Looking at the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup, neutralizing the big right-handed bat of newcomer Mark Reynolds is likely to be a key in this opening series. Joe Maddon cannot do much against Reynolds when it comes to his starting pitchers; however, when it comes to the bullpen, Maddon’s magic or madness can come into play with matchups. With that in mind, here is a look at what we have…
Reynolds can flat out mash. Since joining the big leagues in 2007, Reynolds .241 Isolated Power ranks 11th best in the majors. As a right-handed batter, most of his success comes at the expense of left-handed pitchers. He does well against several different types of pitches, but none more than the fastball.
The home runs are great, however, the slugger struggles to make contact. Reynolds is tied with Jack Cust for the highest strikeout rate over the last four years (38.7%) while whiffing at the most pitches (17.4%) and making the least amount of contact (62.8%). While he crushes lefties, he’s been mostly average against righties. Again, he can hit most pitches, but has struggled historically with sliders.
(h/t to fangraphs for the data)
Using a lefty should not an option, so sorry Cesar Ramos. Jake McGee could become a relief ace, but we need to see more. The Rays have multiple right-handers to choose from, but which is the right fit?
As much as I like Joel Peralta, his extreme flyball rate plus lack of a good slider does not mesh with what we are looking for. Andy Sonnanstine throws a slider, but it is not particularly well. Kyle Farnsworth also possesses a slider, but the pitch has tailed off in effectiveness and usage in recent seasons.
That leaves us with Adam Russell and Juan Cruz. The major league scouting report on Russell is rather limited. He does throw a slider, but has not had much success with it. The plus for Russell is that he throws a heavy sinker which limits the amount of flyballs against him. On the other hand, Cruz possesses the best right-handed slider of the bunch – or at least on paper. In terms of batted-ball data, the veteran righty is relatively neutral. Both pitchers have swing and miss stuff with Cruz having the much larger track record.
Since they each have some positives, game situation will of course be a factor. If Reynolds comes to bat with a double-play opportunity, or in a tie game where a solo home run gives the Orioles a lead, then Russell is a good choice. If he comes up with a runner in scoring position and strikeout is needed (runner on third with less than two outs, or runners on with two outs), this could be a spot for Cruz.
Getting Reynolds out may seem simple enough in a scouting report, but if it was, he wouldn’t average 30 home runs a year and produce at an above-average level. Even the best laid plan against Reynolds will fail at some juncture. The point is, if Joe Maddon has the options available, using Cruz or Russell looks like the best process for a positive outcome for the home team.
As for the rest of the Orioles:
Player Name BAT LHOPS RHOPS Brian Roberts SH 811 804 Nick Markakis LH 797 853 Derrek Lee RH 872 848 Vlad Guerrero RH 832 850 Adam Jones RH 665 796 Luke Scott LH 782 867 Mark Reynolds RH 932 771 Matt Wieters SH 622 766 J.J. Hardy RH 756 737 Jake Fox RH 593 796 Robert Andino RH 644 595 Cesar Izturis SH 649 569 Felix Pie LH 627 748 (Three-year samples used when possible) *Career numbers because of small sample size in recent years
(Favors means the split is +/- .020 points)
Matchup favors LHP: Markakis, Jones, Scott, Wieters, Fox, Pie
Matchup favors RHP: Lee, Reynolds, Andino, Izturis
Matchup is a push: Roberts, Guerrero, Hardy