The Toronto Blue Jays (54-51, 4th in AL East, 11.5 GB) come to Yankees Stadium for a three-game set against the Yankees (66-38, 1st in AL East; 1 GA) starting tonight, and while many fans are undoubtedly anticipating this weekend's four-game showdown with Boston, this set with the Jays is not to be overlooked. (Editor's note: In case you missed it, be sure to check out Yankeeist's July 2010 Monthly Wrap-Up from earlier today).
This is actually going to be a very tough series for the Yankees. Though Toronto's only in fourth place in the AL East, their starting rotation has been excellent -- especially against the Yankees -- with the 4th-best FIP in the AL. The three starters Toronto is throwing against the Yankees have each stymied the New York offense in the past, and they all boast fairly gaudy numbers on the season. Though the Jays don't get on base much, when they do hit the ball they hit it a ton, and Toronto's combination of elite pitching and power will make for a challenging go of it for the Bombers.
In tonight's game Brandon Morrow (4.62 ERA; 3.41 FIP; 3.94 xFIP) faces A.J. Burnett (4.52 ERA; 4.63 FIP; 4.70 xFIP). The Yankees have seen Morrow twice this season and won both games he started. Last time he faced the Yankees he gave up five runs in six innings. Burnett, who was actually very good in July, pitched well against the Jays last time out. That being said, this match-up seems like a push on paper.
Ricky Romero (3.46 ERA; 3.31 FIP; 3.57 xFIP) gets Dustin Moseley (3.24 ERA; 4.85 FIP; 4.52 xFIP) on Tuesday night. Romero handcuffed the Yanks in Toronto in early June and then got torched (8 runs in 2 2/3 innings) a month later at Yankee Stadium. Moseley looks to continue his solid work in Andy Pettitte's stead, although I'm a bit skeptical as to how much longer the Aaron Small pixie dust will last. The numbers say Romero wins this one.
In the afternoon matinee finale on Wednesday, Shawn Marcum (3.24 ERA; 3.39 FIP; 3.84 xFIP) takes on Phil Hughes (4.07 ERA; 4.02 FIP; 4.13 xFIP). Marcum has yet to face the Yankees this year but has been stellar for the Jays. Hughes faced Toronto on July 4 and gave up five runs in six innings. Hughes had a rough month of July, though pitched admirably against the Rays in his last outing, unfortunately making the one mistake that cost the Yankees the game. This one also feels like a push, but the numbers say Marcum takes it, especially since the Yanks haven't seen him this season.
Here are the two teams' offense and pitching numbers:
I covered a lot of this at the beginning of the post. It's interesting to see how much weight is given to SLG in the calculation for wOBA -- despite being near the bottom of the league in BA and OBP Toronto is still tied for fifth in team wOBA. After a lackluster offensive weekend the Yankees' stranglehold on the top OBP slot is now being threatened by the Twins of all teams. As for the overall pitching numbers, Toronto appears to have a slight edge over the Yankees, although not by much.
In nearly every series preview I've done this year I've predicted a Yankee series victory (and much of the time have been right). However; given the pitching match-ups along with the fact that the Yankee offense has been asleep at the wheel for much of the past week, I'm going with Toronto taking two of three and will be pleasantly surprised if it ends up going the other way.