Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Post at MASNSports.com: I Heart Troy Patton

In which I sing the praises of the unsung hero of the Oriole bullpen. Probably my last post for MASNSports for the season. It's been fun.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Random Thoughts About the Atlanta Series

The Orioles were in Atlanta over the weekend and I made it out to all three games as the Orioles took the series. Here are some varied observations:

* I got to watch the Orioles pitching staff throw 20.1 straight scoreless innings this weekend. If you ever get a chance to do that in person, I highly recommend it. It was the funnest.

* This is not a new revelation. I have lived in the Atlanta metro area for more than 8 years now and the Tomahawk Chop has not grown on me. I have not been to all 30 major league parks but I can't imagine there is a sillier tradition in baseball. I am almost embarrassed for the Braves fans every time they start in with it.

* I watched the first three games of Chris Davis' major league outfield career. He did no look completely comfortable but he really didn't do a bad job out there. He played 54 games in the outfield in the minors but for a guy who has been primarily a 1B/DH type for his MLB career, he really did an excellent job. Hit, pitch, field...is there anything Chris Davis can't do?

* I received some very annoyed tweets responding to my very annoyed tweet in which I called Brandon Beachy a "bum" who "routinely walks the park" and vented my frustration that the Orioles went to the plate the first two innings of Saturday night's game "hacking" and making Beachy's night easy. After looking more closely at his stats, I will retract the bum comment. But every time I flip by Peachtree TV and I see Beachy pitching, he is giving out free passes to opposing batters like they  were flyers for a comedy club. Especially down the stretch during the Braves' late season collapse of September 2011. So excuse me if those starts were more memorable to me than his good outings. We'll just call him an inconsistent young arm. But his SIERA and xFIP are in the same neighborhood as Jake Arrieta, a guy who is holding onto his starting job by his fingertips. NL ERA champ? Yes but probably not deserving of that much reverence.

* Speaking of ERA, with the way the Braves defense played this weekend, I am surprised all of their pitchers do not have sub-2.00 ERA's. Friday night's game was a frustrating loss because the Orioles were facing the best pitcher they would see all series in Tommy Hanson and he was not on his game. The Orioles had plenty of chances to tack on runs but didn't and lost by two. But let's give the Atlanta defense some credit. Some bad luck was involved with well-struck balls going right at Brave fielders but, generally, the Braves just made some great plays to kill rallies and keep runs off the scoreboard.

* Speaking of defense, I had never heard of Andrelton Simmons before this weekend. I won't forget his name now. Simmons was called up from AA as the Braves sent down fellow rookie Tyler Pastornicky to AAA Gwinnett who had struggled at the plate and, more importantly, in the field. Simmons was called up on June 1st and I don't think he's going back. He made more than one terrific play in the field this weekend and has shown patience and power at the plate in his short time in Atlanta. Now the Braves are talking about having Pastornicky focus on more of a utility role while in the minors. Simmons should be playing short for the braves for years to come and I am a fan.

* Speaking of being a fan, I certainly admired Wei-Yin Chen's pitching and understood how important his contributions to this team's winning record have been in 2012. But this was the first time I have seen him in person and I loved him. He fields his position so well, better than any Oriole pitcher I've watched since Brad Bergesen, and made some fine plays on Sunday, getting off the mound quickly and making a couple of heads up plays that many pitchers would not have been confident enough to make. Also, he's really quite fast, at least faster than I thought he'd be. When he laid down a sac bunt in the 6th yesterday, he made the play at first far closer than it had any right to be. He is completely cool under pressure and that fastball/changeup combo he has isn't bad either. I am a fan.

* Going to Turner Field with a normal ticket is a fine experience. Buy any of their value added tickets, however, and you may find yourself on a scavenger hunt. You bought the four-pack of tickets that come with dogs, drinks and a program? Ooohh, you can't redeem the food with your game tickets, you need to go two levels down and halfway around the park to the kiosk Sec. 132. Oh, I'm sorry, you have to go to the ticket booth in Sec. 146 , get vouchers for your program and food and come back here to 132. Oh, I'm sorry, you can't redeem your food voucher here and the counter nearest your section is closed. You'll have to go back downstairs, Sec. 217, I think.

Nobody seems to know how any of this works at the park and good luck finding the information on the website. I did eventually track it down but even all of those details were not consistent with how it worked at the park. Seems like that information should be front and center on the website and that the people involved in the process know how it all works. It's one thing that it's convoluted, it's another that it's not consistent.

Nor are the parks' security policies. Open your bags for search and then have to empty the entirety of your pockets one day, next day a cursory glance at the bag and nothing further. Again, I don't mind being inconvenienced or delayed as long as you are consistent. This has gotten worse over the years. Fix it, Braves.

* On a positive note for Turner Field, I like a good park organist and we have a good one in Atlanta. While the Braves all come up to their canned walk-up music, (I really enjoyed Martin Prado's walk-up music, by the way. A Latin ska-tinged number, something that I assume is big in Venezuela. If anyone knows what it is, let me know) the Turner Field organist came up with little ditties for each of the Orioles as they approached the plate. Some are stretches but you can get there is you think about it. Here are a few of my favorites from the weekend, see if you can figure out the connections"

      Jason Hammel - theme from "Star Wars"
      J.J. Hardy - theme from "Good Times"
      Chris Davis - "Kind of Blue"
      Adam Jones - "It's Not Unusual" (or the opening melody to "Pac-Man", which is obvious)
      Steve Pearce - "Round and Round" or "Radar Love"
      Robert Andino - "The Flintstones"
      Wilson Betemit - "The Gambler"

Some of these might be easier to figure out since I gave you the titles but hearing the tune, trying to figure out the tune and then the connection to the batter is a bit of geeky fun for me. Took me all weekend to deduce Steve Pearce.

* I like Steve Pearce. My head tells me he will not be all that useful going forward but  I really like something about how that guy plays.

* I am grateful, as a fan out here in the Oriole diaspora, that I got to see Brian Roberts play, and play well, one more time in person. There were times that I doubted I would ever see it at all and I am happy I got to see it first hand.

* Between innings, the Braves have some sponsored contests or quizzes up on the Braves-vision screen in center field. On Friday, they introduced an elderly gentleman on the screen and informed up that the man, clearly in his eighties had fought in World War II and the Korean War. This brought patriotic cheers and a standing ovation for the man. They brought out a $50 Publix gift card and the announcer said they were going to give it to him....if you can answer this multiple choice question! Jesus, just give the 80-something dual-conflict vet the card. Don't make him dance for it.

* I still hate the wave at a baseball game and, thankfully, most attempts to get it started during this series fizzled badly.

* A great series and a whole bunch of fun for an Oriole fan. My only complaint is that they still should have won Friday and had the sweep. I mean, Hunter was dog-crap that night...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Winning and Attendance: Part 1

I have said for years that the remedy for the poor attendance at Camden Yards is not signing premier free agents, not signing "exciting name players" for marketing purposes, not putting "Baltimore" back on the away jerseys and not a better customer experience at the park. Those things are nice but the factor that was going to move the needle for attendance was always going to be more wins.

Winning was the key. Baltimore is a good baseball town and if you put a competitive club on the field, the people will come.

Now we have a winner and I thought I'd take a look at how we are doing. After 30 home games, the Orioles are 35-26. Through 30 home games last season, the team was 26-31. In 2011, the team had muddled along at a few games under .500 for most of the year. This season, the Orioles came screaming out of the gate and have hovered around first place for most of the season. How's that working out for ticket sales?

Average attendance for 2011 through this point was 19,022 and average attendance for 2012 is 25,325. That is 6,303 more people per game or an increase of 33% over this time last year. It's still a bit early to pinpoint a real trend but that's an impressive jump. We'll keep an eye on this each month and see how all this winning helps things at the turnstile.

New Post On MASNSports.com: 'Pen Versus 'Pen

A post examining the clash of league-leading bullpens and take inventory of the arms in the Pirate bullpen and I predict that Chris Resop gets exposed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Don't Give Up on Jake Arrieta

With some of his recent struggles, some Oriole fans are questioning if Jake Arrieta needs to be sent back to Norfolk for awhile or at least removed from the Oriole rotation. While his hot start was a bit of a mirage, he has been and continues to be a fairly effective pitcher who has just gone through a rough patch.

From Fangraphs.com, observe stats from the last six starts for Arrieta.

Date         Opp IP HR BB SO K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP
6/3/2012 @TBR 4.2 0 4 3 5.79 7.71 0 0.154 46.20% 0.00% 7.71 4.31 5.84
5/29/2012 @TOR 4.1 0 3 5 10.38 6.23 0 0.4 35.70% 0.00% 12.46 2.8 3.78
5/23/2012 BOS 5.2 1 3 2 3.18 4.76 1.59 0.35 55.00% 25.00% 6.35 6.21 4.91
5/18/2012 @WSN 7 1 1 9 11.57 1.29 1.29 0.333 43.80% 14.30% 1.29 2.74 2.31
5/13/2012 TBR 3.2 0 2 6 14.73 4.91 0 0.667 35.70% 0.00% 17.18 1.39 3.33
5/8/2012 TEX 6.1 3 1 3 4.26 1.42 4.26 0.273 54.20% 42.90% 8.53 8.71 4.13

Pay close attention to the game-by-game FIP, xFIP and ERA numbers. Looking at the FIP and xFIP numbers, you see three pretty good starts, one that was shaky and two that were not good at all. But even though he's having his ups and downs, overall this is not a bad performance overall. It's a 4.81 FIP over those starts, nothing to be particularly proud of but hardly the disaster that his ERA and win-loss record would suggest.

Arrieta is still developing as a pitcher and has made some nice strides this season. His strikeouts are up, his walks are down and so is his WHIP and home run rate. He is making some mistakes, missing in the zone at times and getting hit hard. But there is nothing in his peripheral stats that raise any concerns. His defense is doing him no favors during this stretch either.

Arrieta will be fine over the course of the season. He has made good progress overall and although he will (in my opinion) never be the top of the rotation starter that some thought during his fast start, he is certainly a key piece of the Oriole rotation for 2012 and beyond.

Besides, who else is going to fill his spot in the rotation? The team is desperately looking for someone to take Tommy Hunter's place. Let Jake keep pitching and, eventually, the overall performance will match the underlying numbers.