Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 100-100 Club

Just like the last 10 years, I struggle to look for something to root for at the end of the season. Coming into the month, I was rooting for 70 wins. But stuck on 67 in the midst of an 8 game losing streak, the chances of winning three of the next four is slim. (The bright side: the Orioles will get at least the 6th pick in the draft next year...good news for a team that seems willing to do something useful with those picks.)

So what's left? I'm rooting for Nick Markakis to walk once more time in the next four games and become the first Oriole to join the 100-100 club in 18 years.

What's the 100-100 club? Long before I knew what the Three True Outcomes were, I was a big fan of players who could draw 100 walks while striking out 100 times in a season. Don't ask me why, there was just something about a guy who demonstrated a great eye at the plate but wasn't afraid to swing away and fail either. Mickey Tettleton was my favorite player in this regard and had 100-100 seasons multiple times, though only once with the Orioles.

Nick could become only the third player in Oriole history to reach those milestones in the same season. The others:

Player Year BB K AVG HR
Ken Singleton 1977 107 101 .328 24
Ken Singleton 1979 109 118 .295 35
Mickey Tettleton 1990 106 160 .256 15

Walk, Nick, Walk!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Five Big Disappointments of 2008

1. Adam Loewen as a Pitcher

Loewen's career as a pitcher is over. He will attempt to come back as a hitter but his value to the organization is greatly diminished and perhaps is now nil. A guy who was thought to finally develop into a solid big league pitcher in 2008 is now lost for good.

2. Nobody Could Play Shortstop

I was suspect of Luis Hernandez before the season but even I didn't imagine he would fail so spectacularly with his bat and with his glove. Brandon Fahey gave no relief. The Warehouse ran out of patience with Freddie Bynum. By the end of the year, an old defensive specialist (Juan Castro) and a utility infielder with a shaky glove and an average (at best) bat (Alex Cintron) were splitting time at short.

Add to this that there are no prospects ready to step up and that the free agent pool for shortstops is very shallow, it looks like more of the same in 2009.

3. Nobody Could Help Jeremy Guthrie in the Rotation

Loewen went down. Neither Olson nor Liz was able to step up to be a serviceable starter. Ditto for Brian Burress. The cupboard is nearly bare as far as the rotation is concerned.

4. AAA Prospects

Few of the advanced prospects from Norfolk contributed to the big club. Jim Johnson and Jim Miller were notable exceptions.

Scott Moore and Mike Constanzo had down years. Hayden Penn continued his struggles and got injured again.

Again, the upper tier of our farm system offers little hope.

5. Matt Albers Injury

Out of all the candidates at the time, Matt Albers looked like he was best equipped to take over for Steve Trachsel in the O's rotation. Unfortunately, he got injured right about that time and we'll have to wait until at least Spring Training to see if he's capable of grabbing a starting role in 2009.

Dishonorable Mentions -

Troy Patton Injury

Before the season, he was a dark horse candidate for the rotation. We'll have to see if he ever returns to form after shoulder surgery.

Brian Burres -

While I thought he was better suited to a relief role, he did not perform well while starting or coming out of the pen.

Ramon Hernandez -

He came to Spring Training in shape and with a new focus. He never broke out of his early season slump and had a very mediocre year. Disappointment tempered by impending arrival of Matt Wieters.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Five Pleasant Surprises from 2008

1. The Melvin Mora Renaissance - .284/.344/.488, 23 HR, 101 RBI, 117 OPS+

It's almost as if Melvin Mora invented the time machine during the offseason, went back to 2005 and sent that version of himself back to play for the Orioles of 2008. Mora had been given up for dead as far as being a productive major league bat. Outside of A-Rod, he's the most productive third baseman in the American League. The only thing negative to be said about Mora this year is that his play in the field has regressed after two straight seasons of above average glove work.

2. Luke Scott as a Regular - .270/.351/.499, 23 HR, 122 OPS+

The Orioles have been desperate for a respectable leftfielder for years and when they traded Miguel Tejada to the Astros one of the players they got back was a 30 year old platoon player and promptly handed him the starting job. Scott still doesn't hit lefties well but turned in the most productive year of his career and the best season from an Oriole leftfielder since the prime of B. J. Surhoff. A diamond in the rough turned up by Andy Macphail.

3. The Oriole Offense - 5th in Runs, 4th in OPS, 4th in HR

The Oriole offense, as a whole, put on a good show this season. When you consider how impotent the O's bats were in 2007, they put up some surprisingly good numbers in 2008.

4. Aubrey Huff Breaks Out - .314/.371/.576, 32 HR, 106 RBI, 146 OPS+

After three very average years and some offseason controversy, Huff exploded out of the gate in April and has had the best season of his career. Huff provided the offensive spark that fans were hoping for in 2007 and he would make attractive trade bait in the offseason.

5. Jim Johnson Emerges - 68.7 IP, 38 K, 2.23 ERA, 198 ERA+

A starter in the minors, Johnson was called up from Norfolk and placed in the bullpen. He became one of the better setup men in the league and a symbol of the rejuvenated Oriole relief corp.

Honorable Mentions -

George Sherrill - an afterthought in the Erik Bedard trade, George had an up and down year but he made the All-Star team and showed that he can close in this league even if he's not among the elite closers in baseball.

Luis Montanez - the late-bloomer made his major league debut and has hit .310 during his stint with the big club. Perhaps a fourth outfielder/platoon partner for Luke Scott in 2009?

Adam Jones - The Truth was up and down during the season but on the whole played a great centerfield and showed a solid bat for a player that green. Good signs for the future.

Later, Five Big Disappointments from 2008. Those will be much easier to find unfortunately...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Base Hits: 9/17/2008

I should know better than to get worked up by message board posts but I just had to get this off my chest...

Lots of talk on Oriole messages boards about how this team has quit. They've given up. Mailing it in. 

I'll admit, it's quite difficult to watch the games these days. But the people saying this team has quit are obviously not watching the games. Kevin Millar has not quit. Nick Markakis has not quit. Adam Jones has not quit. Chris Waters has not quit. Melvin Mora, Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott and Brian Roberts have not quit. To suggest that the O's have bailed on this season is a complete misreading of the situation. The team is not very good. But they certainly have not quit.

Before the season, when many were predicting 100 losses, I said that I thought this team would be no worse than last year. They have to win three more games to exceed last year's win total. Hardly a slam dunk but I'm still rooting that they make it.


Although I have been quite against it (and Andy MacPhail says this is against his philosophy as well), I think it is now unavoidable. The O's need to go after a couple of free agent pitchers in the offseason. I'm not saying that The Warehouse should break the bank chasing after C.C. Sabathia or Ben Sheets but a top free agent pitcher flanked by a journeyman would look good for 2009. John Lackey and Paul Byrd. Or Derek Lowe and Jon Garland. Just a couple of guys who can help Guthrie round out the rotation until any of the young arms develop into legitimate starters. We can't go through another season of inflicting emotional damage on pitchers who aren't ready for the big club yet. Just a thought.


Matt Wieters was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. No big surprise. The beast slouches toward Baltimore to be born...

Wieters will play this in the Arizona Fall League
 starting next month. Nolan Reimold will make his third straight appearance in the AFL. SS Blake Davis will join them and he will be intriguing to watch. Top pick of the 2008 draft Brian Matusz will make his professional debut in for the Surprise Rafters.

Lots of good baseball going on this fall and winter...


Grimace of the Week comes from Nick Blackburn:

You'd be grimacing too if you lost to Radhames Liz...


I should be blogging a bit more regularly now. Look for season wrap-ups and such in the coming weeks.