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Top stats to know: Yankees at Tigers

Teams with two of baseball’s four biggest payrolls face off tonight when the New York Yankees play the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a four-game series.

Here are some of the statistical storylines the broadcast crew of Dave O’Brien, Aaron Boone and Mark Mulder will likely be talking about starting at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.

Money matters

The Yankees’ Opening Day payroll was less than $200 million last season for the first time since 2007. But they’re over $200 million this season ($219.2 million), and they have seven $15 million players, two more than any other team in baseball (the Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers have five each).

The Yankees scored 633 runs last season (3.9 runs per game), their fewest in a season since 1990, when they were 67-95. Their .414 win percentage that year was the fourth-worst in team history and the worst in the live ball era.

From 2013-14, the Yankees scored a combined 1,283 runs. That is the fewest runs they’ve scored in a full two-season (non-shortened) period since 1990-91 (1,277).

The Yankees have missed each of the last two postseasons, the first time they’ve missed consecutive postseasons since they missed every postseason from 1982 to 1993.

Sabathia’s struggling, Rodriguez sizzling

CC Sabathia is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA through two starts this season. It’s the first time in Sabathia’s 15-year career that he has lost each of his first two starts of a season.

Though Sabathia’s results on the surface haven’t been positive this season, the underlying numbers show he has pitched better than his ERA indicates. He is third in baseball with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 15-1, and his fielding independent pitching ranks fifth in baseball (minimum two starts).

Sabathia’s fastball velocity has been on a steady decline since he joined the Yankees in 2009. It averaged 93.9 mph in 2009; this year, it has averaged 88.2 mph.

Alex Rodriguez leads the Yankees in on-base percentage (.429), slugging percentage (.714), home runs (four) and RBIs (11). He has 658 home runs, two from tying Willie Mays for fourth on baseball’s career list.

Tigers’ sustained success

The Tigers have made the playoffs four seasons in a row, the longest streak in franchise history and tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the longest active streak in baseball.

Last season was Miguel Cabrera’s 11th in succession with 100 RBIs. He is the fifth player to post such a streak.

But by his standards, 2014 was a down season for Cabrera. His home runs (25), slugging percentage (.524) and wins above replacement (4.9) were all his worst since at least 2008.

Since he joined the Tigers in 2008, Cabrera leads all players in batting average, on-base percentage, home runs, RBIs and runs.

Simon picks up where he left off

Alfredo Simon had a breakthrough season at 33 years old last year with the Cincinnati Reds, and he has continued that with the Tigers (2-0, 2.03 ERA in two starts).

After going 3-9 with a 5.15 ERA from 2008 through 2013, Simon since the start of 2014 is 17-10 with a 3.35 ERA. Opponents have hit .242 off him since the start of 2014.

Last season, Simon’s fastball averaged 93.9 mph (ninth in baseball), and he ranked 19th in baseball in the percentage of his fastballs that were down or below the strike zone. Half of the batted balls against him last season were ground balls (28th in baseball).

The Tigers ranked 25th or worse in defensive runs saved each year from 2012 to 2014, but they rank second this season with plus-12 runs saved.