Yankeemetrics: May 7-10 (Orioles)

Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)
Can we just give him the Cy Young today? (AP Photo)

We’re going to kick things off with Pineda’s spectacular outing on Mother’s Day… because, well, do we really need a reason?!

The Yankees won their 20th game of the season on Sunday afternoon but the story of the game was the incredible performance by Michael Pineda, who struck out 16 batters without allowing a walk in seven innings. It was a historic day for the 26-year-old right-hander at Yankee Stadium:

• He is the first Yankee with at least 16 strikeouts and no walks in a game. The last major-league pitcher to do it was Johan Santana on Aug. 19, 2007.
• At 26 years old, Pineda is the youngest pitcher with a 16-strikeout, no-walk game since a 22-year-old Mark Prior on June 26, 2003.
• He is the only MLB pitcher in at least the last 100 years (and probably ever) to have 16-or-more strikeouts and zero walks in a game when pitching fewer than eight innings.
• Pineda is the second Yankee right-hander to strike out 16 batters in a game, joining David Cone on June 23, 1997 vs. the Tigers.

And just for fun: He struck out 16 in seven innings, the equivalent of 20.6 strikeouts in nine innings. The major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 20. If only Pineda had a rubber arm and there were no pitch counts…

He featured a nasty slider all afternoon, which netted him 12 swings-and-misses and eight strikeouts by Orioles batters. Pineda now has 30 strikeouts via his slider this season, the most among all pitchers in the majors.

Pineda is 7-0 in his last nine starts dating back to last September, with at least five strikeouts and no more than one walk in each of those games. Only two other pitchers have put together a streak like that – no losses, five-or-more strikeouts and no walks in a nine-start span – in the last 100 years: Bret Saberhagen in 1994 and Curt Schilling in 2002.

Pineda has three games this season with no walks, at least seven strikeouts and a win. Here’s the list of pitchers to do that within the team’s first 32 games during the last 100 years: Walter Johnson (1916), Greg Maddux (1994) and Fergie Jenkins (1971). Oh, just a few Hall of Famers, and Pineda.

A-Rod ‘says goodbye’ to Willie
With one swing of the bat, Alex Rodriguez once again etched his name in the record books – passing Willie Mays to move into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list – and helped the Yankees to another key win over a division rival. Check out the similarities between career homers No. 660 and 661:

Last week it was a pinch-hit solo homer that broke a 2-2 tie to help the Yankees beat the Red Sox; on Thursday night it was another tie-breaking solo shot to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead against the Orioles, in a game they would eventually win, 4-3.

The (not) milestone home run No. 661 came off Chris Tillman, a pitcher that A-Rod has absolutely owned in his career. He’s now 6-for-12 with four homers vs. Tillman, good for a nice round slugging percentage of 1.500 – his highest against any of the 315 pitchers he has at least 10 at-bats against in his career.

Nate Eovaldi gutted through 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits for the win. He did match a season-high with 14 swinging strikes, six of which came via his curveball – a career-best whiff total for that pitch.

And your official 2015 Yankees closer is …
The Yankees followed a familiar script in beating the Orioles 5-4 on Friday night: a big blast to give the team an early lead, followed by a near-flawless performance from the back end of the bullpen to secure the win.

Brian McCann provided the power, sending a 3-0 pitch from Miguel Gonzalez over the fence that put the Yankees up 3-0 in the first inning. After Friday’s game, the Yankees had swung at four 3-0 pitches this season – and two of them turned into home runs (also A-Rod’s 660th last week). They are the only team this season to hit two homers on 3-0 pitches.

Trying to protect a one-run lead, Andrew Miller came on in the ninth inning to finish off the game and did Andrew Miller things. He pitched a perfect inning for his 13th save of the season, of course. And for the 15th time in 15 games, he didn’t allow any runs or more than one hit. Guess how many Yankee pitchers have ever started a season with a streak like that? Keep guessing…. Yup, none.

The Chase is over
Chase Whitley came crashing back down to Earth in Saturday’s loss to the Orioles, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings after he entered the game with a shiny 0.75 ERA in his first two starts this season.

It was hardly surprising that he ran into trouble against the O’s. He’s now pitched 11 1/3 innings vs. Baltimore and allowed 14 earned runs, good for a 11.12 ERA that ranks as the second-highest against the Orioles by any active pitcher (min. 10 IP). Only the Padres’ Tyson Ross (17.10) has a worse mark than Whitley.

Jose Pirela was the only Yankee with more than one hit in the game, going 2-for-4 and notching the fifth multi-hit game of his career. He is just the seventh Yankee to debut in the last 100 years and have at least five multi-hit games within his first 10 career major-league appearances. He’s in some pretty good company here: Jerry Coleman (1949), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1943), Phil Rizzuto (1941), Joe DiMaggio (1936), Leo Durocher (1928), Norm McMillan (1922).

5/7 to 5/10 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles


The Yankees went 4-2 on their six-game road trip through Boston and Toronto, and now they’ll return home for a four-game set against the Orioles this weekend. After this series, the Yanks will head out on another ten-game road trip. This will be the team’s only home series from April 30th through May 22nd. Baltimore took two of three games from the Yankees last month, in their first meeting of 2015.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

The O’s beat the Yankees to New York by several days — they’ve been in town playing the Mets. The Mets swept the two-game series and Baltimore has now lost eight of their last 13 games. Manager Buck Showalter’s squad is 12-13 with a +7 run differential on the season, which has them in fourth place in the AL East.

Offense & Defense

Despite scoring only three runs total in the two games against the Mets, the Orioles are averaging a healthy 4.92 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+ this season. The O’s are pretty banged up — they’re without SS J.J. Hardy (shoulder), C Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery), UTIL Ryan Flaherty (groin), and IF Jonathan Schoop (knee). It sounds like Hardy might come off the DL this series though, according to Steve Melewski.

Davis. (Presswire)
Davis. (Presswire)

Baltimore’s offense is led by OF Adam Jones (187 wRC+), who has legitimately been MVP caliber so far this season. 1B Chris Davis (139 wRC+) is striking out a ton (40.0%) but is also putting up some real nice numbers. C Caleb Joseph (129 wRC+) has done well replacing Wieters, OF Travis Snider (113 wRC+) has been solid, 3B Manny Machado (122 wRC+) has been on fire of late, and ex-Yankees farmhand UTIL Jimmy Paredes (160 wRC+) has been great in part-time duty.

The rest of the regular lineup isn’t doing much of anything. DH Delmon Young (101 wRC+) has been fine in a platoon role but OF Alejandro De Aza (74 wRC+), IF Everth Cabrera (24 wRC+), and UTIL Steve Pearce (52 wRC+) aren’t hitting at all. Pearce has actually been playing second base of late, if you can believe that. C Ryan Lavarnway, IF Rey Navarro, and OF David Lough are what’s left on the bench.

The O’s have a good team defense that has somehow developed the reputation for being a great team defense. I guess because they rarely make errors, which don’t tell us much. Anyway, Machado is elite at third base while Jones and De Aza are above average in the outfield. Davis and Joseph are solid at first and behind the plate, respectively. Snider is an adventure in right, Cabrera’s nothing special at short, and Pearce at second is … yikes. It’s yikes.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (Career vs. NYY)
It’s been a rough start to the season for the 27-year-old Tillman, who has a 6.23 ERA (5.31 FIP) in five starts and 26 innings. His strikeout (17.7%) and ground ball (35.1%) rates are right where they usually sit, but he’s walked a ton of batters (13.3%) and his homer rate (1.38 HR/9) has returned to its pre-2014 levels. His reverse split (.372 vs. .338 wOBA in favor of righties) is likely a function of sample size based on his career numbers. Tillman has historically had a tiny platoon split. There has been no real change in the right-hander’s stuff this season — he still sits in the low-90s with his two and four-seamers, and uses them to set up mid-80s sliders, low-80s changeups, and mid-70s curves. Tillman has lots of weapons but hasn’t yet gotten a handle on them in 2015. The Yankees did not face Tillman during the series in Baltimore a few weeks ago.

Friday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, is off to a nice start this year, posting a 2.59 ERA (3.88 FIP) in 31.1 innings across five starts. His strikeout (21.1%), walk (9.4%), and ground ball (42.5%) numbers are all a bit higher than they have been the last few seasons while his homer rate (0.86 HR/9) is much lower than his career rate (1.25 HR/9). Righties (.317 wOBA) have hit Gonzalez harder than lefties (.249 wOBA) this year, which is out of whack with the rest of his career. He’s historically been another guy with no platoon split. Gonzalez sets up his trademark low-80s splitter-changeup hybrid — that pitch seems to give the Yankees fits every time they face him — with a low-90s four-seamer. He also throws low-80s sliders and mid-70s curves. The Yankees scored one run in seven innings against Gonzalez a few weeks ago, when he set a new career high with ten strikeouts.

Chen. (Presswire)

Saturday: RHP Chase Whitley (Career vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY)
On one hand, the 29-year-old Chen is off to a great start (2.83 ERA). On the other, he’s been really bad (5.45 FIP). Chen currently owns career worsts in strikeout rate (16.8%), walk rate (9.2%), and homer rate (1.57 HR/9) to go with a grounder rate (37.8%) in line with his career norms. He has no platoon split this year (.315 vs. 314 wOBA) but has been tougher on lefties than righties throughout his four years in MLB. Chen has lost approximately two miles an hour across the board this season. He now operates with an low-90s four-seamer, an even lower-90s two-seamer, a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and a low-70s curveball. Chen held the Yankees to two runs in six innings in their first series of 2015.

Sunday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (Career vs. NYY)
Boy this season has been ugly for Norris. He has a 9.75 ERA (4.78 FIP) in 24 innings across five starts — so he’s averaging fewer than five innings per start, which is never good — and his strikeout rate (14.0%) is down considerably from the last few years. His walk (8.8%), grounder (37.2%), and homer (1.13 HR/9) numbers are right in line with his career norms though. Lefties (.485 wOBA) has absolutely destroyed Norris this year. Righties (.317 wOBA) have had success too. Left-handers have hit him harder historically, but not to this extreme. Norris is basically a two-pitch pitcher, using his low-to-mid-90s heater and mid-80s slider nearly 95% of the time combined. He’ll also throw a show-me mid-80s changeup hitters don’t really have to worry about. The Yankees scored three runs in five innings against Norris when these two teams played in Camden Yards last month.

Bullpen Status
The Mets knocked Ubaldo Jimenez out of yesterday’s game after only four innings, so Showalter had to get a dozen outs from his relievers. RHP Brad Brach (3.66 FIP) threw two innings while RHP Kevin Gausman (4.36 FIP) and Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Jason Garcia (7.88 FIP) threw one inning each. Otherwise the ‘pen is pretty fresh. They were off Monday and didn’t work much Tuesday.

LHP Zach Britton (1.14 FIP) is the closer and he’s been really, really good in that role since moving into the bullpen full-time last year. RHP Darren O’Day (4.01 FIP) is his primary setup man and both RHP Tommy Hunter (4.08 FIP) and LHP Brian Matusz (5.78 FIP) will see important innings as well. Baltimore’s bullpen isn’t as strong as we’re used to seeing — they have a 3.95 ERA (4.36 FIP) as a unit and that puts them in the bottom third of MLB.

As for the Yankees, head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Jose Girardi’s relievers. Camden Chat is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the Orioles.

Yankeemetrics: April 13-15 (Orioles)

Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Going streaking
The Yankees started their 10-game road trip with a 6-5 win over Orioles at Camden Yards, fueled by a three-homer outburst that gave them an AL-best 12 longballs through the first seven games. It’s just the seventh time in franchise history they’ve hit at least a dozen homers this early into the season, and the first time since 2011.

Stephen Drew was the unlikely hero for the Yankees, delivering the big blow with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. How rare was Drew’s homer? The only other Yankee in the past 75 years with a two-out, go-ahead pinch-hit grand slam was Johnny Blanchard on July 21, 1961 vs. the Red Sox. Prior to Drew, the last Yankee with a pinch-hit slam in the month of April was Bobby Murcer on April 9, 1981 against the Rangers.

Michael Pineda got the win despite a shaky outing in which he was pulled in the seventh inning after giving up five runs on nine hits. It was the first time as a Yankee he had allowed more than two runs in a start on the road. Pineda’s streak of seven consecutive road starts giving up two-or-fewer runs was the longest to begin a Yankee career over the last 100 seasons.

Sabathia’s least favorite road trip
So much for winning streaks. The Yankees lost the middle game of their three-game set vs. the Orioles, 4-3, as CC Sabathia was knocked around for four runs on seven hits in seven innings. This is the first time in his 15-year career that he’s started a season with two losses in his first two outings.

Sabathia, who once dominated the O’s in Baltimore (10-1, 2.73 ERA in first 12 starts at Camden Yards), fell to 0-5 in his last seven road starts against the Orioles. The only Yankee pitcher with a longer road losing streak against the Orioles in Baltimore is Stan Bahnsen, who lost six straight decisions from 1968-71.

Mark Teixeira tried to rally the Yankees with an RBI double in the sixth inning. Prior to that hit, Teixeira was hitless in 14 at-bats against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. That was his second-worst 0-fer vs. any pitcher in his career, behind only an 0-for-16 mark against Freddy Garcia. #WeirdBaseball.

Alex Rodriguez had a chance to tie the game when he pinch hit for Drew with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Yankees down 4-3, but grounded out for the final out. That dropped A-Rod‘s career line as a pinch hitter to 1-for-19, including the postseason. The lone hit was a 10th-inning single in a win over the Rays on August 25, 2013.

It’s just one game, right…
The Yankees relief corps entered the rubber game against the Orioles as one of the best bullpens in the AL, ranking second in ERA and third in batting average allowed. But they imploded on Wednesday night and blew a 3-2 lead in spectacular fashion, giving up nearly as many earned runs (5) in the sixth inning alone as they had in the first eight games combined (7). That paved the way for an eventual 7-5 loss, dropping the Yankees to 3-6 on the season, their worst nine-game start since 1991.

A-Rod provided one of the offensive highlights for the Yankees, hitting a deep bomb to left field for his 656th career home run (four away from Willie and potential $6 million bonus!) and 32nd at Camden Yards. That’s 10 more homers at the ballpark in Baltimore than any other visiting player.

The Yankees tagged Orioles pitcher Bud Norris for three runs in five innings but he ended up with a no-decision when the Orioles rallied to take the lead in the sixth inning. Norris remained perfect (4-0) in five career games against the Yankees, becoming just one of five Orioles pitchers (since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954) to go unbeaten in his first five major-league starts against New York. The others are Hoyt Wilhelm, Tom Phoebus, Rudy May, and Bob Milacki.

4/13 to 4/15 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles


The first homestand of the season is over and the Yankees now head out on a three-city, ten-game, eleven-day road trip. The first stop: Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles, the defending AL East champs. The Yankees won just two of nine games at Camden Yards last season and are 6-13 in Baltimore since the start of 2013.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

The Orioles and Blue Jays just wrapped up a series of slugfests in Baltimore — the two teams combined to score 42 runs in the three games. Toronto took two of three, including yesterday’s game 10-7. Overall, the O’s are 3-3 with a -1 run differential. They’re right smack in the middle of the AL East pack after the first week of the season.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles had one of the better offenses in baseball last year (4.35 runs per game), and aside from replacing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz with Travis Snider, they have the same basic lineup this year. Once again, they’re one of the highest scoring teams in the super early going this year (5.12 runs per game), scoring at least five runs in five of their six games. Here is their starting lineup with their 2015 performance to date and overall ZiPS projections:

2014 Performance 2015 ZiPS Projection
LF Alejandro De Aza
7-for-23 (.304), 2 HR .262/.320/.396 (100 wRC+)
DH Steve Pearce
5-for-23 (.217), 2 HR .262/.345/.473 (129 wRC+)
1B Chris Davis
5-for-19 (.263), 1 HR .241/.326/.495 (126 wRC+)
CF Adam Jones
8-for-21 (.381), 2 HR .279/.315/.475 (120 wRC+)
RF Travis Snider
7-for-18 (.389), 1 HR .242/.310/.410 (101 wRC+)
3B Manny Machado
1-for-19 (.053) .285/.323/.448 (115 wRC+)
2B Ryan Flaherty
2-for-13 (.154), 1 HR .228/.287/.381 (85 wRC+)
SS Everth Cabrera
4-for-17 (.235) .251/.312/.329 (87 wRC+)
C Caleb Joseph
2-for-13 (.154), 2 2B .235/.279/.393 (81 wRC+)

Baltimore is currently without SS J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and C Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery), both of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series. That’s why Cabrera and Joseph are starting at short and catcher. Flaherty has been more or less platooning with IF Jonathan Schoop, who straight up crushed the Yankees last season (126 OPS+). That was annoying considering he had a 67 OPS+ overall.

Jones. (Presswire)
Jones. (Presswire)

Because they’re carrying 13 pitchers, the O’s only have DH Delmon Young and C Ryan Lavarnway on the bench alongside Schoop. Delmon platoons with Snider against lefties — Young slots in at DH and Pearce moves to right — and Lavarnway is there because they need a backup catcher, and he’s not really a catcher to start with. They’re going to play Joseph as much as humanly possible until Wieters returns in a few weeks.

Over the last two or three years the Baltimore defense has gotten overrated because they don’t commit many errors — their 141 errors from 2013-14 are the fewest in baseball. They’re good defensively in general, but not the best in the game. Manny Machado is superb at third, best in baseball at the position, and both De Aza and Jones are very strong in the outfield. Joseph is solid behind the plate and Davis, Flaherty, and Schoop are adequate at their positions.

Cabrera is below average at short in general and is a big downgrade from Hardy. Snider and Pearce are shaky in the outfield — they take a lot of short, choppy steps when moving around and it just looks bad — and Delmon is a total disaster in the field. The Yankees should consider it a gift if the Orioles play Young in the outfield at some point this series. It all adds up to a slightly above average team defense, which is valuable, but does not match the O’s reputation.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY)
It’s hard to believe this is already Chen’s fourth year in MLB, isn’t it? I still feel like he just got here. The 29-year-old had a 3.54 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 185.2 innings a year ago despite below average strikeout (17.6 K%), ground ball (41.0 GB%), and homer (1.11 HR/9) rates. He doesn’t walk anyone though (4.5 BB%) and has historically been a bit better against lefties (.300 wOBA) than righties (.329 wOBA). Chen works with both two and four-seam fastballs and his velocity is down about two miles an hour this year compared to the last few years, even considering how early it is in the season. Low-80s sliders and changeups and a mid-70s curveball round out his five-pitch arsenal. Chen’s not a blow you away type, he’s a keep you off balance guy. He allowed three runs in just 4.1 innings against the Rays last week, his first start of 2015.

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, is another guy who’s been around longer than you’d think. This is his fourth season in the show too. He pitched to a 3.23 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 159 innings last season, and considering he has a 3.43 ERA and a 4.58 FIP in 441.1 careers innings, it’s probably time to say Gonzalez is one of those guys who consistently outperforms his peripherals. His strikeout (16.5 K%), walk (7.6 BB%), grounder (37.3 GB%), and homer (1.42 HR/9) rates don’t jump out at you at all, but he makes it work. Gonzalez’s moneymaker is a dynamite low-80s split-changeup hybrid that generates a lot of weak contact. He sets it up with low-90s heaters and will also throw low-80s sliders and mid-80s curveballs. Gonzalez has had a negligible platoon split in his career — .314 vs. 318 wOBA in favor of lefties — and last week he allowed one run in five innings in his first start of the year.

Norris. (Presswire)
Norris. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (Career vs. NYY)
Norris is another one of those league average-ish starters the Orioles seem to have in spades. The 30-year-old gave the team 165.1 innings of 3.65 ERA (4.22 FIP) ball in 2014 with almost perfectly average peripherals across the board: 20.2 K%, 7.6 BB%, 42.2 GB%, and 1.09 HR/9. Lefties have hit Norris quite a bit harder than righties the last few years because he throws low-to-mid-90s fastballs and mid-to-upper-80s sliders almost exclusively. He’s thrown his show-me mid-80s changeup less than 10% of the time the last few seasons. The Blue Jays clobbered Norris in Baltimore’s home opener last week (eight runs in three innings), so I guess he should just go ahead and have Tommy John surgery now.

Bullpen Status
The Blue Jays did the Yankees a solid yesterday and knocked Chris Tillman out of the game after only 2.2 innings. Long man extraordinaire RHP Kevin Gausman needed 37 pitches to get four outs, forcing LHP Brian Matusz to throw two innings (26 pitches) and RHP Brad Brach to throw 1.2 innings (28 pitches). RHP Darren O’Day also threw 1.1 innings (20 pitches). Manager Buck Showalter had to go deep into his bullpen yesterday.

In addition to Gausman, Matusz, Brach, and O’Day, the O’s are also carrying closer LHP Zach Britton, RHP Tommy Hunter, Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Jason Garcia, and knuckleballer RHP Eddie Gamboa. What is it with all the knuckleballers? The Yankees could end up seeing three different knuckleballers in their first three series of the season. When’s the last time that happened? Anyway, with Matusz throwing two innings yesterday and Britton being confined to the ninth inning, Showalter probably won’t have a lefty to deploy in the middle innings today. That’ll be nice.

Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Camden Chat for everything you need to know about the O’s.

A New Era of Widespread AL East Mediocrity [2015 Season Preview]

For the first time since 2006 and only the fourth time since the wildcard system was implemented in 1995, just one AL East team qualified for the postseason last year. The AL East’s reign as baseball’s dominant division is over. The Orioles won the division by 12 games last season but there is no clear cut favorite heading into 2015. It’s just a jumbled mess of mediocrity. There’s a very real chance the division will be without a 90+ win team for the first time since the 2000 Yankees took the AL East with 87 wins. Here’s an overview of the Yankees’ division rivals heading into the new season.

"Hmmm. Who will win this terrible division?" (Presswire)
“Hmmm. Who will win this mediocre division?” (Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Biggest Strength: I say roster depth in general. They have five average or better starters — well, that’s with Kevin Gausman in the rotation and Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen — and a quality set of relievers to go with some power bats and a versatile bench. The defense is also very good, especially on the infield. And Buck Showalter is a difference-making manager. His strategic on-field moves are arguably the best in the game. On any given day, Baltimore can win with their pitching or their offense. They’re well-rounded.

Biggest Weakness: The lack of on-base guys — losing Nick Markakis will only exacerbate that — and injury issues. The O’s led baseball with 211 homers last year (the Rockies were a distant second with 186) but were only eighth with 705 runs because their team .311 OBP ranked 17th out of the 30 clubs. The O’s could easily lead MLB in homers again even without Nelson Cruz and that’s great. Homers are awesome! But they’re better when guys are on base.

As for the injury issues, both J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery) will open the season on the DL. Manny Machado is coming off right knee surgery and has already had surgery on both knees before his 23rd birthday. Will that hamper his mobility at third base? Machado’s an elite defender with a good but not great bat. Any decline in his defense will take a big bite out of his overall value. The starting catcher and left side of the infield carry health concerns.

The O’s In One Sentence: They lost some key players to free agency this past offseason, but there’s no way I’m going to write them off as a contender.

Hanley's back. (Presswire)
Hanley’s back. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Biggest Strength: The offense. Hanley Ramirez is going to be a big help, even if he only plays 120 games. And even though Pablo Sandoval has gotten overrated — I’m guessing there are many fans who’ve only seen him play in the World Series and think that’s who he is all the time — Red Sox third basemen have hit .226/.280/.351 (85 OPS+) the last two years. He’ll be a big upgrade at the hot corner.

We have no idea what Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo can do across a full MLB season yet, but expectations are high, especially for Betts. (They’re so insanely high at this point that there’s basically no way he can meet them.) Mike Napoli and David Ortiz are still annoyingly productive, and there’s at least some hope Dustin Pedroia can halt his decline now that his thumb’s healthy. The Red Sox are going to mash, especially at home.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. My goodness. Forget the “they don’t have an ace” stuff. Do they even have two league average starters? Rick Porcello was quite good last year, with a 116 ERA+ in 204.2 innings, but Clay Buchholz had a 72 ERA+ in 170.1 innings. Justin Masterson has an 83 ERA+ in his last 528 innings (!) and those three miles an hour he lost off his fastball last year haven’t come back this spring. Wade Miley had an 86 ERA+ in 201.1 innings last year and Joe Kelly had a 91 ERA+ in 96.1 innings. Also, this group has combined for an 18.0% strikeout rate the last three years, so they miss a below average number of bats. Who’s going out there to stop a losing streak?

The Sawx In One Sentence: If the Red Sox are going to contend, they’ll have to contend like the mid-2000s Yankees and outhit their own pitching staff.

No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)
No. 2 starer. For real. (Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Biggest Strength: I … I … I don’t know. I guess the revamped outfield defense with Kevin Kiermaier in center and Desmond Jennings in left? Otherwise the Rays don’t seem to be particularly good at anything. Evan Longoria is a really good player, Chris Archer is a quality starter, and the Jake McGee/Brad Boxberger bullpen duo is as good as it gets, at least once McGee comes back from offseason elbow surgery. That’s about it. Unlike the Orioles, who don’t have an obvious strength but are solid all around, the Rays don’t have an obvious strength and have questions all around.

Biggest Weakness: The rotation. Remember when the Rays used to add a new immediate impact rookie starter to their rotation year after year? That doesn’t happen anymore. They needed 24 starts from Roberto Hernandez in 2013 and 15 starts from Erik Bedard in 2014. Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery), Alex Cobb (forearm), and Drew Smyly (shoulder) are all hurt, so Tampa Bay had to scramble to trade for the extremely homer prone Erasmo Ramirez a few days ago and will start Nate Karns in the second game of the season. He had a 5.08 ERA in a full season at Triple-A last year. This rotation won’t be Devil Rays caliber bad, but it is in no way a strength.

The Rays In One Sentence: Ex-manager Joe Maddon and ex-GM Andrew Friedman jumped ship and not a moment too soon.

Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of 'em is Toronto's best hitter. (Presswire)
Reyes, Donaldson, and Encarnacion. And none of ’em is Toronto’s best hitter. (Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Biggest Strength: Middle of the lineup. The 3-4-5 combination of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson is straight up terrifying. They rank 10th, 11th, and 20th in OPS+ the last two years (min. 800 PA) and 7th, 2nd, and 18th in homers, respectively. Those three are going to generate a ton of runs, especially when Jose Reyes is healthy and leading off. Bautista and Encarnacion were scary enough these last few years. Adding Donaldson to the mix is unfair.

Biggest Weakness: Top heavy roster and extreme reliance on youth. Toronto is going to have two rookies in the rotation (Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), two rookies in the lineup (Dalton Pompey and Devon Travis), and two rookies in the bullpen (Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro). For a team looking to contend, they’re putting a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of young players with no real backup plans. Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, R.A. Dickey, and Mark Buehrle have to produce as expected for this club to have a chance. They don’t have the pieces to cover for a disappointing season from one of the veterans.

The Jays In One Sentence: Once again the Blue Jays made some big splashes in the offseason but stopped short of adding all the pieces they need, especially pitching.

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.

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.

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


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.

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.