Sure, it may still be January, but I’ve been thinking, who is going to be the Orioles biggest competition this coming season within the American League East? Will it be the Rays, or the Blue Jays? Or, what about the Yankees?
It’s probably not going to be either of those three teams, but, I have every reason to believe that the Boston Red Sox are going to be the biggest menace to the Orioles this season.
At the beginning of December, the Red Sox acquired left-handed pitcher Chris Sale in a trade that saw them send third baseman Yoan Moncada, and three minor league prospects to the Chicago White Sox. A few days later, they signed first baseman, Mitch Moreland, to a one-year contract.
According to rotochamp.com, the Red Sox projected starting rotation goes like this:
David Price (17-9 in 2016)
Chris Sale (17-10 in 2016)
Rick Porcello (22-4 in 2016, and AL Cy-Young Winner)
Drew Pomeranz (3-5 in 2016)
Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7 in 2016)
Steven Wright (13-6 in 2016)
Or, in other words, lefty-lefty-righty-lefty-lefty-righty.
A rotation of four left-handed starters, and one right-hander is not what the Orioles are looking forward to. This goes back to Buck Showalter’s statement last week, and how he said he wants to “stay on top” of the Red Sox predominately left-handed rotation, by signing another left-handed hitter.
The Orioles played 46 games last season where a left-handed starter opposed them, and they finished an even 23-23. Their slash line against lefty starters was .241/.305/.401/.705, and they hit just 57 of their 253 total home runs against left-handed starting pitchers.
Manny Machado hit .326 in 194 plate appearances. Joey Rickard hit .302 in 105 appearances. Jonathan Schoop hit .298 in 186 appearances, and JJ Hardy hit .240 in 136 plate appearances.
One thing the Orioles have been known to do recently is hit home runs. They are also known to strike-out a bunch of times in, not only a single game, but a season as well.
To counteract this, Red Sox starters last season finished with very respectable FIP totals. For example, Steven Wright had a FIP of 3.77, David Price had a FIP of 3.60, Chris Sale had a FIP of 3.46, and Rick Porcello had a FIP of 3.40. That’s four-out-of-five possible pitchers in the starting rotation that had a FIP of less than four.
FIP stands for Fielding Independent Percentage, and is measured by a pitchers ability to limit home runs, walks, and hit batters, while also measuring the ability to induce strikeouts, as defined by Baseball Reference.
The Orioles will be bringing virtually the same pitching rotation to 2017, that they did in 2016, minus Yovani Gallardo. I don’t expect any other changes to the rotation, and that could become a problem against Red Sox hitters.
Out of the four other teams in the AL East, the Red Sox torched Orioles pitchers for a .282/.346/.482/.828 line, in their 19 games. Sox batters also hit 32 homers against Orioles pitching, which was the most they hit against any team they played last season.
So in summary, the Orioles struggle against left-handed pitchers, and the Red Sox have a reasonable amount of those. The Orioles strikeout a lot, and Red Sox pitchers induce strikeouts. The Orioles hit home runs more than any other team, and Red Sox starters can prevent that.
Well, as long as they can hold their own against the Rays (13-6 last season), the Yankees (10-9 last season), and the Blue Jays (9-10 last season), then I guess a mediocre season against the Red Sox wouldn’t be abominable.
Hey, they’re still 54-40 against the Red Sox since 2012.