It's time to concede some things.
At the beginning of the season, I really thought the O's had the horses to contend this year. Perhaps these expectations were unrealistic but what can I say. I'm a fan.
Time to reconsider. While the O's could still finish as a .500 team this year, they will not contend.
Jaret Wright is hurt again and I fear that he will not give us any meaningful innings this season. I had him penciled in for 150 innings and while he is not a great pitcher, his loss leaves a gaping hole in the rotation as far as someone eating innings.
The bullpen has been great but is being overworked. It can't last at this rate of work. Adam Loewen is still learning and doesn't work deep into games. Only Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera have been able to work deep into games and only sporadically. Steve Trachsel has never been a big innings guy. He has exceeded expectations this year but it can't last.
The offense has been anemic. Yes, we just got Jay Payton and Ramon Hernandez back but that didn't help much during the Cleveland series. Our lineup has been mediocre at best and it tends to be feast or famine when it comes to scoring runs.
.500 is the realistic goal. Time to develop the young pitchers and hope for the best.
Monday, April 30, 2007
It's time to concede some things.
Friday, April 27, 2007
I've been laid up for the last day and a half which gave me plenty of time to watch our two losses to the Red Sox.
The worst news is that if Schilling stays healthy and Beckett doesn't regress, the Sox will be tough to beat this year. They looked unbeatable against the O's and have looked that way against most of the league this year.
The good news is that Cabrera and Loewen both pitched well, they were just up against tougher competition. Cabrera was a bit wild and probably shouldn't have been sent out for the 7th inning when he really lost it. Loewen again was able to show mental toughness as he battled through six innings in which it all wasn't working for him.
Off to Cleveland. The O's will have trouble with Jeremy Sowers as they have had issues with just about any lefty starter the opposition has been able to put on the mound. Jake Westbrook and Francisco Carmona look like good candidates for the O's bats to wake up against.
The Cleveland lineup is one to be feared though and the Indians are on a 6 game win streak while the O's have lost 4 straight.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I really don't have much to comment on from yesterday's game but there are two things I wanted to mention.
After watching Miguel Tejada and Chris Gomez work in simpatico over the weekend and watching Brian Roberts poor decision to throw to second yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that Brian Roberts is the middle infielder who's in a fielding slump. He needs to snap out of it.
Hats off to Jeremy Guthrie who pitched as well as could be expected for a spot starter. Thanks for the quality start Jeremy, it's far better than we would have gotten last year's bullpen.
Now for the Sawx:
Evan Brunell over at Fire Brand of the American League, says the Orioles have a pretty good club this year and highlights Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen but then has this to say as he looks forward to the fall:
"...we get to clean up against Baltimore and Tampa Bay in September for 12 of the 27 games in September, no small number."
Hey! The bully's kicking sand in our face! We'll just see who's beating up on who pal...
At Keep Your Sox On In Brooklyn, they seem to think Boston will take it's frustration from their games with Toronto out on the O's:
"This makes me want to punch something hard. Wait what is that? Another bird? A little orange fellow? So bright and colorful and full of life? Yeah....Orioles... prepare to meet your pane of completely transparent glass. Splat."
Bring it on boys. This team's not a pushover this year.
And at a blog called KC Bean Boy, this insight was given:
"Baltimore may be an interesting trip since it will be in question on which Orioles team shows up for work on Wednesday and Thursday and if Boston will be looking past the O’s and up I-95 for the rematch with the Yanks."
And much like the Red Sox players themselves, the bloggers of Red Sox Nation either deride the O's or overlook them completely to focus on the Yankees series coming up over the weekend.
Hey O's, let's give them something to consider for the next series, OK?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Raise your hand if you saw this guy getting the call. As I mentioned in last week's minor league wrapup, Jim Johnson has been the best pitcher at AAA this year. He has posted a 2.81 ERA with 13 Ks and 3BB in 16 innings.
As I've mentioned before, Todd Williams is never coming back under normal circumstances. Baltimore would have to be decimated by injuries for him to get the call.
Roch Kubato reports in his blog that Mora tried to signal Patterson three times before he bunted.
"That was my decision," Mora said. "That's the way I play baseball. I play to win. I play to surprise the other team. That's why I've been in the playoffs before, because I like to do the little things."
That's a copout. A) You need to make sure that Patterson understands before you lay down a bunt or B) lay down a decent enough bunt to give the guy a legitimate chance to score. Mora did neither.
And I love you Melvin but you went to the playoffs on a team that featured Mike Piazza, a young Mike Hampton, Al Leiter in his prime and a young Edgar Alfonso. Even your current teammate, Jay Payon, was a more important cog on that team than you.
And if that was a veiled dig at Corey Patterson, he was a major contributor on the 2003 Cubs team that went to the NLCS (even though he was injured by the end of the season.).
After the play, Melvin Mora angrily glared down to third and Corey Patterson looked stunned and confused. It was really hard to tell who was responsible for the bizarre play.
With men on second and third and one out, Mora decided to bunt when a sac fly would've tied the game. It appears that Mora acted independently on this one and that Patterson had no idea what he was planning to do. If you're going to pull a play like this, you better make damn well sure you execute and Mora didn't. But even with a bad bunt, if Patterson had been off at the pitch he would've scored anyway. But he didn't get that opportunity because he wasn't tipped off. A really stupid play that may have cost the O's the game.
Sam Perlozzo is secondarily responsible. Although no one in the stadium would've expected the move by Mora, Perlozzo should've told him exactly what to do and what not to do. Seems a bit silly but I'll bet he does it next time.
The good news is the O's once again rally to make the game close and give themselves a chance to win. The bullpen was masterful yet again. The Yankess and Red Sox lost last night.
Another concern is Erik Bedard who for the first time looked rattled last night as he was getting touched up by Nick Swisher and company. Bedard needs to perform better, he's our ace.
Scott Williamson left with shoulder issues, expect a roster move today or tomorrow.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Over at The Drumbeat, San Francisco Chronicle Beat Writer Susan Slusser reports that Rich Harden won't make his start on Tuesday. That's good news for Baltimore as Harden is arguably the A's most talented pitcher. Milton Bradley may not make the trip either, weakening an already lethargic offense.
At Athletics Nation, baseballgirl reports that rookie Dallas Braden will make his major league debut against the O's in place of the hurting Rich Harden. Braden is a lefty who has exhibited fantastic control over his minor league career.
Brad Halsey, now at AAA, thought he would be getting the call for the Tuesday start and ripped the A's for what he suspects were less than honorable motives:
"Then they send you down and screw you. I'm grinding it out, trying to be a team guy, and I get f -- . It's all just a business decision, because if I came up and pitched Tuesday and then had an MRI and had to go on the DL, they'd have to pay me major-league DL money. It's such a mom-and-pop organization."
Ouch. Guess he's not worried about remaining with the organization.
Overall, the A's blogs haven't done a whole lot of previewing for the two game series. For a more thorough preview, check out Heathir Irvin's preview posted on Oriole Magic. Good stuff.
Was Toronto at full strength? No. Is it still April? Yes. Forget all the justifications for the experts to dismiss this sweep of the Blue Jays. This weekend the O's sent a message and that message is that they will contend this year. The darkhorse pick in the AL East this year is Toronto and Baltimore took them out like last week's garbage.
If Boston loses tonight, Baltimore will be the hottest team in the AL. (Friday night I assumed the Yankees had won that game vs. Boston). Not everyone has caught on yet but Chris Berman did refer to Baltimore as "red-hot" on Baseball Tonight this evening.
Adam Loewen's performance on Saturday exemplifies what has been so impressive about the "young guns" on this staff. Although Loewen didn't have his best stuff and certainly didn't have a lot of control, he didn't get rattled, he battled and scraped his way through 5.2 innings and let his bullpen come in and protect the lead. (Chad Bradford was huge in relieving Loewen with the bases loaded. Bradford is not a strikeout guy at all but got a big strikeout of Jason Smith to end the inning. Toronto never threatened again.) We have seen this over and over again this season, with Cabrera, Bedard and Loewen not having their best outings but keeping their composure and the club winning the game anyway. It's encouraging.
Also encouraging is that the bats are starting to come around. It doesn't hurt that they are facing less than stellar pitching (save A. J. Burnett) but the O's were struggling to score against anybody a couple of weeks ago. Today you saw a glimpse of what this lineup can do when everyone gets healthy. They didn't ahve to start Jay Gibbons against a lefty and Jay Payton made the lineup a much tougher proposition for Gustavo Chacin. Outside of Alberto Castillo, there was a legitimate major league hitter in the lineup today. Just wait until Ramon Hernandez (and Brian Roberts) come back.
Steve Trachsel got his first win of the season as he held the Jays to one run even though he gave up 4 hits and issued 4 walks over his 5.1 innings of work. Nick Markakis continued his hot hitting with a double and a triple (a near homerun) as he and Miguel Tejada both drove in three. They chased Chacin in the 5th and continued to knock Victor Zambrano around as they bludgeoned the Jays 7-3. Only a two out rally in the 9th against Brian Burres made the score look somewhat respectable.
Now for the reality checks. Adam Loewen needs to find his control. Walking batters like you are the 2005 version of Daniel Cabrera is not a recipe for long term success. The lineup ranks 8th in the American League in slugging. That will also need to improve if Baltimore hopes to keep pace. Steve Trachsel must have a horseshoe stuck where the sun don't shine. He can't possibly keep this up for the whole season. The rotation needs to pitch deeper into games if the bullpen hopes to have season long success. Only the quality start challenged Yankees have more innings logged by their bullpen than Baltimore. Today, the O's will probably face the toughest pitcher they've seen all year.
But am I optimistic? Hell yeah.
P.S. It's sure been weird to be rooting for the Yankees the last two nights. But in a good way.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Beer of the Game: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
(I must have had a premonition...)
I love this team.
What's not to love? (OK, except for Paul Bako...)
How about Corey Patterson robbing Lyle Overbay of a homerun in the first (an absolutely amazing play that had me leaping from the couch shouting at the TV screen and scaring the hell out of the dog) and then getting the clutch hit in the ninth to start the rally and score the winning run? How about Brian Roberts stealing two more bases tonight? How about Nick Markakis with yet another clutch hit? How about old man Millar taking a home run swing in the 8th and blooping a hit to left to tie the game? How about Melvin Mora jacking another one? And I don't know who this guy masquerading as Daniel Cabrera is but he struck out 7 while only walking 2! 2 walks! Leo Mazzone truly is a miracle worker.
This team comes back from the dead more times than Nosferatu. Oriole bats are the worst nightmare for opposing bullpens. And our bullpen is the worst nightmare for opposing batters. John Parrish is sick. He pitched lights out yet again.
Rick Dempsey's nephew was held to one hit.
Victor Zambrano my hairy butt. You think we're going to lose to that guy?
I'm going to keep repeating this until I see it said on Baseball Tonight. The Baltimore Orioles are the hottest team in the AL.
Get on the bandwagon O's fans. We're in it for the long haul this season.
Leonard Shapiro has an article on WNST and the Orioles brass denying Nestor Aparicio press credentials.
I've made it pretty clear that I think Nestor's late-season walkout last year was pretty pointless and accomplished little more than garnering WNST some publicity. I never heard Nestor's radio show but his blog posts are rambling and sometimes incoherent and always self-promoting. He's a P.T. Barnum for sports radio and he's a clown in his own circus.
But he is a journalist. And the Baltimore Orioles denying him press credentials cannot be defended.
Over at The Hardball Times, John Brattain takes a look at his Blue Jays on the day they start their three game series in Baltimore and says "Don't Panic!" Strangely, he mentions the Yankees and Red Sox as Toronto's competition and neglects to mention the hottest team in the AL. Who could that be? Hmmmm....
I did a "Where are they now?" post about the 2000 Baltimore Orioles draftees and wasn't sure exactly what happened to top pick Beau Hale. The Baltimore Examiner goes into greater detail about the current Baysox pitcher.
Keith Law from ESPN rarely has anything nice to say about the Orioles and he continues his trend in yesterday's chat session:
Syracuse, NY: Can the Orioles remain in contention this season or is their success so far just a premonition?
Keith Law: I don't think they have the offense, and although their pen has performed well, I don't think that will hold up across the board.
Although I don't agree with the assessment of the offense, they certainly haven't done enough to instill confidence that they will deliver on their promise. But the bullpen? The only thing you can say is that they won't keep it up because up until now they have exceeded expectations. So why won't they keep it up Keith? Knee-jerk reaction perhaps? Nice analysis.
Matt (Springfield, MO): Is Loewen going to get his "stuff" together? Is he any good?
Keith Law: His stuff is only OK, and his control has never been good. I think that the "real" Adam Loewen was left on the operating table when he tore his labrum in '04.
Wow, how cheery. How do we know he left his "stuff" on the operating table? Reduced velocity? Law never explains. Loewen struck out nearly 8 per 9 last year and his control has been average for a young power pitcher. Scott Kazmir walked more than 5 per 9 over his first 39 major league starts and he is regarded as one of the bright young stars in the AL. Soon, Adam Loewen will be too.
I am not a fan of the straight platoon. The general wisdom is that if a player's batting average is considerably worse against lefthand pitching, then he must be platooned with a player who excels at hitting lefties. I especially don't like this logic when an inferior player is given more playing time at the expense of a more talented one. This scenario is the one that Corey Patterson finds himself in.
Corey raked against righties last year, hitting .301 with 13 of his 16 homers. Against lefties, he hit an abysmal .207.
Sit him against lefties? Maybe. Patterson has shown a distinct weakness against lefties and certainly shouldn't be out there facing the like of Johan Santana. But what about Jimmy Gobble? Does he eat Patterson's lunch too?
I decided to find out.
The line is arbitrary but I divided the pitchers into two groups: Tough lefties and Lousy lefties. The general dividing line was a 4.00 ERA posted in 2006. If you were under that mark for 2006, you were a Tough lefty. If not, you were Lousy. Exceptions to the rule were pitchers who may have had an off year but are established front line lefties. (Randy Johnson, for example, was in the Tough leftie group, regardless of his 5.00 ERA last year.)
So, now splitting the split:
Patterson vs. Tough lefties: .155
Patterson vs. Lousy lefties: .296
I didn't calculate slugging percentage but most of his extra base hits came against the lousy lefties, as you might expect.
So the recipe for Patterson should be this; when Tom Glavine, Scott Kazmir or B.J. Ryan is on the mound, Corey rides the pine and Jay Payton takes his hacks. But if Casey Fossum, Jarrod Washburn or some mediocre lefthanded reliever comes into the game, let Patterson swing away.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Tides are a mediocre 3-5 so far...
J. R. House has been laying waste to AAA pitching for the first two weeks of the season, hitting .353 with 2 homers and OPSing a whopping .983.
Their best pitcher, Jim Johnson, has been dominant over two starts posting a 1.80 ERA, and 7K's against 2 BB. Hayden Penn is listed as being on the DL.
The mighty Baysox are 5-4.
The monster with the bat here in Bowie is Nolan Reimold. Nolan is crushing the ball with a .367 average and more importantly 3 homeruns and posting an OPS of 1.157. The only troubling stat is 7 K's to 1 BB but it's not horrible for 9 games.
Lefty Oscar Alvarez is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA over the first two weeks. More significantly Jim Hoey has 3 saves in three appearances and 5 Ks over 3 IP. Impressive. He'll be in Norfolk before long and I imagine we'll see him in Baltimore again before the season's done.
The Keys are a stinky 2-5.
The bright spot on offense is speedster 2B Jonathan Tucker who is hitting .393 with 4 SB .
Top prospect RHP Brandon Erbe is sporting a 2.25 ERA but a slightly troubling 6BB vs 5Ks thus far.
The Shorebirds are struggling with a 3-7 record.
On offense, 22 year old Brandon Tripp is hitting .378 while posting an OPS 1.047 with 1 HR.
Yet another top pitching prospect is 20 yr old Pedro Beato who has rung up 10K's in 10IP with a 3.60 ERA.
Jeff Moore 1.80 9K's over 10
Beer of the Game: Sam Adams Cream Stout
Brian Roberts went all Ichiro in the first inning, slapping a single to left, stealing second and third and then scoring on a Nick Markakis groundout to second.
You've got to give it up to Jay Gibbon flashing some rare leather in left last night, making a diving catch in the third. Ditto for Melvin Mora making a diving catch to his right to save a double. Mora will never be among the league's elite defenders at third but there is a dramatic improvement in his footwork, range and throws compared to this time last year.
Steve Trachsel could not place his pitches tonight. Still, he shut down the rays until the miserable fourth where he gave up four runs. On the bright side, Trachsel has kept the ball int he park thus far, only giving up 1 to the Yankees this year. I thought the longball would be his downfall coming to the AL. Oh, back to reality, Trachsel gives up six earned in the 4th and gets yanked. Brian Burres came in and shut the Rays down in the 4th and continued to hold them scoreless all the way through the end of the 7th.
Fossum had the O's on the ropes until the 8th. Gibbons doubled and Alberto Castillo drew a clutch walk. Jon Knott came in to face the lefty but they called for the righty Brian Stokes to face hi,m. Knott remained in and deposited a 1-0 pitch into the leftfield stands to bring the O's with in two.
That's as close as Baltimore would get though. the bullpen did a great job once again but the early damage was too much to overcome. O's lose 6-4.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Shortly after I posted yesterday, the Blue Jays updated the statuses on their injured players.
Reed Johnson will be out until at least July, slightly longer than they had said before.
B.J. Ryan's injury is quite serious as we won't be seeing him around until June at the earliest. Wonder if all that money they paid him was worth it for one good year?
Troy Glaus is now in the 15-day DL with bone spurs and heel issues. Glaus has had injury issues in the past (as this Glaus injury timeline over at the Angels blog 6-4-2 details) but not in the past couple of years. This is one of the events that I said could happen that would allow Baltimore to make noise in the Al East this year. According to the Toronto Star, Glaus' replacements will be either John McDonald (career .240 hitter, career OPS+ of 58) or Jason Smith (a career backup with a .236 average and career OPS+ of 72). We gotta like this as Baltimore hosts Toronto on Friday. Only Vernon Wells remains as a legitimate slugger in that lineup.
As an aside, Baltimore will miss Halladay in the rotation and have to face A.J. Burnett but then Gustavo Chacin and Tomo Ohka. Not bad.
Melvin Mora laid down a bunt in the first that got him all the way to third after the third baseman overthrew first and B. J. Upton fell down trying to retrieve the ball. Mora was stranded at third however.
A comedy (or tragedy) of errors in the third as Huff botched a grounder, then threw the ball away over Loewen's head as he covered first. Then Paul Bako got the ball and threw it away again trying to get Crawford at the plate. Two unearned runs...(sigh)
Adam Loewen did not have his command tonight. He pitched well to get out of a bases loaded jam in the third (that was not really his fault) but could not survive the same situation in the 4th as he walked Crawford with the bases loaded and was subsequently pulled. (On a positive note, Nick Markakis made another great diving catch in the 4th inning going full speed up and to his left to snowcone the ball barely before it hits the turf.)
Jeremy Guthrie provided no relief though as, on his first pitch, he gave up a bases clearing double to Ty Wigginton and six runs were on the board for Tampa. Guthrie would give up another in a shaky 5th. Overall though, Guthrie was able to settle down, pitch 2+ innings and keep the bleeding to a minimum. Pretty nice we didn't have to use him yesterday, huh?
Baltimore clawed their way back in with an RBI groundout by Melvin Mora in the 5th and an improbable two-run homer by Freddie Bynum in the 6th. With two outs in the 6th, Kevin Millar was patient as always, drawing the walk allowing Bynum a crack at Shields. The O's were within 4.
In the 7th, Brian Roberts led off and slapped a grounder through the right side and Mora made Shields pay for a mistake as he deposited one in the rightfield stands to bring the O's within 2, 7-5. Markakis was absolutely robbed of a double down the rightfield line by Ty Wigginton. (Wigginton did the same to Aubrey Huff earlier in the game...). Tejada then came up and doubled, Huff blooped one into center and was able to take second since 2B B. J. Upton left the bag open to pursue the ball. With men on 2nd and 3rd, Jay Gibbons lined one to center, doubling in Tejada and Huff to tie the game. Millar walked and ball four was a wild pitch that allowed Gibbons to advance to third. Bynum grounded out as Gibbons scored to take the 8-7 lead!
And right about here my network connection went all flaky and I couldn't see the rest of the game. The bullpen did another good job as Bradford, Parrish and Mr. Reluctant shut the Rays down and got the ball to Chris Ray who closed them out. Aubrey Huff added an insurance run with a solo homer in the 9th.
Don't look now but the O's are now over .500 for the first time in nearly a year, are the hottest team in the AL and a mere game out of first in the AL East.
Casey Fossum is lined up next like so much raw meat...
The WPA graph is here and reflects the wild swings the game took. Jay Gibbons proved to be the most influencial batter while Mr. Reluctant pitched in the most high leverage situations.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Plenty to talk about here...
New York Yankees
Joining Chien-Ming Wang on the DL for the Yankees are fellow starters Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano. Pavano is no shock whatsoever. He has suffered through long and well-publicized injuries since he arrived in New York. Mussina is a bit more surprising as he has been fairly durable throughout his career but as I noted in my preview of the Yankees, he is old (38 this season) like much of the team. To paraphrase Shaqille O'Neal, "38 ain't 28."
Former Oriole Chris Britton was recalled from Scranton after the injuries. Britton had a 0.00 ERA and 2 saves in 3 innings of AAA work.
Don't forget about Hideki Matsui (hamstring) as he will be out at least another week.
Boston Red Sox
Wily Mo Pena has been penciled into the lineup the last two days in place of centerfielder Coco Crisp. No word on whether this is injury related or if it's due to Crisp's general suckdom (.111 AVG, 9 Ks, 3BB) of the Sox leadoff hitter.
Toronto Blue Jays
B. J. Ryan has been ineffective this season (to say the least) and it looks like we now know why. Ryan was placed on the 15-day DL with a sprained elbow. No timetable for his return has been set.
Earlier in the week, starting leftfielder Reed Johnson went on the DL with a herniated disc and will be out at least two months. His replacement, Adam Lind, has hit like mad in the minors. he could provide an upgrade at that position provided he starts hitting major league pitching right away.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Other than 1B Greg Norton being out until mid-May, the Rays have no significant injuries.
Ramon Hernandez (strained oblique) could join the team before the end of the Tampa series. Jay Payton (hamstring) is said to be joining the O's during their next homestand which begins on Friday. Jaret Wright (shoulder soreness) has experienced no further discomfort and could rejoin the rotation by the end of the month.
Corey Patterson is on bereavement leave following the death of his grandfather. He is scheduled to rejoin the team by Thursday. In his absence, Adam Stern and Jon Knott have been called up from Norfolk (RP Kurt Birkins has been sent down).
Erik Bedard struck out 9 tonight but was pitching out of trouble often over his six innings of work. Still, he gave up only one run as he scattered 5 hits and 4 walks. The bullpen was lights out yet again.
Tejada and Roberts made a fool out of me, turning two beautiful double plays the same day that I ripped them for not showing a knack for turning two.
The legend grows. Nick Markakis' at bat in the 8th inning was an epic battle in itself as Nick got down 0-2, fouled off pitch after pitch from Wellenmeyer and finally poked a grand slam over the fence in right center. It was probably the greatest at bat I've ever seen.
Paul Bako is becoming a reliable RBI man? I could never have imagined that he would perform this well at the plate thus far. Yes, he is only hitting .222 but has 5 RBI over 8 games.
The most important thing about Baltimore's win on Saturday was the fact that Daniel Cabrera only walked one batter. He has never had back to back games where he walked one or less. That allowed him to scatter 7 hits and strike out 5 which kept Baltimore in the game.
Chris Gomez had the big blast with a grand slam in the 6th, only the second of his career.
A rainout. A good thing considering it not only allows Baltimore to skip Jeremy Guthrie's turn in the rotation but lets them miss facing Zack Grienke, the Royals best pitcher.
Before the season I targeted a team ERA of 4.35, a full run less than last year, as a success mark for "The Mazzone Effect". Two weeks in to the season, Baltimore's ERA is 3.73, good for 6th in the AL. Pretty good considering the rocky start in the Minnesota series.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Only 13,229 fans in the stadium last night, the second smallest crowd in the history of the park. This scene, as opposed to silly staged protests, gets the point across to ownership that the fans aren't happy in a place where it hurts the most - the bottom line...
Any win is good, I'm happy the O's won the game and I will highlight positives later in this post but there are a few things that need to be addressed.
First, I am tired of watching botched double plays. All season there have been tailor-made double play opportunities that Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts have screwed up. Sometimes they aren't hustling, sometimes they're rushing when there is no need, their footwork has been lousy and their throws have been erratic to second and first. They are not getting it done.
Remember the Cal and Billy or Cal and Roberto Alomar double plays? They looked like a waltz. They were consistent, they were beautiful. For a fresher example, look at Kansas City. They turned three last night, although they weren't always the classic 6-4-3. Our middle infielders have been sub-standard in the field this year, there's no way around it. Especially glaring is Miguel Tejada who botched another double play opportunity last night and also made a throwing error. He now has 4 errors on the season. Brian Roberts is not immune from this criticism either as one of his errors was the single biggest reason Baltimore dropped one to Detroit on Tuesday.
Time to get it together guys, you've been playing together for three full seasons now. It sad when Melvin Mora (who has looked pretty good at third this year) is outshining you with his glove.
The offense will come around but this is getting ridiculous. When Paul Bako (yes, Paul Bako) is you clutchiest hitter, you've got issues. The team hit .342 last night, they got on base at a .410 clip. No power though, only a couple of doubles and to use the old cliche, this team just doesn't get the big hit. Not yet anyway. I still believe this will work itself out but it is frustrating to get such great (and many times unexpected) pitching performances and have them wasted.
The pluses: Steve Trachsel pitched great again. Nice job Steve. Kris Benson couldn't have done any better. The bullpen continues to live up to and exceed expectations while leaving egg on the face of many a national commentator who derided the Baltimore front office for spending so much of relievers. So far it has paid off in spades.
Jaret Wright goes on the DL and Jeremy Guthrie will get the start on Sunday against KC. This was always my concern with Wright, the injuries and not his performance on the mound. Hopefully he only misses a couple starts.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
If we don't have to pay the full 2.5 million dollar salary, Kim makes an interesting reclamation project for Leo Mazzone.
Let's face it, Todd Williams is done as an Oriole. The O's are carrying 13 pitchers and Williams is still sitting in Norfolk.
Kim is a pretty good strikeout pitcher and could be a useful starter/long reliever if Mazzone can make him just a little less hittable.
It wouldn't bother me much if they make this trade.
Enough with giving up grand slams already...
I'm really trying to look on the bright side here. last year, there's no way we hang around that long in a close game last night. Our pitching corp has come a long way from 2006. This lineup can't continue to hit this badly. They just can't. They're better than this. And hopefully they come around soon. The Royals are just the team to get healthy against.
Loewen was not as sharp as his last outing but pitched with poise in some difficult spots. Good stuff.
Regardless, it was painful to let that one get away. Not quite as painful as listening to Jim Palmer refer to our reliever "Charles Bradford" but painful nonetheless.
At least the Yankees and Sox lost. At least Mussina has a bad hammy.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
First time watching MASN broadcast on MLB.TV and it was a bit embarrassing. They showed Brian Roberts' stats under Nate Robertson, camera on Corey Patterson when ball was hit to Markakis, lots of stuff like that. Not even close to the quality of YES or the Twins network I've been watching for the last week.
This was about the best you could expect from Wright. His location was pretty good tonight and his fastball is just live enough to induce a lot of pop-ups and keep the hitters off balance. Five innings of shutout ball. He has already outperformed former Mazzone pupil Russ Ortiz for his Baltimore career. (I'm not kidding.) He won't be winning any Gold Gloves though.
Nate Robertson was absolutely cruising. This would be the night you really need Payton (vs. Patterson) and Hernandez in the lineup against a guy who is murder against lefty hitters.
Everything was OK until the 6th. Neifi Perez hit a comebacker off of Jaret Wright (literally), Wright walked Granderson and then removed himself from the game. (Later learned he had tightness in his shoulder. Uh-oh) Scott Williamson came in next and the infield blew it big time as Polanco dropped a bunt down towards third and nobody went after it. I mean nobody. Williamson then came up big to strike out Sheffield and get Ordonez to hit a double play ball to short but Brian Roberts rushed the relay and skipped the throw to first and it went off of Millar's glove. Two runs scored. Williamson then walked Guillen but Kevin Millar snuck behind him as he led off of first and Alberto Castillo picked him off.
The baserunning was not good tonight and that really gets magnified in a close game. Tejada got thrown out trying to stretch a single to center to a double in the 7th. (Why would he try to run on Curtis Granderson? Not only is he one of the better centerfielders in the AL, he has one of the best centerfield arms in the AL. I like how Granderson plays, he always has his head in the game and never dogs it. That's why he threw out Tejada.) And don't forget Millar getting doubled off of second in the the 3rd.
After getting run on like crazy in Minnesota, Alberto Castillo threw out two would-be basestealers tonight. And he picked Carlos Guillen at first. He is worthless at the plate but looks to be living up to his reputation behind it. You can't say the same for Bako but I'll let him coast on that three-run homer in the Bronx for awhile.
Who starts in 5 days? Will Wright recover? Guthrie or Birkins if he doesn't? Guthrie looked good tonight but I'm still not sold on him as a starter. He looks like the kind of pitcher who gets figured out the second time through the lineup.
The O's could muster no offense save for Patterson's bomb to right off Zumaya in the 8th. Sloppy play in the field and bad baserunning is not the recipe for success, not with this offense.
O's lose 3-1 missing the chance to even their record.
I never like seeing the Yankees win but at least Sir Sidney got pounded. Tampa lost and the Blue Jays won...
An editorial in The Examiner says there is reason for hope in Baltimore.
Kevin Millar did his version of the Ray Lewis dance before yesterday's game. He needs to work on his moves but it did get me to laugh which, I expect, was the point all along.
There are some nice pictures and coverage of Opening Day over at Oriole Post.
Jamie Walker doesn't think he'll have a hard time facing his former Tiger teammates.
The O's win their home opener and I decided to do some Win Probability analysis. Win Probability looks at the odds of each team winning the game as the game moves along and the events that change the advantage from one team to another. For a more detailed description of WPA, see this article. Here's the graph:
As you can see, after an early Detroit run, the O's offense put their foot on the Tiger's necks in the 3rd inning and never let them back into the game. The big WPA hero for the O's was (of course) Daniel Cabrera (.174) who shut down the Tigers for 7.2 innings. At the plate, there were several players who knocked in a run but Melvin Mora (.116) came through at the clutchest times. He was followed by Kevin Millar (.104) and Brian Roberts (.102). Nick Markakis did not help the cause at the plate (-.088) as he went 0-4 and left 3 baserunners on. The graph above shows the biggest single event movers for the O's.
The goats for Detroit were Chad Durbin (-.291) who single-handedly gave the game away. Carlos Guillen also came up small for the Tigers (-.119).
Leaving Win Probability behind, how impressive was Cabrera yesterday? He strikes out 5 and walks none. Cabrera has only had one other game in his career where he walked none and it also came against Detroit in way back in June 2005. the guy really looks like he's turned a corner.
I love the way Melvin Mora is hitting the ball. It looks like he is going to have a pretty good year and Baltimore needs his production to compete. And Kevin Millar hits another homer. He is looking like he will be a useful player this year, despite the fact he probably shouldn't be starting.
Maybe most importantly, Cabrera's performance allowed the bullpen to get a nice rest. Only Chad Bradford had to be tapped on Monday. John Parrish had appeared in 4 of 5 games before yesterday.
Tonight, Jaret Wright will try to bounce back from a miserable performance in Minnesota against Nate Robertson. Robertson is a very hittable lefty and lives on his ability to pitch out of jams. If the hitters are patient, the O's can put up a big number on this guy. Gametime temperature: 21 degrees!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
It's really time to start pitching around A-Rod. When he's hot, he's in Pujols/Bonds category. Just walk him.
Good to see the much maligned Jay Gibbons setting the table for the even more maligned Kevin Millar today. Millar jacked one out to leftfield to get Baltimore back into the game after A-Rod's two run shot in the 1st inning.
Do O's fans think the team is snakebitten? Here's the surest sign our luck is changing. Paul Bako hit a three run shot in the Bronx today. That matches his total for the last four years! You know what the odds were against that homer? Incredible.
It's a good thing Johnny Damon didn't start the game. He was on fire from the moment he got into the game.
Kevin Millar looked rejuvenated today. His bat looked so old and slow in Spring Training but I guess Yankee Stadium got the juices flowing again.
And how about Nick Markakis. He does it with the bat, the leather and the legs today. Outstanding.
Outside of the first inning, Erik Bedard pitched like an ace today. He only gave up two hits, struck out four and walked none.
Chris Ray recovered nicely to save the game in the 9th, 6-4.
But the real hero was Paul Bako with a three run shot off of Darrell Rasner. I have beaten up on Bako quite a bit but today, he's aces in my book. That doesn't change my overall opinion of him as a ballplayer though...yet.
Nothin' wrong with taking a series in the Bronx.
Happy Easter people...
No Johnny Damon, no Hideki Matsui for the Yanks today.
Gotta win this one while we've got them down. The good news is that no one in the AL East is playing that well. With a win today we'll be 1.5 games out of first at worst...behind Tampa or Toronto.
Our lefty ace is on the mound and they're throwing a guy who should be at Scranton.
Cross your fingers...
Saturday, April 7, 2007
OK, we all know about the grand slam given up by Chris Ray to A-Rod. The O's lose 10-7. But the game was lost when Mr. Reluctant walked Abreu and A-Rod in the 8th. Perlozzo should've brought Jamie Walker in to face Giambi but inexplicably left Baez in to give up a three-run shot and let New York back into the game.
I don't understand why Baez didn't challenge Abreu and A-Rod with no one on base and a four run lead. Issuing two consecutive walks in that situation is inexcusable. Not impressed with Baez thus far.
There has been some talk that Perlozzo should've pulled Ray but that just doesn't happen with established relievers. Ray was the best man for that position and probably got hosed by the ump on what should've been strike three to Jeter.
The pluses are that Mora had a huge game, Markakis hit another homerun and Trachsel was more than adequate facing the most formidable lineup in baseball.
This team will go nowhere this season if Mora doesn't have a bounceback year and it looks like he's going to have one.
You have to like Erik Bedard going up against Darrell Rasner. Time to take the series tomorrow.
A question for Sam Perlozzo; Sam, why are you having Melvin Mora try to sac bunt Brian Roberts to third base in the first inning with nobody out? Fortunately for you Sam, Mora laid down a great bunt and legged it out for a single because Markakis came up next and laced a double down the rightfield line, plating both baserunners. If you had your way Sam, you would've cost us a run.
Everyone flashing the glove in the first inning. Right after Michael Kay describes the O's defense as "less than airtight", Brian Roberts snagged a line drive and doubled Melky Cabrera off of 1st and then Mora made a diving stop on a Bobby Abreu liner.
Good things about Jeter: Fouled one off his toe, hit into a double play, failed to cover second on a Corey Patterson bunt, failed to cover second on a steal by Melvin Mora. I love watching Jeter limp.
Adam Loewen wasn't as sharp as we've seen him before but the result is the same. He's a Yankee killer. The bullpen holds the lead once again and O's win 6-4. More on this game later.
Igawa awaits at 1:05. Let's go O's!
Friday, April 6, 2007
I can't wait to play the Yanks. Why? Just look at the positives:
Everyone seems upset that Baltimore now has to face former favorite son Mike Mussina due to this weeks rainout in the Bronx. O's fans should be happy. While he has been 9-5 with a 4.21 ERA against Baltimore since he left, he is only 3-2 with a 5.09 ERA against Baltimore in the last three years. New Oriole Aubrey Huff has hit .293 against Moose for his career. It looks like a very favorable matchup for Baltimore especially with Adam Loewen bringing his 2.63 ERA in 24 innings against the Yankees to the mound.
The next two games we get Igawa and Rasner. Igawa is the only one to be slightly concerned about since he's a lefty. Baltimore has a good chance to win two out of three this weekend.
The O's scored 4.66 runs per game at Yankee Stadium last season. Over 9 games they slugged 11 homers.
Johnny Damon will likely miss the series. Derek Jeter made 3 errors over the course of his first two games. I wonder if the Bronx faithful booed him?
First divisional matchup tonight people. Let's go O's!
(No game last night so here's something a little different...)
The fourth installment of our continuing series of dismal tragedy and high comedy that is this organization's drafts under the Angelos Regime. Let's have at it!
Rick Elder - OF - High School - 1st Round
Elder tore up the Rookie Leagues but never adjusted to A ball. He got as high as Delmarva in 2001 and is now playing in the Independent leagues.
Mamon Tucker - OF - High School - 1st Round
Two first round picks on high school outfielders, two busts. He made it to A+ Frederick and was selected in the Rule V draft by Philadelphia. He bounced around the minors for a couple more years hitting .262 with 11 homeruns for his career. He's out of baseball.
Ben Knapp - RHP - High School - 2nd Round
Ben never really got it together, even in the low minors. He got to Frederick, briefly, in 2003 and was released. he played a year of independent league ball and now is out. he compiled a 23-27 record and a 4.65 ERA over 5 seasons.
Alex Hart - RHP - High School - 2nd Round
Drafted but never signed. A wasted pick. I'll include an 11th draftee to even things out.
Steve Bechler - RHP - High School - 3rd Round
We'll never know what Bechler could've been but signs pointed to him being a useful major league reliever someday. For those that don't know, Bechler died of a heart attack (probably brought on by ephedrine) during Spring Training of 2003.
Chris Davidson - P - Western Carolina University - 4th Round
Unclear on the reasons here but Chris Davidson never pitched professionally for anyone. Out of baseball.
Joshua Yarno - RHP - High School - 5th Round
Another guy who I can find no record of. Out of baseball.
Tim Raines, Jr. - OF - High School - 6th Round
Tim is no longer with the organization but was still kicking around the Nationals' minor league system last year. I don't want to spoil the rest of this list but with 75 games played and a .213 average in the Majors, Tim is the most successful member of this draft class. (sigh)
Tim Nelson - 3B - Allan Hancock College - 7th Round
Played two seasons at Bluefield and hung 'em up. Hit .226 over 34 games.
Randy Perez - LHP - High School - 8th Round
Randy never really distinguished himself at the lower levels and rose only as far a A+ Frederick. After 2003, he was out of baseball.
Francisco Monzon - C - High School - 9th Round
Monzon couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag in Rookie ball. That's as far as he got.
Top Ten Draft Pick Stats
Number that are regular contributors for the O's: 0
Number still in the organization: 0
Number traded for regular contributors: 0
Number out of baseball: 9
Diamonds in the rough: 0
I didn't think it was possible but now this draft is the worst I've ever seen and by a huge margin. Pat Gillick gets partial credit for Bechler I suppose, maybe. How bad was it? Out of the dozens of players selected by Baltimore that year only three made it as high as AAA: Tim Raines, Steve Bechler and a guy named Joey Hammond (and his stint was a cup of coffee). Dreadful.
And people wonder why we want Angelos gone. And why the farm system has been so bad
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Mike over at Oriole Magic absolutely lets Jaret Wright, Jay Gibbons, the O's front office and anybody standing near them have it over the team's 0-3 start. Mike is never short of an opinion!
Meanwhile at Oriole Post, Anthony thinks the team has played dismally and sees the team possibly going 0-6. Overall though, he remains optimistic.
Ben at Oriole Central recognizes the ugly but also highlights the positives from the series. While concerned, he's not "pressing the panic button yet."
At Camden Chat, SC takes Wright, Corey Patterson, Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora to task for their poor series. He can't wait to play the Yankees to remove the taste of this series from his mouth.
An finally, Roch Kubato's blog on baltimoresun.com he feels it's not time to panic but it is time to be a bit concerned. He also astutely states that Perlozzo is feeling the heat after three games. I never thought this would be the case so early in the season but I think he's right.
Hang on guys, it's going to be a long rollercoaster of a season.
There is not much positive to take away from last night's game as the Twins completed the sweep the O's with a 7-2 victory.
On the bright side, the bullpen looked good again. Only Jeremy Guthrie was not particularly sharp but he pitched out of jams and limited the damage.
Jaret Wright got shelled but did most of the damage himself issuing the 5 walks in 2.3 innings. you won't win a lot of games with that lack of control.
Play in the field was sloppy. Jay Gibbons dropped a sure out in foul ground and then Miguel Tejada missed the ensuing chopper hit his way. Add a bad throw from Corey Patterson and you have 3 errors. You're not going to win a lot of games that way either.
It's only the first series of the year but it has already exposed some weaknesses for Baltimore. The lack of depth, especially at catcher and the outfield positions, the poor (and short) bench and the weaker links in the pitching staff. Jaret Wright needs to regain his control or he will be the second coming of Russ Ortiz.
The lack of offense is a bit concerning too but the Twins do have a good staff and a great bullpen. It's not completely unexpected that the Orioles were held in check.
This team needs a better showing against the Yankees this weekend.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Daniel Cabrera was cruising through three, groundballs galore. He got wild later, had some bad luck on bloop hits, stolen bases, etc. But Cabrera never lost his composure and pitched great all game. Baltimore just couldn't manage to get men across the plate.
The bullpen looked great again for the second straight night.
Melvin showed that his 0-5 night was just a bit of bad luck as he jacked a homer into the leftfield stands in the 2nd.
Tejada is on fire. He is playing great shortstop, he is all over the field. He took a ball that ricocheted off of Cabrera's leg and if Aubrey Huff could've held it, would've robbed Castillo of a hit. Made a diving stop and flipped to Roberts at second starting a spectacular double play.
Alberto Castillo had worked with Cabrera before in the Dominican Leagues so he got the start last night. It's the closest thing Cabrera will ever get to a personal catcher. It was entertaining watching them interact. They looked like Dominican version of Crash Davis and "Nuke" LaLoosh.
The Twins have stolen 6 bases in the last two games and they haven't been caught stealing once. Ramon Hernandez led the league throwing out runners last season. Would Adam Donachie have been any worse than these guys?
Why has Freddy Bynum been the pinch hitter the last two nights? Last I checked, Chris Gomez is a pretty good hitter. Our best bench player rides the pine late in a close game.
Ask yourself this: A thirteen man rotation or a deeper bench? Which would be helping more right now?
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Most reactions to the Opening Day loss to the Twins were tempered with the old "It's only the first game." line, which is an absolutely correct assessment. But Rick Maese at The Baltimore Sun has thrown that argument completely out the window and is taking a bit more pessimistic approach. And I quote:
"It's the Orioles, and if you're expecting things to go according to plan, well, you probably haven't been paying much attention lately."
Jesus Rick, are we Red Sox fans now? Haven't seen that much dreariness and despondency at the start of the season since I left New England.
Speaking of Boston, the Red Sox got whooped 7-1 out in Kansas City. Gil Meche beats Curt Schilling! How did this happen? Curt explains in his blog, 38 Pitches:
"When you are facing a guy like Gil certain things can make it easier or harder. He’ll walk some guys if you give your offense a chance. His stuff is so good that when offenses have to press against him, or their down and need to make something happen, he can eat you up."
The lesson: Don't get behind on Gil Meche. Who knew?
Looking at the rest of the AL East, Toronto wins it in the 10th in Detroit and the Yankees beat the devil Rays in the Bronx. Tampa made a nice run at it with their young hitters leading the way but they just don't have the arms to keep themselves in the game.
I was listening to a podcast of the Dan Patrick Show and Peter Gammons was optimistic about the O's. This is notable because I haven't heard anyone in the national media say anything nice about Baltimore this offseason. He thinks they are the most improved team in the East and that they are good enough for at least a 3rd place finish. Keith Olbermann actually picked them second! A nice change of pace.
I watched the rest of the O's game and saw that Bako had not one but two passed balls! Where's the D? Isn't this guy supposed to be a defensive specialist?
(edit: I'm a little late with this but I had to take the kids to the beach this weekend. What can I say?)
OK, here's what we need to watch for this season. Ready?
1. The O's lower their ERA by a full run this season
This is what happened in Atlanta during Leo's second season there. that means the staff needs to post an ERA of 4.35 or better this year, especially if Baltimore is to see some success this season. 4.35, remember that number.
2. Markakis hits 25
Nick is looking like he may exceed prior expectations as far as his power numbers go. This year, he needs to take his place as (at least) the second best offense player on the team, behind Miguel Tejada.
3. Increased production from LF/CF
Corey Patterson had a great year in 2006 and LF looks upgraded with Jay Payton/Aubrey Huff over there. But if Patterson regresses (a distinct possibility), we'll need more than just adequate play out of leftfield this year. Let's hope Patterson doesn't backslide too much and we can get something like something like 15-20 HR and a .275 average out of leftfielders. Sadly, that would be a big improvement from last year.
4. Melvin Mora circa 2004
....or at least 2005. Melvin dropped off at the plate last year and Baltimore needs him to rebound a bit if they wish to contend this year. We can't have a third baseman SLG sub-.400 this year.
Outside of the bullpen or 1B/DH types, the O's don't have a lot of depth. They need to stay reasonably healthy to contend this year. We can't have Brandon Fahey playing left again (at least not this year) and expect to contend.
Let's Go O's!
OK, I'll admit that I didn't see the entire game, just from the 4th inning on. (I was out of town with the family, didn't get back until late...) So here's some incomplete notes on the game, I'll watch the rest on replay later...
I'm going to assume that Paul Bako was woozy from that big collision with Justin Morneau. I'm just going to assume that since this defensive dynamo couldn't possibly have let that passed ball go with out so much as a flinch in the direction of the ball for about 3 seconds, allowing a runner to score from third. And that throw that nearly went into the outfield while he tried to throw out Jason Tyner. That big collision with Morneau was the only play he made all night. I think Adam Donachie could have done as well....but I digress. It is now obvious that when Ramon Hernandez is not in the lineup there is not only a gaping hole offensively, there is also a big dropoff defensively. Get well Ramon...
Erik Bedard was not sharp. The ump had a tight strike zone, at least most of the time (Melvin Mora would disagree...) and Erik was getting squeezed on some good pitches. He gave up 10 hits including back to back homeruns in the second to Morneau and Torii Hunter. Although Erik usually keeps the ball in the park, he had three games last year where he gave up two homers in a game so this game wasn't unusual. Bedard just seems to give up homers in bunches from time to time.
Johan Santana wasn't that sharp either and turned out to be quite hittable last night. He got bailed out by Rondell White who made an unbelievable catch in left on what would've been a double for Mora in the 5th and never really was threatened after that (save the solo shot from Tejada to open the 6th).
Melvin Mora had a tough night, getting called out looking twice on very questionable outside pitches and getting robbed of a double. He looked better than his box score line would indicate.
Jay Gibbons stroked two doubles which made me happy for the guy. Hopefully, he keeps a hot bat through this first week or two and robs Kevin Millar of much of his playing time when Jay Payton comes back. I have been a big booster of Millar and I think he can be a useful player but man, does he look old up at the plate. His bat looks slow and his control of the strike zone seems to be suffering too.
The bullpen looked good especially John Parrish. Time will tell but the much maligned deals the O's made in the off-season for bullpen help seem to have paid off.
Today, Cabrera vs. Bonser. Go O's!