Advance Scout: Orioles, August 30 - September 1

Tuesday, August 30 2011 @ 02:35 PM EDT

Contributed by: Anders

The Blue Jays roll in to Baltimore after salvaging their series against the Rays. The team has 28 games left, 14 each at home on the road. The good news is they play the Orioles a total of 6 times. The bad news is that with one exception, their other 22 games are against teams fighting for a division title (Red Sox [6], Yankees [6]), or the playoffs in general (Angels [4], White Sox [3]). The worse news is the exception is the Rays [3], and we all know how the Jays do against them. If the team wants to finish the season with a winning record, they'll need to beat up on the Orioles to give themselves some cushion. Can they do it, without John Farrell who will sit out the series with pneumonia? Find out next, on Advance Scout.

Baltimore's been seesawing the entire second half, though they did manage to sweep a four game series in Minny before taking the first of a Irene upended series from the Yanks, before losing the later two. In the last month they've been one of the worst hitting teams in the Majors (though narrowly ahead of the home nine, natch), and towards the middle of the pack in pitching (narrowly behind the home nine, unless you look at FIP and xFIP. Double natch.) Still, they're playing out the string just like the Jays, and probably want to avoid losing 100 games - they have to win at least 10 of 30, and have a much tougher schedule than Toronto because, well, they don't get to face the Orioles. The team is also dealing with the death of former Oriole player, and at the time Oriole broadcaster, Mike Flanagan, who was also a Jay for parts of four seasons. As always, condolences and well wishes.

Tuesday: Brett Cecil v. Jeremy Guthrie

The Jays miss Zach Britton, who has probably been the Orioles best starter this year, though "best" is being a bit generous. Jeremy Guthrie, the team's former "best" pitcher, has finally had the BABIP gods catch up to him, though he's got a very low career number (.272) so maybe he's just been unlucky. He throws reasonably hard, averaging 92-93 with the heater, throwing a slider and change 10 MPH slower than that. He's also mixing in more low 70s benders, albeit without a ton of success. His fastball has historically been his best pitch, though he hasn't been doing much with it this year. There really isn't much remarkable about Guthrie, to be honest. Brett Cecil has been shakier in two of his last three starts, but his numbers post-minors are encouraging: 76.2 innings, a 52/23 K/BB, era of 3.76. He's been average on balls in play lucky, but also hasn't been giving up many line drives, and batters are reaching base less than 30% of the time against him. He's only faced the Red Sox/Yankees once, but did get Anaheim, the Rangers twice, Tampa... The Jays have faced Guthrie a bunch; Bautista is 6/24 with 3 doubles and a dinger, Edwin 9/22 with 4 2B and 2 HR, Adam Lind 12/35. The only regular to struggled has been Yunel Escobar, who's just 2/13, but even one of those was a homer; current Jays have 7 home runs in about 120 at bats.

Wednesday: Henderson Alvarez v. Jo-Jo Reyes

The one, the only, the man, the legend. He's been better or worse as an Oriole, depending on how you measure it, with a lower ERA but awful peripherals (13 strikeouts to 11 walks in 21.2 innings.) Reyes still throws his "hard" fastball, which tops out in the low 90s but generally sits about 90 even, and his slider and change that both go about 83. He's throwing more curveballs as an O, though they are getting hammered when he can locate them. None of his pitches are plus ones, though he has had some success with his slider this year. It would give me a perverse amount of pleasure to see him get hammered by the Jays; E5's the only healthy Jay that's faced Reyes, and he's 2 for 6. Henderson Alvarez meanwhile has been a bit shaky, but I'm fairly to pretty optimistic. For one, he's striking out and walking batters at about the same clip as in the minors, at an excellent 3/1 ratio (3.2/1 actually.) Secondly, he's still getting a fair amount of ground balls - not a ton, like in the minors, but a fair amount. He's been a bit unlucky to give up 5 homers in 22.2 innings - he's given up 7 home runs in 96.1 minor league innings otherwise this year. Also, he's averaging about 94 on his heater, and is doing all this while basically only throwing a fastball and a change-up. If he can ever learn a breaking pitch...

Thursday: Luis Perez v. Tommy Hunter

Tommy Hunter is a pretty lousy pitcher who's managed to fool people into thinking otherwise for bits and pieces of time, though he's still pretty young - 25 to be specific. That sounded unduly harsh, but Hunter doesn't strike out anyone (under 5/9 innings for his career, and under 4/9 this year) and there's only so long one can pull that off. To his credit he doesn't really walk anyone, and doesn't give up many home runs. He has a career babip of .277 in some 300 innings, and if that's not a repeatable skill then he really is in trouble though, because when batters connect they connect, with a LD% of 22% this year and close to 20% for his career. He throws a lot of fastballs, a normal one around 92 and a cutter that's about 5 MPH slower. His cutter is good though his best pitch is probably his curveball, which he throws fairly often (15%), and he'll mix in the occasional change. He faced the Jays twice in relief with the Rangers, giving up 2 hits in 4.2 innings, but got knocked around in his O's debut against Toronto, allowing 4 runs in 4 innings. Lind and Bautista are the only Jays with more than 10 AB against Hunter, and they 2/13 and 1/11 respectively. Everyone else has done well in a limited sample.

The Orioles lineup is about the same as it has been for a while now, and they are kindof like a worse version of the 2010 Jays - lots of power, no walks. J.J. Hardy, who got an extension earlier in the year, is having a pretty good season at short, kindof like Alex Gonzalez (the second one we had) on crack, with a ton of power and no walks, plus pretty decent D. The outfield core of Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis remains, though none are especially distinguishing themselves this campaign. Jones is a good hitter with power who the defensive metrics don't like. Markakis has morphed from "wow, that guy is pretty good" to "wow, I thought that guy was better" over the last couple of years - his power has been steadily decreasing and he's walking less. Reimhold just isn't that good period.

Matt Weiters is still the catcher of the future, even as we move increasingly further into that future. It's not that he's bad; he's more than fine, and is a good defender; he's got some pop and is willing to take a walk. Just, he's not the greatest thing since sliced bread, at least yet. Mark Reynolds is still playing first (though that's being generous to him, he's awful defensively) and striking out a million times, and Robert Andino and Ryan Adams are manning 3rd and 2nd, and there's absolutely nothing at all to say about either of them.

Infirmary: Jake Arrieta is done for the year with a bone spur in his throwing arm; Luke Scott and Brian Roberts are also both gone with a torn labrum and concussion-like syndromes, respectively. Chris Davis, acquired with Tommy Hunter in the Koji Uehara trade, has a labrum tear, and Cesar Izturis is eligible to come off the DL a few days after this series ends.

Credit: All stats courtesy of Fangraphs, with the an assist from BR on the splits.