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After going 5-4 on the road trip including a 3-2 record on the West coast swing, the Yankees return home to face off against a familiar foe, the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are currently 7 games behind the Rays in the AL East, and if you want to know why, look no further than their respective record against the O’s. Tampa went 18-1 against Baltimore whereas the Bombers are just 8-5 against the cellar dwelling birds. With the way the Yankees are playing and where they currently stand in the postseason picture, anything less than a sweep should be considered a failure this series.

Their Story So Far

Orioles Playoff Odds

The graph says it all. At no point during this season have the Orioles had a better than 0% chance of making the playoffs. They are currently 41-91, which puts them on pace for their 3rd straight 100+ loss season (excluding last year’s shortened season). In today’s podcast, Randy and I ranted about how embarrassing and disgraceful it is that the Orioles as an organization have been this bad for this long.

In this season alone, the Orioles have had two non-consecutive 14+ game losing streaks including their recent 19 game skid. As a team, there is not a single stat in which they are league average. They are that bad. The biggest selling point for them right now is having the best prospects on both sides of the ball in Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez.

Offensively, Cedric Mullins II (145 wRC+), Ryan Mountcastle (120 wRC+), and Ramón Urías (115 wRC+) are bright spots as well as surefire Comeback Player of the Year Trey Mancini (107 wRC+) who came back from cancer. I don’t think it’s a reach to say the highlight of this Orioles season was Mancini’s homerun derby performance when he finished 2nd to Pete Alonso.

On the pitching side, John Means has been good (1.9 WAR) and somehow the former dark knight Matt Harvey (1.6 WAR) is their #2 starter. I hope things are going to turnaround for the organization because as a fan, this rebuild sounds terrible to watch. Four straight years of no improvement and I can point to maybe 4 guys total who will be part of the next strong O’s team.

Injury Report

On the bright side, if you can call it that, the Orioles have few injury concerns.

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Hunter HarveyRPLat10-Day ILAfter this series
Bruce ZimmermannSPAnkle60-Day ILAfter 9/23
Nick CiuffoCUndisclosed60-Day ILOut for season
Travis LakinsRPElbow60-Day ILOut for season

Spotlight: Cedric Mullins

Who else would it be? The 26 year-old center fielder is having a breakout year to the tune of 5.0 fWAR on a team that has nobody else above 2fWAR. On the year, he is slashing .306/.370/.529 with a 145 wRC+ all of which are easily career highs. Prior to this year, he had never had a season with even 1 WAR.

He is the lone bright spot in terms of players making progress during the rebuild. The big thing that stands out is the uptick in power, going from a .136 ISO up to .223 this year. He has also hit 24 homeruns in 129 games this year when previously he had hit 7 in 115 MLB games. So, how is he doing it?

Pretty simple: swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, making more contact, and hitting the ball harder. Take a look at his Statcast metrics last year compared to this one:

The uptick in xwOBA (2nd –> 71st) percentile and barrel % (8th –> 47th) percentile stands out. His average exit velo is up a full mph to nearly 90 mph, and crucially his barrel% is 8.3% compared to a previous high of 3%. That tells us he is hitting the ball harder.

He is also making better contact and hitting more fly balls than ground balls for the first time in his career. He lowered his GB% by 6% and upped his FB% by the same 6%, and notably his hard hit% went up a whopping 12%. Combine that with swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone AND making more contact on pitches in or out of the zone and you have a guy who just broke out. To recap: hitting the ball harder, swinging at better pitches, and making more contact. All while remaining an elite defensive center fielder (94th percentile in OAA) and you have a legitimate star.

Projected Lineup

  1. Cedric Mullins, CF (.306/.370/.529, 145 wRC+)
  2. Ryan Mountcastle, DH (.269/.318/.502, 120 wRC+)
  3. Anthony Santander, RF (.248/.395/.441, 99 wRC+)
  4. Trey Mancini, 1B (.256/.316/.444, 107 wRC+)
  5. DJ Stewart, LF (.205/.329/.381, 100 wRC+)
  6. Ramón Urías, 3B (.272/.350/.418, 115 wRC+)
  7. Pedro Severino, C (.236/.299/.382, 87 wRC+)
  8. Jahmai Jones, 2B (.115/.179/.154, -6 wRC+)
  9. Jorge Mateo, SS (.325/.366/.481, 133 wRC+) – former Yankee prospect is playing well in 22 games so far for the O’s

Bench

  • Austin Wynns, C (.175/.231/.278, 40 wRC+)
  • Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B/1B (.159/.288/.159, 40 wRC+)
  • Austin Hays, OF (.247/.294/.426, 96 wRC+)
  • Ryan McKenna, OF (.294/.310/.269, 68 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:08pm eastern

LHP John Means (120 ERA+)

The ostensible staff ace is having a solid year and has thrown two straight quality starts against good offenses in Toronto and Atlanta. In his only start against the Yanks this year he went 4.1 IP allowing 1 run on 7 hits way back in April (Stats vs. NYY).

LHP Néstor Cortes Jr. (136 ERA+)

Nasty Nestor shockingly took the loss that ended the 13 game winning streak but he has been nothing short of a revelation in the rotation this year. Look for him to get “revenge” against the O’s for whom he made 4 appearances for in 2018 (Stats vs. BAL).

Means

Saturday, 1:08pm eastern

RHP Chris Ellis (128 ERA+)

This is the right-handers fourth career MLB appearance. He throws his heater around 94 mph with an 86 mph slider and 81 mph curveball (No stats vs. NYY).

LHP Jordan Montgomery (118 ERA+)

Monty is having an under the radar great year (2.9 fWAR already) and had his best and worst starts this year against Baltimore (game scores of 75 and 31) (Stats vs. BAL).

Ellis

Sunday, 1:08pm eastern

LHP Keegan Akin (40 ERA+)

It’s been a struggle for Akin this year as he’s been bit by the long ball (1.67 HR/9) though he has been good of late allowing no more than 3 runs in any of his last 4 starts (Stats vs. NYY).

RHP Corey Kluber (116 ERA+)

This is the Klubot’s 2nd appearance since coming off the IL. He got hit hard in the 5th inning against the Angels, though hopefully that was just rust or fatigue. He’s managed 6+ innings in both his starts against Baltimore this season (Stats vs. BAL).

Akin

Bullpen Status

PitcherThursday (off)WednesdayTuesdayMonday
Cole Sulser12
Tanner Scott (L)16
Dillon Tate523
Tyler Wells15
Marcos Diplán329
Fernando Abad (L)
Jorge López1026
Conner Greene2517
Zack Burdi
Dusten Knight
Alexander Wells (L)
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