The Orioles have used 125 different lineups throughout the 2016 season. On Tuesday, manager Buck Showalter will have to sift through all of the statistics, splits and sabremetrics to put together his perfect nine hitters for a win-or-go-home Wild Card game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Not an easy task and something he certainly won’t float out there prior to when he has to. But that doesn’t mean we can’t spend some time guessing as to what it will look like.
A clue as to who we may see in that lineup came on Monday as Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced that he would be going with right-hander Marcus Stroman to start the must-win matchup. (Chris Tillman starts for the O’s, but that doesn’t really affect this conversation.)
The O’s have feasted on Stroman this season. Over four starts against Baltimore, the righty is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA and a slash line against of .344/.369/.531 with four home runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts over 23 innings. Here are the starts one-by-one with their accompanying lineups that day (note: not all of the at-bats listed came against Stroman, some were vs. the Toronto bullpen):
April 19 - Blue Jays win 4-3 at Camden Yards.
Stroman got the win, working seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits, two home runs, one walk and three strikeouts
June 9 - Orioles win 6-5 at Rogers Centre
Stroman had a no decision as he went 5.1 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, one home run, four walks and two strikeouts
June 19 - Orioles win 11-6 at Camden Yards
Stroman struggled, managing just 3.2 innings and allowing seven runs on 10 hits, one home run, no walks and four strikeouts
September 29 - Orioles win 4-0 at Rogers Centre
Stroman was OK, but the Toronto offense never showed up. His line: seven innings, four runs on nine hits, two walks and three strikeouts en route to the loss.
This season, many of the Oriole hitters have had good numbers against Stroman. Some that stand out are Chris Davis’ 4-for-10 with two RBI, Matt Wieters’s 5-for-12 with two home runs, a double and six RBI, and Mark Trumbo’s 5-for-11 with two doubles.
On the flip side, J.J. Hardy is just 1-for-8 this season against the Blue Jays starter. And Jonathan Schoop went only 2-for-10. However, both of them will start anyway because DUH!
Every other active hitter on the roster who has faced Stroman as a member of the Orioles this year has a batting average against him in the 2016 season of .333 or better, but, of course, we are talking about the smallest of sample sizes here. ESPN has the full slate of numbers for you.
So, here it is. With all of this information (and some just good, old-fashioned guessing), I have come up with this as my prediction as to what the starting lineup for the Baltimore Orioles will look like tonight.
- Adam Jones - CF You have to go with what got you here. When it comes down to it, Buck goes with his guys. Jones is one of his guys and even though his .310 on-base percentage does not paint him as an ideal lead-off hitter, you don’t go away from the hitter who has batted lead-off 108 times this year.
- Hyun Soo Kim - LF Putting him in the lineup is maybe a slight risk. Not because he is a bad hitter, but because you lose his clutch bat off the bench and he is not the most stellar fielder. That said, Kim is the Orioles best contact hitter. His .321 average against right-handed pitching is a weapon, one that works as a perfect table-setter for the big boys.
- Manny Machado - 3B This is the easiest pick in the lineup. September was not kind to Machado, but you can’t keep a hitter like him down for long. Put him third and see if he can win you a ball game.
- Mark Trumbo - DH You know he will be in the lineup. As the MLB leader in home runs, the clean-up spot seems appropriate and that is right where Showalter has slotted him over the last week or so. The bigger question was whether to give him a glove or not. In a deciding game like this that should come down to a run or two, give Trumbo a stick and burn the leather.
- Matt Wieters - C The free-agent-to-be is swinging a hot bat, Over his last eight games, Wieters is 11-for-31 with three home runs, six RBI, three walks and four strikeouts. Buck will keep him in that five spot.
- Chris Davis - 1B Dropping Crush down to sixth continues to take the pressure off a bit. Davis hasn’t hit a home run since September 16. That was 57 at-bats ago. Feels like he is due for a dong.
- Jonathan Schoop - 2B The only Oriole to play in all 162 games. Sorry, Ryan Flaherty, he won’t miss this one either. Could he jump over Davis in the order? Maybe, his bat got hot last week in Toronto and now has a five-game hitting streak in which he is 7-for-22. The seventh spot suits him a bit better though.
- J.J. Hardy - SS Of course he starts. The 34-year-old has had a bounce-back season and lately even seems to be running faster than molasses. Quite the improvement. He could drop down to ninth, but Bourn does a better job of turning the lineup over.
- Michael Bourn - RF The speedy veteran has been a fantastic late-season addition. His range in the outfield helps Jones and he has produced at the plate, giving the Birds an element of speed. His OBP of .358 in an Orioles uniform could look great at the top of the order, but that feels more like an experiment you try in July, not October.
Unless Stroman is absolutely dominating, the Orioles will probably see southpaw Francisco Liriano make an appearance sooner rather than later; perhaps as early as the fourth or fifth inning. That means the bench will need to be ready.
Kim will almost surely be pinch hit for should that happen and, despite Bourn’s good numbers against lefties (.357 BA in 2016), he could be lifted as well. The O’s best right-handed options off the bench are Nolan Reimold (gulp) and Trey Mancini. On the flip side, look for Pedro Alvarez to make an appearance against one of Toronto’s righty relievers, like Jason Grilli or Roberto Osuna.
Apart from that, you could see the likes of Caleb Joseph, Ryan Flaherty, Paul Janish or Drew Stubbs show up as defensive replacements in the late innings should the starters be removed for pinch-running purposes. If the Orioles are not leading at this point, be very scared.