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Baltimore Orioles Series Preview: One of us, one of us!

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If misery truly does love company, then both these teams will be very happy with each other this weekend.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s crazy to me that it was just seven seasons ago that these two teams were the very best the American League had to offer, fighting to make the World Series. I know that’s a long time in baseball years, but it’s also not that long. And since 2018, they’ve been among the worst teams in all of baseball and while it seemed like the Royals might be graduating from the worst to the mediocre, that thought was a bit premature. The Royals have gone 20-44 since their 16-9 start. The Orioles are 17-47 in that time, though, so the Royals somehow have a leg up on them. Of course, in the Royals current 7-27 stretch, the Orioles are 10-24, so this series could really go either way. This series could definitely be referred to as a tickle fight, but evenly matched teams can provide some compelling and competitive games at least.

What do the Orioles do well? That’s a good question. They only rank outside the bottom half of the American League in caught stealing and batting average, so offensively, the answer is not much. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. Cedric Mullins had a fantastic first half and looks like a burgeoning star. Trey Mancini is both a fantastic story and a really nice piece in a lineup. And Ramon Urias has been above average for them. So they have that going for them. The pitching side isn’t quite so rosy for them, especially with ace John Means out for a little bit longer. Royals fans can understand this as well as anyone, but when Matt Harvey and Jorge Lopez are your two leaders in games started, things can’t be great. They do have some nice bullpen pieces, including a handful of pitchers who can actually get a strikeout, so that’s something to build on, as small as it might be.

Royals vs. Orioles Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Orioles
Category Royals Orioles
Winning % .404 .315
Team wRC+ 88 92
Team xFIP 4.55 4.60
Run Differential -99 -138
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 1.9 Cedric Mullens, 3.8

Orioles Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Cedric Mullins CF 380 .314 .380 .541 8.9% 18.9% 151 3.8
Austin Hays LF 240 .247 .303 .434 6.3% 20.0% 101 0.7
Trey Mancini 1B 362 .256 .331 .460 8,8% 23.2% 117 1.2
Ryan Mountcastle DH 328 .255 .305 .447 6.1% 28.7% 105 0.5
Anthony Santander RF 230 .226 .271 .382 5.2% 24.8% 77 0.0
Ramon Urias SS 113 .284 .354 .451 8.0% 23.0% 124 1.0
Domingo Leyba 2B 68 .148 .235 .197 10.3% 26.5% 26 -0.3
Pedro Severino C 224 .220 .299 .320 10.3% 24.6% 74 -0.5
Kelvin Gutierrez 3B 153 .221 .267 .297 4.6% 22.2% 52 -0.9

Orioles Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Austin Wynns C 51 .184 .216 .327 3.9% 29.4% 46 -0.3
Pat Valaika INF/OF 163 .196 .259 .250 7.4% 27.0% 44 -0.7
Ryan McKenna OF 76 .185 .303 .231 14.5% 32.9% 58 0.0
DJ Stewart OF 209 .204 .311 .354 12.4% 29.7% 88 0.0

Orioles Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Cole Sulser 30 32.2 2 1 32.4% 11.0% 3.31 3.53 0.7
Paul Fry 34 33.0 2 3 31.0% 12.0% 4.09 3.32 1.0
Tanner Scott 40 35.2 3 3 32.1% 16.7% 2.78 3.73 0.7

Probable Starting Pitchers

Friday - Keegan Akin vs. Danny Duffy, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Keegan Akin 12 45.1 0 4 21.5% 8.3% 7.54 4.62 0.2
Danny Duffy 12 57.0 4 3 26.1% 8.8% 2.53 4.27 1.4

Keegan Akin was Baltimore’s second round pick in the 2016 draft and had some success in his first taste of the majors last year, showing some major strikeout ability while being able to keep his control enough in check and the ball enough in the yard. This season, that hasn’t been the case. While his walks have remained fairly steady, his strikeouts are way down and the ball is not staying in the park. Part of the issue is that opponents are getting more lift on his fastball that sits 91-93 and are able to get much better contact on it this season. They’re hitting .265 with a .500 SLG compared to .231 with a .369 SLG last season. The launch angle is up on it about 6 degrees and while the average exit velocity is down, it’s leading to much more power. Akin has fallen apart this year with runners on, allowing a .377/.425/.597 line that actually gets even worse with runners in scoring position. He’s struggled with lefties and righties alike. A soft-tossing lefty who uses his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time is the type of pitcher the Royals should be able to hit, so we’ll see.

The Danny Duffy hybrid role hasn’t seemed to last very long as that one relief appearance in Texas was the only one he’s made so far. So out of the break, it’s safe to assume he’s in the rotation as a full-fledged member and potentially trade bait. With some time between starts, the Royals took the training wheels off just a little bit and let him get up to 77 pitches, the most he’d thrown since coming off the IL. And he was good. He walked a couple too many, but he had that early-season Duffy look. Now, the Indians offense isn’t anything special, so that probably didn’t hurt things, but he also did look good. Duffy has always handled the Orioles, going 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 56 career innings against them.

Saturday - Jorge Lopez vs. Brady Singer, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jorge Lopez 18 84.2 2 12 21.0% 9.9% 5.95 4.31 0.7
Brady Singer 18 85.2 3 6 23.3% 9.2% 4.52 4.13 1.5

While Royals fans might get chills seeing Jorge Lopez on the mound at Kauffman Stadium, this time it’s for the other team, so the only fear is that he puts together his occasional brilliant performance. The numbers show a pretty clear picture that he hasn’t turned things around since leaving Kansas City, but he’s providing a few innings for the Orioles, and that’s worth...something I guess. I think it’s fair to say that he’s not going to get terribly deep into the game, but he has had his moments with eight starts allowing two runs or fewer. He’s actually only allowed five or more five times, which is a bit surprising to me. He’s generally kept his team relatively in the game. That’s not to say he’s been good, but he hasn’t been horrible that often. He’s allowed a .458/.508/.729 line the third time through the order and a .457/.490/.696 line after his 75th pitch, so basically it’s a good bet that the Royals will get to him eventually if the Orioles allow him to go deep enough. He has a 7.93 ERA in 67 innings at Kauffman Stadium with a ridiculous 15 home runs allowed.

Since struggling against the Pirates early in June, Brady Singer has actually had some pretty decent results, though he hasn’t gotten deep into games. The Royals have said that’s due to a shoulder issue that they’re not worried about but they’re just monitoring closely, so I guess we have to take them at face value since there’s no real way to know if that’s accurate. But anyway, in his last seven starts, he’s gone 32.1 innings, struck out 36 and walked 16. So the walks are way too high, but he’s getting strikeouts, which is great. He’s been hit by a probably unlucky BABIP, but has a 3.62 ERA in that timeframe. He’s definitely looked better lately, but he still is just a two-pitch guy. That might work against the Orioles, once he gets past the top of the lineup.

Sunday - Matt Harvey vs. Carlos Hernandez, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Matt Harvey 18 76.0 3 10 16.7% 7.1% 7.70 4.74 0.9
Carlos Hernandez 12 21.2 1 0 30.0% 15.0% 4.98 4.42 0.1

The Royals welcome back a short-timer on the team, but a huge part of Royals history in Matt Harvey. Of course, Harvey was signed last year and there was the requisite talk surrounding a veteran that they’ve rediscovered something. And then he gave up 27 hits, including six home runs, in 11.2 innings. He’s been better for the Orioles this year, but only because it’s nearly impossible not to be. He was actually having a really nice, surprising season before the Orioles went to New York to face the Mets and the wheels absolutely fell off. In his last 11 starts, he actually has been almost as bad as he was last year with an ERA of 11.20 in 41 innings in which he’s given up 53 runs on 73 hits. His velocity isn’t great, but it’s fine at 93-94, but both his four-seamer and his sinker are getting absolutely rocked. And he’s had a reverse platoon split. While lefties are hitting him fine, righties are absolutely destroying him. And I’m just putting it in because it made me do a double take. His line allowed the third time through the order is .457/.519/.609. His line from 76th pitch on is .452/.549/.762. The Royals better hit him.

Carlos Hernandez was supposed to get the ball in the last game before the break, but when that was washed out, I was pretty disappointed. He’d pitched so well in a few appearances leading up to that start that he had definitely earned it. Since coming back from the minors, he’s made eight appearances and has thrown 14 innings. In those innings, he’s struck out 19 and walked seven with a 3.21 ERA. The walks are a little high, but he seems to be figuring out how to utilize his repertoire to get out and swings and misses. It’ll be his first start of the year, so don’t be surprised to see Kris Bubic in action for this one as well, but it’s a well deserved first start of the year.

Prediction

On one hand, you’d really like to think that the Royals are better than the Orioles, especially the version without both Means and Bruce Zimmermann. On the other hand, well, they may not be. I do believe that at least some of the Royals woes leading up to the break was a worn down bullpen, though, and being able to get some rest should help. I think the Royals take two of three, but against these starters, losing any game is going to be cause for alarm.

Poll

How does this first series out of the break go?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Royals sweep.
    (24 votes)
  • 50%
    Royals win two of three.
    (52 votes)
  • 15%
    Orioles win two of three.
    (16 votes)
  • 11%
    Orioles Sweep.
    (12 votes)
104 votes total Vote Now