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Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles

Last offseason, I traded this man at $4 for Kelly Johnson at $17 in Ottoneu. This is why everything I say should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Last offseason, I traded this man at $4 for Kelly Johnson at $17 in Ottoneu. This is why everything I say should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

With both Tampa Bay and Baltimore sitting 1.5 games out of the wild card, it's fair to say that this upcoming series is the most important the two teams have ever played against each other.

Friday 7:10 PM: LHP Matt Moore (4.27 SIERA) vs. RHP Tommy Hunter (4.33 SIERA)

Acquired from the Rangers last season, the still-young Tommy Hunter is consistent but not exciting. He throws a low 90s fastball and a wide range of secondary pitches, but none of them have great movement. He doesn't strike out many batters but he doesn't walk batters either. Hunter gets ground balls, but not at a ridiculous rate. He has essentially no platoon split. Snooze.

Saturday 7:10 PM: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4.74 SIERA) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (4.18 SIERA)

An under the radar signing from Japan over the winter, Wei-Yin Chen has provided pretty good value. A flyball pitcher, his strikeout (7.36 K/9) and walk (3.02 BB/9) numbers won't set the world on fire, but they'll do. In two outings against Tampa Bay, though, the Rays have had his number a bit, upping that walk rate to 5.09 BB/9. Chen has shown almost no platoon split, which is interesting, because his approach is very different against the two sides of the plate. Against lefties, he's mostly a fastball (56%) - slider (28%) guy, with the changeup essentially never used. Against righties, he's predominantly fastball (54%) - changeup (22%). He uses a sinker and a curve now and again against both hands as well.

Sunday 1:40 PM: LHP David Price (3.22 SIERA) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (4.14 SIERA)

The last time Price and the Rays faced Miguel Gonzalez, they walked to a resounding 10-1 win. Gonzalez had several lapses of control that resulted in hit batsmen, nearly hit batsmen, and a third inning exit. He's had trouble going late into games more often than no this year. Overall, his strikeout numbers are robust (8.03 K/9), and the walks just slightly high (3.57 BB/9). He has a deep repertoire, and although he's not young, this is his first major league season. I think he'll figure things out a bit and be serviceable, just hopefully not starting Sunday.

Quick Comparison:

Stats Rays Orioles
wOBA 0.303 0.309
wRC+ 93 90
BB% 9.7% 7.5%
K% 21.6% 21.7%
BABIP 0.277 0.285
FIP 3.72 4.33
xFIP 3.75 4.24
SIERA 3.61 4.04
K/9 8.39 6.99
BB/9 3.15 3.04
BABIP 0.285 0.292

I bet you thought the Orioles had a better offense than the Rays. I certainly did. Just goes to show how much of an impact park effects can have on perception. The Orioles batters strike out just as often as the Rays' do, but they also walk less. Perhaps they should fire Jim Presley and #HireShelton?

Regressed ZIPS RoS batter platoon splits (sortable):

Player Projected wOBA vs. RHP Projected wOBA vs. LHP
Mark Reynolds (R) 0.321 0.352
Matt Wieters (S) 0.310 0.341
J.J. Hardy (R) 0.300 0.334
Adam Jones (R) 0.354 0.321
Nick Markakis (L) 0.343 0.313
Chris Davis (L) 0.325 0.301
Robert Andino (R) 0.275 0.292
Wilson Betemit (S) 0.331 0.283
Endy Chavez (L) 0.273 0.282
Taylor Teagarden (R) 0.263 0.277
Ryan Flaherty (L) 0.284 0.259
Omar Quintanilla (L) 0.303 0.239

Against the Rays' two lefties, the biggest weapons will be Reynolds, Weiters, and Hardy. Against Hellickson, the threat for the Orioles moves to the outfield with Jones and Markakis. Betemit isn't half bad either, and represents the type of depth it would have been very nice to have at third base here in Tampa this year.

Pitcher career platoon splits (sortable):

Player PAs vs. RHB Career xFIP vs. RHB PAs vs. LHB Career xFIP vs. LHB
Matt Lindstrom 746 3.73 598 4.46
Lui Ayala 1180 3.76 931 4.53
Jim Johnson 642 3.84 637 3.97
Darren O'Day 578 3.86 330 3.96
Pedro Strop 197 4.01 171 3.92
Troy Patton 198 4.03 174 3.73
Kevin Gregg 1422 4.44 1313 4.22

It's a sign of good bullpen construction when the closer is good, yet there are three Orioles relievers better than him against lefties and two better than him against righties. Of course, xFIP underrates Jim Johnson and his 64.3% (!!) groundball rate this season, but the point stands.

Pitch usage numbers are from Brooks Baseball. All other stats are from Fangraphs.