ALDS Preview: Orioles vs. Yankees

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Orioles and Yankees have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Baltimore Orioles (93-69) vs. New York Yankees (95-67)

The Matchups

Game 1 Sunday in Baltimore: CC Sabathia vs. Jason Hammel
Game 2 Monday in Baltimore: Andy Pettitte vs. Wei-Yin Chen
Game 3 Wednesday in New York: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Game 4 (if necessary) Thursday in New York
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in New York

Analysis: Everything about this series points to a Yankees sweep, from the pitching matchups to the lineups to the payrolls. Sabathia allowed just four runs over his final 24 regular-season innings and is capable of keeping that run of dominance going throughout the month of October. Hammel, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared in a game since aggravating his surgically-repaired knee on September 11. He was the Orioles’ most reliable starter this summer, but it seems doubtful that he’s back to full health after just four weeks of rest.

Pettitte looked great after returning in mid-September from a leg fracture and has logged 263 career postseason innings. Chen is a 27-year-old rookie from Taiwain who might be in over his head.

The Storylines

  • The teams split their 18 regular-season meetings 9-9. New York was outscored 92-90.
  • Kuroda, the Yankees’ Game 3 starter, hasn’t been given nearly enough credit for his fantastic regular-season performance. He was a rock in that ever-changing starting rotation, posting a solid 3.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 167/51 K/BB ratio across 219 2/3 innings (33 starts) for the AL East champs.
  • Camden Yards should be jamming for the first two games of this five-game set. One of MLB’s most aesthetically-pleasing parks, it hasn’t hosted postseason play since 1997, when the roster included the likes of Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken, Jr. Tickets sold out swiftly last week.
  • Orioles center fielder Adam Jones had a breakout regular season, batting .287 with an .839 OPS and 32 home runs while appearing in all 162 games. He’ll be looking to shine on the big stage.
  • Manny Machado, the Orioles’ 20-year-old third baseman, was promoted to the majors from Double-A Bowie on August 9 and quickly made it known that he’d be up to stay. He showed great awareness on defense down the stretch while slugging seven home runs, eight doubles and three triples in 51 games. The youngster can be a difference-maker. Truth be told, the O’s need him to be.
  • Alex Rodriguez had one of the least productive regular seasons of his 19-year major league career. And he tallied just two hits in 23 plate appearances last October as the Yankees were ousted in the ALDS by the Tigers. If his recent struggles continue, the boo birds will be out at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction

The Yankees have too much hitting and too much pitching for Baltimore to keep up. You could say that about probably every matchup the Orioles faced this summer, but it feels like the magic is finally ready to run out. Look for the Bronx Bombers to advance easily to the ALCS with a clean sweep.

YANKEES WIN THE SERIES 3-0

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.