Friday, January 30, 2009

Nestor Goes Nutso

I have always maintained that Nestor Aparicio is a paranoid raving lunatic (or at least puts on like he is) but this little incident is beyond even what I thought he was capable of.

Now, there are two sides to every story but this doesn't look good. And some anti-Semitic comments were alleged in an earlier confrontation between these two.

This is not the first incident between Nasty Nestor and the Ticket. In 2008, at the Super Bowl coverage, Corby Davidson went to Nasty Nestor to make peace. Nestor Aparicio began swearing at Corby Davidson and accused him of having a hidden mic, to which Corby responded, “I swear to the good Lord I do not have a microphone.” Nasty Nestor then allegedly called Corby a “(Explitive)-ing Jew.”

Sounds like someone needs to go to anger management. Allegedly.

Commentary about the incident can be found here,
and here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Base Hits: 1/29/2009

Some transaction news:

SS Brandon Fahey has signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. It's the end of the Fahey era... Fahey seemed like a good guy and a team player but he couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag and his glove wasn't nearly as good as advertised. In fact, he was surprisingly bad in the field. Good luck to Toronto as they try to find value in another one of our cast-offs.

Oscar Salazar cleared waivers and was invited to Spring Training. I'm not sure why so man fans thought some other team was going to swoop in and claim a soon-to-be 31 year old career minor leaguer but I think the fact Salazar cleared waivers speaks volumes on his ability.

Non-roster invitees to watch: Jake Arrieta, Brad Hennessey, Chris Tillman, Adam Donachie, Matt Wieters, Blake Davis, Chris Gomes, Donnie Murphy and Brandon Snyder. More on this later...


Cal Ripken, Jr gives Texas SS cum 3B Michael Young advice about making the switch to the hot corner.


An article on former Oriole first-rounder Adam Loewen and his quest to switch from pitching to hitting this season. To quote Silky Johnston, "I don't even know you, but I hate you. I hate your guts. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and only to you. "


It's been pretty standard to be critical about the Baltimore Orioles' lack of focus on being "fan-friendly" under the Peter Angelos regime and admittedly most of it has been valid. But I can't say enough about the Junior Orioles Dugout program. I have signed my son up for this for the last 4 years and their customer service for this program is top notch. They always have the information available shortly after New Year's Day (if not sooner), the price is reasonable (especially compared to similar programs run by other teams) and my son looks forward to getting his package every year. A very well run program.

Even though fan relations have changed for the better under Andy MacPhail, this is a program that was well-run before he got here.


Seattle may soon have two former Oriole lefties in their rotation. The Cubs sent recently acquired Garrett Olson and IF Ronny Cedeno to Seattle for RP Aaron Heilman.

Heilman was acquire at the winter meetings in a three team trade that sent J.J. Putz to the Mets. Let's break it down...

Seattle traded RP J.J. Putz, RP Sean Green, IF Luis Valbeuna and OF Jeremy Reed for OF Endy Chavez, IF Mike Carp, OF Franklin Gutierrez, OF Ezequiel Carrera, SP Maikel Cleto, IF Ronny Cedeno and SP Garrett Olson. That trade looks a bit better for the Mariners now.

The Cubs ultimately traded OF Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno for...Aaron Heilman and Class A RP Henry Williamson. Wow. All that for Aaron Heilman? OK....

On another note, the trade is great for Garrett Olson. He'll have a better shot at making the starting rotation and Safeco Field is a pitcher's park. If Olson is ever going to develop into an effective major league starter, there are worse places to pitch than Safeco.


Koji Uehara is reportedly hard at work developing new pitches, including a changeup. (If you can't read Japanese, click here...) In Japan, Uehara got by mainly with his fastball and fork ball, with the occasional cutter and "shuuto" (whatever that is). He is working on a changeup and has reportedly developed a new "spike-curvey" pitch, a curve that he throws while gripping the ball with his middle finger only. Perhaps he should call it The Bird?

Uehara is working out with Houston infielder Kaz Matusui, trying to adjust to the MLB strike zone, adjusting to the MLB ball and working on his stamina. It doesn't appear that Uehara will fail due to lack of preparation...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Brian Roberts

Second basemen typically do not age well. Many of them began a decline shortly after their 31st birthday. Brian Roberts…will be 31 this season.

It is rare for a 2B to age gracefully like Jeff Kent. Most fall off a cliff in their thirties. Roberto Alomar dropped off a cliff at age 34. Craig Biggio was greatly reduced after his age 33 season. Ryne Sandberg dropped off at after age 32. Steve Sax had his last good season at 31.

So with all this in mind, is Brian Roberts beginning to show signs of decline? Maybe.

Roberts' stolen base percentage slipped to 80% in 2008 (down from 87% in 2007 and 83% in 2006) and "only" stole 40 bases vs. 50 in 2007.

His fielding numbers were down as well. His UZR has declined for four straight years (5.9, 4.9, 3.5, -0.3).

But there are other indicators that Roberts' speed (which is an integral part of his game) has not diminished. His career Infield Hit percentage is 5.4% and in 2008 it was 5.5%. His ability to leg out grounders remains fairly consistent. And his base stealing is down but it's still pretty damn good.

Furthermore, his BABIP was .341 last season which seems high and seems primed for a regression. But his Line Drive Percentage was 23.9% and typically if you add .120 to the LD% number, you get an expected BABIP value. Roberts' expected BABIP would be .359. Roberts was actually a bit unlucky with his BABIP last season.

There are some small signs of decline but nothing seems to be pointing to Roberts' performance falling off a cliff.

But I just can't shake that historical data I've seen from other second baseman over the years. Roberts will still be an elite middle infielder but I'll call his line .285/.375/.435 with 43 stolen bases vs. 12 times caught. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at and fall in line with Roberts' excellent performance over the past three seasons.

Photo by Phil Romans and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Friday, January 23, 2009

Base Hits: 1/23/2009

I've been meaning to get to the recent comments by Leo here it is.

Leo Mazzone made these comments to the intensely annoying Atlanta Journal Constitution sports columnist Terrance Moore:

“Once I got there and saw how they operated compared to the Braves, I knew I made a mistake the first week of spring training,” he said, before chuckling and adding, “I said to myself, ‘You know what? I done messed up.’

“The lack of organization. The lack of discipline. The lack of overall professionalism. I was shocked, and I couldn’t believe it.”

A couple of observations:

1) He's probably got some very good points.
2) His best buddy, sad-sack #1, Sam Perlozzo, was running things at the time. Is this a swipe at Perlozzo as well as The Warehouse?
3) When his buddy Perlozzo was shown the door, did Leo take the opportunity to liberate himself from his predicament? On the contrary. He practically begged for his job:

"I want to go until I'm 62, and I hope the rest of the way it's in a Baltimore uniform," he said. "I mean this place, it's my home state and this is one of the greatest sports towns in the United States. All we have to do is start winning, and you'll never be able to get a ticket. These fans deserve that. They treat everybody very graciously."

4) When the Orioles showed Leo the door, they gutted the organization. Andy MacPhail cleaned house (by and large) fronm the minors on up to the GM office. His observations are probably less true now than in 2006.
5) Leo's giving his mea culpa to the fans of Atlanta and the Braves front office. He wants to come work for the Atlanta Braves again. And all in all, who can blame him? I don't. But remember: he kept cashing the Oriole checks last season and they made him a very wealthy man.


The Orioles have signed Luke Scott to a one year deal worth $2.4 million for 2009.

Scott continued to struggle against left handed pitching last season but still managed to post an OPS of .807 coming from one of the weakest divisions in baseball to the strongest division in baseball. The man we traded him for, Miguel Tejada, only posted a .729 OPS for the Astros last season. Tejada stands to make $13 million next season. Which player would you rather have going into 2009?

Even if that trade had been Scott for Tejada straight up, the Orioles made out like bandits. And we got four other players back!


Paul Sullivan has done a very thorough and entertaining write-up on the Orioles' best home-grown players as well as their best acquired players, put them on opposing teams and imagines who might win head-to-head. If Sullivan isn't a die-hard Orioles fan, he should change his middle name to Rain Man to be able to pull so many details about the various Oriole players he profiles.


Oriole Spring Training Update: The drama continues. Lee County now wants the money earmarked for Sarasota to lure an MLB team for Spring Training (and they have failed in their pursuit of the Orioles) so they can use it to lure the Baltimore Orioles to City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers. Officials in Lee County feel that they are 80 percent done with the Orioles deal and want to lay their hands on any money they can find.

According to this editorial, the negotiations with Peter Angelos for the O's to takeover the old Dodgertown facility were no picnic...


ESPN has a chat with Matt Wieters posted if you want to get to know the future Orioles star. One excerpt:

Bob (Baltimore, MD): What do you think of playing in Camden Yards? Can you hit the warehouse?

Matt Wieters: (4:08 PM ET ) I don't know about that, but I'm definitely looking forward to playing there. It's not going to have all the bells and whistles of the newest parks, but it's beautiful and will be around for a long time.

Doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the newest parks? How old do I feel now? I still think of OPACY as a "new" park. This kid thinks it's Tiger Stadium.

Oh , and he'll have his crabcake broiled, not fried.


Speaking of ESPN and prospects, Keith Law has ranked the Oriole farm system as the 10th best in baseball. I can't remember the last time the O's farm system was top ten in anything positive.

And he's not alone. Baseball America has them ranked 10th as well.

On a related note, Law names Matt Wieters the top prospect in all of baseball and is exceedingly glowing in his praise. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta also made the list.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

WAR: Predictions for the 2009 Orioles

Thanks to a tip from Frost King, I have discovered the WAR spreadsheet over at Beyond the Boxscore. This spreadsheet predicts team wins using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) calculations for individual players.

There's a lot of unknowns involved but based on educated guesses and various systems of projections, I have compiled my version of the WAR spreadsheet for the 2009 Orioles. The result? I think we'll be able to pencil the Orioles in for 77 wins in '09. Obviously, injuries will lower the projection but if Wieters gets to Baltimore ahead of schedule or a young pitcher breaks through...maybe 81 wins? I know, I'm dreaming...

(For what it's worth, since I did my first draft of the spreadsheet, the club has added Gregg Zaun, Felix Pie and David Pauley. They have pushed less effective players to either less playing time or of the roster completely...leading to an improvement of 4 wins...)

Frost King's version of the spreadsheet is here. He is contributing to Beyond the Boxscore's Community WAR Project 2009 and is looking for community projections over at Frost King Baseball. Go give him some help!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Aubrey Huff

Last year at this time, I was bashing Aubrey Huff for being a slugger who was modestly successful in his prime but well into his decline phase and probably wouldn't hit better than league average in 2008.

Of course, he went out and had a career year, was the best bat on the team and was named Oriole MVP. Shows what I know.

Now, there are two possible causes for Huff's results last year:

1) He simply had a career year and his decline will continue in earnest in 2009
2) He received a cosmic kick in the butt, refocused himself and will enjoy a late career renaissance.

After Aubrey's so-so 2007 and the whole controversy he created with his comments on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show, it is indeed possible that Huff saw the end of his career staring him in the face. Let's face it, if the Orioles are willing to kick you to the curb, are there really that many teams that are looking for your services? Hell, if you signed with the O's to begin with, there probably weren't many teams looking for you in first place. Maybe this spurred Huff into a more diligent offseason and more focus on the diamond instead of the nightlife he loves so well.

As much as I'd like to believe it, I don't. I imagine Huff's performance will slip back to something just above his 2007 output and he will be a much more ordinary player.

But the real question, now that Felix Pie has pushed Luke Scott to a role that wil primarily be as a DH, is how well Huff will hold down a job in the field for the first time in 3 years.

It's nice to have a slick-fielder manning first base but the truth is that a first baseman's defense hurts you far less than any other position in the field. If you're going to have a bad defender on your team, a bad firstbaseman hurts you the least. When touting Adam Dunn over Mark Teixeira , there were arguments that not only was Dunn not Teix's equal at the plate but he wasn't his equal with the glove. (BTW, the difference in batting wasn't the point. Teix is a better hitter, just not "double the money" better than Dunn. But I digress...) But the glove matters little at first.

From, the difference in UZR/150 from the best centerfielder (Carlos Gomez) and the worst (Nate McClouth) was 32.1 runs. the difference between the best shortstop (Orlando Cabrera) and the worst (Yuniesky Betancourt) was 28.1 runs. The difference between the top fielding firstbaseman (Teixeira) and the worst (Prince Fielder) was 17.6 runs.

And I don't think he will be among the worst fielders in 2009. Over the course of the last few seasons, Huff has logged nearly 1800 innings at first posting a -2.6 UZR/150. That's just below average if you go by 2008 standards. I figure that Huff can approach average with his glove if he's handed the full-time job and allowed to play there exclusively all year. I think Huff will be further motivated to be perceived as a firstbaseman vs. a DH as he heads for free agency in 2010.

I'll be posting a full WAR spreadsheet at some point but I have Huff penciled in for a WAR of 1.7 in 2009. Look for a capable, if not great, glove, and something close to his Marcel projection of .280/.342/.475.

Photo by Phil Romans and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Markakis Locked Up and Bierd Traded to Sox

The Orioles have reportedly locked up RF Nick Markakis with a 6-year, $66 million deal.

This is welcome news and a (relatively) long time coming. Markakis is overlooked outside of Baltimore but is legitimately one of the best young ballplayers in the majors. For 2008, OPS+ leaders for players under 25:

C. Quentin 148
H. Ramirez 146
D. Wright 141
J. Mauer 137
N. Markakis 134
B. Mcann 134
M. Cabrera 130
G. Sizemore 128
P. Fielder 128
R. Braun 128

He's an elite talent, with the bat and the glove, and now he's an Oriole through 2014, his age 31 season. values Markakis' 2008 performance at $24.3 million but even by current values in the marketplace, $11 million per season is a bargain for Markakis. In a market that pays Raul Ibanez $10.5 million per season, the Orioles saved themselves a lot of headaches later on. Especially since Nick Markakis is due for a breakout season in 2009.

In other news, RP Randor Bierd was traded to the Boston Red Sox for SP David Pauley.

Randor, we hardly knew ye. The Orioles acquired Bierd from the Detroit Tigers in last year's Rule 5 draft and he made quite a splash in April by pitching 13.1 innings at a 2.03 ERA. But he hurt his shoulder, didn't return to action until late July and wasn't the same after that. I would not be shocked if he straightens himself out but with a glut on minor league righthanded relievers, The Warehouse viewed him as expendable.

David Pauley is likely cannon fodder for the 2009 rotation, perhaps a long reliever. Pauley did manage to post a 4.52 FIP is a couple cups of coffee with the Sox but seems to be similar to the recently departed Garrett Olson; a soft-tossing finesse guy who may turn out to be a AAAA pitcher.

But as I've said before, the slogan for the 2009 Oriole rotation will be "We'll Take Anybody"...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Olson Out, Orioles Get a Slice of Pie...

The Orioles have acquired OF Felix Pie for SP Garrett Olson and minor league pitcher Henry Williamson.

Pie has been linked to the Orioles in trade rumors since last off-season but the latest round of talks seemed to involve Jay Peavy in a three-way deal. But after the Cubs signed Milton Bradley, Pie got squeezed out of the Cubs outfield picture for the foreseeable future and they shipped him out.

Garrett Olson has been unable to miss bats in the majors and his fly-ball tendencies has led him to post a 6.87 ERA in 33 starts over the last two seasons. I doubt he'll find much more success in Wrigley Field but that may not be his final destination.

Pie has (as of yet) been unable to recreate his success in the minors in the bigs but has only had 287 plate appearances to try to sort it all out. All in all, I'd give the 24-year old Pie a better chance of fulfilling his potential than the 25-year old Olson, especially considering that Pie has been considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

According to Andy MacPhail, Pie will be the starter in left field, pushing Luke Scott to DH and Aubrey Huff to full-time at 1B. I mentioned earlier that Nick Markakis and Adam Jones were the best pair of outfielders in the game. Pie adds to that defensive prowess and if there's a better defensive outfield in baseball, I can't think of it.

CHONE is prediciting an OPS of .757
for Pie (which may be a bit optimistic) but if he exceeds .700 with that glove, he's a very useful player starting this season. And before Luke Scott arrived last season, LF was an offensive black hole. And he has real possibilities to improve.

Barring injuries the lineup looks pretty set. Dave Trembley intends to carry 13 pitchers, so Luis Montanez, Oscar Salazar, Scott Moore, Chris Gomez and whoever else gets in to the mix will be battling it out for one roster spot.

1B Huff
2B Roberts
3b Mora
SS Izturis
RF Markakis
CF Jones
LF Pie
OF\IF Freel
DH Scott
Util Gomez\Salazar\Moore
C Zaun
C Moellers\Wieters

Not exactly a world-beating lineup but it has potential.

I like the move overall. It's a risk but one with a lot of upside. And now that Andy MacPhail has his prize (he wouldn't let this one go, would he?), he can move on to other matters this offseason...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dempsey's Army is Moving On...But Not Really

Hello everybody. I have been offered a chance to host Dempsey's Army over at MVN, the network that Oriole Magic and, now, Ben Frazier's Oriole Central now reside.

But I'm not willing to relinquish this space yet, not now that I am finally comfortable with my surroundings. So I will be cross-posting most of my entries here and at MVN for the near future with 3 or 4 exclusive posts for MVN a month and some exclusive posts here that I feel don't fit into a strict Oriole-centric format. So for the foreseeable future, check both sites for new material.

One of the reasons I'm keeping both blogs for now is that I don't like the formatting or look of most blogs at MVN (no offense to them, just my personal preference) and even though my blog is very basic, I like the layout and the function of it. It's mine, dammit! But even today I've already figured out how to turn off the (to me) annoying default "truncated" view of the posts at MVN which is a big improvement. I think there's a lot of potential there but I'm really going to have to brush up on my HTML to get it where I want it. So it's possible in the future, when the new site looks and feels the way I want it, that I will leave this site to the internet wasteland and blog only at MVN but I think that's months away. What can I say, I can't let go of my blanky yet.

Thanks to everyone who reads this, the suggestions many of you have made and give me some feedback on the new site if you care to. It's here...

MVN: Dempsey's Army

OK, resume party...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Adam Jones

Adam Jones. The Truth. The jewel of the Erik Bedard trade. One of the cornerstones of the Orioles' rebuilding project.

But what was he last season really? If you stop dreaming on the guy's raw talent, what did he really accomplish in 2008?

Well, for one, he was arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball, perhaps the best fielder of any kind in baseball. There is no denying that, regardless of Gold Glove voting, the Oriole have the best pair of fielders, in center and right, than any team in baseball. It has been years since the Orioles could claim to possess the best of anything but I believe this point if easily defended. Jones led AL centerfielders in RZR. Markakis led full time AL rightfielders and has 17 kills. Case closed.

(Note to O's pitchers: keep the ball in the park and these guys will catch it.)

So if Jones proceeds at a reasonable rate of development for a guy in his early 20's, he'll probably be the next Paul Blair. But I think we're hoping for a little more than that.

The biggest impediment to Jones' development will be his control of the strike zone. Jones is a free swinger.

Quick quiz: what two Oriole outfielders put up these individual seasons?

Player A .276 .314 .443 21 94 16 45 75 53
Player B .270 .311 .400 23 108 9 10 61 57

Pretty similar seasons. Who are these players? I'll give you a minute to think about it...
Ready? Player B is Adam Jones in 2008. Player A is Corey Patterson in 2006.

That'll curb your enthusiasm, huh?

So that plate control needs to improve unless Adam Jones is going to develop Vlad Guerrero-level bat control skills. Is there hope?

According to, age 22 Adam Jones compares very favorably to Mark Kotsay, Dave Martinez and Johnny Damon (who all improved their plate control but never struck out like Jone) but the guy who I think looks the most like Jones is Chili Davis.

Davis struck out more than 100 times at age 22 and 23 but cut the strikeouts to 74 in his third season and although his strikeout total routinely crept over the 100 level over the course of his career, by then he was drawing plenty of walks and finished his career with an OBP of .360. (Also 350 career home runs...) This would be the career path we O's fans should hope for.

But this year, don't look for anything more than marginal improvement at the plate...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Around the Oriole Blogosphere: The Kumbaya Edition

On the left hand side of this blog, farther on down the page, is a list of links to other Oriole blogs. This is not unique to my blog but one thing that is is that I update that list on a regular basis. If a blog goes dormant or is not up to my personal reading standards, I take it off the blogroll. If I don't enjoy it, why would I recommend it to others?

So understand, if I link to your blog, it's because I believe your blog has something to offer to the blog-reading Oriole fan. (As an aside, if you have a blog that you think is worth looking at that I don't link to, let me know...)

So here is a sampling from many of the great Oriole bloggers, who have to be true fans given their enthusiasm after 11 losing seasons...

Anthony at Oriole's Magic takes a look at the offseason so far.

Jay at the Examiner looks at the remaining free agent options for the Orioles this year.

Matthew Taylor at Roar From 34 examines a case of denial regarding the Orioles 30-3 loss to Texas in 2007. Also, check out Matt's excellent series, The Eutaw Street Chronicles

Frostking looks at the Hall of Fame vote and the prospects for the Oriole rotation in 2009 at Frost King Baseball.

Kevin offers up a daily Oriole card with commentary at Orioles Card "O" the Day. On Tuesday, it was a Mike Boddicker card from 1988.

Kevin also maintains the NumerOlogy site, a thorough review of every uniform number donned by an Oriole player among other things.

Iffy "inside sources" aside, Orioles Hangout offers a wide variety of news and observations on the Oriole organization, from the lowest levels of the minors all the way up to the big club.

Enchanting Sunshine has been fairly quiet of late but offered up her own thanks to the community of Oriole bloggers at Sixteen Gold Gloves. Also, check out E.S.'s excellent pictorial tribute to the Orioles of her childhood on the Oriole Memories page.

Neal S at The Loss Column looks at some of the Orioles' minor moves but is far more distracted by the Ravens these days. If you happen to be a Ravens fan, i can't say I blame you.

Weaver's Tantrum celebrates its first anniversary. Desert O spent half of his first season on the Appalachian Trail (which he blogged about and it's a great read on its own) but has been blogging like mad ever since he returned to civilization.

The contributors at Camden Chat are prolific but a recent highlight was a thorough and entertaining look at the 2009 rotation by SC.

Scouting is the name of the game at The Camden Depot. I get a little lost in the links with their new website design but there is a very detailed look at the top 30 Oriole prospects on the front page. Read it and look smart the next time you take in a game in Bowie.

There are a few things I can count on to make me laugh on a consistent basis. Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier on SModcast. Chris Rock's standup. 30 Rock. The Boondocks. The Wayward Oriole.

Dean Smith is a fantastic writer. The sporadic gems he doles out at Oriole Poet are always worth reading. This one about Yankee Stadium is a recent highlight.

Oriole Post has a new home. And I have to say I like it a lot better than the old version. Anthony posts constantly on the Orioles but the real treat on Oriole Post is Anthony's photography. Here's a sample.

Check these guys out. All are worthy of being bookmarked.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Base Hits:1/14/2009

Peter Bernstein has done a study about how payroll correlates to winning for ESPN. The study looks at the most cost effective teams and the least cost effective teams since 1998. Not surprisingly, the Oakland A's come in first. Neither is it surprising that the Orioles were in last.

The Orioles averaged $100 million in payroll from 1998-2008, more than league average. They would be expected to average 83 wins per season at that level. Instead, they have averaged 72.

So the drought of winning seasons has little to do with an unwillingness to spend money (at the level they spend the Oriole should have fluked into a winning season at one point during the past 11 seasons) but the unwise spending of that money. Over the course of this losing streak, they have only been outspent by 9 teams.

Take comfort that the The Warehouse is trying something new...


Couple of transactions:

O's sign RP Chris Ray to one-year deal.

Hopefully, Ray is coming back fully healthy. If so, expect him to reclaim the job as closer by the end of the year and George Sherrill goes back to a 7th inning or specialty role. Stronger bullpen, which will be needed given the question marks around the rotation.

O's sign INF Chris Gomez to a minor league deal.

I'm fine with a minor league deal for Gomez but many fans seem to believe he's going to make the team. That would be a brutal situation.

Assuming the O's carry 13 pitchers, that leaves this list for the position players:

RF Markakis
CF Jones
LF Scott
OF Montanez/Reimold
1B Salazar
2B Roberts
3B Mora
SS Izturis
Util Freel
C Zaun
C Moeller/Wieters

That's eleven, leaving one spot open. The Orioles are still looking for DH/1B help so if they bring somebody in that leaves Oscar Salazar, Chris Gomez, Donnie Murphy and Scott Moore to battle for the last spot on the bench.

We already have a utility guy (Freel) and there is no reason to have a defensive specialist behind a great defender like Izturis. I'd rather see the spot go to one of the younger guys with some more pop (Salazar or Moore) coming off the bench. Their potential production will help fill bigger holes for the Orioles than Gomez will. Let's face it, the Orioles will need more help on the corners than up the middle this season. My two cents.

Gregg Zaun rumored to be close to agreement with Baltimore.

I wholeheartedly welcome Rick Dempsey's nephew back to the team. I thought Baltimore should have brought him back earlier in his career (before he signed with the Blue Jays) but better late than never. He'll be a great placeholder for Matt Wieters and can hit well enough to DH every now and then. Good news if it's true.

Oh, and he'll bring his Z-Game. Anyone who can combine Zorro and Rush is OK in my book.


Orioles Spring Training Relocation Caravan Update: Apparently, Fort Myers is now in the mix too...


Jay Gibbons signed a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins. Am I crazy to think he could actually help that team? Good luck, Jay.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Jeremy Guthrie

A big part of trying to guess what a player may be is to examine the past and see where he fits in. There is more than 100 years of baseball history to draw from after all. But that's really tough to do with Jeremy Guthrie because he has one of the most unique career paths for a pitcher in the last 50 years of baseball.

For a guy who never really distinguished himself in the minors and only appeared in 16 major league games before the 2007 season, Guthrie has performed like nobody before him. In last season's Crystal Ball, I could only find three pitchers who had broke into the majors at age 28 who had a similar level of success. After a nearly identical sophomore effort, Guthrie stands alone.

The only guy from last year's list who still bears some resemblance to Guthrie is Jack Sanford, a pitcher from the 1950's primarily for the Phillies and the Giants. He, like Guthrie, came from nowhere to have a very good rookie season for the Phillies in 1957. But he fell back to earth during his sophomore campaign before going on to a respectable 10-year career. (On a side note, Sanford played for the minor league Baltimore Orioles of the International League before breaking in with the Phillies.)

Harvey Haddix broke in at age 27 in 1953 and made a big splash but also fell off a bit during his sophomore season. (Haddix wound up his career in the 60's as a reliever...for the Baltimore Orioles.)

Guthrie has posted back to back seasons seasons of 125 ERA+. No pitcher of his age or experience (barring players coming in from Japan) has had that kind of success and consistency. We are witnessing one of the more distinctive careers in the history of major league baseball.

What can we expect from Guthrie in '09? Don't look for a lot of wins. Guthrie is a very good pitcher but he would not be an ace on many teams. The Orioles are trotting out a guy who qualifies as a solid No. 2 against the very best pitchers in the American League. Some of his best efforts are wasted and he has pitched much better than his Win-Loss record would indicate.

Other than that, there's no reason to imagine that Guthrie won't do the exact same thing that he has done the last two seasons.

Guthrie '09 9 12 190 24 55 124 3.75

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Teix is Haunting Me...

I'm really going to let all this "Teix wore his Yankee cap to Camden Yards" angst go at some point. I really am. But Teix keeps finding me and rubbing it in.

I'm just sitting here, half-watching a show about the 1995 season on the new MLB Network and, of course, they spend some time discussing Cal Ripken, Jr. and The Streak. Whose dorky voice do I hear on my TV? That's right, it's Mark Teixeira.

The graphic underneath his disproportionately large head reads, "Mark Teixeira, Grew Up in Maryland".

Here's what he said:

For me, as a kid, Cal Ripken was everything. He could do it all. I loved watching him play, and..and watching him play every single day, every single inning almost, everyday was pretty incredible.

Incidentally, they have talked about Don Mattingly on this show already. No Teix to be heard from in that segment.

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo took Teix to task on his Sirius XM Satellite Radio show on Tuesday. It was pretty funny and I found it therapeutic. (Go here to listen...)

The emperor has no clothes, Mark. We can see you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quick Video of Koji Uehara

I don't know, he looks more polished than Josh Towers to me!

O's Sign Uehara, Close to Finalizing Deal

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Orioles have agreed to terms with Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara.

Baltimore's rotation is a glaring weakness and the signing helps in two respects.

1) We need competent pitching of all kinds.
2) It gives an early return on the Orioles casting a wider net overseas when searching for talent.

So regardless of how this thing works out, it's a good development for the short and long term.

I know nothing about Uehara so I'll rely on ESPN's Keith Law:

Uehara has, of course, incredible control, and misses bats with a good forkball. It's tough to say how well that pitch will translate here, as American hitters might struggle with a pitch they rarely see, but may also learn to lay off a pitch that often finishes out of the zone. He mixes up his fastball between two-seamers and cutters, but neither pitch has any sink, so while he commands everything to the corners, he's very prone to the home run when he gets too much of the plate.

In an ideal environment -- National League, non-hitters' park -- he could be a midrotation innings-eater because he'll allow so few baserunners. In the American League, he'd be more of a fourth starter, but would have to have some luck keeping the ball in the park to keep his ERA under 4.00.

Two comments: Any pitcher's ideal environment is a National League pitcher's park and if he turns out to be 4th starter caliber, that's still an improvement over what we have right now. We let our other 4th starter caliber pitcher walk and sign with the Nationals.

From NPB Tracker, a blog that follows Japanese baseball:

I actually think that Uehara will be susceptible to baserunners because he’ll be around the plate so much. More troubling is that the HR ball was unquestionably his weakness in Japan, and he’s going to the most HR-friendly park in MLB. On the other hand, he’ll have two good outfielders behind him in Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, which suit his flyball tendencies.

Well, yeah, Camden Yards was the most homerun friendly park in baseball last year but looking at a three year average (usually a better indicator) OPACY is right around 5th or 6th in the majors for giving up homeruns. I'm not downplaying the HR factor but it tends to be overstated at times. Oriole Park is not Wrigley Field or Coors Field, two parks who consistently rank in the top two of HR rates.

And yes, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis help. But Luke Scott doesn't!

I don't have a lot to go on as far as predicting how much better he would be than Daniel Cabrera, but even if he can't keep his ERA under 4.00, even if he has a league average ERA (4.53 last year) I'll take that any day for the reported $5 million a year. I'm going to say that he is a good bet to exceed Daniel Cabrera's production and that alone makes him a fair improvement at a good price.

An encouraging move by The Warehouse. I can't wait to see how it works out.

Mark Teixeira Says Some Very Irritating Things

If you are still upset that Mark Teixeira spurned his hometown team to sign with New York, take solace in the fact that no other team really had a shot at him. You see, Teix has always been a Yankee fan and playing in New York was a lifelong dream.

"There was something about Don Mattingly," Teixeira said. "I would go to Orioles games wearing a Yankee cap. The first time I went to Yankee Stadium I was about eight or nine years old and saw Mattingly play. Donnie Baseball was my guy."

Allow that to sink in a bit. Yankee cap. Donnie Baseball.

"I would wear a Yankees hat. Back in the '80s and early '90s, that wasn't a safe thing to do in Baltimore," Teixeira joked.

It's not safe now. Not for you. Get ready to be something you have never been before. You will be hated. In Baltimore. Probably in Boston. And if you don't live up to expectations, in New York too.

Mark, I was fine with you signing elsewhere. I wasn't shocked it was the Yankees. And frankly, I didn't think tying up so much money in your salary was a good idea for the long term prospects of the Orioles' success. I was indifferent to you before. No longer.

Not only do you coyly hint that you'd love to return "home" to the Baltimore Orioles, not only do you double speak your way from Texas to Atlanta to Anaheim and New York, you actually have the gall to tell stories to the New York media about shunning Cal Ripken, Jr. and Eddie Murray for Don Mattingly and proudly wearing your Yankees cap to Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. You didn't have to go there. It's a slap in the face to all true Oriole fans.

When you think about baseball you think about the Yankees, at least I did when I was growing up.
- Mark Teixeira

And I don't believe his story for a second. I want to see one photo of a young Mark Teixeira wearing a Yankee cap. It's a damned lie. I dare someone to find one. But you won't. Because Teix is a pathological liar.

True or not, the story is insulting to the tradition of this franchise.

Bob Lorenz is my new favorite Yankee reporter.

BL: OK, Mark. Quick pop quiz for you then. Within 50 miles, how far is it from your folks home to the Bronx?

MT: Oh...I would say...probably 290 miles.

BL: It's 220. But close enough. You'll get a parting gift at the end of the interview.

It was worth it to watch Teix squirm, if only for a second.

So boo him on Opening Day. Longly, loudly and lustily. Mark Teixeira is public enemy #1 for fans of the Black and Orange.

Just drink this in. Here's the full quote form Teix regarding his idol worship of Don Mattingly during his press conference. Enjoy.

Yeah, I think it says a lot about the Yankees organization that a kid that grew up in Baltimore, had season tickets to Baltimore Orioles games, and would cheer for every other player in the world except for Don Mattingly. Don Mattingly was my guy and people say, why not Cal? Why not Eddie? And I say I love Cal, I love Eddie, but there’s something about Don Mattingly. I would go to Orioles games, my dad would take me to O’s games and I would wear a Yankees hat. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s that wasn’t a safe thing to do in Baltimore, but it was worth it. That’s just a part of being a Yankee that there’s something above everything else, no matter where you are, no matter what stadium you’re in, there’s Yankees fans everywhere and being a Yankee there’s nothing better.

Then go look at some of these quotes from Mark over the years about the Orioles:

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Nick Markakis

Nick Markakis turned is another great season for Baltimore in 2008 and continues his steady improvement at the plate.

Like last year, for your enjoyment, Markakis' hit chart at Camden Yards for 2008.

It's like the Sistine Chapel. It's gorgeous.

Last offseason, I compared Markakis favorably to Enos Slaughter and Ellis Burks and used those players' age 24 seasons to predict Nick's 2008. Here is that projection compared to the actual stats:

Markakis Predicted .309 39 27 .365 .502 .867
Markakis Actual .306 48 20 .406 .491 .897

I thought a few more of those doubles would go over the fence and I didn't anticipate Markakis' batting eye to improve so much in one season but the projection was pretty spot on.

As the season went on, I became more convinced that Markakis is the second coming of Enos Slaughter. Both are/were lefties, both play(ed) rightfield and both are/were very good fielders with great arms, at least when young.

Their bats are very similar as well:


Age 22 Age 23 Age 24
Markakis 106 121 134
Slaughter 105 122 133

Spooky, huh?

Slaughter's OPS+ at age 25 was 141. How do we get Markakis there? I'll say:

Markakis '09 .315 40 29 .415 .520 .935 141

Add to that his Gold Glove caliber defense in right (he should have won a Gold Glove last year), the Orioles would do well to sign him to a long term contract before Spring Training. It will only get harder once his breakout 2009 is under way.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jim Rice for the Hall of Fame?

What is the deal with the recent groundswell of support for Jim Rice for the Hall of Fame?

How many of you remember Jim Rice? I watched a lot of Orioles/Red Sox showdowns in the 1980’s and I remember Jim Rice as a plodding slugger, a poor defensive left fielder who was a fair hitter with some decent pop in the bat. While he was a very good offensive player, he never struck me as being a dominant offensive force and didn’t play long enough to reach some “HoF worthy” landmarks. (Admittedly, I don’t remember much of Rice’s peak seasons of 1977-79…)

I could go on about how Rice was no better than Boog Powell, Dave Parker or Dale Murphy but there is a more striking comparison to not only one of Jim Rice’s contemporaries…but to one of his teammates; Dwight Evans.

Remember Dwight Evans? Great player. Is he a Hall of Famer? I think not. But look at the comparison.

The Resumes

Rice 1975-89(15) 2452 382 1451 .298 .352 .502 128
Evans 1973-91(19) 2446 385 1391 .272 .370 .470 127

Really? These meager differences in offensive numbers mean the difference between immortality and falling off the ballot after three years?

From 1971-1990, nobody grounded into more double plays than Jim Rice. He was in the top ten for strikeouts during that span as well. He was an out-making machine. The power numbers are not great enough to offset those deficiencies.

Considering the fact that Rice was a butcher in left and Evans was a 8-time Gold Glover in right field, you could argue that Evans was the better baseball player over the course of a longer career.

If Rice belongs in the Hall of fame, he needs to get in line behind Dwight Evans; Evans is clearly the better ballplayer.

(One disclaimer; I'm sure none of this is a surprise to Red Sox fans and may be well-covered ground. I just found it to be an interesting contrast...)