Friday, April 30, 2010

Jeremy Guthrie Still Has Value In The Oriole Rotation

With Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta pitching well for Norfolk, there has been some talk of replacing Jeremy Guthrie in the rotation after his wretched start last night against the Yankees, a game in which he gave up 6 Earned Runs in just 4.2 innings. But I think that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater at this point.

Guthrie's peripheral based stats:

Guthrie '10 3.90 4.45 18 6 3

That is over 30.2 innings (second only to Kevin Millwood's 32.0 innings for Baltimore) and good for a WAR of 0.5 over 5 starts. (Also second on the team behind Brian Matusz's 0.7 WAR.)

The guy is pitching a little better than his ERA would lead you to believe and it's no fluke (a .302 BABIP is actually a bit higher than his average over the past three seasons). Even after last night, and we have to remember this Oriole fans, it was only one game, he is still the second most valuable pitcher on the team. In Millwood and Guthrie, the Orioles have two pitchers who can reasonably be expected to be at least league average and pitch into the 6th inning every night.

Have you seen the bullpen? Guthrie has value if for no other reason that he can eat innings. Hopefully Dave Trembley realizes that even if some of the fans don't.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anatomy of a No-Hitter

Chris Tillman hurled a no-hitter against the Gwinnett Braves last night...right in my back yard. (I'm going to tonight's game...damn it.)

Here was Tillman's line:

Tillman 9.0 0 0 0 1 6 0

Only 6 strikeouts over the 9 innings. Tillman got a lot of help from his friends. A breakdown of the outs:

Groundball Liner Flyball Pop Fly
13 2 2 4

That's impressive. Only 2 flies and 2 liners (both liners, fortunately for Tillman, were hit at CF Corey Patterson....a superior defender).

Now, Gwinnett has the lowest Team OPS in the International League (.627) but it's an impressive feat nonetheless. Congratulations to Tillman and his fielders on the accomplishment.

LF Joey Gathright
CF Corey Patterson
RF Jeff Salazar
3B Josh Bell
SS Robert Andino
2B Scott Moore
1B Michael Aubrey
C Adam Donachie

I'm going to see the Tides take on Gwinnett tonight...I wonder if Jake Arrieta can make it back-to-back no-hitters?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Loving Ty Wigginton

After the Orioles signed Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada in the offseason, it looked like the writing was on the wall for Ty Wigginton. There was no way I though they would pay Wigginton to sit on the bench but the injury to Brian Roberts during Spring Training may have led The Warehouse to keep him around as insurance. (Wigginton is not a good fielder at second base but at least he would be an option.)

And it's lucky that Wigginton is still here because he has been carrying this moribund offense all season. The line on Wigginton:

Wigginton .327 .410 .712 199 .464 .80 6

Sick, sick numbers. Now let me throw a little cold water on Wigginton's can't last.

But there is a bright side. This performance is not altogether fluky based on the peripherals. Wigginton has a BABIP of .289 compared to a career mark of .297 so he's coming by these numbers honestly, it's not all a product of lucky breaks.

His HR/FB ratio is 35.3% compared to a career mark of 13.1%. That will come down...but maybe not as far as you might think. Career years happen. Look at the 2008 version of Aubrey Huff.

This is what ZIPS projects Wigginton to do for the rest of the year:

Wigginton .283 .340 .480 199 .355 17

...which would leave him with a final line of:

Wigginton .289 .349 .508 .370 23

If I would have told you that Ty Wigginton had a good shot at OPSing .850+ before the season, would you have believed me?

If Dave Trembley is smart, he'll trot Ty out there nearly every single day for the rest of the season. This is going to be Wigginton's career ride the wave.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How The Orioles Got Rhyne Hughes

The obvious answer to the above title is, "He was the PTBNL in the Gregg Zaun deal with the Rays." But there is more to it than that.

When Andy MacPhail took over as President of Baseball Operations in June of 2007, he took to overhauling the Oriole farm system. His first task was to acquire all the quality arms he could get. But he also saw that the prospects at the corner infield positions were thin, to say the least. There were only two 1B/3B prospects of note: Billy Rowell and Brandon Snyder, both former 1st round picks, both flawed in their own ways and both way down the ladder in Delmarva.

MacPhail knew he needed more depth at the corners in the minor league system and many of the trades he's made since have focused on getting upper-level prospects at a discount.

Some of his acquisitions of note:

August 2007 - Acquired 3B Scott Moore from Cubs
December 2007 - Acquired 3B Mike Costanzo from Astros
January 2008 - Signed 1B/3B Oscar Salazar
December 2008 - Acquired 3B Brandon Waring from Reds
June 2009 - Drafted 1B Tyler Townsend in 3rd Rd
June 2009 - Acquired 1B Michael Aubrey from Indians
July 2009 - Acquired 3B Josh Bell from Dodgers
August 2009 - Acquired 1B Rhyne Hughes from Rays

Some guys flamed out (Costanzo), some are still toiling in the minors (Waring, Moore) and some have contributed already (Salazar, Aubrey and now Hughes). The point is, MacPhail increased the depth, gave up little for any of these guys and is now seeing the fruits of this labor in Rhyne Hughes. Hughes may not be a long-term solution but you never know. He certainly offers a short-term upgrade over Garrett Atkins.

(All of this makes the $4.5 million deal for Atkins all the more frustrating. There were plenty of cheaper internal options that could have reasonably duplicated or exceeded his performance.)

Some things in baseball don't change. Branch Rickey said,"From quantity comes quality." and with MacPhail increasing the minor league talent at the corner infield positions, he seems to have found some quality in it. This is not to say that those positions are now strengths in the system...just that it is no longer moribund and it was improved without spending millions.

Brad Bergesen Returning From Norfolk? Slow Down...

Brad Bergesen makes his first, and perhaps only start for Triple-A Norfolk tomorrow. A quality outing could lead him back to the Orioles and that May 1 start against the Red Sox at Camden Yards. - Roch Kubatko

Brad Bergesen wins in his first (maybe only?) start at Triple-A Norfolk. - Baltimore Sun Sports Twitter Account

Sunday, (Bergesen) went 7.0 and gave up just 2 ER...He should have May 1 circled on his calendar as his return to the Orioles as a starter and a bus ticket to Baltimore in hand. - Camden Chat

Do these guys know something I don't?

And do they remember how horrible Bergesen looked in his three major league starts?

So why would Bergesen go to Norfolk for a single start and come back to Baltimore? One solid start against AAA hitters is not enough for me to regain confidence. If you're going to use his option under the premise that he needed to work on his sinker and control, I sincerely doubt that he put everything together in one start. At least three would be my preference.

Besides, he's not the only option. Jason Berken can make a couple of spot starts (on May 1st and the 6th) or he could even split those two starts with Mark Hendrickson. After that, the Orioles wouldn't need their 5th starter until May 16th. If Bergesen is still mowing down the International League, bring him up then.

Or...give Jake Arrieta the call. Jake's line from AAA this season:

Arrieta 25.0 23 10 0 0.36 0.92

In addition, he is inducing a 53.7% groundball rate and has only given up 4 extra base hits this season. (By the way, Bergesen gave up 3 extra base hits, including a home run, for Norfolk on Sunday) Arrieta now has 21 starts in AAA and, even with some initial struggles after his promotion last year, has a 3.16 ERA over those starts. If you're going to pull the trigger and call someone up from Norfolk, Arrieta's the man...and Bergesen's start wasn't as sparkling as it looks in the boxscore.

When it comes to Jake Arrieta, Baseball Prospectus agrees. (subscription)

Young Starters, The Bullpen and Perspective

The losing streak is making people mental. Even the beat reporters. This is what Peter Schmuck wrote following Saturday's game:

Though I understand the logic of removing Brian Matusz from tonight's game after he allowed two baserunners in the seventh inning, I've reached the point -- and I bet Matusz agrees with me -- where I believe he deserves a chance to get out of that jam. Once again, a pitcher gets taken out because he hit the magic 100-pitch count, but I thought the idea was to make these guys go farther into the game.

The fact that Matusz walked a guy and gave up a hit doesn't mean that he's not the best guy to pitch to the next batter, especially when the O's bullpen has given Dave Trembley little reason to be confident that the game isn't about to blow up in his face -- as it did again tonight....

It isn't Trembley's fault that the bullpen can't nail down a game, but at some point he's going to have to find out if Matusz is good enough to get out of a late-inning jam. If not tonight, then when?

I'm not picking on Schmuck; others on the Orioles beat expressed similar sentiments if not so stridently. And I would expect this kind of emotional reaction from the fans.

But Pete, calm down.

I'm a big fan of the "one more batter" technique. A guy's approaching his "pitch limit" at the end of the 6th, let him come out for "one more batter" to see what happens. If he gets that guy out, let him face "one more batter". Continue until he gives up a solid hit or walks somebody. It stretches out the pitcher a bit but doesn't put the guy in a position to hurt the team if he's gassed.

Dave Trembley did that on Saturday. He brought Matusz back out for "one more batter" and Matusz walked him. Trembley left him out for "one more batter" again and gave up a hit. He gave Matusz the opportunity to work into the 7th and he didn't quite have it. Going to the bullpen at that point was not an incorrect decision...people just didn't like the outcome.*

But the real issue here is Matusz and his development. I will ALWAYS side with the philosophy that errs on the side of caution when it comes to developing young starters. There's just too much at stake in pushing a potential ace like Matusz too far, too fast.

What would the O's have gotten out of it if they had left Matusz out there for 120 pitches and won the game? Get to 3-15 instead of 2-16? Whoopee. That's worth a gamble? Uh, thanks but no thanks. It's that kind of short term thinking that has plagued the Orioles' player development for more than a decade and has gotten poor results more often than not.

I thought this team could (and may still) make a run at .500 but the reality is that they're not getting the breaks they need. And even that goal is not worth rushing prospects or pushing young arms before they're ready.

Let's not forget that.

*Of course, I don't get pitching Matt Albers two straight games when Jason Berken and Cla Meredith are rotting on the bench. Albers has been fine this season outside of two outings...both came after they tried pitching him on back-to-back days. There are other arms in the bullpen that seem underutilized.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rhyne Hughes Recalled Form Norfolk. What Does That Mean?

1B Rhyne Hughes has been recalled from AAA Norfolk and will join the team in Boston. No corresponding roster move has been announced.

Hughes is a 26-year-old (who looked larger than the 6'2" height and 215 lb weight he is listed at in Spring Training) who was acquired from the Tampa in the Gregg Zaun deal last season. He was an 8th round pick in 2004. Since 2008, he has slugged north of .500 in the minors.

This could mean a few different things:

1. The team has decided that is made a horrible mistake by signing Garrett Atkins, are eating his contract and giving Hughes a shot to hold down first base.

2. The team finds Justin Turner or Julio Lugo redundant and are either sending down Turner or releasing Lugo.

3. The team will let Hughes play left and send down Lou Montanez.

4. The team is sending down a reliever and Hughes will provide an extra bench player.

While I would like for #1 to be true, it probably isn't. The team is not going to eat that contract in April.

#3 is unlikely as well since Montanez has not played any worse than anyone else and Nolan Reimold has not looked that great with the glove in left; no sense if bringing in another questionable outfield glove in Hughes.

And I don't see Dave Trembley going with an 11-man bullpen.

So, one of the middle infielders is going...probably Turner since he has options. While I think I've seen enough of Lugo as this point, I don't think the team is giving up on him yet.

Anyway, Hughes is coming up to provide some offense for a team that is struggling at the plate. Hughes in OPSing 1.088 in Norfolk so the Orioles are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle.

Ripken: "I Had Dinner With Mr. Angelos Last Night."

With all the hubbub given to the original Ken Rosenthal story about Cal Ripken and Peter Angelos earlier this week, people have paid much less attention to the denial by Angelos and the statement released by Ripken.

Anyway, Cal addressed the issue again yesterday on Ripken Baseball, his weekly radio show that he and brother Billy host every Friday on XM's MLB Network Radio. Below is the transcript of what Cal said about the controversy. I thought some of it was interesting and the Rosenthal story (the meat of it anyway) looks more and more like weak sauce.

(This reads a little stilted in text form but I was trying to be as accurate with the transcript as possible.)

Billy Ripken: ...I just figured I'd give you some airtime here and talk about the O's...and you. Because that was a story and, uh, that was out there and I know that some stuff kind of happened and I saw your statement that was issued. It's nice that I read your statements instead of just ask you about it 'cause I know it's going to come out sooner or later. And, you know, the fact of the matter is, you played in Baltimore your entire career, you have a relationship with Peter Angelos, you're in the same city now that Andy MacPhail resides in and works guys are bound to have conversations from time to time.

Cal Ripken, Jr.: (laughs) Well, we've made it a point to meet pretty regularly. I value his opinion on many different things and many times we've disagreed and we've said things, you know, and almost to make each other mad I think. But, you know, I was on a college visit with my son and I got up early in the morning and my Blackberry started blowing up with people telling me that there's this stuff out there. And I honestly didn't really want to deal with it then, it was the time to actually visit the school and really not take your attention away from what you're really supposed to. So then I had to come back and deal with that.

And my experience, and I said it in the statement, is when things go bad, when they go really bad, then this is when these stories have the biggest legs. And certainly there were some elements of the story that were true, certainly I've talked to Andy MacPhail specifically about a role with the organization and I've talked to Peter Angelos about that. And as I've said, you know, the talks are ongoing and they're continuing, you know, with no direct timetable but it's an interest. I know that I'd like to get back into the game, I think, but on my timetable, it is when my last kid, in this case, Ryan, goes off to school, I'm looking at that sort of timetable. So it's not really this urgent thing.

And I wondered if the Orioles got off to an 11-1 start, would there have been any legs to the story at all?

BR: No.

CR: You know, would it have even been thought of or brought up? But it seems like the intention of the story is to create some sort of rift and I think that the fact of the matter is that it was never said that Mr. Angelos didn't want to do anything for fear of giving me credit for a turnaround. That just wasn't said. That just wasn't true. But there were some elements of truth to it...was that we actually have talked and are talking about, you know, things that deal with the Orioles at the big league level so...that's all it is, nothing more than that and I don't have anything more to report. Matter of fact, I had dinner with Mr. Angelos last night.

BR: Uh-oh! Breaking news! Right here! Today! (chuckling)

CR: (chuckling) And then leaving there, one of the persons in the restaurant said "Have you guys cut a deal?" And we both kind of laughed and said "Not yet."

BR: Well, I'm glad you gave me that insider information because I'm going to be up here on the desk tonight up here in New Jersey at the network. I'm going there. "Junior had dinner with Peter Angelos last night." It's out there.

CR: Details to follow.

BR: Perfect!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Running the Gauntlet: Testing the Oriole Mettle Over 12 Brutal Games

Running the Gauntlet - The condemned soldier was stripped to the waist and had to pass between a double row of cudgeling or switching comrades...Running the gauntlet was considered far less of a dishonor than a beating on the pillory, pranger, or stocks, since one could "take it like a man" upright and among soldiers...if the condemned was able to finish the run and exit the gauntlet at the far end, his faults would be deemed paid, and he would rejoin his comrades with a clean slate.

The next 12 games for the Orioles are their baseball equivalent of The Gauntlet. How they emerge from the other side will show if the season is completely lost or if they can regain some dignity.

The Orioles have stumbled to a 2-14 record. Now, they play the next 12 games against the mighty New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the two best monied and best comprised teams in baseball. Sure, some of these games are at home but we all know that those really won't be home games. They will all be in hostile territory. This stretch was supposed to be tough before. Now that the team is 2-14, it looks insurmountable.

But the team (and the manager) has one thing going for it...there is nothing left to lose.

Nobody expects the Orioles to win any of these series. Certainly, nobody expects them to win more than 2 of the next 12. So now we see what they're made off. Will they lay down or will they fight? Here's your chance to shock the baseball world and stick it to you AL East rivals. Imagine how much wailing and gnashing of teeth there will be in those cities if you take even ONE series of the next four. The Orioles can look the giant in the eye and then spit in it.

They need to claw, fight, cheat and steal over these next 12 games. If anybody has a corked bat, time to break it out. If Kevin Millwood knows any tricks involving Vaseline from the brim of his hat, it's time implement that plan. Spike the second baseman. Throw high and tight to the cleanup hitter. Take out the pitcher if he's in the baseline.

If you want to lay down, fine. But there are no expectations for this team right now. Seize the opportunity and rise to the level of your competition.

It's time to "take it like a man" and outlast your beatings over the next 12 games. If you survive and walk out the other side, you might just find yourselves with a clean slate heading into June.

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Acceptance Edition

Roar from 34 looks at the ultimate good news/bad news situation. The Orioles pitching staff has been racking up quality starts. But they haven't been winning any of them.

Camden Crazies delves deep into the question..."Where the hell if the offense?"

Camden Depot has a quick graph showing Nick Markakis' walk rate and how it has diminished over the past week or so. Indeed, Nick has no walks and 9 strikeouts over the past 9 games, something he'll need to turn around if he is to have lasting success this season. I would imagine this is a sign that he is pressing a bit, feeling the need to swing the bat more with the offense in a funk. But for now, it's working.

Baltimore Sports Report breaks down the upcoming series in Boston.

It could always be worse. At least the Orioles are not the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

Chris Stoner at Baltimore Sports and Life looks ahead to what he hopes to see from the rest of the Oriole season. It certainly better than focusing on the present.

Over at Camden Chat, sandalfan believes that the Oriole's woes are best explained by one phenomenon...bad luck.

Patrick Smith imagines Andy MacPhail having a sit-down with Dave Trembley. This is a week old but unfortunately, still very relevant.

Not really the Blog-O-Sphere but Shorebirds announcer Bret Lasky has an interview with former Oriole and current Delmarva coach Mike Devereaux. I know Bret did an interview with Matt Hobgood...looking forward to hearing that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trembley Explodes! Too Little, Too Late?

Orioles manager Dave Trembley reportedly gave the team a piece of his mind yesterday. According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun:

If you had April 21 in the "When will Dave Trembley blow his stack" pool, collect your prize. The Orioles manager had a brief, but apparently noisy, team meeting tonight to get after his players for both their effort and execution in recent days. Trembley said it wasn't one play or sequence that set him off, but rather a collection of them. I'd say Julio Lugo's hustle down the first base line and the Orioles' getting leadoff doubles in two innings last night and not budging the runners were at the top of the list.

Does this seem a bit disingenuous and forced to anyone else? I mean, if you were the manager and you were really bothered by the team not hitting the runners over or, especially, by Lugo's lack of hustle and the team was in the middle of a 2-14 streak, wouldn't you kind of blow your stack right then and there? Why would you get everyone together the day after to express your displeasure? Is this a last ditch effort by Trembley to show that he can be a tough guy when he needs to be?

Well, he's not that guy. It may serve him well in most instances but not in this one.

Meanwhile, some of the players are defending Trembley. Says Nick Markakis:

"I don't think you can blame Trembley," Markakis said. "We're the ones out there pitching and hitting. I think he's done a good job overall. There's only so much a manager can do. The rest of it is up to the players. If you're going to point fingers, you can put it on my shoulders. I'm not swinging the bat the way I'd like to.

Markakis is hardly to guy to be pointing fingers at. He's been hitting .324 and slugging .459 over the last 9 games...if only everyone was hitting so poorly.

Looking for The Clutch

What have to Orioles been missing this year? Sure, the offense but what do you hear most often?

"The big hit"

"Situational hitting"

"Hitting with runners in scoring position"

"Runners left on base"

"Coming through in the clutch"

These are the things that are missing if you ask your average Oriole fan.

I believe in clutch hitting. How can I not? It happens everyday. But it is rarely predictive or repeatable.

So how do we measure it? Most times it is measured with batting average with runners in scoring position (BARISP) but that is a pretty volatile stat to use for individual players (and whole teams for that matter).

There are a number of other stats which show how a batter "moves the needle" for his team in a positive or negative direction. Most of you probably know about WPA (or WPA/LI)which I have highlighted with the WPA Graphs I borrow from but there are more. Sticking with FanGraphs, there is also RE24 and Clutch. (For explanations of the above terms, click the links for the FanGraphs definitions...they explain it much better than I can.)

So for reference, here are the WPA/LI Oriole Leaders for the last 3 years.

Orioles' WPA/LI Last Three Seasons

A. Huff 2.990 2008
N. Markakis 2.939 2008
B. Roberts 1.867 2008
L. Scott 1.493 2009
N. Markakis 1.359 2007
B. Roberts 1.147 2007
B. Roberts 1.057 2009

And the RE24...

Orioles' RE24 Last Three Seasons

RE24 Year
A. Huff 36.449 2008
N. Markakis 35.097 2008
B. Roberts 23.184 2008
L. Scott 18.031 2009
N. Markakis 17.748 2007
B. Roberts 17.664 2009
B. Roberts 17.217 2007

And the Clutch numbers which are interesting because they compare the high leverage performance of a player to their baseline performance:

Orioles' Clutch Numbers Last Three Seasons

Clutch Year
Brian Roberts 1.2 2009
Adam Jones 0.91 2009
Nick Markakis 0.78 2007
Corey Patterson 0.58 2007
Melvin Mora 0.56 2008
Ramon Hernandez 0.49 2008
Brian Roberts 0.4 2007
Brian Roberts 0.34 2008
Adam Jones 0.3 2008

OK, who walked around in 2007 saying, "Man, that Corey Patterson is so clutch!"?

And before this season, Adam Jones had been pretty clutch.

But I think we can see the name that shows up on all these lists the most...Brian Roberts. You can't overestimate how integral Roberts has been to the Oriole offense over the past three years. Only Nick Markakis is even close in terms of contributing to Oriole wins. Roberts moves the needle in the Orioles' favor far more than any other batter on the roster.

Now, most of the team is slumping and you have to think they will turn it around eventually. But this offense may not start clicking until Roberts returns. And that's weeks away.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is It Over For Brad Bergesen?

Last September, I wrote this about Brad Bergesen:

I was watching as the line drive rocketed off his leg and he limped, hopped, stumbled and ultimately collapsed in the tunnel heading toward the locker room. I figured that he would not be back at that moment...damn Oriole luck. And although I am generally an optimist, consider this; an unconventional control pitcher like Bergesen needs everything to go right for him to have success and a lot of that comes from a repeatable delivery. Chien-Ming Wang was one of the best pitchers in the AL for a couple seasons, hurt his leg and was never the same. Cross you fingers for Mr. Bergesen.

That layoff from pitching due to his injury has affected Bergesen more than even I imagined. He and Rick Krantz both admit that his sinker won't sink, he is struggling with his control and getting lit up.

Jeff Zrebiec reports that Bergesen is likely headed for Norfolk which is probably for the best right now. He needs to get his delivery down again is he hopes to survive in the majors.

Look for Jason Berken or Jake Arrieta to join the rotation soon.

edit: Zrebiec is reporting that Bergesen will report to Norfolk, Alberto Castillo is being recalled and the team will go with 4 starters fof the time being.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Felix Pie May Be Out for 3 Months

The only bright side to this is the outfield depth the O's have...

Roch Kubatko is reporting that Felix Pie has a back injury and could miss up to three months:

Pie went on the disabled list April 16 with an injury classified as a strained muscle in his upper back, but further examination today revealed a more serious problem.

There's been no talk of surgery, and Pie is debating whether to stay here or report to Sarasota to rehab after an extended period of rest.

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail confirmed the injury a few minutes ago and compared it to the one suffered by reliever Jim Miller a few years ago.

"Left alone, I'm told - and they have significant medical information on this - the thing will heal itself as quickly or more quickly than if you did something on a surgical basis," MacPhail said. "But it's going to take some time to go through the process that it has to go through."

Not great news given that Pie looked to be a much improved player at the plate in 2010 and certainly looked better in the field than he did at the beginning of 2009.

I suppose the bright side is that Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott will be playing nearly every day.

Lou Montanez, your time has come. You wanted an opportunity and this is it.

Anatomy of a Streak-Breaker

Courtesy of

As you would expect, Ty Wigginton was the offensive hero with .252 WPA for the game, a total that will rank among the best of the year. Nick Markakis chipped in with a .092 WPA. Brian Matusz had .108 WPA with 6.1 IP and Jim Johnson, a recent goat, kicked in .062 WPA in 2 innings of relief.

Can the winning continue? Maybe. But the injuries hurt, pun unintended.

OF Felix Pie, 2B Brian Roberts and likely 3B Miguel Tejada will miss the series with Seattle. That hurts the struggling offense. But if there's one offense on the level of Baltimore's, it's the Mariners.

Seattle has only scored 3 more runs than the O's and that's good news for Brad Bergesen. If he can't get back on track in a pitcher's park (Safeco) against a punchless lineup (only 5 homers all season), then he may never get it back.

The bottom line is that the O's have a puncher's chance in this series.

As a bonus, you'll get to see 2B Justin Turner (perhaps a player in the middle infield for Baltimore in 2011) and OF Lou Montanez (who has been buried in Norfolk by Baltimore's infield depth). Yeah, that won't help the W-L ledger but I've been curious to see how Turner will handle big league pitching and all those "Sweet Lou" worshippers should come out of the woodwork to hope that Lou shows enough to at least be trade fodder in July.

I'm sure you're all sick of my sunny optimism by now but...Let's Go O's!

ESH Fantasy League Update: 4/19/10

We're a couple weeks into the season and I thought I check up to see how my team in the Eutaw Street Hooligans league was doing. Here was the pre-season commentary from the ESH crew on my team, Ghost of Joe Kelly.

Not sure how I feel about this team. Three Red Sox, Johnny Damon, Denard Span, Placido Polanco? Rough. Slightly above average offense on the starting side. Bench, not so sure. Average pitching.

Of course, I am King of the Waiver Wire. Not that they would know that. So I made a few moves in the preseason to help the cause. The results so far?

Wait. What's this? You mean the guy who talked no preseason trash at all is comfortably in first place? Let's take a look here...

The only real competition is in the Top 5 already. Only two of them are bloggers (as far as I know) as Matt from Baltimore Sports Report (Real Pit Beef) and ESH's Tom Ludlow (Det. Tom Ludlow) bring up the rear of the Top 5. My only real competition at this point comes from ESH readers (I presume). Kevin Paul of Wife Hates Baseball and Stacey of Camden Chat (The Kekambas) are doing their best to emulate the Baltimore Orioles in their fantasy lives. (Especially Stacey...a distant 16th!) Time to step up your games Blog-O-Sphere!

So how have a managed this domination so early in the season?

1. Saves - I lead the league in Saves with a conglomerate of Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, Octavio Dotel and Chris Perez. the lesson? You don't need a top shelf closer to compete in this category.

2. WHIP - The team of "average" starters stands at second in WHIP, a good sign that my mediocre (6th) ERA will improve.

3. OBP - Ghost of Joe Kelley is second in OBP with a .381 mark and, as a result, is also second in runs scored.

4. The Waiver Wire - Ian Desmond, Shaun Marcum, David Freese, Brad Ziegler, Chris Perez and Jake Fox were all picked up off of waivers and all, to some degree, have been key players thus far. (Once Fox qualifies at catcher, even more impact.)

Anyway, the panic is starting to set in and I will be out there on the waiver wire waiting to take advantage. And soon, it will be the ennui and inactivity that will allow me to increase my lead. It is futile, I understand.

By the way, who is Joe Kelley? He's this guy.

Angelos Turns Down Ripken! Why Let Facts Get in the Way?

As you all know buy now, a Ken Rosenthal story surfaced on Friday that Cal Ripken, Jr. had approached the Orioles about a job in The Warehouse but was refused by Peter Angelos. A story like that is red meat for Oriole fans who pounced on it with all the enthusiasm and angst you would expect.

To be fair, if this story wasn't about Peter Angelos it wouldn't even be plausible. Angelos has made quite the bed over the years with his meddling, egotistical dealing with the team.

But it just seems like an odd story. The Orioles already work with Ripken in other ways. He owns the Aberdeen Ironbirds, an Oriole affiliate and Cal is involved with the Sarasota spring training deal with a Ripken Baseball Academy being built near Ed Smith Stadium. Why would they be so averse to partnering with Ripken in other ways?

Add to this the fact that Angelos, wisely, went public to deny the story and further stated that if Cal wanted to work for the team, he was more than happy to listen.

But the denial doesn't have the legs that the original rumor has. Even this morning, the Cal snub is being referred to by many media outlets with no hint of the denial. And even on blogs where the denial is acknowledged, the slicing and dicing of Angelos' words is hysterical (in more ways than one). "He must be evil! This must be true!"

But Peter Schmuck has it doesn't really matter one way or the other.

Never mind that Angelos publicly rebutted the story and unequivocally denied that any offer from Cal had been made or refused. This really isn't about who actually said what and when. It's about a set of preconceived notions — some accurate, some not — that reached a hazardous intersection at the same time and caused another collision between fact and fantasy...

No matter how much Orioles Nation romanticizes Ripken, he has no experience running a major league baseball franchise, and he certainly has no experience in the kind of crisis management necessary to turn around this particular organization...

It might simply force fans to face an even harsher reality — that even Cal Ripken cannot save the Orioles.

And this is completely correct. I love Cal Ripken but he's not magic. It would be cool if he was involved in the organization, especially in the minors. And I'd like to hear Cal's side of the story. But this is hardly worth getting worked up about. O's fans are resembling Red Sox fans more every day.

edit: Cal has released a statement.

Nestor is looking to spin this as a "ball's in your court" volley from Cal...looks to me like they've had vague discussions at best. Cal also refutes the statement that Angelos did not want Cal to get credit for a turnaround in Baltimore.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Friday, April 16, 2010

Delmarva Shorebirds...Some Video

Nothing soothes my baseball psyche like minor league baseball. And in the midst of the Baltimore losing streak, I could use some soothing.

Here's some (shaky) video from the Delmarva Shorebird's recent swing south.

Matt Hobgood's A-ball Debut:

Mike Devereaux Throwing BP

SP Tony Butler Throwing to C Justin Dalles in the Bullpen:

Shorebirds 2B Tyler Kelly's Grounder With Eyes

1B Tyler Kolodny Hits a Sac Fly

Greensboro SS Get A Ball in the Face

C Justin Dalles Puts One in the Gap

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Around The Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Panic Button Edition


What do I say to that?


How can I say that?

The peripherals.

Fans are acting like this team is heading in the wrong direction because they started 6-3 last season and started 2010 1-8.

Is this team really worse than the 2009 version? Absolutely not. The reasons outlined in this post still apply. The starting staff is better, the overall talent on offense is better, there is help on the way, and soon, from the farm system.

Does anybody remember the stretch over April/May 2009 when the O's went 3-14? 3-14! Better or worse than this stretch we're watching?

Get a grip. Just because this stretch starts the season makes it no worse. Growing pains. We'll have 'em.

And quit bringing up 1988. Let Grandpa Blogger tell you something. This ain't 1988. I lived through 1988! It was my baseball Vietnam!

Through the first 9 games of this season, Baltimore has been outscored 49-27. In 1988, they were outscored 61-14! And heartbreaking losses? The loss in the Brian Matusz game the other night pales in comparison to watching Mike Boddicker throw a complete game and give up only one run (while striking out 10 and walking none by the way) only to lose 4-3 to the Royals! Eddie Murray and Billy Ripken made the errors to give up the unearned runs! Or how about watching Mike Morgan throw 9 shutout innings only to lose 1-0 to Cleveland in 11? And you're going to punk out over a 1-8 streak? Don't come to me for compassion! Man up or go get your pink Red Sox hat and join The Nation! Quit 'yer whining!

1988...come back to reality.

Anyway, around the Blog-O-Sphere...

Roar From 34 says it all in the title to this post: O's Fans Should Be Waving Rally Towels, Not White Flags
Dempsey's Army raises our standard with you Matt!

Chris at Baltimore Sports Life looks in great detail at the 1-8 streak

Dave Mc of Weaver's Tantrum ponders the arguments for and against a managerial change.

The Eutaw Street Hooligans offer a dose of calm in the face of Oriole fan panic

Camden Crazies goes deep into the numbers and finds that while things are bad, they aren't as bad as you think..

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Slideshow: Delmarva Shorebirds vs. Greensboro Grasshoppers, 4/12/2009

MASN's 2nd Annual Oriole Bloggers Day

If the Delmarva Shorebirds games in Greenville and Greensboro were the slices of bread, MASN's Oriole Blogger Day in Baltimore this past Sunday was the pulled pork on my BBQ sandwich.

Metaphors aside, the second edition of this event was, once again, a chance to meet my fellow bloggers face to face, watch the O's play and get a rare crab cake (remember, I live in Atlanta) up in the MASN suite.

We met up with Todd Webster outside of the home plate plaza and he took us up to the MASN suite to hang out for a bit before the game and pretty soon we were taken up to the MASN booth to chat with Gary Thorne and Mike Flanagan. I asked Mike Flanagan specifically if he had seen any issues with fellow lefty Mike Gonzalez's delivery...well, I could recap but God bless Anthony and James over at Oriole Post who recorded the entire Q&A with Mike and Gary. The video can be seen here with my question and much more.

After that, it was back to the suite to watch the game and chat with my fellow bloggers about all things baseball. Jim Hunter stopped by to shake hands and speak with us all, as well as MASN's Steve Melewski and Oriole PR Monica Pence, who I specifically thanked for getting me some good information for the Unofficial Baltimore Oriole Spring Training Visitor's Guide.

In a nice surprise, Andy MacPhail came down to the suite for a quick Q&A and hung around for almost 10 minutes. Again, thanks to Oriole Post, you can listen to the audio here.

Last year, I marveled at Rick Dempsey's color coded score keeping system and had to ask him about it this year. Rick was nice enough to explain what his markers meant:

Orange - all hits for either team are coded with Oriole orange
Green - walks. Because once you walk you're "ready to go" on the basepaths
Blue - strikeouts. Because "when you strike out, you're blue"
Purple - hit by a pitch. Because "when you get hit by a pitch, you get a big purple mark on you"
Red - RBI

And again, Todd Webster took us down to the MASN truck so we can see where all the magic happens. I still have no idea how they keep track of all those screens on the fly.

The game? Well, the O's hung around until late and then surrendered some runs in the 8th to lose 5-2 to the Blue Jays. But what I'll remember most is chatting with Anthony from Oriole Post, talking about mid-coast Maine with Todd Webster, discussing the relative worth of Garrett Atkins with Dan from Camden Crazies or picking Matt Sadler's (from Baltimore Sports Report) brain about getting minor league press credentials.

Again, an enjoyable time and a real treat, especially for writers like me who reside in the Oriole diaspora.

Other recaps and/or blogs represented:

Anthony and James from Oriole Post (
Stacy and Duck from Camden Chat (

Chris from Baltimore Sports and Life (
Pete from The Wayward Oriole (

Matt and Clark from Baltimore Sports Report (
Dan from Camden Crazies (

Kevin from Oriole Card "O" The Day (
Michael from Bird's Watcher (

Apologies if I missed anybody...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Delmarva Shorebirds @ Greensboro Grasshoppers – 4/12/2010, Part 2

More impressions of the Shorebirds form the game in Greensboro on 4/12...

LHP Tony Butler - Acquired in trade, 2007

Butler was the 5th guy acquired from Seattle for Erik Bedard. while George Sherrill, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Kam Mickolio have all contributed to major league club, Butler has become the forgotten man. He had surgery on his labrum and missed most of the 2009 season. He is still just 22 but is back in low-A trying to work his way back to prospect status.

Butler had a rough first inning, struggling with his control but his defense did him no favors. All four runs he gave up were unearned but make no mistake, he did not pitch well that first inning. His fastball was up, he had trouble throwing his breaking ball for strikes and labored through 36 pitches to get out of the inning. However, he retired the last 10 batters he faced and only had to throw 33 pitches to get through the next three innings. (He was lifted after the 4th, I think the starters are on a pitch count early in the season.)

His fastball topped out at 86 but I don't buy that. the radar gun setup was a little cheesy on only one pitcher all night broke 90 mph. My guess is that their gun was reading 2 mph slow on average. Back when he was considered a top prospect in the Seattle system, his fastball was hitting 88-91 mph and 88 mph seemd to be what he topped out at in Greenboro (by my estimation). Supposedly, he throws a fastball, a change and a curve but his breaking ball looked more like a slider to me and he slipped over a more traditional looking curveball a couple of times. Of course, his "slider" was in there at 76 mph which seems to slow to be a slider...but what do I know? I'm not a scout.
Regardless of what you call it, his breaking ball was effective and he seemed to be pitching "backwards" at times, working of his breaking pitches and throwing the fastball to keep the hitters honest.

It would be hard to see Butler as much more than a relief prospect at this point but you never know. If he builds on this performance, his stuff, combined with the polish that he shows on the mound, could allow him to remain a starter through the high minors. And if he ever regains that low-90's fastball to go with the breaking stuff, he might just establish himself as a potential starter again.

C Justin Dalles -Drafted 2009, 6th Round

I was disappointed when I saw that C Michael Ohlman (2009 Draft, 11th round) would not play in either game I was going to attend this weekend. Not anymore. I got to see Justin Dalles play and now I am a fan.

I already told you about the home run he hit on Saturday in Greenville, the longest homer I've ever seen hit in the minors (maybe ever). On Monday, he went 2-3 with a double and a walk. On top of that, he picked a runner off at first, looked good behind the plate and acted as a vocal leader on the field. He has a good approach at the plate and is showing good power, even when he misses (like the long fly ball he hit early in Monday's game that was just a couple feet foul of being a homer).

Catcher was a desolate position in the Oriole system for years. No longer. Add Justin Dalles to the talent pool.

2B Tyler Kelly - 2009, 13th Round

Kelly made a couple of nice plays at second on Monday night, including running down a pop fly way out by the right field foul line. He's 21 and doesn't show a lot of power but looks like he's a good fielder, a good baserunner and works the count well. If he develops the ability to take a walk, he already looks to be a good candidate for a utility infielder down the line.

SS Garabez Rosa - 2006, International Free Agent

20-year-old Rosa, who is fairly slow of foot on the basepaths but is quick footed in the field, showed soft hands and an above average arm for low-A. Rosa went 3-4 with a couple doubles on Monday but thus far has been overmatched at the plate during his proessional career. More nights like this, flashing gap power, and he may evolve into a utility guy himself and maybe more. His youth leaves more room for improvement and he is the #27 prospect in the Orioles system so the scouts like the raw talent.

3B Levi Carolus - 2004, International Free Agent

Carolus caught my eye in the stat sheets for Aberdeen last year when he hit .320. He has shown some modest power and, outside of his lack of walks, looked like he could be an interesting guy to watch at third base for Delmarva. However, in addition to his hack-happy ways at the plate, he did not look good in the field either. His reactions seemd slow compared to his peers, often not even coming close to making the play on balls down the line.

I have my doubts that he'll be able to stick at third at higher levels, which takes away a bunch of his potential value. He needs to improve his glove or plate discipline dramatically this season if he hopes to be more than minor league filler.

OF Brian Conley - 2008, 17th Round

Conley is already 24 and thus far, has shown little at the plate except the abilty to draw walks. However, he already has 3 extra base hits in 14 ABs after having 9 extra base hits all of last season. If he keeps flashing some power in Delmarva and Frederick in 2010, (that's a big if) he might have something.

Quick Thoughts on the Slump

If you would have told me that the Orioles' starters would be 7th in the AL in ERA during the first week of the season, I would have been encouraged. If you would have told me that the Oriole starters would have turned in more quality starts than the Yankees or the Red Sox, I would have been thrilled. If you would have told me that the Oriole starters would lead the AL in strikeouts, I would have thought the Orioles would have been off to a very good start.

Hasn't worked out that way, has it? All the above facts are true and yet the O's are 1-6.

The starting rotation was supposed to be the big question mark on this team, especially early in the season. Instead, the starters have been solid. The bullpen, outside of Mike Gonzalez has also been solid.

The real issue has been the offense, a supposed source of relative strength. A .312 OBP and a .365 SLG give the team a .676 OPS so far. Only Cleveland and Seattle has been worse.

If you believe the bats will stay cold, I guess there's reason to worry. I have a hard time believing that though. This slump sucks but things are bound to get better and soon.

Delmarva Shorebirds @ Greensboro Grasshoppers – 4/12/2010

2B Tyler Kelly had 3 hits, drove in 4 and scored the tying run in the 9th as the Shorebirds stormed by the Greensboro Grasshoppers with a 6-run rally in the final frame for an 11-6 win.

In a back and forth contest, fielding miscues provided both teams with runs at critical times. SP Tony Butler gave up 4 runs in the 1st but none were earned as 3B Levi Carolus' fielding error opened the door to a 2-out Greensboro rally. Grasshopper SS Jose Torres made two errors that led to 3 unearned Shorebird runs in the first 6 innings.

But heading into the 9th, the Shorebirds still trailed 6-5. Kelly led off with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on 1B Tyler Kolodny's sacrifice fly to tie the game.

At that point Greensboro RP Alejandro Pena started walking the park. He walked the next two batters and CF Steve Bumbry hit a double to left to give the Shorebirds the lead for good.

Pena and RP Arquimedes Caminero combined to walk 5 Shorebirds in the 9th and surrendered 6 earned runs.

Shorebirds SS Gabarez Rosa also went 3-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. C Justin Dalles went 2-3 and scored 3 runs.

SP Tony Butler had some control issues in the 1st inning but settled down to retire the last 10 batters he faced.

Lefty reliever Jacob Smith pitched a scoreless 8th to get the win.

More about this game to follow...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Delmarva Shorebirds @ Greenville Drive - 4/10/2010, Part 2

I gave you the quick game recap, now some observations on the Delmarva players.

RHP Matt Hobgood - Drafted 2009, 1st Round (5th overall)

You can see why the Orioles like Hobgood so much. Though only 19, he was sitting at 92-93 mph all night and hitting 95 with his fastball on occasion. He has a wicked 79 mph curve that was buckling the knees of the opposition and his stuff was dominant when he was putting it over the plate. Only two batters made solid contact and he only gave up 3 hits while striking out 4.

Unfortunately, he wasn't putting it over the plate consistently. At one point in the 3rd, he walked three straight batters. Early in his career, this will be his Achilles heel. He has the stuff to dominate low-A, he just needs to throw strikes more consistently.

He had a great move to first for a righty and nearly picked off runners more than once.

He's a big kid, listed at 6'4" and 250, although I would have guessed 260 and there were unconfirmed reports that he was as heavy as 270 in Sarasota. Given his young age, this has led to speculation that his weight may be a concern going forward. But it isn't yet.

Hobgood was quick off the mound to cover first on multiple occasions and sprinted to cover home on a wild pitch where he beat the speedy Drive runner(lots of speed on this Red Sox farm team) from third. (the ball did not beat the runner, unfortunately.) When he runs he brings to mind a charging defensive end or a pulling guard. He may be big (or even fat, if you want to be blunt) but he is still very athletic and carries his weight well. Whatever the future holds, his weight doesn't look to be a problem at the moment as he demonstrates all the skills to be a complete pitcher when it comes to fielding his position.

CF Steve Bumbry - Drafted 2009, 12th Round

While Hobgood's size makes you sit up and take notice, it's Steve Bumbry's wheels that grab your attention. Both his hits that night were of the infield variety and his speed made neither play particularly close. He bunted for a hit down the 3rd base line in the 4th and beat the throw by a couple steps. In the 6th, he hit a broken bat bounder to the Drive second baseman that the fielder ultimately misplayed but it wouldn't have mattered. Bumbry would have beaten even a good throw by a full step.

His speed is of great help in center but he seems to get good jumps on the ball anyway and looks to be a natural in the field. He backed up plays well, threw to the correct base and looked to know how to play his position like the back of his hand. Given that he is Al Bumbry's son, I suppose this is not a surprise. He had a good teacher.

On the negative side, his arm looks a little weak. The 22-year-old may not hit for much power although early in the season he already has three extra base hits in 4 games (2 triples and a double). He'll be an interesting guy to watch, especially once he gets to Frederick.

1B Tyler Kolodny - Drafted 2007, 16th Round

I like Kolodny's plate approach. He doesn't chase, demonstrates a good eye and when he gets one to hit, he hits it hard. Looking back at his stats, he has always gotten on base at a good clip compared to his batting averages (his OBP is 108 points higher than his batting average for his minor league career. Has good speed for a 6'3", 215 lb corner infielder and has good instincts on the bases.

However, he is 22 and repeating low-A. He needs to continue with his fast start and force his way up to Frederick this season if he wants to get himself some attention in 2010.

LF T.J. Baxter - Drafted 2008, 24th Round

If Stephen Bumbry was the fastest player on the field on Saturday, Baxter was a close second. Baxter stole two bases, got on base all four times he was at the plate and showed some good gap power. At 24, he's not exactly a prospect but he was damn fun to watch. If you head out to Salisbury this season to check out the Shorebirds and their highly touted prospects, take note of Baxter too.

C Justin Dalles - Drafted 2009, 6th Round

The 21-year-old Dalles gets a mention just because of the homerun he hit. Leading off the 7th, Dalles tattooed a 2-1 pitch to dead center where the ball sailed easily over the 30 foot centerfield wall 410 ft away. That shot and the fact that he attended the nearby University of South Carolina had the local media clamoring to talk to him after the game.

He did hit 22 extra base hits in 55 games for USC during his last season there. Might be a sleeper.

RHP Randy Henry - Drafted 2009, 4th Round

Henry won't turn 20 until May 10th but he was the fastest pitcher we saw all night. Henry was sitting at 93-94 mph but hit 95+ several times including 97 in the 8th. Henry was a flamethrower for two inings in relief giving up 2 hits (only one of which was well-struck) and striking out two. Most of the time the batters, were flailing, popping out or grounding out weakly up the middle. Hard to see him spending all season in Delmarva so get out to Salisbury and see him while you can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Delmarva Shorebirds @ Greenville Drive – 4/10/2010

LF T.J. Baxter went 3-3 and 1B Tyler Kolodny went 3-3 with a HR as the Shorebirds beat the Drive (Red Sox affiliate) 6-4 in Greenville last night. Baxter got on base for all four plate appearances and Kolodny fell just a double short of the cycle during starting pitcher Matt Hobgood's A-ball debut.

The Orioles' top draft pick in 2009, Hobgood looked dominant at times but struggled with his control at others, at one point walking three straight batters. Hobgood walked five but struck out four and only gave up three hits, two solid hits to the outfield (a single and a double) and a weakly hit infield single.

Baxter and Kolodny were the offensive stars of the evening. Kolodny scored three runs and stole a base while Baxter scored two and stole two bases of his own. C Justin Dalles added a solo home run in the 7th, a moonshot that cleared the 30 ft centerfield wall, 410 feet away from home plate with plenty of room to spare.

The Shorebirds' hitters had little problem with Drive starter Manuel Rivera as the lefty gave up 4 earned runs to take the loss.

Nick Haughian, Randy Henry and Josh Dowdy combined for 5 innings of relief. Haughian earned the win with 2 shutout innings and Dowdy picked up his second save of the season.

More observations to follow...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Random Thoughts About Opening Week

Sorry for the lack of content this week as real life (mostly work) has taken up more of my time than usual. Good stuff coming this weekend but I did want to throw a few things out there today...

* Weird watching Mike Gonzalez work this last series. OK...weird ain't the word. Maddening is more like it. The good news? Velocity is up. Like I said when they signed him this offseason, the dude has nasty stuff. He's got legit closer stuff. (Or the stuff that people would consider a good closer to have. It wasn't like Trevor Hoffman was mowing them down with a mid-90's fastball.

The flip side? The control. I knew he had a tendency to walk guys but it's been ridiculous in the Tampa series. I would like to believe that he will work out the kinks.One odd thing was how many sliders he threw last night, including nothing but slider to Ben Zobrist to induce the flyball and mercifully end the game. Bumpy ride with Gonzalez? Let's hope this isn't the norm.

* If you don't believe in Matt Wieters yet, time to get on your knees and have your "come to Wieters moment"

* If we get pitching performances like that out of Millwood and Guthrie all year, this team is going to win a lot of games. They weren't spectacular but they were solid.

* I believe in Matt Albers, you know this. But how great does he look to start the season? 3.1 innings with 3 Ks and only 1 walk. If Albers keeps throwing strikes, he has setup man stuff...dare I say it....closer stuff? I know, Albers continuing to throw strikes is a big if...

OK, some fearless predictions:

* Garrett Atkins won't be a regular with this team by June 15th. Somebody has to come to their senses. Nice clutch hitting in Tampa but that can't last.

* Nick Markakis...breakout! Enos Slaughter for the new millenium. I recycling this from last season.

* Brian Matusz....breakout! Don't be surprised if Matusz is having Tim Lincecum-type success (without the gawdy strikeout totals...but damn good ones) by the second half of the season.

* Matt Wieters...breakout! I'm going with the Keith Law prediction of "well over .300 with 20-25 homers" for his sophomore season.

* Adam breakout! It would be hard to call this a breakout since he was pretty good last year but I expect that this is the year Jones starts to show people that Adrian Gonzalez is not necessary because the Orioles already have a bat as good in centerfield. Look for an average around .300 with something approaching 25 homers.

* 80 wins. That's my guess. And with a little never know.

* Ben McDonald becomes a surprise hit on MASN.

* Kevin Millwood 2010 = Rick Sutcliffe 1992

* Felix Pie forces something this summer...a trade, a position change....something.

Home opener today! Let's go O's!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Excercises in Oriole Lineup Optimization

Just so we're clear, this post is NOT in response to last night's heartbreaking loss to Tampa. The creeping fatalism, once so identified with Red Sox fans, that has taken hold in Birdland will not breach the ramparts of Dempsey's Army. I so swear.

No, I started looking at this before the game began, when I looked at the lineup and saw that Dave Trembley had designated Miguel Tejada as our Opening Day cleanup hitter. That's right, the guy who hasn't ISO'd north of .200 since 2005, the man who has only slugged more than .450 once in the last three years (.455 last season).

So, I wanted to see how much that was hurting the team. So I went to the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis site to check it out.

First, I entered last night's lineup with 2010 CHONE projections for the lineup:

Brian Roberts
Adam Jones
Nick Markakis
Miguel Tejada
Luke Scott
Matt Wieters
Felix Pie
Garrett Atkins
Cesar Izturis

This lineup is projected to produce an average of 5.128 runs per game or 831 runs over the course of the season.

Now, I entered the lineup I would like to see. (We'll forget about the personnel for a minute and just rearrange them...)

If you check in regularly,you know I have endorsed Luke Scott for cleanup hitter to start the season. I have framed this argument using slugging percentage or ISO but I think I need to break it down to more basic levels. Here's what I like in my cleanup hitters...With runners on base, I want him to hit the ball a long, long way, as far away from home plate as possible so that the base runners have the most time possible to round the bases and reach said home plate. The further he hits it, the more likely the base runners are to score. He might even hit it over the fence. And I want him to do it more often than anyone else on the team. Silly me.

Right now, that man is Luke Scott.

Brian Roberts
Nick Markakis
Adam Jones
Luke Scott
Matt Wieters
Miguel Tejada
Felix Pie
Garrett Atkins
Cesar Izturis

How does this version shake out? This lineup would score 5.148 runs per game or 834 runs per season. That's only three extra runs per season. Better but probably not that significant.

What's the optimum lineup?


This lineup would score 5.157 runs per game or 835 over the course of a season, only one more run than my lineup.

However, what if we moved Luke Scott to first base and plugged in Nolan Reimold at first base?

The best lineup would look like this:


That lineup would produce 5.274 runs per game or 854 runs over the course of the season.

So as you can see, lineups are fairly overrated, at least in comparison to upgrading the talent which moves the needle much more.

As long as you keep Izturis in the 9th spot and Roberts in the 1st, you can jumble around the rest of the lineup with only two or three runs difference over the course of the season. Could that mean a win or two? Sure. But I think this difference could be made up for with luck on either side. But replacing Atkins with Reimold instantly adds 19 runs over the course of the season. Now that's a huge difference.

So maybe we Oriole fans should worry less about the order of the lineup and more about the personnel that comprises it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

5 Reasons Why Watching the Orioles in 2010 Will Be Better Than 2009

Disaster. Disaster seemed to strike at every turn last season and the team was so thin that every injury, failure or error was exacerbated by the fact that holes could not be plugged when guys got hurt or washed out. I am thinking that this is the main reason that 2010 will be better than 2009; the depth. It's not an incredibly deep organization yet but it's getting better.

There's the general reason, here are the specifics.

1. The Rotation

Last season's Opening Day rotation consisted of Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon, Adam Eaton, Koji Uehara and then Rich Hill as a backup. Outside of Guthrie, those starters combined for only 46 starts and an ERA north of 6.00. This forced Jason Berken, David Hernandez and Brian Matusz into the rotation before they were ready with mixed results.

This season, the rotation to start the season is Guthrie, Kevin Millwood, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and David Hernandez. Guthrie and Millwood aren't All-Stars but are good bets to be league average pitchers and start 28+ games. Bergesen and Hernandez are battle-tested sophomores and, as a combo, are also good bets to produce league average ERA. Brian Matusz is a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.

There are clearly flaws with the rotation but it doesn't look like it will be an unmitigated disaster like 2009.

2. The Outfield

Going into 2009, the Oriole outfield was a big strength and loaded with potential Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Felix Pie and Luke Scott. In 2010, it's even better.

Nick Markakis has a down year by his standards but looks to rebound nicely as the Orioles want him to hit second in the lineup this year, a position that plays to his strengths at the plate. Adam Jones broke out offensively in 2009 and is, by definition, a Gold Glove caliber centerfielder. Pie, after a shaky start in the field and at the plate, looks to be coming into his own as he starts the season in left. Nolan Reimold was an afterthought in 2009 but barring a late season injury probably would have been ROY. And there's still Scott who can still play left and has led the team in slugging for the past two seasons.

It is the deepest area on the team and it's depth that even the Yankees can't boast.

3. Matt Wieters

Bold prediction: Matt Wieters is ready to take the title of "Best Catcher in the AL Not Named Mauer".

But I am not alone. ESPN's Keith Law has picked him as a breakout candidate and expects him to hit well over .300 with 20-25 homeruns. Can't wait to see what he does this year.

4. The Bench

I wasn't crazy about the signing of Garrett Atkins but if it pushes Ty Wigginton to the bench with Julio Lugo, Craig Tatum and whoever the 5th outfielder is that day, that's a pretty good bench.

OK, Tatum is more of a catch and throw guy. But Lugo, Wigginton and Reimold/Pie/Scott? That's not bad at all. Decent bats, some decent more having to watch the like of Robert Andino or Ryan Freel taking weak hacks.

5. Norfolk

Norfolk helped provide the cavalry last season and looks poised to do so again. Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brandon Erbe, Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller Denis Sarfate, Josh Perrault, Brandon Snyder, Josh Bell and Justin Turner are all (possibly) ready to step in in case of injury or ineffectiveness on the big club. And even Troy Patton, Scott Moore, Ryne Hughes or Lou Montanez may be able to help in 2010.

The bottom line is, although the minors graduated a lot of talent to Baltimore last season, there is still more (of varying degrees) to come. And that's a good thing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Final WAR Spreadsheet for Orioles 2010

 And here they are. They reflect the recent roster changes and the possible injury situations:

Again, all of these projections are from CHONE (typically the most pessimistic of the projection systems) except for Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters who were bumped up a bit.

That's 80.6 wins. With some health and some good luck, this could be a winning club. I stand by my earlier assessment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Orioles Acquire Julio Lugo for PTBNL, Michael Aubrey DFA'd

About 9:30 this morning,'s Alden Gonzalez reported that Julio Lugo had been traded by the Cardinals to an American League team. Shortly thereafter, he said it looked like the Orioles. And now, it's official.

The Orioles have acquired SS Julio Lugo from the Cardinals for a player to be named later. With Brian Roberts having battled back problems this spring, the thought of Robert Andino having to play second base on a regular basis must not have set very well with The Warehouse.

The deal, on the surface, is outstanding for Baltimore. (Well, as outstanding an acquisition for a utility infielder can be.) While Lugo will make $9 million this season, Boston is paying that salary. The Orioles will only have to pay him the league minimum for his services. They are giving up no player of consequence. (Really, who was the last PTBNL you can think of that amounted to anything?) Most of all, he will supplant Robert Andino. Andino's bat is so bad, he makes Cesar Izturis look like Brian Roberts. Lugo is no great shakes at the plate anymore but he did OPS .756 in limited time last year. And even if he only OPS's in the mid-.650's, it world's better than Andino.

Where Lugo has dropped off is in the field. His UZR was a pitiful -16.9 in 2009. But while he glove is not what it once was, nobody seems to think that he will be that bad in 2010. CHONE puts him at a 0.6 WAR which means his bat and glove should still be slightly above average.

Michael Aubrey was DFA'd to make room for Lugo on the 40-man roster. Aubrey is unlikely to be claimed by another team and may accept an assignment to Norfolk.

Aubrey may also be added back to the 40-man after the O's rid themselves of Andino. Andino is out of options but Baltimore apparently thinks he has some trade value, maybe for another PTBNL from another team. Either by trade or release, Andino's Oriole career is over.

This move improves the bench and improves the club. Not that Lugo could replace Roberts' production if he goes down for an extended period of time but he makes a better stopgap than the internal options.

And now, I have to redo my WAR spreadsheet AGAIN...

5 Things To Watch - Spring Training 2010 (Final)

1. Chris Tillman - I didn't see this happening but Tillman did not win the 5th spot in the rotation, losing the job to David Hernandez. Tillman will start the season in Norfolk which isn't the end of the world but hopefully he's down there to work on the cut fastball. In terms of dominating AAA, the guys already done it.

2. The Bench - The only shock to me is that Ty Wigginton is still on the club. I felt sure that he would be traded before Opening Day and the team would carry Michael Aubrey or Scott Moore. Perhaps the Brian Roberts injury kept Wigginton on the team.

Justin Turner played well. Robert Andino will start the season on the club but Turner may play his way to Baltimore and push Andino out of the organization. Andino has hit better this spring but still doesn't walk and looked shaky in the field. Turner has a better bat and he looked good at short for Norfolk, at least the two times I saw him.

3. Health - Brad Bergesen and Will Ohman look to be fully healthy . Nolan Reimold is recovering (and admittedly, he has looked like he's moving well, better than I expected at this point) but is not 100%. Felix Pie will be the starting left fielder on Opening Day but Reimold will avoid the DL. Koji Uehara has hurt his leg yet again and may not be ready for Opening Day.

4. The Battle for the Backup Backstop - Chad Moeller did nothing to lose the job but lost it anyway. In a mild upset, Craig Tatum wins the backup catcher job. Not sure how I feel about that but for the first time in the last four years, the team went with the younger upstart rather than the steadier veteran.

5. Shaking Out The Pen - Mike Gonzalez, Jim Johnson Mark Hendrickson will be joined by Cla Meredith who seems to have recaptured his pre-2009 form. Will Ohman pitched himself into the left specialist role and showed that his arm is healthy. Jason Berken got lucky that David Hernandez beat out Chris Tillman and opened a spot for a second longman in the Oriole pen. Berken has not been good this spring but he'll go north. Matt Albers had a decent spring but got lucky that Uehara will start the season on the DL.