With the AL East wrapped up, the possibility of catching the Los Angeles Angels, watching Alejandro De Aza hit triples and watching Christian Walker hit homeruns are all reasons to continue to watch the last regular season week of Orioles baseball. As if you didn’t need another reason to watch your AL East Champions (that’s not going to get old quick) here are some playoff roster battles to keep your eye on.
Jimmy Paredes vs Kelly Johnson
Of the playoff roster battles this battle is the most fascinating. In one corner (a boxing metaphor but they both play a corner infield position so try to keep up) there’s Kelly Johnson: 32 year-old veteran who’s been around the league for a while. Baltimore is his third stop just this year. Over nine years he’s played in well over a thousand games, including a couple short stints in the playoffs. His career numbers are almost amazingly average with a triple slash line of .250/.332/.422. He also offers the versatility to play first, second, and third. Admittedly, he has struggled in 2014 hitting well below his career averages.
Then in the opposite corner (though technically fighting it out to with Johnson for the same corner position) is Jimmy Paredes. Paredes 7 years younger than Johnson has also appeared in about a tenth of the amount of games as Johnson. In his mere 140 career games, Paredes has hit to a triple slash line of .245/.283/.336. Of course in terms of baseball recent history is always the history worth paying the most attention to and with Paredes it’s a pretty solid recent history as he has upped that triple slash line to .350/.381/.600 since joining the Orioles squad about a month ago.
The other factor here is defense. Buck Showalter consistently preached the importance of defense in winning baseball games. Kelly Johnson is an experienced solid defender. Not great, not spectacular, but solid. In a small sample size Paredes appears to be a bit inconsistent at the hot corner, though Paredes compared to Johnson is not a significant downgrade defensively.
TJ McFarland vs. Ryan Webb
The Orioles have a great bullpen. And with so many good bullpen arms, maybe I should even throw Brad Brach and Brian Matusz into this discussion as well, but at any rate, Showalter is dealing with a great problem to have: too much bullpen depth.
With an ERA of 2.83, TJ McFarland has been consistently good throughout the year. McFarland’s most impressive stat may be his meager two homeruns giving up in 57 innings. That 0.3 HRs allowed per nine innings is even better than the great sinker baller himself Zach Britton (0.5 HR9). He is also a lefty, which is often seen as an asset, though this team already possesses a lefty specialist (Matusz) and a lefty who doesn’t distinguish between righty and lefty; he just strikes everyone out (Miller). Oh yeah and your closer is a pretty good lefty as well.
Ryan Webb was signed this past offseason to a two-year 4.5 million dollar deal. (On a related note, McFarland is due to make 500,000 this year). Certainly the money sides with Webb. Unfortunately for Webb his 3.72 ERA is higher than McFarland’s, but he, like McFarland, doesn’t give up the long ball. In fact in over 48 innings this year, Webb has given up only one homerun. Yeah that’s good, even better than McFarland. Webb is a righty, but again with the mixture arms the Orioles have in the pen righty vs. lefty is less important.
Quintin Berry vs. David Lough
David Lough has certainly been in the driver seat for this roster position. Though if I may continue this metaphor, he hasn’t been the best driver and many Orioles fans wonder how he’s remained in the car (let alone behind the wheel) for the entire season. However, Lough does bring to this team speed on the bases and great defense. And this is exactly what a team like the Orioles is looking for to fill a bench spot on a playoff team.
Quintin Berry however is an intriguing option. This year at Norfolk, he stole 25 bases in 112 games. He also got it done at the plate with an on base percentage of .382. Again though, this was at Norfolk. Since joining the major league squad he’s only appeared in nine games with just three plate appearances. These last 7 games Berry may have chance to show what he can bring to this club.
If we lose hope of catching the Angels these last couple games may become all but meaningless for the fans, but make no doubt about it; with a playoff roster yet to be set in stone, the players above no game is meaningless.