6/20-6/22 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

RAB Live Chat
Stark: Yankees asking "almost exclusively" about starters in trade talks
(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees just swept their biggest series of the season (to date), and now they begin their next biggest series of the season (to date!). The Orioles are in the Bronx for a three-game weekend set. The O’s took two of three at Yankee Stadium back in April, in the third series of the year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles were off yesterday, and before that they took two of three from the Rays in Tampa. Everyone takes two of three from the Rays these days. Baltimore has played .500 ball for about two months now, and they come into the series at 37-34, a one game back of the Yankees.

The O’s have hit the fourth most homers in baseball this season (78), by they are still no better than an average offense at 4.17 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+. No one gets on base in front of the power hitters. C Matt Wieters (129 wRC+) blew out his elbow and is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. OF Nolan Reimold has not played at all this year due to a back problem. That guy just can’t stay healthy.

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

Manager Buck Showalter has three legitimate 30+ homer guys in the middle of his lineup: OF Nelson Cruz (162 wRC+), 1B Chris Davis (110 wRC+), and OF Adam Jones (113 wRC+). Cruz leads all of baseball with 22 dingers. SS J.J. Hardy (84 wRC+), meanwhile, is still looking for his first homerun of the season. Isn’t that crazy? He’s hit 20+ in five of his seven MLB seasons. OF Nick Markakis (113 wRC+) is having a fine year.

3B Manny Machado (66 wRC+) has not yet started to hit and frankly he hasn’t hit for a while now (73 wRC+ over the last calendar year). 1B Steve Pearce (158 wRC+) and OF Delmon Young (107 wRC+) have done good work in platoon roles while OF David Lough (51 wRC+) is the defense-first fifth outfielder. IF Jonathan Schoop (65 wRC+) and IF Ryan Flaherty (65 wRC+) split time at second while C Nick Hundley (42 wRC+) and C Caleb Joseph (24 wRC+) split time behind the plate. Caleb is Corban Joseph’s brother.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
Remember when Jimenez erased like two and a half years worth of mediocrity with two good months late last season? Good times. The 30-year-old has a 4.86 ERA (4.74 FIP) in 14 starts and 74 innings for the Orioles this year, and there was some talk about skipping his spot this weekend following yesterday’s off-day. The Orioles decided to remain on rotation though. Ubaldo has good strikeout (8.05 K/9 and 20.4 K%), homer (1.07 HR/9 and 13.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (46.2%) rates, though his walk rate (5.33 BB/9 and 13.5 BB%) is a career high. That’s really saying something for him. Lefties (.346 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.316 wOBA). Jimenez’s velocity is down more than a mile an hour this year, so his four and two-seamers sit right around 90 these days. His splitter is now in the low-80s while his curveball and slider remain in the mid-70s and low-80s, respectively. The Yankees scored four runs in 4.2 innings against Ubaldo back in April. He walked five and struck out four. He’s capable of being a total mess or totally unhittable on a given night.

Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
Norris, 29, has been solid in his first full season with the Orioles, pitching to a 3.73 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 13 starts and 82 innings. His peripherals don’t necessarily jump out, however: 6.15 K/9 (16.6 K%), 2.85 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 0.99 HR/9 (10.1 HR/FB%), and 42.2% grounders. He has literally no platoon split: both righties and lefties have a .309 wOBA against him this year. Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher with two other pitches. He relies heavily on his low-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider, throwing them roughly 80% of the time combined, but he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and low-90s two-seamers per start. They are show me pitches though. The Yankees did not face Norris when these two teams met earlier this year.

Norris. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Norris. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
This was supposed to be a breakout year for the 26-year-old Tillman, who seemed to come into his own in the middle of last season. Instead, he has a 4.82 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 15 starts and 84 innings. His strikeout rate (6.21 K/9 and 15.4 K%) is way down, his walk rate is way up (3.75 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%), and his ground ball rate (39.4%) has remained static. Tillman is still prone to the occasional long ball (1.07 HR/9 and 9.0 HR/FB%), but nothing like the last year few years. He was positively Hughesian for a little while there. Lefties (.359 wOBA) have hit Tillman harder than righties (.321 wOBA). Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up Tillman’s mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and big breaking mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year. Tillman did not face the Yankees back in April.

Bullpen Status
Because they were off yesterday, Showalter’s bullpen is nice and rested coming into the series. RHP Tommy Hunter (4.60 FIP) lost the closer’s job to LHP Zach Britton (2.91 FIP) while on the disabled list. RHP Darren O’Day (3.29 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (5.28 FIP) get most of the setup work, though RHP Ryan Webb (2.64 FIP) will see high-leverage duty as well.

LHP T.J. McFarland (3.76 FIP) is more of a long man than a lefty specialist, and right now RHP Miguel Gonzalez (4.74 FIP) is in a middle relief role. He had the Yankees’ number back in 2012, but the magic has worn off and he’s since lost his rotation spot. Check out our Bullpen Workload page to see the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then check out Camden Chat for everything you need to know about the Orioles.

RAB Live Chat
Stark: Yankees asking "almost exclusively" about starters in trade talks
  • The Great Gonzo

    Yankees take 2 of 3 behind solid outings from Kuroda and that other Japanaese guy… you know, thee young one.

    Middle game is a typical Nuno start at the hands of the 2014 recipient of the Pedro Ciriaco Award (given to someone who only doesn’t suck when they are playing the Yankees)…..

    Jonathan Schoop

    (Yeah, Delmon Young is the incumbent winner, but Schoop has upset potential here)

  • Frankie Cerveddardi

    Tonight is the rubber game because you’ve got the automatic L on Saturday followed by the automatic W on Sunday. They should be able to beat Ubaldo and take the series.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      Norris sucks too.

      • Preston`

        Yes he does, but he might be the best starting pitcher we face in this series.

  • TheRealGreg

    Mike had the exact right description for Ubaldo. He is a wild card who is capable of shutting down lineups and completely blowing up.

    O’s don’t walk (last in the AL) and they don’t steal bases (last in the AL) So maybe we can get them to chase a little bit

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    Is unbelievable that Hardy doesn’t have a hr yet. That’s one biggest parts of his game, aside from the good defense. Can’t look too good in his contract year.

    • Preston`

      Hopefully enough so that he doesn’t get a QO and signs cheap with the Yankees next season. Hardy and Headley in pinstripes as reclamation projects would have a lot of upside in 2015.

      • forensic

        would have a lot of upside in 2015.

        Or, arguably more likely, a lot of suck in 2015.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Hey, I’d play the odds on at least one of them not sucking.

          I also loved our starting pitching at the start of this season.

        • Preston

          Neither one is that old, Hardy will be 32 next year and Headley will be 31. They both have a track record of success. Both still project to be better than league average this season because they are excellent defenders. It’s hard to imagine Hardy is now a true talent ISO of . after posting a career .160. Likewise Headley’s struggles seem like a BABIP problem (he’s at .241 in 2014, his career BABIP is .330) there are some warning signs, his walk rate is down, his K rate is up and his ISO is down. But all of those changes are pretty slight, so I wouldn’t be worried about them. I think a bounceback from both is likely. The unlikely scenario is that either or both come cheap because of a down season.

          • Preston

            “It’s hard to imagine Hardy is now has a true talent ISO of .067 after posting a career .163”

    • Derek Jeter

      He has a case of Robbie Cano Home Run’itis.

  • forensic

    I remember when people ignored what started happening to Ubaldo when he was in Colorado and wanted to trade for him no mattter what. Then, when people ignored what happened the vast majority of his time in Cleveland and still wanted him signed as a FA.

    Ah, good times…

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      They wish we had Hughes back. There is no end to it.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    “We’re gonna kick their stinkin’ teeth in.”

    The great philosopher, Crush of Demolition.

    I really don’t like the Orioles this year. I think it’s because we’ll hear ten “whuh didn’t dey sign nelson cruse like deh orioles did” complaints every time he breathes.

  • 461deep

    Yanks have pitching edge due to 1st game but not overwhelming. Ubaldo
    has been very poor this year while Kuroda’s been up-down. Seems like losing Wieters has hurt O’s more than one might think as they have not been gas good as earlier when he was playing and enjoying a breakout year. I look for 2 of 3 Y wins o
    on better pitching.

  • SevenAces

    Are the Yankees going to abuse the base paths in this series with Wieters out of the picture?

  • Derek Jeter

    LET’s win this fucking game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://RAB Rick

    Idea!!! Get Phil K. to teach Vidal Nuno how to be a knuckle ball pitcher….he already throws slow enough..just thinking!!