Archive for Baltimore Orioles
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.
* * *
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.
In about 12 hours, the Yankees will finally know who they will be playing in the ALDS. The Orioles and Rangers will square off in the first ever AL Wildcard Play-In game later tonight, the winner of whom will welcome the Bombers to their stadium for Game One on Sunday while the loser goes home for the season. It’s a harsh new playoff system, and frankly it’s not all that fair that the Yankees will have to open the series on the road despite finishing with the best record in the league. Thankfully that will change next year.
Anyway, the Orioles remained in the AL East hunt right until Game 162, though the Rangers were considered the best team in baseball for a large part of the season. They are the two-time defending AL champs, of course. There are reasons to want to play and avoid both teams, but the road to the World Series is never easy. The Yankees will have to play a quality opponent in the ALDS regardless, and each offers unique strengths and weaknesses.
Baltimore Orioles (head-to-head record: 9-9, -2 run differential)
Buck Showalter’s Orioles gave the Yankees a fight all season, including winning six of nine at Yankee Stadium. They hit the second most homers (214) and stole the fewest bases (58) in baseball this season, and their bullpen was one of the game’s most effective units (3.00 ERA and 3.68 FIP). Baltimore’s starters are relatively nondescript, but they do feature two southpaws in Wei-Yin Chen and Joe Saunders. The Yankees struggled against lefties this season (110 wRC+), at least relative to what they’ve done the last few years. Saunders is starting the play-in game tonight and Jason Hammel (3.43 ERA and 3.29 FIP) will return to the rotation to start Game One of the ALDS if they beat Texas. Showalter is also as good as it gets in terms of his in-game moves as well, consistently putting his players in the best possible position to succeed.
Texas Rangers (head-to-head record: 4-3, +3 run differential)
The Rangers are a lot like the Orioles and Yankees in that they hit a ton of homers (200), but they also led the AL with a .273 AVG and stole a healthy 91 bases. Their offense is very right-handed, with Josh Hamilton and David Murphy representing their two best lefty threats. The bullpen (3.42 ERA and 3.67 FIP) is strong but lacking setup man extraordinaire Mike Adams, who is out with a shoulder problem. That’s an enormous blow, it would be like taking David Robertson away from the Yankees. Matt Harrison and Derek Holland given them a pair of left-handed starters (Harrison is lined up to start a potential Game One of the ALDS), though they will burn Yu Darvish in the play-in game tonight. He was arguably the best pitcher in the game the last month of the season (2.21 ERA and 1.89 FIP). Ron Washington is generally considered a weak strategic manager, which is worth mentioning.
* * *
Texas carries a bit more of an aura given their success the last two years, but the Orioles have proven doubters wrong all season and have shown they will not go away quietly. Anyone can beat anyone in a best-of-five series in this league, but that doesn’t mean favorable matchups don’t exist. I just have no idea who I would rather see the Yankees play in the ALDS.
Via Mark Feinsand, the Orioles have claimed Steve Pearce off waivers from the Yankees. New York designated the right-handed hitting first baseman for assignment when they activated Brett Gardner off the 60-day DL last week.
Pearce, 29, had a 65 wRC+ in 30 plate appearances for the Yankees after they acquired him from the Astros. They had previously traded him to the Orioles for cash back in early-June. Dan Connolly confirmed that Pearce will not be eligible for Baltimore’s playoff roster even though he was in their organization earlier this season.
The Yankees will begin an important series against the Red Sox tonight, but another really important series will open some 400 miles south as well. The second place Orioles are hosting the third place Rays for three games this week, a series that will have a big impact on the AL East race one way or the other. Those clubs will also end the season with three games against each other in St. Pete. As I mentioned yesterday, both teams can’t win those games, and that’s good for New York.
Under the old playoff system, I probably would have rooting for either the Rays or Orioles to sweep all those games. It really wouldn’t have mattered who, the important thing would have been creating separation between the top two teams and the third team in the division. There wasn’t a significant enough advantage to winning the division over skating into the postseason as the wildcard under the old system, so just getting in was the focus. Clinch a postseason berth then worry about the division title was the annual mindset.
That isn’t the case anymore. Capturing that AL East crown is so much more important under the two wildcard system because no one wants to play a do-or-die, win or go home game to decide the season. That means the Yankees absolutely want both the Rays and O’s as far back as possible. Since both teams can’t sweep, the best thing for the Bombers would be for one of those two clubs to take two of three this week. Since Baltimore is one game back and Tampa two, it seems that the Rays taking two would help the Yankees the most. However, since most of us consider Joe Maddon’s club to be the bigger threat, maybe it would be better if the Orioles won the series. There’s no clear right answer here.
Either way, this is all predicated on the Yankees taking care of the Red Sox and everyone else they play from here on out. They have to start winning games consistently to maintain their slim lead. It just so happens that their top two competitors play more than one-quarter of their remaining games against each other, and they’ll theoretically hold each other back for the top spot in the division. The Yankees can only focus on winning their games, but us scoreboard watchers should be hoping that the neither the Rays or Orioles decides to whoop the other this week.
Despite last night’s win, the Yankees are still in the middle of a borderline disaster ten-game stretch that has seen them go just 2-4 in the first six games. Their big and comfortable AL East lead has disappeared and right now they’re just one game up with 26 to play. We’re used to the Yankees battling the Rays for the division crown, but the Orioles are new to the mix this season after 15 years of being non-competitive. Because of that recent history, it’s easy to write them off. Heck, I did it pretty much all season up until about two or three weeks ago.
In a lot of ways, these current Orioles are similar to the 2008 Rays, who just snuck up on everyone and became good all of a sudden. I think the young talent on that 2008 Tampa team — Evan Longoria, Jamie Shields, David Price, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford , etc. — is way more impressive than what they have going on in Baltimore, but Buck Showalter has his team in the race in early-September and they deserve a ton of credit for that, even if Nate McLouth is batting third.
It’s obvious this four-game weekend series with the Orioles has enormous division title implications, but we can’t forget that the Rays are right there as well. They’re three back in the division, one good weekend from taking over first place. All three of the AL East contenders have different strengths and weaknesses, and yet they’re all essentially in the same position with roughly four weeks to go. The Yankees are fortunate that because they’re currently in the lead, they control their own destiny and theoretically don’t need help from anyone else.
Anyway, with a few hours to go before first pitch tonight, I figured it was a good time to see who you folks consider to be the biggest threat to the Bombers in the division race. Both the O’s and Rays are dangerous but I personally believe one of those two clubs is more dangerous than the other. You might feel differently, so let’s find out…
For the second time in the span of a week, the Yankees and Orioles will play their biggest series of the season against one another. Baltimore won two of three last weekend in Yankee Stadium and the season series is now knotted up at seven. For what it’s worth, the Yankees have won four of five in Camden Yards this season, but all five of those games were played way back in April and May.
What Have They Done Lately?
After the series in the Bronx last weekend, the Orioles went up to Toronto and took two of three from the Blue Jays. The O’s had won three straight prior to yesterday’s loss and have won nine of their last twelve overall. At 76-60 with a -21 run differential, Baltimore is one game back of the Yankees for the AL East lead. So yeah, these four games are huge.
At 4.3 runs per game, the Orioles are an ever-so-slightly below league average offensive team. Their best player all season has been Adam Jones (126 wRC+), who leads the club with both 27 homers and 13 steals. Nick Markakis (126 wRC+) has really settled in as the leadoff hitter and Mark Reynolds (114 wRC+) has come on incredibly strong these last few weeks. You may remember his two two-homer games in the Bronx a week ago. Markakis isn’t as much of a power threat as the other two, but you can make a pretty strong argument that he is their best all-around hitter.
The rest of the everyday crew is highlighted by catcher and defensive whiz Matt Wieters (98 wRC+). Nate McLouth (65 wRC+) still hits third and J.J. Hardy (73 wRC+) is just ahead of him in the two-hole, then way down in the nine-spot is top prospect Manny Machado (107 wRC+). The various platoon bats include Chris Davis (113 wRC+ vs. RHP), Omar Quintanilla (94 wRC+ vs. RHP), Lew Ford (113 wRC+ vs. LHP), and former Yankee Wilson Betemit (113 wRC+ vs. RHP). Robert Andino (59 wRC+), Taylor Teagarden (27 wRC+), and Ryan Flaherty (50 wRC+) have been bench guys all season while the lot of September call-ups includes third catcher Luis Exposito, infielder Steve Tolleson, and outfielder Xavier Avery.
Thursday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Jason Hammel
Hammel, 30, will be activated off the DL in time for tonight’s game after missing a little less than two months with a right knee injury. He made one five-inning rehab start last week and that’s it, but prior to that he was Baltimore’s best starter — 3.54 ERA (3.25 FIP) with career bests in the strikeout (8.73 K/9 and 23.1 K%), ground ball (53.6%), and homer (0.66 HR/9) departments. His walk rate (3.21 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%) is solid as well. Hammel reinvented himself as a low-to-mid-90s two-seamer/mid-80s slider pitcher following the offseason trade to the Orioles, though he’ll still throw four-seamers at the same velocity as the two-seamer with some upper-70s curveballs and a handful of upper-80s changeups mixed in as well. He had one good (two runs in six innings) and one bad (five runs in five innings) start against New York prior earlier this season.
Friday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
The Yankees saw the 27-year-old Taiwanese southpaw just last week, when he held them to four runs in 6.2 innings after dominating the early innings. That was the one game the Bombers won in the series. Otherwise, Chen has been rock solid in his inaugural MLB season, pitching to a 3.79 ERA (4.21 FIP) in 163.2 innings. His peripherals — 7.37 K/9 (19.5 K%), 2.80 BB/9 (7.4 BB%), 38.1% grounders — are more solid than stellar, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Chen, as you might remember from last week, is a low-90s four-seamer guy who mixes in a low-80s slider to lefties and a low-80s changeup to righties. The Yankees have seen him three times already this year, so the element of surprise should be gone by now.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Joe Saunders
If you believe some of the things being written these days, the Orioles acquired Saunders for the sole purpose of combating the suck-against-lefties Yankees. The 31-year-old has had one good (6.1 scoreless innings) and one terrible (seven runs in 5.1 innings) start with Baltimore, and overall has pitched to a 4.26 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 141.2 innings this summer. Saunders current owns his best strikeout (6.04 K/9 and 15.6 K%) and walk (2.22 BB/9 and 5.7 BB%) rates since becoming a full-time starter, though his 42.9% ground ball rate is a career-low. He’s a four-pitch guy, using a pair of upper-80s fastballs (two- and four-seamers) to setup his low-80s changeup and mid-80s slider. It’s worth noting that Saunders has one of, if not the largest platoon split among all qualified starters — he’s held same-side hitters to a measly .218 wOBA while righties have tagged him for a .358 wOBA. That .140-point difference is pretty much the difference between Robinson Cano and Chris Stewart, just for some perspective. It’s massive, so the right-handers are going to have to step up in this one.
Sunday: LHP Zach Britton vs. RHP Freddy Garcia
It’s pretty amazing that these two teams played three games last weekend and will play another four this weekend, yet Chen is the only starter the Yankees will see in both series. Britton, 24, came off the DL in mid-July and has been absolutely stellar after taking about four weeks to settle in. Across his last four starts (28.2 IP), he’s allowed just three total runs on 21 hits and seven walks against 29 strikeouts. He wasn’t a two-time Baseball America Top 100 Prospect by accident.
Anyway, Britton owns a deceivingly high 4.15 ERA (3.97 FIP) and is typically much more about ground balls (60.6%) than strikeouts (7.96 K/9 and 20.3 K%). His walk rate (3.98 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%) seems high given his recent performance, but he was never exactly a control machine in the past anyway. A bowling ball low-90s two-seamer is his bread-and-butter pitch, though Britton will also use a four-seamer at the same velocity and a low-80s slider to lefties. Righties will see the occasional mid-80s changeup. As good as Hammel and Chen have been this year, this is the game that I think will be the toughest for the Yankees. Britton can be really, really good.
Expanded rosters and some lengthy starts this week means manager Buck Showalter has an awful lot of fresh arms at his disposal. Closer Jim Johnson (3.36 FIP) and setup man Pedro Strop (3.28 FIP) have both had two consecutive days off, and given the enormity of this series, I would guess that will be available in all four games if needed. Right-handed specialist Darren O’Day (2.91 FIP) has had three days off and he’s another guy we could see four times this weekend if push comes to shove.
Showalter’s three left-handed relievers are Zach Phillips (13.31 FIP in very limited time), scuffling former top prospect Brian Matusz (5.03 FIP), and veteran hanger-on Randy Wolf (5.03 FIP). Other bullpen regulars include former Yankee Luis Ayala (3.90 FIP) and Kevin Gregg (4.70 FIP) while the other two September call-ups are former starter Tommy Hunter (6.17 FIP) and Steve Johnson (3.61 FIP in limited time). Ayala, Matusz, and Hunter all made brief appearances yesterday, so like I said, lots of fresh arms for Showalter coming into the series.
Joe Girardi used his top three relievers to nail down yesterday’s win, including David Robertson for four outs. Neither he nor Boone Logan and Rafael Doriano threw a ton of pitches, so all three will be available again tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage, then check out my personal favorite Orioles blog Camden Crazies.