Really, what could make for a better weekend. Cal gets inducted to the HOF, the Orioles take the series from the Yankees and I got to watch a replay of Cal breaking Lou Gehrig's record in 1995. OK, we could've swept the Yankees but really that's about it.
The trading deadline is upon us and I'm waiting for the O's to announce if anything has happened. Outside of signing one of the Flying Molinas and sending him to Bowie, not a peep out of the warehouse. (Actually, this isn't one of the "good" Molina catchers; Gustavo is from Venezuela, Bengie and friends are from Puerto Rico.)
I don't care who you root for, the Josh Beckett/Erik Bedard matchup should be a classic. If you don't like this matchup, you just don't like baseball, you communist!
4:45...silence from the warehouse...
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Really, what could make for a better weekend. Cal gets inducted to the HOF, the Orioles take the series from the Yankees and I got to watch a replay of Cal breaking Lou Gehrig's record in 1995. OK, we could've swept the Yankees but really that's about it.
Friday, July 27, 2007
C'mon Steve. Your career was over. Baltimore picked you up off the scrapheap and you've had a fairly decent year. Now, when we need you to showcase yourself, in your last start before the trading deadline, in your last chance to go to a contender this season, you throw that mess yesterday? We knew we wouldn't get much for you but who's going to want you now? Some gratitude...
Brian Roberts hit a three-run shot to put the game away yesterday and preserve the sweep. Roberts is having a great year (obviously) and is on pace to hit .300, hit 10+ HR and steal 40+ bases. If he does so, he becomes only the 10th 2B in MLB history to hit for .300, steal at least 40 bases and hit at least 10 homers joining the like of Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio, Chuck Knoblauch (all did it twice), Alfonso Soriano, Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar. Not too shabby.
Nick Markakis' Rate Stats for 2006: .291 BA/.351 OBP/.448 SLG
Nick Markakis' Rate Stats for 2007: .291 BA/.354 OBP/.446 SLG
Scary, huh? How consistent had this guy been in his young career? And in nearly 100 less AB he has already surpassed his doubles, stolen base and RBI totals from last year. OK, he's only tied his RBI number but he's going to break that any day. Nice progress...
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if A-Rod hits a homer in the final two innings of the unfinished game from June 28th that will be completed today, his 500th homerun will be the one he hit in KC, and the one he hits in Baltimore will be retroactively credited as number 493. I wonder what other time warp oddites may occur today?
....Great Lakes , Illinois, Naval Service Training Command.
I was in the Tech Core barracks (all seaman training for technical rates - ET, DS, FC, etc.) finishing up my Data Systems training the night Cal broke the record. It was 4 hours before game time and I had a problem. Where was I going to watch the game?
I had the misfortune to be on duty that evening which meant there would be no running out to a local bar or one of the on-base clubs tonight. I was stuck in the barracks. I would have to find a TV in one of the lounges where I could watch Cal make history.
Now, there were several lounges in the barracks and you would have thought that in a BEQ filled with 400 or so men I would have had no problem finding a TV with a nationally televised baseball game of such importance. You would be wrong. These barracks were filled with tech types and many of them fit the stereotype - nerds. If you wandered around to see what was being watched on most evenings, there were no sports on any of the TVs. Typically, it would be Star Trek:The Next Generation or some sort of Japanese anime. Worse still, it was majority rule. If most of the people in the lounge wanted to watch the SciFi network, then that's what was going to be on. So my problem was getting the numbers on my side or missing probably the biggest night in O's history.
I got my buddy Parrish (a diehard Tigers fan) to commit but he had a couple of things to do after class and would not be there right away. I would hold down the lounge on the 3rd deck by myself, hoping not to be run off by a nerd patrol.
I went straight to the BEQ, straight to the 3rd deck and straight to the lounge and put on ESPN. And waited. I was there on my own for about and hour and a half, praying that the reinforcements would arrive. After some tense moments, Parrish showed up with one of his friends and he had three. Soon, guys would pass through, see that we were getting ready to watch Cal break the streak and stayed on. Before the game started, we must have had 25+ on our side and the guys showing up looking for a TV to watch Princess Mononoke or some crap were well outnumbered.
I watched Cal break the record with guys from all over the country, with various rooting interests but who all seemed to realize what a big deal all of this was. Cal homered. We cheered. Cal ran his lap, high-fiving the crowd. We applauded. And we watched the game.
Congratulations on your induction, Cal. We'll all be cheering for you one last time.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
You've got to love it when the Devil Rays come to town. First, it's good for a win streak almost every time. The O's are probably the hottest team in the AL behind the Yankees and the Rays make it so easy to win that you have to give them partial credit for both teams recent good fortune. Second, it makes you feel better that there are ballclubs out there that are in even worse shape than ours. Of course, you all saw Carl Crawford and Brendan Harris botch an easy popup that should've been the third out and instead it became two runs and allowed Jay Payton to plate another in the next at bat. Oh, to be a Rays fan. I can't imagine it.
Erik Bedard was not overly sharp last night (lots of hard hit balls right at fielders) but it shows his talent that he was able to dominate the boxscore without having his best stuff. The Orioles should lock his up ASAP. With a little luck in the win column, Bedard may be in serious consideration for the AL Cy Young.
He's not there yet but...if Corey Patterson continues to hit well, he could give the O's a hard choice to make when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Two weeks ago this was a no-brainer; let him walk unless he would return for a dirt-cheap incentive-laden contract. But now he looks like he is returning to last year's form.
Is part of that resurgence due to hitting second? Trembley toyed with Patterson in that role for a couple weeks (BTW, Perlozzo never did...) but (as I had hoped) Corey has been a fixture in the 2 hole for the last week with good results. Patterson is hitting .347 when batting second this season.
Another weird thing is that as Patterson has gotten less patient, his production has gone up. After his terrible May he has walked only 4 times and raised his batting average a full 60 points. Maybe he's one of the rare hitters who markedly improves when he gets outrageously aggressive at the plate?
Patterson is an enigma and unique among major league regulars. Win or lose, I am fascinated by this guy's game.
Luis Hernandez handles the bat better than I expected and is not too shabby with the glove either. Could he be a potential utility infielder when/if the O's part ways with Chris Gomez after this season?
Speaking of future utilitymen, Brandon Fahey gets the start at SS this afternoon.
The good news about Chris Ray going on the DL is that we get a longer look at Norfolk closer Cory Doyne against big league bats. The rest of the season is open auditions for next year's pen.
Steve Trachsel makes what may be his final start in an Oriole uniform this afternoon. Good luck against that lineup, Steve!
On a non-Baltimore related note: Does anybody remember Rick Ankiel? The 21 year old Cardinal pitcher who imploded in the 2000 NLDS and never regained his control? Well, he finally gave up pitching, switched to the outfield in the Cards minor league system and up to this point has hit .272 with 29 HR's for AAA Memphis! At 28, he's a heartbeat away from making it back to the bigs as a power hitting corner outfielder. Who says this isn't the greatest game in the world?
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
...was made pretty well last night. Even in his own flawed 5 BB, 3 K in 7 IP performance he showed the kind of talent he has to pitch around those mistakes. The Devil Rays may stink but they are a very good offensive team and D-Cab shut them down. I hate to sound like a broken record but I have to with all the "trade Cabrera now" sentiment. The O's are not exactly awash in proven major league starters. We can afford to wait Cabrera out awhile longer. Don't trade him!
I think Mark Texiera is a very good hitter and this point is probably moot since teams with much more to offer in trade are wooing Texas for his services, teams that will greatly overshadow anything Baltimore will be able to offer.
But what is the fascination with a guy who would maybe hit 30 HR this year (if he had been healthy all year), a guy who for his career (and this year actually) has hit .265 away from hitter-friendly Arlington Stadium and a power guy who will go weeks at a time without going deep? Are O's fans so beaten down that they want just anybody who mentions they would like to play here?
He's good, not great and certainly not worth Baltimore mortgaging the future for.
Let's Cowboy Up...
Speaking of guys who want to stay here, I hope the team keeps Kevin Millar. The pluses: he really seems to want to be here, he has been one of the top hitters for the team all year and for the production he gives you, he's dirt cheap. Obviously, if a team gets desperate and bowls you over with a nice prospect or younger MLB regular, you take it but I'm still holding out hope that he remains.
Guys Who May Be Traded
Steve Trachsel - Get what you can for him. He's pitched well for us this year and that was a bonus in itself. Get bodies for the minors and let Steve pitch for a contender.
Miguel Tejada - I'd like to keep him but if you get the right offer for him, you have to take it. I'm not a fan of just dumping him but if you can get good value you pull the trigger.
Jay Gibbons - Even though he has hit better lately, nobody will want this guy. Still, if somebody bites, you send him on his way. I have serious doubts that he will return to form over the long haul.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Jeremy Guthrie dominated the A's and Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker finished off the job. the O's win 2-0 and win the weekend series. Baltimore in its heyday was built around pitching, defense and the three-run homer.
The O's have the defense. They are second in the AL in team DER and 1stin the AL in fielding percentage.
The O's are developing the pitching. After a rough stretch with the 'pen, Dave Trembley seems to have found a way to work the relief staff in a more effective manner.
Now, we just need the slugging.
The Case for Dave Trembley
I was under the impression that Dave Trembley's moderate success may have been a product of the soft schedule the O's have been playing lately but au contraire:
Record of O's Opponents Pre-Trembley: .515
Record of O's Opponents Post-Trembley: .513
Pretty much the same strength of schedule. Trembley has guided the team to a .535 winning percentage while contending with injuries to Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora, two of the O's better offensive players.
The funny thing is:
BA OBP SLG OPS
APR .253 .322 .392 .714
MAY .277 .344 .398 .742
JUN .273 .333 .401 .734
JUL .271 .327 .419 .746
The offensive production has not been much different from the rest of the year but Trembley seems to be managing it to a better effect in the W-L column. With injuries. Against similiar competition.
The O's and Their Draft Futility
I've highlighted the amateur drafts and Baltimore's general futility in building a functional farm system and I feel it's reason number one for the O's issues and the number one crime of the Angelos regime.
So, imagine my dismay when I saw this in the Baltimore Sun this morning:
With the Aug. 15 deadline to sign draft picks looming, Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan remains confident that the club will sign its top two unsigned picks - Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, the first-round selection, and Texas Christian pitcher Jacob Arrieta, the fifth-round selection. Both are represented by Scott Boras...
...The Orioles will not sign their 10th-round pick, Eryk McConnell, a pitcher from North Carolina State, or their 38th-round pick, Michael Harrington, an outfielder from the College of Charleston. Both likely will return to college.
OK, if you want to start building a farm system that is useful year in and year out, you have to sign the players you draft! Not all of them, obviously. There are some players who you take a flyer on in the late rounds and try to talk them out of going to college next season. However, at the minimum, you need to sign your picks in the first ten rounds! Why would you draft a guy that high that you did not reasonably think you could sign? This farm system needs bodies. In the words of Branch Rickey, "From quantity come quality." Every pick, especially at that point in the draft, counts.
So, forgetting Eryck McConnell for a moment, let's look at the 1st round pick Matt Wieters and 5th round pick Jacob Arrieta. Baltimore has to sign these guys. And I don't want to hear about big bully agent Scott Boras. Did anybody not know who their agent was? Of course not. They drafted these guys knowing exactly what they were getting into. If you don't want to deal with Boras, pass on his guys. Many teams do. You can't waste these picks if you're not willing to pony up the cash to make them Orioles.
We'll be watching.
Orioles W/L in Close Games
Even with their recent success, the O's are still only 6-9 in close games (decided by less than two runs, the sparks in red are close games, up in win, down is loss).
Daniel Cabrera's Future
There has been sentiment in the O's blogosphere, in the press and Baltimore fans in general that their patience with Cabrera is over and it's time for him to go. I have a rule of thumb when considering whether I want a player to go. Are there better players on the team to take their place? In this case, do the O's have five starters better than D-Cab? Let's see: Bedard, Guthrie...Guthrie...I can't think of anyone else better, even if he never improves. Maybe Garrett Olson, maybe Adam Loewen if they pan out...but he's still number 5.
If we can find three more arms better than Cabrera, trade away. Until then, Cabrera needs to stay.
Friday, July 20, 2007
A look at the latest Amber Theoharis article:
Who Will Fill Heroes' Roles After Ripken?
...For baseball fans, however, heroes never die. Think how many of us have fathers or friends who are nearing their 60s and 70s, yet would still be awe-struck if they had a chance to meet Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle.
I think they would be awe-struck (as would I) as all of those fine ballplayers are dead. Regardless of age, if a decaying DiMaggio crawled out of the crypt and tried to shake my hand, I think anybody would be a little "awe-struck". If fact, "awe-struck" would be an understatement. I would call it all encompassing terror.
For my generation, how many of us feel giddy at the thought of meeting Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson and the biggest of them all, Cal Ripken Jr.?
Many of us would although I get the impression that most baseball fans thought Henderson was a pompous, self-aggrandizing jerk but point taken.
Next weekend, Cooperstown is expected to be flooded with one of the largest crowds ever for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction. There is one reason and one reason alone for that: Baltimore's biggest modern-day hero, Ripken, is the headliner.
Longtime Padre Tony Gwynn will also be enshrined in this year's class. Even though he is a huge name in baseball and is beloved by fans in San Diego and beyond, Gwynn simply doesn't have the same legendary status as Ripken. Then again, who does?
He doesn't have the same legendary status? They are both first-ballot hall of famers. Hall of Fame election is based on people's (writer's) opinions, so in the voter's eyes, Gwynn does have the same legendary status as Ripken.
Let's also not forget that Gwynn was a much more productive hitter than Ripken (yes, even when you consider Cal's superior power numbers). A much better hitter by a good margin actually. Although Ripken played tougher defensive positions, Gwynn was no slouch with the glove either (5 Gold Gloves).
Legendary status: Gwynn's got it.
That raises the question: Are baseball heroes becoming extinct with each passing generation? Just look at the list of heroes mentioned earlier for Generation X. With the exception of Ripken, none were anywhere as big as the Baby Boomers' icons; DiMaggio, Mantle and Maris.
DiMaggio was worshipped by Baby Boomers? A Baby Boomer is defined as having been born from 1944-1954. So at best, a Baby Boomer was about 6 while DiMaggio limped through his final season with the Yankees. My father, die-hard Yankee fan and solidly a Baby Boomer was not even 3 during the 1951 season. Needless to say, he never saw DiMaggio play.
So, out with DiMaggio and bring in Willie Mays. And Maris? Not even one of the true greats of his generation, let alone of all-time. Maris is out and Ted Williams will take his place.
Poor research Amber. OK, now we have three Boomer heroes.
Now, why don't Nolan Ryan and Rickey Henderson and seemingly no one else who played from the late seventies to the early nineties qualify as bonafide baseball heroes? Let's see:
Nolan Ryan - 8 no-hitters, strikeout king, HOF and nationwide acclaim
Ricky Henderson - Arguably the greatest offensive force of the '80's, SB king, 3,00 hits
Reggie Jackson - star slugger from the late '70's to mid-'80's, HOF, had his own candy bar
Aw hell, I don't have time to justify why Eddie Murray, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Robin Yount, Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor and others are true baseball heroes. They were all enormous stars during Ripken's era, are or will be in the HOF and were beloved.
Ugh, I can't continue...
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The Strange Case of Corey Patterson
Corey has really turned it around in July. He has been red hot (.368 batting average this month) after being just as cold as can be for the first half of the season. It's only been seven games but since Trembly has tried Patterson as the #2 hitter he is hitting .357 and OPSing .821. Much like the Millar as cleanup hitter experiment, I hope Trembley leaves him there until he plays his way out of the role.
But the strangest thing about Patterson's performance is his turnaround against left handed pitching. He has hit .242 for his career against lefties but has worn them out this year at a .344 clip! That would be great if he suddenly hadn't forgotten to hit righties (.262 for his career, .218 this season, even after his recent hot streak). I have never seen this kind of turnaround in an established player.
Leave Huff At Home
Aubrey is hitting .294 and slugging .447 at Camden Yards and hitting .220 and slugging .327 on the road. The solution? Sit him on the road. Nothing else seems to be working.
If Paul Bako wasn't so horrible with a bat, I'd suggest the same thing for Ramon Hernandez (.806 OPS at home, .638 OPS on the road)...
Send Up A Mannequin Instead
Paul Bako would be a much more fearsome hitter if he never swung his bat. He only sees 3.4 pitches per plate appearance, the lowest on the team outside of Corey Patterson and Jay Payton but at least those guys have some offensive skills to offer by swinging the bat. Sitting there like a pitcher and letting three balls go by is hardly worse. Better yet Paul, anything that looks like it's going to be in the strike zone, foul it off. Just don't swing or swing to foul it off. At least you'll be there to piss off the opposing pitcher and in some small way help wear him down.
And I want to hear no more about his defensive prowess. Opponents have stolen 17 bases off of him and he has caught only 4 good for only a 19% kill rate. Only 6 catchers in the majors have more passed balls than him...and they're all regulars! He's terrible. Would it really be so bad for J.R. House or even Eli Whiteside to sit back there once a week? Alberto Castillo would be a better choice. One of the worst signings this team has ever made.
Speaking of J.R. House...
Hey, O's! The season is lost outside of playing for pride. Let's see what some of the kids can do. Is Paul Bako really in your plans for next season? Let's get House up her and see how he does. House's line in Norfolk: .307/.366/.461. He's can't be worse than what we have as a backup catcher. Jon Knott's up but maybe we could throw him out in left everyday and see what happens. Maybe we could see if Adam Stern can hit with Patterson probably out the door after the season? And let's play Brandon Fahey out there everyday to see if he can really play. (I don't think he can but at least we'd know for sure.)
Dave Trembley's playing for his job so I doubt this will happen...
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Who is this guy talking about?
“The whole clubhouse likes him. He communicates well and really got us to remain focused. He definitely got as much as he could out of the guys, given everything he inherited. I’m excited for him and the team.”
Is this somebody talking about the job Dave Trembley is doing? No, this was an Oriole player commenting in 2005...about Sam Perlozzo.
I like what Trembley has done so far but let's not get carried away yet...
It's July and Nick Markakis is on fire. He's hitting .373, slugging .569 and OPSing 1.017 for the month of July. So is Corey Patterson for that matter. He's come out of nowhere to hit .333 and OPS .930 for July so far.
A great recap of the Andy McPhail/Dave Trembley Q&A with season ticket holders by Anthony Amobi on Oriole Magic (Also check out Anthony's blog, Oriole Post).
A good article by Christopher Heun over at Roar From 34 on John Maine and how well he's doing. He's not as skeptical as I but seems to think (or hope) that Maine will implode at some point this season.
Steve Trachsel is coming back and there is some question about whose spot in the rotation he will take - Olson or Burres? This is not even a question. Burres has been pitching above his head all year in the rotation and Olson not only has pitched well, he is being groomed as a future star of the staff. Burres was a valuable memeber of the bullpen before his promotion and we need him back in there. Rob Bell is not the answer in long relief.
Friday, July 13, 2007
OK, the second half has officially begun. let's see if the O's were able to meet any of their preseason goal, arbitrarily assigned by Yours Truly.
1. The O's lower their ERA by a full run this season.
Team ERA as of today: 4.46. The target: 4.35. Leo Mazzone has done wonders patching together a starting rotation at this point but even some of those smoke and mirrors are wearing off. If not for the enormous bullpen struggles, Baltimore might be exceeding this goal but as it is, they haven't improved enough to contend, even before calculating in the woeful offense.
2. Markakis hits 25.
He's only 23. He's only 23. He's only 23....
I have to keep telling myself that. Nick's having a fine year for a player of his experience but it's easy to get a bit impatient when you see the talent he flashes. He's "only" slugging .435 while I was hoping for something north of .450 and he's only on pace for 16 HR on a team that could sorely use more power. His average, slugging and on-base percentage are all down from last year but I keep telling myself....He's only 23. He's only 23. He's only 23...
3. Increased production from LF
Our leftfielders are OPSing .640, hitting .248 with 2 homeruns. It's worse than last year and I didn't think that was possible.
How bad is it? We would get the same production if we put Jerry Hairston, Jr. out there full time! Or Howie Clark. Or Abraham Nunez.
The CF position is even worse (OPS of .627). Corey Patterson needs to go and since he's already under contract, put Jay Payton in center.
Again, outside of Markakis, the outfield is an offensive black hole.
4. Melvin Mora circa 2004....or at least 2005.
Mora has been better than last year (especially in power production) but well short of his 2005 numbers. In fact, his OPS is almost exactly in the middle of his 2005 and 2006 numbers. These aren't bad numbers but they aren't the numbers we would expect from Mora. At 35, this is probably what we can expect from him for the rest of the contract.
We haven't had it. Case closed.
So at this point in the season, none of these goals that the O's could have reasonably hit, have been met.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
O's fans, there's no sense in getting upset when the Baltimore bullpen coughs up a lead this season. The season is lost and it's now open auditions for the bullpen spots. It's time to find out if anybody on this team can stabilize the 'pen in preparation for next year.
Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker are exempt from this conversation. They signed for big money in the offseason and have pitched well. Look for them to share the seventh and eighth innings, trading off as the setup man for the rest of the year. Who else?
Some rate stats for Ray comparing last year to this year
FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2006 4.87 7.4 3.9 1.44
2007 4.14 9.0 3.6 1.19
Ray has blown 4 saves this year this year compared to 5 all of last year but in
most important categories he is actually pitching better than last year. The
problem? A lot of balls are finding holes this year where last year the defense
bailed him out a bit more. I think Ray will have things go more his way in the
second half and he should remain the closer next year.