Numbers show Yankees, O's are close
The Yankees and Orioles come into this American League Division Series having almost identical seasons. However, they have done certain things quite differently to get to where they are. The Yankees may have ultimately won the division by two games, but the AL East title was in doubt until the seventh inning of game No. 162.
These two teams played each other 18 times in 2012, and of course, each team claimed nine victories. The Yankees scored 90 runs for an average of five runs per game, with the Orioles scoring 92 runs for a 5.1 runs-per-game average.
The Orioles hit more homers than the Major League-leading Yankees, 30-24. The O's held the Yankees to a .258 batting average and their offense sported a .276 batting average against New York's pitching staff. Speaking of pitching staffs, the Yankees had a 4.91 ERA against the Orioles and Buck Showalter's staff had a 4.69 ERA against the Bombers. These stats are very even with a very big sample size in 2012.
Looking at both team's overall rank among the rest of the American League, each franchise has gotten to the postseason in very similar ways, but also vastly different.
The Yankees ranked second in the AL -- trailing only the Rangers -- in runs scored and runs per game, with 804 runs and a 5.0 runs-per-contest average in 2012. They also had an impressive plus-136 run differential, allowing only 668 runs. Their .265 team batting average ranked fifth in the league, while they led the league in on-base percentage at .337.
Their problem area in 2012 was their inability to score with runners in scoring position; the team sported a .256 batting average in those situations. That number ranked No. 10 in the league. Of course, the 245 home runs hit were first among all teams in the Majors this season.
The Yankees’ pitching staff also had a very up-and-down season, but it was very impressive in many categories. The starters were a combined 71-50, and those 71 victories were the second-most in the league, one behind the Rangers. They also ranked sixth in the league with a 4.05 ERA. Some other impressive numbers for the Bombers’ staff: 51 saves and a 3.43 bullpen ERA; a 3.85 ERA as a staff, fifth-best in the AL.
The team was 20-11 down the stretch in September and October, ultimately coming back to win the division after blowing a 10-game lead. The Yankees were also 22-25 in one-run games and only 6-3 in extra innings this season.
By comparison, the Orioles scored 712 runs for a 4.4 runs-per-game average, which was ninth-best in the league. Their run differential, which was in the red for most of the season, ended at plus seven -- a far cry from the Yankees’ plus-136. The Birds’ .247 team batting average was 10th in the league, and they recorded a .311 on-base percentage, which ranked 11th.
They did show an ability to hit the long ball, recording 214 bombs (trailing only the Yankees in that category). Surprisingly, the O's also struggled with runners in scoring position, exceeding the Bombers’ .256 average in those situations by mere percentage points.
Baltimore’s pitching staff was all about their bullpen. The starting staff had a mediocre 61-58 record. The bullpen had a league-leading 32 wins and finished third in the AL with a 3.00 ERA. Jim Johnson's all-world season as the closer helped the team register 55 saves in 2012. Their 3.90 team ERA was sixth in the American League, right behind the Yankees.
Where the team excelled was in one-run games and in extra innings. The Orioles were 20 games over .500 with a 29-9 record in one-run contests. They also went 16-2 in extra innings. They won an astounding 16 straight extra-inning affairs after losing the first two of the season to the Yankees on April 10th and 11th.
If these numbers have shown you anything it is this: Be prepared for a terrific series between two very evenly-matched teams. On paper, the Yankees seem to have a big edge in talent, but you can see that these teams have both gotten here in similar fashion. The Orioles have a certain intangible, which down in Baltimore they call “Orioles Magic.” We'll see if that magic will continue or if the talented, old guard will prevail.