20-GAME WATCH: YANKEES VS. WHITE SOX
W-L RS/G RA/G AVG OBP SLG AB/HR SB CS HR/9 BB/9 K/9
Yankees 14-6 5.6 4.4 .291 .375 .484 25 10 7 1.0 3.1 7.1
White Sox 9-11 4.8 5.0 .261 .328 .423 27 11 3 1.0 3.6 7.1
The White Sox are a .500 team. This is entirely appropriate. They have an above-average pitching staff and a below-average offense, and the combination of the two allows them to break even. The Yankees have the misfortune to catch them just as the White Sox have received what should be a boost to their offense thanks to the return of last season’s almost-MVP Carlos Quentin from a long stay on the disabled list. Quentin has all of six hits in ten games since coming back, but he did hit a home run in his most recent game.
The Yankees also get their first look at rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft. After just holding his own in his first month in the bigs, Beckham has turned it on in July, batting .337/.396/.539 this month. Interestingly, he’s struggled badly at home, hitting only .213 with no home runs in Chicago. His road production, .382/.451/.640, has been monstrous. He’s currently playing third base because that’s where the Sox needed him, but he could play second or even shortstop in the future… On the whole, the White Sox are an impatient club with some power thanks to the usual producers, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Paul Konerko. That core is rapidly aging, and the Sox are going to find themselves in a difficult transitional (read: losing) phase if they can’t find more youthful company for Beckham.
One possibility is catcher Tyler Flowers, who was picked up from the Braves over the winter for Javier Vazquez. He batted .302/.445/.548 at Double-A Birmingham before being moved up to Triple-A a little over a week ago. He’s not supposed to be a great defender, and A.J. Pierzynski is in his way, but if the White Sox are smart they’ll look at Pierzynski as just another thirtysomething who has to be moved–because he’s impatient, Pierzynski can be at his offensive best and not contribute that much. He’s having one of the best years of his career this season at .304/.330/.454, but that league-average OBP holds him back.
As the Yankees have four games with the White Sox, they not only get to send out their laundry, but also get to see the entire White Sox rotation with the exception of old pal Jose Contreras, who is currently leading the league in losses. Gavin Floyd has been an interesting case this year. His career-making turn last season came in part through crazy good luck on balls in play, and as many predicted, he’s had less fortune in that area, though he’s still getting some above-average returns–instead of .250, he’s around .280, still better than your average cat. He was hit very hard in April and May before suddenly becoming unhittable in June, putting up a 1.28 ERA in six starts. July has been more of a mixed bag.
I have a suspicion the Yankees will do pretty well with 25-year-old Clayton Richard, a lefty who has just average stuff and control and has gotten by mostly by trying to make perfect pitches and being tough on left-handed hitters. If the Yankees bring up a right-handed bat for this game and Mark Buehrle’s start as well it wouldn’t be a bad thing, although if they didn’t it wouldn’t be a disaster either–lefties have hit Buehrle for good power this year. The same goes for Saturday’s starter, John Danks. Still, the Yankees will have their work cut out for them with Buehrle and Danks; the latter has pitched quite well this year except for a few rough starts in May, and in his starts over this month and last has posted a 3.05 ERA. You’ve no doubt heard about Buehrle lately, but it’s worth noting that he’s rarely pitched well against the Yankees. In eight career starts he’s just 1-5 with a 6.11 ERA, Yankees batters having hit .321/.363/.463 against him. We’ll see if those numbers hold up.