Apr
30

4/30-5/2 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

By

(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

After eight games and one rain delay against the beasts of the AL, the schedule lightens up a bit and the Yankees welcome the Orioles to the Bronx this evening. The Fightin’ Showalters played the Yankees tough earlier this month despite being swept, forcing them into a pair of extra-inning games.

What Have They Done Lately?

Believe it or not, the Orioles are on a roll right now. They scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth yesterday for a walk-off win against Bartolo Colon and the Athletics, their second straight win and sixth in their last seven games. Baltimore currently sits atop the AL East with a 14-8 record and a +13 run differential that ranks third in the league behind the Rangers and Yankees.

Offense

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

With 95 runs scored and an average of 4.32 runs per game, the Orioles rank 11th and 12th in the big leagues in offensive output, respectively. Their 99 wRC+ ranks 16th in the league and is exactly league average for all intents and purposes. They’ve been carried offensively by Adam Jones (166 wRC+) and Matt Wieters (152 wRC+), two young players that really stepped their game up in 2012. Wieters in particular has improved over the last season, jumping into the upper echelon of catchers.

Nolan Reimold (180 wRC+) missed a few games with a neck strain but is back just in time for this series. Chris Davis (153 wRC+) has been doing major damage so far, and he’s even managed to get his strikeout issues under control (22.7 K%). The always annoying Robert Andino (111 wRC+) is exactly that, always annoying. With him batting ninth, Baltimore has a nice 9-5 batting order with Andino, Reimold, J.J. Hardy (53 wRC+), Nick Markakis (93 wRC+), Jones, and Wieters.

The supporting cast hasn’t been all that great, with Mark Reynolds (35 wRC+) off to a slow start and the former Yankee DH platoon of Wilson Betemit (101 wRC+) and Nick Johnson (-49 wRC+) essentially cancelling each other out. None out outside of Jones will steal bases — he has four, the team has six total — but they will hit the ball out of the park. Baltimore ranks third in baseball with 30 dingers, with Reimold (five), Jones (six), and Wieters (six) doing most of the damage.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Back in the AL after three years with the Rockies, Hammel is off to great start this season. The former (Devil) Ray has allowed no more than two runs in any of his four starts, completing at least six innings three times. His strikeout (8.65 K/9 and 24.8 K%) and ground ball (61.8%) rates are way off his career norms (6.33 K/9, 16.1 K% and 45.5 GB%) while his usually low walk rate (2.77 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) has remained the same. Hammel has changed his pitch selection a bit, possibly explained the improved performance. He’s relying on his low-to-mid-90s two-seamer (40.5%) and mid-80s slider (24.6%) more than ever before while mixing in the occasional four-seamer and curveball. I’m very interested to see the new version of Hammel and whether or not this improvement is real. We do have some tangible evidence that it might be.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Brian Matusz
What an appropriate matchup. Two young phenoms who have pitched far below expectations and battled mysterious missing velocity disease last season. Like Hughes, Matusz’s velocity has returned but the performance is still awful. He’s allowed 17 runs in 20.2 IP this year with nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (14) and a 32.9% ground ball rate. He’s in the low-90s with his four-seamer and cutter, low-80s with the changeup and slider, and upper-70s with the curveball. The top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball as recently as two years ago, Matusz’s career has been derailed in a big way. The Yankees tagged him for four runs in four innings in his first start of the season a few weeks ago.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jake Arrieta
The de facto ace, Arrieta started the season well but got knocked around a bit in his last two starts. His strikeout (7.12 K/9 and 19.5 K%) and ground ball (37.9%) rates are in line with last season, though he has cut down on the walks in a big way (2.67 BB/9 and 7.3 BB%). That might have something to do with having bone chips removed from his elbow at the end of last season. Arrieta sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, backing them up with an upper-80s slider, upper-70s curveball, and mid-80s changeup. The changeup is just a show-me pitch, the two breaking balls are his go-to secondary offerings. The Yankees scored four runs in 6.2 IP off Arrieta a few weeks ago.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Showalter has had to use his bullpen quite a bit this season, though the Orioles’ relief corps has gotten a bit of a breather in recent days. Righty specialist Darren O’Day (2.49 FIP) and setup man Pedro Strop (3.18 FIP) threw 17 and 23 pitches each yesterday, respectively. Former Yankee Luis Ayala (2.68 FIP) threw two innings and 28 pitches on Saturday, the only reliever they needed that day.

Closer Jim Johnson (3.73 FIP) is back with the team after a four-day stint in the hospital with food poisoning. He hasn’t pitched in a game since last Sunday. Right-handers Matt Lindstrom (1.91 FIP) and Kevin Gregg (7.54 FIP) haven’t pitched since Friday, and neither has lefty Troy Patton (4.05 FIP). He’s more of a multi-inning guy than a specialist. Overall, the Baltimore bullpen owns a 3.38 FIP, right behind the Yankees (3.23 FIP) and third best in the AL.

Despite Freddy Garcia‘s five-out start on Saturday, the Yankees’ bullpen is in fine shape because CC Sabathia went eight innings yesterday. D.J. Mitchell was called up to take over as the long man after David Phelps was moved into the rotation. Garcia is now working out of the bullpen and is probably the only guy not available tonight. For the latest and greatest from B’more, we recommend Camden Crazies.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Greg

    Freddie needs to pitch, not be hidden in the bullpen where he’ll never get into a meaningful game. Can the designate him for assignment? No one will pick him up. Then have him go to the minors to work on things, with a side deal that he can leave if he gets another major league gig?

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      It’s not like Freddy is a prospect. Freddy is who we thought he is (sorry had to). He’s old, doesn’t throw hard, and can’t find the zone. He needs to go to the NL.

    • Fin

      I believe once the Yankees DFA him they have a certain amount of time to work out a deal or release him. I doubt they work out any deals and would end up releasing him. He would then sign with someone else, very possibly the Sox on a minor league deal. I think the reason the Yankees wont release him is the fear of him finding his mojo for the Red Sox, while they pay for it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    Phil Hughes v. Brian Matusz

    Whoever sucks less, wins.

    • jjyank

      Yeah, pretty much.

    • Jeff Karstens, Male Model

      Battle of the Bullpens!

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Matusz…Hughes….lose

      3 words often seen together

  • Zach

    That violin is amazing.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Love it. At the HoF in Cooperstown there is a bat that John Fogerty played as a guitar for “Centerfield”.

  • Kramerica Industries

    The fact that ESPN is making Wednesday a night game when the Yankees have to be in Kansas City the next night is damn near criminal.

    • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

      it’s not that bad. at least they’re not going coast to coast.

    • forensic

      Damn near criminal? It’s about a 2 hour flight, that’s no big deal. Last night the Rays and Rangers played in Texas and had to travel to Tampa and Toronto respectively for games tonight. It’s very common for teams to have games like this and it’s just not a big deal. Not everything is a conspiracy against the Yankees.

      • Steve

        False, everything is a conspiracy against the Yankees.

        • ROBTEN

          Someone on the inside would say that, just to get us off the trail.

          Nice try, but I’m on to your tricks.

          • jjyank

            It’s a conspiracy within a conspiracy!!

            /Inception’d

  • jjyank
  • Reggie C.

    Hughes will definitely make it out of the 3rd inning in his Tues start. Would love to see him get to 6 innings with a pitch count under 120. Might be the biggest start of his career. Aside from the Hughes intrigue…meh.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      I hate to say it but at this point, I think it’s inevitable that Hughes is going to end up in the pen. I’ve completely lost all confidence that he’ll ever be an effective starter and I’ve been a huge proponent of giving him every chance to develop.

      I hope I’m wrong.

      • jjyank

        Yeah, I agree. I’ve been wondering what Hughes’ line needs to look like for certain actions to occur. Like, how good does he need to be to earn another start? Where is the line?

        Obviously if he can’t get out of the 3rd inning, he’s toast. But what about 6 IP 3 ER? Just a thought.

        • LiterallyFigurative

          I’d take 6 IP, 4ER.

        • ROBTEN

          Where is the line?

          Where’s the line anymore? Well, I got news for ya, it’s not even on the radar screen! The days of decency and virtue are gone, honey, BAM, freakin’ evaporated like a dingy stinkin’ mudpuddle. One day you see your reflection in it and the next day it’s a, it’s a damn oil spot on your crack driveway, staring back at you, mocking at you, blah, blah, blah, knowing the perverted truths that rot in the pit of your soul.

      • Fin

        I agree. I’m just not sure when that inevitability arrives. I dont think Hughes needs to pitch a great game to keep his spot for a little while longer (until Petite is ready), he just cant have a two or three inning blowup. I dont think the Yankees have any desire to have Phelps and Mitchell togather in the rotation this early in the season.

        It seems to me that Hughes is now in a competition with Phelps to keep his spot when Andy is ready. I think Hughes will be given the advantage in this competiton as well, not becasue he earned it, but because of pitching depth. I think once they send Hughes to the bullpen its over for him as a starting pitcher, at least for the Yankees. They can send Phelps back down to the minors for a month or so to keep him stretched out or put him back as the long man and keep Mitchell stretched out in the minors. This would allow them to keep depth in the rotation. If they send Hughes to the pen hes not coming back to the rotation so you loose even more depth.

        Sending Hughes to the minors is a possibility but I doubt it. He only has 2 years left on the Yankees and if he hasnt figured it out yet, I dont see a month or two of dominating minor leaguers doing the trick. I see the Yankees getting as much value as they can out him and the pen is where they are going to get that value. I think Hughes will be a very good pitcher out of the pen, probably better than Soriano.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    You know things are bad being an Orioles fan when you start turning pieces of equipment into musical instruments.

    • jjyank

      It was probably Mark Reynolds’ bat.

      “Reynolds, you strike out ONE MORE TIME, and we’ll turn your damned bat into a violin!”

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        Reynolds should try batting with a banjo.

        • jjyank

          A cello might work out better for him.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            An upright bass would be even better.

    • G

      Is he actually an Orioles fan? I know you’re joking, but he’s performed at a few ballparks so I’m just wondering. He’s a pretty phenomenal violinist.

  • Alibaba

    Sending Hughes down like Nova might not be a bad idea if he bombs in his next start. He may not show the same improvement that Nova did, but we are running out of options.

    There are two opposites in MLB in developing pitching. At one end you have TB and SL, whose pitching prospects seldom flames out. At the other end, you have our beloved Yankees, whose last homegrown pitching success has been Andy.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Ivan Nova and Chien Meng Wang say hello.

      • jjyank

        IPK too. He’s not on the team, but the Yankees developed him.

        • Alibaba

          He flourished only after he was traded away. I would not call IPK our success.

          • jjyank

            Why not? The Yankees developed him, and that was the word you used.

          • jsbrendog

            to develop someone would mean you made them into what they were. ipk did what he did for arizona in his first season with them after what amounts to one spring training of development by them.

            the yankees developed him.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Oh, and IPK, while no longer with the Yankees, was developed by them. While not a star, he seems to be a legitimate MLB starter too.

      • Alibaba

        Nova has been impressive so far, but we don’t know about his long-term success. Chien Meng Wang is not a success story, IMHO.

        • jjyank

          Wang had several very good years. He got hurt, that’s got nothing to do with his development. If the barometer is “an above average big league for a decade-plus”, that’s a pretty ridiculous standard. Most MLB teams are not churning out Andy Pettittes every other year.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Oh, barf. The dude messed up his foot rounding the bases, which somehow set up the chain of injuries. He was the absolute ace of the staff until then, no matter what people back then on here thought an “ace” should look like.

          You’re right that we know about Nova’s success as little as we know about any young pitchers. I’ll take the chances of a young pitcher that goes deep into games, pitches out of trouble, and rarely gets rattled. I’ve said it before: If this what “projects as a #4″ looks like, give me more of those guys.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Didn’t you say just this in another thread today? At least you get points for persistence.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Having Phil Hughes face Brian Matusz will create such a disruption in the spacetime continuum that they’ll both suddenly come out throwing 120 MPH and pitching perfect games the rest of the season. Why did no one think of this earlier?

    Speaking of the spacetime continuum, mispelling Cole Hamels enough time may actually be turning Jason Hammel into a better pitcher and, therefore, cheaper option. Keep up the good work, guys, and pounce, Cashman.

    • jjyank

      So, you’re saying we should start spelling “Phil Hughes” more like “Roy Halladay”? Hell I’ll try anything at this point.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        PHIL PHUCKING HOOOOOOOOOOLIDAY!

        • jjyank

          Like I said below, the spelling doesn’t matter. He can become Halladay or Holliday, both of them provides better value than the artist formerly named Hughes.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I’d wager Phil Hughes is a much better pitcher than Matt Holliday.

  • jjyank

    Slightly off topic, but I saw a nice article on LoHud about Phelps, Mitchell, and Warren.

    http://yankees.lhblogs.com/201.....le-assets/

    Kinda cool to see how they seem to be so close and are rooting for each other so far. According to Phelps, Warren and Mitchell are two of his best friends. Just thought I’d share that.

  • Kosmo

    If by some act of “GOD“ Hughes suddenly begins to turn it around (which I don´t have a lot of confidence he will) they´ll sure will be alot of “monkey´s asses“ here and elsewhere.
    I mean can he really be this bad ?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I hope he does turn it around, and I hope we are a bunch of monkey’s asses. No shame in being wrong.

      • Kosmo

        Of course !

        • Robinson Tilapia

          It also goes for those guys for whom, when someone does badly, immediately say “where are all the ________ supporters?” There’s no shame in being a supporter of a player on this team, no matter their performance…

          • Kosmo

            “supporter“is an odd word to me.

    • Fin

      I dont think Hughes is this bad. I think he can do the job as the fifth starter. Hes not a top of the rotation guy, I think that is painfully obvious. How much time do you give to the number 5 starter before you call it day and dump him in the pen where he can be very good? Do to a sudden lack of pitching depth and proven alternate options, I think Phil will get more time than we would like but thats probably for the best.

      • Kosmo

        If at this time Hughes is demoted to the bullpen and it would be a demotion it would be as if the org. has finally given up on Hughes. I guess it´s what kind of spin one places on it and how does Hughes respond ? Before when he was placed in the bullpen it seemed like a good fit but everyone knew it was only temporary.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Also, you heard it here first: SWEEP. Kuroda finds his mojo tonight, Mitchell bails out Hughes on Wednesday, and SuperNova time on Thursday.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      No need for Mitchell to bail out “Holliday” Wednesday. He’ll do it all himself. :-)

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Of course, I probably need to spell it “Halladay” for it to work. Then again, a bit more offense never hurts either.

        • jjyank

          Ha maybe this will become the new thing. Can’t wait to watch Roy take on the O’s on Wednesday! Haha.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Notice that I accidentally pulled the same shit abve in response to jjyank. This must mean it’s catching on.

        • jjyank

          Don’t worry about the spelling though. With Gardner on the DL, we could probably use Holliday in LF right now too.

  • http://none The mighty mighty one

    Please do not doubt Mr Hughes he will be an Ace someday for some team in some league

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I hear Andy Pettitte’s former church league softball team is looking for a pitcher …

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      I just hope it’s not when he’s 45 and playing in a slow pitch softball league.

    • Alibaba

      Unlikely, but could happen. Especially if he ends up in TB or SL.

      • jjyank

        Are you a TB or SL fan? Do you really think if Hughes ends up in Tampa Bay, he’s going to suddenly be an ace? Come on man.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    We got a Fin and a Tilapia?

    I come to this site just for the Halibut!

    • Kosmo

      Sounds like a good Groucho line

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

        When we want your opinion, we’ll give it to you.

        /Groucho (just kiddin’)

        • Kosmo

          good one ! certainly applies to this blog .

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Does anyone even remember the joke which led to this screen name?

    • Fin

      Lol

  • Clyde Barrow

    LOL! What an appropriate matchup indeed on Tuesday! It’ll be a battle between the bums. I just hope ours can be better than theirs for once. Matusz against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium has 6 ER written all over it but Hughes will probably struggle to make it through 4 and give up 5 ER himself. Hiroki will be solid and Nova will bounce back. We should take at least 2/3.