Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Did the Orioles Sink the Red Sox Back in May?

Yesterday I posted a blurb about how the Orioles dealt a death blow to the Angels season and wondered if they might do the same thing to the Red Sox this month. According to the Boston Herald's John Tomase, maybe they did it back in May when they swept the Sox in a three-game set at Camden Yards:

The Red Sox actually began that series on a bit of a roll. They had won 5-of-6 and were coming off a three-game sweep in Toronto that perhaps spoke more to the Blue Jays’ early-season ineptitude against the Sox than anything the visitors had done.

At 11-11, the Red Sox had finally returned to .500 for the first time since 4-4. They already trailed the Tampa Bay Rays by 5 games in the AL East and didn’t want to risk falling any further behind.

The Orioles appeared to be the perfect foes. Baltimore was just 4-18 and in the process of costing manager Dave Trembley his job....

The Red Sox have righted the ship since that 11-14 start, but not enough to seriously reinsert themselves into the playoff race. For that fading goal to have any semblance of hope, they’ll need to do a lot better with the Orioles, who are 16-10 since Buck Showalter took over as manager (Trembley was replaced for a time by Juan Samuel), this week than they did in the spring.

Remember the Mother's Day Massacre from 2007? Of course you do. Lost in all the misery of the losing earlier in 2010 is the fact that we have given the Red Sox their own heartburn, a series they refer to as The Lost Weekend, a time where their playoff-contending momentum was derailed by a wretched, demoralized Baltimore club.

If the Red Sox had swept the Orioles that weekend (as many clubs were doing at that point), they would be 4 games back instead of the 7 they find themselves now. Still a tough hill to climb but 7 games looked nearly insurmountable now, especially given who they are chasing.

If they lose this series to the Orioles, they could find themselves as much as 9-10 games back. Season over. Here's hoping the Orioles oblige them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Orioles Dash Angels Playoff Hopes...Who's Next?

The Angels entered the weekend 9.5 games behind the Rangers for the AL West title and with, by record, the worst team in the American League coming to town. They and their fans were still deluding themselves about this being the beginning of a run at a playoff spot.

They can't be thinking that now. Over a weekend where they could have made up some ground on the Rangers, they scored one run all sereies, got swept and now sit 10.5 games behind the Rangers with 31 games to go in 2010. Season over, courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles.

Red Sox fans are just as delusional. They really think that they can still catch the Yankees and/or the Rays even though they are 5.5 games back with 31 to go. That's a lot to overcome barring a collapse by one of those teams  which is highly unlikely because those teams are both pretty damn good.

Can the Orioles have an impact on the playoff race? Probably not a big one. But with 6 games against the Red Sox in September, they can certainly squash any hope Boston has for a postseason berth.

Eulogy for Bluefield

Andy MacPhail has announced that next year the Bluefield Orioles will be no more. From a development standpoint, this will not have a huge impact of the Baltimore Orioles. If they maintain the rest of their minor league teams, they will still have 8, which is plenty.

But from a historical perspective, it's a sad decision. The Orioles have had a 53-year partnership with Bluefield and a ton of Baltimore Orioles started their career in southern West Virginia including Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, Boog Powell and Don Baylor. That's the oldest minor league affiliation in baseball and now it will be gone. They won nine Appalachian League championships as an Oriole affiliate. Joe Altobelli managed there as well.

This too shall pass and the Orioles will move on. But the end of this historic relationship deserves a bit more than flippant comments like this:

Yes, Bluefield and the Orioles had plenty of history. But it is tough to get too worked up about this one.

Wow, Dan Connolly, really? There was obviously more to his post but this comment pretty much sums up the tone. Bluefield deserves more than casual dismissal. I get that a lot of fans (or writers) don't care about the minor leagues or team history and Connolly is an MLB writer who, he admits, has never been to Bluefield. But I would expect more historical awareness from a Baltimore native.

I finally got out to Bluefield this summer but the game got rained out. I managed to snap a few pictures of the stadium and stand on the historic field. I am very bummed that I never got to see a game there but was happy I got to visit this little piece of Orioles history. Here's the pics of Bowen Field from this past July:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ballpark Hazards:Beware the Moldy Hot Dog Buns

Saturday night this tweet and attached picture came across my feed in TweetDeck:

Pretty vile, no? I can't ever remember seeing something like that in 20+ years of attending baseball games.

This could have been a black eye for the concession staff at Nationals Park but they turned it into a positive. When I contacted @wikipublius for a followup, he stated that when they pointed the problem out to the person at the concession, they were given a replacement dog and a free beer. No excuses, just apologies and an immediate attempt to make it right.

So while the Nats could probably use a bit better quality control for their food service, they certainly made up for it with customer service. wikipublius also wanted to give the food at Nationals Park one more positive comment: the variety of food offered is much better than the concessions at Camden Yards.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stealing Signs: A Study of Pie

Mark Buerhle accused Felix Pie of stealing signs last night.

Quite frankly, that's just fine with me. Baltimore still has marginal talent and still could use every edge they can get to win games.

But Pie was only on second base (the traditional place a runner needs to be to steal signs), and that was during a Cesar Izturis groundout in the 6th.

Maybe Buerhle thoughtt he team was stealing signs all game. Maybe but every hit of consequence for the O's came with nobody on second. Matt Wieters doubled in Pie in the 5th but Pie was on first. Runners were on first and third when Corey Patterson singled to drive in Wieters later that inning. It was the same in the 6th when Wieters his a sac fly to plate Ty Wigginton and there was nobody on when Brian Roberts hit his solo shot in the 7th.

It is rare for hitters to steal signs from first base (although not unheard of) but even if Baltimore was stealing signs, it doesn't appear to by why they got the big hits on Wednesday night.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who(Cares Who')'s the Closer?

That is a confusing title, huh?

But it's not nearly as confusing as all the ink and pixels being wasted on the conjecture over who is the Orioles' closer. Because the bottom line is this: it doesn't matter. At all.

In the 22 games that Buck has been in charge (and there has been no designated "closer"), the Orioles have only blown one "save" situation. Buck has stated he cares far more about the win than the save but the Orioles have been winning and have racked up four saves with the unspoken "closer by committee".

Sure, maybe if this team had a Mariano Rivera or a Trevor Hoffman, maybe you go with a set closer and build the other bullpen roles around him. But the Orioles don't have a guy like that on this team. Why not let the situation dictate the guy called upon to close out a game?

This is not a new concept. Before Gregg Olson showed up in 1989, the "closer" for the Orioles was usually a team of two, a lefty and a righty. Occasionally, there would be a third guy grabbing a few saves too. Would it be so crazy to go into 2011 with Mike Gonazalez and Alfredo Simon (or Jim Johnson) as your lefty/righty team of "closers"? It's not an unprecedented solution.

I don't believe you have to have some magic skill to come in for the 9th inning and preserve a three-run lead. Let's stop worrying about who gets an arbitrary title and worry about the performance of the bullpen overall.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Nick Got Caught Looking

In this past Saturday's game, Nick Markakis struck out looking against Cliff Lee. That was the fourth straight time that he had struck out looking.

It is not surprising that Nick has never struck out looking four times in a row before. He possesses one of the best eyes in baseball. It's shocking that is ever happened at all.

So how did this rare event come to be? Was Nick justified in ripping the ump the night he was tossed from the game? With PitchFx, we can find out.

Starting with his first at bat against C.J. Wilson on Friday night:

Wilson struck out Markakis with a two-seam fastball but all three strikes he got on Nick were good pitches, away, but in the strikezone.

At bat #2:

This time, Wilson went in, out, in, out and then in the zone away to get the called strike three. Good pitching from Wilson as he changed locations and froze Nick with another two-seam fast ball low and away in the zone.

At bat #3:

This was the at bat where Nick got thrown out. But Markakis has a great argument here as none of the pitches were in the zone. Pitch number three was borderline but all are clearly outside the zone. Nick was right, this should have been a walk.

The next day, his first at bat against Cliff Lee:

Hmmmm...a little payback for going after the umpire the night before? Lee was surgical with his strikes but the second pitch and the the final pitch were off the plate. Nick probably had to bite his tongue hard after this at bat.

Don't expect to see this phenomenon again anytime soon. Nick was a victim of good pitching for two of these K's but also the victim of some really bad calls on the other two. Again, if you were watching the Orioles over the weekend, you saw a rare sight.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Corey Patterson

Corey Patterson has been, thankfully, relegated (mostly) back to the bench with the return of Felix Pie in late June. Patterson was a desprerate move and although he filled the hole in the outfield better than could have been expected, Patterson is not a starter, not even for a team as bad as the Orioles.

But I didn't come to run down Corey Patterson and point out his obvious deficiencies. I was to talk about Patterson's value as a bench player.

Patterson is not the same player that left Baltimore after the 2007 season. His hack-tastic ways are still evident but not nearly at the levels we have seen over his career.

            Swing%   K%    BB%   
Career       54.7   22.4  4.7
2010         51.3   23.3  6.9

He's swinging less and walking more. Again, this doesn't representa quantum leap forward but a very noticeable and real improvement. As a result, his wOBA sits at .347, second only to his impressive partial 2003 season.

He can steal you a base, serve as a pinch runner and can play all three outfield positions. I can't imagine there will be a lot of bidding for Patterson's services and there is no other outfielder in the minors knocking on the door to Baltimore*. Is it crazy to think that Patterson would make a useful 4th outfielder? If he comes at a reasonable price, this may not be the last you see of Corey Patterson.

* Yes, Nolan Reimold is in Norfolk but his future is at 1B/DH for this team. I'm not counting him.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Live Blogging: Rangers @ Orioles - 8/21/10

2:57 We're going to try live blogging for the first time. Since this is my first time in the Baltimore press box, it seemed appropriate. Not much to report on except for batting practice at this point where Vlad Guerrero has been putting on a show. More to come...

3:19 The story tonight will be all about Rangers ace Cliff Lee. He is arguably the best pitcher in the American League and the Orioles are only OPSing .639 against lefties in 2010. Every run will come at a premium and Baltimore will have to hope that Brad Bergesen is able to continue his recent stretch of good starts to keep them in the game.

3:56 It a fair crowd tonight and people are still filing in. It's a muggy and still afternoon, can't imagine the ball will be carrying too well tonight. That's good news for Brad Bergesen.

A bit of a lineup shakeup for the Birds...Luke Scott is in the starting lineup but not batting cleanup for the first time in over a month. Wigginton will bat cleanup with Scott in the 5 hole.

4:13 An efficient first inning for Bergey. 9 pitches to retire the side in order in the top of the first. He struck out Andrus swinging, gave up a liner up the middle to Young and then got Hamilton to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. He's pounding the strike zone and that's a good thing.

Lee has bounced a couple warmup pitches...maybe he'll be wild tonight? Nah...

4:33 Nick Markakis struck out looking in the bottom of the 1st. That means he has struck out looking 4 straight times.

A quick check show that he had never struck out looking 3 times in a game before last night so the odds are good that he has never done it 4 times in a row! Crazy.

4:44 Lee and Bergesen are both cruising. Bergey just retired the Rangers 1-2-3 on 10 pitches in the top of the 3rd. 5 of his 9 outs have started with a grounder to Lugo at short. It's not a bad formula.

Lee was no-hitting the O's but Pie just singled on a sharp grounder up the middle.

4:52 I just saw Josh Bell's first career home run. It was an 0-1 pitch that Bell put in the centerfield seats. There was no dbout about it, it looked gone as soon as he hit it. The Orioles have Lee on the ropes, 2-0 in the bottom of the 3rd.

5:01 Bergey gave it up in the top of the 4th. Guerrero doubled in Josh Hamilton and would eventually score on a Bengie Molina sac fly to Adam Jones. Knotted at 2.

Josh Bell fun fact: That HR off Cliff Lee is only his 4th off a left handed pitcher in the last 4 seasons. Any level.

5:15 The Orioles took the lead back in a big way in the bottom of the 4th. Three homers including back-to-back solo jacks from Wigginton and Scott and a three-run shot from 3B Josh Bell, his 2nd of the game and his career. None were cheapies.

The Orioles are all over Cliff Lee and have handed Bergey a commanding 7-2 lead to start the 5th. Brad's only thrown 44 pitches so a good chance to go deep in the game and get the win.

5:28 That could have been much worse. The Rangers load the bases with 1 out but only get a single run to cut the Baltimore lead to 7-3. 22 pitches in that inning for Bergesen.

5:50 Bergesen is through 6 innings and only at 79 pitches. Lee is back out for the bottom of the 6th.

Last inning, Luke Scott fouled a ball back into the press box, just in front of me and to the right. It hit a laptop bag and bounced back into the stands. No damage as far as I can tell.

5:58 Josh Bell just missed his third home run as he lines one off the rightfield fence. Couldn't have missed it by more than a foot.

Roberts missed a double down the leftfield line (it was foul), then walked.

Lee has been lifted for Scott Feldman. Lee gives up 7 earned....so far.

6:05 Feldman promptly threw a wild pitch allowing the runners to advance, then Lugo legs out an infield single allowing Bell to score from 3rd.

O's lead the mighty Rangers 8-3.

6:13 The few Ranger fans that came out today seem to be filing out of the stadium. Cliff Lee gave up 8 earned runs, tying a career high.

The few that remained saw Josh Hamilton hit a 2 out, 2-run hiomer to center. That makes it an 8-5 Oriole lead and Mike Gonzalez is up in the bullpen.

Bergesen retires Vlad to end the 7th. This one's not over yet.

6:26 RP Michael Kirkman makes his major league debut for the Rangers and strikes out the side. Wiggy swinging, Scott looking and Jones swinging. O's still lead 8-5 after 7.

Mike Gonzalez coming in to pitch for the Orioles in the 8th.

6:38 Gonzalez promptly gives up a double to David Murphy on the first pitch, then retires Molina on a fly abll to Pie. Mitch Moreland then doubled in Murphy when Adam Jones dove for the liner but could not come up with it.

It looked like Jones was injured and was slow to get up but he just broke his belt. He was given and replacement and headed back out to centerfield.

Gonzo then struck out Andres Blanco and Brandon Boggs to get out of the jam. 8-6 Orioles.

6:49 O's could not add to their lead. Craig Tatum struck out looking for the third time tonight and Josh Bell could work no more magic. Koji Uehara is coming in to protect the 2-run lead and earn the Orioles at least a series split.

6:57 Koji saves the game in the 9th, striking out Vlad to finish the game.

The crowd was electric in the 9th this evening, on their feet screaming and shouting I haven't seen that kind of excitement at the Yard (at least, not in person) in years.

I started out the game thinking Cliff Lee would be the story, turned out to be Josh Bell. A coming out party or a flash of brilliance? These last 6 weeks of the season may tell us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Around the Oriole Blog-O-Sphere: Luck for Buck Edition


Chris at Baltimore Sports and Life takes note of Kevin Millwood's recent performance and wonders if he still has trade value for the Orioles after all.

(As an aside, I thought Millwood was a good pickup in the offseason. Others argued that money could have been spent on Rich Harden or Ben Sheets; my argument was that those guys were too risky and that Millwood had a shot to be league average.

Well, Millwood has not been league average and he may not reach the 1.0 WAR that I had hoped for (although he could with a good finish) but he has provided more value than either Harden or Sheets. Millwood has a 0.7 WAR after last night's start. Sheets has 0.7 WAR also but is out for the rest of the season. Harden is on the DL with a -0.6 for the season. I said I'd eat my hat if either of these guys outperformed Millwood this year and that looks hold true. The O's needed a guy who was going to give them 170-180 innings this year even if they were not as good as another pitcher's 110.)

Camden Crazies takes an in-depth look at Brad Bergesen's turnaround and it's encouraging. Also, he notes that Felix Pie set an odd record this week: Pie put the ball in play in 63 straight plate appearances (no walks, no strikeouts) and passed Brooks Robinson' 1968 streak of 59 for the Oriole record.

The Wayward O provides evidence that DC still loves the Orioles, Nats be damned.

Baltimore Sports Report takes a quick look at Jason Berken's Oriole career thus far as he heads to the DL.

Bugs & Cranks imagines Peter Angelos' reaction to "Buckball".

After the recent flurry of winning, Camden Depot examines the Orioles' chances of getting the #1 overall pick in 2011...and more.

Roar from 34 wonders (among other things) if Buck Showalter can lead the Orioles to a winning August for the first time since...well, a really long time ago.

To The Loss Column, even the losses feel different under Buck Showalter.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aubrey Huff In Baltimore: He Just Wanted to Take It Home

San Francisco first baseman Aubrey Huff sat down with Baseball Prospectus' David Laurilla to talk about his season and his career. The Baltimore-related excerpts:

DL: You’re happier here in San Francisco?

AH: Oh yeah, man. I’m in a pennant race, the staff is good, the organization—everything here is first class...

I found out as soon as I got to spring training. We have a facility [in Scottsdale, Arizona] that is top notch. All the staff was awesome, the whole nine yards. We have a great weight room. In Baltimore we had this Fort Lauderdale Stadium with a weight tent outside, with just some rental equipment, and that’s not cool. To me, this organization does everything right.

DL: How much do things like that matter to a player?

AH: They matter a ton. When you’re in spring training with a facility like the one we had in Fort Lauderdale, with rental weight equipment, it just goes to show how much farther ahead every other team is than you are.

DL: Does being on a winning team impact a player’s performance?

AH: Without question. It makes you happier, and when you’re happy you play better. And I’m extremely happy this year. I was in the American League East for nine years—pretty much my whole career. I was with Tampa the first six years, when they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and they weren’t good. Then I spent the last three with Baltimore, when they were pretty much dead last while Tampa was good. It was always a grind for me coming to the field against teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, knowing that you’re probably going to lose. I come to this place and know we have a great chance to win every single day, so it‘s just a completely different feel for me.

DL: Do you think your 2010 performance is directly related to that feeling?

AH: Absolutely. I mean, I don’t know where I’d be right now, performance-wise, if I was still in Baltimore. I might be at the point where I just want to take it home. It got to that point, seriously, the last couple of years there.

First things first...he's absolutely right about the Spring Training facilities. The setup in Fort Lauderdale was embarrassing and he's not the only player to say so. It was a poor reflection on the organization that the Orioles had to use those sub-standard facilities for so many years.

It's the on the field stuff that I was more intrigued by. What does losing do to a player? After nine years of last place (or near), what does that do to a player's psyche? You're seeing a little of it here. Huff is honest enough to reveal that, yes, it wears on you as a player and, for him, it was harder to play well when you were getting your head handed to you.

But Carl Crawford has been in Tampa Bay for a long time with only recent success and it hasn't affected his performance. But Huff has been in a pennant race before. The Rays traded him to the Astros in 2006 and he didn't hit any better once he got there. He really hit a little worse. When the Orioles traded him to the Tigers last season, he stunk even worse than he had in Baltimore for a team that had to play 163 games to decide their season.

While I'm sure a winning environment helps a player a bit, I think his comments say more about Huff as a player than the situation he's in. Listen to this again:

I mean, I don’t know where I’d be right now, performance-wise, if I was still in Baltimore. I might be at the point where I just want to take it home. It got to that point, seriously, the last couple of years there.

He just said that he probably wouldn't be hitting this well in Baltimore because he would just be packing it in. Go through the motions at the park and go home. Sound like a guy you want on your team?  Think the Orioles should have resigned him for 2010?

I would imagine that Huff doesn't think he was one of the reasons so many of those teams he was on were losers in the first place.

Sizzler! Adam Jones Can't Be Stopped

It's not often a guy pulls off the squeeze play to end a game but when you're as hot as Adam Jones has been, anything is possible.

Watch the play here. And on the replay watch Nick Markakis' whole body do an "Oh, shit!" as he sees the bunt laid down.

Jones had been red-hot in the month of August. But it's not just 16 games:

                 AVG   OPS   SLG   2B   HR   
Since Aug 1     .370  .414  .611    5    2
Since July 1    .297  .349  .458    9    4
Since June 1    .306  .350  .514   13   12

For comparison, the same ranges for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez this season:

                 AVG   OPS   SLG   2B   HR   
Since Aug 1     .306  .368  .419    4    1
Since July 1    .289  .374  .443    5    6
Since June 1    .319  .389  .542   17   13

A 24-year-old centerfielder who can hit at something approaching Adrian Gonzalez levels in the American League? Yes, please.

After a horrible April, Jones has OPSed .810 for the rest of 2010. I'm sure hoping for no injuries or regression for Mr. Jones. The bat is legit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Palmeiro Speaks About Steroids Again...Sticks By His Story

Drew Davison caught up with Rafael Palmeiro while he was watching his son play in a Texas Collegiate League game. Palmiero discussed steroids again and sticks by his original story; the B-12 shot he took was tainted.

Since the positive test, Palmeiro continues to maintain that he took a tainted shot of vitamin B12, which he felt gave him an energy boost. He said the supplement he took came from the Dominican Republic.
"It was an accidental, unintentional deal on my part, and I take full responsibility for that," said Palmeiro, who tested negative in subsequent tests that year. "I did not do the proper due diligence on it, and if I pay the price, I pay the price."
Now, I don't care that much about the whole steroid issue. It was rampant and you need to compare players against their peers. I don't care if Palmeiro did steroids for 20 years, he has a career OPS+ of 132 (wRC+ of 133), 569 home runs, 3,020 hits and he has 65.7 WAR which puts him in the top 100 of all-time and ahead of Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield and Ryne Sandberg. Those are HOF numbers in my book and very nearly a slam dunk.
And you may not believe his story about the B-12 shot but consider this:
After his positive test, a congressional committee went back and conducted an investigation of Palmeiro, and found no evidence he had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs before that. Therefore, there was no proof Palmeiro had lied in front of Congress...
"I don't regret sitting in front of Congress because I told them the truth," Palmeiro said. "They did a thorough investigation and couldn't come up with anything or any other evidence. I told them the absolute truth."
This is hardly proof of innocence or proof that Palmeiro's positive test was due to a one-time event but it is a point in Palmeiro's favor.
Also, there's this quote from Palmeiro:
"I can tell you what I'd like to forget – the 3,000th hit," Palmeiro said. "I knew early on that it was a positive [test] and knew that, at some point, my career was going to get crushed. I was playing with that in my mind all season. It didn't matter what I'd done, even with 3,000 on the horizon....
"Usually, baseball celebrates something like that, it's almost like an achievement of baseball instead of an individual or team achievement," Palmeiro said. "But I can honestly tell you, that was as dark of a moment in my career as ever. I don't even like thinking back on that."
I include these quotes to frame a question: Why would a man who was so tortured by the impending release of the positive test that it renders his chase for 3,000 hits to a memory he'd like to forget keep standing by his story? 
There is still a list of names out there, a list of 104 names from 2003 that has caused other players a lot of heartburn. It would be hard to believe that Palmeiro's name is on that list if he is still standing by his original story and with his first Hall of Fame vote just a few months away.
So either Palmeiro is a pathological liar of Roger Clemens-like proportions or he has a bit more credibility than he did five years ago. I'm going with the latter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Throwbacks, Part 2

These throwbacks are not nearly as slick looking as the ones the Orioles wore earlier this season but they certainly are attention getting.

From The Baltimore Sun:

They don't really stand the test of time, do they?

More pics from the weekend over at The Baltimore Sun website.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Orioles Are Switching It Up

Saw this on Twitter las night from CamdenRevival:

Wow, forgot the Orioles have four switch-hitters in the lineup. Though I wish two were named Murray & Singleton. #Orioles #that70sOsShow

Damn. He was right. I can't believe I missed that. Brian Roberts, Matt Wieters, Josh Bell and Cesar Izturis were all in the lineup. The first time it happened was August 3rd. Just over 14 years ago, to the day, was the last time the O's featured a quartet of switch hitters. (August 2, 1996)

Also pointed out by CamdenRevival, the four switch hitters appeared in consecutive spots in the batting order as it turned. Roberts was 1st, while Wieters, Bell and Izturis filled spots 7-9. That also happened for the first time on August 3rd and had never happened in Oriole history before.

How do I know all this? I posted this last season when it appeared that Wieters, Roberts, Izturis and Zaun might make up a quartet of switch hitters. But Izturis was hurt and Zaun got traded shortly after Wieters' call up from Norfolk.

This quartet will be short lived as Izturis will probably be gone after the season and there are no switch hitters in AAA. Although, the next guys are in Bowie and are both shortstops (Pedro Florimon and Greg Miclat) so maybe they'll be here sooner than we think.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brad Bergesen Revisited

Always one to beat a dead horse, I'm revisiting my Brad Bergesen-is-Rick Porcello meme. From last December, a quick statistical comparison of their 2009 seasons:

                 ERA    WHIP    K/9   BB/9   K/BB
Porcello '09    3.96    1.34    4.7    2.7   1.71
Bergesen '09    3.43    1.28    4.7    2.3   2.03

Now, I preface all of the following with this: Bergesen is three years older than Rick Porcello. But their stuff was not appreciably different and their results in terms of peripherals were not either.

But Porcello was lauded as a top prospect and almost universally praised. Bergesen was marginalized for his fluky performance. I figured the truth was probably somewhere in between for both of them.

Their careers remain linked (at least in my mind) in 2010.

So far in 2010:

                 ERA    WHIP    K/9   BB/9   K/BB
Porcello '10    5.74    1.56    4.6    2.6   1.73
Bergesen '10    5.84    1.53    4.0    2.7   1.48 

Both have struggled during their sophomore seasons. Both have had to return to AAA for some part of 2010. And both have come back down to Earth from 2009 results that outperformed their peripherals.

Now the good news is this; not only has Bergesen been a little unlucky up to this point, he seems to have finally gotten back in the groove after missing the last 2 months of 2009 with an injury.

Bergey's xFIP is 5.10. His BABIP is .311, a tad high. But the good thing is that he is trending the right way. For July and August, his K/BB ration is nearly 3.00, the GB% is right at 45%, a K rate north of 5 per 9 and his walks are down to 2 per 9.

I always thought that Bergesen could survive if he was getting more than 5.0 K/9 because of his very low walk rate and good ground ball rate. He's been doing that and more since the beginning of July.

Arbitrary endpoints? Perhaps. But I have always maintained that control pitchers with marginal stuff are hurt more by injuries and layoffs than most pitchers because so much of their success (and control) depends on a repeatable delivery. It looks like Bergesen may finally be getting his groove back after battling a bruised shin last season and a sore shoulder in the offseason.

And he may be part of the Orioles' plans after all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alfredo Simon: Who Are You Anyway?

I got into a Twitter discussion with Dan from Camden Crazies last night about what kind of pitcher Alfredo Simon was and realized I was really making assumptions without looking at the data. I have been dismissive of Simon throughout his Oriole career and never really took him seriously. So lets take a closer look at Mr. Simon.

Batted ball data is incomplete for Simon over his minor league career but looking at the numbers show the following:

                    GB%   LD%   FB%   IFF%  HR/F
Simon (Minors)     48.7  11.8  28.9   12.9   9.1

Now, his strikeout and walk rate for his 9 year minor league career.

                  BB/9   K/9   K/BB  HR/9    
Simon (Minors)    3.2    6.9   2.17  0.9

Simon was signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 18 by the Phillies back in 1999. He bounced around a bit playing in the Giants and Ranger organization and the Mexican League before joining the Orioles and making his major league debut in September 2008.

Simon was mostly a starter during his minor league career but did make occasional appearance out of the bullpen. He demonstrated a good ability to induce ground balls and while his strikeout rate and control were not great, he did produce a good K/BB ratio of more than 2 to 1. His home run per fly ball rate was fair.

But despite decent peripherals, Simon gave up a lot of hits, 9.4 per 9 and a career WHIP in the minors of 1.39. When batters hit him, they were hitting him hard. All grounders are not created equal and to support that kind of WHIP when nearly half the balls you allow in play are grounders, a good portion must be sharply hit.

In his limited time in the majors:

                 BB/9    K/9   K/BB   HR/9   GB%   LD%   FB%   HR/F
Simon (Majors)   3.51   6.07   1.73   2.40  48.9  16.3  34.7   22.7

Firstly, I am shocked the he has been able to keep almost exactly the same ground ball rate that he had in the minors. Dan said that he was a ground ball pitcher and I completely missed that while watching him. (Probably because of what I am going to talk about next...) He has also maintained a respectable strikeout rate.

However, his command has slipped and his walks have creeped up, especially this season. He no longer has a 2 to 1 K/BB ratio. He's also giving up more liners and, especially, fly balls as his infield fly rate has diminished. And when batters get the ball in the air, it goes a long way. Every five times Simon allows a fly ball, one leaves the yard. (And he's on his way to once every four times.)

So the bottom line with Simon is this: some nights he's going to strike guys out, allow a walk and get grounders to save the game and others he's going to give up a walk or two and then allow a big home run. That's who he is.

Can he be a closer? Sure, in my mind. The closer does not have to be your best pitcher out of the pen and Simon can probably get by (and he has made it through most of the season in that role). And if he could drop the walk rate a bit, he could probably be a solid closer. But he's always going to give up homers which will probably put him on the wrong side of the Julio Lugo line.

edit: Our Twitter conversation spawned a post on Dan's site too. I have to admit that he was right about the ground ball rate. The homers? I don't think that's bad luck. More to come on that front...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

They Did It Again!

Brian Roberts' walk-off homer in the 10th last night is just the latest in a series of feel-good wins for the Baltimore nine.

Is it Showalter? Maybe a bit. Offensive outburst? Yeah, they've scored a few more runs over these last seven games. But mainly, it's been the pitching. Seven straight quality starts for the Oriole hurlers has given the club a shot to win every night.

Are the pitchers coming around? It's still Rick Kranitz after all. Maybe.

It's probably smoke and mirrors but we'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Photo from The Baltimore Sun...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nolan Reimold To The Rescue?

From the Oriole Insider blog on BaltimoreSun.com:

Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Nolan Reimold went 4-for-5 with a double, homer, two RBIs and a stolen base against Louisville last night. In seven August games with the Tides, Reimold is batting .400 with two homers, seven RBIs, three walks and two steals. Overall, he’s batting .238 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and six stolen bases in 73 games.
It’s obviously been a long and trying year for Reimold, who was supposed to be the everyday left fielder in Baltimore. Instead, he hit .205 in 29 games and has been in the minor leagues since May 12. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said there has been some discussions about promoting Reimold, but nothing is imminent at this point.

I don't believe that Reimold was healthy to start this season and that certainly didn't help things. The silver lining to his struggles and subsequent demotion? Reimold could compete for the first base job in 2011.
Reimold has played 38 of his 73 games in Norfolk at first base. And his hot August is no fluke. Even though he only posted a .235/.361/.382 line in July his BABIP was only .238 when his line drive percentage supports a BABIP in the .290's. In other words, Reimold was unlucky in July and has been hitting the ball a lot better since the beginning of July. (He has also walked 21 times since July 1st against just 16 strikeouts.)
Reimold should get a September callup but with Felix Pie, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis in the outfield, there is no room for Reimold in the outfield. A 1B/DH split with Luke Scott makes some sense and adds a decent right handed power bat the the Orioles lineup needs.

In Defense (Sort of) of Rick Dempsey

OK, given the name of this blog, I feel like I have to comment on this...

"I think it is probably the biggest mistake made here in a long time, and I'm not talking just today, I mean over the years," Dempsey said. "Not being given an opportunity to manage this ballclub. Every organization in baseball would like to have someone who has won, who has played in the World Series for the organization, who has learned to manage from A ball up and come back here. I think with the relationship I have had with the fans and this city, I should have been a slam-dunk years ago. Someone dropped the ball a long time ago."

This comment led to these reactions:

It’s time for Rick to take it like a man and walk away with a shred of dignity intact. He’s had a four interviews for the Orioles managerial position and has come up empty. The latest interview only came after Rick openly campaigned publicly for the position. Rick, they’re just not that into you.

Or this:

These days, Dempsey is an “analyst” on the pre and postgame shows on the MidAtlantic Sports Network. He offers little insight and allows his cohost to smooch his arse for a half hour before and after every game.

But here’s the bad news for Demper: MASN is owned by the Orioles. Thus, when Dempsey whined to the paper in the middle of the happiest day at Camden Yards in a long time, he crapped all over his bosses. Where I come from, that’s enough to get you canned.

Or this:

Jesus, Rick, just shut up already. You've just demonstrated once again why you shouldn't be hired.

First, we can't wait for athletes (former or current) to speak candidly. But when they do, what are they told? Shut up! We can't have it both ways. Dempsey is being as real as a guy can get about a situation where he feels wronged. He said it, for better or for worse. I don't want the guy to pipe down because of that.

Secondly, he not totally wrong here. Would Dempsey have been a worse choice than Lee Mazzili, Sam Perlozzo or Dave Trembley? Probably not. If Dempsey ever had a shot, (or should have been given a shot) it was when Dave Trembley was named interim manager in 2007. That would not have been a bad time to give Dempsey the interim tag and let him show what he could do. However, Dempsey probably would have lost just like Trembley and been bitter when he was fired. At least he's still in the family now but I can understand the disappointment.

Thirdly, I don't think I can call out Rick. I don't come into this unbiased and I understand this. Is Rick wrong about getting passed over this time around? Yes. Absolutely. Buck Showalter is far more qualified and Dempsey, from a logical point of view, doesn't really have a leg to stand on here.

But this is Rick Dempsey. A member of the Oriole Hall of Fame. One of my childhood idols. The 1983 World Series MVP. A man who was once described by The Sporting News as "indestructible". And in the few encounters I've had with him, he's been a prince of a guy.

I'm not calling out John Rikard. All is forgiven. I just hope Rick can move on from this; it's not becoming of him to beg.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Comment on Comments

I'm going to have to go back to moderated comments on the blog. Even with word verification, spam comments are overrunning my posts and it's too difficult to keep up with.

I will post moderated comments as quickly as possible. Thanks

Luke Scott: An Appreciation

Luke Scott has been under appreciated throughout his career.

Cleveland traded him as a minor league for pitcher Jeriome Robertson, a 26-year-old with a 5.18 ERA over 43 career games up to that point. He proceeded to hit like crazy in the Houston system. The Astros saw him as a platoon player only (even though his career splits were not crazy: .875 OPS against righties, .793 vs lefties) and threw him in as one of 5 players sent to Baltimore in the original Miguel Tejada deal.

Even after Scott had proved himself as a legitimate slugger (if a flawed overall hitter) with Baltimore, was he given the role of cleanup hitter in 2010? No. Coming into the season, Tejada was given that job, despite years of declining power.

What? You doubt he was a legitimate slugger? From 2008 through today, Scott has the 10th best ISO in the American League, right behind Evan Longoria, just ahead of Justin Morneau. He's 12th in slugging, tied with Shin-Soo Choo, just ahead of Paul Konerko.

But he is never mentioned with those players. Again, much of that has to do with the fact that he doesn't hit for a great average and hasn't ever hit more than 25 homers (although that looks to change this year). But he has led the Orioles in slugging over for the past three seasons, yet has batted cleanup only 49 times in his career (including the last 15 games for Baltimore).

In the absence of a Prince Fielder or an Adrian Gonzalez on this team, Scott should have been the obvious choice but was overlooked.

Chris Jaffe wrote an article for The Hardball Times (at the prompting of Dan from Camden Crazies) examining Buck Showalter and his manging style. This in particular jumped out at me:

Also, it's especially important that he get such good OBP from his table setters, because if there's one thing his teams have been good at over the years, it's slugging the ball. Twice a Showalter-managed team led the league is Isolated Power, on two other occasions they finished second, in a fifth year they came in third, and in two more campaigns they came in fourth. Not bad for an 11-year haul.

Thinking it through, there's a clear theme to everything above, a theme that represents Showalter's offensive philosophy. He isn't playing for one run at a time, but prefers going for the big inning. To that end, he'll try to put good OBP at the top of the order so his big boppers can drive runners in...

I don't want to overstate my case. Showalter's no magician who automatically makes everyone a better power hitter (Soriano, most notably, did not improve under him). My point is much simpler. Baseball can be like any other workspace in that employees respond to items their boss pays more attention to. 

Buck is going to find a way to keep his power bats in the lineup. I have a feeling that if Showalter had been hired in the offseason, Scott would have been given every chance to win the first base job instead of being relegated to DH by default. Scott won't be overlooked again...not while Buck is the manager.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Return of the BORT

Showdown of Suckdom: 2010 Orioles vs 1988 Orioles

In the past, oh, 13 seasons of losing Baltimore baseball (and a few in the early 90's too), I have always been able to comfort myself, ever so slightly, with this thought: "Hey, I lived through 1988, I'll live through this too."

Now, I have to come to grips with reality...2010 is the new 1988. I have lived through two seasons that are equally horrific. I never thought I would see an Oriole season as terrible as '88 in my lifetime...but here we are. It may even be worse!

But as a distraction, I decided to see how these teams would stack up against each other, position by position, as the debate over which is the worst Oriole team in history begins.

Catcher: Matt Wieters vs. Mickey Tettleton

Sorry Matty, not thick enough yet (87 OPS+). In the battle of switch-hitting catchers,  Fruit Loops provided significant offense (113 OPS+) from behind the plate even if the defense was suspect.

Edge: '88 Orioles

First Base: Ty Wigginton vs Eddie Murray

Wigginton has been surprisingly solid for the O's this year (111 wRC+) but although Murray would never hit 30 homers again after the '87 season, '88 was still a pretty good season for Steady Eddie (140 wRC+).
Edge: '88 Orioles

Second Base: Julio Lugo/Brian Roberts vs Billy Ripken

Ripken has a really poor year at the plate and, from all accounts, was not so great in the field that year either. Even the paltry output from Lugo and a hobbled Roberts are a significant upgrade.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Shortstop: Cesar Izturis vs. Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ripken was nearing the height of his fielding powers and turned in a nice season at the plate. (132 wRC+)  Izuris has been worse with the bat than usual (and that's saying something) and hasn't even been very good in the field.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

Third Base:  Miguel Tejada\Josh Bell vs. Rene Gonsalez\Rick Schu

If Tejada had stayed, he would win here because Gonzalez was so wretched. But Tejada is gone and Bell figures to struggle mightily over last two months of the season. Rick Schu, acquired in a mid-season trade from the Tigers, actually hit pretty well and played defense that was superior to Tejada certainly and probably better than Bell.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

Rightfield: Nick Markakis vs. Joe Orsulak

This is closer than you might think but Markakis' bat (122 wRC+) is in another class compared to Orsulak. (113 wRC+).

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Centerfield: Adam Jones vs. Fred Lynn\Brady Anderson

Jones (98 OPS+) has come around with the bat but has had his challenges in the field. Lynn was having a fine year before he was dealt to Detroit (122 OPS+) and young Brady Anderson took over and struggled mightily at the plate. (OPS+ 43) Lynn was solid in the field and Anderson was superior which makes this one awfully close to call. At this point, it's a push, with Jones probably overtaking the pair at year's end.

Advantage: Push

Leftfield: Corey Patterson\Felix Pie vs. Ken Gerhart\Pete Stanicek

Against all odds, Patterson has been at least a  league-average hitter this season (98 OPS+, wRC+ 107), has stolen 18 bases at an 86% success rate and, while he has not played his requisite fine defense, I think he has played better than his -4.4 UZR/150 shows. He's been a bright spot.

It would have been interesting to see what Pie could have done if not for his injury early this season. His hot start has been erased by his struggles since his return from the DL as he is not even replacement level this season (-0..6 WAR).

However, the combo of Gerhart and Stanicek posted wRC+ numbers of 75 and 88 respectively during the '88 season and neither were particularly adept with the glove. They abdicate the leftfield competition to Patterson and Pie.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Designated Hitter: Luke Scott vs. Larry Sheets

Larry Sheets had just come off his career year in 1987, one of the greatest slugging seasons in Oriole history. Alas, that was not to continue as his ISO fell from .247 to .113 and his OPS+ dropped from 143 to a meager 83.

Luke Scott, on the other hand, continues his better-than-solid career with a monster .282/.348/.556 line and is by far the best hitter for Baltimore this season.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Backup Catcher: Craig Tatum vs. Terry Kennedy

Craig Tatum came better than advertised...even if he finds himself back in Norfolk right now.

Terry Kennedy still had a couple good years left in him...but '88 wasn't one of them as his paltry OPS+ of 61 shows. By all accounts, he did not have a good year defensively either.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Utility: Garret Atkins/Scott Moore vs. Jim Traber/Keith Hughes

Who would think that any combo involving Jim Traber would win in any comparison? I won't go into the gory details but Atkins was really, really bad, folks.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Jeremy Guthrie vs. Mike Boddicker

Guthrie has continued to battle this season, turning in league average numbers that are welcome in this season where the rest of the rotation has been a disaster.

Boddicker didn't have a great season for the Orioles in '88 (he saved that for the Red Sox after he was traded) but his peripherals show that his 101 ERA+ is greater than Guthrie's.
Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Kevin Millwood vs. Mike Morgan

Even though Morgan imploded as a starter early and was relegated to the bullpen, he is still providing more value than Millwood...and Millwood is headed in the wrong direction.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Brian Matusz vs. Jeff Ballard

Too depressing to detail, Jeff Ballard had a better "first full season" in the majors than Brian Matusz is having right now. You heard that right, Jeff Ballard > Brian Matusz. (sigh...)

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Brad Bergesen vs. Jose Bautista

23-year-old Bautista was not great but was solid with a ERA+ of 93 over 171.2 innings in 1988. Brad Bergesen has posted an ERA+ of 64. Advantage Bautista.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Jake Arrieta vs. Jay Tibbs

Arrieta and Tibbs are similar levels of suckdom. Arrieta wins the ERA+ but he has also walked more than he has struck out. Different but equally bad for these guys.

Advantage: Push

RP: Alfredo Simon vs. Tom Niedenfurer

Niedenfurer was a journeyman reliever with a decent career and turned in a very respectable ERA+ of 112 with 18 saves. Simon has been average (ERA+ 103) and has exceeded expectations but the nod goes to Niedenfurer.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

RP: Jason Berken vs. Mark Williamson

Berken has been oustanding in middle relief with an ERA+ of 155. Williamson didn't strike batters out much, was wild and posted an ERA+ of 80.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

RP: Matt Albers vs. Dave Schmidt

Albers has edged his ERA+ up to 99 but the peripherals are pretty terrible. Schmidt's peripherals were better and he manged to put up an ERA+ of 115.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

RP: Mark Hendrickson vs. Mark Thurmond

In this battle of the lefties, Hendrickson has actually pitched better than his ERA this season. The peripherals are good but he has been hit unlucky. Thurmond had bad strikeout and walk rates but had better results overall. Tempted to give this to Hendrickson but in reality, it's another tie.

Advantage: Push

Final Un-scientific Results:

'88 Orioles - 11
'10 Orioles - 6
Push - 3

It's not even close. We are probably looking at the worst Oriole team since the franchise moved to Baltimore. Regardless of record (and the Orioles are on a pace to equal the '88 loss total, I can't make a very compelling argument that this version of the Orioles is better than the 1988 verison.

You're witnessing something historic Oriole fans. You are living through 2010.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Norfolk Shuffle

Saw this in the Baltimore Sun's Orioles Insider blog from Jeff Zrebiec this morning:

It was pretty obvious watching Josh Bell the past two games that the young third baseman is really pressing in an effort to make a good impression. He was tentative defensively and too anxious offensively, and he’s clearly putting a lot of pressure on himself. After Sunday’s game, in which he hit into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, Bell sat in front of his locker with his head down. Bell has made a really good impression in the clubhouse because he listens and observes, keeps largely to himself and goes about his business. The veterans have noticed. Now, hopefully they can get him to relax and not play every night like it’s a tryout and he needs to prove his status as the everyday third baseman.

Gee, I wonder why Bell might feel like every game is a tryout?

You may as well paint Hwy. 17 orange and black with all the movement between Baltimore and Norfolk with young players this season. Bell has made the trip 5 times in a little over a month all by himself. Brad Bergesen has made 4 trips. Chris Tillman has made 6.

My gut has told me that yanking these guys back and forth due to performance has to be messing with their confidence a bit. Bell's mindset certainly supports that theory. I mean, if you can't start for the Orioles, how good are you really? It's got to be messing with these guys' heads, even if they are just reacting to what happens to their teammates.

You could make the argument that Bell wasn't totally ready for the callup. (Although, on a team as brutally bad as Baltimore, the argument could be made that you aren't worried about "wasting:" AB's on a kid who may struggle initially...it's not going to matter in the standings.) But Tillman? He's done everything he needs to in AAA. The O's sent the kid down to work on a pitch at the beginning of the season. Fine. But he's been jerked around ever since. At some point, you have to let the guy take his lumps and try to get better. Again, it's not as if Baltimore will be frittering away a playoff run with Tillman on the mound.

The lack of development from the prospects at the Major League level has been very disturbing. Hopefully, with Buck Showalter at the helm, the kids will be given instruction and patience instead of quick hooks, shifting roles and Greyhound ticket to Harbor Park.