Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ramon Hernandez Is Actually Awesome (and other collected tidbits...)

I was going to write a post about everythig that is wrong with Ramon Hernandez in 2008, speculate that he's injured or getting old and ultimately was going to recommend that Guillermo Quiroz get a few more starts in his place.

Then something funny happened as I looked closer at Razor Ramon. I found out that he is having one hell of an April.

This is hardly the descriptor one would use for a player sporting a batting line (AVG/OPB/SLG) of .208/.247/.416. I have noted that Hernandez has made the most of his hits by coming through in the clutch and is among the team leaders in RBI but in general, I thought he was having a really poor start.

However, as I was digging around I looked at the line drive percentage (LD%) of the Oriole batters and saw Ramon leading them all. How was this possible? It's possible because Hernandez has been smoking the ball all season and been hitting them right at the opposition. In other words, he's just been incredibly unlucky.

Hernandez has had a Batting Average on Ball in Play (BABIP) of .191 so far. Generally, a batter can expect his BABIP to be about his LD% plus .12. Adam Jones, for example, has a LD% of 21.4% (.214). Add .12 and you get an estimated BABIP of .324. His actual BABIP is .329.

Ramon's LD% is 25.4% (.254). Adding .12, his BABIP should be .374, nearly doubling the actual .191 he sports now.

There's more. JC Bradbury created a stat several years ago called Projected OPS (PrOPS) which creates a batting line based on peripheral batted ball data like percentage of line drives, home runs, ground balls, etc. According to PrOPS, Ramon Hernandez batting line should be something like this: .314/.348./.506 for an OPS of .855. That number would put him in the top 25 in the AL and he would be far and away the best hitting catcher in the league.

Ramon Hernandez is blistering the ball and it's only a matter of time before things start to go his way. Look for great things from Ramon in May (assuming good health) and if you have a fantasy team, consider stashing him on your bench.


While we're talking about PrOPS, expect Kevin Millar (OPS .671) to also get appreciably better (PrOPS .804).
Expect "Spanky" Huff (OPS .814) to get a lot worse in the short term. Huff sports the fourth worst LD% of any regular in the AL (9.7%) so that batting average should be falling precipitously any week now.


Most defensive metrics point to the 2008 Orioles fielders as just average this year. But their Defensive Efficiency Ratio (DER) is a league leading .732. That means that the fielders and pitchers are working together to become a sum greater than the parts and converting 73% of balls in play to outs. That kind of run prevention can take a team a long way.


O-Swing% - The percentage of times a player swings at balls outside of the strike zone. Nick Markakis ranks 6th in baseball behind such "good eyes" like Frank Thomas, Albert Pujols and Pat Burrell. Nick only swings at bad pitches 12.04% of the time and the only other player in their early 20's who is even in the ballpark with Markakis is A's first baseman Daric Barton (12.95%). That's incredibly impressive for a player starting their third full season in the majors.

As you might imagine, Adam Jones swings at the most bad pitches (28.39%) and is swinging away at a team-leading 52.95% of all pitches total.

Brian Roberts makes contact 90.11% of the time he swings away, including a Vlad Guerrero-like 78.05% on balls outside of the strike zone. Amazing bat control.


It's been awhile since I've harped on John Maine, a pitcher I hate through no fault of his own. Maine is 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA so far this season for the Mets but his WHIP is 1.55 and his FIP stands at 4.71. You don't win for long putting that many people on base, especially when you are a flyball pitcher.

After the All-Star break last season, Maine went 5-6 with a 5.53 ERA contributing mightily to the Mets collapse down the stretch. Look for his first half number to approach these pretty soon, he's heading for a fall.

Base Hits: 4/30/2008

For the second time in two weeks, the Orioles battled it out for first place with a division rival. Garrett Olson had a fine 2008 debut as the Orioles beat the Rays 7-4. The Baltimore Orioles are now in first place by percentage points. We'll take it.


ESPN the Magazine has released their Fan Satisfaction Rankings for all 122 major sports franchises. The Baltimore Orioles came in 114th.

They published a quote from yours truly under the Orioles summary but did not give the name or web address of my blog despite me giving it to them at least three seperate times!

Such is life....


Goodbye Greg Aquino and Brandon Fahey, hello Garrett Olson and Bob McCrory.

Aquino has been terrible. Period. He'll not be back.

Fahey did not hit which was expected. But his fielding was not good either which was not really expected. He added almost no value to the team when he was on the field.

Expect Luis Hernandez to follow those guys to Norfolk soon. Like Fahey, Hernandez has not hit but he is also one of the worst defensive shortstops in the AL this year. The errors aren't bad but his range has been poor. I would expect Alex Cintron to be in Baltimore before June.

Matt Albers will get the start tomorrow.


Ramon Hernandez has struggled at the plate but has been making the most of his infrequent hits. With only 16 hits, he has driven in 14 RBI.


As a footnote to yesterday's Yankee post, A-Rod will land on the DL with his strained quad. And there was much rejoicing.


The Blue Jays are 1-8 since they released Frank Thomas. I don't know what that means but he obviously wasn't the only issue with that lineup.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How The Orioles Can Win The East 2008: The Case Against the Yankees Revisited

We all know that for the Orioles to do well this season that other teams in this division will have to slip up along the way. I figured I'd revisit some of these pre-season predictions (wishful thinkings) along the way to see how the rest of the division is stacking up.

First up, the Yankees

Like Last Year, the Pitching Staff Will Be a Problem

Chien-Ming Wang is pitching like the ace the Yankees need. I thought Pettite would be just average this year but he has pitched very well. Mussina has been inconsistent but has been able to keep his ERA below 5.00. The kids, Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, have struggled mightily.

I'll stick by my pre-season prediction that Wang will be good, Mussina will finish with an ERA closer to 5.00 than 4.50 and that the kids will continue to struggle, at least until the All0Star break. The only wild card here is Andy Pettite as he is fully capable of continuing his current production.

On the whole though, the Yankee pitching staff has been a problem thus far.

Jorge Posada Falls to Earth

Posada has only played in 18 games and has hit rather well (.302/.333/.476) for a catcher. The problem is that he can't actually play catcher right now. Posada just went on the DL for the first time in his career and has made it clear that he will not return to action until he is ready to field his position:

"I’m not playing first base," Posada said. "I’m a catcher. We’ve got seven first basemen."

Posada's shoulder injury is not considered season ending but just the fact that it is being discussed in those terms means the Yankees catcher will be missing a significant chunk of the season.

The old catcher is breaking down, just as I predicted.

Derek Jeter is the Worst Fielding Shortstop in Baseball

Depending on which defensive metric you choose to believe, Jeter is either in the middle of the pack or completely dreadful with the glove. I'll give this one another month to allow the number to draw a better conclusion.

Who's On First?

The batting line for all Yankee first basemen this season: .194/.309/.419

That's an OPS of .728 for what is a premier offensive position. That production puts them in the bottom third of the league...right down with the Orioles (ugh).

Nobody's on first.

Melky's the Man?

So far, yes. Melky is OPSing .852, already has 5 homers and is playing a pretty good centerfield.

Well, they can't all go your way.


Before the season I said:

If things are dicey early in the year, this team could literally implode. Youngsters manning crucial positions in the lineup and the pitching staff, surrounded by fragile old veterans who may not deliver the results their reputations promise.

Yeah, that's pretty much what's happening.

At The Game: Chattanooga Lookouts - 4/28/2008

The Chattanooga Lookouts are the longtime AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and play in the relatively new AT&T Field built in 2000.

We got there early since my son likes to get autographs. The usher showed us the door that connects the clubhouse to the field and said that would be the best place for autographs. The players were very accommodating and had practically covered the ball with signatures by the time we were done. Easily, 12 players signed for all the kids that were waiting. Very fan friendly. Orioles management...are you listening?

Two distinctive features of the park:
When a Lookouts player hits a home run, the Chattanooga Choo Choo emerges from the centerfield wall accompanied by lots of steam from the smokestack, lights and whistles too. My two-year old daughter enjoyed that very much.

Also, the bullpens are built into the outfield wall so you can't see the pitchers warming up. There is only a small window in each bullpen so the pitchers can watch the game. It was an odd configuration.

The Carolina Mudcats were in town and featured several top prospects for the Florida Marlins including CF Cameron Maybin and LHP Aaron Thompson.

The next day we happened upon this sculpture outside of the Hunter Museum of American Art:

Who says baseball can't be a work of art? The sculpture is by John Dreyfuss, a sculptor from Washington, D.C. It's called Full Count.

Pictures of the game and more below...


Chattanooga Lookouts

Monday, April 28, 2008

Disrespectful Fans: Dave Trembley Wants To Get Medieval On Your Ass

The Orioles are not to be trifled with. These comments from Dave Trembely regarding fans running out on the field Friday night are as ominous as they are fantastic.

"I wish I could have taken them in the back room," he said. "I would have kicked the snot out of both of them. I'm serious. You think I'm kidding you. I don't have any patience for disrespect. These guys bust their [rear] out there every night, and for two lunatics to come out there like that -- who do they think they are? Turn them over to us one time. I'll show them where the other side of the fence is. I believe in respect and common courtesy. Those two idiots last night did not show any of that."

All of which leads us to the first poll ever on Dempsey's Army. Which current Oriole would you like least to meet in a dark alley?

Gun and Bible Toting Luke Scott ("You read the Bible much, Brett?)
Gator Hunting Jamie Walker
Administrator of Respect Dave Trembley
Night-Life Loving Aubrey Huff
Brandon Fahey (hey, sometimes it's the littlest guy you have to watch out for...)

Of course, after these two White Sox fans assaulted a Royals coach a few years back, I think one could reasonably claim self-defense for taking out a fan...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Roberts Saves The Day

It's becoming a recurring them for the 2008 Baltimore Orioles. Pitcher gets hit early, bullpen circles the wagons and holds down the opposing batters, Orioles bats chip away until team is within striking distance and then a big blow allows them to take the lead. Last night, The Truth struck back in the 7th to give the Orioles the lead. And according to Yahoo Sports, he did it with his eyes closed.

When are they going to fix that?

Anyway, that wasn't enough as Ichiro tied the game with an unlikely two run homer and left it to Brian Roberts to hit a equally unexpected solo shot in the top of the 8th to give Baltimore the lead for good as George Sherrill closed it out for his 8th (?!?!?!) save of the year. Yes, Sherrill is on a pace for 50+ saves this season.

Adam Loewen is reporting forearm pain which explains a lot. His delivery was all over the place this season. He essentially gave a mea culpa and asked for the team to give someone else a shot in the rotation. I imagine the Oriole will DL him and that Matt Albers gets a shot to start for awhile.

Yawn. I had to go in and work late last night which allowed me to watch the whole game on my laptop but very much has me feeling like a nap this afternoon.

Being lazy, here's the Song of the Week and I'm signing off. "Landed" by Ben Folds. Later.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Last Two Games...

Wayward O has covered this nicely but I had to throw in my two cents.

Lots of lashing out at Dave Trembley for leaving Jeremy Guthrie in the game so long Tuesday night. Really? My complaint about Trembley has been that he doesn't leave his starters in long enough. I'm certainly not going to come down on him for erring on the other side of the equation.

But the real issue here is expectations. Some people are acting like this is a team of contenders. They're not. Three weeks ago, 100 losses were being touted across the O's blogosphere and general baseball press. Now that the team started 11-8 (now 12-9), people are acting like Trembley should be trying to keep the O's in the race. They are wrong.

Trembley gave his pitcher a chance, a pitcher who said he could get the job done. (Enough of the "every pitcher wants to stay in" argument. Tired.) Trembley hasn't seen what Guthrie can do in this situation so he decided to find out. Dave gave him the opportunity and Guthrie couldn't deliver. I don't expect Trembley to make the same mistake twice.

The point is, this is Trembley's first full season as manager with a lot of players who are in their first or second year in the big leagues. He is still learning what these guys may or may not be capable of and that's exactly what he should be doing in 2008, wins and losses be damned.

This team will be very fortunate to get to .500 by years end. It's important to remember that.

Nobody knows what kind of team the Orioles really have. I'll cut Trembley some slack while he works it all out. But if he does it again, I'll kill him for it.


Wayward O also posted this defensive gem by Jeremy Guthrie but you must watch it again. It may be the best defensive play you see all year. (Of course, Ramon Hernandez fired the ball into rightfield right after that, negating everything.)


Anyway, I have admitted I am a sucker when it comes to Daniel Cabrera and while I'm not sold by this latest run of success, it is easy for me to get carried away. I'll be taking (yet another) closer look at this later.


"Spanky" Huff is an idiot. It's a good thing he can hit home runs because he certainly doesn't seem to have a head for the game. Anybody see him practically run over Juan Samuel as he ran through the stop sign and got thrown out at home? If Juan Samuel's not sending you, you have to be dead to rights. Juan hasn't been conservative enough of his tenure as thirdbase coach. Home runs or not, Huff must go and Scott Moore must take his place.


Josh Kalk is a wiz with PITCHfx data and has created "player cards" for each pitcher's 2008 season thus far. Most interesting among Orioles is Jim Johnson's card where his similarity score shows him to be closest to Josh Beckett. I'm not sure how he calculates similarity but any comparison to Josh Beckett cannot be bad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet Swings or Garbage Kings?

I was going to write a post as a farewell to Jay Gibbons similar to ones that I wrote about Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. It was just to be a quick note to show the highlights of his Orioles career.

Unfortunately, highlight material was pretty lacking for Jay. What was his biggest moment? In 2002 he hit a solo shot off of Ugueth Urbina in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game against the Red Sox (a game that the O's would eventually lose in 15). That's it. A nice moment to be sure but there's no more like it.

I liked Jay Gibbons as a player. Excepting the injuries, I thought he was a useful player for a few years for the Orioles. (And he was a good guy...) But for a slugger, he had few moments when his contributions resulted in big plays that changed the course of the game. A lot of his extra base hits came during "garbage time".

Ben at Oriole Central got me thinking more about this when he posted an Ode to the Garbage Home Run and correctly identified Jay Gibbons as a man who did not have many big moments with the long ball during his major league career.

And all that got me thinking about a way to quantify that.

Now I have. It's a new stat called the Big Homer Index (BHI). I was going to call it the GHI (Garbage Homer Index) but the stat gets bigger as the "clutchness" of the homers increase. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

(For any of you who hate or love stats when it comes to baseball, understand that this is just for fun! It's completely unscientific and the numbers are based purely on my own preferences. Something created for diversion and discussion, nothing more.)

If you don't want to know how I established each player's index, scroll down until you see Jay Gibbons' name.

Each component is based on a percentage of each player's career home runs. This way, a marginal slugger who hit 100 home runs can be compared to a player who hit 400. Homers hit when the team is up by at least 3 runs or down by at least 4 runs count against the player. Also a high percentage of solo shots can count against the batter too. The average solo home run rate for the American League is typically just over 57% so any percentage above or below 58% (divided by 2) will count against or for the batter respectively.

Go ahead and tying home runs count for the batter as do walk-offs. Walk-offs count 8 times the value of the other types.

So the formula is:

((% Go-Ahead Homers)+(% Tying Homers)+((Game Ending Homers)*8)+((.58-(% of Solo Homers)/2) - (% Homers When 3+ Ahead) - (% Homers When 4+ Down)) * 1000 = BHI

I am so happy I will never have to try to explain that again...

Jay Gibbons - 121 Career Home Runs

Surprisingly, Jay doesn't have a huge percentage of his homers coming in "garbage time" (up by 3+ runs or 4+ runs down) but he clearly falls short when it comes to homers to tie the game or put the team ahead. Zero walk-off homers also hurts his case.

Jay hit solo shots at an almost 60% rate which didn't help his BHI either.

Gibbons lived in the middle. He hit a lot of solo homers when the score was 5-3 or 3-5. Contributions to be sure but nothing much in the clutch or in game changing situations.

BHI: 42

Cal Ripken - 431 Career Home Runs

A man with the flair for the dramatic, Cal gets a big boost from 4 walk-off home runs. Ripken had a larger percentage of homers during "garbage time" than Jay Gibbons but he also hit a much higher percentage or go ahead and tying homers during his career. He also hit fewer solo shots than the league average.

Put it all together and Cal laps Jay Gibbons as would be expected. These two numbers should give us a couple of nice reference points for future evaluations.

BHI: 197

Monday, April 21, 2008

Base Hits: 4/21/2008

Nothing wrong with taking two out of three from the Yankees. Good stuff.
The bad news is that the Baltimore Orioles have played horrific baseball on the road this year and are getting ready to embark on a long road trip.

For anybody waiting for the O's to fall back to Earth, the next couple of weeks could be the time...


The Jays released Frank Thomas. Various reasons given for this but even with Thomas' slow start this year, the Jays offense is suddenly less imposing.

Just to cover this angle, I think Thomas will still have a decent season for somebody but I don't think the Orioles need him...


A-Rod injured his quad which has to be troubling on a team that's already had its share of nagging injuries.

And if the Orioles do nothing else this year, they have brought the Joba Chamberlain situation to a head in the Bronx by taking the series with the Yankees. Hank Steinbrenner wants him to start while Brian Cashman wants him to remain in the bullpen...for now. Hank also had this to say about Mike Mussina:

"[Mussina] just needs to learn how to pitch like [45-year-old Phillies pitcher] Jamie Moyer," Steinbrenner said, according to The New York Times.

Oh sure, Hank. It's just that easy! And Daniel Cabrera should "just learn" to pitch like Nolan Ryan!


Keeping it in the Al East, the Rays' AL Reyes is on the DL. Matt Garza got shelled during a rehab start. SS Jason Bartlett was out of the lineup with a "tired throwing arm". Really? On a shortstop? That sounds fishy to me...


The Red Sox have scored 6.7 runs per game over the last 11 games. That doesn't include today's Patriot's Day game where they have already scored 8. Not looking forward to that matchup...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Feel The Thrill...Orioles!

Hey LaTroy Hawkins! How do you like the Orioles organization now!
I wasn't going to post this weekend great is this?

Markakis hustling to second on a Giambi error and then gunning down Bobby Abreu at the plate later in the game on Friday. When are these opposing baserunners going to learn? Our rightfielder is deadly with his arm. And from the looks of it, maybe out leftfielder is too.

Give up some love for Daniel Cabrera! Nice game! Just keep the ball in the yard as all these homers you are giving up are making me nervous.

Brian Burres proving me wrong, shutting down the Yankees lineup for 5.7 innings. They shut out the Yankees!

Raise your hand if you still think this team is going to lose 100 games.

I keep saying I'm going to enjoy this as long as it lasts but it just keeps going...I'm beginning to take this team seriously.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Truth Hurts...the White Sox!

Adam Jones. I call him The Truth. For one, he speaks it and for another...he just looks like The Truth on the ballfield.

Tonight he came through is the biggest of situations and had a walkoff single in the 10th driving in Kevin Millar for the winning run.

The O's are playing .500 ball over the past 6 games.

Anybody else sick of "Spanky" Huff yet? Could he come up smaller in big situations? According to, he's only hitting .125 in "clutch" situations and only .071 when the game is tied. Can't we unload this guy somewhere?


I have to recommend a post from Oriole Central for the second straight day as Ben looks at the Orioles who hit "garbage homeruns" and correctly identifies Jay Gibbons as a guy who goes yard when it doesn't much matter to the outcome of the game.

I have to agree about Gibbons. I was going to (still am at some point) write a post about the five biggest hits of Gibbons career with the Orioles but was quite surprised to see how few dramatic moments Gibbons actually had to, say, Miguel Tejada. A slugger like Gibbons should make a little more impact on a game over the course of several years.

Anyway, Ben's post has given me an idea for a series on former O's and their clutch performances (or lack thereof). Look for more on that later.


We are through 10% of the games. I decided to take a look at how hard our bullpen is being worked versus last season.

Walker 80 G, 43 IP
Bradford 70 G, 57 IP
Sherrill 60 G, 57 IP
Safarte, 60 G, 67 IP
Bierd, 50 G, 100 IP

Here's the pace the five main relievers were on when I blogged about the bullpen on May 3rd, 2007:

Baez - 81
Bradford - 91
Parrish - 81
Walker - 86
Ray - 81

I was afraid that the bullpen was on its way to burnout yet again but this year's pace looks to be a bit more sustainable.

For this edition of Song of the Week, I'll be recommending three versions of one great song. Don't ever say you don't get your money's worth here at Dempsey's Army.

The song is called "Such Great Heights" originally written and performed by SubPop label band The Postal Service back in 2003.

Here it is:

Next, a live version of the song by the sporadically brilliant Ben Folds:

Finally, a way more laid back version by Iron and Wine.

Have a great weekend!

The Postal Service

Ben Folds

Iron and Wine

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Miguel Tejada...EXPOSED!

Miguel Tejada has admitted that he is actually 33 instead of his reported 31. He finally fessed up after ESPN's E:60 show obtained his birth certificate from the Dominican Republic and busted him on camera.


Add this to the DL stint for Erik Bedard due to his hip and it looks like the O's are finally catching some breaks with some of these trades.

I liked the trades before these developments...

Good Cabrera vs. Bad Cabrera

I wouldn't dig in there if I were you. I don't know where it's going. I swear to God.
- Crash Davis

I don't think all these PITCHfx posts will have the the same title but the title certainly fits for Danny.

Today, I'll be looking at Daniel's poor start on April 2nd and his fine (well, better) start on April 12th. The bonus here is that he pitched both games against the Tampa Bay (devil)Rays so both games are against nearly identical lineups.

First, his pitch movement on both starts:

Two things are immediately noticeable. First, the fact that he threw almost nothing but fastballs his second time seeing the Rays lineup (which we already knew). Second, his fastball was much more lively during the second game. The horizontal break on 4/12 is nearly five inches more severe. And while his slider was quite lively during his first start is was nearly straight in the second. (Those blue plots on the lower right on the second chart can't possibly be changeups. I'm assuming they are curveballs mislabeled by the PITCHfx system.

Now the placement of Cabrera's pitches. I've added a very rough estimation of the strike zone to these plots.

Well, it's no wonder that great breaking slider didn't help him much in the first start; he couldn't control it at all!

Obviously, his pitch location is a little more focused during the second game. Yes, he's throwing more strikes but when he misses it's not by as much or it seems to be with purpose as he misses to particular spots.

Tampa's lineup is very lefty heavy so he's missing away or up and away from Carl Crawford and the like. But he's not afraid to come inside with that fastball against righties either which has to be pretty intimidating.

Is this why he's had some of his best performances against lineups loaded with lefties? When he's on that 94 mph fastball breaks with some significance away from lefties inducing weak waves, foul balls and weak grounders to short. If it breaks inside on righties, better hitters can still turn on those pitches or more easily identify it as a ball.

So is this the new (old) formula for Danny? Even in the second game he couldn't place his changeup for strikes at all. With very limited use he was able to get his slider over but his fastball, even with nothing else contrasting it, is nearly unhittable.

The Tampa Bay announcers observed (correctly) that Cabrera is a horrible fielder and they didn't know why more teams didn't bunt on him to put more pressure on his defense skills. The problem is, that fastball is so lethal and lively that it's hard to even bunt the ball! The Rays tried that night and couldn't lay down a single successful bunt in fair territory, not even for a sacrifice.

Rick Kranitz has a reputation for focusing on what his pitchers do best and not trying to make them do things they aren't good at. With a fastball so wicked, maybe he's letting Daniel throw his best pitch almost exclusively and just trying to tweak the accuracy. It makes sense. If a guy hasn't mastered control of his best pitch, what are the odds he's going to be able to learn a new one?

And some wildness helps Cabrera. He got a ton of strikes on balls he threw out of the strike zone.

This is all probably much ado about nothing (with Cabrera it usually is) but I'd be curious to see what strategy he takes against another lefty heavy lineup...the Yankees...on Friday.

Moral Victory?

Last night's game would qualify for one of Ben's cocentric Circles of Losing. It would be Circle 1 - the Moral Victory. (Further Dante infused Orioles reading over at Oriole Central here.)

Adam Loewen was not bad last night and he has improved with every start. His stuff is electric, not in pure heat but in movement. And after a disastrous first inning, he settled down and (with some help from his defense) put up zeroes for the next 5 innings. A step in the right direction. Loewen has improved with each start.

Jim Johnson looks like a seasoned pro on the mound. He mixes his pitches, keeps the ball down in the zone, works fast and isn't afraid to let his defense work behind him. He looks like a veteran at the age of 24 and he might not go back to Norfolk at all this season.

Lots of singles last night. Without some extra base hits, they're going to struggle in close games. Sorry if I'm stating the obvious but the offense is beginning to look a lot like the power-starved version from last year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Flashback: 1994

Not much to comment about on last night's shelling outside of "Get used to it". It's going to happen a lot this year in between the encouraging parts.

Today, the cover of Outside Pitch from one of the last games I went to at Camden Yards before I moved away. Coverboy Chris Sabo? Really? And Leo Gomez? And is the Kid Correspondent interviewing this guy or these guys? (click on the picture for larger version)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Base Hits: 4/15/2008

Is anybody else having as much fun as I am? I got to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Blue Jays for 1st place in the AL east tonight. And they won. I keep saying it; enjoy it as long as it lasts.

13 hits and only four runs? Not good. Adam Jones looked great last night. So did Matt Albers. Will he force his way into the rotation?


OK. Brian Burres data:

1st PA in G .256 .344 .421
2nd PA in G .301 .400 .393
3rd+ PA in G .340 .411 .490

See? First time through the order, he's fine. A nice swingman and long reliever. Nothing to be embarrassed about.


Desert O of Weaver's Tantrum will be taking a hiatus from the Oriole blogging as he hikes from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail!

Good luck to Desert O on his journey, that is no easy undertaking. You can follow his progress on the trail at his other blog, right here.

Blackbird Rising will be keeping Weaver's Tantrum warm until Desert O's return.


Welcome back Gabe Kapler! A look at Kapler's improbable success early this season over at FanGraphs.

I was stationed in Jacksonville when Gabe Kapler played for the AA Jacksonville Suns and my wife and I had a lot of fun watching those games. There were a few players on that team who ended up playing in the majors (Matt Anderson, Robert Fick, Dave Borkowski, Willis Roberts, Jose Macias) but only Francisco Cordero and Dave Roberts have gone on to have any careers of note. But I would have sworn that Gabe Kapler was going to be a star. Some Kapler stats from 1998 at the age of 22: 139 games, .322 AVG, 28 HR, 47 doubles, 146 RBI.

I've always pulled for Gabe and he's probably the only Red Sox player I was genuinely happy for when they won the World Series.


Finally, a nice pull (again) for Anthony over at Oriole Post as he plays five questions with nobody special. Only Brooks Robinson!

Millar photo courtesy of Reuters

Burres....To The Pen!

Just a quick thought on yesterday's game. I am a big fan of Brian Burres but have always thought the place for him to be most effective is the bullpen. And everytime he has an outing like yesterday, he'll start to convince me I'm wrong for four innings and then confirm my assertion in the 5th.

He's a fine pitcher and an asset to the organization but he has to go back to the pen at the first opportunity. He's just more help out there and I'm going to prove it....

Feels like 1989. The Blue Jays are coming to town and we're going to duke it out for first place...

I like Guillermo Quiroz. He's a good backup...

Hey Don Geronimo! Happy Trails...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

They Did It Again...

Before Friday night, Carlos Pena was o-5 with four strikeouts against Jamie Walker. Oh, how times have changed.

First, here's the break on the pitches by Walker to Pena in the fateful 7th on Friday night.

The graph stands in counterpoint to Roch Kubatko's assertion that Jamie hung a breaking ball to Pena. The ball broke at least as well as anything else he threw that night. Pena just crushed a good pitch.

Saturday was a different story. Walker threw a belt-high fastball on the inside part of the plate and Pena turned on it and lined it into the rightfield stands. I suppose he was trying to sneak one by but I'm guessing he wanted to keep that ball down.

(As an aside, I wasn't the only one who thought Roch was being snarky with Jamie Walker. The comments on that blog entry later in the day had many replies remarking about the same thing.)

But the Orioles were not to be denied tonight as Ramon Hernandez out-Pena-ed the Rays, smashing a Dan Wheeler fastball over the leftfield fence to give the O's a 3-2 with 2 out in the top of the ninth.

Hernandez is only batting .194 but he's making it count. He is second on the team with 7 RBI this season.

Daniel Cabrera gave one of those performances that will break your heart later in the season. An outing like that makes you start believing. More on that later...

With the win, the Baltimore Orioles retain sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Terror in Tampa and Roch Kicks 'Em When They're Down

Owwwch! Ouch..quit it!

Growing pains exacted excruciatingly by Carlos Pena and friends.

The Good: Jeremy Guthrie pitched well and the Baltimore Oriole bats were alive against Jamie Shields, a good young pitcher.

The Bad: The defense (more on that later), the bullpen and the Oriole offense not putting the game away when they had a chance.

Anyway, a rare cheap shot from the keyboard of Roch Kubatko and it was directed at Jamie Walker:

While challenging a Sun reporter in the middle of the clubhouse last week, reliever Jamie Walker said something about how it’s fine if the media wants to rip him after he messes up, “but leave my teammates alone.”

We won’t rip you, Jamie, but no more meatballs to Carlos Pena. Please. Find something else on the menu.

That situation screamed for you last night. Two men on base, a three-run lead to protect and a left-handed batter at the plate. And you hang a curveball. And a lead disappears. And a losing streak reaches three games.

I vote that we worry less about what's in the papers and more about finishing off opponents...

Walker gets paid to retire those guys and bridge the gap to George Sherrill.

Ouch. We're not going to rip you Jamie but now...we're going to rip you.

Kubatko seemingly has had these criticisms in his head, if not on his hard drive, and was waiting for the first time Walker screwed up to use them. That's fine. It's kind of like a a revenge plunking, looking out for one of his Baltimore Sun teammates. (It was Dan Connolly who got ripped by the way. Roch never wants to say his name.)

But I don't think Roch watched the game last night. Walker came in with one out and got Akinori Iwamura to hit a soft grounder to shortstop. But Luis Hernandez booted the ball off his glove and then fumbled the ball around so long he was unable to make a throw. The hometown scorer gave Iwamura a hit but that was an error. It should have been two outs with nobody on with Carl Crawford coming up. Crawford hit the first pitch for a weak Texas Leaguer to shallow center. If Luis Hernandez had taken a good route to the ball or if Adam Jones had been playing centerfield last night, that may have been the third out of the inning.

Now, to this comment: "And you hang a curveball." Dead wrong. It was a good pitch. It broke great and was placed right where Pena had swung through one for a strike two pitches before. Pena was just on fire and hit a good pitch. (Likewise, he hit a great pitch from Guthrie for an opposite field homerun. Sick. Doubly painful that the Orioles could've signed him for a song before the 2007 season.)

Jamie Walker had some bad luck and gave up a homer to a slugger who he shouldn't have had to face. The team lost the game last night Roch, not Walker alone. Again, I understand you're protecting your co-worker but it's a real cheap shot. And your motives are transparent. And you're dead wrong.

Now that that's done...Let's go O's!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Quick One...

"The ball was getting away from me, and I couldn't figure out my release point. ... "

- Adam Loewen

Release point of fastballs thrown by Jeremy Guthrie on Sunday and Adam Loewen yesterday:

Pretty easy to quantify. Guthrie's release point is fairly clustered while Loewen's looks like a Rorschach Test. Repeatability is so important in pitching. At least Loewen is cognizant enough to know exactly what he's doing wrong.

No Tase Yo, Bro

A great post by Matt Taylor at Roar From 34 about Orioles first base coach John Shelby and his ties to the glory days in Baltimore.

I have found it ironic that since John Shelby was hired that our first base coach and our third base coach, Juan Samuel, were both on the field the last time the Orioles won the World Series...but that Samuel was on the losing end of things with the Phillies.


Tampa Bay Rays reliever Al Reyes (perhaps their best reliever) was arrested early Friday morning after an altercation at a Tampa nightclub. Reyes was punched in the face and after bouncers grabbed the man, Reyes started swinging his arms at anybody near him and spat blood at bystanders as well. ("Spanky" Huff was right. The nightlife is much better in Tampa. I never used to get blood spit on me in Fells Point...)

But there's more...

...Reyes got into a fight with another man, Eduardo Mora...

Mora...hmmmm. Could Melvin Mora have sent one of his relatives to provoke a known drunken hothead so Melvin would not have to face him this weekend? Coincidence?

Further investigation shows that Melvin is 2-4 with a homer against Al Reyes in his career ruining potential conspiracy theory...


SC of Camden Chat has his nominations for the 2008 Oriole Magic Mix Tape. Brilliant. And SC has been doing regular posts about the O's minor league teams that provide a quick one-stop shop update for the Baby Birds.


No Scott Kazmir, no Matt Garza, no Cliff Floyd, no Rocco Baldelli, probably no Al Reyes, perhaps no Willie Aybar...a good opportunity to put a hurtin' on the Ray. Let's go O's!


So for this week's version of Song of the Week, I felt like going for a little jazz. This is the John Coltrane Quartet performing "Afro Blue". You have to get past the credits and the cheesy jazz critic leaning on the piano and smoking his pipe but besides that it is outstanding. Known mostly for his work on the tenor sax, Coltrane take a swing with the soprano sax on this one but this ain't no Kenny G! The rest of the quartet (McCoy Tyner (p), Jimmy Garrison (b) and Elvin Jones (d)) were outstanding musicians in their own right but quite underrated with Coltrane looming so large. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Good Guthrie vs. Bad Guthrie

This is my first attempt at doing some analysis using the PITCHfx data that can be found on What is PITCHfx? These are systems that have been installed at all ballparks in MLB that give deeper information on pitching. More on that over here if you care how the data is acquired.

What can this tell data tell us? I don't know but I have some and I'm going to find out using Jeremy Guthrie as a Guinea Pig since his first two starts were at home and they were very different in their results. As you can see (and as you probably remember), his first start was pretty bad and his second start was pretty good.

So here's Jeremy Guthrie, first the data from his Opening Day start where he struggled and the data from last Sunday's game where he pitched quite well.

These charts show his pitch movement. The first one is from Opening Day (Bad Guthrie) the one below it is the game on April 6th (Good Guthrie). Measurements are in inches.

Even though I don't have these charts on the exact same scale (got to do that next time) you can clearly see that Guthrie's fastball was not nearly as lively on Opening Day as it was last Sunday. His changeup and slider had comparable movement in both outings which explains why he threw a whole lot of sliders on Opening Day; his fastball was relatively straight. (On a side note, look at how Guthrie's fastball breaks up and in against righthanded batters when it's got good movement. Probably one reason righties only OPS'ed .666 against him last year. Also, look at how his changeup breaks; it's almost exactly like his fastball, just a little less "up" break on it. He doesn't throw it much but that's got to be a tough pitch for batters to adjust to since it must look just like his fastball out of his hand.)

Now a look at the pitch placement. Again, Opening Day on top. This time measurements are in feet.

Again, the first thing you notice is the differences in the fastballs. Guthrie's placement of his fastball is pretty erratic in the first game. Fastball were missing inside and outside, sometimes more than a foot off the plate. In the second game that fastball is being thrown for strikes.

Also, while his slider was live in both games, he had trouble getting it over for strikes. Lots of sliders went too far outside in that first game.

So, when Guthrie was more successful, he had:

A) a livelier fastball, not in terms of speed but in movement.
B) better control of his fastball and secondarily, his slider.

I thought the problems with his fastball might be related to the weather but the weather was equally bad in both games. (55 degrees, drizzle vs. 52 degrees, rain). His release points were fairly consistent. It appears he was just a little off but maybe more data in upcoming starts will point to something.

Here's hoping he has that fastball working for him on Friday in Tampa!

(I can't wait until Daniel Cabrera has one of his rare fantastic outings and it can be compared to one of his "normal" outings...)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hey...Wha' Happen'd?

There weren't a lot of optimists going into 2008. Hell, in the Orioles blogosphere it was only my lukewarm assertion that the team wouldn't be worse than last year and James Baker of Oriole Magic believing that the pitching staff would surprise.

Now, the Orioles are giving us an unexpected dose of joy in early April and giving other AL teams fits.

The Mariner fans are disconsolate after their unexpected sweep at the hands of the Orange & Black.

Lookout Landing:

I'm pretty sure this entire series was George Sherrill giving an extended one-finger salute to everyone who thought the Bedard trade was simply exchanging a talented young outfielder for an established ace. Guess what? It hurt the bullpen too, and while Eric O'Flaherty isn't nearly as bad as he's looked so far, he's still a substantial downgrade.

U.S.S. Mariner

Early trade results: Baltimore acquired three saves, a couple of base hits, and some good outfield defense in exchange for a bad hip. Advantage, Orioles.

We've actually struck a little panic into the hearts of opposing fans. A nice little moment.

So how are they doing it? First is obviously the very excellent work of the bullpen. Now, we saw this to a lesser extent last year but the workload was too much and various relievers began to break down.

I checked the stats and unlike last year at this time, Baltimore relievers are not leading the league in innings. They are ranked 16th in the league so it's a pretty average workload. The starters will need to be eating more innings going forward if this momentum is to continue but they have done enough thus far, usually getting through 6 innings on average.

Aubrey Huff has gotten off to a quick start, Luke Scott has been a huge upgrade in left, Luis Hernandez has some clutch hits (and is hitting .364), Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are...well, themselves.


The O's also seem motivated by all the bad press they heard in the preseason. Even this paragraph by Dan Connolly in the Baltimore Sun on Monday got them fired up.

Here's the deal. This team isn't close to the ones of the late 1970s and early 1980s that helped energize this city. There's still plenty of reason to believe it will be the worst to wear Orioles on a road jersey since 1988.

Jamie Walker reportedly took Connolly to task in the locker room and several of his teammates weren't too pleased either. Cheap "us vs them" tactics for motivation? By any means necessary...


I often beat myself up over my writing on this blog, specifically typos and spelling errors I don't catch at first glance.

So it make me feel better when others screw up facts and grammar.

This was on Yahoo last night previewing today's game. (It has since been corrected...)

The Baltimore offense has gotten a boost from two relative newcomers. Offseason acquisition Luke Scott homered Tuesday and is 9-for-14 with four RBIs in the last four games. Huff, acquired from Tampa Bay in mid-July, has two homers and 11 RBIs - four on Tuesday as he matched a career high with four hits.

Huff was acquired by Houston from Tampa Bay in July 2006. The Orioles signed Huff in the offseason.

From Amber Theoharis' blog on MASN (not picking on you Amber, enjoy your stuff!)...

We've all be tainted by the Orioles teams of the past 10 years.

No further explanation necessary...

And on Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravech stated that Brian Burress had gone 7+ innings when we all know that he only went 6+.

I don't know. Knowing the pros make errors too makes me feel a little better about my foibles. But not really.

Luke Scott photo credited to the AP

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Truth Is Sleeping

Just a quick note. This is Adam Jones picture on Yahoo Sports:

Did they take this picture on the plane ride back from Venezeula? How could this be allowed? Is this narcolepsy?

Dempsey's Army demands a retake with pupils visible.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Minor Miracles

I am not convinced that he is what he was billed to be (a slick fielding, light hitting shortstop) but Luis Hernandez is starting to win me over a little. His fielding has been great and he's up there at the plate working the count. He's performing in the field and buying into the team philosophy of hitting. He's trying and until we have a better option, he may work out after all.

(edit: It's Sunday now and I'm ready to love this guy again. Walk off singles will do that for your credibility...)


Matt Wieters homered twice in his debut for the Frederick Keys and Jake Arrietta threw four innings allowing 1 run. Nice start for the 2007 draft class. On the other had, Billy Rowell had to be removed from the game after pulling up lame running to first.


LaTroy Hawkins, welcome back to the AL East.


Hawkins 2 2 8 0 0 7 31.50


Brooks Robinson's statue was unveiled in York, PA this weekend. I won't go on a rant but if you are the Baltimore Orioles, you don't have a ton of immortals like the Yankees or the Cubs do. It a pretty clear Holy Trinity of 33rd St of Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken. All should be immortalized in bronze out on Eutaw St.


Sam Perlozzo spoke to reporters on Friday and said that he was put in a "no-win situation" here in Baltimore.

Was he in a no-win situation like Dave Trembley is now? Better or worse?

His sad-sack loser ways seem to be rubbing off on the Mariners...


After that Opening Day loss to Tampa Bay, who thought this team would be 3 games over .500 at any point during this season? Anyone? Not even me. But I'll enjoy it while I can.

The Orioles have to get some starters going deeper into these games or we'll be looking at 2007 all over again. (edit: They did. Jeremy Guthrie gave them 7 strong.)

And I don't get how anyone can't like Kevin Millar. he's single-handedly bringing back Oriole Magic...


Picked up some beer from Clipper City today. I couldn't find any of their lighter fare so I picked up a 12 pack of their Heavy Seas series. Kind of heavy beers for baseball season but it's chilly and rainy in Atlanta this weekend so the Winter Storm tasted pretty good watching the Oriole win.


This is too funny.


Don't look now, the Baltimore Orioles are in first place.

Friday, April 4, 2008

More Prospects...

After reading Alex Eisenberg's article in The Hardball Times that featured Chorye Spoone, I decided to check out his blog to see if any other Oriole prospects were mentioned.

Among guys he sees as potential breakout players (meaning Top 10 prospects) this season are Frederick Keys pitcher David Hernandez and soon to be Key Bobby Henson.

Hernandez was certainly not on my radar but indeed had a solid but inconsistent year. Henson is only 20 and tore it up as an Ironbird last season. Heaven knows we could use all the middle infield prospects we can get.

Recent acquisition Chris Tillman is also featured as one of the most underrated prospects in baseball.


The new baseball season is getting me thirsty for some beer from Maryland. No, not Natty Boh. I can get Clipper City brews down here, maybe I'll go pick up a 12 pack this weekend. Anybody out there drink Clipper City? Recommendations?


A quick thought on Tampa Bay: I watched the Wednesday game again last night, at least the parts I missed. I will reiterate that I don't see how the Rays are going to take a giant leap forward this season until they can improve their defense. Especially up the middle. Errors, knocking the ball around, dropping balls before the throw...stuff that gives a mediocre lineup like Baltimore too many chances to beat you. What's going to happen against really good teams?


I've got some ideas on deeper analysis for the team so I'm going to go work on those now. With no game last night, pretty slow for Orioles news.

Here's the Song of the Week feature I'm going to start up. Nothing to do with the Orioles at all, just some of my favorite bands/songs as a diversion.

This week, everybody's favorite Indie rock kings from Manitoba, The Weakerthans. This is "A Civil Twighlight" from their latest album "Reunion Tour". Enjoy.

The Weakerthans

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Enigma Named Daniel Cabrera

I won't go on and on about Daniel Cabrera but the most disturbing thing about his performance last season was all the homers he gave up. For all the faults Cabrera has, the one thing he was really good at was striking out people and keeping the ball in the park.
Cabrera gave up two homers last night which does not bode well for his prospects this season. Only one game, yes, but out of character for the pitcher we knew before 2007.

I checked HitTrackerOnline and the Cliff Floyd homer was one they characterize as a "Just Enough" homer so you can give Daniel a little bit of a pass; maybe it was bad luck. But the Carlos Pena homer was way back there.

Just something to think about.

Alex Eisenberg tells you damn near everything you need to know about O's pitching prospect Chorye least everything about his pitching. Mechanics, stats, mentality...he's very thorough and there's some video. Good stuff.


The Win Probability Graph from last night's game, courtesy of FanGraphs:


The performance of the bullpen has been encouraging (0.00 ERA through two games) but let's not forget that the bullpen ERA through the first two games of 2007 was an excellent 2.09. And we all remember how that turned out.


Sam Perlozzo is returning to Camden Yards as a coach for the Seattle Mariners.

Dan Connolly asked him about the Mother's Day Massacre against Boston last season:

Attempting to protect his inexperienced right-hander who had thrown 91 pitches, Perlozzo pulled Guthrie for setup man Danys Baez and then closer Chris Ray."I was totally taking care of [Guthrie]. I wanted him to be a good pitcher. I didn't want to blow him out," Perlozzo said. "I had the back end of my bullpen with a five-run lead and one out. How could you make a mistake there?"

He still doesn't get it. Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford both made more relief appearances in 2007 than any reliever in the 54 year history of the Baltimore Orioles (81 and 78 respectively). On May 13th, the day in question, it was the 19th relief appearances for both Danys Baez and Chris Ray and it was only the 38th game of the season.

Both these guys were on a pace to appear in 81 games in 2007! Those are crazy numbers! Perlozzo rode his bullpen hard and put them away wet. Ray had never been made more than 61 appearances in a season. Do you think this workload may have had something to do with his eventual injury? Baez wasn't that good to begin with but he too was overworked and overexposed.
Now, which was worse? Letting Guthrie finish the game and resting your exhausted bullpen or bringing in the overworked hurlers?

Glad you're gone Sam. You may have been a good guy but you were a lousy manager.


I sponsored the Scott Moore page over at It will expire soon but I sponsored Brian Burres last year. Yes, I'm desperately cheap...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Base Hits: 4/2/2008

Patrick Smith who covers the Orioles for Bugs and Cranks makes an interesting observation that Luke Scott strode to the plate on Monday to the song "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges. Not your typical ballpark music to be sure...


Anthony has some nice pics of the Orioles FanFest from this past weekend over at Oriole Post.


Speaking of nice pics, The New York Times has a great slideshow uncovering "The Unseen Yankee Stadium".


Misplaced optimism abounds on the Oriole Blogosphere (most of it right here) and I love The Wayward O's analogy of the youthful Orioles as cuddly baby polar bear.


Ben reads between the lines over at Oriole Central and suspects we'll see Mike Costanzo in the majors sooner than many expect.


Oriole Trade Monitor Update: I'm taking down the Corey Patterson trade as it appears to have reached its conclusion. Unless Nate Spears catches fire and actually makes the Cubs roster at some point in the next two years, the scoreboard reads Corey Patterson 22 Win Shares, Nate Spears and Carlos Perez 0 WS between them.

A fine trade for Patterson who delivered stellar defense, great base running and a serviceable, if inconsistent bat in center for two seasons. O's win this one hands down

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Damn It...

Well, you saw a genuine reaction there. I completely fell for it.

In my defense so seemingly did The Hardball Times. Anyway...

I have kept this blog really Oriole-centric over the first year plus that I've been pecking away at the keyboard. I'm changing the focus just a little or at least adding a few things over the next couple weeks and see how they go. It won't be a free-for-all but just a couple things to distract from the seemingly horrible season we Orioles fans are about to endure. Don't worry , it's more of additions vs. a change of focus like some other Oriole blogs over the years. (2632...come back to us!) I need to indulge my passion for baseball history in general a bit more...

Nice self-indulgent post, huh? Moving on...

Random Thoughts......Holy Crap! Brian Got Traded!

Optimistic note of the day: The bullpen looked good yesterday. Matt Albers and Brian Burres shut down the Rays after they shelled Jeremy Guthrie. I still think Burres is better deployed out of the bullpen but I guess Dave Trambley will do that once he finds a better option.


ESPN's Rob Neyer doesn't see us losing 100 games this year if only on the strength of our revamped outfield. He thinks we'll only lose about 95. Nice.

Also from Neyer regarding the Jay Gibbons situation:

What do you do with a bad contract? Unless some other team is feeling generous, you eat it. It's called a sunk cost, and if the Orioles really understand this basic principle, maybe there really is some hope for them.


Alex Cintron has been signed to a minor league deal
by Baltimore and will report to Norfolk. Nice low risk move which I called for last week. Luis Hernandez should be shanking in his cleats.


Ummm....Brian Roberts just got traded. Guess I need to change my focus. More later but my initial reaction is we got a decent haul...