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Series Preview: Rays v Yankees

MLB: AUG 09 Yankees at Royals Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a strong August where the Rays posted the best record in the American League at 18-9, Tampa Bay holds the top wild card spot and an outside shot at winning the American League East for a third straight year. Whether that is a realistic shot will be determined by their performance against the New York Yankees over the next two weekends. The Rays trail the Yankees by 6.0 games with six games head to head over the next ten days. Their destiny is in their control.

The Rays are currently tied with the Seattle Mariners 2.0 games ahead of Toronto for the top wild card spot. The Rays hold the tie breaker by winning percentage and most importantly control the head to head tie breaker. The Baltimore Orioles trail by 1.5 games and the Minnesota Twins trail by 3.0 games. The Chicago White Sox (6.0 games back) and Boston Red Sox (7.5 games back) aren’t entirely dead but have a lot of work to do if they want to close that gap.


Friday 7:10 PM: Domingo German vs Jeffrey Springs
Saturday 6:10 PM: Clarke Schmidt vs Ryan Yarbrough (likely behind an opener)
Sunday 1:40 PM: Frankie Montas vs Corey Kluber

Domingo German has been a solid starter when needed this year for the Yankees. In 42.1 innings he’s posted a 3.19 ERA/4.12 FIP/4.39 xFIP. The results have been good despite his strikeout rate plummeting to 17.8% from his 24.9% career rate. He’s seen a decrease in walk rate to 5.2% whi8ch helps explain some of the success. He divides his fastball usage between a 92.9 mph four-seam fastball and 92.9 mph sinker. He primarily uses his 81.2 mph curveball as his go to swing and miss pitch. He will mix in a mediocre 86.0 mph changeup that doesn’t get many whiffs.

Clarke Schmidt has mostly worked out of the bullpen in a multi-inning role for the Yankees in 2022. He will make his third start of the season in game two. He’s been effective in this role with a 2.89 ERA/3.50 FIP/4.26 xFIP over 37.1 innings. In his last outing he threw a season high 4.1 innings and is likely limited to a 3-5 inning outing. He’s posted a 22.9% strikeout rate but his 12.1% walk rate is very high for a guy who doesn’t strike out far more hitters. His 5.4% HR/FB rate is the reason his ERA and FIP have been very good and his FIP suggests he’s been more fine than good. Schmidt throws a 94.8 mph four-seam fastball and 94.8 mph sinker as his fastball offerings. He prefers the four-seam fastball against left handed batter while leaning on the sinker against right handed batters. His go to breaking ball of choice is a 86.2 mph slider that has posted a 40.2% whiff rate. He will mix in a 83.2 mph curveball that has generated a 30.0% whiff rate.

Frankie Montas has not had the same level of success after being traded to the Yankees as he did with the Oakland Athletics earlier in the season. With the Athletics he posted a 3.18 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.21 xFIP over 104.2 innings, but since the trade he’s posted a 7.01 ERA/5.38 FIP/4.45 xFIP over 25.2 innings. This is a small sample where he’s been troubled by the long ball and a drop in strikeout rate of nearing 10%. Montas throws a 96.2 mph four-seam fastball and 95.7 mph sinker as his fastball offerings. He works the four-seamer up in the zone where he’s more likely to get whiffs than with his sinker. He throws a 86.4 mph split finger changeup as his offspeed weapon of choice. It is a good swing and miss pitch against hitters on both sides of the plate. He adds a 87.1 mph slider that is as effective as his split finger changeup at getting whiffs but he limits it’s use against left handed batters.

Where has the Yankee’s offense gone?

In the first half the Yankees offense was running at peak efficiency. They hit .246/.331/.445 and put up a 122 wRC+ that produced 5.40 runs per game. In the second half they have hit .225/.305/.378 and put up a 97 wRC+ and produced 3.97 runs per game.

Aaron Judge has stepped things up in the second half. That’s impressive when he hit .284/.364/.618 and put up a 174 wRC+ in the first half. In the second half he’s hit .326/.476/.780 and put up a 246 wRC+. If the Yankees end up blowing the division lead it will be hard to blame Judge.

Anthony Rizzo is the only other player that has had significant production in the second half. After putting up a 139 wRC+ in the first half he has put u a 131 wRC+ in the second half. Rizzo played as a defensive replacement late in the game on Wednesday but might miss the series due to a lower back injury.

DJ LeMahieu (123 wRC+) has rebounded after a disappointing 2021 season.

Giancarlo Stanton (120 wRC+) recently returned from the Injured List and looks to provide some protection behind Judge.

Andrew Benintendi (101 wRC+) has turned back into what he’s been for most of the last five years after the trade to New York.

Josh Donaldson (99 wRC+) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (80 wRC+) have become punching bags of the fan base after being acquired last winter instead of going after one of the bigger name shortstops.

Gleyber Torres (103 wRC+) has really struggled in the second half. After a couple years of middling results he posted a 130 wRC+ in the first half, but a 47 wRC+ in the second half has led to another season that he looks to be a league average hitter rather than the impact hitter many expected.