Baltimore makes its second trip to the Dome this year to celebrate Memorial Day, an exclusively American holiday. Go MLB schedulers. Despite having handled the Orioles in years past, Toronto is a a dismal 1-5 against their feathered brethren. The Jays sit 5 games back of the O's in the division despite an identical run differential, but will try to make up ground against the Orioles, who are scuffling for the first time this season, having dropped 5 of 7 themselves. Who will win the battle of the birds? Find out, on today's Advance Scout.
Monday: Tommy Hunter vs. Drew Hutchison
This is the third time Hunter will be toeing the rubber against the hometown nine this season, having gone six innings in each of his previous two starts, allowing 4 and 1 earned runs. The only times this season that Hunter has allowed fewer than 4 runs in a start have been against the Twins, As, Royals, and Jays, so take that for what it's worth. As mentioned previously, Hunter is basically a slightly below average starter with no real standout skill. His control historically has been good but hardly great; he's posted a 5/5 K/BB ratio in his 12 innings against Toronto. Hunter doesn't throw especially hard, though he did top out at about 93 last year, the best mark of his career. After struggling to break 90 earlier in the year Hunter's been running his fastball up to 92/93, though he generally works about 2 MPH slower than that. Hunter also relies heavily on a pitch around 87 that I've seen classified as both a slider and a cutter, though I think it's closer to the later than the former. He also mixes in the occasional curve and even more occasional change (he threw 9 curveballs and 3 change ups last start, per PitchF/X). The curveball has graded out strongly in the past, though it's been knocked around a bit this year; the cutter/slider is the real money pitch though, relatively speaking. Careerwise Hunter's been decent against the current Jays: Bautista 4/22, JPA1/12, EE 3/12, Yunel 7/17, KJ 4/11, Lawrie 4/13, Thames 6/18. Johnson and Escobar have both homered twice, though as of 1:30 PM EST there is no word as to either of their availabilities for tonight's game.
Tuesday: Jake Arrieta vs. Ricky Romero
The Orioles have had five starters make 47 of their 48 starts, with only Dana Eveland interloping. The Jays have missed Wei-Yin Chen all three times now, but get their first crack at Jake Arrieta, probably the Os third best starter. Arrieta is another one of those heralded Orioles pitching prospects that basically has done nothing in his major league career, although there are signs he's starting to turn it around. The hallmark of his 2012 season so far has been its inconsistency. He was actually the O's opening day starter, and threw seven shutout innings against the Twins. Since then he's either been great or lit up, with more the former than the later (and he's had some good results against good teams, throwing 8 shutout against the Yankees recently). He is however coming off a poor outing against Boston, allowing 4 runs in 5.2 innings with a 2/3 K/BB ratio. Like each of the other two Orioles starters this series, Hammel throws a fastball/slider/curve/change, though he throws his curve more than the other two. His fastball averages 93.5 MPH, his slider and change both come in at 87, and his curve in the high 70s. His change is not great, but he's having more success with his curve this year. His fastball is basically a placeholder. Yunel Escobar is 6/12 lifetime, while Rajai Davis and Jose Bautista are 1 and 0 for 8, respectively.
Wednesday: Jason Hammel vs. Brandon Morrow
Jason Hammel has also squared off twice against the Jays this season and been even better than Hunter, also going 12 while allowing only 2 runs with a 10/2 K/BB ratio. Hammel has in fact been quite excellent all season, winning 6 of 9 starts and posting a sub-3 ERA with strong peripherals. Hammel has been impressive before, striking out around 7 batters per 9 innings with a K/BB ratio greater than 3/1 in both 2009 and 2010, with only some poor strand and babip numbers (and Coors) keeping him from the recognition he probably deserved. 2011 was a different story though as he fell off a cliff, walking more than 50% more batters while striking out a correspondingly fewer ratio. He's rebounded with a vengeance so far, basically doubling the percentage of batters he strikes out (12.7% to 24%) while lowering his walk rate (9.2% to 7.7%). He's also getting, by far, the highest groundout rate in his career, with 57% of his outs in play coming on the ground; his career best mark before this year was 46.9%. Making the whole situation even more impressive is that Hammel has been battling recurring knee trouble throughout the season, which so far marks easily the best of his career. I think it's easy to be cynical in cases such as these, but Hammel's underlying fundamental numbers are so much better that I think much of the improvement is for real. He's throwing harder than he ever has in his career, working at 93-94 with the fastball, and really wiping hitters out with a 1-2 fastball-slider punch, augmented by the occasional change and curve. He's inducing less contact, and getting the highest swinging strike percentage of his career. All of a sudden the Jeremy Guthrie trade looks much better. Career-wise the two middle infielders who faced him in the NL have had success; everyone else has barely faced him and hasn't been very good.
Xavier Avery LF
JJ Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Reynolds/Wilson Betemit 3B
Nick Johnson DH
Robert Andino 2B
Lots of injuries, and thus shuffling. Regular DH/3B Mark Reynolds has actually been activated during the course of writing this Advance Scout; Wilson Betemit was getting starts at third, with Nick Johnson taking over DH duties. I'd guess some sort of time share gets worked out... Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez are both MIA thanks to injuries, so Xavier Avery, who I have literally never heard of before, is handling left field and leadoff duties. He posted a .310 wOBA in a full AA season last year, but started off strong before going 1/13 against the Royals this weekend. Expect him to drop in the order against Ricky Romero... Don't expect Adam Jones to drop in the lineup. He's absolutely killing the ball, to the tune of .308/.349/.595, all while playing centre field. His fielding numbers are all over the place - he's rated quite poorly by UZR the last two years, but is killing it this year, while DRS has and still is down on him, though not extremely so. He recently signed a 6/$85 million deal, buying out one arb year. Jones has been a 2.5-3.0 win player the last couple of years, a mark he's equaled so far this year (albeit thanks to the fluctuation in defensive numbers). He's never hit remotely close to this well over a full season, so I think there are some reasons for skepticism, but on the plus side he was born in 1985 and $85 million really isn't worth what it used to be...The Matt Wieters revolution hasn't quite taken over yet, but he's posting strong walk and isolated power numbers. His problem this year has been a .246 BABIP. He is popping up more, and hitting slightly fewer line drives, but if that average can stabilize (he's hitting .232, 30 points below his career average) watch out... The Orioles drew some 28,000 fans on Friday night, with a Camden record 11,000 walk ups, which has to be good for the health of the franchise. It was a long weekend, though to be fair they were playing the Royals... A couple of Orioles are free agents this offseason, and MLBTR will keep you up to date.
Song to Advance Scout By: Well, no more Radiohead... Let's go in the opposite direction. Hey, Justin Turner uses it as his walkup music, and if Obal was going to blow it off for the Hives during the Mets series someone had to come through...
Infirmary: Brian Roberts (2B) is a possible return in June, he has a concussion. Meanwhile Nolan Reimold (LF) and Endy Chavez (CF) are both on the 15-day DL, with a herniated disk and a strained oblique. Zach Britton (SP) is making rehab starts, as are Taylor Teagarden (C) and Matt Lidstrom (RP). Japanese signee Tsuyoshi Wada (SP) has undergone Tommy John surgery and is out for the year.
Chart: All data from Fangraphs.