Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees, 7-9 April 2014

Leon Halip

After stopping their losing streak at four games thanks to an impressive outing by Chris Tillman, the O's head to New York to finish off their road trip with a three-game set against the Yankees.

2-4 isn't a great way to start the season, but thank goodness for that win yesterday, because it's a lot better than 1-5. The Yankees started their season 3-3, but got to open against the Astros and Blue Jays.

Monday, 7 April: Ubaldo Jimenez @ Hiroki Kuroda
Jimenez Kuroda
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 182.2 6.0 201.1 6.0
ERA 3.30 6.00 3.31 3.00
FIP 3.43 7.52 3.56 4.18
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .239/.317/.367 .227/.346/.500 .249/.291/.392 .143/.182/.476

Jimenez didn't impress in his first start as an Oriole, giving up a pair of two-run home runs. Otherwise, though, his line for that game doesn't look too bad: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 SO. Unfortunately, pitching in the AL East means that you're going to spend a lot of time in homer-friendly ballparks, and Yankee Stadium is one of them. In a press release announcing the signing, the Orioles tried to sell Jimenez as a groundball pitcher, but he hasn't been since his time with the Rockies. Here's hoping that his last outing wasn't a sign of things to come.

Kuroda started off his season well enough, allowing two runs and three hits over six innings against the Astros, with five strikeouts to one walk. He's arguably been the Yankees' best starter for the last couple of years, though some struggles in the second half of last season made some scouts question whether he was finally just getting too old to be effective. Kuroda throws a sinker most often, at 43% of the time to batters regardless of handedness. He has a slider he'll throw most often to righties (38%), but he'll mix it in against lefties early in the count, too. He also features a splitter, which he uses against lefties nearly 50% of the time when ahead in the count or with two strikes, and he'll use it to try to strike out righties as well. Finally, he'll occasionally toss a first-pitch get-me-over curve or an 0-1 four-seamer against lefties.

Maybe hot: Nick Markakis (.947 OPS, 19 PA), Carlos Beltran (1.417 OPS, 12 PA)

Likely not: Nelson Cruz (.205 OPS, 15 PA), Ichiro Suzuki (.500 OPS, 12 PA)

Tuesday, 8 April: Wei-Yin Chen @ Ivan Nova
Chen Nova
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 137.0 5.2 139.1 5.2
ERA 4.07 6.35 3.10 3.18
FIP 4.04 1.42 3.47 6.54
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .272/.321/.440 .444/.444/.481 .258/.330/.348 .316/.500/.368

Chen got knocked around for twelve hits in 5.2 innings in his 2014 debut. I missed the game, but from Mark's writeup, it sounds like Chen was just very unlucky, and his defense didn't help him out any, either. Chen didn't walk any and struck out five, which just reinforces the notion that the baseball gods were against him that night, and it gives us reason for optimism going forward.

Nova walked five batters in his first start of the season, while only striking out one. Somehow, despite allowing six hits as well, he only allowed two runs over his 5.2 innings of work. Nova struggled against the O's in 2012, but threw two complete games against them last year, in what was a bit of a breakout season for him. He throws fastballs about 60% of the time, roughly 2:1 sinkers to four-seamers against lefties, but the reverse ratio against righties. Most of the rest of his pitches are curveballs, used about 35% of the time regardless of batter handedness. Nova also has a changeup and slider/cutter, but he almost never uses them.

Maybe hot: Matt Wieters (1.351 OPS, 33 PA), Brett Gardner (1.711 OPS, 10 PA)

Likely not: Adam Jones (.488 OPS, 39 PA), Ichiro Suzuki (.222 OPS, 9 PA)

Wednesday, 9 April: Miguel Gonzalez @ Masahiro Tanaka
Gonzalez Tanaka
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 (NPB) YTD
IP 171.1 3.1 212.0 7.0
ERA 3.78 18.90 1.27 2.57
FIP 4.45 13.08 - 2.75
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .243/.300/.413 .529/.600/1.000 - .222/.222/.370

Gonzalez just did not have it on Friday. He only lasted 3.1 innings, plunked two batters, and gave up seven runs on nine hits (two homers) and a walk. Enough scouts and analysts have been saying that Gonzalez is basically the new Jeremy Guthrie, outpitching his peripherals until he doesn't, and every time he has a bad start or two, it's hard not to worry that "doesn't" has finally arrived. That said, one start is one start, and pitchers with Gonzalez's lack of overwhelming stuff are just going to have bad ones on occasion.

Despite allowing a leadoff homer, Tanaka was impressive in his MLB debut, striking out eight Blue Jays and walking none over seven innings. Tanaka's main weapons are reportedly four- and two-seam fastballs, the ratio of which he varies by batter handedness, much like Nova; a splitter, which he throws often as a strikeout pitch to both righties and lefties; a slider, which he uses often to strike out righties; and a curve, which is mostly a first-pitch show-me option.

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