Friday, February 29, 2008

Thoughts on the Thumping

I don't put a lot of stock in Spring Training results and nobody should. But it was diappointing to see very little positive on the field, let alone the box score, as the O's dropped their spring opener 16-3 to the Marlins.

Adam Loewen couldn't find the plate. Adam Jones couldn't run the bases. Ramon Hernandez couldn't field. Not good.

One of the bright spots was Brian Roberts (of course). The O's have scouts in Mesa, Arizona looking at the Cubs and the Cubs had some scouts at yesterdays game in Ft. Lauderdale. They didn't cross the continent for sheer amusement, I assure you.

Jay Gibbons got 3 AB yesterday before he was lifted in the 8th and is back in the starting lineup today. Make no mistake, the front office is going to give him a lot of at bats this spring to see if he has anything left or if they just want to eat the remainder of that bad contract.

Rocky Cherry pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two. Another bright spot.

Lots more to watch...hopefully some of it looks better than this.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Base Hits: 2/28/2008

The Cubs and Mark De Rosa are all downplaying this situation but De Rosa will be undergoing a procedure to correct his irregular heartbeat. This may turn out to be nothing but it's worth watching. Obviously, if it's worse than they think, the Cubs may be more desperate to acquire Brian Roberts and MacPhail can extract a better haul of players. Speaking of which, this note.


I like player blogs and look forward to more entries from Kevin Millar. Say what you will about Millar, I find his blog entertaining, informative and fairly candid. How many guys would admit that the losing wore him down mentally?


So I'm listening to the first Spring Training game from the WHFS feed. It's great that the games have started but this game doesn't have much for us to cheer about this afternoon.

Adam Loewen walked 4 in 1+ IP and Ramon Hernandez has two errors. Hernandez threw the ball into left trying to throw out Hanley Ramirez at third and dropped the ball during a potential play at the plate.

Not a good sign from Loewen as he works his way back from injury.

Now where can I score some Esskay bacon in Atlanta?


A story by Dan Connolly that ponders the possibility of Mark Texiera coming home to play for the Orioles in which Texiera says some flattering things about his hometown.

Oriole fans have harbored this false hope for a couple seasons but the bottom line is that Texiera is a nice guy and a fairly diplomatic fellow. I've heard similiar things out of his mouth about Atlanta since he arrived here last July. Here's an example.

ChopTalk: Your name was tossed around a lot at trade deadline time. What was your reaction when you heard Atlanta?

Mark Teixeira: I was excited. There are a lot of teams you may not want to be traded to, but Atlanta was definitely a team I was happy to come play for. I was here for college at Georgia Tech, and even spent a year (living) here after college. That made the comfort level that much greater. My wife, Leigh, and her family are from (Georgia, Habersham County north of Atlanta), and we both went to school here and still have friends living in Atlanta.

He has a lot of ties to this area as well. He's still a Scott Boras client. He's going to test free agency and will go to the highest bidder in all probability.

I'll call it now. If Texiera leaves Atlanta, he'll be wearing pinstripes in 2009.


Oriole Central has a Spring Training roundup. Reading that post reminds me that Dave Trembley is looking to carry a 12 man pitching staff. As much as I hate having to carry so many pitchers, the unproven rotation and problematic arms in the pen make it unavoidable. Hopefully we can narrow that number down to 11, maybe 10, sometime this season.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How Baltimore Can Win The East '08: The Case Against The Red Sox

It's kind of tough to tear down a team that just won the World Series twice in the last four seasons but I'll do my best...

1. Schilling Hurts More Than They Want To Admit

Yes, he is going to be 41 at the beginning of the season but the loss of Curt Schilling from that rotation is going to hurt. Schilling had the second best ERA among Red Sox starters behind staff ace Josh Beckett and his loss leaves the rotation looking a bit thin. You don't believe me?

Dice K had a Mussina-esque 5.19 ERA after the All-Star break. Either he wore down or hitters started catching up with him. Or both.

Wakefield is a fine back of the rotation guy but is also getting old. He battled back problems last year and posted his worst ERA since 2004.

The loss of Schilling also puts a heavier load on young hurlers John Lester and Clay Bucholz. Guess how many starts these guys made last year? Only 14 combined. (Lester had 11, Clay only 3) They might turn out to be fine pitchers but you're asking largely unproven kids to provide at least 25 starts each on a contending team. Not really sure that's a great idea. It's no wonder the Sox signed Bartolo Colon. They're desperate for help.

2. Mike Lowell Falls to Earth

Like Jorge Posada, Mike Lowell had a career year while in his mid-30's. Do you think a guy with a .280 career batting average is going to hit .324 again? No way. He'll probably hit in the .280 range and hit 20 homers but he is not going to be powering the Sox offense the way he did last year.

3. Some Guys Are Just Plain Getting Old

Jason Varitek will continue to decline this season as he has for the past two. He'll be 36 this year and barring a big fluke will be lucky just to be average at the plate.

Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest hitters of this generation but he has never been one known for really taking care of himself. 2007 may have been the beginning of his decline years as he went from a feared hitter to being a good but ordinary slugger. This may sound crazy to say but it could be that Manny's days of clubbing 30+ homeruns are behind him.

4. The Ellsbury Enigma

Is Jacoby Ellsbury going to hit .350 and slug .500 this season? Hell no! I would expect something in the range of .290 while slugging something closer to .425 or so. Is that bad? Not at all. Is it significantly better than what you might get from Coco Crisp? Not really.

But this is what the Red Sox are facing. If Crisp doesn't win the starter's job in centerfield, he wants out of Boston. Do the Sox, World Series champs and 2008 contenders hand the job to a rookie and let the veteran go?

The Sox have to hope that Ellsbury delivers enough extra offense to offset Crisp's superior defense. Crisp has been one of the best in the AL during his career while Ellsbury really is not known for defense.

Either way, they will not be as strong in center ad they were last year.

5. Will Lugo and Drew bounceback?

Not only did Julio Lugo forget how to hit once he arrived at Fenway, his defense regressed as well. Did the big city pressure and contract mess with his head? The curse of Nomar? Whatever the case, look for Lugo to hit below .260 again. Maybe his fielding rebounds, maybe it doesn't.

History tells us that J.D. Drew should have a rebound of sorts this season. He tends to have a good season every other year and although he avoided major injury in 2007, you can't say that the Sox weren't disappointed by his paltry power numbers (.423 SLG and 11 homeruns, both career lows.) The fragile Drew will be 32 this season and may be breaking down early. Ironically, his career compares pretty favorably to Kirk Gibson (excepting Kirk Gibson prowess at steals). Guess at what age Gibson's body began to truly fail on him? That's right, age 32.


Let's be honest. The Red Sox have a lot of strengths. Their bullpen is outstanding, David Ortiz is still a fearsome slugger in his prime and they have the best young second baseman in the AL not named Cano.

However, age and injuries may catch up with them this year, as well as some unproven players in crucial roles in the rotation and in center.

They aren't going to run away and hide with the AL East title this year...

Next Up: The Case FOR Baltimore

Friday, February 22, 2008

Base Hits: 2/22/2008

Let's take a look at Sprting Training, shall we?

The best news I've seen come out of Spring Training has been the trimmer, healthier Ramon Hernandez. Great to see.

Not thrilled to see the injured, perhaps lost for the season, Troy Patton. It's nobody's fault but it still sucks. The race for the back of the rotation (and Steve Trachsel's chances to go north with the team) open up a lot now.

Good to see Brian Roberts back on the field. Get well, Brian!


Keith Law conducted a chat on yesterday. He named Earl Weaver as the best tactical manager in baseball history. Also, he had this to say about Troy Patton:

steve (anaheim): Is Troy Patton done if he has a torn labrum or slap tear? Keep up the great work!

SportsNation Keith Law: I wouldn't say done, but it's very bad news for Baltimore. Shoulder problems often lead to long-term velocity loss, and he can't afford that.



According to Roch, Jay Gibbons is crushing the ball and Mike Cuellar may come in to work with the pitchers.


Speaking of Jay Gibbons, Weaver's Tantrum has a reflection on Jay Gibbons. It's brilliant.


A bitter look back in time. Only bitter for O's fans though as Geoff Young takes a look back at the top Pacific Coast League prospects...from 1988. Guess who's number 3? Juan Bell. How many of you remember who Juan Bell was? Hard to remember how highly he was though of back then...

A fake prize to the person who can give me Juan's claim to fame in Oriole history.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Baltimore Can Win The East '08: The Case Against the Yankees

The Yankees are no longer invincible. As far as I can tell, it gets worse in the Bronx before it gets better.

1. Like Last Year, the Pitching Staff Will Be a Problem

OK, Chien-Ming Wang appears to be a legitimate major league starter. But your ace? Outside of win totals (which vary greatly on run support) there is little difference between his 2007 performance and the performance of Baltimore's de facto ace Jeremy Guthrie. OK, that's a bit of a stretch but not a crazy comparison. Go look.

Andy Pettitte will be 36 this season and was a slightly better than average pitcher last season. He'll be average again (at best) and the Yankees will be thankful for it.

Mike Mussina is old and decrepit. He'll be lucky to post an ERA under 5.00 this season but the Yankees are leaning on him heavily and praying for a comeback season. Why?

Part of this is because of the kids projected to hold up the back end of the rotation. And they will be on strict innings limits according to Bob Klapisch of The Record (
Consider the math. The Yankees have three rookie starters, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, all on a strict innings limit this season. Chamberlain will be capped at 140 innings, Hughes at 160, Kennedy at 180-190. Assuming 45 or so of Chamberlain's innings are in the bullpen -- he'll start the season as the eighth-inning guardian -- that leaves a glaring hole in the equation.

That means they're counting on Mussina to pitch close to 200 innings this season, something he hasn't done since 2003. If he can't do it, that means someone like Kei Igawa's going to have to pick up the slack. Ouch.
The back of the rotation will be some combination of the kids listed above who may be great pitchers someday. But Yankee fans will no be forgiving if they struggle early and the Yankee fans and press have ruined the confidence of even veteran pitchers.

Lots of questions even if the rotation is healthy.

2. Jorge Posada Falls to Earth

After A-Rod, Jorge Posada was the best Yankee batter and by a huge margin. Do you think he's going to hit .338 again? He had never even hit .290 before last season! A great season but that season is over. The best you are going to see from him is .275 with 20 homeruns. And for a 36 year old catcher, that's a stretch. Unless your name is Carlton Fisk, offensive prowess for catchers does not last past 35.

3. Derek Jeter is the Worst Fielding Shortstop in Baseball

I love this one. In the short time this little blog has been in existence, I have beaten the drum about the Emporor's New Clothes that is Derek Jeter's defensive prowess. Finally, a study was done at Penn that named the three-time Gold Glove winner (Arrrgh! And Cal only got two? Arrrghh!) the worst defensive shortstop in the majors. Which is true and has been for 8 or 9 years now. Poor Jeter got his feelings hurt:

"Every [shortstop] doesn't stay in the same spot, everyone doesn't have the same pitching. Everyone doesn't have the same hitters running, it's impossible to do that."

Well Derek, the good ones choose the right spots to stand in. And everyone does have the same hitters running, over the course of a season. All the teams face essentially the same lineups over 162 games.
Pitching? I suppose if you had the same guys on staff for the last decade, that would be a valid argument. In 1999, roughly when you started to suck as a shortstop, the staff was Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Cone and Hideki Irabu. I know Clemens and Pettitte came back last year but come on. The Yankee staff has always had pretty high turnover.

Yankee Senior Advisor Gene Michael had this to say:

"Each team has a different staff. Derek doesn't really have a sinkerball pitching staff whereas other shortstops, you sit behind certain pitchers, you're going to get a lot of ground balls."

Gene have you met Mr. Wang? Gene meet Mr. Wang. He works for you. He does nothing but induce grounders about 60% of the time. Oh, and here's Mr. Pettitte. He works for you too. He induces grounders at a 50% rate over the last 4 years.

Ditto for Clemens.
Look the stats reflect what the eye reveals. Jeter can't go left. I don't care how hard you hustle. Diving for a ball that dribbles into left center doesn't make you a better fielder. It just means you fail with style.

Anyway, I should just write a long involved post about this some other time. But don't expect a 34 year old Jeter to be any kind of effective fielder in 2008.

4. Who's On First?

Would you want this guy manning first base for your team?

What a goober.

Easily the most annoying Yankee of the 21st century. And I can't talk about him without thinking of Peter Pan. (OK, Peter Pan was Sandy Duncan but my point still stands. Right?)

This is the leading candidate. Giambi can't play the field anymore. He's just a roided out shell of his former self.

Shelley Duncan. He had a nice year for a bench player but don't expect that to translate into success as a starter. There is nothing is his past to suggest he'll repeat the slugging clinic he put on last year.

And he has a girl's name...

5. Melky's the Man?

For all the fawning the New York press does over this guy, you would expect him to be better.

Cabrera .718
Patterson .690

Considering Corey Patterson's 2007 was viewed as a disappointment it's hard to see how Cabrera's marginally better bat was seen as a breakthrough. Equalizing for Patterson's defense and baserunning, I'd say they're pretty much even. You might even give the edge to Patterson. Maybe.

This wouldn't be a huge deal for the Yankees until you look at Johnny Damon's struggles, the offensive hole at first, a declining Posada and a decaying DH in Giambi. This outfield is not going to be very formidable at the plate in 2008.


If things are dicey early in the year, this team could literally implode. Youngsters manning crucial positions in the lineup and the pitching staff, surrounded by fragile old veterans who may not deliver the results their reputations promise.

The Bronx is burning indeed.

Next up: The Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


...the competition at shortstop is wide open.

"Esskay: We Were There For The Pubescent Years"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How Baltimore Can Win The East '08: The Case Against the Blue Jays

This is a tough one because the Blue Jays will be solid but not spectacular overall. Outside of their bullpen, there's nothing great about this team but there is very little bad about them.. What's that? They just signed the left side of the Cardinals infield? Players that contributed to a losing club and a third place finish in the woeful NL Central. OK, let's start there shall we?

1. David Eckstein is Playing Shortstop

Sparkplug? My hairy butt.

David Eckstein is one of the worst free agent signings the Jays have made in years. He is a big drop-off defensively from John McDonald (most other teams wanted to sign him to play second, not short) and hardly an upgrade offensively. He hit .300 last year but it was an empty .300. No power and very little patience at the plate. And that was in a weaker league, in the weakest division in baseball.

Toronto leadoff hitters only got on base at a .321 clip last season. Eckstein will be an upgrade in that sense but since so much of his OBP depends on his batting average, he's going to struggle to post an OBP in the .340 range. He'll be facing tougher pitching in the AL East than in the NL Central.

With the majority of Toronto starters being groundball pitchers, they will be watching a lot of grounders get through for singles to left center. I wonder what that will do for team chemistry.

2. Their Best Offensive Threat Is 46.

Frank Thomas is old. He's going to the Hall of Fame someday but in 2007 he just looked decrepit.

The only other legitimate offensive threat on the team is Alex Rios. The Jays are counting on an old, injury prone veteran to make this offense go. A risky move at best.

3. No Legitimate Catchers

Rick Dempsey's nephew will be 37 and finally started to hit the wall last season. He will be backed up by Rob Barajas who is a good backup catcher but he'll be called upon to carry more load than he should this season.

4. Injury Prone At The Corners

The Jays traded away the injury-prone Troy Glaus for an even more injury prone Scott Rolen. Rolen will be better defensively but they will lose some offense at the Hot Corner. And that's if he stays healthy all year. If he goes down, so will any offensive threat from third base.

1B Lyle Overbay is coming back from having a bunch of screws in his hand. There is no legitimate backup for him if he struggles to a .241 average like he did last season.

5. Legitimate But Injury Prone Rotation

Halladay and Burnett are studs but neither has a great track record of staying healthy. Last year was Burnett's turn as he only started 25 games. Both these guys need to start 30+ games for Toronto to finish above .500. They have some talented kids at the back of the rotation but...
Here's a look at the ERA's and FIP's from the primary starters last season:

Halladay 3.71 3.65
Burnett 3.75 4.44
McGowan 4.08 3.82
Marcum 4.13 5.05
Litsch 3.81 5.23

Halladay and McGowan put up numbers that are legit. They truly pitched as well as their ERAs suggest. The rest? Looks like they were aided by a) good luck and b) great infield defense.

(What's FIP? Start here.)

The Jays had the best infield defense in the AL last year (by RZR rating) which greatly helped their staff of groundballers. Are they going to repeat that performance with Eckstein at short in place of Jason McDonald? I think not. Look for the back half of the rotation to suffer while working around all those extra outs.


Outside of a great bullpen (which will get stronger with the return of B. J. Ryan) there are not a lot of sure things here. You can't hang your hat of a strong lineup, killer rotation or stellar defense. They will do all things fairly well...if everything goes absolutely right! That's a big "if" to deal with.

Next up: The New York Yankees

Monday, February 18, 2008

Base Hits: 2/18/2008

Damn, I love Spring Training!

The Baltimore Sun has a nice article on Orioles top prospect Matt Wieters. Also, check out the great photos from Ft. Lauderdale. Ramon Hernandez does look to be in great shape this season. A nice little tour of Ft. Lauderdale stadium on the video clips as well. Makes you want to be there, huh?


SS Alex Cintron signed a minor league contract with the Cubs. Another potential competitor for Luis Hernandez falls away.


Adam Jones arrived early to Spring Training and is looking to win over his new teammates.


Dave Stockstill's passport is going to be getting a good workout. And that's a good thing.


A really good, if heartbreaking, article by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun on the 5th anniversary of the death of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

5 Things to Watch in Spring Training

Pitchers and catchers report today baseball fans! Here's five things I'll be watching during Spring Training.

1. The Bullpen Auditions

With the acquisition of George Sherrill, the bullpen now has three spots locked up. (Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford being the others.) That means Rule 5 draftee Randor Bierd, Rocky Cherry, Brian Burress, Kim Mickolio, Greg Aquino, Jim Hoey, Bob McCrory, Dennis Sarfate, maybe Esteban Yan and others will be involved in a Battle Royale for the last three or four spots in the bullpen. None of these guys could be any worse than the crew we had last season...I hope.

2. The Scott Moore Factor

Unless Scott Moore completely tanks in Ft. Lauderdale, he is gong to push for significant playing time and will possibly push some veteran right off the roster. But where will he play? If he shows a good glove at third, Melvin Mora will quickly find himself on the trading block. If the club gives him primary duties at first, Jay Gibbons won't get a chance to redeem himself this season.

3. The Young Arms

With Erik Bedard gone, there are two spots open at the back of the rotation for a young hurler to grab. (Let's not fool ourselves, if there are viable options among these rookies, Steve Trachsel is not going north. Not yet.) Troy Patton comes over from Houston with the best resumé. Garrett Olson, Matt Albers, Radhames Liz, and Jim Johnson will also get a look. Hayden Penn will have to prove he's healthy before he gets a real look.

4. The Least Repulsive Option At Shortstop

Luis Hernandez has a near lock on the shortstop job at this point but despite what happened last season, it's going to be ugly for him at the plate. That fact may open the door for Brandon Fahey should he swing the lumber this spring. If neither look good on offense, the play in the field may decide the case. If both look bad, it may get Freddie Bynum more playing time at short but I would expect him to still be a utility man.

5. The Battle for the Backup Backstop - Part II

Unfortunately for Oriole fans everywhere, Paul Bako beat out Rule V pick Adam Donachie for this honor last season.

There's nowhere to go but up at this point. Former top prospect Guillermo Quiroz has the inside track but he's hardly a lock as he tries to recapture some of his lost potential. Chris Heintz played sparingly in Minnesota last season but has hit .313 against lefties in his career. Former big leaguer Ben Davis will be trying to get his career back on track and there is always the smallest chance that Matt Wieters will be so impressive that he makes the team, splitting time with the incumbent Ramon Hernandez. A real dark horse is IF Mike Costanzo who the Orioles acquired in the Miguel Tejada trade from Houston. He has been invited to report with pitchers and catchers to work out at the catcher position.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Top 5 Performances for Erik Bedard

Much in the way I did with Miguel Tejada, I decided to take a look back at at some of the highlights of Erik Bedard's career. Remember when you read this, he was a homegrown Baltimore Oriole. Thanks for the memories Erik.

#5 - September 2, 2004 - Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Toward the end of his rookie season, Erik Bedard put together his first great game. Bedard scattered 6 hits and worked himself out of a few jams over the course of the game. Twice, he had two runners on with one out and got out of the inning without allowing a run. Bedard would hold them to 1 run over 7 IP and the Orioles cruised to a 13-2 victory. It was a glimpse of things to come.

Bedard 7.0 6 1 1 1 6 0

#4 - May 4, 2005 - Toronto Blue Jays

It looked like a mismatch for Bedard as he squared off against former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. However, it was Bedard who was a mismatch for Blue Jay batters as he fanned 12 over the course of 8 innings. There were few jams to work out of this time. After putting two men on with one out in the first, Bedard proceeded to set down the next 9 batters in order including striking out the side in the top of the second. After allowing a walk to Corey Koskie in the 4th, he set the next 8 batters down in succession. It was a career high 12 strikeouts for Bedard as the O's roughed up Halladay and won 5-1.

Bedard 8.0 4 1 1 2 12 0

#3 - June 21, 2006 - Florida Marlins

The Marlins were not a great team in 2006 but they were winners of nine straight as Erik Bedard took the mound at Camden Yards. But Bedard was dominating as no runner made it to second base until the 8th inning. He again struck out 12 including Miguel Cabrera three times. This was the second game in a string of seven straight starts that Bedard would win, lowering his ERA nearly a run and a half over the rest of the season. In a way, it was his coming out party.

Bedard 8.0 2 0 0 0 12 0

#2 - July 7, 2007 - Texas Rangers

Against a lineup that would put 30 runs on the scoreboard against the O's later in the year, Bedard hurled a gem. He struck out a career high 15, walked none and gave up only two weak singles. Both baserunners were erased by double plays so Bedard faced the minimum. Bedard was rarely allowed to finish starts and this was his first (and only) complete game shutout. He finished the game strong by striking out the side in the bottom of the 9th.

Bedard 9.0 2 0 0 0 15 0

#1 - June 27th, 2007 - New York Yankees

Just as the Yankees were beginning to catch fire and make a white-hot run at the AL East crown, Bedard sent them home with their tale between their legs. Facing off against a roided-up Roger Clemens, Erik threw down the gauntlet as he struck out Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez in succession to open the game. (Jeter and Rodriguez would whiff twice against our former ace that day.) Bedard held one of the most feared lineups in baseball scoreless for 7 innings before turning the game over to Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford to complete the shutout.

Bedard 7.0 2 0 0 1 8 0

See you later Erik. Too bad we couldn't build a contender around you. When you face the Orioles this year, could you leave a hanging curveball over the plate every now and then? Thanks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Base Hits: 2/12/2008

The Orioles have signed Steve Trachsel to a minor league deal. I don't mind this signing, especially since it's only a minor league contract. I like the idea of bringing in a veteran starter as insurance so you don't have to rush your young arms but I was not thrilled with the prospect of signing a guy like Josh Fogg to major league money to do it. A good low risk move that could prove to be a godsend come April.


I was reading this story in the Sporting News and it mentioned something I've heard a lot lately. The conventional wisdom has the Orioles on their way to losing 100 games in 2008. I don't buy it. The Nationals were written off in this manner before 2007 and they didn't even lose 90. It won't be pretty but I don't think this team will be appreciably worse than last year. More on that later...


J.R. House is reporting to Spring Training with the Houston Astros. I still don't think we gave this guy a fair shot.


Quite a detailed look at the Erik Bedard trade at The Hardball Times. The bottom line is most thought Seattle gave up too much for him which, by reflexive property, means that we got the better of the deal on paper.


Finally, a look at the Bedard trade from Baseball America. There's not much new here except for the detailed look at the prospects (besides Adam Jones) who Baltimore acquired in the deal.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Finally! Erik Bedard is a Mariner!

I will admit that I had mixed feelings about trading away Erik Bedard. I would have much rather seen him signed to a long term deal. The truth of the matter was, Bedard didn't want to stay through a rebuilding process and even if he did, there's no guarantee the Orioles will be good enough to contend in 4 or 5 years as the farm system is now. So he had to be traded and we had to get good return for him.

I think we did.

Further consolation is that Mariner fans hate this deal. A lot. That means it's a good trade for us, no?

The five new Orioles are as follows. You probably know their names by heart since the trade has been rumored since December. (!?!?!)

Adam Jones - CF - Adam "The Truth" Jones. Why the truth? Because the only thing we know for sure at this point is that Adam Jones speaks it.

Jones was obviously the key to this deal. He's the best young outfielder the Mariner's have and he's ready to play now. He hit over .300 and 25 homers in only 101 games at AAA Tacoma in 2007. Speed and power now patrol centerfield at Camden Yards. We haven't been able to say that since Brady Anderson was in his prime. At only 22, he could be a real special player.

What can we expect from him this season? Tons of strikeouts and flashes of brilliance.

George Sherrill - RP - He has a rep as a LOOGY but the numbers show he is more than that. He's kind of a flyball pitcher, not exactly the recipe for success at Camden Yards but he only gave up one homer away from pitcher friendly Seattle. Sherrill would have the inside track on the closer's job going into Spring Training.

Kameron Mickolio - RP - He's potentially major league ready at this point and commands closer type stuff. He rung up 28 Ks in 24 inning in AAA Tacoma last year and has 8.48 K/9 for his minor league career. He'll only be 24 and will join Jim Hoey as youthful candidates for the closer spot this season.

Chris Tillman - SP - Big righty, big strikeout guy. Only 19. He had issues giving up the long ball in High Desert last year. Tillman only went 6-7 with a 5.26 ERA but forget that. He was a bit unlucky. His FIP ERA at High Desert was 3.93. He struck out more than a batter an inning and induced grounders on 40% of all balls put in play. He was way better in July and August than he was in May and June. It's just the learning curve. Big upside. The #6 Mariner prospect on

Tony Butler - SP - Very young, very raw starting pitching prospect. Only 20, he struggled a bit at high A ball but misses lots of bats. He's a long way from taking the mound at OPACY. The #4 prospect in the Mariner system.

If he had to go, MacPhail did a good job of getting back a nice haul for Bedard.
Let the rebuilding begin.

How Baltimore Can Win The East '08: The Case Against The Rays

These are the series of posts where I get to let my optimism run wild! No better time for them than the leadup to Spring Training.

Going into 2007, it was a big stretch to think that this team was gong to finish above .500 and maybe even steal their way into second place. This year, that's an Evel Knieval jumping the Snake River Canyon sort of leap. But this is baseball, where hope springs eternal. Anything can happen and as proof, I offer the 1989 Baltimore Orioles.

The first thing the Orioles will need is some help from the rest of the division. Some of the other teams have to underachieve or have really bad luck for Baltimore to get a shot.

I'll start by examining the issues facing the Tampa Bay Rays. This is a big step up for their organization as I simply dismissed them without comment last year. However, some of their minor league talent is coming of age and with the Orioles in full overhaul mode, we could be battling this team yet again just to escape the AL East cellar.
1. The Rotation Is a Question Mark After Kazmir

Scott Kazmir is an unquestionable stud. He's an ace on practically any team in the league. After that, you have James Shields who showed the ability to get guys out for the first time in his career. After that...Matt Garza? A guy with some promise but that 3.69 ERA he sported in Minnesota last year was a bit of smoke and mirrors. His FIP was 4.52 and he'll be facing better offenses more often this season. Edwin Jackson? His control makes Daniel Cabrera look like Bob Tewksbury. Their 5th spot in the rotation will be filled by unproven guys who make me feel much better about the back of our rotation.

2. Carl Crawford...and Then What?

Crawford is a star player but he's just about the only sure thing in the lineup. And even he is not the kind of hitter that can carry a team. He's the table setter. Rocco Baldelli is injury prone. Carlos Pena came out of nowhere to post MVP type numbers in 2007. Is he really going to repeat that performance? The only other batter with a track record is SS Jason Bartlett and his track record is that he's a good fielder who will hit weakly. This lineup could score a lot of runs but they're going to have to count on a lot of youngsters make giant strides to do so.

3. The Bullpen Stinks

You have to go a long way to outdo the stinkiness of the Oriole bullpen last season. You can smell the Tampa bullpen all the way up here in Atlanta as their relievers were worse by nearly half a run. Their 6.16 ERA was the worst in the majors. At least the Oriole had a couple guys who were decent last year (Walker and Bradford), someone to build a pen around. The Rays only had one reliever with an ERA under 4.00 all year (Juan Salas, who missed nearly two months with injury). They've got nothing. The Rays are trying to revamp their 'pen by bringing Troy Percival out of retirement and signing Kurt Birkins! Good luck with that chumps.

4. They Can't Catch The Ball

By any metric you want to use, the Rays were the worst defense in the American League. Their Fielding Percentage, RZR, DER, Plus/Minus...all of it rank dead last. Akinori Iwamura was the worst defensive 3B in the AL last year. Moving him to 2B will help the offense but it won't do anything for the defense. Bartlett at short will help but he was worse than Miguel Tejada last year. Dioner Navarro is not a great defensive catcher and is unlikely to get better. The only above average fielder outside of Carl Crawford (Delmon Young) was traded away. It's ugly.

5. The Key Contributors on Offense...Will Be Kids

Evan Longoria is penciled in as the starting 3B. He may be a great player someday but he has never had a major league at bat. Even Dustin Pedroia struggled the first half of 2007. Navarro is not going to improve much. Only B.J. Upton could be reliably counted on to contribute significant offense among the young players. I think the growing pains will hinder the Rays offense for at least half the season.


It's kind of a chic pick to say that the Tampa Bay Rays will finally take over at least fourth place in the Al East (if a pick for 4th place can be chic). I don't see it. Baltimore would have to lose 100 games for the Rays to overtake them.

I see very little pitching, very little defense and an inconsistent offense.

By the way, no team has changed its name in the last 50 years and finished with a winning record the next year.

Get back into the cellar!

Next up: Toronto

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Base Hits: 2/6/2008

With all the trades going down this offseason, I decided to add a few modules to track how all these trades are working out for the Baltimore Orioles. I am measuring them in Win Shares accumulated after the trade by the players involved and then showing an advantage to one team or the other. What's a Win Share (WS)? More on that can be found here.

For perspective, in the ill-fated Glen Davis trade, the players Baltimore traded away (Finley, Harnisch, Schilling) went on to accumulate 437 WS while Glen Davis contributed a meager 12. That would be a 425 WS advantage for Houston!

And that would be the standard for a bad trade.


Jim Palmer just won a malpractice suit against an opthamologist who, among other things, tore Palmer's retina during cataract surgery. Eeesh.


The big club could take a lesson from one of its minot league affiliates. The Frederick Keys have been voted by Frederick Magazine readers as one of the best entertainment values in town. Why? In part because they have not raised ticket prices in eight years.


I keep hearing the Orioles might trade Erik Bedard. Could this possibly be true?


Former Oriole Javy Lopez is back with the Braves trying to resurrect his major league career.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Book Review: The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers

The offseason is when I usually do my baseball reading so I figured it would be interesting to write my Oriole-centric observations of these books. Got it? Good.

Bill James breaks the book down into decades and determines the best managers of each decade and then tells you about their styles, tendencies, innovations and the like. There were really great writeups on two Oriole managers: Ned Hanlon and Earl Weaver.

Everybody knows Earl Weaver but do you know Ned Hanlon? Ned Hanlon managed the great Oriole teams of the 1890's, back when the O's were still a National League team and winning pennants like mad.

Anyway, James details how Hanlon's influence is still felt in the game today and can trace the lineage of influence back from current mangers to Hanlon. For instance, Tony La Russa played for Dick Williams, who in turn played for Walter Alston, who played for Frankie Frisch, who played for John McGraw, who played for Ned Hanlon on the old Baltimore Orioles.

Furthermore, you can trace the "lineage" of many Oriole managers of the modern era back to Hanlon and the Baltimore Orioles of the National League. Earl Weaver, Paul Richards, Hank Bauer, Joe Altobelli and Davey Johnson all spring from Hanlon's disciples. It a tangible link between the Orioles of the 19th century and the club that was reborn in 1954.

The analysis of Earl Weaver is one of the most entertaining reads I've had in awhile. Weaver was dedicated to the idea of platooning players, this we all know. What I didn't know was after the advent of the DH, Weaver would routinely carry only 9 pitchers on the roster so he could carry 16 hitters to fuel his various platoons!

To Weaver, it was all but impossible to get every situation covered with just 25 men on the roster. It wasn't a question of having 25 men and only 18 of them playing; if he'd had 30 men, he'd have started pinch hitting in the 4th inning, and he'd have used all 30.

Truer words were never written.

Weaver was also a huge proponent of the big inning and hated giving up outs. His success in this area drove the sacrifice bunt to near extinction in the American League.

But my favorite assessment was this:

Weaver wasn't interested in what a player couldn't do. He was interested in what a player could do. If he can't hit a breaking pitch, you don't play him against Bert Blyleven. If he can't run, you pinch run for him-but you don't let that stop you from developing what the player can do. It's the things that a player can do that will win games for you.

Isn't that great? It's this characteristic that I see in Dave Trembley. Sam Perlozzo used to worry about his player's flaws or the type of player he felt was missing from the lineup. Trembley isn't like that. He needed a cleanup hitter and turned to Kevin Millar, not because he is a classic cleanup hitter but because he was the best suited for the job of the players on the roster. He didn't worry about Corey Patterson's strikeouts and low OBP, he saw his speed and bunting ability and stuck him in the 2 slot to good effect.

Anyway, I recommend the book to anybody. A great read and an interesting look at how the game has evolved over the last 120 plus years.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Base Hits: 2/4/2008

Keith Law on has released his list of 100 top prospects in baseball and there are a few (OK, three) Orioles on the list.

Matt Wieters is listed as the #14 prospect in all of baseball and the top catching prospect on the list. No big surprise there.

Mildly surprising is the inclusion of Nolan Reimold at #39 and the fact that he is listed as the #5 corner outfield prospect in baseball. Reimold has power and, after watching the AFL Championship game, more speed than I had previously given him credit for. But he has so little to show for it on the field, I was surprsied Law thinks so highly of him. I'll take it though. Maybe he's better than I thought.

The other Oriole on the list is SP Chorye Spoone at #96. Says Law:

Spoone has the potential for three plus pitches, with an explosive fastball with good bore that generates a lot of groundballs. Definite sleeper.

Only having 3 prospects out of a list of 100 is not great but we must crawl before we can walk...


Some minor league signings for the O's last week including the return of relief pitcher Esteban Yan. Yan's signing has caused some minor howling in the O's blogosphere but it's only a minor league contract and, hey, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle. But in reality, this guy's never going to see the major league roster. Catcher Chris Heintz has a better shot at seeing significant playing time in 2008 than Yan.


Erik Bedard is likely to be traded this week, blah, blah, blah...


Enchanting Sunshine went north to Baltimore to meet some of the '83 Orioles. Here's the story.


A very good, very concise guide to Oriole Spring Training that I not only enjoyed but may render a post I was working on completely redundant. Good stuff.

10 Days until Pitchers and Catchers Report