Friday, June 27, 2008

Base Hits: 6/27/2008

"That's how you're gonna beat 'em, Butch. They keep underestimating you."

- Butch Coolidge (Pulp Fiction)

When Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella saw his interleague schedule, he was relieved.
The Cubs were matched up against the American League East this season, but didn’t draw the Yankees or the Red Sox. Turns out, he should’ve been worried about the Rays and the Orioles...

The Cubs (49-30) won two of three at Toronto but dropped five of six against the surprisingly good Rays and Orioles.

“I thought maybe we caught a break,” Piniella said. “But this was before we played Tampa Bay and Baltimore.”

They keep underestimating you Orioles. That's how you're going to beat them!


Buster Olney talks with some Oriole players as they continue surprise this season. And he's honest enough to admit he only had this team winning 56 games this season.


I wonder how long Sam Perlozzo will be able to hang on to his coaching gig in Seattle? Doesn't look like Perlozzo's sunny disposition is helping anything out there.
But Dave Trembley is certainly helping things in Baltimore. A good article about the Orioles skipper over at Pressbox Online.


Win Share data on the Trade Tracker is updated now. The Tejada and Bedard deals continue to look great in the short term as well as the long term.
I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier but the Orioles are eliciting some great reaction shots from the opposition. So here's today's Oriole-Inflicted Grimace of the Day:

This Jason Marquis grimace is courtesy of an Aubrey Huff double in the third inning of yesterday's game.


Want to learn more about the newest Baby Birds? Nobody is doing it better than Camden Depot as they look at each draft pick the Orioles made in 2008. (Well, at least the first few picks...)


Song of the Week: A sons from Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire. This one's called Rebellion (Lies). Have great weekend and let's sweep the Nats!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

At The Game: Birmingham Barons

I was in Birmingham over the weekend for a wedding but managed to get away Saturday night to see a ball game. The Birmingham Barons were hsoting the Jacksonville Suns in a Southern League showdown at Regions Field.

The Barons are probably most famous for being the minor league team that Michael Jordan played for during his attempt to play professional baseball. The Barons used to have pretty cool uniforms but Saturday night they sported some cheesy powder-blue jerseys:

Not too suave if you ask me.

It was Star Wars night which entertained my son to no end.

A very nice stadium and a good game experience except for one minor complaint. They had all these inflatable, jumpy things over in a plaza near leftfield. There is no sign stating that your kid cannot play on them until you buy him a $5 ticket! You only find out once you get right outside the moonwalk (or whatever they call them these days). It would be nice to know beforehand.

The weather threatened but we never got more than a passing sprinkle.

The Barons won the game 2-0. Barons SP Carlos Torres (leads the Southern League in wins, second in strikeouts) shut down the Suns for 8 innings and then turned the game over to closer Jon Link (leads the league in saves) who picked up his 19th save. Then the fireworks began!

More pictures of the game below.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

O's Keep Surprising

Ronny Cedeno's face says it all...

The Orioles continue to shock the world.

Last night was such a feel-good game I had to write something this morning. Nick Markakis flashing the leather. Four double plays turned. Two triples (Luke Scott and Brian Roberts). Sherrill striking out the side to get the save. Jeremy Guthrie getting a rare but well-deserved win. Good stuff.

What you have to love about this team is that they compete. They go on the road to face the best team in the National League and just handle them.

This team is 15-11 since being "mired" in last place on Memorial Day.

After the O's leave Wrigley, the play the Nationals, Royals, Rangers and Toronto in succession. Keeping their heads above .500 looks pretty good for the foreseeable future.

Burres vs Lilly tonight. Give Jay Payton a start!

Let's go O's!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Base Hits: 6/19/2008

Oriole Magic is alive and well. Baltimore comes from behind again (only 1 run but still...) to win in extra innings. The Orioles now have 36 wins and 22 of them have been comeback wins.


The offense is finally starting to heat up. June OPS's for major players:

June OPS
Hernandez .760
Millar .811
Huff .911
Roberts .954
Bynum .404
Mora .794
Markakis 1.037
Jones .796
Scott 1.222
Payton .837

Outside of that sucking sound eminating from shortstop, these are all very encouraging trends. Especially for Adam Jones. I had such high hopes for Freddie Bynum though.


I have nothing against Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada but it does make me happy that they wanted out of town and now are on teams that are worse than the Orioles. Of course, it's a Catch 22. We wouldn't be so good without the pieces we got in return for those guys. (Sarfate, Albers, Scott, Jones, Sherrill, etc.)

I have seen credible reports that the Mariners may try to move Bedard at the deadline in July. Wow. That was a really bad trade for them...


Jay Gibbons has signed on with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League. Good luck to Jay, it's a long road back.

Jay joins fellow ex-Oriole Todd Williams as a Duck.


God, I can't wait for the Orioles to face off against the Yankees and Sidney Ponson.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Nailbiters

The Orioles have a one run lead in the 9th inning. The call to the bullpen sets your stomach to churning. Yeah, he's the closer. He's the best reliever on the team, in theory. But you don't feel good about him. He's about to take you on an eight minute emotional rollercoaster as Baltimore tries to hang on for the win...

You know that feeling. The Baltimore Orioles have had closers that come in and get the job done but they make you sweat while doing it. Current closer George Sherrill has this effect on the fans and has elicited comparisons to 70's closer Don Stanhouse with his ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. So where does he rank in Oriole history? I decided to find out.

These "nailbiter" closers couldn't be bums. They had to have a fair level of competence to qualify. I put the cap at 20 saves and ranked them by the number of base runners they allowed on average, Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched (WHIP). Here's the top ten:

10. Armando Benitez - 1998 - 22 SV, 5-6, 1.273 WHIP

In his last year in Baltimore, Benitez saved 22 games for a losing team but 10 home runs in 68 innings says it all. No lead was truly safe. Just to make it interesting, he hit 4 batters too.

9. Tim Stoddard - 1980 - 26 SV, 5-3, 1.279 WHIP

In his only year as the primary "fireman", Stoddard allowed 72 hits in 86 innings but kept the ball in the yard and posted an impressive 2.35 ERA for a team that won 100 games.

8. Stu Miller - 1963 - 27 SV, 5-8, 1.300 WHIP

Miller saved exactly 100 games during his Oriole career but during his first year his appearances were a real adventure. In 112.1 innings pitched he walked 58 and gave up 93 hits but his 114 strikeouts got him out of most of the jams unscathed.

7. Don Stanhouse - 1979 - 21 SV, 7-3, 1.376 WHIP

If not the king of the nailbiters, he was certainly the crown prince. The most maddening thing about Stanhouse was not the hits but the walks. 51 in 72.2 IP.

6. Gregg Olson - 1991 - 31 SV, 4-6, 1.398 WHIP

Olson is the one I remember most vividly. It seemed like he had to put a man on base before he was comfortable. Again, that sweeping curve ball garnered 72 Ks in 74 IP getting him out of many jams.

5. Jorge Julio - 2004 - 22 SV, 2-5, 1.420 WHIP

The name makes my blood run cold. 11 HR in 69 innings. More on him later.

4. Don Stanhouse - 1978 - 24 SV, 6-9, 1.500 WHIP

Again, 52 walks in 74.2 IP. But he induced 9 double plays and managed a 2.89 ERA.

3. Randy Myers - 1996 - 31 SV, 4-4, 1.517 WHIP

Honestly, I don't remember feeling anxious when Myers came in to close the game. Maybe because 1996 is completely overshadowed by Myers' dominant 1997 performance. But here he is. 60 hits in 58.2 IP including 7 home runs.

2. Doug Jones - 1995 - 22 SV, 0-4, 1.521 WHIP

The Orioles picked him up off the scrapheap and a year later, they put him back. 55 hits in 47 innings pitched and 6 homers. 5.01 ERA. Bad juju.

1. Jorge Julio - 2003 - 36 SV, 0-7, 1.524 WHIP

Over the course of 2003 and 2004, Julio pitched 130.2 innings and gave up 21 home runs! Aaarrgh!!! Sorry, I flashed back for a second.

So where's George Sherrill? As it turns out, Sherrill has posted a 1.125 WHIP thus far. That puts him only behind Tippy Martinez (1983), Chris Ray (2006) and Stu Miller (1965). Doesn't seem that way but so far Sherrill's been as lights out as any closer in Orioles history.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mark Teixeira: He's Not Coming and We Don't Want Him

The relative success of the 2008 season has some Oriole fans starting to talk about the possibility of the Orioles signing Mark Teixeira in the offseason again. I have detailed before why he's not coming but I don't think I've gone into why we Oriole fans shouldn't want him here.

First, you have to understand that he will be commanding a salary somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year. If Andruw Jones can command $18 million per year, Teixeira can command more than that without blinking an eye.

So what are you buying for your money? Presumably, a team is going to pay a premium for Teixeira to get a bonafide slugging first baseman.

Fine. Texieira may be that man. But since the year he hit 43 home runs for Texas, his home run numbers have been in decline. Since 2005, he has hit 43, 33 and 30. He is on a pace to hit just 24 this year. And during his best years for Texas, his home/road splits were quite dramatic.

Home OPS Road OPS
2004 .967 .893
2005 1.109 .809

His Isolated Power (ISO) has been in steady decline too. Since 2004:

2004 .279
2005 .274
2006 .232
2007 .257
2008 .175

The ISO for 2007 would look even worse if not for the red-hot August and September Teixeira had once he got to Atlanta. He posted ISOs of .325 and .268 respectively.

That success has not carried into this year. .276 AVG, 10 HR, slugging .448. Not the numbers of premier major league slugger. But he will be expecting to be paid like a premier major league slugger.

I think Mark Texieira is a good hitter. He will probably be a good component for a team that is already good. If I thought the O's were one hitter away from contending, maybe my opinion would be different. But the Orioles are not just one hitter away. And he's not going to be the man. He's not going to be a dominant hitter. And he's certainly not a good bet to be that kind of hitter over the course of a 7-year/$140 million contract.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Base Hits: 6/11/2008

Steve Trachsel, for all intents and purposes, is gone. Trachsel was a placeholder until the youngsters were ready to take over so the bright side of all this is that The Warehouse must believe that there are enough arms in the system ready to take his place.

Trachsel had two very solid starts to begin the season but imploded immediately after and hasn't been effective since.

Later Steve. Thanks for netting us Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry from the Cubs (both of whom will still be good players for Baltimore, eventually.)


As I type, Jim Palmer is having a chat on


Batters against Brian Burres:

1st PA in G: .787 OPS, 2nd PA in G: .794 OPS, 3rd PA in G: .834

Not to harp on this but send Brian Burres to the bullpen please. I like the guy but not as a starter. Time for Matt Albers to get a shot.


Brian Roberts is quietly putting together a fantastic season. He's the best second baseman in the AL and arguably the best leadoff hitter in the major leagues. He makes Dustin Pedroia look like a punk. He is still going to bring back a nice haul at the trade deadline.


I find this next item very sad. Jay Gibbons is begging for work. This is the letter he has written and submitted to every Major League club:

Writing this letter is both painful and humiliating.

I am young, healthy and determined. I have acknowledged and apologized for the mistake that I made and writing this letter should be proof enough that I have indeed suffered for my mistake.

I have faith and hope that some team will give me the chance to prove that I can not only be a productive player but also be a stellar member of their organization.

My faith in a second chance has inspired me to work harder than I have at any time in my life.

All I need is a chance -- any chance -- anywhere. I am more than willing to begin the process of proving that I can and will be a productive major league player by playing in the minor leagues.

At 31 years old, I have NO DOUBT that my best baseball is ahead of me.

I know that my agents at ACES have tried to land me an opportunity in the minor leagues but have been met with negative responses by each and every Organization.

I am not blind to the fact that I have made a mistake and that mistake has raised doubt about my character and ability. It is important that you know that my indiscretions, while regretful, were made in an effort to heal a nagging wrist injury.

I respectfully and humbly request that you grant me the chance to play for your organization.

I am so willing to prove myself as a player, and a person, that I will donate ALL of my minor league earnings to your Club's charity. In the event that I earn the right to play at the major league level, I will gladly donate a significant sum to that same charity.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jay Gibbons

The guy is offering to work FOR FREE! I wish Jay the best of luck with his efforts to continue his career. He may really be done but you'd think some team would take a flier on him. When you look at some of the human flotsam on AAA rosters, Gibbons compares quite favorably.

I can't believe I'm saying this but I wouldn't even mind seeing him in Norfolk.

Good luck Jay. You were always a good guy in my eyes.


By the way, the Orioles need to go 30-69 to reach the foregone conclusion of 100 losses. Stick it PECOTA!

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Continuing Transformation of Daniel Cabrera

Daniel Cabrera continues his remarkable season. Even if you don't find his results remarkable, it is certainly a remarkable season with respect to how he is reinventing himself. With the help of, I'm going to take a look what's different and where these changes will lead. The blue lines represent league averages, the green lines are Cabrera's performances.

First, his K/9 rate and his BB/9 rate:

The important thing you will notice on these graphs are the three year trends. Cabrera's K rate has dropped from more than 9 per 9 innings to just under 5 per 9 this year. For most pitchers this would be a really bad sign but Cabrera's notoriously high walk rate has also dropped precipitously from off-the-charts bad (literally) to right around league average. Ironically, his K/BB ratio is about the same as it ever was.

So Cabrera gave up some K's for improved control. And that has led to fewer men on base:

But fewer K's mean more balls in play. What's happening with all that extra contact? Well, some of that contact is putting balls over the fence:

This is what concerns me the most about the new Daniel Cabrera. He was always excellent at keeping the ball in the park but that home run rate has spiked. It's not as bad as I thought though. Even with the spike, he's right around league average and as long as that WHIP stays down, he should be OK.

But this is the graph that reflects the real value of the "new and improved" Daniel Cabrera:

Note the three-year rise in Ground Ball Percentage from Cabrera and the corresponding three year drop in Line Drive and Fly Ball Percentage. This is the most telling trend and will be the most valuable component to Cabrera's continued success.

Daniel Cabrera has:

1) Sacrificed strikeouts for better control of his pitches.
2) Pitched to contact more and challenged batters to put the ball in play.
3) Has transformed himself from a struggling strikeout king to a groundball inducing innings eater.

The projections for Cabrera once he finally "got it" always pointed towards a Randy Johnson-type development; power pitcher, lots of strikeouts, periods of sheer dominance of opposing hitters. But dramatically and unexpectedly, he has morphed into a pitcher whose projection looks a lot more like Andy Pettite; moderate strikeouts, lots of groundballs, keeping down the walks! Now how many people would have guessed you could have described Daniel Cabrera as a guy who could keep the walk rates low.

Does this mean Cabrera will become a righthanded version of Andy Pettite? No. The low strikeout rate and the homers given up will prevent him from being a star caliber pitcher. But when you see him in the rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie, Garrett Olson and Matt Albers/Radhames Liz over the next two years? A guy with legitimate number two starter talent in the 3rd or 4th spot in your rotation? That's very valuable.

And last season nobody thought that would be possible.

Friday, June 6, 2008


God, I LOVE Armando Benitez!

See how Armando snatches defeat from the jaws of victory? Brilliant!

Adam "The Truth" Jones is quickly becoming the most clutch hitter on the team.

Base Hits: 6/6/2008

Lots going on in Birdland this week.

The O's drafted LHP Brian Matusz yesterday. I was hoping for a position player but when high school SS Tim Beckham and Vanderbilt 3B Pedro Alvarez went off the board, I was OK with South Carolina 1B Eric Smoak or the best pitcher available. Matusz was, by most accounts, the best pitcher available.

According to Keith Law (whose opinion I've come to respect):

If we set aside the relievers, Brian Matusz (taken by Baltimore with the No. 4 pick) stands out as a player who could -- and should -- move quickly. If he goes to A-ball or even Double-A, he could miss bats left and right with his off-speed stuff and never have to work on improving his fastball command. He might not be challenged at all until he reaches the big leagues, which is a strong argument for getting him to the majors sooner rather than later, especially when you consider the general fragility of pitchers' arms.

Nothing wrong with that. Hopefully we see Matusz in Baltimore in 2009.

It was nice to see that the next four picks were spent on position players.


Screech is back! O's claimed him off waivers from Oakland and sent him to Norfolk. The Orioles can't have enough position player depth in their system.

Also, Luis Hernandez is gone. Maybe he'll be able to develop into a serviceable utility player. Both he and Brandon Fahey failed to capitalize on golden opportunities to become big league regulars this year, with their bats and their gloves. Here's hoping Freddie Bynum or Alex Cintron seizes that opportunity.


The Orioles plans to renovate the Spring Training facility in Ft. Lauderdale have hit a snag. Vero Beach beckons...

I sound like a broken record but I'm hoping the Orioles take over the former Dodgertown.


Adam Loewen will pitch out of the bullpen when he comes off the DL. That's a good idea. the rotation has pitched well so far and Loewen just may not be up to being a starter at this point in his career. A season or two in the 'pen might be just what the doctor ordered.


I updated the Oriole Trade Trackers. By measure of Win Shares, the Tejada and Bedard trades are looking like real fleecings in Baltimore's favor...even this year.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Orioles Draft LHP Brian Matusz

Andy MacPhail has gone and acquired more pitching for the Oriole farm system.

The Orioles drafted LHP Brian Matusz from the University of San Diego. He's one of the few potential Oriole draft picks that I have not seen play at all.

Meet Brian Matusz:

Some more from the big lefty:

He's 6'5" and throws in the mid-90's. You certainly can't have enough lefthanded heat in your system.

He is very polished and thought to be able to move quickly through the system. Hopefully, they can get him signed quickly and get him his first taste of professional ball.