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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups

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

Game Two Friday: TBA vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
Norris, 29, has probably been Baltimore’s most consistent starter this season. He has pitched to a 3.92 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 25 starts and 147 innings with average-ish peripherals across the board: 7.10 K/9 (18.8 K%), 2.69 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (11.0 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.330) have had more success against him than righties (.313), and he’s been better at home in Camden Yards (.300 wOBA) than on the road (.341 wOBA). Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher with two other pitches. He relies heavily on his low-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider, throwing them roughly 80% of the time combined, but he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and low-90s two-seamers per start. New York has seen Norris twice this year, scoring one run and then three runs, both times in five innings.

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

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

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

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman, 26, was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter this year, and he has a 3.36 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 31 starts and 187.2 innings. Again, his strikeout (6.38 K/9 and 16.9 K%), walk (3.02 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), homer (0.91 HR/9 and 8.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (40.9%) numbers do not jump out at you. His platoon split is small but he has been much more effective at home (.274 wOBA) than on the road (.324 wOBA). Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up Tillman’s mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year, but he keeps getting outs. Tillman has started against the Yankees three times this season: six shutout innings in June, three runs in 6.2 innings in July, and two runs in seven innings in August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Norris has arguably been his team’s most consistent starting pitcher, with a 3.68 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 19 starts and 115 innings. His peripherals don’t jump out at you — 6.73 K/9 (17.9 K%), 2.90 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 1.02 HR/9 (10.4 HR/FB%), and 42.3% grounders — but he has essentially zero platoon split and simply keeps runs off the board. After years of underperforming his peripherals, he’s now doing the opposite. Maybe it’s dumb luck. Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher with two other pitches. He relies heavily on his low-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider, throwing them roughly 80% of the time combined, but he’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups and low-90s two-seamers per start. He held the Yankees to one run in five innings back in June.

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

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

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

Wednesday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman started Opening Day for the Orioles but he’s been unable to build on last year’s success, instead posting to a solid 3.73 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 149.2 innings across 25 starts. His strikeout rate (6.13 K/9 and 15.9 K%) is his lowest since breaking into the league full time three years ago while his walk rate (3.19 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is its highest. Tillman has done a much better job of keeping the ball in the park this season (0.90 HR/9 and 8.2 HR/FB%) even though his ground ball rate (41.1%) continues to be no better than okay. Again, like Norris and Chen, he has zero platoon split, but he has pitched quite a bit better at home (.281 wOBA) than on the road (.332 wOBA) in 2014. Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up Tillman’s mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and big-breaking mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year. The Yankees have seen Tillman twice this year: seven shutout innings in June and three runs in 6.2 innings in July.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitching Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

The very flawed and wide open AL East

In case you haven’t noticed, the AL East is a dumpster fire this season. Here are the standings before we go any further:

AL East standings 050814

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.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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)

Machado. (Presswire)
Machado. (Presswire)

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.

Imagine Dioner Navarro being your biggest offseason move. (Abelimages/Getty)
Imagine Dioner Navarro being your biggest offseason move. (Abelimages/Getty)

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.

* * *

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.

4/7-4/9 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

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

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.

Offense
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.

Cruz. (Presswire)
Cruz. (Presswire)

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.

Pitching Matchups

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.

Don't call me Bruce. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Don’t call me Bruce. (Leon Halip/Getty)

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.

Hunter. (David Banks/Getty Images)
Hunter. (Getty)

Bullpen Status
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.