The first place Baltimore Orioles, yes the first place Orioles, will have arguably their best pitcher this season, Jason Hammel, back on the mound tomorrow night against the New York Yankees.
Hammel, acquired in the off season from the Colorado Rockies along with Matt Lindstrom for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, was placed on the 15-Day Disabled List in mid-July after undergoing knee surgery. Before the injury, the right-hander had posted a 3.54 ERA, 3.25 FIP and 3.48 xFIP and 2.7fWAR in 18 starts. His 23.1 K% this season is alarming considering his 12.7 K% for the Rockies in 2011. In 109 1/3 innings, Hammel has recorded 106 strikeouts.
The Orioles and Yankees start a huge four game set Thursday with first place on the line. David Phelps will be on the mound for the Yankees against Hammel, on a very special night at the ballpark, as the team will unveil a bronze statue of Cal Ripken Jr. outside of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Baltimore Orioles started the season 19-9, and have been at least two games above .500 since the second game of the season. They’ve fallen as far as 10 games behind the Yankees in what’s generally considered to be baseball’s toughest division, but have never been more than a handful of games out of the races for the two wildcard spots.
It took an 18-9 August (and a 2-1 start to September), though, and a crawling back to within a game of the Yankees in the East, for people to really take notice and start taking the O’s seriously.
Part of that, of course, is because they’re the Baltimore Orioles, the team that still needs to go at least 7-21 to secure its first winning season since 1997, and needs to go 15-13 for its second 90-win season since 1982. But another part is that it’s really hard to analyze this team in any way (other than one that begins and ends with the won-loss record) and conclude that it’s anything more than an average team. Read the rest of this entry »