W2W4: Yankees at Royals (May 5)

Hiroki Kuroda Matchups to Watch

Kuroda has had his way with the American League’s right-handed hitters, holding them to 8-for-58 with 14 strikeouts so far this season.

Kuroda was helped that he allowed three hard-hit line drives to right-handed hitters in his last start, but all were turned into outs.

Hiroki Kuroda
2012 Splits

Kuroda’s money pitch against right-handed hitters has been his slider, which he throws to the outer-third nearly 80 percent of the time (the major league average for a righty to a righty is about 53 percent).

That plays into what one of the best righties on the Royals –- Billy Butler -– has done well this season.

Butler has eight hits against sliders from right-handed pitchers this season (half of them have come on pitches to the outer-third or further away), one shy of the major league lead.

Felipe Paulino Matchups to Watch

Though the radar gun readings in Kansas City have registered a bit higher than they do in Royals road games, Paulino’s 95 mile-per-hour fastball has some legitimacy (he averaged the same fastball velocity in home and road games last season).

Most HR vs 95+ MPH Pitches
By Yankees since 2009

But this is not an overpowering 95-mile-per-hour pitch. Opponents are hitting .339 in at-bats ending in a Paulino fastball since 2009.

When you factor in the run value of the hits that Paulino allows with the pitch, his 95-mile-per-hour fastball ranks third-worst among those who thrown at least 500 pitches at that speed since 2009.

As we’ve noted before in this space, the Yankees hitter who tends to perform best against that pitch speed from a right-handed pitcher is Mark Teixeira, who also homered last night.

Teixeira has seven home runs against 95-plus pitches since 2009, one shy of the major league lead, held by Dan Uggla and David Ortiz.

Robinson Cano Watch

Cano has hit 14 fly balls that have stayed in the ballpark since his last home run, a streak that is unusual for him. Last season, Cano averaged a home run every seven fly balls.

Right-handed pitchers have been very cognizant of Cano’s strengths, throwing 60 percent of their pitches to him to the outer-third of the plate or further away. Cano had seven homers against those pitches last season, but has none this season.

Wade in a New Role

With the injury to Mariano Rivera, not only will there be increased responsibility for David Robertson and Rafael Soriano, but Cory Wade wil likely play a bigger role as well.

Wade hasn’t pitched in the first two games of this series, but he’s been very effective this season, with 15 strikeouts and just one unintentional walk in 12 1/3 innings.

It will be interesting to see Joe Girardi’s willingness to use Wade in big spots against left-handed hitters. Wade has retired the last eight lefties he’s faced and has whiffed seven of the 21 left-handed swingers he’s faced this season.