Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby Birds Roundup - 5/24/11

Delmarva Shorebirds

OF Kipp Schutz is hitting .425/.455/.600 over his last 10 games. His OPS for the season is 1.016. He's 23 and he's not being challenged....get him up to Frederick.

IF Ty Kelly has found his power stroke with .381/.435/.500 with a couple doubles and a homer over his last 10 games.

I won't bore you with yet another Jonathan Schoop recap but he's still hitting well.

Righty reliever Clayton Schrader hasn't given up an earned run over his last 7 appearances spanning 18 innings. For the season, 22 IP, 38 Ks, 13 BBs and a lone homer.

Over his last 10 games, 1B Mike Flacco has hit .474/.523/.763 and was named Sally League player of the week.

Frederick Keys

Speaking of honors, SP Bobby Bundy was named Carolina League pitcher of the week. Over his past two starts, he has thrown 14 innings while striking out 11 while walking just 2 and allowing just one earned run.

3B Buck Britton (and brother of Zach) was OPSing .938 in Frederick and finally got a promotion to Bowie this week. He walked more than he struck out (8 BBs to 7 Ks) and he just turned 25. It was time.

Bowie Baysox

After a slow start, CF Xavier Avery is hitting .308/.400/.410 over his last 10 games with 4 doubles. Still just 21, it would be great if Avery build on this nice run.

Lefty reliever Cole McCurry has given up just one earned run this season. One. In 25.1 IP in AA this season, he has 32 strikeouts and just 7 walks.

Norfolk Tides

Most of the talent worth talking about is in Baltimore right now.

LHP Troy Patton probably should be. With all the poor pitching going on in the Baltimore pen, Patton has a 2.60 ERA over 17.1 innings in AAA (15 Ks, 5 BBs, 0 HR).

And after a rough start to the season, LHP Mark Hendrickson has a 1.91 ERA over his last 28.1 innings. (15 Ks, 4 BBs, 2 HR) Surely Hendrickson and Patton offer something better than Mike Gonzalez right now.

Righty reliever Pat Egan has found his control over the last 6 appearances and as a result, he has allowed no runs over his last 12.2 innings.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Week in Chat - 5/22/11

Where we distill all the week's baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

12:23 Comment From John
Your discussion with Longoria reminded me of an article I read a few years back about Brian Roberts wearing contacts with a red tint to them so he could pick up the ball better? Are these still used? I haven't read anything about them since.

12:24 Jonah Keri:
See I'm fascinated by stuff like that. I'd be trying every little trick if I played, or made decisions for a major league team, to gain an edge.

I might try to look into this, good call.

1:03 Comment From Zach Britton
Why is there so much ROY hype for Jeremy Helickson and not so much for me?

1:03 Jonah Keri:
What hype is this? I like Hellickson, but it's not like he's leading SportsCenter on a nightly basis.

Jim Callis, Baseball America

Jeff (North Carolina):
Who do the o's take with the 4th pick? Dylan Bundy in the mix, despite his huge demands?

Jim Callis:
I've been hearing the Orioles would prefer a college pitcher. I don't think the demands matter much, because they're so high (six years, $30 million) that clubs don't believe they're close to realistic. They'd love a shot at Danny Hultzen.

David Schoenfield, ESPN

John (MI)
Thoughts on Adam Jones so far? .280 average, 20HR/20SB this season?

David Schoenfield (1:31 PM)
Seems like I get an Adam Jones question every week. He's been hitting lately and he's up to .283 with a .777 OPS, which is actually above league average these days. He's drawn a walk in three straight games, which is probably a career high. Unless he can lay off the offspeed stuff away, this is the best I think we'll see from him ... which isn't terrible, just not what everybody projected a few years ago.

Derr (Mental Ward)
Do you think if Adam Jones got moved up in the lineup he could potentially be a highly productive player. Problem is he has Reynolds hitting behind him so he never sees any good pitches

David Schoenfield (2:04 PM)
Lineup protection is generally overrated. Jones doesn't see any "good" pitches because pitchers know he'll swing at the bad ones.

Matt Eddy, Baseball America

Shoshana (Baltimore):
It's depressing enough being an Orioles fan. Any hope for the future from the farm system besides Machado? Throw us a bone and at least answer a question on the Orioles :)

Matthew Eddy:
Baltimore has the fourth pick in the draft, and that's only three weeks away. Don't forget that the O's have a lot of young major leaguers who could still improve — Matusz, of course, but also Arrieta and Reimold and Tillman.

Keith Law, ESPN

Jack (D.C.)
I like your idea of the Orioles taking Bundy, but I keep hearing they want a college arm. Where do all the rumors come from, are they made up? Also, any reason you believe they'd pass on Cole?

Klaw (2:29 PM)
Most teams view Bundy as the equivalent of a college arm because he's so polished and is physically well-developed. He's a big leaguer in 2 to 2.5 years.

Ryan (Hanover, PA)
Why does Starling keep falling in all of your mocks? I would love to see the Orioles take him at #4

Klaw (2:38 PM)
It's just cost. He's not "falling" in the sense of talent or performance, but fear that he won't sign or - more likely - fear that he'll want more money than teams are willing to spend. They'd rather spend that $10 million on one year of Rafael Soriano, I guess.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post on MASNSports.com: Orioles Bullpen has been a Money Pit

Another guest post on MASNSports.com, this one about the futility of fixing a bullpen with expensive free agents. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fearless Predictions Revisited

Where I take another look at what I predicted back in March...

If Brian Roberts plays in 130 games, I'm going with 80 wins. If he ends up on the DL, 76 wins.

This one remains to be seen but Roberts has stayed healthy thus far and the team is only 2 games under .500.

Zach Britton wins the AL Rookie of the Year. Yeah, Jeremy Hellickson is the odds on favorite but I think Britton comes up on the outside and catches him.

This one looks way better than it did in March. He is probably ahead of Hellickson but Seattle's Michael Pineda probably edges out Britton at this point with his eye-popping strikeout total.

Adam Jones breaks out this season. A mild breakout, something like a .295/.340/.450. 20 home runs. But a breakout nonetheless.

As discussed yesterday, Jones is hitting .283/.335/.441 and is on a pace for 20 home runs. He's not there yet but he's pretty close.

I can't predict playing time but Nolan Reimold will finish the season with a higher OPS than Vladimir Guerrero. So will Luke Scott.

Not yet...not yet. But Luke Scott is ahead of Vlad...for now.

Jeremy Guthrie will, once again, have an ERA lower than his FIP. Probably significantly so.

Guthrie's FIP is 4.64 and his ERA is 3.98. On target.

Nick Markakis will hit 40 doubles. Again. Also will have at least a .360 OBP.

Only 4 doubles and a .311 OBP so far. A loooonnngg way to go.

Matt Wieters hits 15 home runs. Anything else he does is anybody's guess.

He's on a pace for 16 homers and has become one of the better defensive catchers in the league.

Luke Scott will OPS north of .850.

He's OPSing .766 and has a hurt shoulder. This one is not looking good.

Josh Rupe doesn't see May 15th in Baltimore. He sees it from Norfolk.

Rupe was sent to Norfolk on May 10th.

Zach Britton is in Baltimore before May 15th.

He was in Baltimore before April 15th.

JJ Hardy will be a fan favorite by June 1st.

I think this is a fait accompli.

Matt Albers will outperform most of the Oriole pen while pitching for Boston.

Albers has a 1.65 ERA over 11 games and good peripherals. Nobody in the Oriole 'pen looks better

Mark Hendrickson ends up playing a large role in the Oriole season. Take that as you will.

Hendrickson has not been good in Norfolk but as bad as the rest of the bullpen has been, he'll get a shot soon and he'll probably stick.

Mark Reynolds hits 30 homers and has 200 Ks.

Reynolds is on pace to strikeout only 170 times but only 20 homers. Long way to go to reach those numbers.

Guest Post on MASNSports.com: Ranking the Pitchers in the Orioles Hall of Fame

The latest guest post on MASNSports.com can be found here. Enjoy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Adam Jones Breaking Out?

edit: I had this post ready to go on Friday morning before The Great Blogger Outage of '11 happened. I lost most of the post but pieced it back together. I updated with current stats but I may have missed something as I cobbled it back together. But here it is anyway...

Oriole center fielder Adam Jones is hitting .284/.333/.447 (wOBA .346)this season. Through May 11th of last season, he was hitting .230/.257/.353. His OPS+ of 118 (117 wRC+) would be the highest of his career if he can maintain it. The question is, is Adam Jones finally having a breakout season?

Jones was my pick for Oriole breakout player in 2011. I didn't predict big things. A .295/.340/.450 line with 20 home runs. Mild breakout. And right now, those numbers look very reachable for him.

But Jones has had his hot streaks before. Is this just another tease? I wanted to take a closer look.

Some peripheral data from the last three seasons:

BB%    K%   BB/K   HR/FB%   ISO   BABIP
2009     6.9  19.7   .39     17.8   .180   .308
2010     3.7  20.5   .19     11.4   .158   .328
2011     6.4  17.7   .40     12.5   .163   .307

The walk rate is up from his career numbers, his strikeout rate is at a career low and his homer rates, ISO and BABIP are certainly sustainable numbers. This hot streak does not look lucky at all. This is all pretty encouraging but I went and grabbed some plate discipline data from FanGraphs.com.

Plate discipline data from the last three seasons:

Season     O-Swing%    Z-Swing%    Swing%    O-Contact%    Z-Contact%    Contact%    SwStr%
2009        35.2 %      73.3 %     53.6 %      57.3 %        83.3 %       74.5 %     13.3 %
2010        40.6 %      71.0 %     54.6 %      62.1 %        84.0 %       75.2 %     13.2 %
2011        45.4 %      71.2 %     58.4 %      66.1 %        84.7 %       77.6 %     12.3 %

This is the troubling part about Jones. He is swinging at balls outside the strikezone more than ever. He's becoming even more of a free-swinger than he ever was. Now, he's making much better contact on those balls (a trend that has continued over the past three seasons) and is striking out less than ever.

There are two possibilities here. Either he has been getting extremely lucky with the production he's been getting by hitting those balls outside the strikezone or he has developed a freakish Vladimir Guerrero-like ability to hit anything near the plate well enough to keep on swinging.

So consider me a skeptic...if Jones keeps this up for most of the season, I guess we could consider this a breakout. But I'm betting on some regression in the near future.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This Week in Chat - 5/15/2011

Where we distill all the weekly baseball chatsdown to their Oriole essence...

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs.com

12:20 Comment From Guest
Taillon or Machado if Machado moves to 3b?

12:20 Dave Cameron:
Take the hitter. Almost always take the hitter.

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

12:03 Comment From Cheese
Is Luke Scott going under the knife? Should he be replaced by (gulp) Milton Bradley?

12:04 Jonah Keri:
Scott's still playing as of now, despite a torn labrum. He might still be able to hit with the condition, we'll see.

Don't see what the O's would want with Bradley. They're not winning anything this year anyway, and Bradley obviously comes with more baggage than your usual veteran flyer.

Ben Badler, Baseball America

Chris (Chicago): \
Please rank the following in terms of their long-term major league impact: Zack Britton, Mike Montgomery, Mike Minor, Joe Odozirri.

Ben Badler:
Montgomery, Britton, Odorizzi, Minor

Jon Bass (Ann Arbor, MI):
All right, this technically isn't a Hot sheet question since Zach Britton is in Baltimore, but does he return to the minors when everyone else is healthy? He is their best pitcher right now.

Ben Badler:
Britton has to stay. Send Bergesen or Tillman back to Triple-A.

Rick (Chicago):
What kind of potential does Brett Jackson have and how would he compare to someone like Adam Jones? Thanks.

Ben Badler:
They're both good athletes who run well but aren't burners, have power but are prone to swing and miss, but Jackson's approach at the plate is well ahead of anything Jones has ever shown.

Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs.com

1:13 Comment From AK
Adam Jones, simply on a to-be-expected hot streak, or turning into the player Os fans have been waiting for?

1:14 Matt Klaassen:
If I had to bet, I'd say "hot streak," but he' still young enough that this could be "it," despite my skepticism about small sample "breakouts." I will say that Jones has been more disappointing than Wieters overall, given that Wieters plays a harder position and plays it well, and Jones not only hasn't hit all that well, but hasn't come close to matching his defensive reputation.

Steve Slowinski/Jeff Zimmerman, FanGraphs.com

1:59 Comment From Paul
What are your thoughts on Mark Reynold's start to the seaon?

2:00 Jeff Zimmerman:
I try not to

2:01 Steve Slowinski:
Well, to put it bluntly, he's been really bad. His batting average is even lower than last year's (thanks to an even lower BABIP) and his defense is as atrocious as you'd expect. The power hasn't appeared much yet, which is the worst part...thankfully that doesn't stabilize for a while still, though, so he could break out anytime.

2:01 Jeff Zimmerman:
His K's are down. Sadly, I feel the Orioles are stuck with him.

2:02 Steve Slowinski:
But he's not a bad option for them right now - I think it's too early to give up hope entirely. If that power appears at some point, he'll still be a decent player.

2:04 Comment From xandersdad
Will Luke Scott make it through the season with his shoulder?

2:05 Steve Slowinski:
Required joke: I refuse to believe it'll be an issue until I see the long-form doctor's note. (It's okay, I know I'm not funny)

2:05 Jeff Zimmerman:
No and he shouldn't be trying to play through it right not. Best case - mediocre season, Worst case - re-injures and can never play again.

2:57 Comment From Mark Reynolds
My defense isn't that bad.

2:57 Jeff Zimmerman:
On the run environment, it will matter, but not too much yet.

2:58 Steve Slowinski:
Mark, yes it is. Nice try, though. If only Vlad wasn't a DH, you'd totally belong there.

Keith Law, ESPN

Nick (Baltimore)
Keith, love your work, appreciate your work ethic. Matusz, Britton, Arrieta, Tillman. In that order?

Klaw (1:21 PM)
I give 110%. In that order, yes.

Ryan (Hanover, PA)
Thoughts on the Machado injury?

Klaw (1:56 PM)
He's just out a few weeks, right? So I think ... he'll be back in a few weeks.

Nick (Baltimore)
I am home sick from work so I am finally able to see your chat live! (espn is blocked) Any thoughts on the O's at 4? I am really hoping Trevor Baeur is our man if he is there.

Klaw (2:03 PM)
I believe he's in their mix, and don't see him going ahead of that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Delmarva at Asheville: May 7th and 8th

As the big club struggles, it is difficult to maintain your passion for baseball. 13 losing seasons, going on 14 is tough to take. Especially as offseason decisions continue to, predictably, blow up in the front office's face.

But if you need your baseball batteries recharged, leave it to minor league baseball to get it done. Not AAA ball. Too many retreads and broken dreams. If your head is in the wrong place, it can be even more depressing. 

But AA or lower? It's fantastic.

I drove up to Asheville, NC this weekend to watch the Delmarva Shorebirds take on the Asheville Tourists. Ideally, I was going up to catch young phenom Manny Machado. But he hurt his knee and was not going to be playing. 

But that didn't matter for many reasons.

First there was the setting. The games were played in McCormick Field, an old field that has been in use since 1924 (it was renovated as recently at 1991). It's a gorgeous little park and it's just cozy.

Second, there was actual winning baseball being played as the Shorebirds won on both Saturday and Sunday.

Third, it's great to watch a bunch of guys who are still having a ton of fun playing ball. You can really see it. And it makes you smile

Some observations on a few of the players

SS/3B Jonathan Schoop
Big kid and won't turn 20 until October. Looks smooth and natural at short where he is filling in for the injured Manny Machado. Big arm in the field and effortless power at the plate. More on Schoop over here.

2B Mychal Givens
Givens has a batting line of .152/.235/.171 on the season so I was expecting to see some brutal at bats from him this weekend. But I didn't. He has a good approach at the plate, worked the count and seemed to have a good eye. He only went 1 for 6 but squared up the ball and hit it hard on a regular basis and walked three times over the two games. He has a lot to work on but if he puts is together with the bat, that approach will take him up the organizational ladder pretty fast. 

His speed was just OK, not a blazer. 

In the field, he was was very smooth at second, especially turning the double play.

LF Ty Kelley
The more I see of Ty Kelley, the more I like him. Of course, I like him better at second base where he played last season but the influx of infield prospects has pushed him to left field. He did show off some good range in the outfield but has an arm like a wet noodle.

Looks good at the plate though, slapping singles to the opposite field and showing some gap power when he pulled it. Only one double to show for it this season but he hit 30 doubles for Delmarva last season. He's hitting .329/.383/.342 and will turn 23 in July. It's probably time to see what he can do in Frederick.

C Justin Dalles
My latest minor league catcher crush, Dalles is back in Delmarva after suffering through injuries in 2010, most brought about by two nasty collisions at the plate. Perhaps that's still in his head as he took a step up from the plate, away from the baseline, to field a throw from the cutoff man during a play at home.

But Dalles looks in complete control behind the plate. I can't put my finger on it but there are guys who look like they know exactly what they're doing when they call the game and Dalles is one of them. He's OPSing .768 with 3 homers. Just one walk though. He needs to get his walk rates back closer to last year and the 22-year old will probably end up in Frederick by season's end.

LF Kipp Schutz 
Schutz is 23...too old for low A but his bat has come out of nowhere in his full seaosn league debut. Schutz's last two season in Bluefield and Aberdeen have been kind of "blah" and now he's one of the offensive stars of the Sally League.

He has very good pull power. He jumped on a first pitch fastball, turned on it and just hit a rainbow shot over the 36 ft wall in right field. But he swings a lot. He draws some wlaks but seems to get by in many at bats by fouling off pitches and waiting for one to hit. You have to think that will be tougher to do as he moved up the line. Still, a guy who's hitting .368/.424/.561 is pretty fun to watch.

LHP Jacob Pettit
I didn't think there was much to watch on the pitching front in Delmarva season but I was lucky enough to get to watch two of the guys I was interested in seeing. Jacob Pettit was one of them.

Pettit seemed to get stronger as the game went on.  His fastball was sitting at 87-89 mph (these are stadium gun speeds) during the first inning but was sitting at 90-91 by his last inning while toughing 93. But his offspeed stuff was what was getting the swings and misses. He has good control, always staying around the plate and gets a fair share of groundballs. If he was a righty, this would not be that impressive. As a lefty, he's kind of interesting. On the season, he has a 2.89 ERA with 28 Ks, 9 BBs and 2 homers. (37.1 IP)

He's not very athletic fielding his position but does have a pretty good move to first base.

RHP Ryan Palsha
20-year old Palsha had a fastball that sat at 92-94 and he was getting plenty of swing-and-misses from it. He is striking out opposing batters at a 10.0 K/9 rate. Like a lot of the Shorebird relievers, he also walks a ton of guys too (8.2 BB/9). 

RHP Scott Copeland
Copeland is out of the University of Southern Mississippi and looks the part of a power pitcher. He is big and he throws hard, sitting in the mid-90's the day I saw him. However, he also had no idea where it was going and when the batters caught up to the fastball, they were able to hit it a long way. 5.8 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9. Not thick enough for a 22-year old in low-A.

C Michael Ohlman
I've been trying to get to a game where Ohlman was actually playing for two seasons now. Ohlman was an overslot signing taken in the 11th round in 2009. He scuffled at the plate last year and I was curious to see how he was adapting in year two of professional ball.

You know all those things I wrote about Dalles looking completely in control behind the plate? I saw very little of that in Ohlman. He made two throwing errors, he dropped a ball that Schoop fired into the plate that should have been a sure out and he looked downright uncomfortable catching Scott Copeland. The only way I can describe it is that he looked like a guy who wans't used to catching the caliber of stuff that Copeland had. But Copeland was wild and he probably just wasn't comfortable because he didn't know where the ball was going. All in all, Ohlman did not look good behind the plate.

At the plate was a different matter. After hitting .208/.302/.293 between Bluefield and Delamrva last season, Ohlman was having a much better season at the plate before his start on Sunday. He looked completely in control and confident with his bat. He worked counts and didn't make an out all day. He had two singles, a double and a grand slam hit over the centerfield wall. He ran the bases well, had good speed and looks way more athletic than you would expect from a catcher. Ohlman is hitting .310/.388/.510 over 20 games and looks to finally be fulfilling the promise he had when the O's drafted him out of high school. He doesn't turn 21 until after the season. He needs work on his defense but it's a nice bat.

Guest Post on MASNSports.com: Orioles Have More Than One Great Shortstop Prospect

Guest post on MASN where I give some observations on Delmarva SS/3B Jonathan Schoop from the past weekend.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Not Clay Rapada's Fault

There are things that concern me about Buck Showalter.

I am a supporter. I was a big fan of Buck getting the manager job here in Baltimore but there are things that he does that leave me scratching my head.

When the Orioles signed Clay Rapada this offseason, it seemed like an odd fit. He was a LOOGY and I wondered if this team could afford to carry a guy like that in the bullpen with so many young starters in the rotation. For his career, Rapada has allowed a .505 OPS to lefthanded hitters and a 1.111 OPS to righthanded batters. Rapada could be effective when facing lefthanded batters. He should face right handed batter somewhere between rarely and never.

So what has Buck done with Clay this season?

             PA   K   BB   HR   AVG    OPS
vs. LHB      19   7    1    0  .111   .269 
vs. RHB       7   0    2    2  .800  3.057

Righties are batting .800 against Rapada. Eight-hundred.

Clay Rapada may be demoted this week but he doesn't stink. He shuts down leftie batters and get abused by righties. This is what he is. And maybe he doesn't have a spot on this team. Maybe they need a more versatile reliever at this point.

But his 11.12 ERA isn't his fault. It's Buck Showalter's.

He's trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I wonder what other decisions he is making using this logic.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Baby Birds Roundup - 5/8/11

Delmarva Shorebirds

Manny Machado has been sidelined with an injury but 3B Jonathan Schoop has slid back to his natural postions at short and is still hitting well with a .340/.347/.553 line over his last 10 games. If not for Machado, I'd be really excited about his prospects as the elusive Oriole shortstop of the future.

More on Delmarva tomorrow...

Frederick Keys

1B Tyler Townsend continues to crush Caroilina League pitching with a .405/.405/.833 line over his last 10 games. He has 24 strikeouts against only 1 walk all year but I don't think he is being challenged in A ball at all. With the recent injury to Baysox 1B Joe Mahoney, perhaps the Orioles can promote him so he can be challenged and start working on his plate discipline.

2B LJ Hoes is finding his footing after a season lost to injury and illness in 2010. Hoes has a line of .341/.386/.512 over his last 10 games, raising his season OPS to .704 and giving hope that he can progress in 2011.

RHP Bobby Bundy continues his hot start to the season as he has struck out 15 and only walked 4 over his last two starts.

Bowie Baysox

C Caleb Joseph continues to be one of the few bright spots on offense for the AA club with a .235/.316/.471 line over the last 10 games. His newly found plate discipline (12 walks against 14 strikeouts) is very encouraging.

On the pitcing side, RHP Dan Klein has continued his good work since his promotion throwing 3 innings of shutout baseball.

Right handed relief pitcher Jose DIaz is listed at 6'4" and 300 pounds. He also has thrown 13.2 innings with a 1.45 ERA, 11 Ks and 3 BBs.

RHP Steve Johnson had a rough stint in Norfolk but has been very good since returning giving up just a lone run over two starts while racking up 13 strikeout against 2 walks.

Norfolk Tides

Offensively, the story in Norfolk in 1B Brandon Snyder with his .889 OPS for the season and his .324/.395/.486 line over the last 10 games.

However, 2B Ryan Adams is making a bod to join him. Adams has had a tough learning curve to start the season but the last 10 games he has hit .381/.435/.476 with 4 doubles. He will always have questions defensively but the guy can hit.

In case you're curious, Nolan Reimold is OPSing .843 over his last 10 games.

On the pitching staff, there is Troy Patton and only Troy Patton (11.0 IP, 10 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 3.27 ERA)

This Week in Chat - 5/8/2011

Where we distill all the week's baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...

JJ Cooper, Baseball America

Will T. (Cary, N.C.): Can Brandon Snyder be a starting first baseman in the majors?

J.J. Cooper: It doesn't seem like even the Orioles still think that—they talked about him being a versatile utilityman when he was in the big league camp in spring training.

Mark (Sydney): Mr. Cooper, what's going on with former first round pick Matt Hobgood? Thanks.

J.J. Cooper: Hobgood is trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury. I wouldn't expect much out of him over the first half of this season. If he can start pitching competitively in June or so and stay healthy the rest of the year while showing pre-injury stuff, I bet the Orioles would be very happy.

Spencer (Baltimore): Who do you think is the long term answer at first base for the orioles, Joe Mahoney, Brandon Snyder or someone else?

J.J. Cooper: Someone else.

Jerry Crasnick, ESPN

Matt (Milford, De)
Is Zach Britton the front runner for AL Rookie of the Year?

Jerry Crasnick (12:04 PM)
Matt, Last week I pointed out that I was feeling good about my Michael Pineda ROY choice, and I received a flood of responses from Zach Britton advocates. If what we've seen so far is any indication, it could be a nice little slugfest between those two kids.

jason (richmond, VA)
what do you think about weiters so far this year? He is hitting 9-10 with RISP i believe is this going to be the year he brings the bat to the ballpark to?

Jerry Crasnick (12:34 PM)
Jason, Wow, I didn't realize that until you mentioned it. Matt Wieters has an OPS of 2.923 with men in scoring position. From the people I've talked to, his bat is still a work in progress, but his defense (particularly his throwing) is extremely impressive. With all the talent on that young staff, they need him to think defense first and pitch in with some key hits. So far he's doing that.

Zack (CT)

Jerry Crasnick (12:35 PM)
Zack, There are small sample sizes, and ridiculous smal sample sizes. 9-for-10 catches your eye no matter what we're talking about.

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

12:41 Comment From Guest
In fantasy, would you trade Wieters for Garza?

12:41 Jonah Keri:

1:14 Comment From Nat
What do you think about Adam Jones? He always confounds me

1:14 Jonah Keri:
Still young. Can take guys a long time to figure it all out. I always remember Brandon Phillips in these instances.

1:27 Comment From Eric
What do you see for McCutcheon the rest of the year? Like him more than Adam Jones?

1:27 Jonah Keri:
Definitely prefer McCutchen over Adam Jones. Real life or fantasy.

Jack Moore, FanGraphs.com

1:24 Comment From Os
Where do you think Britton ends up? Nice ratios so far, QS and wins, Zips rest of season is above 4, do you believe he is due for regression?

1:25 Jack Moore:
From what little I've seen him pitch, he has pretty nasty stuff. I'm sure he'll hit some sort of rookie wall at some point and his FIP is way above his ERA right now, so yeah, there's some regression coming. But I do think he'll be useful. Your best bet, though, is probably trying to deal him.

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs.com

12:03 Comment From Jevant
Can you give any positive news for a frustrated Nick Markakis fantasy owner?

12:03 Dave Cameron:
You are (hopefully) not a positive Vernon Wells owner?

David Schoenfield, ESPN

Nick Markakis (Baltimore)
I am offically a bust? Every year I seem to have high expectations and never reach them. What's your take on my future?

David Schoenfield (2:35 PM)
Bust? That's harsh. You're still a very good player. Just not the great player everyone thought you'd be after hitting 23 home runs at 23. But you still hit 40+ doubles every and play good defense. You're just off to slow start this year.

Paul (Atlanta)
Isn't Markakis esentially Mike Greenwell reincarnated? Similar start to his career followed by similar disappointment that he didn't become somthing more.

David Schoenfield (3:06 PM)
Good comparison. Both were very polished hitters when they arrived, and also sort of had "old player" skills in that they weren't necessarily fast runners but already had good strike zone judgment. I believe Greenwell had some injuries that led to his career being shortened?

Keith Law, ESPN

Adam Jones (Baltimore)
Cant... Stop... .Swinging... At... Sliders... IN.... the... DIRT!!!!

Klaw (1:34 PM)
They're just so pretty!

Shoshana (Boston)
Who are the Orioles on in the draft? Safe to say they take 1/3 between Hultzen/Stallings/Bundy? Or are they on someone else?

Klaw (2:15 PM)
Have heard them on Jed Bradley but I think that's cooled. Could see Bauer. Keep hearing college arm, but Bundy is kind of like a college arm and I know they really like him. Don't think they're on Gray. Pretty sure every team in 1-8 except maybe Seattle is at least thinking about Bauer.

Jim Shonerd, Baseball America

Will T. (Cary, N.C.): When will Manny Machado be in Frederick?

Jim Shonerd: The key question right now is when will he be back in Delmarva. It sounds like the Orioles think his knee injury isn't too serious. Hopefully that's the case.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chris Tillman is Getting A Bad Rap

"Where do I need to put that horseshoe again?"
All across the media, everyone is talking about what happened to Chris Tillman yesterday. Evidently, he was thrashed, rocked and hammered by the Kansas City lineup yesterday.

But while Tillman's boxscore was plenty ugly, I wonder if the authors of those headlines actually watched the game.

I did. Twice. And while Tillman was not as sharp as he could have been, most of the runs he gave up were due to poor defense and bad luck.

The first three hits Tillman gave up were groundballs that weren't even that well hit. At least two of those balls should have been outs and probably all three. Then there was a misplayed popup but Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino.

The middle infield defense was not good. After giving Andino kudos for his renewed focus in the field, he looked absolutely terrible yesterday.

Anyway, my point is, Tillman pitched well enough to get 6 or 7 outs in the that first inning. There was only one well struck ball in the first.

In the second, Alcides Escobar hit a solid double to left. But he was driven in by Chris Getz who hit a fluky flare down the leftfield line that spun away into foul territory. By my count, there were only two well struck balls hit in the first three innings. Those 5 runs should have been just 1. Or maybe none at all. That deep hole was dug by the entire team, not just Tillman.

Tillman did get hit pretty bad in the 4th while walking the leadoff man, but he was at 79 pitches when he left and should have been into the 5th by then. It was not a stellar outing for Tillman but it really wasn't a bad one. He struck out 3, only walked 1, got a couple popouts and got the opposing batter to hit grounders 47% of the time. But the team has to catch the ball.

Fortunately, Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connor seem to understand that.

Sure, Tillman needs to develop the toughness to pitch through innings where your defense (and luck) lets you down. He definitely got rattled (the balk showed that) and he needs to learn from the situation and improve his mental approach.

Meanwhile, there is already talk of a possible replacement for him in the rotation. Tillman does have a 7.16 ERA but according to FanGraphs.com, Tillman has a 3.50 FIP (the best on the team) and a 4.42 xFIP which is pretty respectable.

It doesn't show in the boxscore but Tillman is making improvements. Now the defense needs to help him out.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

He Walks! Vlad Guerrero Walks!

Last night in Kansas City, a remarkable streak ended. Vlad Guerrero drew a walk.

It was his first walk of the season but he didn't walk the last two games of last season either. It was 29 starts without a walk. He finally walked three plate appearances into his 30th start.

Top streaks of consecutive starts without a walk for Oriole batters:

Rk                 Strk Start        End Games  AB
1      Larry Haney 1967-09-02 1968-09-18    39 137
2      Charlie Lau 1962-06-03 1964-06-17    34 134
3       Cal Ripken 1999-06-05 1999-07-21    31 130
4      Ken Gerhart 1987-04-17 1987-06-20    31 113
5         Bob Hale 1955-07-08 1955-09-11    31 124
6     Billy Ripken 1988-09-04 1989-04-30    30  97
7    Billy Gardner 1956-09-03 1957-04-20    30 119
8      Andres Mora 1976-04-21 1976-07-06    29 111
9    Vlad Guerrero 2010-10-02 2011-05-02    29 119
10     Jerry Adair 1964-05-14 1964-06-21    29 119
11     Jerry Adair 1963-07-04 1963-08-21    29 111

As you can see, Guerrero was performing a rare feat. Among the hitters on this list, Cal Ripken was the most recent streak and that was nearly 12 years ago. All in all, it's not a great streak for Vlad's performance (although during Cal's walkless streak, he OPS'ed .964) but it was kind of fun to watch.

So going back to last season, Guerrero went 123 straight plate appearance without a walk before last night.

I don't need to see another one right now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The New and Improved Robert Andino

I have not been a big fan of Robert Andino. And that would be an understatement.

When he arrived to the Orioles in 2009, I thought he was fine. Not a good player but just fine. I even advocated for the release of Cesar Izturis since I saw Andino as a younger, cheaper version of Izzy who might just develop a slightly better bat.

But after watching defensive lapses, baserunning errors and just a general lack of effort that season, I began to sour on him.

After watching him during Spring Training in 2010 and a couple of Tides games early in the season, I wrote this exactly one year ago:

Whenever a player is sent back to the minors, you would like to think it won't affect his attitude. In Andino's case, it looks like it has. I am not normally one to jump on players for not trying or not hustling when they are playing poorly but Andino barely looked interested. He failed to run hard on a groundout to short even though he certainly had a fair chance of making it to first safely...and made no effort to throw to first to complete a double-play later in the game. Both those plays were makable but Andino just didn't make the extra effort....He misplayed a flare that dropped for a hit in the 4th and made a throwing error in the 8th that seem to be extensions of the general lack of focus on defense that he displayed in Spring Training. It's just one game but I don't want to see him back in Baltimore. I'm not sure I even want to see him in Norfolk.

Like I said, I don't call a player out for not hustling on a regular basis. It's a long season and guys will make mistakes or not hustle on occasion. I get that so I don't call a guy out at a drop of the hat. I didn't join the "Brian Roberts isn't hustling" movement we saw from fans a couple years ago.

But Andino had worn my patience thin. He had a great opportunity in Spring Training and throughout the 2010 season to come play in Baltimore. Brian Roberts missed most of the season. Izturis has a really bad year at the plate. But even with those opportunities staring him in the face, he just couldn't get his head right. I figured his days as a useful player were over.

Fast forward to 2011. Andino has filled in admirably for the injured J.J. Hardy hitting .314/.397/.392 over 18 games. He has not been caught stealing, has not been picked off and is generally running the bases really well. He has 3 infield hit, including a bunt hit and has yet to hit into a double play. He has made 3 errors at shortstop but has shown fine range, a good arm and is making the routine plays that he used to occasionally botch.

I am not lobbying for Andino to be a starter, not ever. And you have to worry a little about a guy who is so sensitive that he needs a bunch of "atta boys" to give it his all on the field but he's a changed player in 2011. No doubt about it.

Kevin Millwood....An Oriole Again?

Kevin Millwood is free from the Yankees and is still interested in pitching. According to Britt Ghiroli, the Orioles are somewhat interested in bringing him to Baltimore.

Is that a good idea? Yes...under certain circumstances.

Firstly, Millwood was not so bad last season. He was not great but not so bad. His ERA was a hefty 5.10 but his xFIP was 4.46. And he did have his moments:

April        3.38
May          4.29
June         8.82
July        10.66
August       3.54
September    3.82

He has his uses, even at the tail end of his career. But only in a particular role. And right now that role is as a AAA pitcher.

The current rotation in Norfolk right now is some combination of Ryan Drese, Mike Ballard, Rick VandenHurk, Chris George, Chorye Spoone and Chris Jakubauskas. None of them are pitching well. Anybody feel OK with one of those guys making a spot start?

Brian Matusz and Justin Duchscherer are coming back at some point. But until then, the Oriole rotation is a bit thin right now. If Jake Arrieta's hip acts up on him, I'd rather call up Kevin Millwood than Ryan Drese. And there is little risk that Millwood will take a full time rotation spot from one of the young pitchers.

Will Millwood sign a minor league deal? Who knows? But that's the only way he fits on this team.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Baby Birds Roundup - 5/2/2011

Delmarva Shorebirds

Last week, I highlighted Manny Machado's fast start and mentioned that the only thing missing from him at the plate was some power. Consider the power provided.

Machado hit 5 homers last week on his way to an amazing .337/.451/.639 line for the year. He has walked more than he has struck out. He may not be in Delmarva much longer. And he made the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet.

3B/SS Jonathan Schoop has continued to impress with a .319/.379/.511 line for the year, number which would be eye-popping if not for Machado's demolition of Sally League pitching. Schoop and Machado are 19 and 18 respectively. We could be looking at the right side of the Oriole infield for the next 15 years.

One of my personal favorites, C Justin Dalles had a .896 OPS through 11 games and hit 2 homers and a double last week. With the catching in Frederick pretty slim, Dalles could soon be promoted to allow the younger C Michael Ohlman more at bats in Delmarva.

RHP Jacob Pettit has a 2.59 ERA over 5 starts with decent peripherals. Out of the bullpen, lefty Jason Gurka has struck out 20 over 13.1 innings while issuing just one walk.

Frederick Keys

Ryan O'Shea has a 3.53 ERA in the minors. His 1.99 ERA this season is the result of some great control (1.6 BB/9). If he keeps that up, he's an interesting pitcher to keep an eye on.

1B Tyler Townsend has been healthy and productive. His .316/.349/.570 line includes 13 extra base hits. He has drawn only one walk but those should come. Townsend is the best bet to seize the mantle of first baseman of the future for the O's.

CF Trent Mummey earned a promotion to Frederick a week ago and has continued his good work with 2 doubles, a triple, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts and an .812 OPS. He also has 15 stolen bases on the season and has only been caught twice.

RHP Dan Klein was promoted to Bowie after 15.2 innings of 1.15 ERA ball. This was a wee bit surprising since the plan was to stretch him out to start some games and I had assumed he would do that in Frederick.

Bowie Baysox

C Caleb Joseph continues to reassert himself as a legitimate prospect. He has more walks than strikeouts, 3 homers, 5 extra base hits overall and a .917 OPS.

1B Joe Mahoney has only played in 8 games but is picking up where he left off in 2010. You're not a prospect until...you are. If Mahoney can continue to OPS somewhere in the neighborhood of .938, he certainly will be one.

There is not much to highlight on the Baysox pitching staff but I will point out Ryohei Tanaka has 11 strikeouts in 11.2 innings of relief and a 3.09 ERA. Closer Brandon Cooney has a 1.13 ERA thorugh 6 games with 9 strikeouts in 8 innings with a 1.13 WHIP.

Norfolk Tides

There is not much to like in the Norfolk lineup right now except for 1B Brandon Snyder's hot start. Snyder has a .300/.364/.544 line, 5 homers, 7 doubles and a .908 OPS.

LHP Troy Patton has 10 strikeouts against just 2 walks in 11 innings pitched. He could help the Baltimore bullpen soon...if he can stay healthy.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This Week in Chat - 5/1/11

Where we distill all the weekly baseball chats down to their Oriole-centric essence...

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

12:41 Comment From Big Jgke
Is there any division in baseball in which the top 4 teams in the AL East wouldn't all be contenders, outside of the AL East?

12:41 Jonah Keri: I don't think the Jays or Orioles are all that good this year. In past years, sure, you could have made the case about the Jays.

Marc Normandin, Baseball Prospectus

Charles Darwin (San Fran): Will Koji Uehara ever become a reliable source of saves now that he is the favorite? ALso, what are your thoughts on Edwin Jackson?

Marc Normandin: As Mike Petriello has said, as long as Uehera is healthy, he should be great in the role. I'm a big fan of Koji--I drafted him in a few leagues with the expectation the job would eventually be his.

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs.com

12:18 Comment From Rob
Matt Wieters has been on a tear since making an adjustment to a more upright batting stance about 2 weeks ago. What do you see in your crystal ball for him this season?

12:19 Dave Cameron: He's finally hitting for power, which was the missing ingredient the last few years. I still think he can be an all-star.

12:58 Comment From Bodhizefa
What's your favorite ballpark food and drink (from a specific park)?

12:58 Dave Cameron: In general, I avoid buying food at parks. I'm cheap, and it's not cost effective. That said, Boog's BBQ in Baltimore was pretty great.

Jim Callis, Baseball America

Steve Johnson (Boston): Your thoughts on Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles?? More upside than Machado???

Jim Callis: That's crazy on the upside, but Schoop is worth watching. One of Baltimore's better prospects.

Jack Moore, FanGraphs.com

12:44 Comment From Steve
Stil think Mark Reynolds can hit .220 and hit 30 homers? He's getting destroyed by AL East pitching right now.

12:45 Jack Moore:
I mean, that's not the highest bar anybody's ever set... I think he'll get there.

12:55 Comment From Bob B.
Prognosis on Adam Jones?

12:55 Jack Moore:
His problems are all BABIP (.226). He's not hitting any line drives right now, but he's a major league hitter, and I have to think he'll work his way out of it.

Keith Law, ESPN

Brady Anderson (Baldwin)
If you were the Baltimore GM who is your untouchables at trade deadline???

Klaw (1:37 PM)
I can't see why they'd trade Wieters or Matusz or Britton, but every veteran player should be available.