Archive for Baltimore Orioles
Despite yesterday’s walk-off win, the first four games of this incredibly important eleven-game stretch have been a disaster. The Yankees are now off to Baltimore for another four-game series after four nightmarish games against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. Needless to say, they can’t afford to get smacked around like that again. This is a huge series for both teams.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles lost yesterday but otherwise took three of four from the White Sox over the weekend. They lost two of three in three straight series prior to that, all against teams in the playoff hunt (Red Sox, Yankees, Indians). Manager Buck Showalter’s team comes into this series with a 76-66 record and a +45 run differential, two back of the Rays and one up on the Yankees in the second wildcard race.
Although they aren’t as deep and relentless as the Boston lineup, the Orioles are one of the best offensive teams in baseball with an average of 4.7 runs per game and a team 102 wRC+. It is a lineup full of hackers through, with a team 6.7% walk rate that is the lowest in the AL. You don’t need to attack the zone to beat them. Baltimore’s only two injured position players are OF Nolan Reimold (51 wRC+) and former Yankee OF/1B Steve Pearce (92 wRC+). Neither will return this series.
Showalter’s lineup revolves around three guys: 1B Chris Davis (173 wRC+), CF Adam Jones (125 wRC+), and 3B Manny Machado (108 wRC+). Davis has only hit two homeruns in his last 16 games, but don’t let that fool you. He can go deep at a moment’s notice. DH Danny Valencia (163 wRC+ in limited time) has done some mighty fine platoon work while SS J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and OF Nate McLouth (103 wRC+) have been solid as well. OF Mike Morse (86 wRC+ overall) hasn’t done a whole lot since coming over from the Mariners.
Neither OF Nick Markakis (84 wRC+) nor C Matt Wieters (87 wRC+) is hitting like expected. 2B Brian Roberts (83 wRC+) and UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) have part-tie roles. The Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups; Showalter has a nine-man bench that includes C Chris Snyder, C Steve Clevenger, IF Alexi Casilla, IF Ryan Flaherty, IF Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia, and former Yankee OF Chris Dickerson. The O’s lead baseball (by a lot) with 197 homers.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Chris Tillman
Tillman, 25, was an undeserving All-Star (over Hiroki Kuroda) because of his sexy win-loss record earlier this summer, but he has been legitimately above-average in the second half (3.26 ERA and 3.77 FIP) after a blah first half (3.95 ERA and 4.94 FIP). He’s sitting on a 3.71 ERA (4.53 FIP) overall in 28 starts this year with good but not great strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.24 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) rates and awful ground ball (38.7%) and homer (1.41 HR/9 and 14.0% HR/FB) rates. Tillman works primarily off a low-90s four-seamer but will also mix in the occasional low-90s cutter. A low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball are his top two offspeed pitches, though he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s sliders in each start. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split this year. The Yankees have seen plenty of Tillman over the years and they usually crush him. He’s had one good (two runs in six innings) and one not so good (five runs in 5.1 innings) start against New York this year.
Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
The 29-year-old Gonzalez has been decent (3.98 ERA and 4.41 FIP) in 24 starts (and two relief appearances) this year after breaking out with a 3.25 ERA (4.38 FIP) in his big league debut last summer. He is getting a few more grounders (40.1%) in 2013 but otherwise his peripherals are almost entirely unchanged: 6.43 K/9 (17.1 K%), 2.88 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), and 1.22 HR/9 (11.6% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his wipeout low-to-mid-80s split-changeup hybrid, which is a true put-away pitch. He’ll also throw mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curves. He doesn’t have a platoon split thanks to the split-change. Gonzalez completely dominated the Yankees up until last weekend, when they hung seven runs on him in four innings. Their approach in that game seemed to be to swing early in the count to prevent him from using the split-change, so we’ll see if that’s how they attack this time around.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Feldman, 30, has been a nice little pickup for the Orioles and solid (3.54 ERA and 3.76 FIP) in 26 starts overall this season. He’s all about getting grounders (49.9%) and limiting walks (2.53 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%) and homers (0.79 HR/9 and 9.3% HR/FB). Strikeouts (6.46 K/9 and 17.3 K%) aren’t really his thing. Feldman is basically a three-pitch pitcher: low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter, and mid-70s curveball. He doesn’t use his mid-80s changeup all that often and like most of his rotation mates, he doesn’t have a platoon split. Feldman held the Yankees to one run in seven innings last time out and they’ve faced him a bunch of times in recent years while he was with the Rangers.
Thursday: LHP David Huff vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
An oblique injury has limited Chen, 28, to just 19 starts this season. He’s been rock solid (3.82 ERA and 4.04 FIP) with a good walk rate (2.65 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and tolerable homer rate (1.01 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). The Taiwanese-born southpaw has seen both his strikeout (6.32 K/9 and 17.2 K%) and ground ball (33.9%) totals drop big time this year. Chen’s five-pitch arsenal includes low-90s two and four-seamers, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. He doesn’t use the curve all that much but will throw the other four pitches regularly. Chen has a nice-sized platoon split — he’s held lefties to a .268 wOBA while righties have tagged him for a .331 wOBA — and the Yankees got to him for three runs and five walks in four laborious innings last weekend.
None of Showalter’s core late-game relievers were used yesterday but all have worked a lot of late. Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.73 FIP) has pitched three of the last five days, RHP Tommy Hunter (3.70 FIP) has appeared twice in the last four days, and RHP Darren O’Day (3.62 FIP) threw two innings on Saturday. Opening Day starter RHP Jason Hammel (5.07 FIP) is working out of the bullpen now following an elbow strain. He threw two innings yesterday.
LHP Brian Matusz (3.07 FIP) is the team’s go-to southpaw while RHP Kevin Gausman (4.56 FIP) handles long relief assignments. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.71 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.48 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (3.72 FIP) get the call in the middle innings. Again, the Orioles didn’t screw around with September call-ups. They’re carrying an eleven-man bullpen at the moment. RHP Steve Johnson and RHP Josh Stinson fill out the rest of the reliever staff.
The Yankees have a bullpen mess on their hands right now. Mariano Rivera threw two innings and 35 pitches yesterday. Both David Robertson (shoulder) and Boone Logan (biceps, forearm) are out with injuries. Shawn Kelley threw an inning yesterday after missing a week with a triceps problem. There are currently 13 relievers on the roster, but fewer than that are actually available tonight and even fewer are actually trustworthy. Like I said, a bullpen mess. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for the usage details and then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the O’s.
Biggest series of the year? Biggest series of the year. At least until the next series, anyway. The Yankees have a tiny — 7.0% according to Cool Standings and 4.1% according to Baseball Prospectus — chance of making the postseason at this point and if they want to capitalize, they have to do some damage this weekend. Winning two of three probably isn’t good enough anymore.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Buck Showalter’s team held on to beat the Red Sox yesterday but lost the previous two games and the series. The Orioles have been playing roughly .500 baseball for about a month now and come into this series with a 71-61 record and a +39 run differential. They’re two games up on the Yankees in the loss column and three games back of the Athletics for the second wildcard spot.
Even though they average 4.8 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, Baltimore claimed Mike Morse (90 wRC+) off waivers and added him via trade this afternoon to bolster the offense for the stretch drive. It’s possible one or both of those guys will wind up playing against the Yankees this weekend. The Orioles’ only injured position player is OF Nolan Reimold (52 wRC+), who is done for the year with a knee problem.
The offensive conversation starts with 1B Chris Davis (181 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (111 wRC+), who lead the league in homers (47) and doubles (45), respectively. OF Adam Jones (123 wRC+) is always dangerous and OF Nate McLouth (104 wRC+) does a nice job setting the table. SS J.J. Hardy (99 wRC+) can hit the ball out of the park, if nothing else. OF Nick Markakis (88 wRC+) and C Matt Wieters (83 wRC+) are two guys who should be doing more but have simply stalled out.
2B Brian Roberts (86 wRC+) is back playing second base everyday, at least until his next injury. IF Danny Valencia (135 wRC+ in limited time) and former Yankee UTIL Wilson Betemit (-100 wRC+ in very limited time) form the DH platoon. IF Alexi Casilla (53 wRC+), OF Steve Pearce (92 wRC+ in limited time), and backup C Taylor Teagarden (26 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Reminder: Rosters expand on September 1st, so expect both clubs to have some extra players come Sunday.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 29, has been the Yankees kryptonite these last two years. He has a solid 3.77 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 22 starts (and two relief appearances) this season and a 3.54 ERA (4.34 FIP) since breaking into the league last year, but in six career starts against the Bombers he has a 2.27 ERA (~2.95 FIP). That includes last year’s ALDS. In three starts against New York this season, he’s gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs each time. The guy just dominates the Yankees.
Aside from a solid walk rate (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%), nothing about Gonzalez’s underlying performance stands out. He doesn’t miss bats (6.55 K/9 and 17.4 K%) or get ground balls (39.3%), plus he allows a bunch of homers (1.19 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). Gonzalez uses low-90s two and four-seamers to set up his bread-and-butter low-80 splitter/changeup hybrid. That’s the pitch that have given the Yankees fits. A mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball round out his five-pitch repertoire. Because of that split-change, Gonzalez has basically no platoon split. He’s solid overall and Cy Young against New York.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Scott Feldman
The Orioles acquired the 30-year-old Feldman from the Cubs to shore up their rotation a few weeks ago. He’s got a 3.87 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 24 total starts this year, which is pretty close to a career year for him. Feldman is a ground ball guy (49.3%) who limits walks (2.68 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%) and homers (0.87 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) but doesn’t strike out many batters (6.67 K/9 and 17.7 K%). A mid-70s curveball and upper-80s/low-90s sinkers and two-seamers are his three main offerings. He will use mid-80s changeups and straight low-90s four-seamers on occasion, but not much. Sinker/curveball, basically. Feldman is another guy with no platoon split. Although they haven’t seen him since he arrived in Baltimore, the Yankees have faced Feldman a bunch of times over the years while he was with the Rangers. Some good games, some not so good.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
Chen, 28, is in the rookie level Gulf Coast League at the moment. The Orioles manipulated their roster this week by sending Chen down for an extra bullpen arm, but they will call him back up for this start when rosters expand on Sunday. Because the GCL season ended yesterday, they can circumvent the ten-day rule. The Yankees did something similar with Preston Claiborne. Sneaky. Chen missed a bunch of time with an oblique strain this year and otherwise has a 3.76 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout rate (5.81 K/9 and 15.9 K%) fell off a cliff this year, but his walk (2.48 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), homer (1.03 HR/9 and 8.8 HR/9), and ground ball (34.3%) numbers are in line with last season, his first in MLB. Chen is a true five-pitch pitcher: low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. The slider and changeup are his top offspeed offerings. It’s worth noting right-handed batters (.332 wOBA) have been far more successful (.253 wOBA) against the Taiwanese-born southpaw this summer. The Yankees have fared quite well against Chen these last two years, though he did hold them to three runs in six innings earlier this season.
Showalter had to use all of his key late-game relievers yesterday, including closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.89 FIP), who leads the league in saves (41) and blown saves (nine). Setup men RHP Tommy Hunter (3.50 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.15 FIP) also pitched yesterday. RHP Darren O’Day (3.66 FIP), RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3.95 FIP), LHP Troy Patton (4.32 FIP), and LHP T.J. McFarland (4.03 FIP) fill out the rest of the regular relievers. RHP Kevin Gausman (5.02 FIP) is the extra arm they called up using Chen’s spot.
The Yankees are coming off an off-day and their core relievers didn’t have to work too hard in the Blue Jays series either. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Boone Logan are all well-rested and should be available for all three games of this super duper important series. Our Bullpen Workload page has the exact reliever usage details. The best Orioles blog around is Camden Chat.
The Orioles again? Yes, the Orioles again. Baltimore swept the Yankees just last weekend, but that series was in Camden Yards. This weekend’s three-game set will be played in the Bronx. Will that make a difference? I hope so.
What Have They Done Lately?
After sweeping the Yankees, the O’s lost two of three to the White Sox in Chicago. Adam Dunn did them in with a walk-off homer solo homer yesterday. Baltimore is 48-38 with a +26 run differential on the year, good for second place in the AL East. They’re one up on the Yankees in the loss column.
At 4.9 runs per game with a team 106 wRC+, manager Buck Showalter’s squad is one of the best offenses in all of baseball. The Orioles are currently without the injured 1B/OF/DH Steve Pearce (90 wRC+) and UTIL Wilson Betemit (has not played in 2013), and neither guy is expected to return this weekend.
When you talk about the O’s offense these days, the conversation has to start with 1B Chris Davis (196 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (125 wRC+). Davis leads all of baseball in homers (32) while Machado leads the game in doubles (38). These races aren’t particularly close either — Miguel Cabrera has the second most homers (26) while Davis and Yadier Molina have the second most doubles (26). They’re lapping the field.
Because two awesome hitters aren’t enough, Baltimore also has OF Adam Jones (112 wRC+), OF Nate McLouth (115 wRC+), and OF Nick Markakis (103 wRC+). 2B Brian Roberts (111 wRC+) has hit well in very limited time, as has fourth OF Chris Dickerson (102 wRC+). C Matt Wieters (76 wRC+) and SS J.J. Hardy (95 wRC+) round out the regulars. Showalter’s extras include backup C Taylor Teagarden (-16 wRC+ in limited time), IF Alexi Casilla (57 wRC+), IF Ryan Flaherty (67 wRC+), and OF Nolan Reimold (52 wRC+ in limited time). The Orioles lead baseball in homers (117) and rank 11th in steals (54). This offense can do it all.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 29, has a 3.77 ERA (4.42 FIP) in 14 starts this year, but he’s also posted a 3.23 ERA (3.77 FIP) in eight starts since returning from a blister-related DL stint in late-May. That’s in line with his breakout season a year ago (3.25 ERA and 4.38 FIP). Gonzalez limits walks (2.75 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%), but otherwise he doesn’t strike out many (6.93 K/9 and 18.9 K%), does get many ground balls (41.1%), and will surrender the long ball (1.32 HR/9 and 12.1% HR/FB. Low-90s two- and four-seamers set up his dynamite low-80s splitter/changeup hybrid, the pitch that has given the Yankees fits since last year. Mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curveballs round out his repertoire. Gonzalez has faced the Yankees five times in his career (including playoffs) and has handled them very well all five times. That includes twice earlier this year. Baltimore was nice enough to push him back so he could pitch this game.
Saturday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Chris Tillman
The 25-year-old Tillman has been a good results (3.68 ERA), bad peripherals (4.97 FIP) pitcher in his 17 starts this year. He strikes out an okay amount of batters (7.27 K/9 and 19.5 K%), but he walks a few too many (3.41 BB/9 and 9.1 BB%), doesn’t get any grounders (37.2%), and is very homer prone (1.61 HR/9 and 15.4% HR/FB). Tillman is a five-pitch pitcher with a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a mid-80s slider, and a mid-70s curveball. He held the Yankees to two runs in six innings last weekend after getting hit by them pretty hard over the years. Different lineup now though.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Hammel, 30, pitched like a borderline ace before a knee injury last year, but this season he’s pitched much more like the guy who broke into the league with the Devil Rays way back when (5.19 ERA and 5.12 FIP). Both his strikeout (6.53 K/9 and 15.6 K%) and ground ball (41.8%) rates are way down, and, not coincidentally, his homer rate (1.61 HR/9 and 14.6% HR/FB) is way up. He still limits walks (2.95 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%), however. Hammel reinvested himself as a low-to-mid-90s two-seamer/mid-80s slider guy when he got to Baltimore, scaling back the usage of his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. Outside of one rough outing last May, Hammel has pitched well in seven starts against New York since last year, including two earlier this season.
Left-hander Zach Britton gave the Orioles seven innings yesterday, so the only reliever they used was RHP Tommy Hunter (4.01 FIP). He’s pitched in each of the last two games. Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.71 FIP) and setup men RHP Darren O’Day (3.71 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.52 FIP) are all well-rested. RHP Kevin Gausman (5.02 FIP in limited time), LHP T.J. McFarland (3.44 FIP), and LHP Troy Patton (4.35 FIP) round out the bullpen.
The Yankees are not in great shape bullpen-wise, thanks in part to the fiasco during yesterday’s seventh and eighth inning. David Robertson has pitched in two straight and three of the last four while Mariano Rivera has also pitched in three of the last four despite having yesterday off. Our Bullpen Workload page has all the details. Camden Chat is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the O’s.
Man, late-June series are not supposed to be this important. The Yankees and Orioles are tied in the loss column for second place in the AL East, both three games back of the Red Sox. Needless to say, neither team wants to leave this three-game series any further back than they already are.
What Have They Done Lately?
Baltimore won yesterday and just took two of three from the Indians, but they lost four straight games before that. Like the Yankees, they’ve been playing .500 baseball since early-May. The Orioles are 44-36 with a +17 run differential overall.
At 4.9 runs per game with a team 107 wRC+, Baltimore is the one of the very best offensive teams in baseball. They are without the injured 2B Brian Roberts (153 wRC+), OF Nolan Reimold (51 wRC+), and UTIL Wilson Betemit (hasn’t played this season) at the moment, but apparently Roberts will return some time this weekend. The other two will be out a while longer though.
The Yankees will have to pick their poison this weekend. Do they pitch around 1B Chris Davis (193 wRC+)? What about 3B Manny Machado (125 wRC+)? Adam Jones (119 wRC+)? OF Nate McLouth (109 wRC+) has stolen 24 bases and has been pretty awesome, you know. SS J.J. Hardy (103 wRC+) and OF Nick Markakis (102 wRC+) have been solid as well. Very tough.
C Matt Wieters (82 wRC+) is in the lineup because of his defense, but he can hit lefties (105 wRC+). IF Alexi Casilla (56 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+) split time at second while 1B Travis Ishikawa (-37 wRC+ in very limited time) and IF Danny Valencia (137 wRC+ in limited time) sub in at DH and the corner infield spots. C Taylor Teagarden (-9 wRC+ in limited time) is the backup backstop, former Yankee Chris Dickerson (98 wRC+) the fourth outfielder. The Orioles have hit the most homers in all of baseball (108) and they’re a top ten team in steals as well (54 wRC+). The Yankees pitching staff will have their hands full this weekend.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP T.J. McFarland
This spot belonged to former Yankee Freddy Garcia, but he was designated for assignment earlier this week after getting his brains beat in by the Blue Jays. Tonight’s start was expected to go to right-hander Kevin Gausman, but the Orioles changed gears last night and announced McFarland, a Rule 5 Draft pick, would get the ball instead. I have very little doubt manager Buck Showalter made the switch after seeing how much the Yankees struggled against left-hander Derek Holland on Thursday.
Anyway, the 24-year-old McFarland has a 4.14 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 41.1 relief innings this year. His peripheral stats — 7.84 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.05 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 0.87 HR/9 (10.3% HR/FB), and 53.8% grounders — are solid, but starting is a different animal than relieving. The southpaw sits in the upper-80s with his four-seamer in relief, so he might be a tick or two below that tonight. A soft upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also throw a low-80s changeup. McFarland’s season high is 4.1 innings and 61 pitches, both of which came five days ago. I’m guessing Showalter will be thrilled with five innings. The Yankees saw McFarland way back in April, when he held the scoreless in two innings of relief.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Zach Britton
Britton, 25, has a 5.51 ERA (5.31 FIP) in three starts after spending most of the year in Triple-A. He has gotten plenty of ground balls (50%), but he’s walked as many men as he’s faced (eight) in 16.1 innings. In parts of three big league seasons, the southpaw owns a 6.16 K/9 (15.6 K%), 3.97 BB/9 (10.1 BB%), 0.78 HR/9 (10.1% HR/FB), and 54.5% grounders. Britton’s low-90s two-seamer is his calling card and the pitch he uses to get all those ground balls. He’ll also throw a straight low-90s four-seamer, with a mid-80s changeup and upper-70s slider representing his two offspeed offerings. The Yankees have seen Britton a few times over the years and have clobbered him pretty much every time (26 runs in 25.1 innings). This is a different lineup now, of course.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Chris Tillman
The 25-year-old Tillman is perhaps best remembered for surrendering the base hit that moved Derek Jeter past Lou Gehrig and into the top spot on the Yankees’ all-time hits list. He was a trendy breakout pick this year after a strong second half in 2012, but his 3.72 ERA (5.01 FIP) is backed up by strikeout (7.16 K/9 and 19.1 K%), walk (3.43 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), homer (1.62 HR/9 and 16.9% HR/FB), and ground ball (38.2%) rates that range anywhere from okay to awful. Tillman uses two fastballs in the low-90s (four-seamer and cutter), and he’ll throw three different offspeed pitches: mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. The slider is more of a show-me pitch than anything. The Bombers have seen Tillman plenty of times over the last few years, mostly hitting him hard.
Buck Showalter’s relievers are a little beat up at the moment. LHP Troy Patton (4.35 FIP) has pitched in three straight games while LHP Brian Matusz (3.51 FIP) and closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.81 FIP) have both appeared in three of the last four games. RHP Darren O’Day (3.56 FIP) is fresh, ditto RHP Tommy Hunter (4.04 FIP) and RHP Pedro Strop (5.72 FIP). Gausman (5.85 FIP) is the de facto long man.
Outside of Preston Claiborne, the Yankees are in good bullpen shape thanks to Phil Hughes‘ eight-inning effort on Thursday. Remember, they’re carrying eight relievers at the moment because they don’t have the heart to send Ivan Nova back to Triple-A. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details. Camden Chat is my spot for Orioles coverage.
Once upon a time, mid-May games against the Orioles were relatively meaningless, at least in terms of the AL East race. Baltimore was irrelevant for more than a decade until last season’s surprise 93-win effort, which forces us to take them seriously these days. Such is life.
What Have They Done Lately?
Quite a bit of losing, actually. The O’s got swept by the Rays this weekend, and they’ve now lost five straight, six of seven, and seven of nine. The Yankees took two of three from Baltimore back in mid-April, their fourth series of the year. Buck Showalter’s team is 23-20 with a +18 run differential, tied with Tampa for third place in the division.
Thanks to an average of 5.0 runs per game and a team 102 wRC+, the Orioles have one of the top offenses in the game. They rank sixth in homers (52) and third in steals (33) in all of baseball, so it’s a diverse attack. B’more has a number of position players on the DL, including 2B Brian Roberts (150 wRC+), OF Nolan Reimold (49 wRC+), C Taylor Teagarden (-100 wRC+ in very limited time), and UTIL Wilson Betemit (has not played this year).
The top seven spots of Showalter’s lineup usually do not change regardless of who is on the mound. LF Nate McLouth (114 wRC+) leads off, budding star 3B Manny Machado (138 wRC+) bats second, RF Nick Markakis (96 wRC+) bats third, CF Adam Jones (129 wRC+) cleans up, 1B Chris Davis (178 wRC+) bats fifth, C Matt Wieters (93 wRC+) bats sixth, and SS J.J. Hardy (80 wRC+) bats seventh. Pretty straight forward.
Baltimore has received some of the worst DH production in baseball (72 wRC+), and their latest attempt at a solution is IF Danny Valencia (1-for-3 in his debut yesterday). Former Yankee OF Chris Dickerson (118 wRC+ in limited time) and 1B/OF Steve Pearce (95 wRC+) rotate in as well. IF Yamaico Navarro (154 wRC+ in limited time) is getting a shot to place second everyday while IF Alexi Casilla (32 wRC+) backs him up. C Chris Snyder (8 wRC+ in very limited time) backs up Wieters. Those top seven spots of the lineup are the ones New York has to worry about, the rest of the hitters are trivial.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Freddy Garcia
The Embedded Yankee takes on the Yankees. The 36-year-old Garcia owns a 5.51 ERA (6.21 FIP) through three starts with Baltimore, and they limit him to only 75-80 pitches. Sweaty Freddy has missed no bats (3.31 K/9 and 9.1 K%) nor has he gotten a ton of grounders (40.0%), but he does limit walks (2.20 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%). Homers are an issue (2.20 HR/9 and 20.0% HR/FB), as always. As you know, Garcia is a soft-tossing kitchen sink guy, living in the mid-to-upper-80s with his sinker. An upper-70s splitter is his go-to pitch, though he’ll also throw upper-70s sliders and changeups in addition to low-70s curveball. We’ve seen enough of Freddy these last two years to know what to expect.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
Gonzalez, 28, is currently on the DL with a blister on his thumb, but he threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Friday and is expected to be activated for this start. They could activate him for tonight’s game, but apparently they’re giving him an extra day. The minor league journeyman was not very good before the blister, pitching to a 4.58 ERA (5.34 FIP) in six starts. Obviously the blister and poor performance could be related. Gonzalez has seen his strikeout (5.60 K/9 and 14.6 K%) and walk (3.57 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) numbers take a step back following his breakout 2012 campaign, plus his homer rate (1.53 HR/9 and 13.3$ HR/FB) has jumped despite an increase in ground balls (46.4%). Low-90s two- and four-seamers set up a knockout low-80s splitter-changeup hybrid that gave the Yankees fits last year. A mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball round out his repertoire. Gonzalez held New York to three runs in six innings earlier this year after dominating them last year: 2.36 ERA (~3.05 FIP) with 28 strikeouts and six walks in four starts, including the ALDS.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Hammel started on Opening Day for the Orioles following his strong but injury-shortened 2012 season, but he hasn’t been able to repeat that success so far. The 30-year-old owns a 5.72 ERA (4.83 FIP) in nine starts this year, and his peripheral stats have declined across the board: 6.44 K/9 (15.7 K%), 3.58 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 1.25 HR/9 (10.9% HR/FB), and 42.8% grounders. He looks more like the guy he was from 2008-2011 rather than the guy he was last summer. Hammel’s pitch selection did change substantially when he got to Baltimore and he’s stuck with his new low-90s two-seam fastball-heavy approach. He’ll still throw a few low-to-mid-90s four-seamers. A mid-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball.
The Rays did the Yankees a solid by working the Orioles’ bullpen pretty hard this weekend. Rule 5 Draft LHP T.J. McFarland (2.55 FIP) threw 2.1 innings and 43 pitches yesterday, taking him out of commission for at least one game and probably two. The fewer lefties at Showalter’s disposal, the better. RHP Pedro Strop (4.71 FIP) also pitched yesterday and has appeared in three of the last five games.
Closer RHP Jim Johnson (3.82 FIP) threw 32 pitches and recorded one out while blowing the save on Saturday, his second blown save in as many appearances. He’s not in danger of losing his job or anything, but he is in the middle of a rough stretch. Setup men RHP Darren O’Day (3.79 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (3.27 FIP) are hell on same-side hitters. RHP Tommy Hunter (4.36 FIP) is the multi-inning middle relief guy, but he threw 2.2 innings and 37 pitches on Saturday. Might not be available tonight. LHP Troy Patton (5.29 FIP) and long man RHP Jake Arrieta (4.45 FIP) round out the 13-man bullpen, which will likely be whittled down to 12 when Gonzalez is activated.
The Yankees were rained out on Sunday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be this time of the season. Left-hander Vidal Nuno will be available in relief this series since his start in place of the injured Andy Pettitte has been pushed back. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage details. Now that Camden Crazies is close to defunct, I guess Camden Chat is the best Orioles blog by default.
The Orioles have claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. New York designated him for assignment last week to clear room on the roster for Travis Hafner. Canzler would have competed for the right-handed hitting outfielder’s job had he remained with the team, but instead he was claimed off waivers for the fourth time this offseason.
The Yankees are a few hours away from opening their best-of-five ALDS matchup against the Orioles, a team they know pretty well since they reside in the same division. The pitchers should be familiar, the hitters should be familiar, and everyone’s defensive abilities should be familiar.
The Orioles were rated as a below-average defensive team overall by the various advanced metrics this year, but they are strong up the middle with Matt Wieters behind the plate, J.J. Hardy at short, and Adam Jones in center. One thing Baltimore’s defenders do very well is stop the other team’s running game, which means the Yankees won’t be able to create much havoc on the bases these next few days.
No Stolen Bases For You
Thanks to the cannon arm of Wieters, the Orioles led the AL in throwing out attempted base-stealers and not by a small margin. Overall, they threw out 36 of 99 base-stealers (36.4%), far better than the second place Blue Jays (33.1%). Wieters threw out nearly 40% (38.6% to be exact) of the runners who tried to steal again him, which is well above the ~25% league average. Only Ryan Hanigan (48.5%), Yadier Molina (47.9%), and Miguel Montero (42.1%) were better among regular catchers, and in case you haven’t noticed, all of those guys play in the NL. Over the last two years, it’s a 37.7% throw-out rate for Wieters. The guy just shuts the running game down.
Perhaps the best way to look at this is just in terms of number of attempts. Opponents attempted a stolen base just 99 times against the Orioles this season, tied with the Cardinals for the second fewest in baseball. Only the Diamondbacks (85) had fewer steals attempted against them. The Yankees, for what it’s worth, had the fifth fewest stolen bases attempted against them this year (118). Anyway, the Bombers are called the Bombers for a reason, and that’s because they don’t steal all that much. Their 93 team steals (120 attempts) were the eighth fewest in baseball, and only four players had double-digit steals: Ichiro Suzuki (14), Alex Rodriguez (13), Eduardo Nunez (11), and Curtis Granderson (10). The stolen base isn’t a huge part of the Yankees’ offense, but it’ll likely be a non-factor in the ALDS thanks to Wieters.
The Yankees catch a little bit of a break because Nick Markakis, one of Baltimore’s all-around best players, is still sidelined with a broken thumb that will keep him on the shelf through the ALDS. He actually originally suffered the injury against the Yankees, when CC Sabathia hit him with a pitch. With Markakis out and Jim Thome healthy, the Orioles have been playing Chris Davis in right field, his worst position. He’s not especially quick or the smoothest of route takers, but the one thing he has going for him defensively is his arm, which is a rocket. Here, look…
It’s unfortunate that TBS cut to Nelson Cruz running like that, but you can still see how strong that throw was. Davis got it to third on the fly, and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he used to pitch — “Davis also has touched 93 mph off the mound,” wrote Baseball America in their draft write-up back in 2004, the year the Yankees selected him in the 50th round but did not sign him. Anyway, enough with the nostalgia.
With Davis and Adam Jones, another former amateur pitcher who has long owned one of the strongest arms in baseball, patrolling the outfield, the Orioles are not a team that allows runners to take the extra-base very often. In situations where a runner could have gone first-to-third on a single hit to Jones, the runner held at second 69.2% of the time. The league average for center fielders is 43.8%. They don’t even run on his arm anymore. Davis only played 230 innings in right this year (and in his career), so we don’t have reliable data for him. Still though, look at that .gif. Runners beware.
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The Yankees were a very station-to-station team this year, due in large part to Brett Gardner‘s injury and Nunez’s demotion to the minors. They did, however, steal 27 bases (in 33 attempts) in the final 29 games of the season thanks to Ichiro‘s scorching hit finish, A-Rod‘s return to the lineup, and Nunez’s return to the majors. In terms of taking the extra-base on first-to-thirds, etc., the Yankees attempted it only 37.3% of the time compared to the 40% league average. With Wieters behind the plate and the duo of Jones and Davis in the outfield, New York is going to have to be very judicious about trying to create offense with their legs in the ALDS.
6:16pm: Wei-Yin Chen will start Game Two, the Orioles announced. I assume Miguel Gonzalez will start Game Three followed by Joe Saunders in Game Four, but they haven’t announced anything beyond Hammel and Chen yet.
5:14pm: Buck Showalter announced this afternoon that Jason Hammel will start Game One of the ALDS tomorrow night. The 30-year-old right-hander pitching to a 3.43 ERA (3.29 FIP) in 118 innings for the Orioles this year, but he’s missed considerable time with right knee problems in the second half. Hammel has thrown just 8.2 innings since the All-Star break and none since September 11th.
Two days after winning Game 162 and clinching the best record in the league, the Yankees finally know who they will be playing the ALDS. The Orioles beat the Rangers in Texas by the score of 5-1 on Friday, winning the first ever AL wildcard play-in game. Joe Saunders turned in an unexpectedly strong performance while the offense mustered just enough off Yu Darvish before piling on the bullpen. The Orioles’ always strong bullpen handled the final 3.1 innings. Here’s the box score.
The Yankees will now head to Baltimore for the first two games of the ALDS, which begins Sunday. Here are the start times and umpiring crew. Joe Girardi confirmed that CC Sabathia will get the ball in Game One, and apparently right-hander Jason Hammel will return from his knee injury to start for the Orioles. That is unconfirmed, however. Either way, it’s time for the postseason to really begin.
Remember back in 2009, when the Yankees finished with the best record in the AL but had to wait until the Twins and Tigers played Game 163 before they knew who they would play in the ALDS? This wildcard play-in game is kinda like that. The Yankees again finished with the best record in the league this year, but tonight’s game will determine their opponent come Game One of ALDS on Sunday night. It’ll also tell them where they’re traveling tomorrow since they open on the road.
Based on this morning’s poll, the vast majority of RAB readers would prefer to see the Yankees face the Orioles in the ALDS. On today’s podcast, both Joe and I said we’d rather see the Rangers advance to the ALDS. I don’t think there’s a right answer here, both Texas and Baltimore are good teams and will be a tough matchup in a best-of-five series. Either way, we should all be rooting for about 20 innings tonight. Here are the lineups…
LF Nate McLouth
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Jim Thome
1B Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty
3B Manny Machado
LHP Joe Saunders (9-13, 4.07)
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Michael Young
DH Mike Napoli
C Geovany Soto
CF Craig Gentry
RHP Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90)
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 8:37pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.