The Baltimore Orioles are one of the American League wild card teams. They are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Oh look, another American League team with a powerful offense. The Orioles have seven players with over ten home runs and six of those players are over twenty home runs. They lead the entire MLB in home runs (253) and 2nd in slugging percentage (.443).
Mark Trumbo seemed to find himself in the Baltimore lineup. He has always had big-time power, but he has kind of muddled around the majors. This season he has put everything together. He hit 47 homers, drove in 108 RBI and even added 27 doubles. Trumbo will hurt a pitcher if he makes a mistake, but he will get himself out if the correct pitches are made. He hit .111 points higher against right-handed pitching (.284) than against left-handers (.173). If there is a late game situation, I would fully expect to see Andrew Miller come in to face him.
Chris Davis is another one of Baltimore’s power hitters. He will absolutely hurt you if you make a mistake against him. There is no doubting his power, but there is a huge doubt in his pitch selection at the plate. While he doesn’t hit for a high average, the Indians will have to be very careful early in the count. On first pitches, Davis is hitting .492 with 11 home runs. You can’t throw this guy a get-me-over strike to start the at-bat.
The best all-around player on the Orioles is Manny Machado and it isn’t even close. Machado has had back-to-back seasons of over 35 homers and 86 RBI. This season, he has career highs in batting average (.294) and RBI (96). He’s a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. Machado has turn up left-handed pitching this season, batting .329. This season, he has destroyed Indians pitching. In six games, he’s batting .455 with one homer and three RBI.
The rest of the offense has good players, too. Adam Jones is still a good center fielder and a force at the plate. Jonathan Schoop is having a breakout season with 25 homers and 82 RBI. Pedro Alvarez can drive the ball out of the yard with the best of them. He has hit over 22 home runs in four of his last five seasons. Matt Wieters may have been slowed down by injuries, but he can still hurt you at the plate. Hyun Soo Kim has been a nice find for the Orioles. He hasn’t been an everyday player, but he has produced when given the chance.
Kevin Gausman had a solid 2016 season. He started 30 games, had an ERA of 3.61 and struck out 174 batters. He has been excellent in Camden Yards this season. In 12 starts there, he has an ERA of 2.67 with 65 strikeouts and a batting average against of .235 in 77.2 innings.
Zach Britton is a legitimate AL Cy Young candidate out of the bullpen. That is saying a lot. In the history of the award, there have only been 9 relievers to win the award. If Britton were to win it, he would be the first reliever in the AL since 1992 (Dennis Eckersley) and the first reliever overall since 2003 (Eric Gagne). Britton has been absolutely dominant. He’s 47-for-47 in save opportunities and has a minuscule ERA of 0.54. He averages more than a strikeout an inning. Basically, if he gets in the game with the lead, it has been over this season. Hitters are batting a lackluster .162 off of him. That’s a preposterous 38-for-235. There has been no weaknesses in his game this season at all. Hopefully, the Indians can just flat out avoid him.
To me, the Orioles are one of the few teams in the playoffs that have glaring weaknesses. The kind of weaknesses that make it hard for me to see them making any real noise in the playoffs.
The starting pitching outside of Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman is a mess. Former Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been awful this season. I don’t think the Orioles can use him in the playoffs. He is a candidate to only pitch three innings anytime he starts. He has struggled against left-handed batters and the Indians can run a whole lineup of lefties at him. Lefties are batting .294 against him and have hit ten of his sixteen home runs allowed. In 13 of his 25 starts, he has gone only five innings or less. In his last seven starts, however, he has an ERA of 2.45, so maybe he has figured something out. I still find it hard to trust him.
Yovani Gallardo is Baltimore doubling down on Ubaldo Jimenez. Gallardo’s biggest problem has been allowing leadoff hitters to reach base. The first batter of the game is batting an astounding .429 against him. He’s starting the game off behind the eight ball before he can even break a sweat. It’ll be imperative for whoever leads the game off to be patient and set the tone early. He’s another five-and-fly type pitcher. In 12 of his 23 starts, he has gone five innings or less.
The X-Factor for the Orioles is the offense. They are going to have to out-slug teams from the start and if their offense disappears they could be in for a short playoff stay. They have five players who have struck out over 115 times this season. As a team, they finished in the top five in the AL for strikeouts. If the Orioles are able to make contact, they could be a thorn in any playoff teams' side, but if not, they won’t be around for long. They don’t have the pitching staff to carry them deep into the playoffs.
How they match up with the Indians
According to regular season play, the Orioles match up very well with the Indians. They hold a 5-1 record this season against the Indians. In four of the five games, the Indians were held under four runs. If the Orioles are able to do that, they will have a fantastic shot at advancing. I just can’t imagine their starting pitching being able to hold up.
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