After splitting four games with the Indians, the Boston Red Sox (57-59 11.5 games back in the AL East) move on to Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles (62-53, 6 games back in the AL East). The Orioles are 8-2 in their last 10 games, while the Red Sox are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Wei-Yin Chen (versus Josh Beckett in Tuesday night’s opener) continues his impressive debut season for the Orioles. Owner of a 3.79 ERA/4.17 FIP/4.30 xFIP, Chen seems to be a pitcher that will haunt the Red Sox for years to come. Chen’s xFIP is a touch higher than his ERA but is only 3% higher than the average pitcher in 2012. Of concern to the Orioles, Chen’s GB rate of 37.2% is less than ideal but everybody doesn’t have to pitch like Aaron Cook to find success. With such a low GB rate, it’s probably not surprising that Chen has surrendered 18 homers in 140 innings pitched (1.16 HR/9). Chen throws three fastballs (four-seam, two-seam and a cutter) to go with his slider, curveball and changeup. And it sure seems that he’s keeping batters guessing with his arsenal.
Miguel Gonzalez (facing Aaron Cook), the former Red Sox farmhand, gets a chance to haunt his former organization. Signed as a free agent in March, Gonzalez graduated from AAA and has found some success in the majors. But that success seems a product of luck so far. Gonzalez has a 3.42 ERA but an ugly 5.17 FIP and a 4.79 xFIP. Gonzalez’s BABIP is .250, so his good ERA might not be sustainable. Like Chen, Gonzalez’s GB rate is low at 34.6% and has given up 10 homers in 55 innings pitched (1.63 HR/9, not good at all). However, the Orioles hope that Gonzalez’s performance and his peripherals will one day be united.
Chris Tillman (against Clay Buchholz in Thursday night’s finale) seems to have finally put it together in 2012. A second round pick by the Mariners in the 2006 draft, Tillman’s promise seemed an illusion in three seasons of promotions to the majors. But in 2012, Tillman has finally found success. What’s the difference? Tillman is throwing much harder than in years past. From 2009 to 2011, Tillman’s fastball went from 92 MPH to 89.3. However, this year, Tillman’s four-seamer speed jumped to a 92.9 MPH average and his cutter jumped from 89.2 MPH to 92.6 MPH. This change has allowed Tillman to post a 3.40 ERA/4.20 FIP/4.27 xFIP pitching triple slash line. The Orioles hope that Tillman’s added velocity will spur him to success.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last seven days, the hot hitters for the Orioles have been Matt Wieters (.350/.435/.950, .558 wOBA, 260 wRC, three homers), Adam Jones (.417/.500/.500, .425 wOBA, 169 wRC), Nick Markakis (.296/.333/.630, .394 wOBA, 148 wRC), Nate McLouth (.316/.409/.421, .376 wOBA, 136 wRC) and über-rookie Manny Machado (.375/.375/1.125, .615 wOBA, 299 wRC, three homers). However, Chris Davis (.091/.167/.091, .107 wOBA, -48 wRC), Robert Andino (.000/.111/.000, .077 wOBA, -69 wRC) and J.J. Hardy (.154/.185/.269, .199 wOBA, 15 wRC) had a bad week. The Orioles hope that these players aren’t the canary in the coal mine.
In the bullpen, many Oriole pitchers are having excellent seasons (as is the case with most successful teams). Among them are Darren O’Day (2.51 ERA/2.92 FIP/3.51 xFIP), Pedro Strop (1.22 ERA/3.38 FIP/3.85), Troy Patton (2.58 ERA/3.25 FIP/3.33 xFIP), Matt Lindstrom (2.51 ERA/3.37 FIP/4.15 xFIP) and Luis Ayala (2.56 ERA/4.02 FIP/4.28 xFIP). Even Kevin Gregg (4.14 ERA/4.45 FIP/4.59 xFIP) is pitching slightly better than he did in 2011.
LF Nolan Reimold (bulging disc in neck), 2B Brian Roberts (right hip) and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery) are out for the season. 1B Nick Johnson (right wrist) and RHP Stuart Pomeranz (left oblique strain, sore back) are on the 60-day DL. 3B Ryan Flaherty (tonsilitis), RHP Jason Hammel (right knee) and 1B Jim Thome (herniated disk in neck) are on the 15-day DL. LHP Troy Patton (ankle) is day-to-day.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Another series, another injury. This time it was Will Middlebrooks who fell under the Red Sox injury curse of 2012, suffering a broken wrist. While he won’t need surgery he’s not expected back this season. The blues continue…
In the last week, the hot hitters for the Red Sox were Adrian Gonzalez (.348/.400/.870, .520 wOBA, 232 wRC), Cody Ross (.364/.440/.773, .494 wOBA, 214 wRC) and Dustin Pedroia (.455/.520/.500, .460 wOBA, 190 wRC). However, Jacoby Ellsbury (.192/.222/.308, .257 wOBA, 52 wRC), Carl Crawford (.238/.238/.524, .314 wOBA, 91 wRC) and Ryan Lavarnway (.091/.167/.091, .131 wOBA, -34 wRC) had a week to forget. Jacoby, Carl and Ryan need to remember that when you walk through a storm, keep your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.
As for the starters last week, Jon Lester (3.55 ERA/1.52 FIP/2.56 xFIP) continued to pitch well, as did Clay Buchholz (1.00 ERA/3.21 FIP/3.40 xFIP). On the down side, Josh Beckett (14.40 ERA/11.90 FIP/6.75 xFIP) and Felix Doubront (8.31 ERA/5.64 FIP/3.32 xFIP) were as ugly as poop in a baggie.
In the bullpen, Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/2.10 FIP/2.83 xFIP) and Alfredo Aceves (0.00 ERA/2.60 FIP/4.81 xFIP) were as sweet as toffee, sharing the Blutarsky ERA Award, although Aceves’s high xFIP is a bit worrying. On the down side, Craig Breslow (9.00 ERA/5.60 FIP/6.33 xFIP) and Mark Melancon (6.75 ERA/2.72 FIP/3.83 xFIP) didn’t get the job done, although Melancon pitched better than his ERA would indicate.
In this series we should determine whether the Orioles are contenders or pretenders. An Orioles sweep could bury the Red Sox and keep the Orioles in contention. A Red Sox sweep could put the Red Sox back in the Wild Card race.
P.S.: John Michael Paveskovich, requiescat in pace.