Tonight the Yankees will play the first game of a three-game set with the Cleveland Guardians. Although the Guardians have outperformed expectations this season, they aren’t the type of team that’s going to get a lot of publicity, so if you’re unfamiliar with them, here’s a quick primer and what to watch for:
Cleveland is essentially an average team. They’re 39-34 and in second place in the AL Central, one game out of first place, but their SRS (based on run differential and strength of schedule) would put them in fifth place in both the AL East and AL West.
Offensively, they’re 14th in MLB in runs per game with a team 98 OPS+ although their underlying metrics indicate they may have been the beneficiary of good fortune so far. They’re an old-school fan’s dream as they put the ball in play (lowest strikeout percentage in MLB and 25th lowest walk rate) and they’re aggressive on the bases. That said, their efficiency on the bases has been “good” but not “great” as they rank seventh in stolen bases and sixth in SB%, but are essentially league average in outs on the bases and extra-base taken percentage.
On the run prevention side, they rank 16th in MLB in runs allowed per game, while their pitching staff ranks 18th in xFIP. They get some help from a pretty good group of fielders as they sport the third-highest Defensive Runs Above Average as a team (Yankees are second, FYI).
What to watch for:
The pitching staff has the 28th lowest ground ball rate and the sixth highest home run rate among MLB teams. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees put a good share of balls into the seats this weekend.
José Ramírez isn’t as underrated as he used to be, but he’s still one of the best players in baseball and rarely gets put in that group. For some perspective, his overall value and offensive production have been almost identical to that of Aaron Judge’s this season. Speaking of flying under the radar.
23-year-old second baseman Andrés Giménez is a star in the making. Acquired from the Mets in the Francisco Lindor trade, Giménez has posted 3.4 bWAR with a 144 OPS+ in 2022 – both are good for second-best among MLB second basemen.
Closer Emmanuel Clase might be the best closer in baseball and is definitely must-see TV. Always a hard thrower, the 24-year-old righty has improved his command and lowered his walk rate in ’22. If you’re wondering, yes that cost him a little on the radar gun as he now averages only 99.8 mph on his fastball. Clase, astonishingly, ranks in the 99th percentile or better across MLB in fastball velocity, fastball spin rate, chase rate, xERA, xwOBA, and barrel percentage. That’s not counting a handful of other categories in which he’s merely in the 90th percentile or better.
Pitching matchups, how to watch:
Tonight: Gerrit Cole vs. Aaron Civale, first pitch 7:10 PM, watch on Prime Video.
Saturday: Nestor Cortes vs. Triston McKenzie, first pitch 6:10 PM, watch on YES.
Sunday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Zach Plesac, first pitch 1:40 PM, watch on YES.
Looking forward to a fun Holiday weekend of baseball – let’s start another winning streak boys!
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