Yankeemetrics: April 13-15 (Orioles)

Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Going streaking
The Yankees started their 10-game road trip with a 6-5 win over Orioles at Camden Yards, fueled by a three-homer outburst that gave them an AL-best 12 longballs through the first seven games. It’s just the seventh time in franchise history they’ve hit at least a dozen homers this early into the season, and the first time since 2011.

Stephen Drew was the unlikely hero for the Yankees, delivering the big blow with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. How rare was Drew’s homer? The only other Yankee in the past 75 years with a two-out, go-ahead pinch-hit grand slam was Johnny Blanchard on July 21, 1961 vs. the Red Sox. Prior to Drew, the last Yankee with a pinch-hit slam in the month of April was Bobby Murcer on April 9, 1981 against the Rangers.

Michael Pineda got the win despite a shaky outing in which he was pulled in the seventh inning after giving up five runs on nine hits. It was the first time as a Yankee he had allowed more than two runs in a start on the road. Pineda’s streak of seven consecutive road starts giving up two-or-fewer runs was the longest to begin a Yankee career over the last 100 seasons.

Sabathia’s least favorite road trip
So much for winning streaks. The Yankees lost the middle game of their three-game set vs. the Orioles, 4-3, as CC Sabathia was knocked around for four runs on seven hits in seven innings. This is the first time in his 15-year career that he’s started a season with two losses in his first two outings.

Sabathia, who once dominated the O’s in Baltimore (10-1, 2.73 ERA in first 12 starts at Camden Yards), fell to 0-5 in his last seven road starts against the Orioles. The only Yankee pitcher with a longer road losing streak against the Orioles in Baltimore is Stan Bahnsen, who lost six straight decisions from 1968-71.

Mark Teixeira tried to rally the Yankees with an RBI double in the sixth inning. Prior to that hit, Teixeira was hitless in 14 at-bats against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. That was his second-worst 0-fer vs. any pitcher in his career, behind only an 0-for-16 mark against Freddy Garcia. #WeirdBaseball.

Alex Rodriguez had a chance to tie the game when he pinch hit for Drew with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Yankees down 4-3, but grounded out for the final out. That dropped A-Rod‘s career line as a pinch hitter to 1-for-19, including the postseason. The lone hit was a 10th-inning single in a win over the Rays on August 25, 2013.

It’s just one game, right…
The Yankees relief corps entered the rubber game against the Orioles as one of the best bullpens in the AL, ranking second in ERA and third in batting average allowed. But they imploded on Wednesday night and blew a 3-2 lead in spectacular fashion, giving up nearly as many earned runs (5) in the sixth inning alone as they had in the first eight games combined (7). That paved the way for an eventual 7-5 loss, dropping the Yankees to 3-6 on the season, their worst nine-game start since 1991.

A-Rod provided one of the offensive highlights for the Yankees, hitting a deep bomb to left field for his 656th career home run (four away from Willie and potential $6 million bonus!) and 32nd at Camden Yards. That’s 10 more homers at the ballpark in Baltimore than any other visiting player.

The Yankees tagged Orioles pitcher Bud Norris for three runs in five innings but he ended up with a no-decision when the Orioles rallied to take the lead in the sixth inning. Norris remained perfect (4-0) in five career games against the Yankees, becoming just one of five Orioles pitchers (since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954) to go unbeaten in his first five major-league starts against New York. The others are Hoyt Wilhelm, Tom Phoebus, Rudy May, and Bob Milacki.

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4/13 to 4/15 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The first homestand of the season is over and the Yankees now head out on a three-city, ten-game, eleven-day road trip. The first stop: Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles, the defending AL East champs. The Yankees won just two of nine games at Camden Yards last season and are 6-13 in Baltimore since the start of 2013.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

The Orioles and Blue Jays just wrapped up a series of slugfests in Baltimore — the two teams combined to score 42 runs in the three games. Toronto took two of three, including yesterday’s game 10-7. Overall, the O’s are 3-3 with a -1 run differential. They’re right smack in the middle of the AL East pack after the first week of the season.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles had one of the better offenses in baseball last year (4.35 runs per game), and aside from replacing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz with Travis Snider, they have the same basic lineup this year. Once again, they’re one of the highest scoring teams in the super early going this year (5.12 runs per game), scoring at least five runs in five of their six games. Here is their starting lineup with their 2015 performance to date and overall ZiPS projections:

2014 Performance 2015 ZiPS Projection
LF Alejandro De Aza
7-for-23 (.304), 2 HR .262/.320/.396 (100 wRC+)
DH Steve Pearce
5-for-23 (.217), 2 HR .262/.345/.473 (129 wRC+)
1B Chris Davis
5-for-19 (.263), 1 HR .241/.326/.495 (126 wRC+)
CF Adam Jones
8-for-21 (.381), 2 HR .279/.315/.475 (120 wRC+)
RF Travis Snider
7-for-18 (.389), 1 HR .242/.310/.410 (101 wRC+)
3B Manny Machado
1-for-19 (.053) .285/.323/.448 (115 wRC+)
2B Ryan Flaherty
2-for-13 (.154), 1 HR .228/.287/.381 (85 wRC+)
SS Everth Cabrera
4-for-17 (.235) .251/.312/.329 (87 wRC+)
C Caleb Joseph
2-for-13 (.154), 2 2B .235/.279/.393 (81 wRC+)

Baltimore is currently without SS J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and C Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery), both of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series. That’s why Cabrera and Joseph are starting at short and catcher. Flaherty has been more or less platooning with IF Jonathan Schoop, who straight up crushed the Yankees last season (126 OPS+). That was annoying considering he had a 67 OPS+ overall.

Jones. (Presswire)
Jones. (Presswire)

Because they’re carrying 13 pitchers, the O’s only have DH Delmon Young and C Ryan Lavarnway on the bench alongside Schoop. Delmon platoons with Snider against lefties — Young slots in at DH and Pearce moves to right — and Lavarnway is there because they need a backup catcher, and he’s not really a catcher to start with. They’re going to play Joseph as much as humanly possible until Wieters returns in a few weeks.

Over the last two or three years the Baltimore defense has gotten overrated because they don’t commit many errors — their 141 errors from 2013-14 are the fewest in baseball. They’re good defensively in general, but not the best in the game. Manny Machado is superb at third, best in baseball at the position, and both De Aza and Jones are very strong in the outfield. Joseph is solid behind the plate and Davis, Flaherty, and Schoop are adequate at their positions.

Cabrera is below average at short in general and is a big downgrade from Hardy. Snider and Pearce are shaky in the outfield — they take a lot of short, choppy steps when moving around and it just looks bad — and Delmon is a total disaster in the field. The Yankees should consider it a gift if the Orioles play Young in the outfield at some point this series. It all adds up to a slightly above average team defense, which is valuable, but does not match the O’s reputation.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY)
It’s hard to believe this is already Chen’s fourth year in MLB, isn’t it? I still feel like he just got here. The 29-year-old had a 3.54 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 185.2 innings a year ago despite below average strikeout (17.6 K%), ground ball (41.0 GB%), and homer (1.11 HR/9) rates. He doesn’t walk anyone though (4.5 BB%) and has historically been a bit better against lefties (.300 wOBA) than righties (.329 wOBA). Chen works with both two and four-seam fastballs and his velocity is down about two miles an hour this year compared to the last few years, even considering how early it is in the season. Low-80s sliders and changeups and a mid-70s curveball round out his five-pitch arsenal. Chen’s not a blow you away type, he’s a keep you off balance guy. He allowed three runs in just 4.1 innings against the Rays last week, his first start of 2015.

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, is another guy who’s been around longer than you’d think. This is his fourth season in the show too. He pitched to a 3.23 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 159 innings last season, and considering he has a 3.43 ERA and a 4.58 FIP in 441.1 careers innings, it’s probably time to say Gonzalez is one of those guys who consistently outperforms his peripherals. His strikeout (16.5 K%), walk (7.6 BB%), grounder (37.3 GB%), and homer (1.42 HR/9) rates don’t jump out at you at all, but he makes it work. Gonzalez’s moneymaker is a dynamite low-80s split-changeup hybrid that generates a lot of weak contact. He sets it up with low-90s heaters and will also throw low-80s sliders and mid-80s curveballs. Gonzalez has had a negligible platoon split in his career — .314 vs. 318 wOBA in favor of lefties — and last week he allowed one run in five innings in his first start of the year.

Norris. (Presswire)
Norris. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (Career vs. NYY)
Norris is another one of those league average-ish starters the Orioles seem to have in spades. The 30-year-old gave the team 165.1 innings of 3.65 ERA (4.22 FIP) ball in 2014 with almost perfectly average peripherals across the board: 20.2 K%, 7.6 BB%, 42.2 GB%, and 1.09 HR/9. Lefties have hit Norris quite a bit harder than righties the last few years because he throws low-to-mid-90s fastballs and mid-to-upper-80s sliders almost exclusively. He’s thrown his show-me mid-80s changeup less than 10% of the time the last few seasons. The Blue Jays clobbered Norris in Baltimore’s home opener last week (eight runs in three innings), so I guess he should just go ahead and have Tommy John surgery now.

Bullpen Status
The Blue Jays did the Yankees a solid yesterday and knocked Chris Tillman out of the game after only 2.2 innings. Long man extraordinaire RHP Kevin Gausman needed 37 pitches to get four outs, forcing LHP Brian Matusz to throw two innings (26 pitches) and RHP Brad Brach to throw 1.2 innings (28 pitches). RHP Darren O’Day also threw 1.1 innings (20 pitches). Manager Buck Showalter had to go deep into his bullpen yesterday.

In addition to Gausman, Matusz, Brach, and O’Day, the O’s are also carrying closer LHP Zach Britton, RHP Tommy Hunter, Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Jason Garcia, and knuckleballer RHP Eddie Gamboa. What is it with all the knuckleballers? The Yankees could end up seeing three different knuckleballers in their first three series of the season. When’s the last time that happened? Anyway, with Matusz throwing two innings yesterday and Britton being confined to the ninth inning, Showalter probably won’t have a lefty to deploy in the middle innings today. That’ll be nice.

Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Camden Chat for everything you need to know about the O’s.

A New Era of Widespread AL East Mediocrity [2015 Season Preview]

For the first time since 2006 and only the fourth time since the wildcard system was implemented in 1995, just one AL East team qualified for the postseason last year. The AL East’s reign as baseball’s dominant division is over. The Orioles won the division by 12 games last season but there is no clear cut favorite heading into 2015. It’s just a jumbled mess of mediocrity. There’s a very real chance the division will be without a 90+ win team for the first time since the 2000 Yankees took the AL East with 87 wins. Here’s an overview of the Yankees’ division rivals heading into the new season.

"Hmmm. Who will win this terrible division?" (Presswire)
“Hmmm. Who will win this mediocre division?” (Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Biggest Strength: I say roster depth in general. They have five average or better starters — well, that’s with Kevin Gausman in the rotation and Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen — and a quality set of relievers to go with some power bats and a versatile bench. The defense is also very good, especially on the infield. And Buck Showalter is a difference-making manager. His strategic on-field moves are arguably the best in the game. On any given day, Baltimore can win with their pitching or their offense. They’re well-rounded.

Biggest Weakness: The lack of on-base guys — losing Nick Markakis will only exacerbate that — and injury issues. The O’s led baseball with 211 homers last year (the Rockies were a distant second with 186) but were only eighth with 705 runs because their team .311 OBP ranked 17th out of the 30 clubs. The O’s could easily lead MLB in homers again even without Nelson Cruz and that’s great. Homers are awesome! But they’re better when guys are on base.

As for the injury issues, both J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery) will open the season on the DL. Manny Machado is coming off right knee surgery and has already had surgery on both knees before his 23rd birthday. Will that hamper his mobility at third base? Machado’s an elite defender with a good but not great bat. Any decline in his defense will take a big bite out of his overall value. The starting catcher and left side of the infield carry health concerns.

The O’s In One Sentence: They lost some key players to free agency this past offseason, but there’s no way I’m going to write them off as a contender.

Hanley's back. (Presswire)
Hanley’s back. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Biggest Strength: The offense. Hanley Ramirez is going to be a big help, even if he only plays 120 games. And even though Pablo Sandoval has gotten overrated — I’m guessing there are many fans who’ve only seen him play in the World Series and think that’s who he is all the time — Red Sox third basemen have hit .226/.280/.351 (85 OPS+) the last two years. He’ll be a big upgrade at the hot corner.

We have no idea what Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo can do across a full MLB season yet, but expectations are high, especially for Betts. (They’re so insanely high at this point that there’s basically no way he can meet them.) Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are still annoyingly productive, and there’s at least some hope Dustin Pedroia can halt his decline now that his thumb’s healthy. The Red Sox are going to mash, especially at home.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. My goodness. Forget the “they don’t have an ace” stuff. Do they even have two league average starters? Rick Porcello was quite good last year, with a 116 ERA+ in 204.2 innings, but Clay Buchholz had a 72 ERA+ in 170.1 innings. Justin Masterson has an 83 ERA+ in his last 528 innings (!) and those three miles an hour he lost off his fastball last year haven’t come back this spring. Wade Miley had an 86 ERA+ in 201.1 innings last year and Joe Kelly had a 91 ERA+ in 96.1 innings. Also, this group has combined for an 18.0% strikeout rate the last three years, so they miss a below average number of bats. Who’s going out there to stop a losing streak?

The Sawx In One Sentence: If the Red Sox are going to contend, they’ll have to contend like the mid-2000s Yankees and outhit their own pitching staff.

No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)
No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Biggest Strength: I … I … I don’t know. I guess the revamped outfield defense with Kevin Kiermaier in center and Desmond Jennings in left? Otherwise the Rays don’t seem to be particularly good at anything. Evan Longoria is a really good player, Chris Archer is a quality starter, and the Jake McGee/Brad Boxberger bullpen duo is as good as it gets, at least once McGee comes back from offseason elbow surgery. That’s about it. Unlike the Orioles, who don’t have an obvious strength but are solid all around, the Rays don’t have an obvious strength and have questions all around.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. Remember when the Rays used to add a new immediate impact rookie starter to their rotation year after year? That doesn’t happen anymore. They needed 24 starts from Roberto Hernandez in 2013 and 15 starts from Erik Bedard in 2014. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Alex Cobb (forearm), and Drew Smyly (shoulder) are all hurt, so Tampa Bay had to scramble to trade for the extremely homer prone Erasmo Ramirez a few days ago and will start Nate Karns in the second game of the season. He had a 5.08 ERA in a full season at Triple-A last year. This rotation won’t be Devil Rays caliber bad, but it is in no way a strength.

The Rays In One Sentence: Ex-manager Joe Maddon and ex-GM Andrew Friedman jumped ship and not a moment too soon.

Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of 'em is Toronto's best hitter. (Presswire)
Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of ‘em is Toronto’s best hitter. (Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Biggest Strength: Middle of the lineup. The 3-4-5 combination of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson is straight up terrifying. They rank 10th, 11th, and 20th in OPS+ the last two years (min. 800 PA) and 7th, 2nd, and 18th in homers, respectively. Those three are going to generate a ton of runs, especially when Jose Reyes is healthy and leading off. Bautista and Encarnacion were scary enough these last few years. Adding Donaldson to the mix is unfair.

Biggest Weakness: Top heavy roster and extreme reliance on youth. Toronto is going to have two rookies in the rotation (Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), two rookies in the lineup (Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis), and two rookies in the bullpen (Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro). For a team looking to contend, they’re putting a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of young players with no real backup plans. Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, R.A. Dickey, and Mark Buehrle have to produce as expected for this club to have a chance. They don’t have the pieces to cover for a disappointing season from one of the veterans.

The Jays In One Sentence: Once again the Blue Jays made some big splashes in the offseason but stopped short of adding all the pieces they need, especially pitching.

9/22-9/25 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The final homestand of the season and Derek Jeter‘s career is upon us. The season flew by, as it tends to do more and more with each passing year. The Orioles are in town for four games this week. They’re 11-4 against the Yankees this season, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?
Baltimore lost two of three to the Red Sox at home this weekend, but they’ve already clinched the AL East title and are in full blown “rest everyone” mode. They’re 93-62 with a +116 run differential overall and are pretty much locked into having the second best record in the league. In all likelihood they will face the winner of the AL Central in the ALDS.

Offense
At 4.39 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Orioles have an above-average offense that leads baseball with 202 homeruns. No other team has more than 179. OF Nick Markakis (101 wRC+) and 1B/OF Steve Pearce (162 wRC+) are both day-to-day with shoulder and wrist injuries, respectively. Neither has played for a few days now and they’ll get as much time as needed. C Matt Wieters (Tommy John) and 3B Manny Machado (knee) are both done for the year following surgeries and 1B Chris Davis is out following an amphetamines-related suspension.

Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Despite all those injuries, manager Buck Showalter still has OF Adam Jones (118 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (137 wRC+) in the middle of his lineup. Cruz has been sitting on 39 homers for two weeks now. It would be cool if he didn’t hit No. 40 in the Bronx. SS J.J. Hardy (93 wRC+) and waiver trade pickup OF Alejandro De Aza (96 wRC+) are among the other lineup regulars you’ll recognize. OF Delmon Young (121 wRC+) is getting more at-bats due to the injuries and ex-Yankee IF Kelly Johnson (80 wRC+) is splitting time at third with ex-Yankees farmhand UTIL Jimmy Paredes (143 wRC+ in limited time).

C Caleb Joseph (78 wRC+) and C Nick Hundley (73 wRC+) are the primary catchers with Wieters out. IF Ryan Flaherty (78 wRC+) and IF Jonathan Schoop (65 wRC+) see plenty of time all around the infield. OF David Lough (89 wRC+) has been the defense-first extra outfielder all season. C Steve Clevenger, 1B Christian Walker, and OF Quintin Berry are the extra September call-ups. The Orioles have 17 position players on the active roster right now, including Markakis and Pearce. I don’t know why, but that seemed like a lot at first glance. Normal by September standards though.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
Chen, 29, has gotten better in each of his three full seasons in MLB. He has a 3.58 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 29 starts and 173.2 innings this year. His walk rate (1.66 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) is excellent but his strikeout (6.69 K/9 and 17.9 K%), homer (1.19 HR/9 and 11.1 HR/FB%), and ground ball (40.1%) numbers don’t jump out at you. Righties (.327 wOBA) have been a better against Chen then lefties (.307 wOBA), and he’s been better on the road (.306 wOBA) than at home (.335 wOBA). Low-90s two and four-seamers set up low-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also throw a few mid-70s curveballs per start. The Yankees have seen Chen just once this year, scoring four runs in five innings way back in April.

Tuesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Wednesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
The Orioles are currently in the process of setting up their ALDS rotation, so they have not yet announced their starters for this series beyond Chen. RHP Bud Norris (3.62 ERA and 4.19 FIP), RHP Kevin Gausman (3.57 ERA and 3.49 FIP), and RHP Chris Tillman (3.26 ERA and 4.09 FIP) are lined up to start Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively. Tillman was the team’s Opening Day starter and he’s likely to get the ball in Game One of the ALDS on October 2nd, meaning he’d have to start either Friday or Saturday this week to stay on turn. The Yankees might not see him at all this series. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4.90 ERA and 4.74 FIP) has been banished to the bullpen but recently made a spot start and will probably make another sometime this week so the good pitchers can get lined up for the postseason. Showalter is expected to announce his rotation for the rest of the week sometime today, either before or after tonight’s game.

Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Britton. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Bullpen Status
Showalter’s setup man/closer combination features two lefties who can get righties out: LHP Andrew Miller (1.30 FIP) in the eighth and LHP Zach Britton (3.17 FIP) in the ninth. They’ve both been used lightly over the last week or so as the team preps for October. RHP Darren O’Day (3.35 FIP) and RHP Tommy Hunter (3.18 FIP) will also see important innings.

The rest of the bullpen regulars include RHP Brad Brach (3.64 FIP), RHP Ryan Webb (2.71 FIP), LHP T.J. McFarland (3.30 FIP), and LHP Brian Matusz (4.03 FIP). RHP Evan Meek and LHP Joe Saunders are the extra September arms. I suppose Saunders could make a spot start this week, if needed. Webb (11 pitches), Meek (18), and McFarland (12) all pitched yesterday. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our bullpen Workload page. Camden Chat is the place to go for everything you need to know about the Orioles.

9/12-9/14 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are still mathematically alive in the division race, but realistically the Orioles have the AL East all wrapped up at this point. They’ve lapped the field. These two teams will play four games in three days this weekend — they’re making up the August 12th rainout with a doubleheader today — and I guess it’s worth noting the O’s can officially eliminate the Yankees from the division race with a sweep. The Bombers have lost eight of eleven games to the Orioles this season, including one win in five games in Camden Yards.

What Have They Done Lately?
Baltimore was off yesterday and they swept three games from the Red Sox in Fenway Park earlier this week. They’re on a serious roll, winning four straight, seven of nine, and eleven of 14. The O’s are 86-59 with a +94 run differential, the second and fourth best marks in the league, respectively. They are ten games up on the Blue Jays and 10.5 games up on the Yankees with a little more than two weeks left in the regular season.

Offense
Manager Buck Showalter’s offense averages 4.40 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+, so they are just a bit above the league average despite leading the world with 192 home runs. No other team is within even 20 of that total. They just don’t get enough guys on base in front of the sluggers. Both C Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery) and 3B Manny Machado (knee surgery) are done for the year, and SS J.J. Hardy (98 wRC+) is day-to-day with a back issue. He received a cortisone injection on Wednesday and I guess that means he could return at some point this weekend.

Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Jones. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The Orioles lineup is built around the power bats of OF Adam Jones (117 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (136 wRC+), who have hit 25 and 39 homeruns, respectively. Cruz leads baseball in dingers. 1B Chris Davis (93 wRC+) is having a rough year following last season’s 53-homer breakout. He still has 26 homers though. Davis has been playing third base with Machado out and 1B Steve Pearce (147 wRC+) is filling in at first base. We all saw Pearce doing that when he was on the Yankees a few years ago, right? Right.

OF Nick Markakis (102 wRC+) leads off and OF Alejandro De Aza (91 wRC+) was a late-August waiver pickup to add depth. 2B Jonathan Schoop (67 wRC+) has crushed the Yankees all year and IF Ryan Flaherty (72 wRC+) has been filling in at short with Hardy hurt. Ex-Yankee Kelly Johnson (82 wRC+) comes off the bench to replace Davis for defense at third base, if you can believe that. C Caleb Joseph has taken over as the everyday catcher (93 wRC+) while C Nick Hundley (82 wRC+) joins OF David Lough (78 wRC+) on the bench. C Steve Clevenger, OF Quintin Berry, and ex-Yankees farmhand UTIL Jimmy Paredes are the September call-ups.

Pitching Matchups

Game One Friday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
The Orioles sure have taken advantage of the 23-year-old Gausman’s minor league option this year, sending him up and down numerous times to manipulate the roster and add fresh arms. He’s been their heavily used sixth starter — the O’s have been using him to regularly give their other starters extra rest — and has a 3.83 ERA (3.40 FIP) in 17 starts and 96.1 innings this summer. Outside of a stellar homerun rate (0.47 HR/9 and 5.1 HR/FB%), Gausman’s peripherals are kinda unimpressive: 6.82 K/9 (18.0 K%), 3.27 BB/9 (8.6 BB%), and 41.2% grounders. Lefties (.321 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.296 wOBA). Gausman lives in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball, which he throws roughly 70% of the time even as a starter. A low-to-mid-80s split-changeup hybrid is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s sliders as well. The Yankees scored one run in five innings against Gausman back in July.

Game Two Friday: TBA vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
Norris, 29, has probably been Baltimore’s most consistent starter this season. He has pitched to a 3.92 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 25 starts and 147 innings with average-ish peripherals across the board: 7.10 K/9 (18.8 K%), 2.69 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (11.0 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.330) have had more success against him than righties (.313), and he’s been better at home in Camden Yards (.300 wOBA) than on the road (.341 wOBA). 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. New York has seen Norris twice this year, scoring one run and then three runs, both times in five innings.

The Yankees have not yet announced their starter for the second game of today’s doubleheader, but Joe Girardi did tell Chad Jennings that Bryan Mitchell has been “informed that he’s a definite possibility.” David Huff, Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Adam Warren, and Preston Claiborne can all go two innings if needed, and David Phelps is expected to be activated off the disabled list today as well. The bullpen is full of September call-ups. They’ll cobble it together one way or another.

Gonzalez. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Gonzalez. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (vs. NYY)
A few weeks ago it looked like Gonzalez was a candidate to be dropped from the roster, but he’s pitched exceptionally well of late (four runs allowed in his last five starts total) and is now sitting on a 3.22 ERA (4.85 FIP) in 23 starts and 142.1 innings. He also made one relief appearance. The 30-year-old is another guy without strong peripheral stats: 6.39 K/9 (16.8 K%), 2.91 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 1.39 HR/9 (12.0 HR/FB%), and 38.0% grounders. His platoon split is pretty small. Gonzalez’s money-maker is a split-changeup hybrid that sits in the low-80s. He sets it up with low-90s fastballs and also throws a low-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. The Yankees scored three runs in six innings against Gonzalez back in April, then he held them to two runs in eight innings in July.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman, 26, was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter this year, and he has a 3.36 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 31 starts and 187.2 innings. Again, his strikeout (6.38 K/9 and 16.9 K%), walk (3.02 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), homer (0.91 HR/9 and 8.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (40.9%) numbers do not jump out at you. His platoon split is small but he has been much more effective at home (.274 wOBA) than on the road (.324 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, but he keeps getting outs. Tillman has started against the Yankees three times this season: six shutout innings in June, three runs in 6.2 innings in July, and two runs in seven innings in August.

O'Day. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)
O’Day. (Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Showalter’s setup man/closer combination features two lefties who can actually get righties out: LHP Andrew Miller (1.48 FIP) and LHP Zach Britton (3.13 FIP). RHP Darren O’Day (3.07 FIP) will also see setup work while RHP Tommy Hunter (3.19 FIP) has been more of a sixth/seventh inning type. Baltimore was off yesterday, so everyone is relatively fresh.

RHP Brad Brach (3.59 FIP), LHP Brian Matusz (4.22 FIP), RHP Ryan Webb (2.65 FIP), and RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4.81 FIP) are the rest of the bullpen regulars. Ubaldo was demoted to mop-up duty a few weeks ago. Yikes. LHP T.J. McFarland, RHP Evan Meek, and LHP Joe Saunders are the extra September arms. Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Camden Chat is the plate to go for the latest and greatest on the Orioles.

Update: Chris Davis has been suspended 25 games after testing positive for an amphetamine, MLB announced. Apparently he was taking Adderall with out approval. Either way, we won’t see him this weekend or when these two team play again in a week and a half.

8/11-8/13 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

For all intents and purposes, this three-game series against the Orioles in Camden Yards will determine whether the Yankees have a realistic chance of winning the AL East this season, or if they’ll have to focus solely on the wildcard. The O’s have won two of three in each of the first three series these two teams have played this year.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles outscored the Cardinals 25-13 this weekend but “only” won two of three. They’ve won six of their last eight games and are 15-8 since the All-Star break. Baltimore is 67-50 with a +48 run differential, giving them the biggest division lead in baseball at five games. The Yankees are six games back.

Offense
At 4.29 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Orioles are only a slightly above-average offense despite leading baseball with 147 homeruns. They don’t get enough guys on base in front of the power hitters. Baltimore is without C Matt Wieters (131 wRC+), who is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. SS J.J. Hardy (94 wRC+) is currently day-to-day with a thumb sprain and may or may not be available this series.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Jones. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Manager Buck Showalter’s lineup is built around the 30-homer power of OF Adam Jones (117 wRC+) and OF Nelson Cruz (129 wRC+). Cruz already has 30 homers and Jones will get there before season’s end. (He’s at 22.) 1B Chris Davis (90 wRC+) is having a relatively awful year, but OF Steve Pearce (139 wRC+) has picked up some of the slack. Steve Pearce, huh? Both OF Nick Markakis (114 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (107 wRC+) have been productive on both sides of the ball.

C Caleb Joseph (95 wRC+) recently went deep in five consecutive games. Corban’s brother splits catching duties with C Nick Hundley (68 wRC+) in the wake of Wieters’ injury. DH Delmon Young (129 wRC+ in limited time), OF David Lough (71 wRC+ in limited time), IF Jonathan Schoop (59 wRC+), and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. Flaherty has been filling in at short while Hardy’s been banged up.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Norris has arguably been his team’s most consistent starting pitcher, with a 3.68 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 19 starts and 115 innings. His peripherals don’t jump out at you — 6.73 K/9 (17.9 K%), 2.90 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 1.02 HR/9 (10.4 HR/FB%), and 42.3% grounders — but he has essentially zero platoon split and simply keeps runs off the board. After years of underperforming his peripherals, he’s now doing the opposite. Maybe it’s dumb luck. 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. He held the Yankees to one run in five innings back in June.

Tuesday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
Chen, 29, has a 3.90 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 22 starts and 129.1 innings this year, his third straight year pitching at almost exactly the same level. The only thing he does exceedingly well is limit walks (1.60 BB/9 and 4.2 BB%). His strikeout (6.68 K/9 and 17.7 K%), homer (1.32 HR/9 and 12.8 HR/FB%), and grounder (40.9%) numbers aren’t special at all. Like Norris, he also has what amounts to no platoon split whatsoever. Chen has the standard issue four-pitch mix, so a low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-70s curveball. The changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees scored four runs in five innings when they faced the Taiwanese southpaw back in April.

It’s worth noting the Orioles will be the first team to see Greene a second time as a starting pitcher, which is always a big test. That mid-90s sinker and hard upper-80s slider won’t sneak up on them this time.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman started Opening Day for the Orioles but he’s been unable to build on last year’s success, instead posting to a solid 3.73 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 149.2 innings across 25 starts. His strikeout rate (6.13 K/9 and 15.9 K%) is his lowest since breaking into the league full time three years ago while his walk rate (3.19 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is its highest. Tillman has done a much better job of keeping the ball in the park this season (0.90 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) even though his ground ball rate (41.1%) continues to be no better than okay. Again, like Norris and Chen, he has zero platoon split, but he has pitched quite a bit better at home (.281 wOBA) than on the road (.332 wOBA) in 2014. 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. The Yankees have seen Tillman twice this year: seven shutout innings in June and three runs in 6.2 innings in July.

Rogers is still listed as the starter for the series finale though there are rumblings Michael Pineda may rejoin the rotation that day. He got up 72 pitches in his second rehab start this weekend, meaning he should be good for 85-90 pitches next time out. “That’s something we’ll have to talk about,” said Joe Girardi to Brian Heyman over the weekend. “Ideally you’d like to get someone to 90 pitches … We’ll sit down, Brian (Cashman) and the people who saw it, and decide what’s next for him.”

Bullpen Status
The Cardinals did the Yankees a favor by both forcing Kevin Gausman out of yesterday’s game early and keeping the score close enough that Showalter used his key relievers. Both closer RHP Zach Britton (3.15 FIP) and setup man/deadline pickup LHP Andrew Miller (1.73 FIP) not only pitched, but they also allowed runs and threw longer than usual innings. LHP T.J. McFarland (3.58 FIP) threw 51 pitches across two innings of work as well.

The rest of Showalter’s bullpen includes RHP Brad Brach (3.59 FIP), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.44 FIP), LHP Brian Matusz (4.30 FIP), and RHP Darren O’Day (2.88 FIP). Matusz is a pure lefty specialist while McFarland is a multi-inning lefty and Miller is a one-inning high-leverage guy who will face both lefties and righties. The eight-man Yankees bullpen is in relatively good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.

7/11-7/14 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The final series before the All-Star break is the biggest series of the season, at least to date. The Yankees are in Baltimore for three games against the Orioles, the team they are chasing in the AL East. Needless to say, winning these head-to-head games is extremely important if they want to make a run at the division. The Yankees lost two of three to the O’s in each of their previous two series this season, though this is the first time they will play in Camden Yards.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Buck Showalter’s club just took two of three (with a rainout mixed in) from the Nationals and has won eight of its last ten games overall. They currently hold the top spot in the AL East at 50-41 with a +26 run differential, four games better than the Yankees. Best case scenario is New York ending the first half one game back. Worst case scenario is heading into the break seven games back.

Offense
At 4.38 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, the O’s have a roughly league average offense despite hitting 113 homers, the second most in baseball. They simply don’t get enough guys on base (team .320 OBP) in front of the power hitters. The Orioles’ only injured position player is C Matt Wieters (129 wRC+), who is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. They’re completely healthy otherwise.

Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Showalter’s lineup is built around three legitimate 30+ homer bats: OF Nelson Cruz (153 wRC+), OF Adam Jones (123 wRC+), and 1B Chris Davis (91 wRC+). Davis is having a down season but Cruz currently leads baseball with 28 homers. OF Nick Markakis (109 wRC+) sets the table from the leadoff spot and former Yankee 1B/OF Steve Pearce (165 wRC+) is having an unbelievable year as the number two hitter. What in the world is that about? Steve Pearce? Really?

SS J.J. Hardy (85 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (101 wRC+) are the household names near the bottom of the lineup. IF Jonathan Schoop (57 wRC+) has been playing second base just about everyday lately while C Nick Hundley (80 wRC+) and C Caleb Joseph (55 wRC+ in limited time) split catching duties. Caleb is the brother of Yankees farmhand Corban Joseph. OF Delmon Young (109 wRC+), OF David Lough (60 wRC+), and IF Ryan Flaherty (82 wRC+) fill out Baltimore’s bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, has a 4.22 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 81 innings across 14 starts and one relief appearance this season, so the magic of his excellent 2012 rookie season has all but worn off at this point. His strikeout rate (7.11 K/9 and 17.8 K%) is okay, but he walks too many (3.56 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%), doesn’t get enough ground balls (40.2%), and can’t keep the ball in the park (1.56 HR/9 and 13.5 HR/FB%). Both lefties (.374 wOBA) and righties (.364 wOBA) have hit him pretty hard, but hey, at least he doesn’t have much of a platoon split. Gonzalez’s money-maker is a split-changeup hybrid that sits in the low-80s. He sets it up with low-90s fastballs and also throws a low-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. That split-change keeps him in MLB. The Yankees scored three runs in six innings against Gonzalez back in April.

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
The Orioles toyed with the idea of skipping Ubaldo’s final start before the All-Star break, but they opted to remain on turn and throw him this weekend. The 30-year-old has a 4.52 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 18 starts and 99.2 innings this summer, so it’s safe to say his strong second half last year was just a mirage. Jimenez has fine strikeout (7.95 K/9 and 20.1 K%), homer (0.99 HR/9 and 12.2 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.7%) rates, but he walks far too many (5.42 BB/9 and 13.7 BB%). That’s a career-high walk rate by nearly one full walk per nine innings, which is really saying something given his career. Lefties (.363 wOBA) have been much harder on him than righties (.308 wOBA). Ubaldo is a five-pitch pitcher with a low-90s fastball setting up his mid-80s splitter, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. He has faced the Yankees twice this season, allowing four runs in six innings back in April and one run in 5.2 innings last month. I honestly would not be surprised if Jimenez dominated or got knocked out in the second inning. Dude is as unpredictable as it gets.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
I think one of the reasons the Orioles have not been able to run away the division this year is Tillman’s inability to take that next step forward and go from interesting young pitcher to someone who belongs near the front of the rotation. He was solid the last two years, but this season the 26-year-old has a 4.11 ERA (4.55 FIP) in 19 starts and 111.2 innings. Meh. Tillman has curbed his long ball problem (0.97 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) but otherwise has yucky strikeout (5.64 K/9 and 14.3 K%), walk (3.63 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), and ground ball (39.9%) numbers. Lefties (.336 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.305 wOBA) and it’s worth noting Tillman has pitched much better at home (.289 wOBA) than on the road (.347 wOBA). Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up his mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and rainbow mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year, perhaps explaining why he’s been able to take that step forward. Tillman threw seven shutout innings against the Yankees last month.

Bullpen Status
Showalter used three of his key late-inning relievers last night, but I don’t think that will change much this weekend with the All-Star break coming up. He can work his guys a little harder knowing the four-day rest is coming. LHP Zach Britton (2.99 FIP) has taken over as closer with the trio of RHP Darren O’Day (2.88 FIP), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.75 FIP), and LHP Brian Matusz (5.23 FIP) handling setup duties. Britton, O’Day, and Hunter all pitched yesterday but none threw more than 23 pitches.

The Orioles took advantage of the All-Star break by sending down starter Bud Norris, who wasn’t scheduled to pitch this weekend, and calling up an extra reliever. They’re carrying RHP Brad Brach (3.97 FIP), LHP T.J. McFarland (3.75 FIP), RHP Preston Guilmet (4.19 FIP in limited time), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.54 FIP) in the bullpen in addition to Showalter’s four main end of the game guys. McFarland is more of a multi-inning reliever than a lefty specialist. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.

Update: The Orioles placed Jimenez on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle injury this afternoon. Righty Kevin Gausman has been called up and will start in his place this weekend.