Pinch Hit Advance Scout: Yankees, April 18-19

Tuesday, April 18 2006 @ 04:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Rob

Take it away, Bruce Wrigley:

Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yankees come in to Toronto for a short two-game series sandwiched between a couple of off days. (Note to Toronto-area fans: the Tuesday night game is a $2 Tuesday so do what you can to make it down to the park and make some noise for the good guys).

Like the Blue Jays, the Yankees have been inconsistent to begin the season and come into the game with a 6-6 record. Both teams are looking up at all three of their other AL East competitors so each will be hoping for at least a win to keep them in touch with the lead.

Over the weekend, the Yanks dropped two of three in the Metrodome, looking bad in a 5-1 loss to Scott Baker on Friday night but strong in a 9-3 win over Brad Radke on Sunday. Earlier, the Yanks had played their home opener in a three-game set with the Royals and pounded their way to a three-game sweep averaging ten runs a game.

On to the Advance Scout!

General: The Yankees' hitter-laden lineup is clicking to start the season, they are hitting .301/.385/.502 as a team.... It's a great offense top-to-bottom, with none of the regular starters hitting better than .344 or less than .263.... The Yanks lead the majors in runs scored with 80 despite only playing 12 games, and their 3.84 ERA is fourth in the majors. It's fair to say that reports of their demise are exaggerated.... Pythagorean Record is 8-4... Despite an old and creaky lineup, the Yankees have been mostly injury-free so far, with only pitchers Pavano, Small and Dotel on the disabled list.... The Yankees signed Carlos Pena to a minor league deal over the weekend. Pena is a natural fit for the Yankees and although there have been no comments from the team to back this up, look for him to replace Andy Phillips with the Yankees as soon as he shows he's healthy and the Yanks can slip someone through waivers back to the minors.... The Yankees' next target might be Minnesota CF Torii Hunter (in a better-organized league, stuff like this is considered tampering).... The Yankees have the best team DIPS ERA in the majors, so it looks like their old nemesis, indifferent defense, is rearing its head again. The Rogers Centre is a tough park to play defense in, so the Jays may be in luck.... Shawn Chacon was skipped in the rotation this weekend and may be available out of the pen, which would give the Yankees seven relievers instead of six.... I am still waiting on confirmation that Satan, Lord of Darkness, will be making a special appearance in the Yankee dugout this week.... The Yankees will use their top two starters against the Jays, but with the Jays' rotation already out of sync, the Jays will go with the two lefties instead.

Mariano Rivera: Because the Yankees have played a lot of blowouts, Mariano Rivera hasn't played a lot yet, only making three appearances and a total of 3.1 innings. Look for him to get work in Toronto even if the games aren't that close.

Jason Giambi: Wowed the crowd in Minnesota with two moon shots in Sunday's game.... Those homers gave him four in his past five games.... Is now hitting .344/.543/.781 but is just a combined 4-for-18 lifetime against Gustavo Chacin and Ted Lilly.... Has to be a leading candidate for the worst fielding first baseman in baseball and I can't believe Bernie Williams wouldn't be better out there.... Consistently underperforms his expected OPS based on his mix of walks, grounders, strikeouts, flyballs and line drives; probably due to having no speed and hitting a lot of warning track flyballs.

Randy Johnson: Has been Randy Johnson to start the season, with no walks and 16 strikeouts in 20 innings over three starts.... Consistently better in night games over the last couple of years, and will start the night game on Tuesday.... Don't let the 33-22 record over the past two years fool you, Randy is still one of the very best pitchers in the game and maybe the toughest to get a hit off.... Alex Rios, Reed Johnson, and Bengie Molina have all had good success in the past against the Big Unit.... Gave up one run in five innings against Kansas City in his last start.

Mike Mussina
: Unlike the Big Unit, Mussina is showing noticeable signs of slowing down.... Bill James's "Favorite Toy" tool estimates that Mussina how has a 0% chance of reaching 300 wins, but a 78% chance of reaching 250.... All three starts this year have been on the road.... Looked pretty good against Minnesota, allowed six hits in 6.2 innings but all six were singles. Reported after the game that "I did what I wanted to do with the ball most of the time... used all my pitches in almost any count".... Lefthanders tend to have trouble with Moose's knuckle-curve but find his other pitches more to their linking.... A much better pitcher in day games than at night over the last two years, and is starting the day game on Wednesday.

Bernie Williams
: Got his first start of the year in centerfield on Sunday versus the Twins.... Currently is the only Yankees starter not hitting, which should take some of the pressure off.... Hitting just .160 against major league (i.e. non-Kansas City) pitching this season.... Has essentially been a DH in centerfield for a couple of years now, so poor hitting shouldn't be blamed on the position switch.

Johnny Damon: Usually struggles versus lefthanders, but had no trouble against them last season.... Says he would gladly cede the centerfield job to Torii Hunter, much as Maestro Bob Cobb would no doubt gladly yield his baton to Herbert von Karajan.... Is a goofball who should be tarred and feathered, but what are ya gonna do.

Alex Rodriguez
: Broke out of a mini-slump with a single, double, and homer on Sunday.... Gustavo Chacin gives him fits, but is 11-for-35 with four homers in his career against Ted Lilly.... Has never had a hit in his career against B.J. Ryan.... Don't load the bases for him, he has a .694 slugging percentage in his career with 12 grand slams.

Gary Sheffield
: Eats lefthanded pitchers for breakfast, spits out the bones, then jumps on them. Power, walks and average all get a boost.... Has already stolen two bases this season; despite the lack of straightline speed, he is still a good percentage baserunner.

Robinson Cano
: The Hardball Times's rankings of Yankees baserunners had Cano at the top, and it wasn't even close .... Still looks shaky on turning the double play with Jeter, who doesn't deliver the ball that quick.... Is still looking for his first walk of the season. Cano, Craig Monroe, Rondell White and Aaron Hill are the only AL batting qualifiers still walk-less.

Kyle Farnsworth: Are you familiar with The Dugout? If not, do yourself a favor and head over there.... Farnsworth spent Easter gunning his lats, which should be good news for his control; he has given up four walks in 4.1 innings.