The Story So Far:
The O's were finally able to take a series against the Blue Jays. If not for a late game meltdown all around, they may have even been able to sweep. But as it is they won two of three and are now three for their last five overall. They're 15-17 overall though and 4.5 games back, good for 4th place in the division behind the Yankees, so they still have a lot of work to do. It's probably worth noting though the team was 6.5 back of Toronto as late as June 6th last year, and we all know how that season ended.
The Angels aren't doing much better. They're 17-17 overall, four games back of the
Athletics Mariners Astros. Really, the Astros? Don't all of Mike Trout's wins above replacement make him better than that entire team? It's actually closer than you'd think, but no. Still, Trout's 2.1 fWAR so far this season is good for fourth among ML hitters. The problem has been the rest of the team. Kole Calhoun is OK, but Matt Joyce - yikes - he's been worth -1.3fWAR. For context, the Orioles worst player so far has been Everth Cabrera at -0.4 fWAR.
Friday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Jered Weaver
Chen has put up a pretty good season so far. In six games he's 1-1 with a 2.52 ERA. He's got a decent 2.25 SO/W ratio. I also like that he's gone at least six innings in four of those six starts and at Camden Yards he's gone six and eight innings in two starts. And his last start was against the Yankees, the only game the Orioles could win in the Bronx. Mike Trout is 1-3 against him, but that one hit was a home run. Albert Pujols is 1-5, also a home run.
Jered Weaver is not having a good season so far. In seven starts he's 1-4 with a 4.98 ERA. His SO/W ratio is a very good 4.20, but that seems to come more from very walks given than a dominating number of strikeouts. The Orioles don't walk much anyway so that may not be a concern. Despite the slow start though, the guy is a 3-time All-Star who has put up very good numbers in the past, so as some point it's still reasonable to expect him to turn it around this year.
Saturday: Bud Norris vs. Matt Shoemaker
If Weaver has been having a bad season, Shoemaker's may be worse. His ERA is 6.61, which is right in line with his FIP (6.17) so it's not like he's been unlucky. While he also doesn't give up a lot of walks, he does give up home runs - so far 10 on the year. What's more, he does split things pretty evenly to RHB and LHB so this should be someone the Orioles lineup can get after. For example, Adam Jones is 2 for 3, both home runs. Nobody else has much of a track record against him, but this O's team has barely seen him before.
Naturally, the Orioles are going to counter with their worst starter this year in Bud Norris. If there's one good thing you could say about Bud Norris' season so far it's that his ERA of 9.88 is much higher than his 5.37 FIP - but that's still a bad number. Ryan Romano at Camden Depot wrote about Bud Norris yesterday and basically came to the conclusion that while he has been slightly unlucky this year, he's still not that great of a pitcher and you shouldn't expect him to do too much better as the season goes on. Albert Pujols has seen him the most, but is only 8 for 42.
Sunday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Garrett Richards
Jimenez is going to look to keep his good start to the season going. He's had one (maybe two) bad outings this year. His second start against the Blue Jays in Toronto is borderline, but it's that start against the Mets that really stands out. Otherwise though he's been very good, with his last start against the Blue Jays at home looking great. He must've decided he really wants to stay in Baltimore because in three home starts this year he's pitched 21 innings, given up two earned runs, and struck out 23 while giving up no home runs. Keep it up, Ubaldo.
The Angels are saving their best pitcher for last. Richards is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA. Unlike the last two guys though he will give up some walks and only has a 1.81 SO/W ratio. He keeps that in check though with a very low HR/FB rate (2.7% the last two years). So if the Orioles want to beat him, they're going to need to find another way and that could be tough - the O's haven't won a game without hitting a home run since their last game in Tampa Bay. In fact, that was the only time it's happened all season. Adam Jones has one against him though, and is 3 for 8 lifetime. Chris Davis is 1 for 1 with a double and Steve Pearce is 2 for 4...so maybe they'll find a way to get after him.
- Over the last two years, the O's are 9-4 against the Angels, winning both at home and on the road.
- The Angels are pretty healthy, with only two guys on the DL (one of whom is Tyler Skaggs, recovering from TJ surgery), so it's not like you can really blame their .500 record on not having their guys on the field. Craig Edwards at Fangraphs wrote about how Trout is one man on an otherwise average team.
- I asked in my last preview how long Jimmy Paredes could keep his nine game hitting streak going...apparently the answer was at least three more games because he hit in every game against the Blue Jays and his .364 BA now leads the team. He doesn't lead in home runs or doubles, he just hits and does lead the team with a .391 OBP. I'd expect to keep seeing him near the top of the lineup. Looks like we found our new Steve Pearce, sorry Travis Snider.
- Adam Jones is a great center fielder, but you know who may be better? Mike Trout. I've talked a lot about the guy and for good reason - he's the best player in the game. And while we talk a lot about his offense, it's worth remembering he's a great fielder as well. I think it's going to be kind of cool seeing these two guys matchup again, to see how many great diving catches they make or throws to rob guys of extra base hits. Some of the best players of all time were center fielders (see: Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Ken Griffey, Jr) and Jones and Trout are two of the best at that position in the game today. It should be a good show.
- I usually don't mention the opposing team's bullpen, but I should. Looking over the stats at ESPN, the Angels bullpen seems to be about even with the Orioles'. Their closer, Huston Street, has been very good since the Angels traded for him last year. But you may have heard of a guy named Zach Britton as well. I don't know - seems about a draw to me.
Maybe I'm feeling optimistic after that Blue Jays series, but I'm going to predict a sweep here. This team will (believe it or not) sweep someone this year, and the Angels are good, but hardly a great team. Besides, would this section of my previews be any fun if I just picked them to get 2 of 3 each time? No. So I think now's the time.