs per game and 13th in ERA.

Ellsbury's cooled off
Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the team leaders in batting average and OPS in March and April but has cooled off significantly this month. After batting .312 through April, he's hitting just .200 in May. His strikeout percentage has worsened going from 15.5 percent to 22.2
percent this month.

He has struggled against offspeed pitches all season long, and pitchers have adjusted. Overall, he's hitting .211 with a .507 OPS in plate appearances ending with non-fastballs. In April, he only saw changeups/curveballs/sliders on 31 percent of pitchers; in May that's up to 38 percent.

Wacha is back
Michael Wacha is making his first start since being forced to leave his last game on May 21 against the Diamondbacks after getting hit on his right elbow by a foul ball in the dugout. He did not miss a start.

He hasn't missed a step since bursting on to the scene last year and has actually gotten better. He has increased his strikeouts and
reduced his walks and ERA.

Over the last two years, his opponents have produced a .414 OPS in plate appearances ending with his changeup. Only Stephen Strasburg (.369) and Félix Hernández (.414) have had more dominant changeups by that metric over that span.

Top stats to know: Yankees at Mets

May, 14, 2014
May 14

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesMasahiro Tanaka has struck out 58 batters in his first seven starts.
The New York Yankees and New York Mets enter the third game of their four-game Subway Series (7 ET on ESPN) with identical 19-19 records, but the teams are heading in opposite directions. The Mets have won three in a row while the Yankees have lost a season-high four straight games.

All eyes will be on the two young starting pitchers, so let’s take a deeper look at Masahiro Tanaka and Rafael Montero.

Tanaka Time
When the Yankees signed Tanaka to a 7-year, $155 million contract this offseason, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman tried to temper expectations for the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher by saying he would be a “really solid, consistent No. 3 starter”.

Fortunately for the Yankees (who have seen three-fifths of their opening day rotation go on the disabled list), Tanaka has been the team’s ace so far this season, going 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 58 strikeouts in his first seven starts.

Tanaka’s ability to get batters to swing at pitches out of the zone is a key part of his success.

Despite throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone than all but four qualified starters, Tanaka still ranks in the top 10 in strike rate because of his MLB-best chase percentage of 42 percent.

The splitter is his signature put-away pitch, throwing it almost half the time with two strikes.

Of the 95 two-strike splitters he has thrown, more than one-third (33) have resulted in strike three. Those 33 strikeouts via the splitter are nearly twice as many as any other pitcher in the majors.

Tanaka’s splitter was literally unhittable during a three-game stretch from April 16-27. During those three outings, he threw 79 splitters, which netted 29 outs and just one baserunner (a walk to Chris Iannetta on April 27).

The Mets have faced only a handful of pitchers that feature a split-fingered fastball this season. In a small sample, they have not fared well with one hit and four strikeouts in 18 at-bats (.056 BA).

Montero’s Debut
For the Mets, highly-regarded prospect Rafael Montero will make his major-league debut Wednesday night, becoming the first Mets pitcher to start in the Subway Series in his MLB debut.

Montero will look to keep a Mets streak going. Each of the last three starters to make his major-league debut for the team has not allowed a run. Matt Harvey, Collin McHugh and Zack Wheeler combined for 18⅓ scoreless innings in their respective starts over the last two seasons.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets are the only team in the modern era (since 1900) to have a streak of three straight pitchers whose MLB debut was a scoreless start of at least five innings pitched.

Montero had a 2.63 ERA and 4.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72 minor league appearances (67 starts), including a 3.67 ERA in eight minor league starts this season.

Perhaps most impressive is that he’s allowed only 19 home runs in 390 career minor-league innings. Also, in every one of his professional seasons, he has received a promotion. In other words, he’s never stayed at one level for even one whole season.

Masahiro Tanaka missing bats early

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

Masahiro Tanaka kept the ball away from lefty hitters in his first two starts.
Today marks start no. 3 for Masahiro Tanaka, as he’ll face the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka completed seven innings in each of his first two Major League starts with a 1-0 record, a 3.21 ERA and a strikeout per nine rate north of 11.5. Let's take a look at just how good Tanaka has been:

Historical context
Tanaka struck out eight Blue Jays and recorded a win in his MLB debut. He followed that up with 10 strikeouts against the Orioles. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka's 18 strikeouts are the most for any pitcher in his first two starts with the Yankees.

If Tanaka strikes out eight or more Cubs Wednesday, he will join Stephen Strasburg as the only pitchers in the last 100 years to strike out eight or more batters in each of his first three Major League starts.

Tanaka faces the Cubs Wednesday, who rank 25th in strikeout percentage this season at 24.1 percent.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is also going for the following:
- Most strikeouts in first three appearances as a Yankee (27 by Bob Turley in 1955)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances, with all three coming as a Yankee (25 by Al Leiter in 1987)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances in AL history (25 by Leiter in 1987 and Chris Archer in 2012)

Pitch type
Of his 198 pitches on the season, Tanaka has thrown 95 fastballs, 43 splitters, 42 sliders, 13 curveballs and five cutters. Hiroki Kuroda is the only qualified starter who has thrown a higher percentage of splitters than Tanaka's 21.7 percent. However, no one has missed more bats with the splitter than Tanaka (15).

Part of why Tanaka's splitter has been so successful early on is the velocity. With an average velocity of 87.1 miles per hour, Tanaka's splitter is 4.6 miles per hour slower than his fastball. That is the smallest difference among 12 starters who have thrown 10 or more splitters in 2014.

The fastball and splitter may look similar coming out of Tanaka's hand, but the difference in vertical drop between the two pitches has been extreme.

Tanaka's fastball is dropping at an average of 11.6 feet per second when it crosses the plate, right around the league average of 12.0 feet per second.

Tanaka's splitter averages a drop of 17.0 feet per second as it crosses the plate. His 5.4 feet per second difference in vertical break between fastball and splitter ranks second behind Tim Hudson.

Pitch location
In the image atop this article, the hot zone on the right comes from Tanaka keeping his splitter down for batters on both sides and his fastball down and away to lefties. The one near the upper left corner of the strike zone (from pitcher's perspective) is partially due to Tanaka leaving a few sliders up in the zone to righties.

Hitters have made Tanaka pay on the few pitches he has left up in the zone. Tanaka has only left two splitters up and Melky Cabrera hit one of those 400 feet for a home run. Tanaka left an 83 mph slider up to the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop and that one landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium for a 407 foot home run.

The pitch sequence in Adam Jones’ second at-bat on April 9 represents the best we have seen from Tanaka in terms of location. Tanaka kept all seven pitches in the at-bat down or below the zone.

The first three pitches were all fastballs that went away, in and away. The heaters got Tanaka ahead in the count 1-2 and they were followed by a slider low and away, a splitter in the dirt and another slider low and away. Tanaka went back to the splitter in a 2-2 count and recorded the strikeout on a swing and miss from Jones.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Yankees

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox conclude their four-game series tonight on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN).

The Yankees took two of the first three games and are looking to win a series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the final weekend of the 2012 season.

Here are some key storylines heading into the game:

Panic time, Red Sox Nation?
This is the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Red Sox have had a losing record through 12 games. In each of those previous three years -- 2010, 2011, 2012 -- the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs.

The bad news: The last time the Red Sox made the playoffs after having a losing record through 12 games was 1915.

The good news: The Red Sox won the World Series in 1915.

Boston has had a difficult time replicating Jacoby Ellsbury’s production at the top of the lineup, ranking among the worst teams in both batting average and OPS by leadoff batters this season.

Another problem for the Red Sox this season has been hitting in the clutch. Boston ranks 26th in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position, including a 2-for-21 performance in the first three games of this series.

Bronx Bombers are back
The Yankees took full advantage of the jet stream in right field at Yankee Stadium during Saturday’s 7-4 win, hitting five home runs, four of which were to either right-center or right field.

Lack of power was an issue for the Yankees to start the season, as they went homerless in their first five games and had only seven homers in their first 11 games combined before Saturday's barrage.

Alfonso Soriano is tied for the team lead with three homers, as he continues to give the Yankees their money’s worth since he rejoined the team last summer. Soriano’s 20 homers since his first game in pinstripes on July 26 lead all major league players, and his 54 RBIs in that span are second to Mark Trumbo.

The shift is on
The Yankees have made a significant change in their defensive philosophy this season, using more infield shifts than ever before.

Only one team is shifting more often than the Yankees this season, and with 79 shifts already, they are on pace to more than double their 475 shifts from last season.

The Red Sox have been more conservative with their shifting in the early going, with only 26 shifts in 12 games, and if they continue at this pace, they would finish with about 25 percent fewer defensive shifts than last season.

Nova, Doubront struggling
Both Ivan Nova and Felix Doubront are looking to bounce back from poor outings their last time out. The two pitchers combined to give up 12 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in their most recent starts on April 8.

Both pitchers had issues limiting the damage in those games, as the Rangers were 4-for-7 with men on base against Doubront while the Orioles went 7-for-9 in those situations against Nova.