October 7, 2012
Orioles-Yankees Division Series Preview
Try to put Jeffrey Maier out of your mind, no matter how many replays of him and Tony Tarasco you see over the next few days. Yes, the last time the Yankees and Orioles met in October was quite some time ago, and no, they haven’t moved in the same competitive circles much since. We didn’t expect this matchup six months ago, or six weeks ago, or even six days ago. But the Orioles have won just one fewer game to get to this point, and the two teams have split their season series so far. They'll start a new series this evening in Baltimore. Is it finally time to stop worrying about run differential and learn to believe in Baltimore?
The Orioles’ offense is the poor man’s Yankees’ offense (which is not to say that Peter Angelos is poor). Both teams score their runs the same way: via the home run. The Yankees (48.4 percent) and Orioles (47.3 percent) scored the highest and second-highest percentages of their runs via the home run this season. That led to a lot of hand-wringing about both teams’ ability to score in October, when the caliber of pitching improves and teams supposedly can’t “sit back and wait for the three-run homer.” However, as I wrote earlier this season, there’s nothing to the idea that teams that rely on the home run lose a disproportionate amount of offense in October. Expect to see plenty of balls fly out of Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards in this series.
However, the fact that both teams can go deep doesn’t mean they’re equally potent at the plate. The Yankees walk considerably more and whiff considerably less, which makes a major difference: the Bombers’ .279 TAv is the highest mark among the remaining contenders, while the O’s .259 TAv tops only the Braves’ and Reds’ (though they were at their best offensively at the end of the year).