Orioles claim Russ Canzler off waivers from Yankees

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.

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Orioles’ Strength: Protecting the Extra Base

(Rob Carr/Getty)

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.

Outfield Arms

The Yankees catch a little bit of a break because Nick Markakis, one of Baltimore’s all-around best players, is still sidelined with a broken thumb that will keep him on the shelf through the ALDS. He actually originally suffered the injury against the Yankees, when CC Sabathia hit him with a pitch. With Markakis out and Jim Thome healthy, the Orioles have been playing Chris Davis in right field, his worst position. He’s not especially quick or the smoothest of route takers, but the one thing he has going for him defensively is his arm, which is a rocket. Here, look…

It’s unfortunate that TBS cut to Nelson Cruz running like that, but you can still see how strong that throw was. Davis got it to third on the fly, and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he used to pitch — “Davis also has touched 93 mph off the mound,” wrote Baseball America in their draft write-up back in 2004, the year the Yankees selected him in the 50th round but did not sign him. Anyway, enough with the nostalgia.

With Davis and Adam Jones, another former amateur pitcher who has long owned one of the strongest arms in baseball, patrolling the outfield, the Orioles are not a team that allows runners to take the extra-base very often. In situations where a runner could have gone first-to-third on a single hit to Jones, the runner held at second 69.2% of the time. The league average for center fielders is 43.8%. They don’t even run on his arm anymore. Davis only played 230 innings in right this year (and in his career), so we don’t have reliable data for him. Still though, look at that .gif. Runners beware.

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The Yankees were a very station-to-station team this year, due in large part to Brett Gardner‘s injury and Nunez’s demotion to the minors. They did, however, steal 27 bases (in 33 attempts) in the final 29 games of the season thanks to Ichiro‘s scorching hit finish, A-Rod‘s return to the lineup, and Nunez’s return to the majors. In terms of taking the extra-base on first-to-thirds, etc., the Yankees attempted it only 37.3% of the time compared to the 40% league average. With Wieters behind the plate and the duo of Jones and Davis in the outfield, New York is going to have to be very judicious about trying to create offense with their legs in the ALDS.

Update: Hammel and Chen to start first two games for Orioles

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.

Bring on the Orioles: ALDS matchup set

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.

AL Wildcard Play-In Game Thread

(AP)

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…

Baltimore Orioles
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)

Texas Rangers
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.

Poll: Orioles or Rangers?

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

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.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

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.

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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.

Who do you want the Yankees to play in the ALDS?
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Orioles claim Steve Pearce off waivers

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.