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O's vs. Rays: A Tale of Two Pitching Staffs

On paper, this weekend's series between the Rays and Orioles skews heavily in the Rays favor. Neither team can hit, but the Rays' pitching so thoroughly blows the O's out of the water that it could be an ugly weekend in Charm City.

The O's OBP currently sits at an ugly .297 for the season. That's bad enough for 28th in the majors, but luckily for them the Rays aren't too far ahead of them at .303 (25th). The Orioles and Rays sit at 21st and 20th, respectively in slugging percentage; the Rays' .384 tops the O's by a whopping .008. The Orioles are dead last in doubles (37) while the Rays are in middle of the pack with 55 (13th). But the O's make up for it with 32 home runs (8th) to the Rays' 26 (15th). So when it comes to hitting, it's really a wash. Unfortunately for the Orioles the same can't be said for the pitching.

The Rays are near the top of the majors in nearly every standard pitching statistic, while the Orioles are floundering at the bottom of the list. The Rays' starting pitching has put up an ERA of 3.56, good for 7th in the majors. To compound that, their starters have pitched 202 total innings, fourth most in the majors. The O's rotation is sporting a 4.25 ERA, 21st in the majors. And they are 29th in the MLB for innings pitched by a starter with just 169.1.

Even better than the Rays' rotation has been their bullpen. The Rays let a lot of relievers go this past off season (rather than idiotically signing them to multi-year deals), and many people were predicting their bullpen would be the weakest part of their game. Yeah, not so much. The Rays' bullpen has a 2.68 ERA, third in the majors. The O's bullpen has an ERA of nearly twice that at 5.25.

The Rays pitching staff as a whole is sporting a 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, the Orioles sit at 1.34 and 4.62. And keep in mind as you look at the Rays' above-average stats that the hapless O's offense just got shut down by Kyle Davies and Bruce Chen.

There is a glimmer of hope for the Orioles, but it is about the dullest glimmer you can imagine. That glimmer comes in the form of the the advanced pitching stats, which indicate that the Rays are currently pitching a bit above their heads and are due for a regression. Will said regression come against the O's offense? Probably not, but it's worth looking at. The Rays' FIP of 3.70 is a bit higher than their team ERA, although it's still nearly a run lower than the Orioles ERA and FIP. But their xFIP, which attempts to predict future performance, is all the way up to 4.15 for the Rays, not much lower than the O's number of 4.20. They're especially due for a regression from their relievers, whose xFIP of 4.39 is over a run and a half higher than the bullpen ERA.

Working in the Orioles' favor this weekend is the fact that they're missing lefty David Price. Price hasn't been the best pitcher in the Rays' rotation this season (although he has been very good), and the O's did beat him once, but not seeing one of the better lefties in the the league is always good news. They will face Jeremy Hellickson, who has been the Rays' worst starter, and Wade Davis, whose 2.77 ERA is intimidating, but whose 3.57/5.10 FIP/xFIP tell a different story. And unfortunately they'll be seeing the Rays best performing starter this year, James Shields.

It's going to be a tough weekend for the Orioles, especially if these games come down to the bullpens. Let's just all be thankful that the Rays have an offense nearly as bad as the Orioles.