Baseball Press presents ''The 606'', a look into the three most intriguing pitching matchups of the day, with a final prediction of the winning pitcher. You may be asking yourself ''What exactly does The 606 mean? There's no major league baseball for that area code- it's in Eastern Kentucky!'' BBP isn't listing players from Eastern Kentucky either. The 606 is short for 60 feet and 6 inches. If you still don't understand, I direct your attention to Official Rule 1.07 from Major League Baseball, referring to the distance from the pitching mound to home plate. Now that we've got that squared away, let's take a look at some pitching matchups for Thursday, April 15th.
Even though The 606 took two losses yesterday, there was a dominant win by John Danks and some big strikeout numbers from Justin Masterson, who was out-dueled by last-minute fill-in Colby Lewis (scheduled Rangers starter C.J. Wilson was scratched with food poisoning). Lewis struck out 10 in 5.1 innings and is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA to start the season. He spent the last two seasons pitching overseas for Hiroshima, where he combined for a 26-17 record with a 2.82 ERA and 369 strikeouts in 354.1 innings. For Tom Waits fans, you could say he was "Big in Japan."
Today's 606 takes a look at a powerful American League West/East matchup between the Angels and Yankees, as well as a dual of National League strikeout artists. Heck, we've even got an old knuckleballer bringing his flutterer to a brand new ballpark in the Twin Cities, so there's plenty to watch for as the season winds down its second week. Yesterday's results:
Loss: Justin Masterson (6 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1.33 WHIP)
Loss: Javier Vazquez (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1.50 WHIP)
Win: John Danks (7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 0.71 WHIP)
The 606 Season-To-Date Record: 9-8-11, 3.31 ERA (68 ER in 184.2 IP)
LHP Scott Kazmir - LAA (0-0) vs. RHP Phil Hughes - NYY (0-0)
This is a matchup of pitchers on very good teams both making their season debuts. Scott Kazmir pitched very well with the Angels in 2009 after struggles with his previous club, the Rays. With the Angels, he was 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 6 starts. Kazmir's once prolific velocity (he drew Billy Wagner comparisons as a prospect and led the AL with 239 strikeouts back in 2007) is no longer his calling card, but he is still an effective pitcher at times and is looking forward to a solid season. In 15 career games (14 starts) against the Yankees, the 26 year-old lefty is 6-5 with an impressive 2.67 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP, including a 2-1 record and 3.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 3 starts last season. Of the current Yankees, the only ones with significant career success against Kazmir are Jorge Posada (11 for 25, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Mark Teixeira (7 for 11, 3 RBI). All other Yankee hitters are batting .200 or less against him, so if he can handle those two he could find himself with a victory. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Coming off of an excellent spring and prolific work out of the Yankee bullpen in 2009, Phil Hughes is set to become a regular contributor to the New York rotation with his season debut. Hughes posted a 1.40 ERA and 0.86 WHIP out of the bullpen last season, but notched a much less impressive 5.45 ERA in 7 starts for the Yanks, so it's somewhat unclear how effective he'll be in the 2010 rotation. In 4 career games against the Angels (1 start), Hughes is 2-0 with a 5.23 ERA and 9 walks in 10.1 innings. However, the 23 year-old righty's history is not very extensive, and no current Angel has more than 4 at-bats against him. Hughes looks primed to make the transition from effective reliever to starter this season, beginning a new chapter of his young career. The Angels will be a good measurement of how he handles his new full-time role, and expectations are high.
Final Prediction: Phil Hughes
RHP Tim Wakefield - BOS (0-0) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano - MIN (0-0)
The 44 year-old Tim Wakefield will bring his knuckleball to Target Field in Minnesota, as he starts against the Minnesota Twins for the 24th time in his career. In that time, Wakefield is 14-5 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 147 innings. Wakefield traditionally has pretty good Aprils (a 3.89 April ERA, compared to a career mark of 4.33) and the current group of Twins hitters has just a .213 career batting clip against him, so he looks primed for a solid start for the Red Sox.
Francisco Liriano looked pretty promising in his first start of the season, allowing 3 earned runs and just 4 hits over 6 innings in a no decision, though he did walk 5. He'll need to avoid giving those free passes against Boston's potent lineup, or risk being knocked around. In Lirano's two career starts against Boston, he is 0-2 with 12 ER in 8 innings (a 13.50 ERA). A limited sample size, sure, but many pitchers have lines like this against hard-hitting AL East lineups, and Boston certainly hasn't gotten less potent over the years. The 2010 crop of Red Sox hitters has a .351 batting average against Liriano (74 at-bats), though interestingly has never homered against the lefty. Only Victor Martinez (5 for 12, 2 doubles) and Adrian Beltre (5 for 18, 2 doubles) have more than 8 at-bats against Liriano though, so there's definitely room for optimism in Minnesota. If the new and improved Liriano can have a good showing in his 2010 home debut, the Twins could come away with a big victory, but it's hard to picture that happening.
Final Prediction: Tim Wakefield
RHP Aaron Harang - CIN (0-1) vs. RHP Josh Johnson - FLA (0-1)
Aaron Harang has had some big success in his career, while young upstart Josh Johnson seems primed for ace status at the age of 26, so this is a good matchup. Harang has been pretty effective in his first 2 starts this season, going just 0-1 but notching a 4.50 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He's been hurt badly by the long ball so far, giving up 4 home runs in just 12 innings. He'll need to keep the ball in the park if he hopes to replicate the success he had earlier in his career, and that might be a difficult task against a team that's given him trouble in the past. In his career against the Marlins, he's 3-2 but has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 9 starts, with the team hitting .342 against him. Several current Marlins have pounded on Harang, including Hanley Ramirez, who is 8 for 21 (.381) with 4 home runs and 6 RBI, and Dan Uggla, who is 6 for 16 (.375) with two homers and 6 RBI. Harang will need to drastically change these trends to succeed against Florida.
Josh Johnson is hoping to put up his first win of 2010 and build on the huge success he had in 2009, which saw him go 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 191 strikeouts in 209 innings pitched. Johnson will face off against a Reds teams that's already found pretty good success in the young season and is hoping to continue that even further. Johnson's lone career start against the Reds came last season, and he went 7.1 innings while allowing 2 earned runs and 8 hits, but walking none (for a 1.09 WHIP) for a no decision. Johnson also had a 3 inning scoreless outing for a win in relief against Cincinnati way back in 2006, so he's been effective in his short time against them. The current Reds hitters are 11 for 30 lifetime against Johnson (.367), but with zero home runs and one RBI in that small sample size. With the benefit of pitching at home, Johnson should be able to handle Cincy and scrape out a victory.
Final Prediction: Josh Johnson