Welcome to the start of the business end of the Major League Season. This week marks the first full seven days of play following the All Star Game. The fun really begins now as contenders will look to make deals up until the trading deadline on July 31. With so many clubs still in the hunt for either a division crown or a wild card birth into the playoffs, the fun is truly beginning.
Let’s start it off with a look at baseball’s Week 16:
Jimenez’s second-half swoon: Baltimore Orioles’ starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez had a great first half, going 7-4 with a 2.81 ERA. But now is the time to expect a dip in performance from the right-hander. You see, Jimenez historically struggles in the second half of seasons. In his career, he owns a 4.19 ERA after the All Star break (compared to a 3.80 ERA before). Last year, he owned an atrocious 5.96 ERA in seven appearances after the season’s unofficial midpoint. His first start since the All Star game this year further suggests a swoon will occur. On July 17, he was tagged for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Tigers. As a result, the New York Yankees are a good pick at home on Thursday against Jimenez and the Orioles. Adding to New York’s likelihood of victory here is the fact that a relatively in-form Masahiro Tanaka is throwing for them. Tanaka is always a bit of a question mark with his balking elbow, but he has pieced together three straight quality starts (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer conceded). Plus, with New York relief pitcher Andrew Miller healthy again, the Yankees have pitching depth that will assist if Tanaka falters.
Gray’s bounce back: On Friday, Oakland A’s starter Sonny Gray was roughed up by the Minnesota Twins for five runs in six innings of work. But when Gray takes the pitcher’s mound for the A’s in Oakland against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday expect him to throw well and deliver a win. Here’s the thing about Gray: he never has back-to-back bad performances. To wit: In 52 starts between this year and last, he hasn’t failed to follow up a less-than-stellar outing with a quality start. He’ll face off against Drew Hutchison, who despite a 9-2 record has pitched poorly all season. He has a 5.19 ERA and has thrown just one quality start in his past seven outings. It’s worth noting that he had some good performances in that run, but couldn’t last at least six innings. But even a short solid performance is bad news when the Blue Jays have a sub-par relief pitching corps.
Game score: Our weekly look at Bill James’ Game Score takes us back to New York for this week’s Yankees-Orioles series. On Tuesday, look for a high scoring affair between the Baltimore and New York. The reason: both starting pitchers are primed for weak showings. The Yankees’ Nate Eovaldi has an expected Game Score of 44, while the Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen is projected for a 49. A quick reminder: Game Score takes past and recent pitching history and distills it down to a single number that reflects what we should see for a pitcher’s performance. A score above 70 suggests a dominant outing; a number below 50 says a pitcher will offer a less-than-quality start. The upshot here with both starters coming in below 50 is a hitter-dominated game.