Thursday, August 28, 2008

Base Hits: 8/28/2008

Work and family are conspiring against me! Just the normal facts of life but don't expect a lot of posting from me until the middle of September...


Just wanted to spotlight the great job Jake Arrietta did pitching for team USA against China a couple weeks back. 6 shutout innings while striking out 7? Fantastic!


Yesterday, the Orioles snapped a 5-game skid and won their 63rd game. It was a foregone conclusion in the minds of many in the media that the Orioles would lose 100 games and be the worst team in baseball. They will not lose 100 and are far from the worst team in baseball. This alone is a small victory for the franchise.

Just for the record, the Detroit Tigers were picked to win close to 100 games and perhaps score 1000 runs in 2008. They have exactly 1 more win than Baltimore.

August has been tough (as I predicted) but Baltimore is only 11-14 for the month which has seen them play some very tough competition. If they could somehow take the Tampa series, you would have to consider August an incredible success.


This is a bit old but here is an interview with Baysox pitcher Chris Tillman from the guys at Baseball Digest Daily Live. Good stuff.


Speaking of Chris Tillman, ESPN's Keith Law had a scouting report from a recent Baysox game:

Orioles pitching prospect Chris Tillman started last night for AA Bowie at Reading and easily outpitched his somewhat more highly-paid opponent, Adam Eaton.....

Tillman started out throwing 87-88 mph, but then gradually increased his velo to the low 90s, topping out at 93. The right-hander has good life with tailing action on his fastball, and sinks it at 87-88. At 92-93, it flattens out but still has the same tailing action. His best pitch is his curveball, a very sharp breaking ball with some two-plane break and great depth. It moves quickly with tight rotation and looks a lot harder than its 74-77 mph velocity. He throws a changeup with good tumbling action, but he doesn't use it often or show much feel for it yet.

Aside from a hook at the start of his delivery, he's pretty clean overall, staying over the rubber well and then driving forward with a long stride, taking advantage of his long legs. He gets good downhill plane on almost everything he throws and keeps his head steady through the delivery.

Where Tillman fell short of absolute top-prospect status was in his command. He looks the part, with his clean delivery, but he doesn't locate his fastball welll, not even to a general part of the zone. He misses bats because his curveball is just toxic and because his fastball gets in on hitters quickly, but he needs to be more precise with the latter pitch to succeed in the big leagues.

And a couple comments about Matt Wieters:

Catcher Matt Wieters homered on the first pitch he saw from Eaton last night, an 84 mph nothing-ball on the outer half that Wieters spit on and sent out to left-center (the opposite field, since he was batting left-handed). Wieters, the game's top hitting prospect, has gotten significantly stronger since he was an amateur; at Georgia Tech he was wiry strong, but had room on his frame to add muscle, which he's done fairly quickly. His sheer size, not a lack of skill, might make him a little more questionable behind the plate long-term, but he looks like he's going to hit for 30-plus home run power.

Good news from the farm...


MelMo batting line for August: .427/.463/.781

That's good for a 1.244 OPS. More on this later but this may be the best month Mora has had in his career....


Matt Wieters is coming....

Friday, August 15, 2008

Base Hits: 8/15/2008

Wow! Busy week at work. Where has the week gone? But I figured I'd check in for Friday...


It's hard to get real excited over a player like Lou Montanez (at least his upside) but it's hard not to like the guy. Hey, it's rare but late bloomers do happen in baseball. See Howard Johnson. Or Jeremy Guthrie.


You know, this whole Hayden Penn thing is a real drag. Every time he looks like he's about to get a break, he suffers another injury.

I'm still rooting for the guy but the truth is that he hasn't been the same pitcher since he had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow in May of 2007. Look at his numbers in the minors since his fantastic 2006 run at AAA.


One year ago, I was biting my nails and prepping a scathing post attacking the Oriole front office and Peter Angelos for failing to sign Matt Wieters. This year, I have no such angst.

I actually have confidence that the Orioles will sign their top pick Brian Matusz before the mid night deadline. Apparently, so does everyone else:

Eric (Albany): Only 3 of the Top 10 picks have signed....of the 7 left how many don't reach an agreement?

Jim Callis: I did an Ask BA on this that you can check out at, too. I think of the 11 unsigned first-rounders, 10 eventually will sign. Allan Dykstra's hip condition worries the Padres, so that deal might not get done. As for the rest of the guys, we're in the rhetoric stage where the clubs say they have to be financially realistic and the players say they really will consider going back to school. Don't buy it, I think they'll all sign.


Peter Schmuck: Matusz was in Baltimore yesterday for a physical, so it's down to the final dollar figure and roster conditions. Since I don't believe the kid is going to leave several million dollars on the table and risk his valuable arm on another college season, I'm pretty confident something will be announced late this afternoon. Hope they don't make us sweat it out all night.


Roch Kubatko: It will be a major shock if the sides reach an agreement late tonight and Matusz's signature winds up on a contract. But it's expected to happen tomorrow before the midnight deadline. Both sides sound very confident.

I feel much better than I did last year. I hope my trust is not misplaced.


Grimace(s) of the Day:

The collected grimaces of Shin-Soo Choo, Franklin Gutierrez and Jamey Carroll after the Orioles score 8 runs in the 8th last night.


Aubrey Huff clears waivers. Hurry up and trade him before he remembers he's Aubrey Huff and not the second coming of Boog Powell.

Also clearing waivers were Kevin Millar, Jay Payton and Jamie Walker. You've got to trade walker for anything decent. If the O's have one area of depth, it's the bullpen. Jay Payton could actually be a useful right-handed bat off the bench for a contender. Ditto for Millar.


The creator of Orioles blog Weaver's Tantrum, Desert O aka Dave aka Vegas has now hiked more than 1500 miles from from Georgia to Massachusetts. I encourage all in the oriole blogosphere to head over to his other blog, A Bite of the Appalachian, and post some words of encouragement. (BTW, it's a fascinating read...)


Song of the Week:

Sticking with Chicago-based bands from the early-90's, Urge Overkill with "View of the Rain". Later...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Base Hits: 8/8/2008

Looking back on the week that was, Rob Neyer of wrote about the improbable performance of Matt Waters. It's part of ESPN Insider so here's the main text:

Waters' masterpiece for O's quite a shocker

I'd like to embrace the utter unlikelihood of what Chris Waters did last night.

As we see in a sidebar here, Waters became just the sixth pitcher in the past 50 years to throw eight-plus innings with no runs and one hit in a major league debut.


Waters isn't even supposed to be in the major leagues. Look at the ages for each of those pitchers; before Waters, fellow Oriole Milacki was the oldest to make a similarly spectacular debut … and Waters is more than three years older than Milacki was. And although Milacki might not have been a Grade A prospect when he reached the majors in September 1988, that summer he'd gone 12-8 with a 2.70 ERA for Triple-A Rochester.

Just looking at the ages of the other pitchers on this list, it seems likely that all had done impressive work in the minors. We do know that Marichal's a Hall of Famer, and we know that May won 152 games in the majors and was still pitching at 39.

Waters, though?

He's not built like a pitcher. He's listed as being 6 feet tall, 170 pounds, which means he's probably 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. The Braves did like him enough in 2000 to draft him out of South Florida Community College in the fifth round. After initially pitching well as a professional, Waters stalled out; four years after being drafted, he was still pitching in Class A, and wasn't pitching particularly well. And after an unimpressive Double-A season (2006), the Braves cut Waters loose.

Last year, pitching for the Orioles' Double-A team, Waters went 8-9 with a 4.49 ERA. Before this season, he wasn't even listed among the Orioles' top 30 prospects, and he shouldn't have been. He is (or rather, was) a 27-year-old Double-A pitcher with yawn-inspiring numbers.
This year? Finally, Waters blew through Double-A: 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six starts. Then came a promotion to Triple-A, where he … stunk: 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA in 18 games.
So why did he get the call to the majors, finally? In Waters' last start for Norfolk, last Thursday against Lehigh Valley, he pitched seven innings and gave up one hit.
That's right. In what must be the greatest week of his professional life, Waters has given up two hits in 15 innings.

All of which is unlikely enough. Just as unlikely: Waters already is enjoying a significant major league career. He won't be the best pitcher on that list and probably won't match Steve Woodard's 32 career wins. (Interesting tidbit: After three years out of baseball, Woodard is pitching in the minors again, and you never know.)

However, I do give Waters a 50-50 chance of catching Billy Rohr, who finished his career with three major league wins.

Good stuff. But Neyer rarely disappoints.


Chad Bradford got traded to the Rays. Hard to evaluate the trade until we see who we get back but Bradford was the only free agent reliever from the 2006 offseason who did not disappoint.

But Dave Cameron at reminds us that submariner pitchers are fun. And he's right! Sometimes we get so caught up in the winning and losing, we don't appreciate a guy until he's gone. But it was nice having another submariner on the team. I mean, who didn't love Todd Frohwirth?


John Sickels reviewed his preseason list of Oriole Top Prospects on his Minor League Ball blog.

It's a mixed bag but Matt Wieters continues to crush minor league pitching and Nolan Reimold looks to be close to the big club as well.


Song of the Week:

I recently bought the re-issue of Liz Phair's classic 1993 album Exile in Guyville. Reissue. They let it go out of print! Criminal!

It's reasons like these that the major labels deserve whatever is coming to them.

Here's "Stratford-On-Guy" from said album. Enjoy.

Terry Crowley and Oriole DH's Over The Years

Enchanting Sunshine made a comment on one of my previous posts about Aubrey Huff and how he's having one of the better seasons ever for an Oriole DH. "Where was Terry Crowley?", she wondered.

I only included players that qualified for the batting title. Crowley never did. So I changed the criteria to include Crowley in the assessment. Here it is:

Year OPS+
T. Crowley 1979 154
H. Baines 1999 150
H. Baines 1995 142
H. Baines 1993 137
A. Huff 2008 136
K. Singleton 1981 135
J. Dwyer 1987 131
K. Singleton 1983 131
S. Horn 1991 130
T. Crowley 1980 130

Crowley only played in 61 games in 1979 but he made the most of his at bats. He was perhaps more impressive in 1980 when he playe din 92 games, still hitting at a high level.

Look, it's Sam Horn! You think Weaver would've loved having Horn on his bench? Horn could've been the Terry Crowley of the 90's.

Huff has fallen off the pace a bit since last week but still finishes in the top 5 of all-time.

E.S. also wondered about Huff coming through for the team this year. Luke Scott has a lot of big hits but who's had the biggest hits for the club this year?

Total WPA leaders for the 2008 Baltimore Orioles:

Huff 1.87
Roberts 1.40
Mora 1.35
Markakis 1.00
Scott 0.56

Surprised to see Luke Scott so low? I sure was.

Huff has loomed large overall (he has been uncharacteristically consistent all year) but Melvin Mora at number 3? Has the Melmosity been peaking and I haven't noticed?

(BTW, from 1979-1981, Crowley had 78, 266 and 166 plate appearances respectively. He posted WPAs of 1.19, 2.00 and 1.50 respectively. Crazy numbers for a guy who played so little. Per at bat, he may be the clutchiest player in Oriole history.)

The biggest hits of the year by measure of WPA:

10 - Adam Jones - 6/29 - .351 WPA

Down by a run in the top of the 12th, The Truth singles home Markakis to tie up the Nats.

9 - Ramon Hernandez - 6/14 - .388 WPA

Two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Hernandez singles home Freddie Bynum to tie up the Pirates.

8 - Ramon Hernandez - 4/12 - .405 WPA

Down to their last out, Hernandez gives the Orioles life by hitting a solo shot to tie the game against Houston.

7 - Luke Scott - 7/19 - .414 WPA

With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Scott homers to tie the game.

6 - Melvin Mora - 4/17 - .418

Two outs in the ninth and the score ties, Mora singles Roberts home off Bobby Jenks to win the game.

5 - Ramon Hernandez - 7/19 - .431

Walk-off homer against Joe Zumaya to defeat the Tigers.

4 - Brian Roberts - 6/15 - .489

Walk-off homer against Matt Capps to defeat the Pirates.

3 - Melvin Mora - 6/17 - .556

Down 5-6 in the bottom of the 8th with 2 out, Mora doubles to center scoring Adam Jones and Brian Roberts.

2 - Aubrey Huff - 5/27 - .611

Down 7-6 in the bottom of the 8th to the Rays, Huff doubles in Kevin Millar and Mora to give the O's the lead.

1 - Aubrey Huff - 4/2 - .617

In the bottom of the 11th, Huff doubles to the wall off of Yankee reliever (and Oriole badmouther) LaTroy Hawkins. Mora comes all the way from 1st to score the winning run.

Who would have thought that Huff had the two biggest hits all season? Not I. Luke Scott only shows up once. Ramon Hernandez shows up three time lending creedence to my belief that he is having a better season than the boxscore shows. (Not that it matters much. Matt Wieters approaches.) Mora on both lists may indicate that he is having a better year than I thought as well. More to dwell on later...

E.S. also said, "I guess that's why it's better to not rely on perceptions." Well, not necessarily!

Earlier in the year, George Sherrill was being compared by many to Don Stanhouse (especially by E.S.) so I took a look at where Sherrill ranked among other "nailbiter" closers in Oriole history. At the time, he did not make the Top Ten based on my criteria. Now he is in a statistical dead heat with Stanhouse's 1978 season in terms of WHIP. That puts him as the #5 nailbitingest closer in Oriole history.

Sometimes perception is correct regardless of what the numbers say!

But eventually, the numbers tend to catch up.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Base Hits: 8/6/2008

One of the many great things about baseball is that you never know what you might see on a given night. When the Orioles threw LHP Chris Waters to the wolves last night, you wouldn't have expected that their desperation would yield a baseball rarity.

Waters made his major league debut, threw 8 innings of 1 hit ball and won the game. Before Waters, you could literally count the number of times that happened on one hand. At least since 1960. Other notables on the list include Bob Milacki and Juan Marichal.

But only Waters did it at so advanced an age. And only Waters was a veteran of 9 minor league seasons. Totally unexpected and utterly wonderful to watch.

Speaking of unexpected pitching performances, Matt has a great post examining Jeremy Guthrie at Roar from 34.
I took a look at Guthrie before the season and could only find three other pitchers that came out of nowhere and had the success that Guthrie did. Guthrie is the only one of them that improved during his sophomore season.
Not bad for a guy who looked like AAA filler when the Orioles picked him up.

The biggest drag about this is that Jones misses two months of development against major league pitching. Hopefully, this doesn't slow his ascent to stardom.


I talked in my last post about the tough August the Orioles had to face but Buck Showalter on Baseball Tonight had a more positive take on it last night. Out of nowhere, Showalter said that the Orioles would have a lot to say about who wins the division and the wild card because they are better than people give them credit for.

So that's a positive spin on the next two months. Let's play spoiler for somebody. Hopefully the Yankees.


Time for a Grimace of the Day. Jarrod Washburn from over the weekend wishing he was a Yankee: