After winning their first two road series of the season, the Boston Red Sox (4-2, first place in the AL East) come home to Fenway Park for their opening series against the Baltimore Orioles (3-3, 1 game back in the AL East). Baltimore was one of the surprises of 2012, but can they maintain their success in the ultra-competitive American League East?
Wei-Yin Chen (versus Clay Buchholz in the home opener) looks to improve on a decent rookie season in 2012. Chen posted a 4.02 ERA/4.42 FIP/4.34 xFIP in 2012. His .274 BABIP shows he may have had a little bit of luck on his side. Chen seems to be a fly-ball pitcher, with a 37.1% ground ball rate and an 11.7% homer to fly ball ratio. However, Chen doesn’t hurt himself by walking batters – he had a decent 2.66 walks per nine innings in 2012. Chen had a good first outing on Wednesday against the Rays, going 5.2 innings and surrendering two earned runs on seven hits, with four punchados and no walks. If Chen can keep the ball down a bit more, the Orioles could have another good young pitcher (to go with the other two starters in this series).
Jake Arrieta (facing Ryan Dempster) is yet another poster boy for the phrase “ERA lies.” Arrieta’s 6.20 ERA is going to look ugly on the NESN broadcast chyron, but a closer look at the numbers will show something else entirely. Arrieta’s 2012 FIP was 4.05, his xFIP was 3.65 and he had an unlucky .325 BABIP. Additionally, he whiffed 8.56 batters per nine and walked only 2.75 per nine. How can this be? Arrieta surrendered 16 homers in 24 appearances (18 starts), with an ugly 14.5% homer to fly ball ratio. If Arrieta can keep his HR/FB% to a league average 10.5% (the baseline upon which xFIP is calculated), Arrieta’s ERA will improve dramatically. Keep the ball in the park – what a concept!
Chris Tillman (against Felix Doubront) is the Bizarro World version of Arrieta. Tillman’s 2.93 ERA in 2012 looks good, doesn’t it? However, Tillman had a 4.25 FIP and a 4.34 xFIP in 2012. Most notably, Tillman had an incredibly lucky .225 BABIP. The line to ask Tillman for the winning lottery numbers starts behind me. If you look at Tillman’s “minus” statistics (park-adjusted, where 100 is average and the lower the score the better), his ERA- in 2012 was a very good 70, but his FIP- was (drum roll, please!) exactly 100. Tillman was exactly average in 2012.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
Chris Davis (.455/.500/1.136, .646 wOBA, 316 wRC, 4 homers and 17 (yes 17!) RBI), Adam Jones (.538/.556/.692, .538 wOBA, 244 wRC), Matt Wieters (.316/.435/.526, .391 wOBA, 146 wRC) and Nick Markakis (.370/.414/.444, .366 wOBA, 129 wRC) are the hot hitters in the first week for the O’s, while Nolan Reimold (.235/.350/.235, .279 wOBA, 71 wRC), Nate McLouth (.263/.300/.316, .273 wOBA, 67 wRC) and Manny Machado (.192/.250/.231, .220 wOBA, 31 wRC) need to build a communal fire to heat up.
In the Baltimore bullpen, T.J. McFarland (0.00 ERA/0.00 FIP/0.46 xFIP, .167 BABIP), Troy Patton (0.00 ERA/0.60 FIP/2.46 xFIP, .400 BABIP) and Darren O’Day (0.00 ERA/2.70 FIP/4.10 xFIP, .125 BABIP) had nice early appearances, Pedro Strop (9.00 ERA/1.00 FIP/2.55 xFIP, .364 BABIP) was unlucky, and Luis Ayala (9.00 ERA/7.50 FIP/1.78 xFIP, .429 BABIP) and Tommy Hunter (9.00 ERA/16.00 FIP/9.22 xFIP, .000 BABIP) need to step it up.
3B Wilson Betemit (torn PCL in right knee, placed on 15-day DL on April 7), RHP Steve Johnson (right lat strain, placed on 15-day DL on April 6), 2B Brian Roberts (right hamstring strain, placed on 15-day DL on April 8) and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on 60-day DL on April 4).
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the first week of the season, Jose Iglesias (.529/.556/.647, .522 wOBA, 231 wRC), 3-homer hero Will Middlebrooks (.320/.370/.880, .516 wOBA, 227 wRC), Jacoby Ellsbury (.310/.355/.552, .386 wOBA, 140 wRC) and Dustin Pedroia (.346/.433/.385, .357 wOBA, 121 wRC) are the hot-hitting Red Sox, while Mike Napoli (.179/.179/.429, .256 wOBA, 53 wRC), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.143/.333/.190, .265 wOBA, 60 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.188/.350/.250, .288 wOBA, 75 wRC) are looking forward to home cooking.
In the Red Sox bullpen, Koji Uehara (0.00 ERA/1.00 FIP/4.11 xFIP, .000 BABIP), Joel Hanrahan (0.00 ERA/2.66 FIP/4.74 xFIP, .125 BABIP) and Andrew Bailey (0.00 ERA/2.25 FIP/5.75 xFIP, .333 BABIP) retain the Blutarsky ERA award, while Alfredo Aceves (10.38 ERA/8.07 FIP/3.87 xFIP, .273 BABIP) and Andrew Miller (9.00 ERA/8.00 FIP/8.00 xFIP, .000 BABIP) still have the early-season blues.
The Orioles starters will be the key to maintaining their success in 2012. They will hit well, and their relief corps is very good, but that won’t matter much if they are playing from behind.