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The Process Versus The Orioles

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It's so tempting to write off the Baltimore Orioles' hot start to the season as nothing but that: a hot start. But I'm somewhat skeptical; I'm not ready to call the Orioles a fluke, and I think if they continue to have a large number of their players playing toward the high end of their projections and ability level, then they could certainly make the AL East quiiiite interesting this season. They don't have the pitching to make an extended run at the playoffs, but they're certainly looking like a team that's done being bowled over.

It's too bad Jason Hammel won't be pitching this series; I'd love to see him throw against the Rays for nostalgic reasons, although he's been the O's best pitcher this season so it's probably for the best. That said, this trio isn't necessarily going to be easy to walk over either.

Friday, 7:05pm: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Dana Eveland

This will be Eveland's first start in the majors this season, as he's spent the entire year so far down in Triple-A as added depth. From the looks of things these past couple years, Eveland has been in the process of remaking himself in order to (hopefully) stick in the majors. His strikeout rate hasn't cracked 14% over the past three seasons, so Eveland has had to refine his control in order to make himself successful.

If Eveland can keep his walk rate low (around 5% or so) and force batters to hit the ball on the ground, he can be successful. Due to his strikeout rate, though, his margin for success is simply slimmer than most.

Eveland throws a number of pitches -- four-seam, two-seam, cutter, slider, change up, curveball -- and he's changed his mix of pitches so much over the past few years, it's difficult to say how he's going to be attacking hitters now. My assumption is that he will rely heavily on his two-seam fastball in order to keep hitters on the ground, and it looks like his slider and change up have become his primary off-speed pitches.

Saturday, 7:05pm: Matt Moore vs. Brian Matusz

There aren't many good things to say about Brian Matusz these days, but we can say this: he's slightly less broke than he was last season. His swinging strike rate is up slightly to 7.4%, and his home run rate is a respectable 7.7% (as opposed to last year's 20%). Of course, he's still walking a ton of hitters (10.6%) and letting up hits all over the place (.346 BABIP), but hey, it's a small step...kinda.

This is a dramatic over-simplification, but Matusz's problem seems to boil down to his control. His pitches are all still nearly as effective as they were back in 2010 -- or at least, they're still generating nearly the same swinging strike rate -- and his velocity is actually up slightly year-over-year. But Matusz is walking more batters for the third season in a row, and he seemingly can't keep the ball low in the zone. When hitters are putting the ball on the ground only 28% of the time, you're going to let up an inordinate amount of home runs and extra base hits.

I'm still rooting for Matusz to put things together and to regain his 2010 form, but the odds of that happening are seeming slimmer and slimmer all the time. The Orioles have the time to wait him out, but he's beginning to dangerously the point where people stop banking on hope.

Sunday, 1:40pm: James Shields vs. Jake Arrieta

Out of the entire crop of young Orioles pitching prospects, it's beginning to look like Arrieta might be one of the few left that has a chance to develop into something. It's still early in the season, but Arrieta has been one of the O's most dependable starters so far. His stat line has remained nearly the same across the board -- same mediocre strikeouts, same high home run rate, same ground ball rate -- with one exception: his walk rate.

Arrieta's main weakness has always been his control (well, that and his home run rate), but for the first time, he's put together a stretch of solid starts where he displayed above average command. His walk rate has been cut nearly in half so far, down from 11.3% to 5.6%, and that's helped Arrieta become a more valuable pitcher overall. His ERA is a passable 4.23, and his 3.55 SIERA suggests that there could be good things in store for him. Now if only he could get that home run rate down... #thanksjoshhamilton!

He mainly throws a four-seamer, two-seamer, curveball, and slider, although he's been known to mix in a change up on occasion. His best out-pitch is his curveball, and his two seamer is adept at getting grounders.

Player Proj. wOBA vs. RHP Proj. wOBA vs. LHP
Matt Wieters 0.333 0.350
Robert Andino 0.291 0.309
Wilson Betemit 0.327 0.289
Chris Davis 0.330 0.301
J.J. Hardy 0.319 0.350
Nick Johnson 0.283 0.298
Mark Reynolds 0.324 0.354
Adam Jones 0.349 0.315
Nick Markakis 0.344 0.312

FIP vs. RH FIP vs. LH
Jim Johnson 4.06 2.49
Matt Lindstrom 2.69 4.26
Luis Ayala 4.92 3.53
Pedro Strop 1.79 3.49
Kevin Gregg 4.21 5.58
Darren O'Day 7.83 7.35
Stu Pomeranz - -
Troy Patton 3.34 2.45

Stu Pomeranz didn't play in the majors last season -- in fact, this is his first stint in the majors -- but his minor league strikeout numbers have been quite impressive (albeit, in small sample sizes). Then again, he's 27 years old and hasn't gotten a shot yet, so take his minor league numbers with a grain of salt.