Friday, May 30, 2008

Base Hits: 5/30/2008

Red Sox come to town tonight! Oriole record at Camden Yards: 16-8 Red Sox record away from Fenway: 11-19. So you're tellin' me there's a chance... I'm going out on a limb here and saying that the starting pitching matchups actually favor the Orioles. We'll see if that turns out to be the case...

*****

I kept meaning to get over to Camden Depot and check out what they had to offer so I finally did. What Crawdaddy and stotle are writing over there is excellent. It's so good they make me want to quit blogging! Just for example, check out their continuing coverage of the upcoming amateur baseball draft from the Oriole's perspective. They are good men. And thorough.

*****

A portion of I-395 will now be known as "Ripken Way". There's an obvious joke here somewhere about "The Ripken Way" but I'll be damned if I can think of one...

*****

A post over at Firebrand of the American League (Red Sox blog) that discusses Boston's woes on the road but throws in this little jab: The Red Sox have a chance this weekend against a floundering Baltimore Orioles team to make a statement and move that road record three games closer to .500. Floundering? The O's are 7-7 over the last two weeks. We just won a series! More than the Red Sox can say. Granted, Baltimore is 2-4 over their last 6 but the Red Sox are 1-5! And we're floundering? OK, OK, I have a statement... The Orioles have a chance this weekend against the uber-floundering Boston Red Sox to move that home record 4 more games over .500. (That dude even got the number of games in this series wrong...) And when I say floundering, I mean really floundering. They make actual flounders appear to walk upright by comparison.

*****

For the Song of the Week, I was going to go really country this week but I stumbled across another band from Austin, TX that is clearly not country at all. This is Ghostland Observatory with "Sad Sad City" GO O's! BEAT THEM SOX!
video

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nestor Is At It Again...

The Orioles had a five game losing streak! Leap from the bandwagon, Nestor!


Orioles go from penthouse to outhouse



How original. How droll. The wit is simply amazing here. Who but a professional sportswriter would think to juxtapose "penthouse" with "outhouse"? That's where that journalism degree comes in folks. Pure genius.


Don’t look now, but the Orioles have gone from an “interesting” spring team with some exciting evenings to quickly becoming a team on a fast course to nowhere.

Let's assume that the Orioles were "falling back to Earth" as Nestor imagines. Is that a path to nowhere? Didn't we assume that rebuilding is good and that it would come with its share of growing pains? Should a few losses change that outlook?


That is, if they can't find a way to start hitting the baseball.This morning, they wake up on a 80-degree Memorial Day again mired in last place of the AL East in the midst of a five-game losing streak....And here come New York and Boston to attempt to kick them while they’re down…



Mired. An interesting choice of language there.



Mired - entangled, entrapped or hindered as if in mire



On the morning this post appeared the Orioles were "mired" in last place...in a division where being one game under .500 will land you in last place. They were a full 5.5 games out of first! How will the Orioles ever get above .500 again?!?! Oh yeah, win a couple of games. We are de-mired.



Before the inevitable (and foolish) "Nestor hates the Orioles" comments start flooding this blog,



Gee, why would anyone think that?



Right now, with seven games coming against the Red Sox and Yankees at home – where their talent will be overwhelmed every day – it’s not looking so good...



Look, outside of the fact that we don't have a true "ace" on this staff, I'll put our pitching staff up against anybody in the AL East save for Toronto. And pitching has been the great equalizer this season. Unless the pitching fails us, we will never be overmatched for a series.



The real problem is very clear to anyone who watches the team on a daily basis: the offense is atrocious and there are very few signs of it improving dramatically any time soon.

Yes, the offense is not good. But no signs of improving? Anyone who watches the game would see signs that the team is hitting the ball hard and catching some bad breaks. Or you could look here. Or here.


This is and will probably remain a poor offensive team, and any hopes that both Luke Scott and Adam Jones would be the next coming of last year’s Nick Markakis are starting to dissipate.



Nick Markakis hit .300 with 23 home runs last year. Nobody thought Scott or Jones were going to do that this year. Nobody Nestor. N-O-B-O-D-Y.



And just so we're clear here, on May 31st, 2006, (Markakis' first year in the majors) his batting line was .219/.301/.314. The Truth is batting .253/.303/.368 with almost triple the number of extra base hits (14) than Nick had (5). And Jones still has 3 games to go this month!



Sure, you’d like to think that Brian Roberts isn’t going to hit .263 this season.



He's not.



Or that Nick Markakis is better than his current .247.



He is.



But the rest of the roster – including a rapidly aging Melvin Mora and a “just glad to be here” Kevin Millar – are what they are: mediocre major league players. And don’t get me started on Aubrey Huff, who’ll make his $8 million this year while hitting his usual .250 with 20 homers.The situational (and specifically late-inning) hitting was superb during the early-season stretches where they won cardiac ballgames in the late innings. And those were on the nights when the starting pitching was outstanding and the bullpen was even better than that.



No argument with the bats in this lineup, although I would quibble about Millar being mediocre. he is better than league average. And Mora can pick 'em over at third.



Daniel Cabrera is 5-1. I have no reason to believe he’ll be 10-2 and 15-3 before it’s all over with. I’m not convinced that we’ll see the same guy every five days once this team inevitably drops well below .500 and goes through the summer doldrums that teams that hit .240 will struggle with.



Two things here: win totals are a poor evaluation of a pitcher's performance (see Guthrie and Bedard last year, far better than their win totals) and batting average is a poor indicator (by itself) of offensive prowess.



First, the offense. The team OPS is .712, 7th among the 14 AL teams. And they are swinging the bats better than the results...but if you've read this blog you know where I'm going with this and I don't feel like proving it again. Trust me, the bats will improve.



And no, Daniel Cabrera would be hard pressed to win 15. I love the guy but he's giving up too many homers to win consistently.



But note that it is "inevitable" that the team sinks far beneath .500. Only a .240 batting average as proof.



It was fun while it lasted – and maybe they’ll go 7-0 this week against the big boys and resurrect their flailing season– but it’s hard watching this team get four and five hits a game and struggle to manufacture runs, especially when Steve Trachsel takes the ball every five days and puts them in a major hole.

That's all folks! Take down the tents, the party is officially over - unless of course it's not over then feel free to stick around. Way to hedge your bets Nestor.


Steve Trachsel. One way or another, a temporary problem.


Maybe they can escape last place before the end of Memorial Day?
Or maybe I'll just want to vomit at the sea of Yankees fans I'll inevitably be forced to endure in my own ballpark for the tenth year running...




Confusing parting shot. A hint of optimism after all the downer talk. Then a reference to the Yankee fans taking over the stadium, 10 years of losing and bodily fluids being expelled. I guess some habits die harder than others for Nestor...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Examining Chris Hoiles and the 1993 AL MVP Voting



OK, I've been out of town for the holiday and haven't seen a lot of the Orioles lately. There's a whole lot to catch up on but let me just say this one thing:

Kevin Millar was safe! No extra innings were necessary!
Anyway....

I'm not here to talk about the present, I'm here to talk about the past. You see, I have three big obsessions involving the Orioles:

1. Jeffrey Maier in the 1996 ALCS
2. The amazing 1987 season of Larry Sheets (you have no idea how close I came to naming this blog "Holy Sheets!")
3. The snubbing of Chris Hoiles for MVP in 1993.

(I'll also grant you that three Oriole obsessions is really understating the case. There are certainly many, many more...I am writing a blog about a baseball team for Christ's sake.)

I'm here today to talk about Mr. Hoiles and give him his due.

Top Ten OPS+ Seasons By A Catcher Since 1900


Year OPS+



Mike Piazza 1997 185



Mike Piazza 1995 172



Mike Piazza 1996 166



Johnny Bench 1972 166



Mike Grady 1904 166



Chris Hoiles 1993 162



Carlton Fisk 1972 162



Ernie Lombardi 1942 161



Roy Campanella 1951 159



Gabby Hartnett 1937 158











So Hoiles' season ranks only behind three seasons from the greatest hitting catcher of all time (Piazza), another by the second greatest hitting catcher of all time and a fluky season from a journeyman catcher from the deadball era (Grady). Behind him are Fisk, Lombardi, Campanella and Hartnett; all Hall of Famers.

If fact outside of Grady and Hoiles himself, all of these catchers are or will be in the Hall of Fame.

Even more impressive, the top five OPS+ performances by a catcher in the 107 year history of the American League:



Name OPS+ Year



Chris Hoiles 162 1993



Carlton Fisk 162 1972



Bill Dickey 158 1936



Mickey Cochrane 157 1933



Jorge Posada 154 2007














Again, Hoiles leads a list of current or future Hall of Famers.

OPS+ for all position players in the American League in 1993:






Name OPS+



John Olerud 186



Frank Thomas 177



Ken Griffey 171



Juan Gonazalez 169



Chis Hoiles 162














Even though Hoiles had a fantastic year at the plate (.310/.416/.585, 29 HR) there were a lot of great performances in the AL that year. Olerud hit .363, Thomas slugged .617 and drove in 128, Griffey hit .309 with 45 homers and Gonazalez hit 46 with a .310 average. But only Griffey did it at a premium defensive position.

And this is not an argument that Chris Hoiles should have won the MVP. I know how MVP voting works. Your team typically has to make the playoffs or your performance has to stand out in a year where there is clearly no better option (i.e. Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1991 for the last place O's). But he deserved better than this:






1st Max Season Results



Rk Name Team Place Points Points Share AB H HR BA OPS SB W-L IP ERA WHIP SO SV



+--+----------------+----+-----+------+------+-----+-----+---+--+-----+-----+---+------+---+-----+-----+---+--+



1 Frank Thomas CHW 28 392 392 1.00 549 174 41 .317 1.033 4



2 Paul Molitor TOR 0 209 392 0.53 636 211 22 .332 .911 22



3 John Olerud TOR 0 198 392 0.51 551 200 24 .363 1.072 0



4 Juan Gonzalez TEX 0 185 392 0.47 536 166 46 .310 1.000 4



5 Ken Griffey SEA 0 182 392 0.46 582 180 45 .309 1.025 17



6 Roberto Alomar TOR 0 102 392 0.26 589 192 17 .326 .900 55



7 Albert Belle CLE 0 81 392 0.21 594 172 38 .290 .922 23



8 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 0 52 392 0.13 597 176 37 .295 .925 22



9 Jack McDowell CHW 0 51 392 0.13 22-10 257 3.37 1.29 158



10 Carlos Baerga CLE 0 50 392 0.13 624 200 21 .321 .841 15



11 Jimmy Key NYY 0 29 392 0.07 18-6 237 3.00 1.11 173



12 Joe Carter TOR 0 25 392 0.06 603 153 33 .254 .801 8



13 Jeff Montgomery KCR 0 15 392 0.04 7-5 87 2.27 1.01 66 45



13 Mike Stanley NYY 0 15 392 0.04 423 129 26 .305 .923 1



15 Kenny Lofton CLE 0 11 392 0.03 569 185 1 .325 .816 70



16 Chris Hoiles BAL 0 10 392 0.03 419 130 29 .310 1.001 1



16 Tony Phillips DET 0 10 392 0.03 566 177 7 .313 .841 16














Behind Kenny Lofton? Behind Mike Stanley? Mike Freakin Stanley? Jimmy Bleepin' Key?!?!?!

It gets even worse when you consider Win Shares. Hoiles leads all these guys with 6.8 Fielding Win Shares in 1993 on top of the great bat. It still doesn't make up the ground on guys like Thomas and Olerud but it certainly narrows the gap.

Hoiles arguably should've finished in the top 5 of MVP voting and certainly the top ten. As it turns out, he wouldn't even crack the top 15!

A performance worthy of baseball immortals but is largely forgotten, even in Baltimore, and was underappreciated even as it was happening 15 years ago.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Circles of Losing, Trends, Three True Outcomes, Melmosity and More

Last night will go down as a Circle 2 loss in Ben's 9 Concentric Circles of Losing: Not Enough To Win.

They had their opportunities. The Orioles had plenty of chances last night to win the game but couldn't get that extra hit, that long sac fly to score the man at third or that timely extra base hit to take the series from the Yankees.

On to Tampa. Tampa has greatly improved this season but not for the reasons people were predicting during the preseason. It was supposed to be the young offensive talent that was to carry this team to playoff contention. Instead, it's been the young pitching while the offense has still been trying to find itself. The good news for the Orioles is that the Rays pitching has slipped a bit after a stellar April. This is hardly an unbeatable team.

*****

Three True Outcomes - the Three True Outcomes in baseball are the strikeout, the walk, and the homerun. These are the outcomes that don't involve the defense or footspeed. It's just batter vs. pitcher to determine the outcome.

Some batters have embraced this method more than others to become legends of TTO. For the Orioles, Mickey Tettleton comes to mind. Elsewhere, Adam Dunn, Rob Deer and Jack Cust have embraced this "all-or-nothing" approach while still maintaining a good batting eye. So I decided to grab what I believe to be the highest TTO average seasons in Oriole history. The only two Orioles I knew that I would see on this list were Mickey Tettleton and perhaps Sam Horn. Some of the names were surprising.



Year AB HR BB SO TTO%
Mickey Tettleton 1990 444 15 106 106 51.1%
Sam Horn 1991 317 23 41 99 45.5%
Mickey Tettleton 1989 411 26 73 117 44.6%
Jim Gentile 1961 486 46 96 106 42.6%
Cal Abrams 1955 309 6 89 69 41.2%
Boog Powell 1964 424 39 76 91 41.2%
Boog Powell 1966 491 34 67 125 40.5%
Jeff Manto 1995 254 17 24 69 39.5%
Chris Hoiles 1993 419 29 69 94 39.3%
Randy Milligan 1990 362 20 88 68 39.1%






As expected, Mickey Tettleton is the TTO king and Sam Horn comes in with the second highest TTO% for a season in Orioles history. Tettleton was so much fun to watch and would routinely walk and strikeout over 100 times each during a season, a rare talent. He was sent to Detroit straight up for P Jeff Robinson, one of the worst trades in the history of the franchise. Tettleton was a productive hitter for several years after the trade and Robinson...well, you probably know about Robinson.

Sam Horn had the potential to be a Tettleton-type slugger, albeit with more power. He never developed that batting eye to let the really bad pitches go.

Jim Gentile. A classic example of a TTO season was 1961. Should have remembered that. Also should not be surprised that Boog Powell show up on this list a couple of times.

Who is Cal Abrams? Abrams was a backup OF who played all three defensive positions for a terrible 97 loss team. He seemed to realize that while he was still a good fielder, his ability to hit was really slipping. So he seems to have decided not to make outs and walked a remarkable 86 times in only 407 plate appearances. It wasn't enough. 1955 would be Cal's last full season in the majors.

It seems that a 30-year old Jeff Manto arrived in Baltimore with the idea that he had better start swinging for the fences if he wanted to stick in the majors. In a way, he was right. 1995 was his best offensive year (108 OPS+) but he paid the price by striking out 69 times in 89 games. He was off to Boston the next year and went back to a more contact-making approach.

Chris Hoiles had a real breakout season in 1993 (the fact that he was not considered for the MVP that year is criminal...). When he made contact, good things happened but he struck out 94 times.

Randy Milligan was a mild surprise. I never remember Milligan as a guy with the skill set to draw 88 walks.

*****

I watched Miami play Georgia Tech last night and saw top prospect Miami 1B Yonder Alonso. He hit two homers but looked terribly mismatched against the lefty relievers they deployed against him. Miami can flat out hit throughout the lineup.

*****

The Wayward Oriole has made a significant scientific breakthrough. He can now measure Melmosity.

*****

Song of the Week: The Replacements - "Bastards of Young" Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stomping The Yankees

The top of the first last night was just about as close to baseball heaven as you can get.

7 runs against Mike Mussina to knock him from the game having retired only two batters. 3 RBI for The Truth. Derek Jeter commits an error. Jeter pouts. What a start!

But honestly, the whole game was like baseball heaven. 12-2. Beats 30-3 any day.

When is Derek Jeter going to man up and admit he can't play short anymore? It's getting embarrassing.

And I loved when Cabrera hit Jeter on the wrist and sent him to the lockers. Hit him right on his stupid little Michael Jordan wristband. Fantastic.

Luke Scott's bat put bad juju on the ball. It kept missing Yankee gloves. When he laid wood on the ball it could not be caught. Hits one to Jeter that he threw high. Hit one to Damon that fell from his glove. Hit one over the fence. They couldn't even throw at him properly.

By the way, retaliation is one thing but even the Yankee announcers thought it was bush league to throw at Scott's head. Especially Ken Singleton.

What slump? Ramon Hernandez is hitting above .300 for the last two weeks.

Round two is tonight. Enjoy watching the hottest team in baseball!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Q&A With MLB.com Writer Jonathan Mayo About His New Book, "Facing Clemens"

This is kind of a book review but with a different twist. The book is called "Facing Clemens" by Jonathan Mayo. No, it's not a rehash of the whole steroid mess. It's a look back at Roger Clemens' career between the lines...told by the hitters who had to face him.

What's the Oriole connection? Well, Cal Ripken, Jr. faced Clemens more than any other batter during his career and he sat down with for a very in depth interview about what it was like facing arguably the best pitcher of his generation.

Jonathan Mayo is a senior writer for MLB.com. He joined Major League Baseball’s official website in April 1999 and has covered every facet of the game. More recently Jonathan has focused his efforts on covering minor league baseball and, notably, the baseball draft. Mayo worked on the broadcast team assembled for ESPN’s coverage of the first televised baseball draft in 2007, interviewing draftees after their selections.

Jonathan was kind enough to participate in a Q&A about his book. Here it is:

Dempsey's Army: Examining a great pitcher’s career through the eyes of the opposing batters seems to be a pretty unique format for a baseball book. Where did you get the idea to write about Roger Clemens from this angle?

Jonathan Mayo: To give credit where it’s due, it was the publisher’s idea. They had done a pair of boxing books – “Facing Ali” and “Facing Tyson” – and felt the format would translate well to baseball. Clemens seemed to be the perfect subject at the time due to the length of his career and the level of his success.

DA: This book does not focus on steroids or the Mitchell Report. Indeed, you must have been in the middle of some of these interviews when the Mitchell Report was released. Did the report change the tone of the book at all or were you able to keep it strictly between the lines?

JM: Actually, the book was completely done before the Mitchell Report came out. So while there was a little helplessness when everything happened, there also was nothing I could do. Looking back, it’s sure been interesting timing, but I’m glad in a way that it is what it was meant to be: just a simple, pure baseball book.

DA: Cal Ripken, Jr. did not hit particularly well against Clemens during his career and he struck out against him more times than against any other pitcher (17 times). Ripken is known to be a standup guy but he couldn’t have been excited to sit down and talk about his struggles against Clemens. How did you talk him into it?

JM: I asked. Seriously. I had had the opportunity to do an interview with him for MLB.com when the NY-Penn League All-Star Game was in Aberdeen. That went really well and I think that helped pave the way. I think – or at least hope – that he liked the concept of the book. His recall for their matchups was uncanny and I think it’s the strongest chapter in the book as a result.

DA: Ripken said, “He was just a serious competitor. I know that some pitchers pride themselves on being a little intimidating, where they’ll move you off the plate. Certainly Roger had that ability to move you back and move you off the plate, but to me, he was a consummate professional and under control at all times.” Was this just a very nice way of saying Clemens would fire one in at your hip without batting an eye? Were other players you interviewed for this book so diplomatic?

JM: I think the thing Ripken appreciated was that while he could knock you off the plate, he was never a guy looking to hurt you, at least in his opinion. He always knew where the ball was going. That’s one of the things that makes his early career so amazing. He was a pure power pitcher, but with command. It was an amazing combination of skills at the time and I think Ripken had a lot of respect for what he could do. Other players did tend to take that aspect of things in stride. Maybe it’s old school thinking now, but a lot of players felt that getting knocked down was just a part of the game. In some ways, it was a badge of courage to get knocked down by Clemens.

DA: You have an impressive list of players that you interviewed for this book. Who surprised you as an interviewee? Is there anyone you would have liked to talked to but couldn’t?

JM: For obvious reasons (think 2000 World Series), I really wanted to talk to Mike Piazza. But he wasn’t interested. I had thought Spike Owen would’ve been a good one – he played with Clemens at Texas, then was on the Mariners team that struck out 20 times against him in 1986, only to get traded to Boston for the postseason run that season. But I never was able to connect with him. Surprises? All were good, really. I’d never really spoken with Chipper Jones at length before this and he was simply amazing and had Ripken-like recall. Maybe the most surprising was Koby Clemens. I thought that would make for a nice little chapter and we had such a good and interesting conversation that it turned out much better than I anticipated.

DA: You interviewed Phil Bradley who was the 20th strikeout victim during Clemens’ dominating game versus Seattle. Ripken struggled against Clemens most of his career but recalled a three-run homer against Clemens on Opening Day in 1989 as one of the few times that he got the best of Roger. How ironic is it that Phil Bradley was one of the men on base when Ripken hit that shot?

JM: That’s the beauty of baseball, isn’t it? Even within that 20-strikeout game, Bradley pointed out that the Mariners weren’t even totally aware of what was going on because they were leading for much of it and they were really focusing on getting the win. Imagine what the reaction would have been had Clemens set that record and actually lost the game!

DA: So after all this research, what’s the best way to get a hit off of Roger Clemens?

JM: Swing early, I guess. The one common theme, even as he evolved as a pitcher, was to get him early in the count. Especially after he added that splitter, if you fell behind, you were in big trouble.

DA: OK, I’m going to pick your brain about the Orioles’ prospects. True or False: Adam Jones will be a star player.

JM: True. Give him some time. He’s learning on the job. When all is said and done, you’ll be quite happy.

DA: Excepting Matt Wieters, what Oriole farmhand will be the next regular contributor for the big club?

JM: Next? Instead of going with someone who’s close – literally the next – I’ll stay there in Frederick. I think Jake Arrieta’s going to move pretty quickly. Heck, might as well just keep him and Wieters together. Seems to be working so far, doesn’t it?

DA: The farm system has been strengthened by the offseason trades and the 2007 draft but still has a long way to go. What player do you expect Baltimore to draft in the 2008 amateur draft?

JM: There are several players that could fit into the O’s plans with the No. 4 pick. In my first crack and projecting the top 10 picks, I had them taking University of San Diego lefty Brian Matusz, who’s much more than a pitchability college southpaw. He’s got some serious stuff and could be a top of the rotation type quickly. If they wanted to go bat, they could go with University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham or maybe South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak.

Jonathan Mayo's book "Facing Clemens" can be purchased here on Jonathan's website.

http://www.jonathanmayo.net/

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thinking About The Draft...

To continue Thursday's thought, Jay Payton only got one hit all weekend (a homer) and it came off a lefty. He went 0 for whatever against the righthanded pitchers he faced. Just saying he needs his weaknesses masked...


*****

Here in Georgia, there's a lot of good college baseball being played. I am hoping to get out to see some of the games in the NCAA Regional Tournament this year. Until then, the amateur draft is coming up and I've been watching some of the top SEC and ACC to see some of these guys who might be future Orioles.

I was watching Georgia vs. Georgia Tech yesterday, specifically to see a player who might be the best in the country, Georgia SS Gordon Beckham. With the number 4 overall pick, the Orioles will have a very good shot at drafting Beckham and the farm system could surely use a top shortstop prospect. He went 2-4 with a walk.

Beckham is really smooth in the field, like he's on ice skates. He ranged way to his left, picked up the ball on a bounce and flipped it perfectly to the second baseman to start the double play. Smooth as silk.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a few highlights from a game against Clemson. Note the fielding...



He also ranks 1st or 2nd in 6 offensive categories in the SEC and is in the top 10 in 12 overall.

The two players who stood out for Tech were actually freshman.

RHP Deck McGuire is a 6'6" freshman who throws a fastball in the low 90's, throws a wicked 12-to-6 curve and has an 82 mph changeup. He need to work on his control but seems to know how to change speeds and worked out of a couple jams without losing his cool. He's gone 8-0 in a real tough SEC.

SS Derek Dietrich has great range and a great bat. He's hit .333 and slugged .623 in his first year of collegiate ball. He also ranked 3rd in RBI in the ACC.

I think you may be hearing from these guys in a few years...

The other top prospect in this game was Georgia RHP Josh Fields. He came in to preserve the 3-2 Georgia lead for the win, striking out two in the ninth for the save. Serious heat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Make Jay Payton Look Awesome (and trade him...)


First, I present the headline for yesterday's O's game on ESPN.com:


Hey, ESPN! There's a school called Fordham University. Some people call it FU. That's right ESPN, FU.

Anyway, far be it for me to tell the great Dave Trembley what to do. (That's not sarcastic at all, I think he's doing an excellent job...) But he's making a big mistake that is affecting the Orioles on the field and in the front office.

As I mentioned yesterday, Jay Payton can only do two things well at this advanced stage of his career: serve as a passable defensive replacement and mash lefthanded pitching.

It's an evolution that has been happening gradually over the past 3 or 4 seasons but the transformation is now complete. Jay Payton is a guy you call off the bench to pinch hit against lefthanded relievers or give him spot starts against lefty starters.

If Dave Trembley would start deploying him as such, Payton will succeed and get the attention of contending teams in the National League. Good pinch hitters are not easy to come by. A veteran who could pinch-hit (like Payton) could be seen as a commodity come the trade deadline.

But only if you start his "branding" now. He's a righthanded bat off the bench who can rake lefties and a fine defensive replacement. Start using him that way now and it'll pay dividends in the box score and maybe get you a young minor league arm that is worthy of pitching in the Oriole bullpen in 2009.

Spreading The Magic

I looked for this last night but leave it to someone from the Oriole Magic blog (in this case, Heathir Irvin) to find it first.

I'm posting it here because the magic needs spreading:



Bring on the NATS! Bring 'em on! I smell blood!

The Nats are really terrible. If they weren't in the NL with a bunch of other terrible teams...they might be on their way to losing 100 games.

Their pitching staff is third worst in the NL in runs allowed, they only hit .235 and OPS .668 as a team. That's like having whole team of Brendan Harris' batting for you. Hardly imposing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sticking My Head In To Say Hi...

...since I haven't posted anything of substance in two and a half days. Been too busy trying to learn MySQL and some rudimentary Dutch (don't ask) to form much significant Orioles thought.

Until today.

Inspired by the O's mini-sweep of the Boston Red Sox, I had to pen an open letter to substitute Red Sox manager, Brad Mills.

Dear Brad,

Just a little note to thank you for giving us the opportunity to take these last two games from you. You don't know what wins like these mean to a struggling franchise like the the Baltimore Orioles and your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Really, beating Josh Beckett would have been enough for us. Victories over one of baseball's top pitchers just aren't expected and we were thankful enough to see the team catch him on one of the rare days when he was quite hittable.

But today was just too much. You shouldn't have! With the bases loaded, the Orioles were trailing 3-2 in the 7th with two outs. Jay Payton was at the plate and, well, let's just say that Birdland was less than optimistic that a guy hitting .220 would end up the hero.

But Brad, you had pity on us. You took out righty Craig Hansen and brought in lefty Hideki Okijima. At his advanced age, Jay Payton can only do two things; play a passable defensive leftfield and mash lefthanded pitchers. Here's the splits for Payton...as if you didn't know!


vs. RHP vs. LHP
Payton 2008 .216/.259/.216 .250/.250/.542





Those aren't Ruthian numbers against lefties but at least it gave us a fighting chance. Dave Trembley couldn't have planned it better himself...even if he actually had bench players to use.

Again, thanks for handing over the sweep on a silver platter today. We know Terry Francona wouldn't have been nearly as generous.

Your Friends,

The Oriole Faithful

*****

Daniel Cabrera - mentally tough.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Baltimore Orioles: First Quarter Report

With an off day today, the Orioles have essentially wrapped up the first quarter of the season. So how are they doing?

First, let's discuss the record. The Orioles stand at 19-19. That's .500 at the quarter season mark for a team that was nearly universally thought to be well on their way to losing 100 games in 2008. Some thought it would be worse than the 1988 Orioles or at least in the ballpark. This team now has to go 43-81 the rest of the way to reach that goal. I just don't see it.

I thought this team would be slightly better than the 2007 version but figured they would struggle early and get better. They have been decent early with many indicators pointing to the team getting better still. Is a winning team a reasonable expectation? Maybe not. Flirting with .500 certainly is.

Pleasant Surprises

Brian Roberts remains with the team. He may not be here in August but I didn't expect him to see Mother's Day with the club.

Daniel Cabrera's performance.

George Sherrill. I liked the addition of Sherrill but had no idea he could be a closer or do it so well. Wayward O did though.

Brian Burres holding down a spot in the rotation and doing pretty well.

Jim Johnson, Randor Bierd, Dennis Sarfate and Matt Albers aiding the veterans to give Baltimore a credible bullpen.

Disappointments

The offense as a whole. I have detailed that they are hitting better than the numbers say but it is still pretty frustrating that these guys can't consistently get hits.

Adam Loewen on the DL. He'll be back but you have to wonder if he'll ever be healthy enough to learn how to pitch.

Steve Trachsel. Trax is a placeholder and that was the intent when he was brought in but he has done little to hold on to that spot in the rotation he has.

Shortstop. Turns out Luis Hernandez couldn't field either. He has looked good at second base though.

Luke Scott with only one homer. Leftfield in Camden Yards is cursed. It's the Curse of B.J. Surhoff. Ever since The Warehouse traded Surhoff to Atlanta at the 2000 deadline, nobody has given us consistent play in left. (OK, B.J. came back and did it for a couple of years but he was only a part-timer at that point.) Granted, Scott is still an upgrade from what the O's have trotted out the past few seasons but I expected the guy to slug at least .400.

In my pre-season look at the Orioles, i identified 5 reasons to be optimistic:

Improve Outfield Production

Although I am a bit disappointed with Scott's bat so far, he is OPSing .727 which is a big improvement from the .631 OPS Oriole leftfielders put up last year.

Adam Jones isn't there yet. He's OPSing .631 compared to .713 from Oriole centerfielders last year. But he'll get to at least that production by season's end.

Markakis has struggled a bit with his average but is still OPSing about what he did last season (.852 vs. 847).

Jay Payton? He's been bad overall (.655 OPS) but against lefties is OPSing .792. I really wish Dave Trembley would stop giving him ABs against righthanders.

The outfield isn't there yet but Adam Jones will improve.

The Bullpen Can't Be Any Worse? Right?

Correctamundo. Trembley has handled the pen better and managed to build a pretty effective relief corp.

Rebounds

Aubrey Huff has rebounded a bit. Still waiting for Ramon Hernandez.

A Better Bench

Kind of a moot point with the team carrying 13 pitchers until very recently but no it's not any better than last year. We shall see what Freddie Bynum and Alex Cintron can do.

A Decent Manager

Considering that very few things have been clicking at the same time this season, Trembley has done a pretty good job. He has the team at .500 (which is one game above their Pythagorean Record) while still getting the youngsters the majority of the playing time.

His recent decision to go with a four-man rotation (for the time being) shows he's willing to make unorthodox decisions to mask his team's weaknesses.

The Next Quarter?

They survived the road but now you have to survive the AL East. Over the next month there will be lots of games against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. No pushovers (save Washington) until the Pirates come to town a month from tomorrow. The good news is that outside of the Red Sox, all the teams in our division are pretty flawed right now.

It's a tough task but the next logical step for the Baby Birds to get this team back to respectability.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Base Hits: 5/9/2008

Sucker that I am, I am now solidly back on the Daniel Cabrera bandwagon. Complete game? Only one walk? Oh yeah, I'm on the D-Train.

As if to highlight his bad luck at the plate, Ramon Hernandez lined out hard his first two at bats and hit a grounder deep in the whole behind third where Tony Pena, Jr. made a great play that robbed him of a single. His only hit was a fluky broken bat single to center. I'm guessing he'll take them any way he can get them these days.

I'm starting the Church of Freddie:

Amazing what being a shortstop not named Hernandez or Fahey will get you in 2008. So happy to hear the Bynum is now the starting shortstop...

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I was watching the Royal feed of the game last night. The announcers said that Brian Roberts had won a Gold Glove which, of course, has never happened. How can you get something like that wrong?

Also, they talked to Royals pitcher Brian Bannister twice during the game. Bannister is going to make a great coach or GM when he's done playing. The guy has a lot of knowledge about the game and is able to communicate it wonderfully.

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OK, OK. I was wrong about John Maine. How was I supposed to know he would develop a strikeout pitch? Crap.

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The Oriole Trade Monitors are updated with the latest Win Share data from this season. The Bedard and Tejada trades were obviously made with an eye to the future but the Orioles are getting equal value for the present as well.

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Coming up next week, more analysis of the shocking turnaround of Daniel Cabrera, how Brian Burres continues to prove me wrong and more BHI stuff.

Song of the Week: Feeling rather political with the national elections gearing up. Here's James McMurtry, one hell of a songwriter. Have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Big Homer Index Revisited

FanGraphs.com is slowly putting together a whole bunch of WPA data for decades past. When it is done, it would be interesting to compare my made-up stats with who actually did hit the most big homers in Oriole history.

What's the Big Homer Index (BHI)? Look here. And remember, it's grounded in reality but all in fun.

Chris Hoiles - 151 Career Home Runs

Chris Hoiles was a natural for this "study" because he always had the reputation of hitting the homer when nobody was on base or when it didn't much matter, at least the first half of his career.

BHI shows that Hoiles did hit a lot of solo shots (89 out of 151 career homers were solo). He also hit a bunch of homeruns when the game was already decided (21 homers with the Orioles up by 4 runs, 29 when they were up by at least three) but that's not the whole story. A full 25% of Chris' career homers put the team ahead and another 11% tied the game. Add three walk-off home runs during his career and Hoiles fares very well on the index.

BHI - 240


Brady Anderson - 210 Career Home Runs

Brady has a natural disadvantage in BHI because he was a leadoff hitter. Anderson hit a ton of solo shots (148) but only led off the game with a homer 23 times so I'm not sure things are skewed against him quite as bad as you might think.

In addition to the high number of solo shots, he hit 23% of his home runs with the team either up or down by four or more runs.

What saves Brady's BHI is the 72 homers (34%) he hit to give the team the league and the lone game ending homer he hit against the Twins on April 13th, 1996.

Overall, not too shabby for a leadoff hitter.

BHI - 138


Brooks Robinson - 268 Career Home Runs

Brooks Robinson is the standard bearer for BHI prowess, at least up to this point. Brooks hit 8 walk-off homers, double the number of Cal Ripken despite trailing Cal by nearly 200 career home runs. Only 40 of his home runs came with the Orioles up or down by 4 or more runs and 46% of his homers either tied the game up or gave the team the lead. This doesn't even count the postseason!

I can't imagine anybody topping Brook's BHI. He certainly took pitchers deep when it mattered the most.

BHI - 495


BHI Leaders - Oriole Career
Brooks Robinson - 495
Chris Hoiles - 240
Cal Ripken - 197
Brady Anderson - 138
Jay Gibbons - 42

More to come...

Giving the O's Some PrOPS...and Reavealing the Real Problem With This Team

Last week I wrote a post about Ramon Hernandez and how he is hitting better than his Mendoza-esque batting average would indicate.

It looks like it's catching.



Actual Batting Line PrOPS Batting Line
Roberts .263/.353/.421 .288/.374/.432
Mora .257/.306/.412 .284/.330/.441
Markakis .270/.395/.451 .290/.409/.510
Millar .224/.315/.344 .274/.358/.438
Huff .266/.341/.452 .265/.337/.450
Scott .286/.366/.418 .252/.337/.353
Jones .231/.272/.359 .250/.291/.370
R.Hernandez .202/.234/.364 .302/.330/.465
L.Hernandez .243/.304/.257 .276/.336/.340




So far, only Aubrey Huff is hitting about what he should be hitting based on the batted ball data. Adam Jones is close but he should have slightly better results at this point.

Luke Scott is the only player who seems to be destined for a correction down. Indeed, that may be what this slump Luke's been in actually is, a correction to the kind of numbers he will actually put up.

Everyone else is underperforming their PrOPS scores. It can't last. There is going to be some upswing in the offense barring an injury. Again, look for Ramon Hernandez, Kevin Millar, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to come out of this funk pretty soon with modest increases from Melvin Mora and Luis Hernandez. (Of course, you could replace Luis and spell Mora with Scott Moore every so often and goose the numbers up that way...)

The offense is not great but it is not as bereft as it looks right now. Dave Trembley needs to leave these guys in the lineup and it will work itself out.

Their baserunning on the other hand...I haven't found statistical evidence of this but there can't possibly be another team in the majors who has been picked off, thrown out stealing or thrown out trying to take an extra base more than the Baltimore Orioles.

More than hitting, fans should be concerned about the fielding on this team. Brian Roberts is near the bottom in the league for fielding by a second baseman. Ditto for Luis Hernandez. Melvin More has been OK. Millar has been bad. Ramon has been passable behind the plate but leads the league with 4 throwing errors. (The outfield defense, in fairness, is pretty good across the board.)

The Orioles are going to play a lot of close games this year so the team needs to find solutions to it's defensive woes (especially up the middle) if it hopes to be respectable.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Watching the Game....

...and it's so frustrating watching these guys hit the ball right at defenders!

This team is not this bad offensively. It will get better. But they can't buy a break these days...

Just had to get that off my chest.

Around the Oriole Blogosphere: 5/7/2008

Before I start the trip around the blogosphere, this quick fact. The Orioles are 1-5 in their last 6 games but the pitching staff has an ERA of 3.48. Obviously, the offense is letting the team down at the moment but the 4 errors in the last 6 games isn't helping either.

More on all that later...

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Amber Theoharis reports that Adam Loewen could be back on the mound as soon as next month.

When Loewen returns, that could be the end of Steve Trachsel as an Oriole. The only reason he's here now is that the Orioles don't want to rush some of their young pitchers but now with Guthrie, Cabrera, and Burres seemingly entrenched as starters, Garrett Olson off to an encouraging start and Matt Albers breathing down Trachsel's neck, he's going to get squeezed out. And that's a good thing.

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I was going to blog about this myself but two other Oriole bloggers have done it for me. Jonah Keri wrote about "loser dynasties" on ESPN.com (where the Orioles belong) and stated among other things that the Oriole's ETA for a winning season is 2012. Matthew Taylor from Roar From 34 and Ben at Oriole Central both wonder about the depth of Keri's analysis of the past and the prospects for the future.

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Ben also looks at the sorry state of the Oriole offense and ponders a future without Steve Trachsel.

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Meanwhile, Matthew Taylor ponders what the present would have been had the Orioles traded Tejada for Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar

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Dave (aka Desert O of Weaver's Tantrum) is hiking the Appalachian Trail and has reached Hot Springs, NC. A good read and coming soon...a bear raids Dave's camp!

Dave has started giving me the itch to strap on my pack and start training for a hike again. Not the whole Appalachian Trail but I do miss backpacking and haven't done any since I left Maine. I started training in February but family illnesses put that on the backburner. Time to start again, I've got the bug.

Evidently, Dave has started Enchanting Sunshine's mind to wander to the trail as well.

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Speaking of Enchanting Sunshine, she has split off her Oriole musings to a different blog called Oriole Fanatic, at least for now. (edit: Looks like the new blog is now called Sixteen Gold Gloves...for now)

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Anthony is tired on the same old results from the offense at Oriole Magic.

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Wayward O wants no more "styling" on the basepaths from Ramon on the basepaths and less knee-jerk reactions from Oriole fans. Oh, this post too with a hilarious picture of Melvin Mora vs. the Angels...

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Pressbox Online has an article on Oriole pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

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SC thinks the Orioles have seen the last of .500 this season.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Base Hits: 5/2/2008

Well, that sucked. The Orioles lose their first series in over two weeks and now hit the road for another brutal west coast roadtrip. Since the big league club isn't so hot, let's look at the farm. TopProspectAlert.com has started doing minor league stat line updates every morning. Here's the Orioles' highlights from last night:

Chris Heintz - BAL 3-4, RBI, .368avg
Mike Costanzo - BAL 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2R, .213avg
Bradley Bergesen - BAL 8IP, 1ER, 6H, 1BB, 1K, WIN 0.60ERA
Kyle Schmidt - BAL 7IP, 1ER, 3H, 1BB, 5K, 3.32ERA
Anthony Martinez - BAL 3-4, HR, 3RBI, R, .284avg

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Randor Bierd goes on the DL which is really not good. Bierd has been one of the bright spots this April and looking like he would be at the core of the new young relief corp. Get well Randor. We'll see you in June.

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Dave Rouleau of Baseball Digest Daily has a post about Nick Markakis. Well, actually he has a post that pulls liberally from a story the Baltimore Sun ran. I missed the story in the Sun but it's a heartbreaking story of how Nick lost one of his friends far too soon.

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Just saw Ironman and it was excellent. Robert Downey, Jr. is an excellent Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges is a credible bad guy, Terrence Howard was great and even Gwyneth Paltrow had her moments as "the girl" which is not an easy task. Better than the first Spiderman. Go see it. (as if it needs my endorsement...)

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Song of the Week: A co-worker loaned me the new Erykah Badu album and it is shockingly good! Here's "Honey" off the album entitled "New Amerykah". Great concept for a video but this isn't even close to being the best song off the album. Have a great weekend!





Erykah Badu

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Second Guessing the Second Guessers

Some examples from last night's game. People second guessing Dave Trembley for putting in kid pitcher Bob McCrory for his major league debut in a two run game:

hmm..
if you reeeeaaaallllly wanted to win this game… down 3-1 .. perhaps you bring in a tested relief pitcher. maybe try and keep us in the game.. not experiment, you know?
now, if we were down 6-1, i figure maybe try it out. Or if we’re up 6-1, bring him in.
Bad move throwin him out there in a game that was somewhat in reach.
by
Y Not

Manager Dave Trembley made an interesting call when he decided to let Bob McCrory start the seventh inning. A pitcher making his major league debut in a two-run game. Not an ideal way to break him in...Trembley has been pushing the right buttons this season, but he's open to a little second-guessing tonight.

- Roch Kubatko

Now, to be fair, the general tone has been more of a "s**t happens" mood than a "s**tty manager" tilt but just so nobody gets any ideas, I thought I'd look at how Dave Trembley throws his young relievers into the deep end of the pool.

Dennis Sarfate - Dennis made his Oriole debut on April 4th. He had been in the majors before but only for a couple mugs of java. He ends April 2008 only 3 innings short of his previous career total.

Sarfate was called upon with the O's leading Seattle 3-2 with two outs and one on in the top of the 6th and squared off against Adrian Beltre. He struck him out.

It was still only a two run game in the top of the 7th when he walked Brad Wilkerson and then struck out Jose Vidro. (Wilkerson was thrown out on a steal attempt...)

Jim Johnson - Johnson had exactly 5 innings of major league work when he was called up a couple of weeks ago. In his first game, he pitched an inning at the end of a 6-2 loss to Tampa.

But the very next day he came in in the 6th with the Orioles holding onto a 3-1 lead against Toronto. He pitched 2.3 scoreless innings.

Randor Bierd - Bierd had never pitched above AA before this season and he only compiled 45 innings at that level.

Bierd made his major league debut on April 2nd. It was the top of the 5th, the Rays led 5-3, there was nobody out and the bases were loaded. Bierd induced a double play ball and a groundout to limit the damage. He then went on to pitch a scoreless 6th and the O's would come from behind to win the game.

What's the difference between these scenarios and last night's debut of Bob McCrory? Last night it didn't work out. It happens.

But more importantly, Trembley has to do it even if he doesn't think it'll work out. Repeat after me: this team is a work in progress. I do not care what the standings say, all these kids need to play and any veteran on this team should be traded if the opportunity arises. It is more important for Trembley to find out what McCrory is made of than worry about winning a game you are already losing by two runs.

Trembley's reasoning for sending McCrory out there, according to Roch:

Manager Dave Trembley explained his decision to use McCrory in the seventh inning by saying it seemed like a good situation, with the Rays sending up the bottom of their order and the Orioles trailing.

Seems logical to me. The kid has to debut sometime. Right? And isn't it nice to have a manager who seems to be thinking before making a move?

This teams Pythagorean Winning Percentage is 13-14 and Trembley has them at 15-12. they were outscored by 6 runs in April, yet have a winning record.

I'll defer to Dave for now...