Previewing the New York Yankees | The Process Report

Previewing the New York Yankees

If the Rays make the playoffs they will have accrued all the playoff experience any player could possibly need as the team is tasked with incredibly thin margins the rest of the way. To get to 87 wins the team will need to go 34-26 the rest of the way. That’s a bit better than they managed even at their best, but it is something that is within their grasp if they treat every series, every game, every inning, every pitch as if it were a win or go home playoff game. With the fierce competition above and the chasers below peeling off the team may find it likely that they can snag a wild card spot, but the goal should absolutely be about winning the division. The Rays currently sit a mere 2.5 games back of the division-leading Red Sox. The real ground to be made up will be in this series as the Rays have the chance to leapfrog the Yankees for second place. It will require taking three out of four, which is no easy task, but the Rays don’t do anything the easy way.

Over the last 30 days the Rays bats have scuffled pretty mightily. Since removing Derek Norris, Rickie Weeks Jr., Colby Rasmus, and others from the lineup the Rays have seen their strikeout rate begin to settle in as merely bad rather than threatening historic records. Thing is, the decline in strikeouts has also brought fewer walks as the team is not right around the league average in that regard. A pace they are also meeting with their expected production on balls in play. The Yankees are built rather similarly with the exact same xwOBA*, similar strikeout rates, but a whole bunch more walks. Neither team has what you would call a great offense, but the edge goes to the Yankees here.

While he has cooled since the All Star break you can see that Aaron Judge is still a complete monster. He has been worth slightly more than Steven Souza Jr. over this time with both sitting amongst the league elite. The next couple of slots are also fairly even, but the Yanks have a handful more guys in the average range. Both have several players, including everyday guys, that are hurting the team at the plate. While both teams have seen lower actual results than expected the Yankees difference is much more dramatic with higher expectations and lower actuals. There are numerous threats in the Yankee lineup that will have to be pitched carefully, but as the team has built itself to combat the plethora of lefty starters available to the Red Sox that strategy may leave the Yankees vulnerable to the righty-heavy staff and pen of the Rays.

Moving on to the pitchers you see the Yankees holding a tremendous edge here as they have one of the best pitching stables in the league over the last month or so. The Rays check in bang average allowing harder contact, more walks, and garnering fewer sitdowns. A caveat here is that the Yankees have recently seen some turnover with Tyler Clippard leaving the team and both Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson coming aboard. None of these players are factored in here, but all three would push the Yankees even higher if their contributions were included.

Luckily for the Rays, the starter they will miss in this four-gamer is not only the best New York has to offer, but also one of the best in the league. Luis Severino is having a tremendous season that just continues to roll well, but he is joined by others who have been good if not matching his greatness. Sabathia gets the nod in game one. He has been around league average over the past month, though there should be tremendous concern with those strikeout and walk figures. Staying out the zone has done wonders for his ball in play results, which look shinier than his still quite good expectations. Masahiro Tanaka gets the nod in the second game, and he looks very little like the punching bag the Rays beat around earlier this year. The strikeouts are back and he isn’t walking anyone. He’s allowing league average production on balls in play, which hugs pretty tightly to his actual results.

The third game will feature another lefty in the rookie Caleb Smith. In a pretty small sample he has shown good results on non-ball in play plate appearances, but is giving up some loud contact. The finale will feature the rookie Jordan Montgomery who has also pitched pretty well. His xwOBA* is well below average, though he has seen worse actuals. He makes up for this by running a solid K:BB rate. Sensing a theme? The Yankees are doing their best to throw as many lefties as possible against the Rays both to exploit the Rays bigger weakness, but also to protect against the Rays lefties leveraging the short porch that runs from the rightfield foul line to East 162nd.

Tampa Bay will need to approach this series with all the urgency that it deserves. They have a real chance to catapult over their competition in the standings, but the road will fraught with perils. None of this looks like they will be able to rely on traditional strengths, and when you factor in the Yankees bullpen reinforcements you start to get the impression that these games will have to be won early or not at all.

Game previews will be updated once rosters have been finalized each day, but here’s a good guess at what each pitcher could face.

Game 1


Game 2


Game 3


Game 4



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