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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Tampa Bay Rays, 2-4 April 2013

Real baseball is finally here!

Sean Rodriguez looks as excited to start the season as I am. Matt Wieters is much more nonchalant.
Sean Rodriguez looks as excited to start the season as I am. Matt Wieters is much more nonchalant.

Welcome to the 2013 season, everyone. A rather unexciting spring training has finally left us, with the only particularly interesting developments Brian Roberts's surprising revival and Wilson Betemit's unfortunate injury. The O's will open the season at lovely Tropicana Field for the third time in four years before heading home to face the Twins.

2 April: Jason Hammel @ David Price
Career Numbers Hammel vs. Rays Price vs. O's
IP 3.2 81.1
Slash Line .083/.154/.333 .207/.261/.280
ERA 2.45 2.21
FIP 6.91 2.53

David Price has held the Orioles to three home runs over 81.1 innings. That is... less than inspiring. Even less inspiring is that the O's scored exactly one run off of him in 22.1 innings last year. I'll be honest: I kinda like the Rays, so I usually look forward to O's-Rays series. I do not, however, look forward to the O's facing this guy.

Hammel has only faced the Rays once, going 3.2 innings in his final regular-season start last year before being removed due to his knee acting up again. It's going to be interesting to see whether Hammel stays healthy and continues to have success with his new two-seamer; hopefully he can get off to a good start and keep the O's in the game on Opening Day.

Maybe hot: Brian Roberts (.885 OPS, 13 PA); James Loney (1.000 OPS, 29 PA)

Likely not: Adam Jones (.441 OPS, 30 PA), Nolan Reimold (.302 OPS, 21 PA); Yunel Escobar (.321 OPS, 16 PA)

One-time-only disclaimer: I know that modern sabermetrics largely scoffs at batter-pitcher matchup data, given the inherently small sample sizes involved. I promise I at least won't include anybody with less than 10 PA. But it's something to talk about and can give us some basis for speculating on potential lineups; combined with scouting analysis of a hitter's strengths and weaknesses, even proto-sabermetrician Earl Weaver saw at least some value in it.

3 April: Wei-Yin Chen @ Jeremy Hellickson
Career Numbers Chen vs. Rays
Hellickson vs. O's
Slash Line
.231/.286/.322 .204/.264/.333

Jeremy Hellickson's numbers are only slightly more inspiring than David Price's, but his peripherals leave room for hope. Of course, this is the guy with a career 3.06 ERA to go with his 4.46 FIP, so who knows whether those peripherals really matter? I sure don't.

Chen faced the Rays more than any other team last season and acquitted himself pretty well. The slash lines are similar enough that this pitching matchup looks like a good one. Chen's ERA and FIP last year were around the league average, but he started out quite strong in April. With any luck, he's more acclimated to the MLB schedule now and won't fade quite as much as the season rolls on.

Maybe hot: Adam Jones (1.023 OPS, 29 PA); Ben Zobrist (1.133 OPS, 16 PA)

Likely not: Matt Wieters (.586 OPS, 22 PA); Desmond Jennings (.077 OPS, 13 PA)

4 April: Miguel Gonzalez @ Matt Moore
Career Numbers Gonzalez vs. Rays
Moore vs. O's
Slash Line
.215/.347/.354 .279/.374/.430

In an admittedly few 21 innings, the O's have hit Matt Moore pretty hard - seemingly without many earned runs to show for it, but the Rays' defense has apparently let him down and allowed another five runs (putting his RA/9 much higher than his ERA and exactly in line with his FIP, at 4.71).

Like Chen, the 22 innings Gonzalez put up against the Rays was his most against a single team. I'll take his ERA, but 3 homers, 13 walks, and 3 HBP in 22 innings is pretty terrible. I can't help but worry that we're gonna see a lot of regression from Gonzalez this year, but as long as he continues to beat up on the Yankees, I'm sure we'll survive.

Maybe hot: Matt Wieters (2.102 OPS, 11 PA); Ryan Roberts (1.025 OPS, 10 PA)

Likely not: Matt Joyce (.543 OPS, 10 PA)

"Let's face it--spring training is pretty boring. But that doesn't mean it's not important." - Earl Weaver