The Orioles are approaching the American League Division Series and the playoff roster is beginning to be set already. Buck Showalter announced today that Chris Tillman would be the Game 1 starter for the Orioles at home. With the rest of the rotation likely shaping up to be Chen, Gonzalez, and Norris. But let’s stay away from the pitchers right now and focus on the lineup and bench spots for the Orioles in the ALDS.
With the suspension of Chris Davis and clinch last week, the lineup for the Orioles has been changing on a nightly basis to accommodate resting and injured players. Many of these lineups look more like a Spring Training game than preparation for the Postseason chase or roster. However, Buck Showalter has been moving certain players around the diamond including: Flaherty, De Aza, Lough, Johnson, and Paredes to get a feel for their capability to play in multiple situations. However, I believe that Buck will lean towards going with historical averages against the starting rotation of Detroit as he has done that often in his career to play the match-up and take advantage of them.
The Detroit Tigers playoff rotation appears to be set as Scherzer, Price, Porcello, and Verlander with Anibal Sanchez now designated to the bullpen to build arm strength. Based on those four pitchers, the Orioles are currently batting the following against each of them:
Two surprising names that appear often at the top of these lists are Delmon Young and Alejandro De Aza. Their ability to hit with an above average OPS compared to the rest of their teammates makes them ideal candidates for the second spot in the lineup. The platoon splits make sense too an extant with Scherzer, Price, and Verlander. However, Porcello flops with Young hitting much better against him even though it’s a RH v. RHP matchup. It’s really interesting to see De Aza’s numbers in context versus the Tigers starters as we have a decent sample size. Since De Aza was with the White Sox, we have a fairly significant sample set due to the multiple division games within the Central. One has to wonder if the Orioles were specifically targeting a Left Handed bat at the August deadline with experience versus the Tigers and Royals rotation.
In regards to those small sample sizes, we are left with sorting through the mess which is Third Base having to make the determination of who could be of most benefit from the options of Kelly Johnson, Jimmy Paredes, and Ryan Flaherty. From this group, Paredes has such a small sample set that it becomes almost useless to analyze. In addition, Paredes defense has shown to be very sloppy and rushed. Folks will be quick to point out that he has shown some pop offensively in the 2nd Half with the Orioles and with a .426 wOBA and 176 wRC+, I would have to agree. However, if you look at his BABIP (.387) and compare it to his xBABIP (.326) from his batted bat profile, there should be an expected regression and a return to his career BABIP (.329).
So we return back to Kelly Johnson and Ryan Flaherty as our options at Third Base. Kelly Johnson has a moderate sample set to be used for an Offensive comparison, but Flaherty hasn’t played in more than three series against the Tigers pitchers. Kelly Johnson only appears to be average against only Porcello. Versus all the other starters, he is a below average offensive option. So let’s come back and focus specifically on the Defense at third base since 2012:
- Kelly Johnson: 473 Innings, 9.4 UZR/150, 3.8 RngR
- Ryan Flaherty: 360 Innings, 2.5 UZR/150, .8 ErrR
Those numbers shift more to Flaherty if we just include 2014 numbers though:
- Kelly Johnson: 355 Innings, 2.5 UZR/150, 1.5 RngR
- Ryan Flaherty: 246 Innings, 4.9 UZR/150, .5 ErrR
In all honesty, it’s really wash right down the middle for the Orioles on who they chose here. My guess is they go with Flaherty as I think Buck has more confidence in him at that position. In addition, Flaherty has better base running numbers compared to Johnson as well. I think both of them will make the roster as someone will need to be on the bench to play a Super-Utility role in case of injury.
Here’s how I have the lineups for each Tigers Starter:
These lineups have me using 11 players for the rotation. Nick Hundley will be on the roster as the backup catcher. The last spot comes down to the decision between David Lough and Quintin Berry. I really thought the Orioles would use Berry more often once he was called up for pinch running and as late inning defensive replacement. But Lough has continued to see the increased playing time by Showalter leading me to believe that he will be the selection as a pinch runner and late inning replacement for Cruz in LF.
Later this week, Baltimore Sports Report will cover the Orioles pitching roster for the postseason. Stay tuned….
Image Credit: Keith Allison