07 October 2012

The ALDS: How They Match Up

                                                         Credit: Steph Diorio

As our talented friend Steph Diorio illustrated above, the Orioles emerged Friday night riding high above the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card round of the 2012 AL Playoffs. End result, 5-1 Orioles and a date with division rival New York Yankees in the ALDS. Before 2012, one might have looked at the Orioles versus Yankees as another David versus Goliath matchup. The Orioles with their fourteen consecutive years of losing seasons and less than $82 million dollar payroll versus the Yankees, perpetual playoff favorites with just about $198 million in payroll for 2012. This 2012 season just goes to prove why the game isn't played on paper.

In hindsight, 2011 featured a bit of foreshadowing for the Baltimore Orioles. A scrappy team in 2011, the team was beginning to see which players were part of this team for the long haul and which players just weren't going to remain in their roles long term. In the last series of the season, facing the Boston Red Sox who were fighting for their playoff lives, the Orioles knocked them out of contention with a dramatic upset win on the final day of the season. That attitude and successful underdog persona followed the team into 2012. After getting off to a hot start, the Orioles were fairing much better than anyone had expected, but just about everyone kept saying to wait, that they would regress to the norm soon enough, everyone that is but the team itself.

At the end, 162 regular season games, and one do or die wild card game later, the Orioles find themselves at home on Sunday evening facing their division rivals to start a best of five series that will see either the upstart underdogs, or the most expensive team in all of baseball going home. For this series, the previous 14 years don't matter, the payroll amounts doesn't matter, even expectations don't matter. For the 2012 series the teams evenly split an 18 game season series 9-9 with the Orioles outscoring the Yankees 92-90.

Pitching Matchups:             2012 Statistics Versus Orioles
NYY                                 IP      Record      K    BB     ERA

Sabathia                         18.1      0-2        19      6       6.38
Kuroda                            15.1      1-1         7       1       2.93
Pettite                                                  N/A
Hughes                            22.2      2-2        19      4       4.76

BAL                              2012 Statistics Versus Yankees

Hammel                         16.0       0-1       14       7      3.94
Chen                             24.0       1-2       18       6       5.25
Tillman                           8.0        1-0        5        2       6.75
Gonzalez                       13.2       2-0       17       1       2.63
Saunders                       5.1        1-0         2       2        3.38

The Orioles were actually 3-6 at home and 6-3 on the road against the Yanks this season, after starting off the series 0-4 at home in the first four games, so home field might not be such an advantage after all. One thing is for sure, Camden Yards will be a completely different environment on Sunday and Monday than it was for the first 5 home games of this series.

Other details that should be mentioned, Andy Pettitte, the Yankees game 2 starter has been an Oriole killer his whole career with a 27-6 record and 3.52 ERA in 40 career starts against them. The announced starters for games 1-3 are Sabathia v. Hammel, Pettitte v. Chen, and Kuroda v. Gonzalez as of right now. Look for Buck to try to matchup late in the game to try to match Cano against lefties where he is much less effective, while trying to keep Teixeira matched against righties where he is less dangerous.

The key to success for the O's is to get some quality innings out of their starters, to get to that bullpen that is so effective with a chance to win the game.  When division rivals meet in the playoffs almost anything can happen, the one thing you can be sure of however, is that the Orioles will fight until the final out and at this point, you shouldn't bet against them.

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