The second-place Yankees (34-20) head to Toronto for a three-game set against the surprising third-place Blue Jays (31-24) this weekend. This is the first time in 2010 that the teams are meeting, which is slightly odd considering that the Yankees have already faced Baltimore nine times, Boston eight times and Tampa Bay five times.
In Friday's game A.J. Burnett (3.28 ERA; 3.62 FIP; 4.25 xFIP) takes on Brett Cecil (3.81 ERA; 3.28 FIP; 4.01 xFIP). This looks like a push on paper, although Cecil is 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA over two starts lifetime against the Yanks.
Andy Pettitte (2.48 ERA; 3.73 FIP; 4.09 xFIP) gets to face the immensely talented Ricky Romero (3.14 ERA; 2.78 FIP; 3.14 xFIP) on Saturday afternoon. Both men are having phenomenal seasons, although the Yankees tend to hit like crap against talented young pitchers. This game is probably tilted somewhat in favor of the Jays.
And Javier Vazquez (6.06 ERA; 5.54 FIP; 4.64 xFIP) gets Brandon Morrow (6.00 ERA; 3.94 FIP; 4.12 xFIP) in a duel of pitchers with ERAs of 6.00 or higher. I'm still not certain who the real Javy Vazquez is, and this slugging Blue Jays lineup seems a good bet to take Home Run Javy yard more than once. Morrow is yet another talented Jays starter, whose ERA is significantly underperforming his FIP and xFIP. I wish I could say the same about Vazquez.
Here's how the Yanks have fared against Toronto in the unbalanced schedule era:
Despite playing 18-19 games a year against the Jays for the past decade, there aren't many games that stand out for me as all that memorable. My most anticipated Yankee-Blue Jay game by far was the Major League debut of Phil Hughes on Thursday, April 26, 2007, a game in which an understandably nervous Hughes gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings, losing to A.J. Burnett of all people 6-0.
I have to be honest; I knew next-to-nothing about Toronto's pitching before reviewing the stats, and was shocked to see how good it actually is. Not only do they have the second-best FIP in the AL at 3.71, but nine pitchers on the staff boast sub-4.00 FIPs. Nine! Everyone's been up in arms over the Jays' absurdly prodigious power, but they're also getting it done on the pitching side of the ledger as well -- best K/9 in the league, second-fewest homers allowed and top xFIP in the AL. On paper, the Blue Jays look very legit.
Perhaps the most amusing thing about the Jays's offense is that while they lead the league in slugging by a pretty wide margin, they are second-to-last in the AL in OBP. Despite this significant disparity they are tied for third in the league in wOBA, while the Yankees continue to top the AL in BA, OBP and wOBA.
This is going to be a tough series for the Yankees. In the past the Blue Jays have always felt like pushovers, and certainly going into this year no one expected them to be anything close to competitive. Given the pitching matchups as well as the Jays' slugging prowess and home field advantage, I'm predicting Toronto takes two of three this weekend.
For previous Yankeeist series previews, click here.