Later today, the Yankees will square off in a day/night double header.
In game one, Javier Vazquez will oppose Rick Porcello and in game two, Phil Hughes will face Jeremy Bonderman. Let’s examine how the Yanks’ opponents have done so far and see what the Yankees can do to counter Bondo and Porcello.
We’ll start with the guy whose pitches will start the day: Rick Porcello. After a solid rookie season in 2009, Porcello has struggled. He hasn’t allowed fewer than five runs since his second start of the season and has not pitched more than six innings in any of his starts. His ERA is an ugly 7.50, though his FIP is a more respectable 4.41 and his xFIP is at 4.61, so a correction could be coming. His tRA is 3.89 and his tRA+ is 114 so he’s not giving up hard contact. Hopefully, Rick’s recovery doesn’t start tomorrow.
His pitch selection is led by a two seam fastball that he throws 55.5% of the time and averages 89.7 MPH. Next at 21.1% is a four seam fastball that sits at 91.6. He has a slider that goes 81.4 MPH and has gotten swings and misses on 15% of its offerings. However, FanGraphs has that pitch at 4.42 runs below average per 100 pitches. Wrapping it up is a changeup that’s been thrown 11.1% of the time and travels at 80.5 MPH, a good difference from the fastball. Texas Leaguers has also identified a curveball thrown 0.8% of the time. Those pitches are likely mislabeled sliders.
Starting out a plate appearance, Porcello will likely throw some sort of fastball. He’s started batters with a two or four seamer 76.1% of the time. When getting ahead 0-1 or 0-2, Porcello, like most, likes to use his changeup and slider more. When behind 1-0, Porcello stays with the two seamer (63%), but also increases his changeup use (15%). When down 2-0, Porcello has thrown only fastballs.
So, how should the Yankees approach Porcello? As always, they should be patient. Jumping out at pitches won’t help any offense. However, if they get ahead 2-0, they should be looking to swing away. It’s almost a guarantee that Porcello’s throwing a fastball in that count and it’s turned into a strike 70% of the time. When they fall behind, wait some more. Porcello’s not a strikeout guy and with the increased offspeed pitches after strike one, it’s likely that the Yankees could wait the PA out into an even or favorable count.
Jeremy Bonderman has a similar repertoire to Porcello (2/4 seamers, slider, changeup). Bonderman goes to his non-fastball stuff much more (38.1%) than Porcello (23.4%). Most of his first pitches are also fastballs. Unlike Porcello, though, when Bonderman gets ahead 0-1, he uses his fastball more (55%) than in all situations (51%). On 0-2, though, Bonderman’s fastball usage plummets to 44% and his slider usage pumps up to 36%. When behind, Bonderman goes back to the comfort of the old number one.
Bonderman doesn’t throw hard (89.9 MPH average) and his change up is only 5.2 MPH slower than the fastball. This is a good thing for the Yankees. They likely won’t be overpowered and if they can spit on the slider, they can hammer the relatively slow fastball. This is easy for me to say, blogging from my bedroom, but the Yankees are definitely good enough to force Bonderman to throw his fastball. If they can do that, it’ll be a long day for Jeremy.