Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WNST: Math is Hard

OK, so I guess I was the WNST "Oriole Apologist of the Day" on Monday. Let's see what Glenn Clark had to say about it:

Congratulations to our “Apologist of the Morning”, as selected by “The Great Arbitrator” Drew Forrester. “Heath” from Dempsey’s Army is no stranger to the AOTM-but this morning he received the award for citing Fangraphs in opining that Juan Samuel was wrong for trying to have Matt Wieters bunt last week. I don’t often credit Drew for being funny, but labeling a group of people as “Fangraph-sexuals” was pretty damn humorous.

Normally, I wouldn't mention this at all but I had to address a couple of things.
I use stats in a lot of my posts. This is not a purely analytic baseball but I am literate in advanced baseball stats and use them when warranted. I try not to overwhelm with every new stat that comes down the pike but I will incorporate newer stats that I feel are relevant. For example, I am starting to work in wOBA into the mix while still using OPS and "slash lines" as points of reference.
Thus, you're going to find stats on many of my posts on this site. They are not scary. And if you are interested in learning more about them, they are readily available from,, and, yes, And I think that while stats do not tell the whole story, they tell you a lot and, these days, they tell you more than they ever have before.
I did not hear Drew's show so I have to address Glenn's summation; is the leading source for advanced baseball statistics anywhere. I write a blog about a baseball team. I am never going to apologize for using the best sources of baseball knowledge when formulating my posts. I am also not going to bother defending "sabermetrics" and their validity in baseball analysis. That would be redundant. And if Drew wants to make unfunny, thinly-veiled homophobic references to try to discredit "sabermetrics" or readers of, well, that's pretty much par for the course.
But the supreme irony is this; on the same morning I was reportedly mocked for utilizing a site that provides advanced baseball statistics, Drew had Joe Sheehan on to talk baseball. You know, the Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus! A guy whose columns on BP routinely contained references to EqA, VOPR, EQR, SNLVAR and PECOTA projections, stats far less known to baseball fans because you can't access them without a subscription! Really? The very same morning you paint me as a flouncy stat dweeb you have one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus on your show?
So Drew either has no self-awareness whatsoever or is disingenuous beyond words. I'll go with the latter. (Drew/Glenn: "Latter" means the last thing I said...)
But while we're at it, I wanted to address a couple things from this...
On the Oriole blogs:
I read them all - casually - just about every day, and I’m amazed at how transparent most of them are these days. They’re nothing more than a cheerleading forum. Rah, rah, rah. And on the outside chance something happens that deserves an unquestionable volley of criticism, most of the bloggers throw the word “but” in there about 15 times. ”I’ll point out the wrong…but I have to follow it up with something else that takes the team off the hook a little bit.”
Right. God forbid you write ONE piece where you actually take the team to task for something and then leave it at that.

Well, that shows that you DON"T really read the blogs on a regular basis. There are plenty of critical posts on a lot of the Oriole blogs. Especially on Camden Chat, the one Drew claims to read the most. Now, perhaps they are not 100% negative ALL the time (some other media outlet has cornered the market on that), but there is a fair amount of criticism in the Oriole blogosphere but it contains two things absent at WNST; nuance and a sense of perspective. Oh, and no froth from the mouth. It's no wonder they don't understand it.

Back to my blog yesterday that I wrote at concerning Free The Birds.
 Here, for your review, is the front page of Camden Chat from Tuesday, May 11. You’ll notice 16 different topics or stories under “Bird Droppings”. Heck, there’s even info in there about John Smoltz trying to qualify for the U.S. Open golf championship. That’s interesting...

What DON’T you notice?

Yep. My blog from Monday about Free The Birds is nowhere to be found...
However…Tuesday rolls around and the powers-that-be (and frankly, I don’t know who makes the front-page decisions and never asked Stacey) list 16 different stories about the baseball team but none of them were worthy of being replaced by my piece on Free The Birds.
And that’s what you get when you deal with bloggers. Afraid to let “the other side” have their say. Because if you do that - some folks who read the piece might even think, “hmmm…that’s a valid point or two.”

WAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! They didn't like to my post! Wah, wah wah...

Honestly? You can't possibly be that thin-skinned.

I write several posts a week. If I'm lucky, I may get a link from Camden Chat once every couple of weeks. But that's OK. Why? Because if my post is worth linking to, by definition, someone will link to it. I'm not sure how or why anyone would feel slighted if Camden Chat or any of the other blogs linked to them or not. It's hardly personal.

But WNST made it personal when they accused Stacey and crew of excluding them because they didn't want Drew ("the other side") to have his say. It's infantile and insulting.

I don't know why Stacy no longer appears on WNST but I would imagine it has less to do with their viewpoints and more to do with the fact that they are colossal babies.

When the guy at who “doesn’t like the team” writes a piece and beats them up for their stupid tickets and media relations policies, that doesn’t get linked or posted at Camden Chat or ANY OTHER SITE IN TOWN (of course).

Again, Drew obviously doesn't regularly read the blogs. WNST is and has been linked to by several blogs. Even with all the barbs I've thrown at WNST and Nestor over the years, I have linked to his stories and opinions that I actually agree with.

So I guess I have nothing else to say except that I wear their scorn as a badge of honor.

OK, resume party....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Berken and Hernandez Emerged From the Crucible

Last season, the Oriole rotation was so suspect that you had to expect that some young pitchers were going to be thrown to the wolves. And they were. One was 25-year-old Jason Berken, a right handed pitcher with a total of 5 AAA starts under his belt and another was 24-year-old David Hernandez (who only had 11 starts in Norfolk), another righty. Neither was on any top prospect lists. There were no expectations.

Hernandez posted a 5.42 ERA (6.61 FIP, 5.60 xFIP) over 101.1 innings and Berken posted a 6.54 ERA (5.34 FIP, 5.10 xFIP) over 119.2 innings. It wasn't pretty and it appeared that the Orioles were fine with using these two "non-prospects" as cannon fodder.

Berken and Hernandez will always be linked in my mind. They were called up around the same time, they both were rushed, they both struggled mightily...and they both showed a lot of guts in the process. These guys got absolutely shelled in 2009 but they never seemed to get discouraged. There were no slumped shoulders or Daniel Cabrera-style implosions when things went badly. They stuck to the plan, kept working and did the best they could.

Neither were locks to make the team out of spring training but they both made the team; Berken in the bullpen and Hernandez in the rotation. Hernandez struggled again as a starter but has joined Berken in the pen to form a nice 1-2 late inning combo.

Berken has a 1.66 ERA (3.09 FIP, 3.93 xFIP) over 43.1 innings. His strikeout rate is up, his walk and home run rate is down. Hernandez has a 2.11 ERA over 12.1 innings since moving to the pen and his strikeout rate has doubled. They look to be big pieces of the Oriole bullpen in the years to come.

We certainly know they have the makeup to handle the assignment.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Time to Bring Back the Throwbacks

How cool were the 1970 throwback uniforms this weekend? Here's some pics from the Sun:

We've got to get these back in a regular rotation, don't we?

More throwback photos over here at

Garrett Atkins DFA'd

It's official...Atkins did NOT survive the weekend and will likely be released in 10 days.

Andy MacPhail is right in one respect...there really is no horrible 1-year deal. No matter how much it costs, it's off the books and allows other free agents to be signed by the next season.

But the Atkins didn't look good from the beginning. You could have seen this outcome, to quote Artie Lange, coming up 5th Avenue in a cab. Atkins had never had great numbers away from Coors Field, his numbers had been in decline for four straight seasons and there were other bats available for, likely, less money. After the signing, I just kind of kept my fingers crossed that the scouts had seen something that they thought was fixable.

You should know my feelings on this for now...I wanted to fill the hole at first base from within with either Luke Scott or Nolan Reimold moving over there and/or letting some of the guys at AAA (Scott Moore, Rhyne Hughes, Michael Aubrey, Brandon Snyder) as the season moved on. If there's a silver lining, one of those guys will now get a shot as Wigginton has moved over to first and Moore seems to be in line to get the bulk of the starts at second base.

Ultimately, Atkins sucking had little affect on the standings; there is little doubt that the way 2010 has gone that the Orioles would still be the worst team in the American League. But at least we can move on and let other guys, including Jake Fox, take a shot.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Random Thoughts About the Week...

Rick Dempsey to be Interviewed for Oriole Manager

This is kind of sad to me. Andy MacPhail does not take Rick seriously for this position. And arguably, he shouldn't. Dempsey hasn't managed in years. But he wants it so bad, he'll put up with this indignity and try to convince the Oriole brass otherwise.

Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara To Return, Garrett Atkins Likely Roster Casualty

The fragile Uehara is coming back...but for how long is uncertain. He's pretty good when he's on the mound and he will help the bullpen but obviously we can't count on him being healthy.

Bergey...I don't know. I just wish they'd leave him in one spot and let him work things out in Baltimore.

Years ago, Henry Rollins put forth an idea for a performance art piece called "Edie Brickell Still Lives" where he would sit in a chair on a stage covered with cinder blocks, nails and razor wire, a PA announcer would say "Edie Brickell still lives!" at which point, Rollins would hurl himself onto the stage, beating his body against all the bricks and nails and razors until he collapsed into a bloody, sweaty heap on the stage. Then the PA announcer would shout, "But she still lives!", which would cause Rollins to pick himself up off the stage and do it all over again.

Call this piece "Garret Atkins Retains a Roster Spot" and I could do it myself.

Nick Markakis Meets With Peter Angelos

I think Nick has finally figured that he is chained to this team for another 4 and a half years...he'd better do something!

I love that Nick seems to be taking a more active leadership role on the team, even if it is motivated by self-interest. It's clear that he expected better this season and can't bear the thought of the Orioles flailing about for the next fours seasons until he becomes a free agent.

Matt Wieters Bunt!

Juan Samuel does NOT want to stay with the organization. Period.

According to, that botched bunt cost the Orioles .114 of WPA...more than any non-run scoring play the Marlins managed. Juan Samuel may as well have been playing for the other team.

Matt Angle is an On Base Machine

All Matt Angle does is get on base and steal second....THAT"S ALL HE DOES!!!

I didn't include Angle in my high-minors review earlier this week but he deserves a mention. The Orioles haven't done him any favors. After playing last season at high-A Frederick, he started the season on the DL, got a total of 14 games in Bowie and was then rushed up to Norfolk due to organizational need.

Angle has held his own, relatively speaking. He's only hitting .264/.338/.282 in Norfolk...but forget the OPS. You heard me, forget the OPS.

Angle does not hit for power and he may never do so...but his career OBP in the minors is .386, his career walk rate is 12.2% and he has stolen 124 bases at an 80.5% clip. There is room for a guy like that as a leadoff hitter in the majors.

As we have seen, having guys with lousy on base skills can sap a struggling offense. A guy like Angle should be seen as a real prospect if he can improve on his numbers in Norfolk. Don't let the fact that he was thrown into the deep end of the pool fool you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It Could Be Worse: Nick Markakis

After a couple seasons of calling for a breakout season for Nick Markakis, it appears that the upswing in his offensive numbers may never happen. I was never one to think that Nick's line drive swing would develop into  30 home run power but I thought he would hit .300 with 20-25 homers and a great on base percentage and that his OPS would hover around .900 for his peak years.

Alas, it appears that Nick will not become "Enos Slaughter of the New Millennium" as I had hoped. But that doesn't mean that there's not a lot to like.

As of this morning .300/.390/.426. That good for a .360 wOBA which is good for a top 30 wOBA in the AL, even with the diminished power. And although his fielding is not what it once was, it's way better (so far) than it was last year.

There is concern about Markakis' diminished power but he leads the AL in doubles and a few of those are going to start going over the fence. ZIPS agrees and projects .297/.372/.464 with 10 homers and 25 doubles for the rest of the season.

There is not much to like about this season but Nick Markakis is still a reason to go to the park.

And while he looks to be more Brian Roberts than Ellis Burks at the plate, he's still a nice player to have on your team.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

O's Acquire Jake Fox

According to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, the Orioles have acquired UT Jake Fox from the Oakland Athletics for a minor league pitcher.

Considering the fact that the pitcher they give up is expected to be no one of consequence, this is a good move all around. edit: Looks like the pitcher will be Norfolk P Ross Wolf. That's totally fine.

Fox can come in and play first right away. He's not a good fielder...but then again neither is Garrett Atkins. Atkins should see the writing on the wall at this point and he is not likely to be on the roster past this weekend. Fox brings an added dimension as he can play C, 3B or the corner outfield positions in a pinch.

Fox only hit .214/.264/.327 for the A's but played sporadically for Oakland, rarely starting 2 games in a row. He did hit .259/.311/.468 for the Cubs last season.and he was a tad unlucky in Oakland. You would have to think he'll perform better with regular playing time...which he should get in Baltimore where there are no better alternatives. ZIPS projects his to hit .248/.309/.425 with a wOBA of .324 and an ISO of .177 the rest of the way. That's not great but it's a big improvement over what we have now.

And you never know....Fox only has 350 PAs in the majors. He just might get better.

Monday, June 21, 2010

BORT Chat: 6/21/2010

Checking In With the Farm Clubs - High Minors

Not as much to look at in the upper levels as there was in the lower levels...but here they are.

Bowie Baysox

Joel Guzman - 1B/3B/OF

Guzman is a former top prospect in the Dodger organization who flamed out and has bounced around for the last three years. However, the 25-year-old Guzman is hitting .272/.336/.535 with 17 homers for Bowie this season.

Late bloomer? Who knows? But he's an interesting hitter who plays a position that the Orioles need. (I don't know if I should be enthused that the O's found Guzman or depressed that he is, by far, the most promising hitter on the Baysox this season...)

Zach Britton - SP

The top Oriole prospect in the high minors, the 22-year-old Britton continues to impress. His ground ball rate stands at 65.2% this season and that's no fluke; his GB% has been 63% or above for the last four seasons.

K/BB ratio is still more than 2 to 1 and a 2.62 ERA at AA should lead Britton to a promotion to Norfolk before season's end.

Eddie Gamboa - RP

I like Eddie. He rose fast last season and has continued to turn in good work in Bowie. He's striking out a batter an inning and while the walk rate is not great, the K/BB ratio is still 2.5 to 1. He's just another reason I think the bullpen can be rebuilt from within.

Jim Hoey - RP

Hoey seems to have worked himself back from injury problems to and is striking out batters like crazy (11.5 K/9). I guess I'll believe it if he starts doing it at AAA again.

Norfolk Tides

Josh Bell - 3B

Bell has been maligned for a couple reasons this season. First, he can't hit lefties and people are demanding that he abandon switch hitting. (I've never really understood that argument. How do we know he can hit lefties better batting lefthanded than righthanded?) Second, he has not hit overall like he was expected to after his promotion to AAA.

The L/R splits are troubling. However, his bat is probably not as bad as it looks right now. First, his offensive numbers have improved each month of the season:

Slash Line    BB   K   HR
Apr  .238/.256/.405    2  21    3
May  .282/.325/.455    7  29    3
June .275/.367/.451    7  12    2

After a horrific April, he has focused on being more selective at the plate and it has paid off. Taking away April, his K/BB ratio is 3 to 1, not terrific but it's respectable and trending the right way.

Furthermore, according to Minor League Splits, if you normalize his numbers for park factor and luck, his .265/.312/.437 line becomes .294/.338/.494.

He's trending well and hitting better than his numbers show. He won't be pushing Miguel Tejada out of town this season liked many had hoped but he's having a productive season for a 23-year-old in AAA.

Brandon Snyder - 1B

Some better trends for Snyder as well, although in a different manner than Bell.

After putting up an OPS's of .615 and .659 in April and May respectively, Snyder is posting a line of .327/.389/.531 in June. He still isn't walking enough but this follows Snyder's development through the minors thus far. He tends to have a long learning curve when he moves up a level but when he gets it, he catches fire. It has taken him 5 months at AAA to come around but this may be the turning point that lands Snyder in the majors in 2011.

I don't think Snyder will ever be a great first baseman but he will be serviceable enough that we won't have to sign the like of Garrett Atkins again. (Not that we needed to in the first place...)

Tim Bascom - SP

Bascom is the starting pitcher who is closest to Baltimore now that Jake Arrieta was promoted. His stuff is marginal and he's a flyball pitcher but he has improved through each level, especially with his control as his walk rate is a minuscule 1.4 BB/9 in Bowie and Norfolk combined. He paints the corners and will have to hope his control and stuff are good enough to work the edges in the majors...but it could work.

Dennis Sarfate - RP

Just a quick note about Sarfate...

Yeah, he's got his velocity back and he's striking out 11.79 per 9 innings. But his walk rate is 5.32 K/9 and that's not going to play at the next level. Get it under control Dennis.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Story of Scott Moore (or Why Can't These Guys Get At Bats?)

A while back, I wrote a post about how Andy MacPhail has acquired minor league corner infielders and lauding him for producing Rhyne Hughes out of that mix.

Now, Hughes is back in Norfolk but another guy, Scott Moore is here.

The quick background on Moore:

Moore was a 1st Round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2002 and was eventually dealt to the Cubs. The Orioles acquired him from the Cubs for SP Steve Trachsel in 2007. Moore played in Baltimore that season posting a .622 OPS over 17 games.

It looked like Moore would get a shot to play in Baltimore in 2008 but it was not to be. Injuries limited him to 78 games in Norfolk and he only got 9 at bats in Baltimore. 2009 followed with still more injuries.

So in 2010, with the Orioles desperate for bodies, they called Moore up from Norfolk and started letting him play...a little. Moore started out 0-9 over his first 7 games but then the O's started giving him more regular playing time.From June 2nd to June 13th, he went 9 for 24 while posting a .375/.423/.542 line. Then, inexplicably, he hasn't gotten a start since. (OK, not completely inexplicably...he rolled an ankle before Wednesday's game.)

Why would a team that is so desperate for offense leave a guy with a hot bat on the bench? Why would the O's take a 26-year-old player, a former 1st round draft pick, a guy who can play all over the infield, and leave him in the dugout while the corpses of Garrett Atkins and Julio Lugo drag their undead carcasses to the plate night after night? Are the vets going to get better? Do they really give the team a better shot to win in 2010? What about 2011? The season is long lost. Why?

I'm not saying Moore will be a good player...but could he be average? Absolutely. Could he be a late bloomer ala Jayson Werth? Perhaps. But we'll never know while he's on the bench.

Aside from that, couldn't this team still use Rhyne Hughes? Hughes is wearing out lefty pitchers in AAA and his overall MLE numbers would give him a .710 OPS. Again, not great but he's still only 26. He just might get a little better. He's arguably already a better option than Atkins.

The Orioles have two of the worst position players in baseball getting regular at bats. Atkins is OPSing .575 and Lugo is OPSing .495. There is nothing to lose by jettisoning these guys and giving a younger player a shot.

The one upshot to losing like this is that there is no longer anything to lose. You can try anything at this point. Why not make a bold move? (Hell, giving Moore and Hughes more ABs wouldn't even be considered bold at this point...just for this organization.)

Give the younger guys a chance to play regularly; they'll improve the team this season and you'll find out if you have any diamonds in the rough. In 2010, anything else is ludicrous.

Markakis To Team: Let's Get a Clue

Nick Markakis has had it with the Oriole offense. And for a change, he says so to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zreibec:

"We still have a lot of holes, and, unfortunately, we have had a lot of injuries. But one guy, one big bat, is not going to make that much of a difference. You can stick a guy hitting 50 homers in this lineup right now, and he really is not going to do anything until we all get on the same page. We all need to have better approaches at the plate....

...from top to bottom, you need guys getting on base. You need guys in there who have a plan, who have a clue and who know how to execute that plan and get on base. We don't need every guy in this lineup trying to hit home runs. We're paid to get on base and figure out how to score and drive in runs."

Earl Weaver would've kissed this guy on the mouth.

In the 14 team AL, the Orioles are 13th in on base percentage, 13th in slugging and 13th in OPS. What was to be a relative strength of this team has become its biggest disappointment.

It's nice to see Nick say something publicly...but I wonder how much difference it will make. He also states that none of this is Terry Crowley's fault...but if a lack of a clear approach at the plate isn't the responsibility of the hitting coach, whose is it?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Future Watch Edition

Baltimore Sports Report has a video interview with Orioles 2B prospect LJ Hoes.

Camden Crazies looks at the merits of Jake Fox and concludes that he would be a significant upgrade from Garrett Atkins. I agree.

Dean Hybl of ponders if Brad Bergesen could be the next Jim Palmer. Not likely but Dean does remind us of the circuitous route many players take to success.

Weaver's Tantrum takes a look at the company the 2010 Orioles are keeping: the 1988 Orioles and the 1962 Mets.

Roar from 34 wonders if the "Baltimore" on the front of the road jerseys has been replaced with another term. (All you jerks who whined and bitched about getting "Baltimore" back on the jerseys can stick it. It hasn't mattered one iota in how the team is perceived. I'm looking at you WNST.)

Oriole Insider reports that the team has contacted Buck Showalter regarding their managerial vacancy.

Eutaw Street Hooligans call for a reality check among O's fans and they are correct...just not sure a guy who blogs about this team can take their advice.

A bit of Spring Training News:

Circuit Judge Bob Bennett ruled Wednesday that construction can continue at Ed Smith Stadium, dealing the first courtroom defeat to two citizens groups trying to stop a taxpayer-financed renovation of the ballpark....

"Outstanding," Orioles attorney Alan Rifkin whispered in court as the judge ruled.

Can we add this to the Oriole win column?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Tao of Backman

Need a cure to your Oriole blues? Looking for some inner peace? Need to be reminded why you love baseball to begin with?

Wally Backman has your cure.

Tip of the hat to The Loss Column for posting a video showing Wally Backman getting thrown out of a game while managing the independent league South Georgia Peanuts. It led me to all these videos, excerpts from a TV show called "Playing for Peanuts". If you just want to see the ejection, it's toward the bottom of the post. But all of these put a smile on my face.

Assume that all of this is NSFW.

A 3-DVD set of "Playing for Peanuts" can be purchased at

When Does Rick Kranitz Start Feeling the Heat?

Just a quick thought...

Lots has been written about the failures of Oriole hitting coach Terry Crowley over the past few years.

But why is the Oriole pitching coach seemingly immune from such criticism?

The Oriole pitching staff has an ERA of 5.33, the worst in the American League. This is not new. Baltimore also had the worst AL ERA in 2009 and the second worst ERA in 2008. Kranitz has presided over the pitching staff for all three seasons.

Want to look at the advanced stats? They are and have been dead last in the league in FIP and xFIP over the past three seasons as well.

It's not as if Kranitz has had absolutely nothing to work with. There have been some young arms come to Baltimore that are highly regarded. Thus far, none of them look ready to take the next step. Chris Tillman looked completely lost last night. Ditto with (at times) Brian Matusz.

And over the past three seasons, Kranitz has failed to assemble any semblance of a bullpen. That's what good pitching coaches do...they take marginal pitchers and/or kids from AAA and teach them how to pitch for an inning or two. There are guys in this system with the stuff to be good relievers...but for some reason they never seem to develop.

So...either lots of independent scouts and analysts were dead wrong about a lot of Oriole talent or the organization is doing a poor job of developing that talent for the major league level. I think Kranitz has to take some heat for that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

BORT Chat: 6/14/2010

Top 5 Oriole Interleague Stars - The Hitters

As the Orioles are in the midst of interleague play yet again, I thought I'd take a look at the Oriole hitters who had taken advantage of the National League. God knows we could use some of these guys now.

Here's the top 5:

5. Aubrey Huff

         AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   OPS
Huff    .326  .394  .526    7  .920

Perhaps this was the indicator that Aubrey Huff would bounce back a bit once he went to the NL this offseason.

4. Albert Belle

         AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   OPS
Belle   .326  .396  .525    7  .921

It's crazy how close Huff and Belle's interleague numbers are. But they were both raking.

3. Cal Ripken, Jr.

         AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   OPS
Ripken  .330  .380  .558   14  .938

Of course, Cal is here. Even more amazing than those numbers is the fact he did it at a time when the NL was probably the better league.

2. Larry Bigbie

         AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   OPS
Bigbie  .360  .446  .523    3  .969

There always has to be a surprise on a list like this and Bigbie qualifies. This is over 101 plate appearances where he walked 14 times. It's still a drag this guy didn't make it.

1. Harold Baines

         AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   OPS
Baines  .355  .424  .553    3  .976

Just another reason to love Harold Baines. No Oriole was more effective against the Senior Circuit.

Bergey Back to Bush Leagues

So there was this press release:


The Orioles have announced that RHP BRAD BERGESEN has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Bergesen was 3-4 with a 6.50 ERA (54.0IP, 39ER) in 12 games (10 starts) for the Orioles this season.

A corresponding move will be announced tomorrow. 

Well, I hate to say I told you so but...I told you so.

...why would Bergesen go to Norfolk for a single start and come back to Baltimore? One solid start against AAA hitters is not enough for me to regain confidence. If you're going to use his option under the premise that he needed to work on his sinker and control, I sincerely doubt that he put everything together in one start. At least three would be my preference.

These are the kinds of things that bother me about this team. The losing sucks and the young players' struggles are concerning but ultimately these things can happen with a team in rebuilding mode. It doesn't always happen on schedule.

But wasting an option on a guy for one AAA start? It just doesn't make sense. Now you've used two options on a guy who may eventually be useful to the big league club. Who really thought that Bergey was all straightened out after one start?

Maybe they think Bergesen is no longer a big league pitcher. Maybe. But they did this with Matt Albers too and now he has no options left, probably the only reason he's still on the big league roster. For some reason, the Orioles seem afraid that someone will claim Albers if they try to get him to Norfolk. But they no longer have the luxury of Albers going to AAA to work out his control, a new pitch or something of that ilk.

If this is how cavalier they are about player options, what else are they not paying close attention to?

And that's when I get nervous.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oriole Arms: The Next Wave

With the debut of Jake Arrieta tonight, the most recent wave of top young arms are all in Baltimore. Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Arrieta lead the way and, to a lesser extent, Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez are now in Baltimore to stay.

But there's still more reason to be optimistic about the Orioles rotation of the future. There are still quality arms in the minor leagues and they should be coming to Baltimore as soon as 2011-2013.

Here are some highlights:

Zach Britton - 3rd Rd, 2006

             IP    K   BB   HR   ERA   WHIP
Britton AA  67.0  49   23    4  2.96   1.29

The 22-year-old lefty is probably the top prospect left in the minors and could be in Baltimore as soon as 2011. He has picked up where he left off in 2009 for Frederick by inducing groundballs at a 65.7% rate in AA Bowie. His K rate has dropped but then so has the walk rate. A lefty sinkerballer in orange and black? We could use him against the Yankees right now.

Tim Bascom - 4th Rd, 2007

              IP    K   BB   HR   ERA   WHIP
Bascom - AA  63.0  41   10    6  3.43   1.28

While Arrieta makes his MLB debut, Bascom makes his AAA debut for Norfolk tonight. The 25-year-old righty is kind of a flyball pitcher but the split is not extreme. He has improved his control a lot this season and I suppose that will be the factor that decides how successful he will be going forward. Bascom could force his way to Baltimore in mid-summer 2011.

Cole McCurry - 43rd Rd, 2007
Nathan Nery - 18th Rd, 2006
Richard Zagone - 6th Rd, 2008

               IP    K   BB   HR   ERA   WHIP
McCurry - A+  48.2  48   18    6  3.51   1.29
Nery - A+     66.1  38   12    8  3.53   1.14
Zagone - A+   64.1  45   20    4  3.36   1.27

There are an interesting trio of lefties having success in Frederick this season. They are all between 23 and 24 years old, none were high draft picks and none were considered top prospects coming in to this season.

McCurry has the best stuff as he is striking out nearly a batter per inning. Both Nery and Zagone get by with inducing grounders and (especially Nery) limiting the free passes.

At least one of these guys should be up in Bowie pretty soon and you have to think that one of these three emerges as a serious prospect by year's end.

Ryan Berry - 9th Rd, 2009

               IP    K   BB   HR   ERA   WHIP
Berry - A/A+  65.1  57   17    6  3.17   1.27

Berry was on his way to being a first round selection in 2009 when he hurt his shoulder during his senior season at Rice. Berry has dominated the lower levels and looks to move quickly through the organization. Still just 21, I wouldn't be surprised if he's pitching in Bowie by season's end and be in Baltimore by 2013.

Orioles to Interview Bobby Valentine Today?

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles will interview Bobby Valentine for the manager job, perhaps as early as today.

The article also mentions former Indians manager Eric Wedge. I liked the idea of Wedge managing in Baltimore but I seem to be the only one. Cleveland fans thought his teams underachieved and others see him as the same type of personality as Dave Trembley, too nice and laid back for this team.

For a fan who blogs, Bobby Valentine would be a great choice. He's a colorful personality and will probably give me plenty to write about. He has had success in the majors and in Japan and his players seem to like him a lot.

Perhaps even better for this particular blog would be the prospect of Rick Dempsey taking the helm. And he really, really wants it

"I think if I don't do something now with this organization, it's never happening," said Dempsey, in his fourth year as a MASN broadcaster after five seasons as an Orioles coach. "If the next guy comes in and he lasts two or three years, by then I'll be so far removed from being down on the field that it probably would take an act of God to actually make it happen."

The sad fact is that Dempsey is a long shot to even get an interview and he seems to know it. His public campaigning is acknowledgment of this.
Who would be the best choice? I don't know. I don't think Dempsey could be any worse than the Lee Mazzilis and Sam Perlozzos of the world. But I think the Orioles need a new voice and a fresh face and that should probably come from outside of the organization this time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Making Sense of the Oriole Draft

The Orioles got the second best position player in the draft when they selected high school SS Manny Machado with the third overall pick. That's a move I can get behind.

Beyond that, I don't really understand it. A guy who projects as a a reliever in the 3rd round, lots of fringy college bats, a high school SS in the 5th who looks to be a tough guy to sign...

But I'm not best equipped to handle these questions so I'll turn to the experts.

First up, ESPN's Keith Law:

The O's didn't have a second-round pick due to the signing of Mike Gonzalez but did grab a strong reliever in the third round with UCLA's Dan Klein, a right-hander with the repertoire to start but who has only pitched in relief in college due to a prior shoulder injury. I had sixth-rounder Dixon Anderson in my top 100 because of his ability to sink his fastball and the fact that he was in the mid-90s as a reliever last summer, while seventh-rounder Matt Bywater could be a fifth starter due to his above-average change.

About Klein...the Baltimore Sun has reported that Joe Jordan envisions the fragile UCLA pitcher as a starter, not a reliever. Just because he has the variety of pitches to start doesn't mean he'll be healthy enough to do so. Law like the 6th rounder Anderson and likes the 7th rounder Bywater for starting pitching depth. OK, he didn't hate the draft which makes me feel better.

Baseball America had this to say about 5th round pick Connor Narron:

Narron's hands and arm strength are both good enough that he should be able to step in as a freshman at North Carolina and play right away, probably at shortstop, if he doesn't sign. By the time he's draft-eligible again, he'll likely be a third baseman.

Narron was seen as a guy who may be tough to sign but Joe Jordan said this to The Sun:

"He’s a kid that is going to take maybe a little bit of time to get it done, but we feel good about what it’s going to cost, his desire to play. It’s just a matter of doing it the right way. He’ll be playing. He’ll be playing this summer."

He sounds confident that the O's can sign him...and sign him quick enough to get him playing in Bluefield. OK, that makes me feel a bit better too.

Camden Depot gave me this quick assessment of the Oriole draft this far via Twitter:

Well...I think Machado sucked the draft budget up. I figure they range between 9-10MM this year. Passed on a lot of preps....I think the value in this draft was HS. Are solid HS going to risk a slotted 2012 draft? think it drops cost.

Crawdaddy breaks down the first 10 picks in detail over here.

Over the first 19 picks, the O's selected 4 high school positions players, 6 college position players, 6 college pitchers and 3 high school pitchers. There don't appear to be any impact players beyong Machado although there are some interesting arms in the later rounds.

They got Machado...that may be enough to make this draft a success.

Jake Arrieta Coming to Baltimore on Thursday?

Saw this on Twitter this morning from BMOREBrian:

According to Jake Arrieta's Facebook, he's starting tomorrow night vs the Yankees. #Orioles

For the rest of the season, this is great news. Giving a bunch of starts to the trio of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta for the rest of 2010 is the best recipe for the Orioles' long term prospects, especially since 2010 is a lost season.

 But against (arguably) the best team in baseball? Wouldn't Saturday against the Mets lineup have made for a better debut for a rookie? Or did Arrieta ask for this?

Happy to see Jake in Baltimore...there's nothing left for him to prove in the International League...but he's going to get lit up on Thursday. Bank on it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Draft Edition

It's draft day! Oriole fans have little to look forward to except future prospects so this is a big day...again.

Want to chat about the draft today? Head over to Camden Depot today starting at 11:00 to chat with crawdaddy and stotle. That's where I'll be.

Baltimore Sports and Life compiles a rundown of all the draft reports on the potential Oriole draftees.

Who do I think the Orioles should take in the 1st round? Here's my post on the subject.

Weaver's Tantrum compares the trade value of Wil Ohman to that of George Sherrill from last season.

At Baltimore Sports Report, Matt Sadler is happy. Why? Because it looks like Jake Arrieta is coming to Baltimore.

Oriole Poet says his goodbyes to Dave Trembley.

The Oriole Post provides some great pics from this weekend's games.

Friday, June 4, 2010

...And He's Gone!!! Trembley Put Out of His Misery

Dave Trembley has been fired as the Orioles manager. Juan Samuel has been named interim manager.

The only surprise here is that it took this long. After a horrible 2-14 start, the Orioles embarked on a brutal 12-game stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox and managed to go 5-7. They then split a 4-game set with the Twins and won a series against the Mariners and looked like they may have turned the corner. However, they are just 3-15 since the Seattle series and now own, by far, the worst record in baseball.

Trembley finishes his Oriole career with a 187-283 record and his record got worse with each successive year.

Is this mess completely his fault? No. Injuries to Brian Roberts, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold (I still contend that Reimold is not healthy yet...) did the offense no favors. Neither did the offseason signing of Garrett Atkins. He doesn't have a ton to work with this season.

But his bullpen management has been terrible in 2010 and he seems to be pressing and flailing for a way to stop the losing. He's made it worse at this point and it's time for a new voice.

Trembley was not a bad manager. He managed the bullpen well (at least pre-2010), finding contributors in unusual places and spreading the work around quite well. He was, at least, no detriment to the young players who came up from the minors the last couple years. You certainly would rather have a guy like Trembley than, say, Lou Pinella when you have young, impressionable rookies in droves.

Trembley loved being the manager and loved the fans. At Spring Training, he was the last to leave the field after games or workouts, taking all kinds of time to chat and take pictures with fans or sign autographs. He wasn't faking it; he loved every aspect of his job.

But you don't keep that job if the team doesn't win. This is baseball and it just doesn't work that way. Removing Trembley probably won't do much for the Orioles in the standings but giving Juan Samuel the interim job gives Andy MacPhail the freedom to begin his search for a new skipper.

Samuel won't get the job. MacPhail is not going to give another "interim" guy the job. The search will be wide and the next guy will surely come from outside the organization.

So don't expect the Orioles to start winning just because Trembley is gone. He was in a bad situation and the situation hasn't changed.

From the Oriole press release:

The Orioles today announced that third base coach JUAN SAMUEL has been named as the club’s interim manager, replacing DAVE TREMBLEY. Samuel will be introduced as interim manager in a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. in the Auxiliary Clubhouse at Camden Yards....

From Dave Trembley's Statement:

“I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail for the opportunity to serve as manager for the Baltimore Orioles for the past three years. The results on the field were not what any of us would have hoped for, and I understand that the organization felt the time was right to move in a different direction. While I am disappointed at the outcome, I feel it was a privilege to wear the Orioles uniform each day and I thank all the fans for their tremendous support. I hope the team will soon return to the winning tradition they enjoyed for so many years.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rick Dempsey talks with Brian Matusz

via MASN.

I really enjoyed this. Matusz talks breaking pitches, pickoff moves and his relationship with Matt Wieters. Hopefully, we'll look back on this video fondly in about 10 years...

BTW Camden Depot tweeted that Mark Viviano is reporting that Dave Trembley will be fired after today's game in New York and Juan Samuel will take over. We shall see..

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Checking In With the Farm Clubs - Low Minors

Delmarva Shorebirds

Garabez Rosa - SS

When I saw Rosa back in April, he looked legit in the field with good range and a big arm. Just 20, he looked good with the glove but kind of limited with the bat and slow of foot on the basepaths. Scouts liked his bat and thought he would come around.

And that's why scouts get paid to watch baseball. Rosa has been on a tear since I saw him in mid-April and has posted a season line of .294/.329/.429 line thus far. He doesn't walk (only 5 all year) but has gap power with 17 doubles in just 46 games. Of course, while his range looks good, he does have 19 errors too. I asked Shorebirds announcer Bret Lasky about him and he said he'll look great for a week or two and then have a stretch where he makes 4 errors in 5 games.

Justin Dalles - C

Justin Dalles is my latest minor league catcher crush. Dalles was a 6th round draft pick in 2009 and looked great to me during the two games I saw him play back in April. He posted a .278/.366/.472 line in 10 games (including hitting the longest homer I've ever seen live) but got laid out during a collision at the plate, not once but twice (was only back three games before getting hit again) and hasn't played since May 6th.

Here's an interview that Delmarva Shorebirds announcer Bret Lasky conducted with Dalles during his first stint on the DL.

Stephen Bumbry - CF

Bumbry is hitting well (.272/.360/.395) but not with a lot of power. Bumbry plays a good center field and shows good on base skills. He's fast, easily able to bunt for hits but is not so good on the bases as he is only 6 for 12 on stolen base attempts.

Tyler Kolodny - 3B

Imagine Kevin Millar with more power. His overall line is impressive (.260/.358/.552) even if his batting average is not. He has a decent walk rate (10%) and has slugged 10 homers in just 41 games. He has some things to work on but has a good approach and just turned 22 in March. They probably need to find space for him in Frederick by mid-season.

edit: Evidently, Kolodny has been sent to extended Spring Training due to disciplinary reasons.

Matt Hobgood - SP

Hobgood has been wild. Great stuff but wild. 25 walks in 52.1 innings, 13 wild pitches and 5 hit batsmen against his 32 strikeouts. He has induced groundballs at a 52% rate, he's only given up three home runs and does boast a FIP of 4.60 (vs his ERA of 4.64). When he gets the ball over the plate, good things happen. But he's really going to have to work on that control if he wants to have success at any level.

Ryan Berry - SP

On the other hand, Ryan Berry has been mowing the SAL down all season. With 43 K's vs just 11 walks in 49 innings. The 2009 9th round pick out of Rice has been a bit inconsistent but the overall ERA of 3.50 (3.67 FIP) is promising.

He's now in Frederick.

Frederick Keys

LJ Hoes

While at the Orioles Minor League Spring Training Camp in Sarasota back in March, I made this observation about Xavier Avery vs. LJ Hoes during batting practice:

Avery took BP and looked how you thought he would; light-hitting, shooting flares and sharp grounders to all fields. Hoes was a different story. The ball jumped off his bat and he was showing good gap power. It was only BP but Hoes is only 20. You might want to look for increased power from him this season.

So far, that has been correct. After posting ISO's of .082 and .058 for each of the last two seasons, Hoes has an ISO of .105 for Frederick with 8 doubles, a triple and a homer in 35 games. He's not Albert Pujols or anything but is a nice development. Adding the fact that he has walked more than he has struck out (24 to 17), his .290/.413/.395 line looks like a good step forward. He's got to be the best middle infield prospect in the system.

Xavier Avery - CF

Of course, I didn't see Avery's power surge coming. Since 2007, he's gone from an ISO of .057 to .078 to .095 this season. Again, he's not exactly a slugger but it's a good development to go with his speed and defense in center. He has a slash line of .280/.338/.375 through 49 games.

Billy Rowell - 3B

I was glad that the organization decided to leave Rowell in Frederick to start 2010. Promoting someone to AA after the year Rowell had in 2009 felt like they were just giving up on him. So far, Rowell has responded well by hitting .248/.364/.372 so far. Yes, it's his third season at Frederick and he's been a little lucky with his BABIP but he's still only 21. You've already got money invested in him and he could be a late bloomer like Jayson Werth was. It's better to promote a guy when he's ready and Rowell just wasn't ready to make the leap to AA yet. Maybe they can salvage some value out of him yet, even if he won't ever be the star they envisioned when they drafted him.

Ronnie Welty - OF

Frederick's version of Tyler Kolodny, Welty has good power (ISO over .200 so far) and good strike zone control (.369 OBP for his minor league career). He's OPSing .834 for the season and he already has 9 home runs vs the 10 he hit all last season.

Nathan Nery - SP

Could this be a lefty version of Brad Bergesen? 25-year-old Nery is getting groundballs at a 57% rate and walking less than 2 per 9 innings. A 3.86 ERA makes him arguably the best starter in Frederick.

Brandon Cooney - RP

Cooney's physique makes Hobgood look slim. But he throws hard and the Keys closer is dominating the Carolina League with a 0.55 ERA and 19 Ks in 16 innings pitched. Look for a mid-season promotion to Bowie.

Jose Duran - RP

Duran was a a Rule 5 selection in the AAA phase this year. Duran is an imposing figure and has been nearly as dominant as Cooney. With a 0.94 ERA and 26 Ks in 29 innings pitched, Duran could find himself in Bowie's bullpen before season's end as well.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Top Ten Yankee Killers - Oriole Hitters

Things look bleak as the O's head north to The Bronx. But I decided to look at some of the top Oriole "Yankee Killers" as a diversion from the present. We need some Yankee killers for this series.

10. Eddie Murray

Murray .800 .269 .346 .454 25

I almost didn't include Steady Eddie since his .800 OPS vs. the Yanks is less than his career levels but he OPSed 1.363 vs Catfish Hunter so I guess he's legit.

9. Boog Powell

Powell .833 .273 .364 .468 34

Boooooog! Boog hit more home runs against the Yankees than any other team during his fantastic career. Powell got to beat up on a bunch of lousy Yankee teams from the 60's and 70's but he still destroyed the likes of Mel Sottlemyre.

8. Miguel Tejada

Tejada .841 .327 .378 .463 8

Miggy comes up large against the men in the pinstripes. Tejada hit especially well against David Wells and let's hope he continues against Javier Vasquez and company.

7. Gene Woodling

Woodling .846 .301 .415 .431 7

Who is Gene Woodling? Woodling was a key player on 5 Yankee world championships but came to Baltimore in the twilight of his career at age 35. From 1958-1960, Woodling had a revival of sorts for the Orioles and wore out his former club.

6. Chris Hoiles

Hoiles .848 .267 .378 .471 13

Hoiles destroyed Yankee pitching with 13 homers in just 78 career games and against Andy Pettite, David Cone and Sterling Hitchcock put up OPS's of .949, 1.008 and 1.083 respectively.

5. Nick Markakis

Markakis .863 .311 .373 .490 11

If only Nick slugged this well against the rest of the league.

4. Bob Nieman

Nieman .879 .309 .395 .484 9

Another late-1950's veteran outfielder. Nieman put up these numbers against some of the greatest Yankee teams of all time.

3. Frank Robinson

Robinson .937 .333 .414 .523 13

Robinson crushed everybody so this is of little surprise to see that he poured it on against the bad New York teams of the late 60's.

2. Rafael Palmeiro

Palmeiro .970 .310 .402 .567 20

The greatest free agent signing in Oriole history? Could be. Before his steroid troubles, Palmeiro was a fan favorite for good reason; he hit well and did it against the O's biggest rival of the 90's.

1. Curt Blefary

Blefary .979 .300 .407 .571 12

A guy who only hit .239 and slugged .417 over the 4 years of his Oriole career hit .300 and sluigged .571 against the Yankees. He truly deserves the title of Top Yankee Killer.

Honorable Mentions: John Lowenstein, Kevin Millar, Ramon Hernandez, Harold Baines, Roberto Alomar, Randy Milligan, Leo Gomez, Brian Roberts, Andy Etchebarren, Benny Ayala

It Could Be Worse: Kevin Millwood

It sounds strange to say that a team with the worst record in baseball and a team that can't seem to get above the .300 mark could be worse off. But they could be (and that's the scary part). I'll be doing a mini-series this week on Oriole players who are giving better than they are getting during this lost season.

When the Orioles acquired Kevin Millwood for Chris Ray this offseason, I was hoping that he would serve a role similiar to that of Rick Sutcliffe in 1992; he didn't have to pitch like and ace, he just needed to eat some innings and provide stability to a young, inexperienced rotation. And he has done that and more. As of June 1st:

Millwood 3.89 58 17 74.0 1.27 12 4.47 0-5

Millwood is well on his way to pitching 200 innings one-third of the way through the season. He is giving up a lot of home runs but not with men on base; 10 of the 12 homers he has surrendered have been solo shots. His 3.41 K/BB ratio is 2nd among AL starters.

He's done everything I had hoped and more. Although he is still winless on the season, that is due far more to the weak offense than to his effectiveness. Millwood is a big reason the Orioles were able to keep Chris Tillman in Norfolk for 2 months to work on his control and his cutter, send Brad Bergesen down to AAA to get his sinker back and why Jake Arrieta is having to kick the door down to get to Baltimore instead of being rushed to the majors (like Tillman and Matusz were last season). This is a good thing.

Millwood's FIP suggests that he may regress as the season wears on but his impact will be felt long after he is gone, either by free agency at the end of the season or by trade at the deadline. He is allowing the young staff to develop at it's own pace and may bring back prospects or draft picks as well. He is one of the bright spots in a dark season.