This one could get messy. Everyone knows the forecast in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast this weekend, so it stands to reason that the Yanks and Orioles will get washed out of two, maybe three games. Or this could just be weather services overblowing the worst case scenario and we’ll get only one rainout. Whatever the case, they aren’t playing five games in this series. But we’ll go ahead and preview all of them anyway.
What Have the Orioles Done Lately?
The Orioles are actually riding a four-game winning streak into this series. Of course, all four of those wins came against Minnesota, and we all saw how the Twins fared against non-Burnett pitching last weekend. Before that Baltimore had lost five in a row, so they’re pretty much doing now what they’ve done all season. They’re 10-14 in August.
Orioles on Offense
Despite their horrible record Baltimore actually has a middle of the road offense. They rank eighth in the AL with a 96 wRC+, so they’re sniffing league average. Of course, that’s good for last in the AL East, which only begins to describe their woes both now and in the future.
Two up-the-middle players have led the Orioles on offense. Adam Jones has remained healthy all year and has started living up to his potential this year, hitting .294/.331/.485, good for a 121 wRC+. J.J. Hardy has spent time on the DL — surprise, surprise — but he has been mashing the ball while healthy, sporting a .275/.317/.509 line. That includes 24 homers, which is just second on the team to Mark Reynolds. After a slow start Reynolds, too, has been mashing baseballs. His .220 average holds him back from being an elite player, but he takes his walks and when he does hit a ball he hits it far. These three are really the only above-average threats the Orioles have on offense.
Beyond those three, the only Oriole hitting for decent power is Nolan Reimold. He’s essentially been Reynolds Lite in his time this year, hitting for a low average, a slightly lower walk rate, and lower power. But he’s in the same mold. Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis have been slightly above average this year, but still haven’t lived up to expectations. Markakis in particular has been disappointing. What happened to the All-Star right fielder?
Beyond these guys the Orioles lineup is pretty bleak. Vlad Guerrero, Robert Andino, Jake Fox — it all makes for a not so palatable bottom of the lineup. That is, it should make for a not so palatable bottom of the lineup; Vlad continues to hit in the middle, much to the delight of opposing pitching staffs.
Orioles on the Mound
This will absolutely change depending on how the rain affects the series.
Friday: RHP Tommy Hunter. Yankees fans might remember Hunter from his time with the Rangers. He pitched decently in his one start against the Yanks last year, striking out eight in five innings while allowing two runs. He’s missed them this year, and now faces them in the midst of quite a terrible stretch. Since coming to Baltimore he’s started four times and allowed fewer than four runs just once. Last time out the Angels tagged him for six runs in 6.1 innings, and he strick out none in the game. He’s always been a low-K guy, but this year it has been quite ridiculous. He has just 16 in 40 innings, though he has walked only six. He’s also allowed just two homers, but hey, he hasn’t yet faced the team that hits too many of them.
Saturday: LHP Brian Matusz. It hasn’t been a fun season for Matusz. He started off on the DL, and when he came off he got absolutely rocked. With an 8.7 ERA through six starts in June, the Orioles sent him back to AAA. He recently came back up and has been rocked in two starts, going 10.2 IP, 17 H, 12 R, 4 BB, 7 K. Again, he’s missed the Yankees in all these dealings. This game almost has a reverse lock feeling to it: one of the worse pitchers in the league against the best offense.
Saturday: LHP Zach Britton. Early in the season Britton was looking like an AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate, but a few poor starts hurt him there. The Orioles actually optioned him after the Red Sox laid into him in early July. They then recalled him later in July for a doubleheader against the Yankees, and the Yanks knocked him around for nine runs in just a third of an inning. He’s bounced back in his last two starts, but hasn’t completed six innings since June 22nd. Again, the Yanks should beat both of these guys’ brains in for the doubleheader, but I suspect that one of them will pitch a gem.
Sunday: RHP Alfredo Simon. Simon got a late start to the season thanks to the whole facing murder charges thing. Since his return he has pitched both in relief and in the rotation, though the Orioles apparently think he’s a reliever in the long term. All in all he hasn’t fared too poorly, keeping his walk rate in check. His strikeout rate is below average, though, and he’s been knocked around a bit against non-Minnesota offenses. As a starter he has a 4.17 ERA, though also has a .816 opponent OPS against.
Monday: RHP Jeremy Guthrie. Yankees fans are plenty familiar with Guthrie. He’s been an AL East staple since 2007, and this year he’s been basically the same pitcher as always. His FIP matches up with his ERA (mid-4s), and he’s not striking guys out while allowing his share of homers. He’s started just one game against the Yankees and did very well, lasting seven innings and allowing just one run. He also pitched a perfect inning in relief against them back in May. Might it be time for a pounding?
Bullpen: As if the Orioles rotation weren’t bad enough, they also have a well below average bullpen. It ranks 27th in the majors with a 4.26 FIP and 4.23 ERA. Jim Johnson is the standout here, and it appears his long-term prospects are in the rotation*. Remember, too, that they traded Koji Uehara, who was their best reliever by far. Now they’ve got a ragtag bunch that has gotten mostly killed this year. Again, it’s little surprise how poorly they’ve fared in 2011.
*I fail to see how this will work. Dude has a below strikeout rate in the bullpen, despite throwing in the mid- to high-90s. He seems like the kind of guy who would get crushed the second time through.
Recommended Orioles Reading: Camden Crazies