Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Five Things to Watch in Spring Training

Unlike previous Orioles campaigns, the 2007 season will not feature a lot of position battles. The outfield and infield starters are pretty much set, all that is in question is the amount of PT for each guy. The rotation is set as well as most of the bullpen. What can we watch for in Spring Training? Well, let’s see…

1. The Battle for the Backup Backstop

They signed journeyman Paul Bako but can (minor league) journeyman J.R. House or Rule V draftee Adam Donachie push him out? Right now I’d like to see Donachie but one of these guys is going to have to have a really nice spring to get Bako booted.

2. The Last Two (or three) Bullpen Spots

Barring injury the bullpen will consist of Baez, Bradford, Walker and Ray. The last two (perhaps three) bullpen spots are up for grabs. If Hayden Penn doesn’t find a way to crack the starting rotation, he could end up in the pen as a long reliever. Scott Williamson, if healthy, should have an inside track on a job as his arm is electric and he can be dominant in the strikeout department. Todd Williams could prove to be a second lefty even after a poor showing last year. Also in the mix are young lefties Kurt Birkins, Brian Burres and (a seemingly healthy) John Parrish. Righties Sendy Rleal (probably bound for AAA), Jeremey Guthrie (claimed off waivers from Cleveland and out of minor league options) and top relief prospect James Hoey round out the competition. If the O’s carry 6 relievers instead of 7, look for Scott Williamson and Kurt Birkins to grab the spots.

3. Who Replaces Kris Benson?

Steve Trachsel seemed to be signed just for that role but don’t think that the youngsters won’t be given every opportunity to unseat him. Hayden Penn has proven all he needs to at AAA and a strong spring could change some minds on his role with the big club. Jeremy Guthrie is a dark horse for a rotation spot. Management seems to like him a lot.

4. Where's Jay (Gibbons) Play?

Permanent DH or spot first baseman/left fielder? Defense at first will tell the tale. I am sure Gibbons can play left but I am also fairly sure the team would rather he not given his injury woes. If Jay can pick ‘em at first he’ll see some time there in the Huff/Millar rotation.

5. The Mazzone Effect

Watch carefully the progression (if any) of the young starters Loewen, Penn and Cabrera this spring now that Leo has them all to himself for the entire spring. The O’s hopes this season rest on Mazzone’s shoulders.

Honorable Mention: The last two bench spots. I’ll give Adam Stern and Freddie Bynum the nod as favorites going in to camp.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Snakebit Pitchers?

According to Roch Kubatko's blog in the site, Hayden Penn crutched his way out to the team picture this morning. OK, he was carrying the crutches. His MRI was negative. he supposedly twisted his ankle while carrying boxes up the stairs(!!!). He is listed as day to day.

For Christ's sake, O's stop doing heavy lifting! Jaret Wright - no ice skating for you. Adam Loewen - no standing on the top rung of the ladder. And Chris Ray, no basejumping until after the season.

Good Article on Rick Dempsey's Nephew...

...AKA Gregg Zaun on

Zaun was traded from the Orioles for Terry Mathews during the 1996 season. I never liked losing Zaun, I thought he was an above average backup catcher, a useful guy off the bench. But we got Terry Mathews for him who was pretty good out of the bullpen in '96 and '97 especially pitching 5 scoreless innings in the '96 playoffs so you could understand the trade.

But you could have had Zaun for nothing in the early 2000's as he bounced from team to team. Geronimo Gil and Brook Fordyce were better options? Oh, well.

Continued good luck to Gregg this year. (except when he faces the O's of course...)

Base Hits: 2/26/2007

Kurt Birkins, James Hoey and Brian Burres have officially arrived as major leaguers; they had they "likenesses scanned" for inclusion in upcoming MLB video games.


Not that this should be a shock to anybody but there isn't much doing "down on the farm" in terms of hitting. The minor league system is getting better but it will be years before it starts to bear ample fruit.


Usually, I'm not a fan of expanding the running game but with two very good and, more importantly, very smart basestealers like Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson on your team, I'm all for it. So is Sam Perlozzo it seems.


J.R. House took grounders at third on Saturday and has played a little first and outfield according to the Washington Post. If House shows some versatility, he has a much better shot at pushing Paul Bako out of the way as the backup catcher.


Also in the Post, a Thomas Boswell article worth reading, reflecting on the glory days of the Orioles franchise and their prospects to recapture some of that glory starting this season.


A good article in the Baltimore Sun on Corey Patterson.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

At Least He Turned His Head...

Jamie Walker took a Nick Markakis line drive off the back of the head sustaining a mild concussion. The good news is he was able to turn a split second before the ball hit him or he could be having his broken nose set instead and missing considerable playing time. We'll call this a lucky break.

Hey Jamie, how about pitching BP from behind a screen next time?

Friday, February 23, 2007

My Lack of Rick Dempsey Coverage...

...has been noted by the guys at the Roar From 34 blog. And I quote:

"At least we’ll get to see Rick Dempsey doing Birds games. Surprisingly, the new
O’s blog
Dempsey’s Army doesn’t offer a take on the catcher’s move to MASN. Come on Dempsey's Army, he’s your namesake!"

Fair enough, I never did make a comment on Rick's move to calling the games versus coaching them. Part of this has to do with the fact that I am in the "Oriole diaspora" as I call it. I'm in the Atlanta suburbs and do not nor will see MASN broadcasts this year. (OK, that may change slightly this year as I plan on subscribing to to keep up with the O's better.) So MASN news is a little bit off my personal radar.

Frankly, I was disappointed that Rick "moved to the booth". I think he was a good and experienced coach and I like to see guys in Baltimore's organization who remember "The Oriole Way".

Still, if it means less airtime for Buck Martinez, I'm all for it! I think he will be good as a color commentator too.

So a belated good luck to Rick at his new gig. And go check out Roar From 34.

Base Hits: 2/23/2007

Wouldn't it be great if it really is this simple? If all it took to fix Daniel Cabrera was to improve his eyesight ala Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn? The Washington Post story on Cabrera's vision correction is here.


Former Baltimore centerfielder Luis Matos is a very good bet to make the Pirates roster this spring.


Insight on the backup catcher battle among other things over at Says Perlozzo:

"If somebody is going to steal it away from Bako, he's going
to have to swing the bat and catch pretty well. Paul's been around a pretty long time. But we'll give them all a shot and see what they got."

Well, it won't take much to outhit Bako. Bako will still need to show diminished defensive skills (which he has) to open the door to House or Donachie.


Can you sing? The Frederick Keys will be holding National Anthem auditions on March 31st. The Baysox will hold their auditions on the 24th.


A preview of Minor League Spring Training on the Baysox website, in case you happen to be over in Sarasota.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

In The (J.R.) House

A good article over on about the journey of J.R. House and how he came to be competing for the O's backup catcher. I don't know much about House but I know a bit about Rule 5 draftee Adam Donachie. I'll take either over Paul Bako as we know what we'll get from him. It doesn't hurt (in my book) that he was a WVU quarterback either...

The Crystal Ball: Erik Bedard

Erik Bedard can be summed up (as far as I’m concerned) as Charlie Liebrandt with a good strikeout pitch.

I like this comparison because Bedard is coming into his age 28 season and Liebrandt’s age 28 season was the best of his career. I truly expect Bedard to contend for a Cy Young award this year. At least, if he stays healthy that’s what I expect.

I will be holding my breath all year hoping for good health for Erik. The Benson injury will not be felt as badly as people might think. Bedard going down for an extended period of time would be devastating for the O’s season. He threw nearly 200 innings last year but had never exceeded 150 innings before.

I’m going to assume (and hope for) good health. If he gets that, Bedard will make a quantum leap this season and be one of the best lefties in the American League.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Benson To Pitch in 2007?

This Peter Schmuck article is one a many (OK, a few) that I have read that suggest that Kris Benson will rehab and return to pitch early in the season.

Forget it. He shopped around until he got a medical opinion he wanted to hear. It's admirable that he would be willing to try to pitch this year instead of collecting his salary and rehabbing for next year but he is not coming back this season. From what the doctor's have said and from what I know about players who have had similar injuries, it will take a miracle for Benson to pitch this season.

So that's the last we will discuss it.

Let's turn our attention to Steve Trachsel...

The Crystal Ball: Penn and Loewen

A look at the Orioles’ true “Young Guns” (they are 23 and 22 respectively, Cabrera and Bedard are 26 and 28 now) is a bit difficult given the small amount of time both have logged in the majors. Penn’s peripherals in the minors are better than Loewen’s but Loewen had much more success during his opportunities in the bigs.

Loewen has always been able to strike out the opposition, posting marks of 8+ per 9 at every level save the majors where he posted a 7.85 K/9 which is still not too shabby. The problem is give out too many walks and allow too many baserunners. He has never had a full season with a WHIP under 1.45 at any level. He has walked an average of 5 BB/9 over his minor league career. His K/BB ratio over the last two months of the season was 2 to 1 but gave up more than 8 hits per 9IP. While the overall peripherals are troubling, he is trending up so maybe the light is going on.

While Loewen has duplicated his peripherals in the majors, Penn hasn’t even come close. He struck out 8+ and walked only 3 per 9 in his minor league. He posted a WHIP of 1.12 while dominating AAA hitting over 14 starts last year. He has been shelled in every appearance for the big club however. It may be that he just has a longer learning curve and needs seasoning at the major league level but some guys never translate that AAA success into getting out major league hitters.

Loewen should improve into a decent enough 4th or 5th starter this year. He would be better than any other 5th starter the O’s trotted out last year even if he make no advances at all.

Penn may start out in the bullpen and I don’t think sending him back to AAA will necessarily help him as much as testing his mettle against big league hitters, even in relief.

For these guys, the future is now!

(cheesy enough for you?)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spencer Fordin Needs To Check His Stat Sheet...

From the O's Mailbag column on, Spencer addresses a question of having Millar hit in the No. 2 spot:

Millar is in fact one of the team's most patient hitters, but he's also a
fairly slow runner who clogs the bases.

The old "clogs up the bases" argument. You can't score if you don't get on
base. Millar gets on base. I don't care if he clogs them up or not as long
as he's on base. Silly argument.

Mora's also pretty patient, but he runs well, hits for power and is willing to drop down a bunt in a key spot.

This is a better argument, that Mora fits the classic No. 2 hitter mold better than Millar. But hitting for power? Millar slugged .437 while Mora slugged an anemic .391. I'm also not sure giving up an out in the form of "moving a runner over" is the best tactic with Markakis, Tejada and Huff waiting on deck (save for late game situations obviously).

The last time the first baseman hit 20 home runs was 2003, and the last time he slugged over .500 was 2002. Millar is a patient hitter with a moderate amount of power, but the O's are very comfortable with him at the bottom of the order.

I'm not sure what this really has to do with hitting in the 2 spot but Millar hit 15 homers, only one less than Mora while getting almost 200 fewer at-bats. On pure power, Millar would win the day.

I wouldn't put Millar in the 2 spot full time (I wouldn't put him anywhere full-time) but batting him second isn't the craziest idea I've ever heard.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Base Hits 2/14/2007

Spring Training begins! O’s pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Lauderdale.


An article in the Baltimore Sun looking at the O’s 5 biggest moves this offseason.


Also in the Sun, a bunch of questions about the O’s are half-heartedly answered.

Updated team notes at USA Today


An exceprt from an interview with Spencer Fortin of on the suggestion the Orioles would sign a guy like Steve Traschel or Mark Redman:

“You know, I don’t think it’s very likely that they go out and sign one of those
guys. But as I’ve mentioned, I haven’t really been able to get a hold of
anybody and hear what they’re thinking right now…”
Spencer thought the O’s would be looking to some of their young arms (Penn, Guthrie, etc.) to fill the spot but anyone who thought it wasn’t likely that the O’s would sign a scrapheap guy for insurance isn’t really paying attention…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Somewhere, Rodrigo Lopez is Laughing...

Kris Benson is out, long live Steve Trachsel.

The Good News:

Trachsel doesn't have the potential short-term upside that Benson brought to the season but he's not a huge drop off. They both will give up the longball...a lot. Neither of them strike out a lot of guys anymore and neither will be in the O's plans beyond this year anyway.

Trachsel allows the O's the luxury of not rushing Hayden Penn into the starting lineup.

Trachsel is not Russ Ortiz.

The Bad News:

Pitching depth takes a hit and there is no Rodrigo Lopez to fill in. Trachsel could very well be done as a pitcher and implode in Camden Yards.

Still more things to watch at Spring Training...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kris Benson Out For 2007

The O's pitching depth took a hit when Kris Benson's agent confirmed a torn rotator cuff and will miss the season.

A blessing or a curse? This could work to the O's advantage if the young arms perform as hoped but most likely will be a detriment to the rotation.

More on this later....

2007 Projections: The Infield

I cmpletely stole the idea for this series from an article over at The Hardball Times. For my projections, I have used CHONE, Marcel and the Bill James projections. I will then use my mediocre baseball knowledge to predict whether the player will surpass or fall short of the average projections.

Miguel Tejada

Marcel 86 178 36 2 23 97 5 2 41 74 .312 .362 .503 .864
CHONE 92 187 37 2 24 98 4 1 44 72 .307 .361 .490 .852
Bill James 97 194 39 1 27 112 5 2 47 80 .304 .360 .495 .856
AVG 92 186 37 2 25 102 5 2 44 75 .308 .361 .496 .857

All projections call for a slight but significant drop in OPS for Tejada next year and all are fairly consistent with Marcel being most optimistic. The only counter to these projections is the argument that the supporting cast around Tejada will be better this year and he may see better pitches this year.

Melvin Mora

Marcel 87 157 28 1 20 81 9 3 51 97 .286 .355 .450 .805
CHONE 91 155 25 1 19 61 8 3 48 101 .265 .334 .409 .743
James 92 169 31 1 20 83 9 5 59 110 .278 .353 .431 .784
AVG 90 160 28 1 20 75 9 4 53 103 .276 .347 .430 .777

The predictions here vary a bit but even the most pessimistic projection shows a flatline versus a regression. Still, the average projection shows a decent rebound from last year. I don't think he will surpass the average projection.

Brian Roberts

Marcel 81 149 36 4 11 56 26 8 55 73 .292 .360 .442 .802
CHONE 93 156 36 3 10 56 28 7 60 73 .283 .355 .412 .766
Bill James 94 172 39 3 10 59 32 11 66 78 .286 .357 .410 .768
AVG 89 159 37 3 10 57 29 9 60 75 .287 .357 .421 .779

Projections range from a modest to significant increase in OPS. This is mostly due to projections for increased walks instead of increased power. a fully healthy Roberts should surpass the averages as a bit of power should return.

Kevin Millar

Marcel 61 120 27 1 13 59 2 1 51 78 .275 .360 .430 .790
CHONE 63 116 23 1 14 53 1 1 54 78 .263 .357 .412 .769
Bill James 52 107 25 1 13 56 1 0 45 70 .275 .364 .447 .811
AVG 59 114 25 1 13 56 1 1 50 75 .271 .360 .430 .790

These are all fairly consistent projections but Millar is going to be a wildcard since you just don't know how much playing time he's going to get. We'll take this production over 400 AB any day.

Ramon Hernandez

Marcel 58 131 27 2 19 78 2 1 37 68 .279 .337 .466 .803
CHONE 67 132 25 2 20 65 1 0 37 64 .282 .344 .473 .818
Bill James 59 131 27 1 19 79 1 0 40 71 .270 .335 .447 .782
AVG 61 131 26 2 19 74 1 0 38 68 .277 .339 .462 .801

A slight decline is being predicted for Ramon but I don't buy it. He loves hitting in Camden Yards and you can't discount that factor. Some parks just suit a hitter's strengths and Hernandez and Oriole Park are a match made in baseball heaven. Hernandez will exceed the average prrojection and look alot like the CHONE prediction.

Jay Gibbons

Marcel 51 110 25 2 17 59 1 1 32 60 .272 .327 .470 .798
CHONE 54 110 24 1 16 61 0 0 34 59 .270 .328 .451 .779
Bill James 48 105 25 1 17 58 0 0 32 56 .266 .325 .464 .789
AVG 51 108 25 1 17 59 0 0 33 58 .269 .327 .462 .789

Health is the question here and if they keep Gibbons at the DH primarily, he should have it. The above projections are based on 400 AB and if he gets that many Gibbons should get 20 HR this year. Health notwithstanding, he will surpass these numbers.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Win Probability Graphing: Game 3 of the 1983 World Series

I will be doing Win Probability graphing during the season during Oriole games so I thought it would be fun to try it on an important game in O’s history, Game 3 of the 1983 World Series. (What is Win Probability? See this article.)

After John Denny had outdueled Scott MacGregor 2-1 at Memorial Stadium, the O’s were able to rally in Game 2 to batter Charles Hudson and chase him from the game in the 5th with Mike Boddicker taking the win 4-1. Now Baltimore would travel to Veteran’s Stadium with the unenviable task of facing Steve Carlton in Game 3. Mike Flanagan took the mound for the O’s and scattered 6 hits over the first four innings but two of those hits were leadoff homers; Gary Matthews hit one in the 2nd and Joe Morgan launched one in the 3rd. The O’s had mustered but one hit against Carlton until a two-out double form Rick Dempsey in the 5th. Flanagan was pulled for pinch-hitter Ken Singleton who promptly was called out on strikes. Down 2-0 to one of the most dominating pitchers of his time, the O’s prospects looked grim.

Jim Palmer relieved and held the Phillies scoreless in their half of the 5th and in the top of the 6th Dan Ford belted a solo homer to give the Orioles hope. (Ford slugged .480 against lefties in 1983.) Palmer was wild in the Phillies 6th but managed to strand two and hold the score at 2-1.

The Birds looked to go quietly in the 7th as Dauer and Cruz flied and grounded out respectively but then Rick Dempsey had yet another two-out double and Carlton uncorked a wild pitch allowing Dempsey to advance to third. Benny Ayala, pinch-hitting for Palmer, singled to left scoring Dempsey and tying the game. (It would be Ayala’s only at-bat in the series.)

Carlton was pulled for NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Al Holland. Holland quickly gave up a single to John Shelby but had looked to escape by inducing a groundball from Ford to SS Ivan De Jesus. However, De Jesus botched the play allowing Ayala to score from second and give Baltimore their first lead, a lead they would not relinquish.

Sammy Stewart came in to pitch in the 7th and issued a leadoff walk to Joe Morgan who was then thrown out by Dempsey trying to steal second. That would be the only baserunner Stewart would allow as he would strike out four over the course of two innings. Tippy Martinez closed out the game with a 1-2-3 9th inning and gave the O’s a 3-2 win and a 2-1 lead in the World Series which they would eventually win.

The Heroes:

Sammy Stewart (.249) and Tippy Martinez (.200) pitching in very crucial situations are the heros in terms of WPA. Benny Ayala (.179) and Dan Ford (.170) moved the needle with their hitting and Ford gets a little extra credit for hitting the ball Ivan De Jesus botched even if it doesn’t show up in the numbers. Gary Roenicke (-247) didn’t help the cause going 0-4 with a strikeout and hitting into a bases-loaded double-play in the 4th.

The Goats:

Ivan De Jesus (-.230) blew the game with his costly error. The next closest player with a negative WPA was Pete Rose (-.88) who led off the ninth as a pinch hitter and grounded out to third. This one is clearly on De Jesus’ shoulders. Playing well in the losing cause were Gary Matthews (.106) and Al Holland (.102) who was terrific in relief of Carlton.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Base Hits: 2/5/2007

The O's signed reliever Paul Shuey to a minor league deal. Shuey had been retired due to a hip injury during the 2005 season. I would imagine he'll start the year in Norfolk.


The O's signed Brian Roberts to a one year deal.


The Brewers claimed O's minor league pitcher Marino Salas off waivers. Salas was dropped from the 40 man roster after the claiming of Jeremey Guthrie from the Indians organization.


The Dodgers sign former O's first round pick Larry Bigbie to a minor league contract.


A quickie Mazzone article over at Fox


Mike Flannagan and Jim Duquette will field questions at the Inner Harbor ESPNZone on Feb. 6th.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Crystal Ball: Chad Bradford

Chad Bradford reached back in time and recaptured his 2002 performance (the season where he made a name for himself) for the 2006 Mets. Look at the numbers:

2002 3.11 150 1.15 .326 1.67 6.69 8.72
2006 2.90 149 1.16 .328 1.89 6.53 8.56

Spooky, huh?

After a couple sub-par years, has Bradford straightened himself out? Maybe. While Shea probably helped him a bit last year, he is really an extreme groundball pitcher so being in a smaller park shouldn’t hurt him much. Camden Yards was actually slightly pitcher friendly when it comes to runs allowed. But nothing like Shea.

Chad will need some help from his infielders to convert his groundballs into outs. The Mets had the second highest DER in the NL. Baltimore is in the bottom half of the AL in DER.

Even if Bradford reverts to his Boston stats, he’ll still be a huge improvement over last year’s bullpen mess in the 7th or 8th inning.