W2W4: Yankees vs. Angels (Friday)

Hiroki Kuroda Stats To Watch

Kuroda got in trouble in his last start because he gave up an unusually high number of fly balls and line drives. He yielded 16 against the Red Sox, one shy of his career-high.

That may have been due to Kuroda’s throwing more hittable pitches to lefties, who were 8-for-17 with a homer and three doubles against him. They had hit .218 against him in the five starts prior to that one.

Kuroda held Angels lefties to three hits in 13 at-bats in their first meeting, in which he pitched eight scoreless innings. Kuroda kept the ball in the strike zone more often than he usually does, but the Angels didn’t take advantage. He had his highest rate of called strikes in this game, getting 24 on 62 takes (39 percent).

After posting a 4.14 ERA in the second half of his rookie season, Kuroda has had a post-break ERA below 3.10 in each of the last three seasons.

Kuroda’s history is that he tends to be more of a strike-thrower in the second half of the season. He averages about 2.6 strikeouts per walk prior to the break, but has averaged better than a 4-to-1 rate in the second half of each of his four seasons.

Jeter Meter

Derek Jeter closed the first half strong by going 12-for-28, with five multi-hit games in his last six games. He took advantage of pitches over the heart of the plate, getting five hits on the nine pitches he saw that were over the middle-third of the plate width-wise, and in the middle-third of the strike zone height-wise.

Jeter has shown some vulnerability recently to being jammed inside. Of the last 67 pitches he’s seen on the inner-third of the plate or closer to him, he’s gotten just one hit and made 14 outs.

Jeter has historically been a better performer in the last two and a half months of the season. He’s had a better second-half batting average and OPS in 11 out of 16 seasons since 1996.

Maybe not a breakout day for A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez is 1-for-16 in his career in the regular season against C.J. Wilson and 2-for-21 against him including playoffs. That .067 regular-season batting average is his second-worst against any pitcher against whom he's had at least 20 plate appearances. (he's .056 against Darrell May.)

Trout Line

The way Angels center fielder Mike Trout played in the first half of the season, he could be on his way to being the third player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, along with Fred Lynn (1975, Red Sox) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001, Mariners).

Mike Trout by pitch location in 2012

As one of my Stats & Info colleagues, Micah Adams, checked into the other day, Trout is one of four AL players to hit at least .340 with 10 home runs by the All-Star break and make the All-Star team. One of those was a Yankee -- Joe DiMaggio in 1936.

Trout’s speciality is hitting pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below. The average major leaguer hits .222 with a .632 OPS in plate appearances that end with pitches there. Trout is .361/.920. The .361 is the best mark in baseball, and the .920 OPS ranks fourth-best.

Pujols Watch

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols has established himself as a player who gets better as the season progresses. His career numbers after the All-Star break: .337 batting average and .1.053 OPS -- 21 points and 49 points higher than his first-half numbers.

Kuroda will want to be careful early in the count against Pujols. Since May 6, Pujols is 28-for-62 with eight home runs in at-bats ending within the first two pitches. Pujols is 4-for-18 lifetime against Kuroda.