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Orioles vs. Tigers: Series Preview

The Orioles start off the second half with a road trip to Detroit

Angie Walton-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

With both teams coming in fresh off the All-Star break, this should be an interesting weekend. The Orioles are looking to win their first series since sweeping Cleveland at the end of June. Currently the O's are 44-44, right at .500 and four games behind in the division. That's not a terrible place to be in at the mid-point, but its not great either. Looking to get back on track in Detroit could be tough. Since the start of 2012, the Orioles are 8-10 against Detroit in the regular season, with a record last year of 1-5. In the playoffs though, the Orioles dominated the Tigers in the ALDS and swept them in in three games. That team had a lot more going right for it than this one does right now...let's see who shows up in Detroit.

The Tigers share the Orioles record of 44-44, good for third in their division, except they're nine games behind the Royals. They started the season off OK, but have a had a tough run the last couple months and are slowly playing themselves out of it. The biggest problem they face is the loss of Miguel Cabrera, who's out for several weeks with a calf strain. His 187 OPS+ leads the team and allows him to lead the team in WAR. The Tigers are going to miss him.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Anibal Sanchez






















You can't really complain about anything Jimenez is doing right now. He's been very good, is having his best season in years, and has been the Orioles best and most consistent pitcher. He has a 5-9 record and 4.93 ERA in his career against the Tigers, but has faced them only once as an Oriole when he pitched 7 shutout inning last year.

Sanchez's problem can be summed up pretty easily: home runs. He's given up 19 already this year. Last year in only 126 innings he gave up four. That's a huge leap and is almost certainly due to bad luck - his HR/FB rate is significantly higher than his career average. Still, the Orioles hit a lot of home runs and if a guy is having a bad stretch, best to take advantage.

Saturday: Chris Tillman vs. David Price






















Price has been great this year - there's nothing about those stats to complain about. But as the trade deadline nears, it's worth looking at the trade that brought Price to the Tigers last year in one of the biggest deadline deals in years. Detroit essentially gave up Drew Smyly and Austin Jackson to get Price. Was it worth it? Probably. Since the Tigers lost Max Scherzer, Price is the Tigers best starter. Smyly is currently out with a torn labrum and Jackson is a non-factor with Seattle. Still though - the Tigers are only .500 and Price will be a free agent after this season. He didn't help them at all last year in the playoffs - sometimes even big pickups don't amount to much...something to keep in mind as you likely see Dan Duquette make another fringe move this year.

At this point, its probably safe to say Tillman is not going to have a great year. That's OK  -everyone is allowed a bad one now and then. Tillman's been a good pitcher for a few years on this rotation and I have every bit of confidence he'll get back there. In fact, this may all end up working out as it will allow the Orioles to "buy low" on him in the offseason.

Sunday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Justin Verlander






















It's not that I don't like Miguel Gonzalez, I do. He seems to work hard and go out every start and give it everything he has. And he's turned in some really great starts for this team. But this season is going downhill quickly for him. As the guy who led all of MLB last season in outperforming FIP, his ERA has really taken a tumble since about mid-May when it was a very good 2.93. Now it's 4.24, which still gives him an ERA-FIP of -1.51, which is still a huge difference. Again, home runs seem to be the problem. In his first eight starts this season, he gave up 2 home runs. In his last eight, he's given up nine. Those first eight starts were probably aided by a .231 BAPIP against. I don't know where Gonzalez is going from here, but things need to turn around quickly.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I kind of feel bad for Verlander. In 2011, he won the Cy Young and the MVP. His numbers were incredible. He was 24-5. I know wins and losses don't mean much for pitchers, but can you even imagine an Orioles' pitcher having that kind of record? I can't. And he's not even that old - this is his age 32 season. He's even younger than I am (by about three months) which is weird for me. After starting the season on the DL though, he hasn't had any luck this year. Again, not sure where this season is going for him, but its hard to see it getting better.

Other Notes:

- These are two teams known for the offenses. The difference over the last few years is the Tigers have had dominant pitching and have (until this year) been one of the best teams in baseball. While the Tigers do slightly outpace the Orioles in runs per game (4.52 vs. 4.40), the Orioles have been much better in runs allowed per game (3.95 vs. 4.69). The Orioles also lead the Tigers in home runs (110 vs. 86).

- One of the Orioles strengths for the last few season has been the bullpen. That's another thing that gives them a leg up over the Tigers right now - the Detroit bullpen has an ERA of 3.97, good for 3rd worst in the majors. Orioles fans should all about how bad that bullpen is after the ALDS last season and it doesn't seem to have gotten much better.

- Despite all the power guys like Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez bring to the Tigers, the team still ranks 25th in home run factor per ESPN. The Orioles of course rely on home runs, but maybe all they need is a hit with a runner in scoring position. Before the break, their once league-leading average with RISP had tumbled as it seemed like MLB had found a new way to punish the team. Maybe that average was too high to begin with, but remember - regression to the mean is exactly that, a return to what's normal. It does not mean a run of unexpectedly high numbers will be followed by a run of unexpectedly low ones. A team's or hitter's average with RISP can almost entirely be attributed to luck, and the Orioles have been having some weird luck lately. Look for that number to steady out as the season goes forward.


I'm picking the Orioles to win two of three. Why not? The Tigers are without Cabrera and have fallen behind the Royals and the Twins. THE ROYALS AND THE TWINS. This is not the team that dominated the Orioles at the beginning of last season. This is not even the team that the Orioles swept out of the playoffs. This team is worse.