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Orioles-Tigers preview: We’re going (losing) streaking

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Having lost four in a row, the Orioles are catching the up-and-down Tigers at just the right time.

Baltimore Orioles v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Are losing streaks bad?

*Pets dog for hours, contemplating this mystery of life

Uh, yeah, losing streaks are bad.

The Orioles didn’t necessarily play terribly in Kansas City, despite what the the results of the series may depict, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors. Vidal Nuno probably shouldn’t have been used in the 8th inning on Friday—and if it were up to me, I wouldn’t even let him save a seat on the Norfolk shuttle—but he was, and predictably didn’t get out Eric Hosmer, surrendering a go-ahead double.

The O’s couldn’t hit Nate Karns, but even though Chris Tillman threw 105 pitches in 4.2 innings, his stuff looked better, as did his command with his secondary stuff. I totally get the unified Birdland freakout, but Tillman’s limited potential damage in two so-so outings. The Royals inherent peskiness certainly made things look worse than they actually were.

As for Kevin Gausman? Well, the fastball looked great. It was his other stuff that wasn’t.

If you look our left window, you’ll see the beautiful peaks of Gausman’s splitter and slider usage against the Nationals. A start that ended after 7.0 innings, Gausman allowed only two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts. Notably, his best start of the year. If you look out your right window, you’ll see that, oh yes, someone inform the captain because the engine is, in fact, on fire.

It doesn’t take a baseball connoisseur to know that baseballs in the middle of the plate aren’t good, and Gausman was reminded of that once again after a disastrous 4th inning that saw him regift a four-run lead into a tie game. Gausman was probably one or two pitches away from getting out of that inning and prolonging his start, but a combination of leaving meatballs up in the zone in hitter’s counts while forcing hitters to spit on his slider made him pay.

Such is life, baseball too is often unfair. If Mike Moustakas beats a hanging splitter into the ground, we wouldn’t be tweeting “Kevin Gausman: future reliever” hot takes. But he smacked a game-tying three-run dinger instead, and here we are. The only scientific determination we can possibly make here is that the Royals’ weirdness seems to supersede the Orioles’ weirdness, whether it be the ALCS or a three-game series in the middle of the May.

So, on to the Tigers!

At 18-18, the Tigers are off to a perfectly mediocre start, having only won four games in their last 10. Justin Upton actually leads the Tigers position players in WAR at 1.2, despite striking out in nearly 31 percent of his plate appearances. Platoon catcher Alex Avila has had a very nice resurgence after a couple of years in the doldrums, as his 197 wRC+ doesn’t qualify among the league leaders, but he’s back hitting.

J.D. Martinez has only played in three games after a foot injury, but he’s hit two home runs those games, and he’s always dangerous given his power to all fields. Though Miguel Cabrera (91 wRC+) and Victor Martinez are off to slow starts considering the decade-long standards the pair has set, they are still painstakingly dangerous every time they step in the box.

Game 1

Wade Miley (2.45 ERA/1.39 WHIP) vs. Matt Boyd (3.89 ERA/1.45 WHIP)

While Gausman’s struggles have clouded over Miley’s super weird start, he’s been able to use an increased strikeout rate (27.6%) to cancel out his Ubaldo-like walk numbers (14.7%). Not the formula the Orioles need at the rate the Buck Showalter has had to continue to use the bullpen early in games, but he’s kept the O’s in a lot of ballgames, while dominating a handful of others.

Boyd is more or less the antithesis of what some would call a “crafty lefty”. He only throws his fastball at about 45 percent, working in his slider, curveball and changeup with heavy frequency.

He’s also been really good at Comerica Park, owning an opponent .246 wOBA in Detroit. Unlike Miley, who’s really tried to pound his arm side of the plate, Boyd isn’t afraid to come into righties, which means the Orioles should have pitches to hit. Whether they do anything with it or not is another paragraph for another day.

Game 2

Ubaldo Jimenez (6.15 ERA/1.51 WHIP) vs. Michael Fulmer (2.54 ERA/1.00 WHIP)

We’ll have to see what kind of mattress Jimenez slept on to know whether or not he’ll be kind of good or kind of bad, because it is with Jimenez, you just don’t know. He’s striking out nearly as many hitters (16.1%) as he is walking them (13.4%), typical of Jimenez. If he can keep the baseball inside the fence, keep the fastball on the corners and work the splitter down, the results tend to trend upwardly, given his .237 BABIP. With guys like Cabrera, V-Mart due to start hitting for power however, we’re likely in for another thrill.

Fulmer’s blueprint is pretty simple because his power two-seamer is so good. He wants you to hit the ball on the ground, and in between, he creates a lot of swings and misses with a good straight change and hard, hard slider.

Yeah, that one.

The current Orioles are only 7-38 against Fulmer with a strikeout rate hovering near his career numbers, but as tough a matchup as it is, he isn’t a soft-throwing no-name. The Orioles will probably hit him ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Game 3

Dylan Bundy (2.26 ERA/1.03 WHIP) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (6.28/1.66 WHIP)

Bundy day!

The best pitcher in the world will be looking to continue padding a stellar early 2017 resume, even if it’s been rather unorthodox. Look, Bundy may not be striking out nearly as many batters as his numbers would deduce (18.1 K%), and while the fastball velocity has certainly dipped down towards more average, he’s done a lot more diversifying this year compared to his rookie season. Using the slider has taken a lot of pressure off of his fastball, and given how tight his slider is, it disguises his fastball well, making 91 MPH look like 96 MPH. Add in a really good changeup and curveball and boom, that’s pitching!

On the other end, it seems like Zimmermann’s best days were left behind in D.C.

Though his fastball has started to creep back up to the 92-93 MPH range, Zimmermann used to be the master craftsman of tricking hitters into swinging at his pitch with power stuff. Not so much anymore.

Zimmermann’s owned the heart of the plate, but not in a good way. A former ground ball specialist, the soon-to-be 31-year old has pivoted to surrendering fly balls at 48.1 percent, a significant overreach compared to his career 36.1 percent fly ball frequency. Even worse, his 14.1 HR/FB rate has never been higher, a strong corollary for an Orioles offense that still doesn’t seem to have reached its believed status quo.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    0 (Sad!)
    (4 votes)
  • 15%
    1 (Not bad!)
    (19 votes)
  • 58%
    2 (Rad!)
    (73 votes)
  • 22%
    3 (Totally rad!)
    (28 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now