With New York coming to town, the O’s face a little bit more of a challenge than they did with the Twins – I guess I’d be OK with them taking 2 of 3 instead of a sweep.
The Yankees’ position players this year have combined for a total of 0.4 fWAR so far (or just slightly less than Nick Markakis). Mostly it’s been a low BABIP (.232) and lack of pop (only 2 homers), though they have walked more times than they’ve struck out (and that’s against a very good Rays rotation). Even with a not seemingly impressive bottom of the order, this line-up is very dangerous.
Ivan Nova (2011 stats):
Nova gets some sink on his fastball, as you could guess by the impressive groundball rate. At 92-93 mph it’s not your standard sinker (not that it dips thatmuch), but he isn’t going to be blowing it by too many people. Nova uses the pitch a lot, but if he gets ahead in the count he can put people away with his breaking-balls (the slider is less used, but had a 43% whiff rate last year – the curve is a pretty big hook, but was only at 24%). If he keeps the ball towards the bottom of the strike-zone, I can see the O’s having a tougher day with multiple batters waving at pitches out of the zone for strike three. If the Birds are patient though, and put a good swing on anything Nova leaves up in the zone, then they should be able to put 4-5 runs on the board.
The Orioles (2012 stats):
.275/.353/.495 as a team is none too shabby, though it would be nice to see Nolan do a bit more at the top of the line-up – he’s not chasing a lot of pitches, but hasn’t drawn a walk yet.
Brian Matusz (2011 stats):
Matusz’s xFIP was a god-awful 5.22 last year, and it was less than halfof his ERA. Yikes. That sort of performance makes people doubt your ability to even pitch in the big leagues again, and just not getting shelled looked like it would count as a win for him this year. Matusz’s velocity was up from 88-89 in 2011 to the low-mid 90′s in Spring Training, where he posted a sparkling 22-3 strike-out to walk ratio in 24.2 IP. That seems to have raised some expectations going into the season.
I’m not sure sending Matusz out there against the Yankees in his first start is the best idea; he does match up better as a lefty against their line-up (as does Chen, going tomorrow), but easing him back in to the majors against the Twins (say, Arrieta-Hammel-Matusz-Hunter-Chen) might have been good. This is one area where the manager does his behind the scenes managery stuff though.