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Series preview: the Yankees are hurting, but that won’t stop them from hurting the Giants

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Still healthy? Noted Giantslayer D.J. LeMahieu.

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

A projected 27 wins above replacement sit on the Yankees injured list as they roll into Oracle Park this weekend. Virtually any one name on the following list of injured players would be the best player on the Giants in 2019 (projected fWAR in parenthesis):

Hitters

Miguel Andujar (1.6)

Greg Bird (0.6)

Jacoby Ellsbury (0.5)

Clint Frazier (1.1) — he’s already at 0.8... well ahead of the projection

Didi Gregorious (3.0)

Aaron Hicks (3.2)

Aaron Judge (4.6) — he’s already accumulated 1 win on the season... so he’s ahead of the projection

Giancarlo Stanton (4.6)

Troy Tulowitzki (0.5)

Pitchers

Dellin Betances (1.4)

Ben Heller (0.4)

Jordan Montgomery (1.5)

Luis Severino (4.5) — he’s supposed to be the ace of the staff!

These are, collectively — albeit with the exception of Jacoby Ellsbury, who will probably never play again — important players to a team that’s trying to contend in what’s supposed to be the toughest division in baseball, the AL East. Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays, with their $50 million payroll and “champing at the bit to sellout humanity to robot overlords” attitude, are out to an early lead and don’t look to be going anywhere. Meanwhile, the Red Sox look hungover from last year’s championship.

The Yankees look... well... they had all offseason to throw their considerable resources around and fill every slot on their 25-man roster with an All-Star player but that’s not what they did. Where some teams showed interest in Manny Machado and Manny Machado showed interest in the Yankees, they showed none. Where Bryce Harper was still available after Spring Training had begun, the Yankees turned and walked the other way.

Brian Cashman seemed intent on proving that he and his team were smarter than money, and when you look at what they’ve done over the past few years, it’s hard to argue against the hubris, even if it means our fundamental understanding of what and who the Yankees are has to change to see his and the organization’s new angle.

They traded for the CardinalsLuke Voit because they liked the underlying analytics — exit velocity, launch angle, hard hit rate — and they could give up Chasen Shreve and Giovany Gallegos to get him because the Yankees have used their resources less on free agency and more on building up their scouting and development departments to quickly replace players just like them.

I’m talking specifically about relief pitchers, too. Some of the most fungible baseball players around — highly volatile year to year, shorter careers on average and in terms of overall effectiveness. A resource-heavy team like the Yankees should be able to build up reliever depth easily, and it looks like they have. If for some reason they can’t replace relievers internally, then they’lturn to free agency to pay for top of the market free agent relievers, like they did this past offseason by signing Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino.

So, the Yankees spend smarter. They already had a top notch farm system and they already were the preferred destination for a lot of baseball players. They thumbed their nose at Manny Machado and Bryce Harper because they could.

They’re jerks!

This will be just the second visit by these jerks to San Francisco since interleague play began. They last visited June 22-24, 2007, which is good for me to know because it reminds me of a bachelor party weekend I threw and I was having trouble remembering when that happened.

The Yankees always seem to match up against the Giants whenever the Giants most have their pants around their ankles and a banana cream pie on their face for some reason. When they first met during the regular season, back in 2002 when this happened —

— the Giants were on a 7-8 run. They’d go on to make it to the World Series that season, of course, so it’s not the best example, but the ensuing ones are:

  • 2007: The Giants were in year three of their stealth rebuild.
  • 2013: The Giants were well into their post-Angel Pagan collapse.
  • 2016: The Giants were in the second half of the 2016 season, a condition from which they’ve yet to recover.
  • 2019: [gestures vaguely at the articles on this website]

Even with all their injury losses, the Yankees are 14-10 (pending the outcome of tonight’s game in Anaheim) and 8-1 in their last nine games and are averaging 5.89 runs a game. So... they’re fine. Totally fine.

On the other hand, Buster Posey looks like he’s getting into a rhythm, Pablo Sandoval is coming off a hot series, and Kevin Pillar has faced these guys before. It might not be a steamroll — okay, forget it. Look, this is the type of team — depth, power, pitching — Farhan Zaidi wants to build right here in San Francisco. With smart buys and a little luck, the Giants might someday mirror these jerks.

Hitter to watch

I was very tempted to bring up Luke Voit again, and while he’ll be facing two lefties this weekend (Madison Bumgarner and Derek Holland), let’s stick with what works.

Just when you thought Troy Tulowitzki on the injured list would spare the Giants, you’re reminded that the Yankees signed Gold Glove second baseman D.J. LeMahieu to a three-year deal in the offseason. To serve as an infield utility man. Because that’s what Yankees money can do. These jerks can add a solid player to their bench who could start on any other team because they have the money and they’re the Yankees and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Thanks to all the injuries, LeMahieu is a starter... just in time for him to return to San Francisco with his annual reign of terror. LeMahieu has 56 hits in 49 career games at AT&Oracle Park (200 PA - .803 OPS) and 125 hits in 422 PA (.832 OPS) against the Giants overall for his career. Something tells me that no matter what uniform he’s wearing, we’re going to be really annoyed by his bat and his glove.

Pitcher to Watch

James Paxton. It’s easy, he’s their best pitcher right now and as intended, but he looks to be on the verge jumping up to the next level. In his last start, he made Yankees history:

And MLB history:

The Giants already have three games this money where they’ve drawn zero walks and five games with 12 or more strikeouts.

Prediction

It feels right for the Bronx Bombers to be the Bronx Bombers even if half their roster is on the injured list, but one of these days, it sure would be nice if the Giants could equal them on the hitting side of the equation. Who wouldn’t want to root for a team that hits like the Yankees?

In the 12 interleague games between these two teams, the Yankees hold a 7-5 series edge and the Giants have scored more than two runs in a game just three times (once in 2002 and twice in 2007). The 2019 Yankees have the second-best pitching staff by fWAR (4.3), the 4th-best strikeouts per 9 (9.82), and if you want to get real traditional, their 3.62 ERA is tied with the Padres for 7th-best.

Sure, the Giants’ team ERA is 2nd-best at 3.20 and the pitching staff might be able to hold the Yankees in check for the most part, but what does that really mean? 3-4 runs a game?

The Yankees should sweep this, but maybe it won’t be so easy for them in one of the games.