Thursday, May 28, 2009

Matt Wieters is Coming: The Orioles Will Be Pulling a Switcheroo

The Matt Wieters debut/anointment/coronation happens tonight and has been or will be covered is every way imaginable by then. So I may as well cover yet another facet of Wieters' call up; Wieters will give the Orioles the unusual option of putting four switch hitters in the starting lineup at once.

But first, let's backtrack and take a look at Oriole teams of the past with switch hitting prowess


1984-1986



From 1954 to 1983, the Orioles featured few switch hitters and rarely even trotted out three switch hitters at a time. That changed in the early 1980's. Eddie Murray and Ken Singleton were already switch hitting fixtures in Baltimore and the addition of CF John Shelby as a regular in 1983 gave the O's three guys in the lineup who batted from both sides of the plate.

Enter rookie outfielder Mike Young. Young was a corner outfielder who had a pretty good rookie season in 1984 finishing 5th in the AL ROY voting. He started playing regularly in mid-May and gave the Orioles their first quartet of switch hitters. Singleton, Murray, Young and Shelby appeared together in the starting lineup 22 times in 1984.


Batter AVG OBP SLG R HR SB
Murray .306 .410 .509 97 29 10
Singleton .215 .286 .289 28 6 0
Shelby .209 .248 .313 44 6 12
Young .252 .355 .431 59 17 6





With Ken Singleton's retirement before the 1985 season, it appeared that an Oriole quartet of switch hitters would be a footnote of the '84 season alone. Not so. A mid-season trade for 2B Alan Wiggins and the promotion of rookie catcher Al Pardo gave the Orioles five switch hitters on the roster and injuries to Fred Lynn and Jim Dwyer allowed Shelby and Young more at bats than they would have gotten otherwise. On July 6th, the quartet of Shelby, Young, Wiggins and Murray took to the field for the first time. Adding Pardo, these five players combined to field lineups with at least four switch hitters 42 times during the second half. On 5 occasions, all five switch hitters were in the starting lineup, happening for the first time on July 8th. It was the first time in Oriole history that the starting lineup boasted five switch hitters.



Batter AVG OBP SLG R HR SB
Murray .297 .383 .523 111 31 5
Shelby .283 .307 .434 28 7 5
Young .273 .348 .513 72 28 1
Wiggins .285 .353 .349 43 0 30
Pardo .133 .167 .147 3 0 0




1986 would see the continued combination of the above five players to run out a lineup with at least four switch hitters 27 times including all five of them twice.




Batter AVG OBP SLG R HR SB
Murray .305 .396 .463 61 17 3
Shelby .228 .263 .364 54 11 18
Young .252 .342 .371 43 9 3
Wiggins .251 .309 .272 30 0 21
Pardo .137 .137 .216 3 1 0



The drug problems of Wiggins, the trading of John Shelby to the Dodgers and the demotion of Al Pardo meant the foursome of switch hitters only took the field once in 1987. The Golden Age of Baltimore switch hitters was over.




1995-96

The next quartet of switch hitters wouldn't arrive until 1995 and consisted mostly of part time players. Brett Barberie was a utility infieder. Gregg Zaun was a rookie. Kevin Bass was a fourth outfielder. But when Baltimore traded for swtich hitting slugger Bobby Bonilla, they all made it into the starting lineup just once, August 4th, 1995.


Batter AVG OBP SLG R HR SB
Barberie .241 .351 .325 32 2 3
Bass .244 .303 .336 32 5 8
Bonilla .333 .392 .544 47 10 0
Zaun .260 .358 .394 18 3 1




In 1996, Bass and Barberie were gone but Roberto Alomar came to town and when the O's traded mid-season for aging veteran Eddie Murray, they once again had a four switch hitters on the team. They took the field together three times late in the 1996 season and Baltimore took the AL Wild Card.


Batter AVG OBP SLG R HR SB
Alomar .328 .411 .527 132 22 17
Murray .257 .327 .439 36 10 1
Bonilla .287 .363 .491 107 28 1
Zaun .231 .309 .352 16 1 0





Now, Matt Wieters will join Brian Roberts, Gregg Zaun and Cesar Izturis as the fourth switch hitter on the 2009 Baltimore Orioles. Will they take the field together as often as those mid-80's teams? No. Zaun and Wieters play the same position. But I imagine we'll see Wieters DH on his off days with Zaun at catcher. So I think we'll see that alignment more than the three times we last saw it in 1996.

Now let's hope that Wieters is better than fellow 1st round drafted catcher Al Pardo...

MASN Oriole Blogger Night: The Whirlwind Tour

Thanks to MASN, especially the PR team of Todd Webster and Kristen Hudak, for including me among several Oriole bloggers invited up the Camden Yards on Tuesday for Oriole Blogger Night. Coming up from Atlanta, I am pretty sure I took the long distance award but I wouldn't have missed this for anything. Drove up to my Dad's place in southern Virginia Monday night, drove to Baltimore Tuesday morning, back to southern Virginia after the game and all the way home yesterday. It was my own personal version of The Cannonball Run. (I even brought beer back...the boys are thirsty in Atlanta...(OK, I'm mixing my Burt Reynolds movies a bit)...but that's a story for another blog...) Thank God it wasn't rained out!

We assembled outside the stadium with Todd before the game and then headed up to the booth to see Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez. Below are three soundless, "Blair Witch Project" quality video snippets of the booth. Try not to get nauseous.

First, the Oriole Blogosphere pours into the booth. You'll see Amber Theoharis off to the right and Gary Thorne as we enter:


video

Second, Amber comes in to say a quick hello.


video

Here comes Buck Martinez! Since there's no sound, I'll just tell you that Gary Thorne's voice is not the product of a bunch of perfectly aligned settings on a studio soundboard; the guy has some serious pipes and delivered his answers to our questions in those same dulcet tones you hear on TV. Buck and Gary fielded questions and, as it turns out, they read none of the collective bloggers work. I could have sworn that Gary said he only has time to read "reputable sources". Ouch! That's OK Gary, we like you anyway. Thanks to those guys for taking a few minutes out of their work day to speak with us.


video


Anyway, after that is was outside to watch a bit of the O's Xtra Pregame Show:


And then back upstairs to enjoy the game from the MASN suite. I have been to the luxury suites at Turner Field a couple of times before. These suites were nicer. Good crab cakes too.

Many people showed up in the suite during the game. Rick Dempsey came up for nearly the whole game, keeping very detailed score throughout the game. I chatted with Rick for a second, shook his hand, thanked him for being nice to my son at Spring Training a few years back. Class act, this Dempsey. Glad I named the blog for him!

Rick hard at work...

...on his painstakingly detailed, color coded score cards.

Al Bumbry made a brief appearance although I did not talk to him. Jim Hunter was rather personable and talked with some of us for awhile. I met MASN's Steve Melewski, again really nice guy. Roch Kubatko came down to chat. I inadvertently caught this mildly uncomfortable exchange between Roch and Duck from Camden Chat...more on that over here. (Roch was actually really cool to everybody...that comment is tongue-in-cheek... ;-) )

Andy MacPhail announced the impending arrival of Matt Wieters which sent the MASN reporters scrambling out of the suite...

Todd took a few of us down to the bowels of Camden Yards to see the MASN production truck. Very impressive.


video

Did I mention it was Jason Berken's major league debut and the Orioles won 7-2? Really, it could not have gotten much better.

It was really great meeting so many in the Oriole blogosphere whom I have merely e-mailed in the past. There were three people from Camden Chat (Stacey, Duck, Jonny Pops) , Anthony Amobi from Oriole Post and Oriole Magic, James Baker from Oriole Magic, Matt from Roar from 34, Neal Schafer from The Loss Column, The Wayward O (Pete Brush), Zach Wilt from Baltimore Sports Report and Chris Stoner from Baltimore Sports and Life. I'm sure I missed somebody but those are the people I remember meeting.

edit: After reading the full post on Camden Chat, I think that Ken Brotzman form NumerOlogy/Oroles Card "O" the Day was there too. I thought he was a fourth Camden Chatter. Like the work Ken!

All in all, well worth the combined 24 hours on the road over the course of three days.

I'll post some more snapshots and such over the weekend. But there's more! Wayward O recounts his experiences, Stacey from Camden Chat details the event and Anthony Amobi will have a recap up (with expected great photography) soon. Ken recaps the event at Oriole Card "O" the day, Neal has a write up over at The Loss Column and James Baker has his take over at Oriole Magic.

Thanks again to the MASN team for making this happen and for everyone involved with MASN to take time out of their work day (that point was not lost on me) to make a bunch of uber-fans feel at home.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WPA: O's vs. Jays, 5/27/09

What a game! Welcome back, Luke! WPA graph, as usual, courtesy of FanGraphs.com:

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat not once but twice. A roller coaster of a game.

Nolan Reimold has pretty much made the Pie vs. Montanez question moot. Those guys are battling it out for a fourth outfielder spot at this point. (At least, they would be if Montanez hadn't gotten hurt...) Reimold's not going anywhere.

Hey, there's this guy named Wieters coming to Baltimore on Friday. Supposed to be some big deal catcher or something. I guess we'll see.

Monday, May 25, 2009

AL East Roundup - Week 6

AL East Roundup: May 17th-24th

Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

The Red Sox started the week three games out of first place, looking up at the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays had just won six out of their last eight games...then they came to Fenway. Tim Wakefield welcomed them with a dominating performance: eight innings giving up only five hits and one run - a homer to old pal Kevin Millar. Papelbon shut the door in the ninth, edging the Sox a game closer to the top. Wednesday night, the Beard of Wonder and Amazement returned to the line-up and had three of the Sox fifteen hits. Boston's offense exploded, seemingly inspired by Big Papi's first homer of the season. Jason Varitek had two dingers in the game (officially starting the "Captain is on the juice" talk), his second coming in the fifth - the first of four in that inning. Brad Penny pitched well, going six-and-two-thirds, before turning it over to the pen for mop-up. In the series finale, Jon Lester held the Jays down and the bats jumped on Toronto early, scoring three in the first. It would prove to be enough and the sweep was complete.

Friday night the abortion we call interleague play began as the Mets came to town. Johan Santana battled the Sox as Dice-K returned from the DL. The Dice-man was shaky, giving up four runs in just five innings. The floodgates were opened courtesy of Julio Lugo and his inability to turn a double play. The non-error led to two runs that never should have crossed the plate. Boston rallied in the bottom of the inning cutting the deficit to 4-3 but that was as close as they would come. Saturday night baseball in Fenway was outstanding...Josh Beckett was vintage, going eight strong and allowing just one unearned run. The stage was set for Papelbon in the ninth, but the ending didn't go as written. Paps gave up an instant-replay-confirmed homer giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. Two stellar defensive plays in the bottom of the inning sealed the win. The Sox would take no chances in Sunday's game, piling on 12 runs on 16 hits - including six doubles and a pair of three-run homers by Youk and Lowell.

The Blue Jays were swept by the Braves over the weekend, putting the Sox on top of the AL East by a half-game. The Red Sox start the week in Minnesota for four games, then head north-of-the-border to face the Jays next weekend.

Week's record: 4-2

Season record: 26-18

Injuries: None

This week: Mon - Thu @Minnesota; Fri - Sun @Toronto



Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

Shhh, the Jays bats are sleeping. What started out as a very promising week with the end of a 4-game sweep over the White Sox fizzled into one major return to earth after 6 straight losses. The result has been the return of many younger players in exchange for familiar faces such as Casey Janssen and Joe Inglett. The Jays scored only 10 runs over the last 6 games of the week, a far cry from the performances they put up at the beginning of the season. However, when you delve into the numbers the situation is not as bad as it may seem. First, the Jays were getting on base very well with a decent amount of hits and walks. In the second and third games against the Sox, the Jays had 14 and 11 hits to go with 5 walks but only drove in 4 runs. The Jays were horrible in key hitting situations this week and it's something that they need if they are going to turn this around.

Overall, the Jays pitching did very well this week. Doc had another great start, but Cecil and Ray both showed their youth and inexperience in their starts while still showing their great overall potential. Now they know what has to get done and can work on it in AAA. Janssen and Romero have been called up to replace them, as well as Joe Inglett, who takes the roster spot of the ice cold Travis Snider. While I entirely agree with the demotion due to the lack of playing time Snider has gotten, I entirely disagree with the way he was being used by Cito. Snider should have hit ahead of Overbay and Barajas, just behind Rolen, and on a much more consistent basis. For a guy who has been called "the franchise" by most Jays players and is used to 100% playing time, sitting on the bench just doesn't seem right regardless of the troubles he may have.

If the Jays are going to turn it around this week they need continued success from their starting pitching with much better run support and better pen performances. Sunday's game provides the best example of an implosion of the Jays with 8 earned runs given up after a decent start by Scott Richmond. The Jays are still in a better position than most of us expected them to be in at this point. With 2 series against division rivals coming up, the Jays can regain their strut if they simply get some timely hitting and learn how to hit a knuckle ball.

Week's Record: 1-6

Season Record: 27-20

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder-hitting off tee), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm), Shaun Marcum (Elbow-resting), Dustin McGowan (Labrum-threw from 120 feet for the first time 23rd May).

This Week: Mon- Wed @Baltimore ; Fri - Sun BOSTON



New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

After a weekend of walk-offs, the Yanks were ready to keep on rolling. They wouldn't dispose of the Twins in a similar manner in their series finale on Monday, but rather hit them hard and early, plating six runs in the first off Glen Perkins, who hit the DL after the game with elbow inflammation. The Twins almost came back, but Phil Coke ultimately succeeded in his first ninth-inning save opportunity. For Yankees fans, perhaps the sweetest part of the game came when Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez went back to back, hopefully the first of many over the next eight years.

Entering the Baltimore series the Yankees had been winners in eight of their previous 10 games, and continued rolling. They decimated the Orioles in a three-game sweep, slamming seven homers in the effort. Adam Eaton got beaten so badly on Thursday that the Orioles released him on Friday*. The World Champion Phillies were next to come to town. Unfortunately, they are a bit better than the Orioles.

As expected, when the AL- and NL-leaders in home runs square off in a park tailor-made for lefties, balls will fly out of the park. That they did over the weekend, combining for 12 homers over the three games. These weren't just New Stadium Specials, though. Raul Ibanez, Jason Werth, and Mark Teixeira hit absolute bombs on Friday night, Teixeira's hitting the third deck, Ibanez's going halfway up the right field bleachers, and Werth's hitting the second deck in left. Rookie John Mayberry hit his first career homer on Saturday and Ibanez repeated, but the biggest homer of the game belonged to Alex Rodriguez, who forced one out the opposite way to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. After Robinson Cano singled and stole second, Charlie Manuel decided to pitch to Melky Cabrera, who repaid him with a walk-off single.

The series wouldn't end as well. The Yankees, trailing all game, tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn't plate a man in scoring position. Then, in the 10th, they put men on first and second with none out but couldn't muster a walk-off hit. That led to Brett Tomko's entrance, and the Phillies capitalized, with Carlos Ruiz yet again driving in a run. Just after Rob Neyer chastized Manuel for playing Ruiz regularly, he came through big time over the weekend.

* Yes, I know it wasn't that single start wasn't the cause of his release, but it's funny to think about it that way.

Week's record: 5-2

Season record: 25-19

Injuries: Brian Bruney (elbow, day to day)

This week: Mon - Wed @Texas; Fri - Sun @Cleveland



Tampa Bay Rays - Rise of the Rays

NOTE: Say hello to our new Rays contributor, Rise of the Rays.

The Rays have improved their record to .500 after going 5 and 3 this week. A pretty good week overall, taking 2 from Oakland and 2 from the Marlins as well as 1 from the Indians on Sunday. The Rays wasted a great start from James Shields on Monday, losing a 0-0 game in extras by 4 runs allowed by Joe Nelson and Dan Wheeler, as the bullpen that is normally good blew it. The Rays got great starts from their 2 mediocre guys so far this year. Andy Sonnanstine had 2 great starts this week and Jeff Niemann had one against the Marlins. Sonnanstine, the Rays best hitting pitcher, got his wishes of wanting to hit this week, since he batted in three different games this week. He batted third last Sunday due to the lineup snafu, he batted on Friday because it was in an NL park, and he pinch-hit Saturday in the later parts of the game.

Jason Bartlett, who twisted his ankle in yesterday's game and will probably miss Monday's game, had a monsterous week this week, gathering 2 more homers to get to 7 and improving his average to .373 on the season. He also had 14 RBI's this week.

The most notable injury from the week has to be Aki. As said by Carlos Pena on Akinori Iwamura's presence: "We're going to miss him greatly even if it’s just one day. ... You can't replace Aki. He's Aki. There’s only one of him around."

The Rays will send him back to St. Pete to get a MRI, we hope this is not too serious. Aki is so important. The Rays also placed Troy Percival on the DL, whick is a relief for most Rays fans. They also placed Scott Kazmir on the DL for no other reason than he was struggling, since he came out and said he was not injured. The Rays are likely to get Pat Burrell back this week, which will give us a bat in the middle of the lineup.

This week, the Rays head to Cleveland to face the Indians who have our head after the benches clearing incident last week. They are a better team than their record show, so hopefully the Rays can take 2 of 4 with David Price, the Rays highly touted top prospect who got the final out in the ALCS for the Rays, getting the start tonight. The Rays then head home for three with the Twins this weekend, which could be a very tough series for the Rays. They will get their three best starters for that series, with James Shields, Price, and Matt Garza all going for the weekend.

Record: 23-23

Week's Record: 4-3

Injuries: Akinori Iwamura, who could be out for a while, Troy Percival, who is contemplating retirement, and Scott Kazmir, who is really not hurt, but needs to get things figured out.

This week: Mon - Thu @Cleveland; Fri - Sun MINNESOTA



Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

The Orioles go 2-4 for the week with most of the damage coming from an unholy ass kicking at the hands of the Yankee steamroller. New York swept Baltimore out of the new Yankee Stadium outscoring them 27-9 in the three game set.

Baltimore bounced back to take two out of three from the Nationals over the weekend but even Baltimore should be expected to win a series like that.

A silver lining exists though as The Warehouse finally saw enough of Adam Eaton and released him after the he got lit up by the Yanks on Thursday. Thanks to the New York team for putting us O's fans out of our misery. Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson and Alfredo Simon were all in the starting rotation to begin the year. Now Eaton is released, Simon is out for the year (and didn't pitch well before he got hurt) and Hendrickson finds himself in the bullpen....for now. I never understood these guys in the rotation anyway, there were AAAA guys in the Oriole system who could have pitched just as well with a small chance to improve. Oh well, what's done is done.

Someone will have to be recalled from Norfolk to pitch on Tuesday and the club is tight lipped about the choice. The smart money is on journeyman Chris Waters or 25 year old Jason Berken, a Clemson product who is tearing up the International League.

LF Nolan Reimold has arrived in Baltimore ahead of schedule and is putting a stranglehold on the left field position. The .256/.293/.436 line he has posted so far is not altogether impressive but has been better than the combined efforts of Felix Pie and Lou Montanez and is fairly encouraging considering Reimold had not played a game above AA before this season.

RP Chris Ray was supposed to be wresting the closer spot back from George Sherrill by now. Instead, Ray took the loss in Sunday's game against Washington and now has an 10.12 ERA on the season. Sherrill, by contrast, has lowered his ERA to 2.89. Ray hasn't trusted his fastball since he came back from Tommy John surgery and looks to be optioned to Norfolk on Tuesday to work it out. Sherrill remains an excellent piece on trade bait for a contender come July.

Wieters Watch: Wieters has a .284/.359/.485 line for AAA Norfolk. I still predict we'll see him in mid-June barring injury to Gregg Zaun.

When your team is a loser for as many years as Baltimore has been, you look for great individual performances to get you through the year. Adam Jones is that guy this year. The rest of the AL can eat their hearts out as out 23 year old center fielder is hitting .359/.414/.654. 10 home runs in 38 games. Baltimore has many problems but we have a center fielder that the rest of the league can be envious of.

Week's Record: 2-4

Season Record: 18-26


Injuries: Koji Uehara (hamstring, day to day), Luke Scott (shoulder strain, 15-day DL), Dennis Sarfate (hand numbness, 15-day DL, out until July)

This Week: Mon-Wed TORONTO, Thu-Sun DETROIT

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Steve Phillips is Not A GM For A Reason...

Waaaayyy off topic but I couldn't let this go. From yesterday's ESPN chat with Steve Phillips:

Beltran Stays (New York): Steve, while I respect your work, I disagree with your statements about Carlos Beltran on Sunday Night Baseball. The guy has done nothing but produce, and name me a CF who's better in the game right now.

Steve Phillips: If the Mets don't make the playoffs, I firmly believe they need to reconfigure the core of this team. While Beltran does have talent, I just don't see him as a winning player. Even after my comments on Sunday night, Beltran let a fly ball drop in between himself and Angel Pagan in the Dodger game. I see him putting up numbers but not making plays to win games. I would take Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson, and Nate McLouth over Beltran, and use the financial difference to improve the team in other ways. Beltran isn't a $17 million dollar a year player. He just doesn't have the kind of impact for that kind of money.

Wow. Lets's take this point by point.

Torii Hunter is over the hill and will actually make more than Beltran so no cost savings.

Grady Sizemore is awesome...but he's unavailable. I don't think Cleveland is parting with him.

Curtis Granderson...see above.

Nate McLouth: Good hitter, TERRIBLE centerfielder (Gold Glove notwithstanding)

So sure, Sizemore and Granderson are younger and arguably just as good...but they aren't coming to the Mets.

So now that we have eliminated these four, who is coming to play center field for the Mets who is better than Beltran?

The next comment speaks for itself:

Steve Phillips: Many people think that Alex Rodriguez is the best player in the game, but he's never won anything. I look at Beltran in a similar fashion as Rodriguez--a great talent that just doesn't seem to have what it takes to win championships. Maybe the Mets can keep him and add pieces to the core around him and still win. But when you're dealing with a budget and the screams of immediacy in New York, I'm not sure the Mets can wait to piece it together around him. I know there are a lot of people who disagree with me, but it's just the way I see it. Beltran is a very good person and a solid citizen, in addition to being a guy who puts up numbers. I like him, I just don't think they can win with him.

First, a list of Hall of Famers who weren't "winners":

Ernie Banks
Harmon Killebrew
Carlton Fisk
Rod Carew
Nellie Fox

I could go on...

Funny how it's Beltran's fault and not the fault of GM Omar Minaya who has flanked him in the outfield with Ryan Church and Fernando Tatis.

OK, resume party...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Base Hits: 5/20/2009

Chris Ray is sporting an ERA north of 8.00...and that's a problem. Has he lost his fastball? Not really. His average fastball speed is 94 mph which is a couple mph off his 2007 levels but it's still not bad. But he doesn't trust his fastball anymore.




He used to work off his fastball, now not so much. He went from throwing it 72% of the time to throwing it less than half of the time. The slider and, to a greater extent, his change up are far more prominent and the results have not been good.

Why doesn't he believe in his fastball? It seems like he's still getting good horizontal movement but not quite as much movement vertically. Maybe that's the issue? Regardless, it's time for Ray to go to Norfolk to work it out. Matt Albers was better than this.

*****

As a fan of baseball and Jack Kerouac, I knew that he had concocted his own imaginary league of baseball teams that he played for much of his life. But I had never seen the evidence of those leagues until this week. Great stuff.

*****

Pie in May - .286/.355/.536
Montanez in May - .226/.294/.387

Which one needs to go to Norfolk when Scott comes back?

*****

Another great installment of the Eutaw Street Chronicles over at Roar From 34.

*****

Jay Trucker of the Examiner is not thrilled about new Baltimore Sun sports columnist Kevin Cowherd and pulls no punches...

In your "introduction," you noted that you covered sports for The Evening Sun from 1981 to 1987. I’m sure that if you want to, you will once again be an excellent addition to the Baltimore sports writing dialogue. But be forewarned. This isn’t 1987. Slip up, and you will have to deal with more than a letter to the editor or two. If you take a nap at your typewriter, awaken 20 minutes before a deadline, and rattle off 300 words explaining that Jeremy Guthrie’s “lack of fire” and “mental weakness” are to blame for his recent pitching woes, I will retaliate -- with facts and empiricism.

I don't disagree with many of Trucker's assertions in genereal. But shouldn't we wait until Cowherd writes his first baseball column, Jay?

*****

The Loss Column is concerned about Dave Trembley's habit of pulling starters after six innings or after 100 pitches.

I think the issue is that we don't have any pitchers capable of going more than 6 innings. Only Jeremy Guthrie would qualify and he has not performed up to expectations. More a function of personnel than managing.

*****

This is pretty cool. The Norfolk Tides are now putting game highlights up on YouTube. Here's the highlights from yesterday's game:


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Other MacPhail: How Andy's Father Gave Baltimore It's First World Series

Early returns on the Andy MacPhail era have been positive. He has traded for prospects that have reinvigorated the farm system, added overlooked veterans and youth to the lineup and has given the Oriole faithful, for the first time in almost 15 years, real hope for the long term success of the franchise.

But there is still a long way to go. Andy MacPhail has a daunting task in turning this franchise around and if he does so, he will only be the second MacPhail to do so. His father, Lee, did the same thing nearly 50 years earlier.

In 1955, Paul Richards came over from the White Sox to take over as manager and General Manager of the fledgling Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore had lost 100 games in the previous year and Richards did indeed improve the team over the four years he held both posts. However, the best record the team could muster was 76-76 in 1957.

In 1959, Richards gave up the GM duties to 42 year old Lee MacPhail, the director of player personnel for the New York Yankees. Richards was covetous of the abundant young talent that the Yankees had accumulated in their farm system and MacPhail seemed to be the perfect partner to build the same kind of system for Baltimore.

MacPhail told Richards it would take him 6 or 7 years to catch the Yankees, a statement that would be prophetic. In 1966, 7 seasons later, the Orioles had captured a World Series title.

MacPhail had departed the Orioles for the offices of the American League after the 1965 season but his fingerprints were all over the championship team. Below are the starters and key contributors of the 1966 Baltimore Orioles. The players that MacPhail did not have a hand in acquiring for the Orioles are in italics

C Andy Etchebarren - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1961
1B Boog Powell - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1959
2B Davey Johnson - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1962
SS Luis Aparicio - Acquired via trade from the White Sox in 1963
3B Brooks Robinson - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1955
LF Curt Blefary - Selected off waivers from the Yankees in 1963
CF Paul Blair - Drafted from the Mets in the 1962 first-year draft
RF Frank Robinson - Acquired via trade from the Reds in 1966

OF Russ Snyder - Acquired via trade from the Athletics in 1961
OF Sam Bowens - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1960
IF Bob Johnson - Acquired via trade from the Sentors in 1962


SP Dave McNally - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1960
SP Jim Palmer - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1963
SP Wally Bunker - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1963
SP Steve Barber - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1957
SP John Miller - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1961

RP Stu Miller - Acquired via trade from the Giants in 1962
RP Dick Hall - Acquired via trade from the Athletics in 1961
RP Eddie Watt - Signed as an amateur free agent in 1961
RP Moe Drabowsky - Drafted from the Cardinals in the 1965 Rule 5 Draft
RP Eddie Fisher - Acquired via trade from the White Sox in 1966

MacPhail's successor, Harry Dalton, made some great moves before and during the 1966 season adding, most importantly, Frank Robinson. He also added key relief arms Moe Drabowsky and Eddie Fisher. Brooks Robinson and SP Steve Barber were Paul Richards' signings before MacPhail arrived. Outside of those five players, MacPhail was responsible for the rest of the key contributors on the roster.

Here's hoping his son can have the same success...and that it won't take 7 years.

Monday, May 18, 2009

AL East Roundup: Week 5

AL East Roundup: May 11th - 18th

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

Any week that has Doc Halladay pitching twice is a week Jays fans look forward to for good reason. Doc didn't disappoint while setting the tone against the Yankees against AJ, his old team mate and newest Blue Jay nemesis. Doc pitched a complete game gem against a somewhat diminished Yankee lineup that was missing Jeter, Swisher, and Posada, but still took care of business. He only needed 103 pitches to complete his outing. While Doc's performance was to be expected, the fact that Burnett was booed every single time he threw a strike and jeered more than Arod surprised many of us. While it is true that Burnett became just another player chasing the money he supposedly deserves in New York, he deserves to be made aware that he sold out.

Back to the Jays week, I have to admit the Yankee pitching surprised me after the first game of the series. CC and Andy threw some very strong games supplemented by some stellar pen innings I had no idea the Yanks relievers could deliver. I expected the Jays hitters to have some struggles this season, but hoped they would come against other opponents. For the Jays, Richmond obviously looked shell shocked and definitely had no faith in his stuff for the first time this season. I'm not really sure why it happened, but I hope that he learns from the experience and works on his tenacity. His rough outing was followed by yet another surprising start by Tallet who held his own over 6 innings allowing only 2 runs. Either way, he wasn't beating CC and the Jays hitters took the 2 games off, leaving Richmond and Tallet to fend for themselves.

As the weekend series versus the White Sox started, the Jays has hungry hitters on the prowl and did they delivered enough to sweep the weekend. Friday's game had Bret Cecil throwing a great game to go along with 8 runs of support, resulting in Bret's second win in a row. Lind and Bautista delivered the two required RBIs in the 8th inning on Saturday in support of Robert Ray, who lasted 8 innings with no earned runs. Scott Downs got the save and seems to have a good hold on the role. And finally the Jays supported their Doc with another 8 run effort led by none other than Aaron Hill. I'd like to advertise for Aaron for very good reason. As we begin to vote for the All-Star game, I would suggest that Aaron's stats deserve to be compared to Utley's and Kinsler's to prove just how special he has been this season. I hope all voters will give him the thumbs up, he deserves it.

Week's Record: 4-2

Season Record: 26-14

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in AAA May 13th), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Mon CHICAGO; Tue-Thu @Boston; Fri-Sun @Atlanta



Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

A dismal week for the Boston Red Sox on the west coast. Not only did they drop two-out-of-three to the Angels and Mariners, but the Sox were forced to bench David Ortiz after a horrendous appearance on Thursday. Papi went 0-for-7 with three K's and left an astounding 12 runners on base. After the game, Ortiz told reporters "Papi stinks."

Things started out OK in LA. Afetr being shut down for seven innings by Jered Weaver, the Sox got to the Angel bullpen in the 8th and 9th innings, capped by a run-scoring double off the bat of Captain Tek. The next night, "The Big A" continued to be a personal house of horrors for Tim Wakefield. Wake is 0-6 with a 9.3 ERA in his last six starts there. Wednesday was no different: Wakefield couldn't get out of the 5th inning, giving up seven earned. The Angels' Matt Palmer went the distance in the 8-4 rout. Thursday was one of the worst games of the 2009 season for the Red Sox bats. Brad Penny turned in a decent start and the bullpen was phenomenal, going scoreless innings before Manny Delcarmen gave up the game-winner in the 12th. The Red Sox had countless opportunities to steal a win, putting seven runners on in the last four frames but scoring none.

The next stop was Seattle and a chance to make the road trip a success. The Mariners were struggling, winning just once in their last ten games. But Jon Lester fell victim once again to "the bad inning" syndrome. After cruising through five, Lester melted in the 6th, giving up four earned, two on Ichiro's second homer of the game. The bullpen was again the highlight, shutting down the M's, but the Sox couldn't plate the tying run. Josh Beckett returned to a more Beckett-like form on Saturday, going seven strong and giving up just two earned runs. Bay cranked his 11th homer on the way to a 5-3 win. Sunday's attempt to grab a .500 record on the road trip went awry in the bottom of the 9th when a Nick Green error led to the winning run.

The bullpen remains the one constant strength for the Red Sox. Beckett's strong outing was a silver lining to the week's cloudy pattern: the return of the ace is much-needed. As is the return of the Beard. Youk's bat in the line-up might have been enough grab a couple more wins on this trip. Next week the Sox will battle the Jays, needing a sweep to tie for the lead in the East. Then the first bite of the shit sandwich that is interleague play against the Mets. Finally, the Sox spend Memorial Day weekend in the Homerdome battling the Twins and the Hefty bag. Can the three-day mental health break be enough to get Papi's bat on track? It better be.

Week's record: 2-4

Season record: 22-16

Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (15-day DL retroactive to May 5, oblique strain)

This week: Tue - Thu TORONTO; Fri - Sun NEW YORK METS



New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

After back-to-back sweeps at the hands of AL East opponents two weeks ago, the Yanks could have used a boost against the Jays last week. Unfortunately, the series began with Roy Halladay taking the mound for the birds. The Yanks hadn't beaten Halladay since Opening Day 2008, and Tuesday night would be no different. They mustered just one run off Doc, an A-Rod grounder through the hole that scored on of the scant runners they put in scoring position. This made the Yanks 3-7 over their previous 10.

As we've seen in at least on recent May, the Yankees then decided to go on a tear. They turned to Andy Pettitte, who has a history of stanching the Yanks' bleeding. That he did, though it wasn't the prettiest of starts. The difference was the offense, which was powered by Brett Gardner's first career home run. The Yanks recorded eight extra base hits in the game, chasing Jays starter Scott Richmond after just 1.2 IP. The next night, CC Sabathia was CC Sabathia, going eight innings and laying his own bridge to Mariano Rivera, who picked up his seventh save of the year and giving the Yanks a second straight series victory.

The weekend proved to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. After blowing several opportunities to close a 4-1 deficit against the Twins, Brett Gardner came through with his second career home run, this one an inside the parker that reignited the fans at Yankee Stadium Friday night. He then led off the bottom of the ninth, Yanks down 4-2, with a triple. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single to bring the Yanks within one. Then, with runners on second and third with two outs, Cito Gaston walked Robinson Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. With the crowd chanting "Mel-ky, Mel-ky," the center fielder lined a single to left center, plating the winning run.

After leading for most of Saturday's affair, the bullpen coughed up the lead late. But Mark Teixeira helped out, tying the game while registering his fourth hit of the day. This led to extra innings. With Teixeira on first after a walk to lead off the 11th, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate. Lefty Craig Breslow tried to sneak a slider inside, but A-Rod turned on it and deposited it into the left field stands for a second-straight walk-off. Sunday was more a pitcher's duel, with both A.J. Burnett and Kevin Slowey holding their opponents scoreless through sixth. Burnett allowed two in the top of the seventh, and Slowey allowed two in the bottom half. The score remained tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Johnny Damon hit a walk-off homer to right, giving the Yanks three straight victories in dramatic fashion.

Week's record: 5-1

Season record: 20-17

Injuries: None new

This week: Mon MINNESOTA; Tue - Thu BALTIMORE; Fri - Sun PHILADELPHIA



Tampa Bay Rays

NOTE: Looks like the Rays blogger bailed. Thankfully, we have a new one lined up for next week. Hopefully we've got the early-season kinks out and this will proceed as normal starting next week.

The week for the Rays began and ended with blunders related to Andy Sonnanstine. The first blunder was the pitcher himself, as he allowed seven runs over two innings on Tuesday, putting his team in poor position against the Orioles. Worst of all, O's stater Mark Hendrickson allowed five runs of his own in the second inning. Sonnanstine, who had allowed one in the first, matched Hendrickson's frame, handing the Orioles the lead right back. A final run in the third would comprise all the scoring for the game, and the O's won 7-5.

On Sunday, Joe Maddon had a brain fart when filling out his lineup card, penciling in both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria for third base. The intent was to DH Longoria, so when Zobrist took the field for the top of the first, Longoria and his DH spot were removed from the game. It's not an instance which arises often, but it put the Rays in a tough position, having to bat the pitcher third. Sonnanstine again didn't pitch particularly well, allowing five runs over 5.1 innings. He did aid his own cause, though, smacking an RBI double. The Rays overcame their handicap and took the game 7-5.

Sandwiched between the blunders was a 3-1 week which featured the Rays taking three of four from the reeling Indians. I wish I could go into greater detail, but I'd just be repeating the box scores. Thankfully, we'll have a real live Rays blogger next week to give us the proper insight. Until then, the results can do the talking.



Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

A week of treading water but we call that progress in Baltimore.

The Orioles gained splits in a two game set with the Rays and a four game series at Kansas City and with the injuries and the arms we were sending to the mound, we’ll take it.

Injury update: Luke Scott eventually had to go on the DL with an injury to his rotator cuff. Scott’s injury hurts in the short term but is giving a good opportunity to top prospect OF Nolan Reimold who was recalled from Norfolk. Reimold struggled in his first week but will be trotted out there everyday, at least until Scott gets healthy. (On a side note, since the departure of B.J. Surhoff, the Orioles were unable to find a left fielder who could even hit for league average for several years. It was pretty unforgivable. One of the reasons Baltimore fans love Scott is that he finally filled that need last season…but I digress.)

Adam Jones tweaked his hamstring legging out an infield hit and hasn’t played since Tuesday. Another big blow to the Oriole offense but helps to extend the Felix Pie experiment. Pie was terrible in April but has hit .286/.355/.536 in May, more than enough to buy him some time when everyone gets healthy.

Debuts: I’ve already talked about Reimold who hit .235/.235/.294 in his first week in the bigs. SP Rich Hill came off the DL to make his Oriole debut and go 5.2 IP, striking out 6 and scaterring 7 hits, giving up 2 earned and getting the win versus Kansas City. It speaks volumes about the Oriole pitching staff that Hill is a massive upgrade over many of our rotation candidates. Adam Eaton cannot be long for the rotation..we just need to find one more arm.

Living proof that hitting in between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis alone will not improve your bat: Cesar Izturis. Izturis is hitting .190 in the 2 spot. Manager Dave Trembley seems to like his basestealing ability at the top of the order but Izturis is a really bad choice to bat second. Melvin Mora would be a better choice until Jones returns.

Week's Record: 3-3

Season Record: 16-22

Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), DH/LF Luke Scott (strained shoulder, 15-day DL), CF Adam Jones (day to day, strained hamstring)

This Week: Tue-Thur @New York; Fri-Sun @Washington

WAR Graphs: Ripken, Jeter and Trammell

Inspired by the work of Beyond the Boxscore (and apologies if they have done this particular graph), a comparison of the seasons in terms of WAR of three long playing shortstops: Cal Ripken, Jr., Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell. The seasons are arranged in order of greatest to worst regardless of timeline:


First, notice the sheer dominance of Cal Ripken, Jr especially over Derek Jeter. Second, notice how closely the lines of Trammel and Jeter mirror each other over the course of their career. Jeter is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer. Alan Trammell has never exceeded 20% of the needed votes to be elected in his 8 years on the ballot. Just some food for thought.

(By the way, you can thank Scott Garceau for the loose continuing series of "Jeter vs. Ripken" posts. There will be more...)

Friday, May 15, 2009

A History of the Oriole Closer: From Zuverink to Sherrill - The 50's

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the top Oriole relievers through the years to see how the closer role developed in Baltimore. Of course, when the Orioles moved from St. Louis in 1954, the term closer wasn't even invented. Your top reliever was usually called a "fireman". The save hadn't been invented yet and wouldn't be an official stat until 1969. How were top relievers utilized during the dawn of the franchise?

Yeah, well, not that intersting in a broad sense but it's interesting to me...so you're all stuck with these posts until I'm done

I decided to break it down by decade. For this post, it's the 1950's. Below are the relievers of note from each season.

1954


Reliever Record SV ERA IP
Bob Chakales 3-7 3 3.73 89.1
Howie Fox 1-2 2 3.67 73.2




Bob Chakales, "The Golden Greek", was traded to Baltimore from Cleveland for Vic Wertz on June 1st, 1954. He was never given much of an opportunity with the Indians but quickly found a role in the Oriole bullpen racking up 89.1 innings in 2/3 of a season. He made a few spot starts as well and there was no one guy to "close" out games in the Orioles bullpen. Chakales was traded to the White Sox after the season.

Baltimore lost 100 games in 1954 and only accumulated 8 saves. Howie Fox accounted for two of them. Fox was a former starter in Cincinatti but at age 33 was trying to hang on as a reliever in the majors. He had a good year for Baltimore but 1954 would be his last year in the majors. In 1955, he pitched for San Antonio in the Texas League and that would be his last in professional baseball. After that, Fox met a tragic end:

After baseball, Fox opened up his own tavern in San Antonio and was present when three men entered the bar and started making trouble with the bartender. Fox, in trying to stop the trouble, was killed by a knife wound from one of the thugs on October 9, 1955.

1955

Reliever Record SV ERA IP
Ray Moore 10-10 6 3.92 151.2
Harry Dorish 3-3 6 3.15 65.2
George Zuverink 4-3 4 2.19 86.1



In 1954, manager Jimmy Dykes had pitchers in the pen who were strictly relievers, not a common practice at the time. After Paul Richards replaced him for the 1955 season, that concept was gone. Richards used relievers for spot starts quite a bit and every regular starter pitched at least a couple games in relief. Harry Dorish was the only reliver to appear in more than 30 games to make less than 5 starts. With a staff full of swingmen, the saves were spread around. 16 of the team's 20 saves were accumulated by the top three relievers. With Chakles and Fox elsewhere, there were opportunities for new relievers to make their mark.

Ray Moore was a Maryland native (from Meadows, not too far from where I grew up...) and was traded to the Orioles from the Dodgers for his age 29 season. Early on, he found his niche in the bullpen getting 5 of his 6 saves before the end of May. He continued to relieve all season but started getting spot starts in July and ended the season with 10 wins.

Harry Dorish was a 33-year old journeyman reliever who was acquired from the White Sox (Paul Richards' former club)in June. Dorish was one of the first true relief pitchers starting only 40 games over his 10 year career. 1955 would be his last truly effective season in the majors and he would retire after the 1956 season.

At 30, George Zuverink was a journeyman starter who was, frankly, washed up. The gangly righty was picked up on waivers from the Tigers and he found some success in Baltimore out of the bullpen. He led all Oriole relivers in ERA in 1955 and it would be a harbinger of things to come.

1956

Reliver Record SV ERA IP
George Zuverink 7-6 16 4.16 97.1
Mike Fornieles 4-7 1 3.97 111




In 1956, Zuverink became the first Oriole reliever that could be recognizable as a "closer". He saved 16 games (out of 24 for the team) and appeared in 62 games, finishing 40 of them, both marks leading the league. He didn't start a game in 1956. Zuverink's journey from waiver wire starter to top reliever was detailed in Baseball Digest in 1956:

"(Manger Paul) Richards told me that for a guy with my long arms, I wasn't getting enough leverage behind my pitches, (said Zuverink)

"I guess that night really changed my whole life in baseball..."

Zuverink has done such an about-face since then that for the first half of this season he was the number one ranking relief pitcher in the American League and had come striding out of the bullpen an average of once every other game. He became so consistently dependable that when Oriole starting pitchers showed even a slight trace of wilting in tight games, a regular "we-want-Zuverink" chant started in the Memorial Stadium stands...

With his new-found success, Zuverink has become the picture of confidence. He talks and acts like a pitcher who expects to get every hitter out every time he walks in from the bullpen. Richards sums it up this way:

"It's not bravado with George, it's just plain, simple belief in himself."*


Sounds like a closer to me.

Mike Fornieles led the pen in ERA but would not fare well during his brief Oriole career. He would be traded to the Red Sox in 1957 where he would eventually lead the AL in saves in 1960.

1957


Reliever Record SV ERA IP
George Zuverink 10-6 9 2.48 112.2
Billy O'Dell 4-10 4 2.69 140.1
Ken Lehman 8-3 6 2.78 68




Zuverink continuted his good work in '57 as well as combining with C Frank Zupo to form the first battery in major league history where the pitcher and catcher both had last names starting with "Z".

Lefty Billy O'Dell was a bonus baby who broke in with the Orioles in the bullpen and would go on to be an All-Star starter for the O's in 1958 and 1959.

Ken Lehman was also a lefty reliever who bounced up and down between the majors and minors during his career. At age 29, he had his best season racking up 6 saves and a 2.78 ERA. He went on to coach baseball at the University of Washington from 1964-1971.

1958

Reliever Record SV ERA IP
George Zuverink 2-2 7 3.39 97.1
Billy Loes 3-9 5 3.63 114




Zuverink continues to rack up the saves in '58.

Loes had been a pretty good starter for Brooklyn earlier in the decade and was an All-Star in 1957. He did good work for the Orioles out of the pen and in spot starts earning him more opportunities the next season.

1959

Relievers Record SV ERA IP
Billy Loes 4-7 14 4.06 64.1
Jack Fisher 1-6 2 3.05 88.2




With Zuverink battling injuries that would end his career during the 1959 season, Loes stepped right into the role that Zuverink had pioneered in Baltimore. Loes was strictly a reliever and finished 31 games.

20-year old Jack Fisher was the only other bright spot in the Orioles bullpen that season. A Maryland native, Fisher would have a couple nice seasons for Baltimore as part of an 11 year career. Fisher is most famous for giving up notable home runs. He gave up a homer to Ted Williams during the last at bat of his career, gave up Roger Maris' 60th home run and gave up the first longball at Shea Stadium.

Fireman of the Decade: George Zuverink

With 36 saves for a perennial loser, Zuverink was the first great reliever in the modern history of the Baltimore Orioles. It's really not close.

Honorable Mention: Billy Loes
 
* excerpt from How Zuverink Found His Lever to Stardom by Neal Eskridge, Baseball Digest, August 1956

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here Comes Nolan...

I had an Oriole history post all ready to go and the Warehouse makes this announcement...

Nolan Reimold (he of the .394/.485/743 line in Norfolk) is coming to Baltimore. Dave Trembley commented that he didn't know what Reimold's role would be but up to this point the party line has been to put him in left and let him play. I expect that will be what happens.

The fact that they called up Reimold is bad news for fans in regards to Adam Jones and Luke Scott. It means that the club believes that one or both are heading for the DL.

The silver lining is that it gives Felix Pie still more time to put it together. Lost in all the negativity about Pie's start this season, he is hitting .417/.500/.750 for the month of May. If Jones' hamstring troubles linger, he'll get a long look in center and may prove to be a good 4th outfielder.

Montanez looks to get the bulk of the DH at bats if Scott goes on the DL.

Interesting times. Injuries on a team like Baltimore are sometimes a good thing when you have young players waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Around the Orioles Blogosphere:5/13/09

Right Off Russell scores an interview with Bowie Baysox 1B Brandon Snyder...with video! Cool stuff.

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Weaver's Tantrum thinks last night's game brings up more questions than it answers.

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The Wayward Oriole highlights why Wikipedia entries should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Orioles Card "O" The Day highlights Brooks Robinson and wishes him well after his recent illness.

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Oriole Post recaps last night's game and contemplates the budding stardom of Adam Jones.

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The Loss Column covers many topics and comments on the SI article that names Peter Angelos the worst owner in sports:

Yeah, I saw the SI article that named Peter Angelos the “worst” owner in baseball. More of the usual useless nonsense from a national writer who doesn’t get it. Not that I’m defending Angelos, who has made his share of missteps, but the main reaction I had was to think about all of the Orioles “fans” who were actually happy to see it. The ones who are sad and empty.

Boy, he's right about that. I think there are some Oriole fans who won't know what to do with themselves if the franchise starts to win again and Angelos is still at the helm...

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Ben recaps a few things and makes a good observation on Baltimore's trouble on the basepaths:

The Orioles are a trainwreck on the basepaths. Juan Samuel waved Lou Montanez home. Tampa Outfielder Gabe Kapler already had the ball before Lou got to third. Lou was dead in the water half way to home. Same inning, Brian Roberts hits a bloop single to the outfielder and Cesar Izturis was tagged out at second. The O's, who have are always seemingly inept on the bathpaths, are giving away outs on the bases this season.

I have long thought that Samuel is still secretly bitter about Baltimore denying him and the Phillies the 1983 World Series victory because every now and then...he send a guy home to get cut down like so much grass before a John Deere riding mower. I understand being aggressive but wasn't one of Earl Weaver's wisest tenets that the 27 outs you have at the beginning of the game are your most precious assets? Maybe the team shouldn't be so careless with them...

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Jay Trucker names Nick Markakis MVP for the first week of May and features a cool pic of Nick as an Ironbird.

Centerfielder Fear Factor

Before the season, I participated in an AL East chat at Beyond The Boxscore. A question was posed by a Rays fan that wondered if there would be an more feared pair or hitters in the Al East than Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. I replied that Longoria is certainly a fearsome slugger but that I had a hard time "fearing" a hitter like Upton who has a career slugging percentage under .500. This was not a popular response based on Upton's postseason exploits but I stuck to it...good young hitter, not fearsome.

So last night, the Rays trotted out their "fear spreading" center fielder who on May 12th is sporting a .167/.277/.216 line. No homers, only 5 extra base hits. He's jealous of Felix Pie's bat.

The Orioles countered with a center fielder sporting a .358/.418/.625 line. He meekly hit a couple homers and drove in four. You know, just the kinds of things we're used to here in Baltimore now.

So if we're going to throw around that overused "feared hitter" tag, you might as well toss it Adam Jones' way.

Says Jones: "I got a bat in my hand. I'm not going to go up there swinging gingerly. I got three strikes and I'm just trying to make the best of it up there."

That seems to be working.

Adam Jones: Keeping American League pitchers up at night since 2009.

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In other news, Oriole legend Brooks Robinson reveals that he has been battling prostate cancer. Happy to see that he is doing better and wish him good health in the future.

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Felix Pie was in the hospital with severe stomach pain. I don't think it's any coincidence that he left the game after laying out for a ball. The O's could use this situation for a convenient DL trip, clearing the way for a Nolan Reimold tryout. Just a thought...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Booing the Yankees? It's an Oriole Tradition

This post comes a bit late as the Yankees just left town but I discovered an interesting tidbit for juxtaposition.

The Baltimore reaction to Mark Teixeira when he made his Yankee debut on Opening Day:

Judging from the way the fans treated Teixeira, you'd think he had just issued a personal manifesto against crab cakes -- or Francis Scott Key. When he came out for a pregame media session in the visiting dugout, a fan in the front row waved a sign that read, "Severna Park Hates U Tex.''

The crowd booed him during pregame introductions, booed him when he left the on-deck circle and booed him again when he jogged back to the dugout after outs.

Now and account from Baseball Digest of Baltimore fans behavior during the 1958 All-Star game that was held at Memorial Stadium:

Everybody hates the New York Yankees, but no one hates them more than the Baltimore fans...Baltimore's fans never forgave the Yankees for doing them out of Pitchers Don Larsen and Bob Turley in a 1954 trade.

The Baltimore venom exploded at the All-Star game in 1958, which was played in the Orioles' park. The fans booed the Yankee's Yogi Berra when he batted for Baltimore's own Gus Triandos and cheered when he popped up. They booed the Yankee's Gil McDougald when he batter for Chicago's Early Wynn and greeted his game-winning single in behalf of their club, the American League team, with only scattered applause. And they booed Manager Casey Stengal of the Yankees every time he stuck his shaggy head out of the American League dugout.

In Baltimore, the fans have some of the characteristics of both the Milwaukee and the Philadelphia fans. They have the same wild-eyed devotion for their Orioles as Milwaukee people have for the Braves. And they can be as vicious in their abuse of visiting ball players as the good burghers of Philadelphia...*

See Colin Cowherd? WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY!



*excerpt from "Where Are The Last Angry Fans?" by Al Hirshberg, Baseball Digest, July 1959

Monday, May 11, 2009

AL East Roundup: Week 5

AL East Roundup: 5/4/09 through 5/10/09

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

In terms of series, the Jays split the 2-game series with LAA and CLE, and each time they came up with at least one 10+ run game. The 3-game series against Oakland series was a won the Jays (2-1). There was nothing particularly different about this week for the Jays, as they put up 45 runs during the week for a 6.5 run per game average. This average was achieved despite the Jays meeting their match in Jered Weaver, and I'm sure other teams will pour over his outing to see how he was able to 3 hit this offense while allowing only 1 run in a complete game gem.

Throughout the week, the key to their offensive effectiveness continued to be hitting throughout the lineup. Each day or night it seemed that all except maybe 1 or 2 guys were getting their hits, and most of them with men on base. Lind, Overbay, and Hill had really strong weeks, while Snider went 2 for 4 four times this week to help out his average. Overall, the offense continued to clobber opposing pitching and was supplemented by very effective pitching.

The bullpen, however, had a horrible start to the week, with Camp, League, and Carlson allowing 3 runs a piece. Rookie Bret Cecil turned in two excellent outings and may have forced Cito to give him another look instead of calling up the now healthy Casey Janssen. He threw 6 innings with 1 ER and 6 Ks in his first outing against a very good CLE lineup, and followed it up with an 8 inning game with 5 hits allowed, no earned runs, 2 walks and 6 Ks.

Most notable for the Jays this week was how efficiently the starting pitching was able to pitch. Monday and Tuesday's outings by the pen must have really scared the starters into lasting longer into the games, because from then on they went over 7 innings with only 1 ER four times, with only Robert Ray lasting 6.1 innings. What did this mean for the suddenly unconfident pen? Well, from Wednesday to Sunday they pitched a total of 6.2 innings, with only 68 pitches thrown by 5 guys. So as we head into the following week, we have a fresh pen, extremely confident starting pitching, 3 more starters ready to return when needed (Romero, Purcey, and Janssen), and an offense that just seems to keep clicking.

Week's Record: 4-3

Season Record: 22-12

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in Single A May 8th), BJ Ryan (Throwing in HiA Dunedin), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Tue-Thu NEW YORK; Fri-Sun CHICAGO



Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

Despite a powerless Papi and the Beard of Mayhem on the bench, the Red Sox managed to grab five wins against the Yankees, Cleveland and Tampa. Monday night the Sox treated Phil Hughes like the new guy on the cell block, scoring in each of the first four innings in their first meeting in the new Yankee Stadium Jason Bay's two-run shot in the seventh would prove to be the margin of victory after a Yankee comeback. It was more of the same against Joba on Tuesday, with Bay crushing a three-run job in the first. Joba, true to form, would drill Bay later in the game but the Sox went on to a 7-3 win and a two-game sweep.

The Sox were unable to muster any offense against Carl Pavano, coming off a four-year, injury-plagued tour with the Yankees. Justin Masterson pitched OK until the wheels fell off in the seventh and the Sox went down without much of a fight 7-3. The next night was a bit different. The first 12 batters in the sixth inning not only reached base, they scored, capped by Jason Bay's three-run homer. The Sox went on to win a laugher 13-3 behind Tim Wakefield and the bats.

The weekend series against the Rays was a see-saw battle. The Sox sent "Big Game" James Shields to the dugout (where he promptly whipped out a can of whoop-ass on the water jug) on yet another Jason Bay three-run home run. The Rays would seek vengeance on Saturday, running away with a 14-5 blowout. In Sunday's finale, ESPN commentators bumbled their way through a dramatic Red Sox win. The Sox took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Papi and (who else?) Jason Bay. Papelbon put two runners on in the ninth before striking out Pena, Upton and Crawford to end it.

Week's record: 5-2

Season record: 20-12

Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (day to day, back), Dustin Pedroia (day to day, groin)

This week: Tue-Thu @Anaheim; Fri - Sun @Seattle



New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

This was a week to forget in Yankeeland. With two two-game sets against division rivals Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees needed a few strong performances so they could manage a split. That they did not get. Phil Hughes had some issues on Monday and let the game get a bit out of hand. Then on Tuesday Joba Chamberlain allowed four runs in the first before deciding that he can take these guys. His 12 strikeouts energized the crowd, but they were not enough to overcome the Red Sox, who are now 5-0 against the Yankees this season.

The Rays followed the Sox into town, and while the games were a bit closer, the Yanks still came up short. Johnny Damon did all he could to give the Yanks a win, but in both games the team found a way to lose. The last game was the most painful, with the Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria going back to back off Mariano Rivera, the first time a duo had achieved the feat against Mo in his career. All the sudden, the Yankees who had managed two of three from the Angels were in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

CC Sabathia changed that Friday night, going all nine innings in a 4-0 victory over the Orioles. He did it in dramatic fashion, allowing the first two runners to reach in the ninth before striking out the side to seal the victory. Alex Rodriguez, on the first pitch he's seen since last September, hit a three-run shot in the first to give Sabathia all the support he'd need. The euphoric feeling wouldn't last long, though, as Phil Hughes melted down in the second inning of Saturday's game, giving the Orioles an insurmountable lead.

On Sunday Joba Chamberlain started out in a similar fashion to Tuesday, allowing three runs in the first. Again he settled down, keeping the Orioles scoreless for the next five innings, which put Johnny Damon in a position to win the game for the Yanks. Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined for the final nine outs, and the Yanks went home with their first series win in a week.

Week record: 2-5

Season record: 15-16

Injuries: Jorge Posada (15-day DL, hamstring); Jose Molina (15-day DL, hamstring)

This week: Tue-Thu @Toronto; Fri-Sun MINNESOTA



Tampa Bay Rays - Mike Axisa

NOTE: The regular Rays contributor bailed this week. Hopefully he comes back next week. Huge thanks to Mike for filling in.

The week started off with Scott Kazmir walking Brian Roberts and Adam Jones before giving up a three run homer to Nick Markakis in the top of the first inning of Monday's game, but luckily for the Rays that wasn't a sign of what the rest of the week had in store. They split the two game set with Baltimore thanks to the late inning heroics of (who else?) Evan Longoria on Tuesday, but more on him later. The defending AL Champs then rolled into the Bronx and swept their first series at the New Yankee Stadium. Andy Sonnanstine turned in his best start of the year before Carlos Pena hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth inning on Wednesday, then Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria secured the win on Thursday with back-to-back homers off Mariano Rivera in the 9th.

Tampa then headed north to Boston, dropping game one of the three game series because of a five-run sixth inning in which Jason Bay and JD Drew clubbed three-run and two-run homers, respectively. The Boys in Some Sorta Blue took the screws to John Lester on Saturday, hitting him up for eight runs in just four and a third innings on their way to a 14-5 romp. Noted Red Sox killer Matt Garza took the mound in the rubber game of the series on Sunday night, throwing seven innings of three-run ball before giving way to the bullpen. Brian Shouse allowed a leadoff double to The Artist Formerly Known As David Ortiz before Dan Wheeler gave up the go-ahead hit to Jason Bay. Jonathan Papelbon made it interesting in the ninth, but Tampa wasn't able to pull out another win.

Back to Longoria, who's smokin' hot bat was the story of the week. The Long Beach State Dirtbag hit .333-.375-.889 in the seven games, smacking four homers and driving in 14 runs. He leads all of baseball in doubles (15), RBI (44), SLG (.748), and WAR (2.9), and is second in OPS (1.158) and third in homers (11). Longoria also leads all third baseman with a 7.4 UZR, and has established himself as one of the five best players on the planet.

Week's record: 4-3

Season record: 15-8

Injuries: No new injuries, but backup catcher Shawn Riggins had his rehab assignment cut short and will have his barking right shoulder looked at by Dr. James Andrews this week

This week: Tues-Weds @Baltimore; Thurs-Sun CLEVELAND



Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

After going 0-6 the previous week, the Orioles showed signs of life splitting a two-game set at Tampa, beating the Twins twice in their two game visit to Camden Yards and coming tantalizingly close to taking the Yankee series in Baltimore this weekend. Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough to win on Friday but C.C. Sabathia kept the Oriole bats at bay. Koji Uehara left the game with a 3-1 lead on Sunday that the bullpen frittered away capped by a three-run homer to Johnny Damon.

Speaking of Uehara, he has now had five straight quality starts. Unfortunately, the Orioles haven't won a single one of those games. Uehara had been better than expected to this point but is becoming a hard luck loser far too often.

Veteran utility man and malcontent Ryan Freel came off the DL and was promptly shipped to the Cubs for AAA filler OF Joey Gathright. I imagine that Andy MacPhail was delighted to find any team who would assume even a portion of Freel's $4 million salary. Freel was redundant on this team and he was chirping to the press of unhappiness with his playing time. He had to go.

OF Luke Scott injured his shoulder diving back to first on a pickoff throw and looks to be headed to the DL, a significant blow to the Oriole offense. It does allow for the very interesting move of calling up top outfield prospect Nolan Reimold (.381/.479/.711, 8 HR at AAA Norfolk) and starting him everyday. It will also allow the Felix Pie experiment to continue and for the club to get a longer look at Lou Montanez. The three of them could rotate LF/DH duties with Reimold working everyday. Baltimore is going nowhere this year. We might as well see if Reimold's bat will translate to the majors, if Pie can hit his way out of a wet paper bag and if Montanez has any value as a fourth outfielder in the majors.

Looking back at Norfolk, C Matt Wieters has raised his average above .300 and is finally starting to stroke some extra base hits with 4 doubles in the last five games. SP Rich Hill made his third rehab start for Norfolk today lowering his ERA to 1.35 with 14 strikeout in 13.1 innings. Look for Hill to show up in Baltimore later this week.

Week's Record: 4-3

Season Record: 13-19

Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), Rich Hill (elbow, 15-day DL, out until mid-May)

This Week: Tue-Wed TAMPA; Thur-Sun @Kansas City

Random Thoughts from Weekend Baseball

I really don't know whether to be encouraged that Jeremy Guthrie battled so hard after that bad first inning on Friday or concerned that he gave up his league leading 8th home run in 7 starts in said inning.

Luis Montanez hit .300 last week, Felix Pie .333. Competition is a good thing? BTW if Luke Scott goes on the DL, it's a huge blow to the Orioles offense. But it does give Pie and Montanez more opportunites.

Matt Wieters has hit 4 doubles in his last five games and is now hitting over .300 again.

If there was ever one thing you needed to point to that would demonstrate the superiority of American League talent to National League talent, it would be Fernando Tatis. The guy was washed up and couldn't even stick with the Orioles, one of the worst teams in the AL. Now, for the past two years, he sees significant playing time for the Mets, a NL team that is considered a serious contender.

Speaking of the Mets...what kind of throw is this?



Can we get Koji a win? Just one win? He's strung together five straight quality starts. How about just a little win for the brother?

Ryan Freel debuted as a Cub today, getting a pinch hit...and then promptly getting picked off second base. At least he ducked this time...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Base Hits: 5/8/2009

According to Roch Kubatko, Ryan Freel is telling people that he is going to be traded or released before he come off the DL.

Good, good, good. I've said it before but that acquisition of Robert Andino was the last straw in making Freel redundant. I'd much rather see Lou Montanez, Ty Wigginton, Andino and even Felix Pie get the at bats.

It also gives Pie's career new life...at least for a couple weeks. His defense has greatly improved over the past two weeks and maybe they can platoon him with Montanez to get him some playing time.


Update: Looks like Freel has been traded to the Cubs for Joey Gathright.

*****

Ron Gardenhire is not happy about the Twins rain-shortened loss to the Orioles on Wednesday.

"Once we got going, we tried to play five innings," Gardenhire said. "And Major League Baseball is nine innings. And we didn't get a chance to do that because the weather, from the get-go, showed that we shouldn't be doing this. From the get go!

"Somebody made a mistake here and screwed up. I don't know who is supposed to be accountable for this mess, but my team ends up paying the final price."

Waaaah!

I could see Gardenhire's point if, say, the long reliever he put in there after the second rain delay gave up a three-run homer. But the Orioles scored enough runs off the original starter to win. And if you can't score off of Mark Hendrickson or Brian Bass...well, you really have to look in the mirror, don't you?

O's sweep the 1.5 game series. We'll take it.

*****


RP Dennis Sarfate will find out soon if his career is in jeopardy from symptoms related to a circulatory problem.

*****

Grimace of the Week:









Matt Garza looked none too happy as Brian Roberts took him deep.

*****

The Orioles will have to face a returning Alex Rodriguez but they won't have to face Jorge Posada...nor Jose Molina. O's running wild tonight?

*****

Song of the Week

How about some old Mary Prankster?







Many Yankee fans are posers, no?

Beat them Yanks!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Like Bob McCrory

I love pitchers who can bring the heat. I also have an odd fascination with borderline major league middle relievers. Bob McCrory meets both criteria.

Some PitchFx charts from McCrory's 2009 debut the other night. Nice movement on that fastball...a fast ball in the 95-97 mph range.

Charts courtesy of FanGraphs.com