Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Tampa Bay Rays, 16-18 June 2014

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A series split with Toronto behind them, the O's begin a brief road trip with three games against Tampa Bay.

Monday, 16 June, 7:10 ET: Wei-Yin Chen @ Jake Odorizzi
Chen Odorizzi
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 137.0 76.2 29.2 65.0
ERA 4.07 3.76 3.94 4.85
FIP 4.04 3.63 3.89 3.24
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .272/.321/.440 .284/.311/.435 .252/.311/.432 .263/.331/.402

Chen had his best start of the season his last time out, allowing just four hits over seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none. He's allowed just one free pass - total - over his last five starts (30.1 innings), and hasn't walked more than one in a game since April. Bud Norris has been getting most of the media accolades of late, but if you put stock in defense-independent pitching evaluation, Chen's been substantially more valuable this year - largely because of that outstanding control.

Odorizzi's having a bit of a weird year. His strikeout rate is outstanding (26.6%; league average: 20.3%), and while his walk rate is a touch higher than the league average, the strikeouts more than compensate. Yet his ERA is much higher than his peripherals would suggest, and he's rarely making it deep into games, largely because he averages nineteen pitches per inning. Odorizzi throws fastballs about 60% of the time to both righties and lefties, mostly four-seamers. Against lefties, he turns to his new split-change, learned from teammate Alex Cobb, most of the rest of the time; against righties, he uses that pitch and his slider in roughly equal measure. He also has a curveball, but he uses it sparingly, and not as an out pitch.

Maybe hot: Ben Zobrist (1.004 OPS, 28 PA)

Likely not: Desmond Jennings (.427 OPS, 22 PA)

Tuesday, 17 June, 7:10 ET: Miguel Gonzalez @ Erik Bedard
Gonzalez Bedard
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 171.1 58.1 151.0 56.1
ERA 3.78 4.17 4.59 3.83
FIP 4.45 4.49 4.38 3.42
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .243/.300/.413 .265/.337/.435 .260/.348/.425 .258/.324/.373

Gonzalez is scheduled to make his first start since May 30th, owing to a DL stint due to an oblique injury. He'd been pretty consistent results-wise over his last three starts, giving up two runs and lasting six-plus innings in each. Gonzalez's return to the rotation creates a bit of a logjam, as Kevin Gausman has been pitching well enough that he's scheduled to start the following day. It'll be interesting to see how the O's decide to handle the situation.

Birdland's favorite surly Canadian is having a decent year, cutting down on his walk rate from the last two seasons but getting pretty lucky with the long ball (2014 HR/FB: 3.8%; career: 8.9%). Bedard hasn't been getting very deep into games, only making it through the sixth inning once since May 10th. He throws fastballs about 75% of the time to fellow lefties, using about three four-seamers for every sinker and cutter. Righties rarely see cutters and get fewer four-seamers, but Bedard will throw them sinkers a little more often. He'll use a slider and curveball for the remainder of his pitches, the curve about twice as often as the slider, and very occasionally throw a splitter to lefties.

Maybe hot: Nelson Cruz (1.030 OPS, 22 PA), Desmond Jennings (1.137 OPS, 25 PA)

Likely not: Delmon Young (.279 OPS, 22 PA), Ben Zobrist (.440 OPS, 24 PA)

Wednesday, 18 June, 1:10 ET: Kevin Gausman @ Alex Cobb
Gausman Cobb
Stat 2013 YTD 2013 YTD
IP 47.2 17.0 143.1 47.1
ERA 5.66 3.71 2.76 3.99
FIP 3.99 3.61 3.36 3.51
AVG/OBP/SLG Against .276/.322/.470 .242/.304/.306 .228/.291/.353 .237/.295/.367

Gausman's been pretty impressive in his last two starts, giving up two runs over thirteen innings against a pair of first-place teams and earning himself a spot in the rotation, at least for another turn. He seems to be learning how to pitch, rather than simply throw, as the saying goes, showing greater trust in whichever secondary offering is working better on a given day, rather than just pumping fastballs and hoping his split-change forces some bad swings. Hopefully, he continues to progress and manages to stick in the rotation for the long haul.

Cobb's having another good year, though he lost over a month to an oblique strain. His ERA (3.99) isn't impressive, but his strikeout and walk rates suggest it should be a half-run or so lower, and his peripherals overall are in line with (or a bit better) than last year's, when his ERA was just 2.76. Cobb's a three-pitch guy: sinker, curveball, and splitter. He throws more sinkers to righties than to lefties, but has an otherwise similar approach against both, using the curveball to get ahead in the count and the splitter to finish batters off.

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