Archive for Baltimore Orioles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In case you haven’t noticed, the AL East is a dumpster fire this season. Here are the standings before we go any further:
Yuck. All five teams are clustered together in mediocrity. Dan Syzmborski posted his updated ZiPS division projections yesterday based on what has already happened this year, and the system has the Blue Jays in last place at 80-82. It also has the other four AL East teams tied for first at 83-79. Keep in mind that’s not a prediction of what will happen, it’s just an estimate of each team’s talent level. Point is, the division is crazy close.
As we’ve seen the last few weeks, the Yankees are no doubt a flawed team. They need another starting pitcher and another infielder, and another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt either. Playing better defense would help too. More than anything, they need players like Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, and CC Sabathia to improve their performance going forward.
The Yankees are a flawed team and that’s okay because the other four AL East teams are flawed too. We’ve learned a lot these last five weeks. Here’s what we know about the division a little more than one month into the season.
Overall Batting: 94 wRC+ (17th in MLB) and 4.32 R/G (9th)
Overall Rotation: 4.42 ERA (24th) and 4.32 FIP (25th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.81 ERA (16th) and 4.38 FIP (27th)
Defensive Efficiency: .683 (29th)
The O’s went into the offseason needing a starter and they still need a starter. Ubaldo Jimenez (5.19 ERA and 4.83 FIP) has not worked out so far — turns out making a bunch of starts against the Astros, White Sox, and Twins late last year didn’t mean he had turned his career around — and the Miguel Gonzalez (5.28 ERA and 4.86 FIP) magic has finally worn off. Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen are solid but nothing more. The middle relief unit is also a mess, though the trio of Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton, and Darren O’Day have been outstanding. The other four guys are the problem. Now that Manny Machado is back and Chris Davis (oblique) will soon come off the DL, Baltimore will out-hit many of their pitching problems this summer. That strategy can work, we saw the Yankees do it from 2005-07. They do lack high on-base players to fully capitalize on their power, however.
BOSTON RED SOX
Overall Batting: 100 wRC+ (13th) and 4.15 R/G (16th)
Overall Rotation: 3.85 ERA (15th) and 3.83 FIP (14th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.14 ERA (9th) and 2.91 FIP (3rd)
Defensive Efficiency: .693 (22nd)
On paper, the Red Sox are the most complete team in the division. They’re average or better in every phase of the game, including defensively now that Shane Victorino (hamstring) is off the DL and Jackie Bradley Jr. has replaced Grady Sizemore as the regular center fielder. Bradley and A.J. Pierzynski are the lineup weak spots, Edward Mujica and Craig Breslow the bullpen laggers, and Felix Doubront the rotation drain. Jake Peavy’s walk and homer problems suggest he might perform worse going forward as well (3.09 ERA and 5.07 FIP). Otherwise Boston has productive players in just about every roster spot, a deep farm system, and a pretty big wallet. If they need help, they can go out and get almost anyone they want. The Red Sox are not as good as they were last year, nor are they as bad as they were for the first few weeks of this season.
New York Yankees
Overall Batting: 101 wRC+ (12th) and 4.27 R/G (10th)
Overall Rotation: 4.27 ERA (22th) and 3.88 FIP (16th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.91 ERA (19th) and 3.52 FIP (12th)
Defensive Efficiency: .690 (25th)
Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees have not had another reliable starter all season. Maybe Hiroki Kuroda will be that guy after his very good start against the Angels earlier this week and maybe Michael Pineda will be another one when he returns from his shoulder muscle problem. The back of the bullpen has been excellent. The lineup is being held back because of several underperformers, specifically Beltran and McCann. The Yankees have a ton of money, it’s just a question of how willing ownership is to use it to add players at midseason. The farm system is improving but it still remains to be seen whether other teams want some of their prospects in trades. But you knew all that already.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Overall Batting: 108 wRC+ (7th) and 4.24 R/G (11th)
Overall Rotation: 4.44 ERA (25th) and 3.76 FIP (11th)
Overall Bullpen: 4.17 ERA (23rd) and 4.23 FIP (22nd)
Defensive Efficiency: .701 (18th)
For the first time in a long time, the Rays have serious pitching problems. Matt Moore is lost for the year with Tommy John surgery, and both Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) and Alex Cobb (oblique) are still weeks away from returning to the rotation. They’ve been stuck relying on Erik Bedard, Jake Odorizzi, and Cesar Ramos to make starts. Those guys wouldn’t be anywhere near their pitching staff the last couple of seasons. The offense is fine but the bullpen is weak because it’s been worked hard thanks to the shaky rotation, though replacing Heath Bell with Brad Boxberger will help somewhat. Unlike the other teams in the division, Tampa doesn’t really have the financial wherewithal (or the prospects, at this point) to go out and make a trade to improve their weakness. They’re just trying to get by until Hellickson and Cobb return, hoping they’ll be the difference makers.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Overall Batting: 111 wRC+ (4th) and 4.88 R/G (5th)
Overall Rotation: 4.04 ERA (19th) and 3.75 FIP (10th)
Overall Bullpen: 4.94 ERA (27th) and 4.23 FIP (23rd)
Defensive Efficiency: .692 (24th)
You didn’t need the updated ZiPS projections to tell you Toronto is the weakest team in the division. They have a top heavy lineup with several black holes (second and third bases, in particular), one and a half starters (Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison, maybe R.A. Dickey on a good day), and a disaster of a bullpen. They gutted the farm system last offseason and are reportedly up against their payroll limit. Money is so tight that several players offered to deferred salary this winter if it helped the team sign then-free agent Ervin Santana. That blows my mind. In a division of flawed teams, the Jays have the most and biggest holes. That doesn’t mean they can’t make life miserable this season though. They’re always a pain.
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The AL East has been the best division in baseball over the last 15 years or so, and I don’t even think it was close. At first it was just the Yankees and Red Sox, then the Rays got in on the fun, then two years ago the Orioles started making noise.
Instead of evolving into a division of powerhouses, it’s currently a division of mediocrity. It’s a collection of good but not great teams right now. The opportunity is there for any one of the five clubs to run away with the division but right now no one seems to want it. A blockbuster trade or unexpected development (like, say, a prospect coming up and having immediate impact) could decide the AL East.
After opening the season with six straight games on the road (in parks with roofs, no less), the Yankees are finally back home in the Bronx. Their first homestand of the year opens this afternoon with the AL East rival Orioles in town for a three-game set. Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will throw out the ceremonial first pitches to Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter in the home opener this afternoon. Neato.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles beat the Tigers yesterday, but they lost four straight games before that. Baltimore is 2-4 with a -9 run differential, which … doesn’t really mean much of anything these days. It’s too early to worry about win-loss records.
Few teams boast as much power as the Orioles. They led baseball with 212 homeruns last season, but because they don’t have many high on base players, they only had a team 100 wRC+ and averaged 4.60 runs per game. This year, they’ve swatted only three homers, so they’re sitting on a team 68 wRC+ with 20 runs in six games (3.33 per). They are currently without 3B Manny Machado (101 wRC+ in 2013), who is recovering from offseason knee surgery. OF Nolan Reimold (52) is out with a neck problem as well.
Manager and former Yankees skipper Buck Showalter has three legitimate 30+ homer bats in the middle of his lineup. 1B Chris Davis (167 wRC+ in 2013/95 wRC+ in 2014) led the world with 53 homers last season. Adam Jones (118/88) hit 33 of his own, his second straight year over 30 and third year over 25. OF Nelson Cruz (122/143) has hit two of their three homers this season, and last year he slugged 27 dingers before his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. SS J.J. Hardy (99/101) can hit some balls over the fence as well. He is day-to-day with back spasms.
The other notables in the lineup are OF Nick Markakis (87/59) and C Matt Wieters (86/165), who embody the team’s development problems. Both guys had big seasons earlier in the career but then plateaued and never improved. (Wieters has the team’s other homer.) IF Steve Lombardozzi (67/84), IF Ryan Flaherty (83/-64), and IF Jonathan Schoop (128/-53) are splitting time at second and third. OF David Lough (96/9) is the primary left fielder with Cruz at DH, plus both OF Delmon Young (98/35) and OF/1B Steve Pearce (115/-100) serve as righty bats off the bench. They haven’t hit this year, but the Orioles can change the complexion of a game with one swing of the bat.
Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
The Orioles were patient and played the market well this winter — whether that was by design is another matter entirely — landing the 30-year-old Jimenez on a favorable contract right as Spring Training opened. He had his best season in years in 2013, pitching to a 3.30 ERA (3.43 FIP) in 182.2 innings for the Indians. His strikeout rate (9.56 K/9 and 25.0 K%) was excellent, his walk (3.94 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and ground ball (43.9%) numbers less so. Jimenez actually had a reverse split last summer, holding lefties to a .296 wOBA while righties got him for .318 wOBA. Ubaldo is a true five-pitch pitcher, meaning he uses all five pitches fairly regularly. His low-90s fastball sets up his mid-80s splitter, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. Jimenez allowed four runs in six innings to the Red Sox in his first start. He can be dominant, but he also might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game.
Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Chen, 28, is now in his third MLB season. He had a 4.07 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 137 innings around an oblique injury last summer, with poor strikeout (6.82 K/9 and 18.2 K%) and ground ball (34.4%) rates. He did limit walks though (2.56 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%). 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 top secondary pitch, though righties (.330 wOBA) still give him a harder time than lefties (.306 wOBA). Chen got knocked around in his first start of the year, allowing four runs on 12 hits to the Red Sox.
Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Man, Gonzalez dominated the Yankees back in 2012. He started three games against New York that year (postseason included), allowing only five runs on 15 hits and one walk in 20.2 innings. He struck out 25. Domination. Thankfully, that changed last season, when the 29-year-old allowed 16 runs with a 19/13 K/BB in 29 innings against New York. Gonzalez had a 3.78 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 171.1 innings overall last summer, though his peripherals were mediocre: 6.30 K/9 (16.9 K%), 2.78 BB/9 (7.4 BB%), and 38.9% grounders. He has a reverse platoon split — lefties have a .305 wOBA, righties a .325 wOBA — in parts of three big league seasons. Gonzalez’s break and butter is a nasty split-changeup hybrid that sits in the low-80s. He sets it up with a low-90s fastball and also throws a low-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. That split-change keeps him in MLB. Gonzalez got creamed in his first start of 2014, allowing seven runs on nine hits (including two homers) in 3.1 innings.
With Jim Johnson currently blowing games for the Athletics, RHP Tommy Hunter (3.68 FIP in 2013/1.68 FIP in 2014) has taken over ninth inning duties for Baltimore. Considering how the Yankees always seemed to get to Johnson, that’s probably bad news for New York. Hunter threw 14 pitches yesterday.
RHP Ryan Webb (3.60/8.33), RHP Darren O’Day (3.5/2.18), and RHP Evan Meek (4.59/4.18) are all part of the setup crew, as is LHP Brian Matusz (2.91/5.58). LHP Zach Britton (4.80/2.93) and RHP Josh Stinson (5.40/4.00) are long relievers. Everyone in Baltimore’s bullpen is well rested. It’s too early in the season for guys to have big workloads, even over just the last few days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Camden Chat for the latest and greatest on the O’s.
Over the last 15-20 years or so, no division has been as consistently tough as the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the top two spots, and in recent years both the Rays and Orioles have become more serious threats. The AL East has produced 15 of the 21 AL wildcard teams since the system was introduced in 1995, giving you an idea of how many great teams it’s housed. How is the division competition looking heading into 2014? Here’s a breakdown.
Notable Additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, OF/DH Delmon Young
Notable Losses: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth
This isn’t a loss in the sense that he was on the team and now he’s not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that third baseman Manny Machado will start the season on the DL following offseason knee surgery. He should return sometime in April.
The Orioles played the market well and landed both Jimenez and Cruz on favorable contracts. They sorely lacked an ace and while Ubaldo might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game, he can be absolutely dominant for long stretches of time. Baltimore got a weak .245/.293/.405 (87 wRC+) batting line out of their DHs last season, so Cruz and even Young should help correct that problem. Between Cruz, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, the O’s have three guys who could legitimately hit 30+ homers. They hit 24 more homeruns than any other team last season and added yet another power hitter this winter.
Even though Johnson always seems to blow games against the Yankees — he blew four of his last nine save chances against them and also took a loss after entering a tie game — the Orioles are worse off in the late innings without him. Webb is underrated and I’m sure Tommy Hunter will be fine in the ninth inning, but Johnson was a very good workhorse reliever and that will be missed. Baltimore is better than they were last season because of Jimenez and Cruz, though I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I guess it depends on how long Machado is out, which Jimenez shows up, and how the bullpen shakes out without Johnson.
BOSTON RED SOX
Notable Additions: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, C A.J. Pierzynski
Notable Losses: RHP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
I assume the Red Sox will not re-sign Drew at this point, which means they lost three key up-the-middle position players this winter. Grady Sizemore has had a great spring, but replacing Ellsbury with him is the poor man’s version of replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts. Jackie Bradley Jr., last spring’s MVP, is the backup plan there. Pierzynski takes over for Salty, and rookie Xander Bogaerts will replace Drew. He’s a stud and appears poised to be a force for years to come.
Boston has earned some leeway after winning the World Series, but they lost a lot of good players this winter and are counting mostly on internal solutions to replace the lost production. That’s dicey, especially when talking about prospects. If Bogaerts or either of the center fielders don’t produce, the Sox will be left scrambling. Luckily for them, the pitching staff is deep and stalwarts like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are still around to anchor the lineup. The Red Sox have a great farm system and a ton of money, so they have the wherewithal to address any needs at midseason. That said, they won the division by 5.5 games last year and the gap appears to have closed a bit.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Notable Additions: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
Notable Losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright
The Rays will be without Jeremy Hellickson for a few weeks following offseason elbow surgery. They still have David Price and Alex Cobb to front the rotation, but Matt Moore is having a real problem throwing strikes this spring. Like 15 walks in 14.1 innings problem. Chris Archer had a strong rookie season and rookie Jake Odorizzi will replace Hellickson for the time being. Tampa always seems to crank out quality young starters, but with Moore struggling and Odorizzi projecting as more of a back-end arm than anything else, their staff seems more vulnerable than it has been at any point in the last five of six years.
After getting great production from one-year gems like Casey Kotchman and Jeff Keppinger, the Rays doubled down on James Loney and re-signed him to a three-year, $21M contract this offseason. That is the largest free agent contract the team had handed out since the current ownership group took over in 2005. Full seasons of Wil Myers and David DeJesus should boost an offense — DeJesus isn’t great, but remember, he’s replacing Sam Fuld — that ranked third in baseball with a 108 wRC+ last summer. Going from Rodney and Wright to Balfour and Bell is probably an upgrade, especially in terms in 2014 performance. Rodney and Wright are 37 and 39, after all. Tampa improved this winter after winning 92 games a wildcard spot a year ago, so of course they’ll be right back in the thick of the race this year.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Notable Additions: C Dioner Navarro
Notable Losses: C J.P. Arencibia, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Josh Johnson
It’s unbelievable the Blue Jays did nothing this winter, isn’t it? They made all those moves last offseason and were such a colossal disappointment in 2013, yet nothing. They signed Navarro, who was nearly out of baseball three years ago. GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared to be playing the board a bit with the pitching market, presumably hoping to grab Jimenez or Ervin Santana on a cheap contract, but instead came up empty. The rotation includes the reliable Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the unpredictable Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and righty Drew Hutchison fresh off Tommy John surgery.
I guess the good news for Toronto is that their offense is dynamite, at least when healthy. Edwin Encarnacion might be the most unheralded great hitter in the game (82 BB, 66 XBH, 62 K in 2013) and Jose Bautista is still a force, so the middle of the order is set. Colby Rasmus has a ton of power and others like Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie will contribute from time to time. Jose Reyes is dynamic but also prone to injury, and sure enough an MRI revealed a minor hamstring strain just yesterday. He might not be ready for the start of the season. Ryan Goins, who is slated to be the regular second baseman, will move over to replace Reyes to short if need be. He might be the worst everyday player in baseball. In the conversation, at least. The Blue Jays are banking on health and steps forward from guys like Hutchison and Rasmus to improve the team, and even if they get that, they still might only be the fourth or fifth best team in the division.
* * *
On paper, I think you can argue the Yankees are anywhere from the best to fourth best team in the division. They’ve obviously upgraded but so have the Rays and Orioles, all while the Red Sox lost some key pieces. The top four teams in the division are more scrunched together this season, which means the race will be more tougher and more exciting deep into the season. Injuries and unexpected performances, both good and bad, will play an even bigger role in determining the AL East this summer. The division is again very good and there are four teams to be reckoned with. (Sorry, Blue Jays.)
The Orioles have finally made a move to improve their team. According to multiple reports, Baltimore has signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a fiour-year contract worth approximately $50M. They’ll also have to forfeit the 17th overall pick. The Yankees were never connected to Jimenez but he was often mentioned as a potential fifth starter candidate should be remain unsigned for another few weeks and his asking price drop even more. That was always a long shot though.
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.