The Jays take flight to Baltimore for the weekend to face the AL East rival Orioles for the first time this season. Coming
off back-to-back poundings at the hands of the Indians, hopefully a road trip is just what the doctor ordered to turn things around.
With three games in Baltimore and four in Kansas City, the players will be carrying pretty big suitcases.
Hopefully they left room in them for brooms.
If recent history is any indication, this weekend series is going to end in a sweep.
The Jays and Orioles have met in 12 different 3-game series in the past two seasons, and ten resulted in three game sweeps, including the last eight in a row. Toronto swept the O’s twice in 2009, and were in turn swept twice. Last season, the
Jays went 15-3 against Baltimore, with five sweeps.
The one-sided nature of each series is bizarre and quite random, so there really isn’t any evidence that this weekend will follow suit. But if I was a betting man (and I am!) I would be willing to lay a couple of bucks down on it happening again.
But the biggest question for Jays fans is this: will it once again be the Jays doing the sweeping?
The major difference this year, as opposed to last, is that Baltimore actually appears to have a baseball team. Sure the Orioles currently sit dead last in the AL East, but they are only two games behind Toronto in the standings. With a record of 25 – 29 through 54 games, they are a whopping 10 games ahead of where they were last season, when a 15 – 39 record had them dead and buried 15.5 games back of first.
Buck Showalter obviously gets a lot of credit for the turnaround. After he was named manager the Orioles took off, finishing 2010 on a 34 – 23 tear. His impact and influence seems to have carried over to 2011.
But the biggest reason for the O’s turnaround has to be their pitching. Look at the stats from 2010 to this point in 2011:
2010: 4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, 1.94 K/BB
2011: 4.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 2.02 K/BB
The numbers don’t look substantially different, but even the slightest differences bear fruit across an entire season.
And while the bullpen still doesn’t scare anybody – it is anchored by Kevin Gregg after all – the starting rotation is leaps and bounds above last season. In terms of WAR, Baltimore’s main five starting pitchers combined for a 9.2 number in 2010. This season the top-5 have a produced a WAR of 5.2 – in only a third of the games. Zach Britton, who takes the hill against the Jays tonight, has been great as a rookie: 5-3, 2.93 ERA.
So without a doubt the games will be more challenging, the competition stiffer, and victories harder to come by.
But at the end of the day, they’re still the Orioles.
Expect a sweep.