Target: RHB's Brian Dozier 2B ($4400, +162 OPS and +.070 ISO career vs. LHP), Trevor Plouffe 3B ($3800, +127 OPS and +.036 ISO vs. LHP) and Torii Hunter OF ($3600, +55 OPS and +.015 ISO vs. LHP) against LHP CC Sabathia ($6000, +75 OPS and +.022 ISO career vs. RHB)
Sabathia has always made life tough on opposing lefties (and opposing hecklers), but in recent years his performance against right-handed bats has become a major weak point in his game. The situation has reached an extreme this season, with a 904 OPS in 446 plate appearances against righties yet a 513 OPS in his116 plate appearances versus lefty bats. Dozier has upped the ISO roughly 80 points this season, needing about three-quarters as many at bats to match 2014's count of extra-base hits, but he gave back the OBP that he had gained last season. The jury's still out on Miguel Sano ($4300), who has too few at bats to merit an appearance, and in fact just three of his 18 extra-base hits this season have come against lefties (none of his homers). Plouffe is performing the second act of his power performance (the first act was in 2012). Last night's homer was his 18th of the season (sixth off of a southpaw), and he has gone deep once in 14 career at bats against Sabathia. Hunter got a single yesterday to break a string of 19 straight at bats without a hit, but the one-for-five performance left him with an OPS of 708, which is 34 points lower than where it was just 10 days ago. He will look to get back on track today against CC, whom Hunter has faced more times in his career than everyone except one other player (Mark Buehrle), with 94 plate appearances of .271/.340/.506 baseball. Most of that performance was compiled by a younger/better Hunter, but it was also run up against a much better/younger Sabathia.
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DeShields was cut from his dad's mold, shaped as a leadoff hitter who draws walks and steals bags, but those two elements will likely be few and far between tonight against Iwakuma. The right-hander has only given up one successful steal over the past two years, that being A.J. Pollock's thievery on July 28th, and Iwakuma's track record effectively neutralizes the optimism garnered by any 100-steal seasons that Delino Junior might have on his minor-league resume. Andrus is already halfway to that state of irrelevancy, having been moved out of the top one-third of the order months ago, and his inefficient (and ineffective) performance on the basepaths has called into question the one tool that he brings to the table on offense – if the speed doesn't play, then what's left is a 650-OPS hitter who is rostered primarily for his defense.
Dickey was a punching bag for the first half of the season, entering the All-Star break with a 4.87 ERA, but he has harnessed the butterfly for the past couple of months. That said, the unpredictability of the knuckleball throws open the doors of variation and still inspires the temper tag for the right-hander. Dickey draws a light-hitting Philly club that softens the landing in an interleague ballpark, but when the knuckler is on the hill it seems that his performance has more to do with the effectiveness of his pet pitch than it does the quality of his opponents.
Last 9 Games (9 Starts): 5.56 ERA, 60 H, 48 K, 21 BB, 13 HR allowed in 56.7 IP
Two years removed from an ERA crown, and Anibal Sanchez has become an expert in allowing those earned runs to score. He has allowed four or more runs in seven of his last nine starts, including each of his last three turns, and during that two-month stretch he has carried a robust 5.56 ERA. A .287 BABiP suggests that nothing is fishy with his balls in play, but gopherballs have done Sanchez in, with 13 homers allowed in those nine games and an MLB-leading 28 bombs coughed up this season. The Cubs know a thing or two about hitting homers, especially the kids, and Chicago's tendency to come up empty will probably not conjure enough strikeouts to balance Anibal's stat-line.
Lynn is a quality arm but is prone to blow-ups, and when it all shakes out he typically ends up with a WHIP close to 1.30, and opposing batters have little trouble working their way on base against the right-hander. Lynn was electrocuted by the scoreboard in the first inning of his last start, and an early exit this time around might just result in some at bats against southpaws for the lefty-mashing Posey. The price on Posey is just too low given that he is facing a non-elite pitcher, as even without the platoon advantage he is hitting an impressive .305/.372/.469 against right-handed pitchers. He's the top catcher available on any given day, so to see Buster with the seventh-highest salary is puzzling.
Richards has been inconsistent this season, but over his past five games he has been consistently hittable, with exactly three or four runs allowed over six or more innings in each contest. Part of his breakout last season was velocity that actually rose when he moved to the rotation from the bullpen, an extremely odd occurrence, so we shouldn't be all that surprised that his velocity came back down a bit this season (though at 96.1 mph he's still up from 2013). Abreu eats fastballs for breakfast, with a .643 slugging percentage against four-seamers in his career, and the first baseman also has a taste for sliders, having slugged .513 against them and thus leaving the two-pitch wonder of Richards without many options.
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