Up until this past weekend’s series against Cleveland, the only other series the Yankees had won this season was against the Orioles. Now, the Yankees meet Baltimore again, but this time at Camden Yards. It’s a four game set between two clubs tied for last place in the AL East with 9-12 records. The Orioles are destined to finish in the division’s cellar, whereas the Yankees should be able to climb out of it by the end of this series.
Their story so far
It’s been a struggle for manager Brandon Hyde’s club, especially after they swept the Red Sox in the regular season’s opening series. The Orioles have lost 12 of 18 since, which is a 54-win pace over a full 162.
After the Yankees took two of three from the Orioles in the Bronx, Baltimore devolved into a tailspin. Boston got revenge and swept the O’s in Charm City, and then the Mariners came to town and took three of four. Baltimore did rebound to take two out of three from the Rangers, however, the O’s then split a quick two-gamer with Miami and then dropped three of four from the red hot A’s. They did manage to avoid a sweep at the hands of Oakland, at least. Baltimore’s 8-1 win yesterday ended the A’s 13 game winning streak.
Baltimore’s offense has been a nightmare and is the main source of the team’s recent struggles. They’ve scored 3.7 runs per game so far, but that falls to just 3.0 if you subtract 11 and 9 run outbursts against Boston earlier. The lineup is running an 81 wRC+, which is pretty disappointing after they recorded a 104 wRC+ a year ago. Players like Ryan Mountcastle, who I’ll have more on shortly, simply haven’t hit.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ pitching staff has actually been respectable. The team’s 4.09 ERA is 13th-best in the majors. Most of the credit belongs to the team’s bullpen, which possesses a 3.09 ERA, good for 5th-best in MLB. Attributing all the credit to the ‘pen would disregard John Means’ excellent work as the team ace (1.50 ERA), though. Fortunately for the Yankees, Means started yesterday and will not face the Yankees this week.
|Mac Sceroler||RHP||Shoulder tendinitis||10-day IL||Late April|
|Anthony Santander||OF||Sprained ankle||10-day IL||Early May|
|Chris Davis||1B||Strained lower back||60-day IL||June|
|Hunter Harvey||RHP||Strained oblique||60-day IL||Mid May|
Spotlight: Ryan Mountcastle
No one had doubts about Ryan Mountcastle’s bat as a prospect. Rather, the concern was his long-term position. Baltimore drafted him 36th overall in the 2015 draft out of high school as a shortstop, but he’s fallen down the defensive spectrum over the team. Eventually, he moved from short to third base, started playing some first, and then grew accustomed to left field. Now, this season, he’s mostly been the team’s designated hitter, though he’s appeared in left field and first base too.
It’s not ideal to peg a player as DH-only as a 24 year-old, even as a top prospect. But that wasn’t such a big deal last year. Mountcastle hit .333/.386/.492 (141 wRC+) in 140 plate appearances as a rookie. He also primarily played left field and/or first base as compared to DH. It’s been a different story this year though, particularly with the return of Trey Mancini to play first.
Mountcastle owns a .167/.208/.264 (32 wRC+) in 73 plate appearances this season. Not good. That won’t play at any defensive position, let alone DH. Mountcastle needs to hit — a lot — for him to be a useful player given his defensive limitations. Things obviously worked out for him and the Birds last season, but so far in 2021, it’s been ugly.
In looking at Mountcastle’s underlying numbers, perhaps one could say this was coming. Sure, his .398 BABIP last year was totally unsustainable and his actual wOBA exceeded his xwOBA by .049 (11th-highest in MLB), but he had some other decent-enough Statcast measures. He was in the 65th percentile in Hard Hit rate and 72nd percentile in expected batting average.
However, there were pretty clear exploitable holes in his approach last year that seems to have caught up to Mountcastle in 2021. His whiff rate and chase rate were in the 30th and 3rd percentiles, respectively, last season. Those are now in the 9th and 5th percentiles this season.
Pitchers have attacked Mountcastle a lot more this season knowing of his propensity to swing-and-miss. I’d have expected more pitches out of the zone considering his apparent over-aggressiveness, but this approach has worked. He’s seeing roughly 3 percent more pitches in the strike zone compared to last year, though most of that increase can be attributed to non-fastballs.
Mountcastle obviously has offensive talent. It’s why he was a top prospect for years. He also put it on display last season. But to this point, it appears that opposing pitchers are starting to exploit his lack of plate discipline. And with the Yankees having a number of pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff, this could be a tough series for Baltimore’s young slugger.
- Cedric Mullins, CF (.346/.404/.481, 154 wRC+)
- DJ Stewart, RF (.250/.348/.375, 112 wRC+)
- Trey Mancini, 1B (.215/.276/.418, 96 wRC+)
- Maikel Franco, 3B (.253/.330/.430, 119 wRC+)
- Rio Ruiz, 2B (.148/.220/.296, 48 wRC+)
- Pedro Severino, C (.236/.276/.327, 73 wRC+)
- Ryan Mountcastle, DH (.167/.208/.264, 32 wRC+)
- Freddy Galvis, SS (.254/.312/.437, 113 wRC+)
- Austin Hays, LF (.267/.290/.500, 123 wRC+)
- Chance Cisco, C (.185/.214/.222, 25 wRC+)
- Ramón Urías, INF (.172/.226/.310, 52 wRC+)
- Ryan McKenna, OF (.200/.294/.333, 81 wRC+)
RHP Deivi García
Finally. After spending a few weeks at the Alternate Site in Scranton, Deivi makes his season debut this evening. The nearly 22 year-old righty had a 4.98 ERA in 34.1 innings last season, but one particularly bad start against Boston inflated that mark. Looking forward to seeing García back on the mound. (Stats vs. Orioles)
RHP Matt Harvey
That’s right, The Dark Knight is still kicking. Harvey’s bounced around since thoracic outlet surgery derailed a stellar start to his career. Baltimore is now Harvey’s fifth organization since departing the Mets. He won a rotation spot out of camp and has been OK in four starts so far (5.12 ERA and 3.81 FIP). (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Corey Kluber
Will this finally be the one where Kluber finishes five innings? I hope so. Having only faced Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta this year, the Orioles will by far be the worst lineup Kluber has faced. The righty may not need his best command against Baltimore, but it’d be nice to see some improvement. (Stats vs. Orioles)
LHP Bruce Zimmermann
The Yankees have never seen Zimmermann, a 26 year-old southpaw who was part of the trade package from Atlanta to Baltimore for Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day in 2018. The lefty has a 4.57 ERA and 5.08 FIP in 21.2 innings this season.
RHP Domingo Germán
Perhaps it was Cleveland’s weak lineup, but Germán looked way better in his last start vs. his first two of the season. There could have also been a tweak at the Alternate Site during his ten day option period, for all we know. (Stats vs. Orioles)
This slot may go to recent call-up Zac Lowther, who pitched in relief yesterday. The lefty is one of Baltimore’s better prospects and has posted some strong numbers in the minors, including a 2.55 ERA in 148 Double-A frames in 2019.
LHP Jordan Montgomery
Monty battled into the fifth inning of his last start after looking awful in his first inning of work. It’s been a mixed bag for the lefty so far this season though, and really, only his first start of the year (against the Orioles, mind you) was good. He threw six shutout innings against the O’s on April 5th. (Stats vs. Orioles)
RHP Jorge López
Hard to imagine López holding onto a spot in the Birds’ rotation much longer. While he was tolerable in his last two starts (5 runs in 9 innings), he’s given up 16 runs in 17.2 innings this season, including 6 homers. One of those dingers was off Aaron Judge’s bat earlier this month. In that game, the Yankees tagged the righty for four runs in 4.2 frames. (Stats vs. Yankees)
|Tanner Scott (L)||28|
|Paul Fry (L)||14|
|Zac Lowther (L)||18|
Baltimore’s bullpen was pretty busy over the weekend, but the one guy who’s very fresh is the team’s closer, Cesar Valdez. Despite the lack of notable names here, this has been a pretty effective bunch for the club thus far.