We get the pleasure of observing today’s games from the sidelines. At 5:37 PM EST, the Cardinals will take on the Braves in the first Wild Card playoff ever, and at 8:37 PM EST the Orioles will face the Rangers in the second Wild Card series. As exciting as it’ll be for fans of these teams, the top seeds in each league will keep a close eye on this game since they’ll face the winner on Sunday. So here’s the question we’ll be asking ourselves tonight, should the Yankees face the Orioles or Rangers?
You won’t find anyone in a Yankee uniform answering that question. Some believe it’s bad luck, and others want to stay classy and not admit who’s the weaker team. However, I’m not superstitious, and I suppose I’m not all that classy, so I have no problem picking apart the weaknesses of the O’s and Rangers.
|Orioles||FIP||ERA||ERA|IP v. Yanks||Rangers||FIP||ERA||ERA|IP v. Yanks|
|Jason Hammel||3.29||3.43||3.94|16.0||Matt Harrison||4.03||3.29||4.15|34.2|
|Wei-Yin Chen||4.42||4.02||5.25|24.0||Derek Holland||4.75||4.67||8.85|39.2|
|Miguel Gonzalez||4.38||3.25||2.63|13.2||Yu Darvish||3.29||3.90||0.00|8.1|
I’ve done my best to predict the 25 man playoff roster for each team, provided with season stats and career splits against the Yankees. Starting with the rotation, both Joe Saunders and Yu Darvish will be pitching tonight’s Wild Card game.
For the Orioles, this makes little difference as Saunders is one of their weaker starting pitchers, so game 1 will begin with their first half ace Jason Hammel. Unfortunately for Hammel, he’s been riding the bench for the last couple of weeks after missing part of July and all of August with injury, but the plan is to start him in the first game of ALDS. Wei-Yin Chen follows, who’s hot start to his major league career has been cooled down by a rough second half, where he’s put up a 5.34 ERA over his last 10 starts. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have both been exceptional in the rotation, but small sample size is in play with just 30 games started between the two.
When Ron Washington made the decision to start Yu Darvish tonight, he knew it would have a big impact on their pitchers in the ALDS. The manager has shown no reluctance when starting pitchers on short rest, and I expect him to do the same next week. Matt Harrison will get the game 1 start, and likely the game 4 start as well. He’s had an incredible season, but as the numbers suggest, the ERA and FIP don’t exactly agree. By all accounts, Derek Holland has been pretty awful, and because they’re starting Darvish today, he’s lined up to start both game 2 and 5. I wouldn’t count on him to actually start game 5 if you’ve seen how hard the Yankees have hit him. Darvish doesn’t have that ace ERA, but as the FIP shows, he’s a great pitcher. He’s got the stuff to shut down anyone on any day, as he did the only other time he saw the Bombers.
|Orioles||FIP||ERA||ERA|IP v. Yanks||Rangers||FIP||ERA||ERA|IP v. Yanks|
|Jim Johnson||3.25||2.49||3.72|38.2||Joe Nathan||2.78||2.80||3.20|19.2|
|Pedro Strop||3.59||2.44||4.66|9.2||Mike Adams||3.52||3.27||0.00|5.0|
|Darren O’Day||2.96||2.28||2.51|14.1||Alexi Ogando||3.73||3.27||10.03|11.2|
|Troy Patton||3.26||2.43||2.84|12.2||Koji Uehara||2.40||1.75||0.00|1.0|
|Luis Ayala||3.67||2.64||3.38|10.2||Mark Lowe||4.32||3.43||2.87|15.2|
|Brian Matusz||4.69||4.87||4.70|51.2||Robbie Ross||3.40||2.22||0.00|3.1|
|Steve Johnson||3.46||2.11||0.00|3.0||Roy Oswalt||4.23||5.80||4.05|6.2|
|Tommy Hunter||5.75||5.45||5.47|24.2||Michael Kirkman||4.31||3.81||4.15|8.2|
|Jake Arrieta||4.05||6.20||3.83|47.0||Ryan Dempster||3.69||3.38||7.62|28.1|
I have to give Buck Showalter credit for what he’s done with Baltimore’s bullpen. Without big name relievers, he’s lined together a significant number of reliable pitchers. It all starts with Jim Johnson, who’s 51 saves led all of baseball in 2012. Guys like O’Day, Patton, Steve Johnson, and ex-Yankee Luis Ayala have shown unexpected signs of brilliance as well. Strop is another guy who’s shown that, but he’s also struggled of late and against the Yankees.
Closing for the Rangers is Joe Nathan, who’s collected 37 saves of his own. Unlike the overachieving Orioles, Adams, Ogando, Oswalt, and Dempster have underperformed what was expected. While this is good news for the Yankees, I wouldn’t ever look forward to facing Mike Adams in a close game. Also, here’s a shout out to Koji Uehara, who’s been unstoppable, and Scott Feldman, who can actually pitch well out of the bullpen (1.92 ERA in 2012). Assuming they go with just a three man rotation, the Rangers will carry an extra arm in the bullpen, which should come in handy in game 5 if Derek Holland gets shelled in his first start.
Thanks to the off-day yesterday and tomorrow, you can’t assume that workload is a concern for either bullpen.
|Matt Wieters||.249||.329||.435||Mike Napoli||.227||.343||.469|
|Mark Reynolds||.221||.335||.429||Mitch Moreland||.275||.321||.468|
|Robert Andino||.211||.283||.305||Ian Kinsler||.256||.326||.423|
|J.J. Hardy||.238||.282||.389||Elvis Andrus||.286||.349||.378|
|Manny Machado||.262||.294||.445||Adrian Beltre||.321||.359||.561|
|Nate McLouth||.268||.342||.435||David Murphy||.304||.380||.479|
|Adam Jones||.287||.334||.505||Josh Hamilton||.285||.354||.577|
|Chris Davis||.270||.326||.501||Nelson Cruz||.260||.319||.460|
|Jim Thome||.257||.348||.396||Michael Young||.277||.312||.370|
|Endy Chavez||.203||.236||.278||Craig Gentry||.304||.367||.392|
|Taylor Teagarden||.158||.226||.316||Geovany Soto||.196||.253||.338|
|Wilson Betemit||.261||.322||.422||Brian Snyder||.277||.309||.446|
I would define the Orioles’ hitting as solid at best. Adam Jones and Chris Davis stick out in this lineup, and Markakis would as well if Sabathia didn’t break his thumb, but the rest is somewhat mediocre. I’m sure I’ll take some slack for calling guys like Wieters and Thome average hitters, but when you compare their 2012 numbers to other playoff teams, they’re not all that impressive. The team mostly sports low batting averages, but they’re very good at hitting homeruns, swinging hard and hoping they hit something. Baltimore can come up with big offensive hits at times, but they lack an ability to get on base and work pitch counts. In 2012, they had the third lowest team OBP in the American League.
Compared to the Birds, the Rangers have an incredible offense all around. They hit homeruns, they take their walks, and they hit for average. Despite many down years from players, they scored the most runs in baseball, 4 more than the Yankees. Their weakest hitters have been Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler, which shows you that they have nearly no holes in that lineup. The only other thing to consider is defense, which I’d actually have to give to the Rangers.
I want the the Birds to win tonight. Yea, they’ve shown they can kick apart the Yankees in a short series, but the Yankees have shown the same against them. Despite the slump the Rangers have faced of late, the team is incredibly solid outside of their starting pitching. Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish could change that quickly if they three man rotation works out. The Orioles have been a great story, but their team has vastly outperformed how they’ve played. With a young and inexperience pitching rotation, and a lineup with many more holes, I don’t think there’s a question that Baltimore is the weaker team.
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