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Game Notes: Karns vs. Warren and the Yankees

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Adam Warren and Nathan Karns square off in a duel of underachieving righties.

Here is Nate Karns assuming a non-traditional batting stance.
Here is Nate Karns assuming a non-traditional batting stance.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup

After accruing 1.4 fWAR in reliever last year, Adam Warren has thus far turned in a stinker season as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. Today, he opposes Nate Karns, the Rays righty from the Washington Nationals Jose Lobaton trade.

Entering the game, the Fangraphs Scoreboard Odds do not favor the Rays:

These two guys both sport ERAs in the mid-5.00 range, but they are also both expected to perform much better as the season goes. But "much better" here is pretty relative:

I, for one, am not enthused by a low-4.00 ERA projection. But projections are projections, we don't know for sure how these guys will adapt to their early season struggles.

What we do know, though, is that Warren is a fastball-slider guy, who also has a changeup for the occasional left-handed hitter. He'll likely feed the right-handed hitters an even mix of sliders and fastballs, and then drop a curveball or sinker here or there to keep things frisky.

And then Karns, you know Karns, he's going to go fastball-curveball against righties, and then add a sinker and changeup against lefties.

Karns and Warren have both struggled at avoiding contact so far. They both have contact rates in the low 80% area. This is a problem. Contact rates are the canaries in the coalmines. Contact rate stabilizes quickly and can vaguely suggest the future success of a pitcher -- barring changes in approach.

It's hard to believe it, but Karns typically had K-rates near 30% in his minor league career. He needs to make some serious adjustments to get his present 18% K-rate to a more manageable number. Hopefully that starts tonight.

What to watch for:

  • Warren's slider is usually his most important pitch. Thus far, it's been a stinker. It's been showing less sink and way less velocity. In fact, velocity is down across all his pitches. If his slider looks good, then the Rays could be in trouble.
  • The third time through the order, opposing hitters are getting about a .250 ISO on Karns' curveball. His curveball is very important against right handers. Karns needs to limit the baserunners early so that he isn't facing the order a third time before the 5th inning. That means: Karns needs to be aggressive early and maybe a little more cautious later. I don't care if he goes 4 IP with 1 ER. I'm more worried about 6 IP with 5 ER.
  • I mean, c'mon, he's a Rays pitcher. Karn should throw his changeup more. He gets a great GB% on his changeup, and his early results against righties have been good. He's thrown 9 changeups to righties. The result? Yes, 9 whiffs.

The Lineups

Tonight's Rays lineup looks like this:

The Yankees will be plopping out a lineup such as this: