Tonight the Yankees square off against the Chris Archer. With both Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson on the shelf, Archer's easily the Rays' best starting pitcher not named David Price. One notable characteristic of Archer is that he throws more sliders than the average bear, turning to the slide piece 33% of the time both this season and last. Of all pitchers who have thrown at least 200 pitches in 2014, only three have thrown the pitch with a higher frequency. Tomorrow, the Rays will give the ball to lefty Cesar Ramos, who's also thrown a slider one third of the time this year.
Ted Williams once called the slider "the best pitch in baseball." No doubt, a good slider can be unhittable at times and between Archer and Ramos, its probably safe to say the Yankees batters will receive a steady diet of them this weekend. Does this bode well for the Yankees hitters? Going back to 2008, here's how Yankees hitters have fared in plate appearances in which they saw at least one slider:
None of the current Bombers have fared all that well against slider-throwing pitchers. McCann's stats are the best on the above list, but are still underwhelming compared to his overall numbers. Soriano's hit for plenty of power, but has chronically failed to get on base, even moreso than usual. There are some crazy high strikeout totals here -- not all that surprising considering the slider is a commonly-used put-away pitch. Still, some Yankees have struck out significantly more often than usual when challenged with a slider. Of all statistics, strikeouts tend to be the most predictive in limited samples, so these are the numbers that are likely to have the most meaning behind them:
|Player||K% vs Slider Pitchers||Overall K%||Difference|
Overall, there's no one player who's hit particularly well against sliders, but there are a few who have really scuffled, implying they have a hard time getting a read on sliders. Beltran, McCann, Johnson and Roberts all posted K% at least 12 percentage points higher than they did overall during this time span. Meanwhile, Jeter, Johnson, and Roberts have downright putrid overall numbers. Based on this data, it might make sense to give some of these guys a breather this weekend -- allowing them to rest up for when a more favorable matchup comes along. This is especially true for Beltran, Jeter, and Roberts, who have been a little banged up of late.