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October 7, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game One Preview: Yankees at Orioles

by Daniel Rathman

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Camden Yards has not played host to a postseason game since Oct. 15, 1997, but that 15-year drought ends tonight. The Yankees and Orioles met 18 times during the regular season, and they split those contests, 9-9. Here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for the 19th showdown between the American League East rivals:

Yankees (CC Sabathia) at Orioles (Jason Hammel) – 6:00 p.m. ET

PECOTA Odds of Winning: Yankees 63.3 percent, Orioles 37.7 percent

Projected Starting Lineups:

Yankees vs. Hammel (R)

Orioles vs. Sabathia (L)

Derek Jeter (R)

Nate McLouth (L)

Ichiro Suzuki (L)

J.J. Hardy (R)

Alex Rodriguez (R)

Chris Davis (L)

Robinson Cano (L)

Adam Jones (R)

Nick Swisher (S)

Matt Wieters (S)

Mark Teixeira (S)

Jim Thome (L)

Curtis Granderson (L)

Mark Reynolds (R)

Russell Martin (R)

Manny Machado (R)

Raul Ibanez (L)

Robert Andino (R)

Road teams rarely enjoy a significant odds advantage, but PECOTA sees the Yankees as an exception to that rule in the series opener, partly because of the Sabathia effect. Of course, the Orioles have been overcoming long odds since April, and being a roughly two-to-one underdog won’t faze Buck Showalter’s bunch.

Let’s jump right into the Matchup of the Game: Jones versus Sabathia. There are few secrets between the Baltimore outfielder and the New York ace—they’ve seen each other 45 times—and Jones is one of the few major-league players who can claim sustained success against the veteran southpaw. Jones is 14-for-41 (.341 average) with two doubles, a triple, and three home runs in their past encounters. He is one of only five active players with at least 30 plate appearances versus Sabathia who can boast a better-than-1.000 OPS against him (1.059).

Jones has done damage off of virtually everything Sabathia has to offer, smacking a double off the soft stuff on Sept. 8 and a homer off the power sinker on May 15. Looking at the first meeting between Sabathia and Jones in their recent showdowns, Sabathia has often tried to establish his fastball before incorporating his slider and changeup later in that at-bat and later in the game. Of the 45 plate appearances between them, only one—a fly out on April 11—ended on the first pitch, but only five lasted more than five pitches. Hence, although Jones has shown a tendency to be patient against Sabathia, he also seems determined to wrap things up before reaching a two-strike count.

On the other side, Hammel enjoyed a career-best 2.7 WARP campaign, and he amassed that value in only 20 starts. Hammel spent 54 days on the disabled list after undergoing knee surgery in mid-July, and he has not made a start since leaving a game at Tropicana Field on Sept. 11 with soreness in that ailing right knee. The 30-year-old righty delivered a strong start in two of his three meetings with the Yankees, including a five-inning, one-run effort at Camden Yards on Sept. 6.

Just as Jones is Sabathia’s nemesis, Rodriguez is Hammel’s. They have squared off 22 times, and Rodriguez has collected eight hits, four of them home runs. In fact, of the nine members of Joe Girardi’s projected starting lineup, five have at least one career home run off of Hammel, and another, Ichiro Suzuki, is 7-for-12. But A-Rod has been responsible for most of the damage, driving in nine of the 32 runs Hammel has been charged with in 14 career appearances (eight starts) against New York. If Hammel can avoid the three-time MVP’s wrath, he should be able to keep the Orioles within striking distance, as their bats take what Sabathia gives them in Game One. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Yankees,  Orioles

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