I’ll be attending tonight’s O’s game – from the press-box again – so I thought a game preview was in order. The Orioles went into the All-Star break on a high note, sweeping Texas, but have limped out of it going just 1-4 on their homestand so far. Now they host the Minnesota Twins for a four game set, with a match-up of veteran right-handers in the opener with Kevin Millwood facing off against Carl Pavano*. Dave Cameron actually had a post at FanGraphs recently called Millwood: The New Pavano which mentioned that Millwood, like Pavano last year, is pitching better than his ERA and might be a bargain for a team in a trade. I’d prefer to get more than the PTBNL the Indians got from the Twins though (ended up being a mediocre prospect).
Line-ups to be added when available.
* It no longer applies, but I really like the American Idle nickname for Pavano when he was in New York. Hilarious.
Justin Morneau and his major league leading 5 WAR aren’t in there for Minnesota (he’s on the DL with a concussion), but it’s still a decent line-up. Good with the gloves too. I’m not sure why Jim Thome isn’t playing – perhaps they wanted to give Mauer a day off from behind the plate, but wanted to keep his bat in the line-up - though that’s a break for Millwood.
He faced the O’s once before this season – pitching 8 quality innings (6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 HR) – but was out-dueled by Brad Bergesen as the Birds won 2-0. Pavano’s keeping the ball on the ground and not giving away many free passes – that’s generally a recipe for some success.
It’s not an overpowering repertoire, but it’s deep and Pavano knows how to use it. I don’t expect him to strike out 8 batters again, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he kept the O’s to 2 or 3 runs. If he is able to get ahead in the count and then induce some chasing of pitches out of the zone – as he has this year – it might be a tough night for the Birds.
Exactly four Orioles have a positive UZR this year; Roberts (+0.3), Izturis, Rhyne Hughes (+0.7), and Corey Patterson (+0.7). That is certianly not helping the pitchers with the run prevention. Then there’s the fact that four of the nine in the starting line-up have OBPs below .315. Craig Tatum is still second on the team in getting on base though – so that’s something. Maybe he should be batting second*?
* (1) Not seriously, but (2) by what logic does Miggy in the two-hole make sense? He doesn’t get on base, and it’s not like he’s fast. I’d go Felix-Nick-Jone-Luke-Wiggy-Miggy-Moore-Izturis-Tatum (getting the extra OBP in front of the top of the order is nice).
Millwood is making his first start coming of the DL, and hopefully he can put one or two solid starts together before the trade deadline to rebuild some of his value after having a poor June. I honestly didn’t expect Millwood to pitch as well as he has this year, and his 2-8 record and 5.77 ERA aren’t indicative of his performance. He’s striking out more batters than he has in years, while keeping the walks down. The real problem has been the home run ball; even though he’s giving up a lot of flyballs, more of them are leaving the yard than one would expect (14.8% HR/FB rate). Then there’s his .344 BABIP. Millwood can help a team, but it’ll be a little easier to get some value back for him if his ERA moves towards his xFIP.