Orioles-Nation » Brian Matusz http://orioles-nation.com Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:34:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Orioles Nation delivers Orioles minor league information you can't get anywhere else. From going to games to discussions with scouts, the ON Staff brings you news, scouting reports, and more from around the Orioles minor leagues, and frequently discusses the current happenings with the big league club. Orioles-Nation no Orioles-Nation LRinker@gmail.com LRinker@gmail.com (Orioles-Nation) Orioles Nation orioles, baltimore, baseball, scouting, minor, leagues Orioles-Nation » Brian Matusz http://orioles-nation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ON-Logo.png http://orioles-nation.com Baltimore, Maryland Weekly Minor League Players of the Week: 7/7 – 7/13 http://orioles-nation.com/2014/07/14/minor-league-players-week-77-713/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/07/14/minor-league-players-week-77-713/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=15061 Chance Sisco is currently leading the SALLY in batting average.

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Position Player of the Week - Chance Sisco, C (Low-A, Delmarva)

.419/.455/.548 (13/31) with 4 2B, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K Chance Sisco

Sisco could win this award every week. Once again, he has put together another week with double digit hits. Sisco is currently first in average and has the fourth highest OBP in the entire SALLY. He has driven in a run in his last six games. The hit tool is a legitimate tool, and Sisco is the best position prospect in the Orioles’ system at this point. The defense is still a work-in-progress, but he has improved since the beginning of the year from those that have laid eyes on him throughout the season. I’ll be seeing him again next weekend when I head down to Delmarva.

Starting Pitcher of the Week - Tim Berry, RHP (Double-A, Bowie)

6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K Tim Berry

The lefty is on the 40-man roster, so there is always an intrigue when a rostered player is putting up fairly successful numbers at the higher levels. Berry has erratic command of his three-pitch arsenal at times, but he is a productive pitcher when the command is evident. The fastball has enough on it to throw the timing of hitters off, and the changeup and curveball are decent secondary offerings. Berry could see time with the Orioles out of the pen in September, and he could fill the role of a LOOGY if Brian Matusz continues to struggle.

Relief Pitcher of the Week - Ivan Hernandez, RHP (SS-A, Aberdeen)

3 G, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 KIvan Hernandez

Do you like velocity? Well, Hernandez has touched 97 mph on multiple occasions. Hernandez has a power arm and looks to be on a different tier in terms of NYPL talent. I would like to see him face better competition, as my recent scouting report at Baseball Prospectus might have been too judgmental at the time. Reports are always a snapshot of a player at the current time, and I was more intrigued by the big-framed righty on Friday when I saw him command 94-95 mph. He’s one to keep an eye on, but probably not a player you want to vault onto any top prospect lists.

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Quality of opponents matters for Baltimore Orioles pitching staff http://orioles-nation.com/2014/06/22/quality-opponents-matters-baltimore-orioles-pitching-staff/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/06/22/quality-opponents-matters-baltimore-orioles-pitching-staff/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 22:05:00 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=15017 The average OPS (On-base plus slugging) in baseball, through June 21, is .708 but the average OPS in the American League is .714 and it’s just .701 in the National League. Why this is important is because it gives us a measure of the overall quality of hitters in each league, including the state of offensive talent across baseball (somewhat).

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The average OPS (On-base plus slugging) in baseball, through June 21, is .708 but the average OPS in the American League is .714 and it’s just .701 in the National League. Why this is important is because it gives us a measure of the overall quality of hitters in each league, including the state of offensive talent across baseball (somewhat). What it is also useful for is measuring just how much of a pitcher’s performance is related to them facing a murderers row of hitters more often than not, or if they are simply not very good right now or at all.

Baseball Prospectus has a statistic called oppOPS (opponents OPS) which is useful for measuring the average quality of opponents hitters and pitchers have faced throughout the course of a season or career. They have another statistics labeled PPF which is centered around 100 and represents the percentage of run scoring that was influenced by the mix of ballparks the pitcher pitched in. Anything over 100 illustrates the percentage above normal run scoring was influenced and the opposite is true.

It would be fair to state Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tommy Hunter, and even Miguel Gonzalez to a lesser extent have been having horrible or troubling seasons. The flip side of that is most would agree that Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen are having a decent season so far and pitchers like Ryan Webb, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton have been crushing the competition.

The chart below (stats through June 21) helps break down and illustrate the quality of hitters each pitcher, with a minimum of 20 innings pitched, on the team has faced to this point in the season and where they rank at in that regard, as well as how much pitching in their mix of ballparks has influenced the number of runs scored or not scored.

Name IP ERA FIP oppOPS (min. 20 IP) Rank (out of 356 Pitchers) PPF
Kevin Gausman 23 2.74 3.17 .767 1 98
Bud Norris 87 3.62 4.47 .730 31 102
Ryan Webb 32.2 2.48 2.68 .728 36 101
Ubaldo Jimenez 81.2 4.63 4.76 .724 71 102
Chris Tillman 84 4.82 4.61 .721 87 102
Darren O’Day 31 1.45 3.28 .720 93 102
T.J. McFarland 21.2 3.32 3.68 .717 112 99
Tommy Hunter 23 5.48 4.47 .716 116 102
Miguel Gonzalez 63.1 4.41 4.72 .706 208 102
Wei-Yin Chen 83.1 3.78 3.86 .702 239 100
Brian Matusz 26 4.15 5.16 .693 283 102
Zach Britton 38.1 1.64 3.26 .690 298 101

 

Britton has had a ton of praise heaped on him since he took over the closer’s role from Hunter, and was being praised for his general work out of the bullpen before that, but you can see he hasn’t been facing much stiff competition. He’s near the bottom of the ranks in baseball for quality of opponents faced, which makes it difficult to accurately judge his dominating performances.

Fans have been calling for Jimenez and Tillman to be placed on the disabled list or moved to the bullpen in message boards and on social media for their struggles. As you can see though, they are near the top of the ranks in baseball for facing some pretty challenging hitters and offenses overall. Additionally, they have also spent most of their time pitching in hitter friendly ballparks, as have the majority of Orioles pitchers.

Looking over the statistics for the Orioles pitching staff in conjunction with the statistics of the overall quality of hitters faced we’re able to at least make a determination of whose performance is possibly for real, for better or worse, and whose we should be a bit more patient with.

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Minor League Players of the Month: April http://orioles-nation.com/2014/05/01/minor-league-players-month-april/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/05/01/minor-league-players-month-april/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 11:05:53 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14809 Hunter Harvey has quickly reminded everyone that he is one of the best prospects in baseball.

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Position Player of the Week – Dariel Alvarez, OF (AA, Bowie)

.361/.370/.567 (35/97) with 11 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 SB

Alvarez has been a pleasant surprise this season. He was playing RF last season and I pegged him as average. In 2014, Alvarez has played CF and it is quite amazing how different he looks. The glove plays average in CF, but average is significant in terms of value. An average defensive CF is worth more than an average RF, considering what a player needs to cover at the position. He has a plus-plus arm as well, which plays tremendously from CF. With the bat, the biggest difference is he shortened the swing. Last year, his swing was elongated and his hands would drift. That is not happening anymore and the swing is generally more fluid. He is still more of a free swinger, as indicated by the 2/6 BB/K ratio. Teams will start to make some adjustments on Alvarez, but this is exactly the start the O’s hoped for out of the Cuban.

Starting Pitcher of the WeekHunter Harvey, RHP (A, Delmarva)

26.0 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 13 BB, 29 K

Scouting and evaluation are primarily what we focus on at ON, making it an easy decision to give Harvey the award. He has quickly ascended in the prospect world, and the Orioles have to be ecstatic with the development so far. The change needs refinement, but Hunter Harvey is a very talented prospect and has some sack on the mound. I have nothing else to add besides this tweet below, where my buddy Wittmann absolutely crushed it.

Relief Pitcher of the WeekJason Gurka, LHP (AA, Bowie)

16.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 14 K

Here is a pitcher that gets overlooked often, mainly because the Orioles have a plethora of lefties currently ahead of him on the depth chart. With Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Troy Patton, Chris Jones and formerly Michael Belfiore ahead of him – it clearly has become a struggle to envision a role for Gurka at the next level. But do not let that discourage your thoughts on him.

Gurka runs his fastball low 90′s with some sink on it, and will miss bats with this pitch. His hard slurve comes off his good plane and can devour lefties. He needs to use the change more against right-handed hitters for success, but it has gotten the job done against them so far at Bowie. I think his ceiling is likely a LOOGY, but I would like to get another expanded look on him against some right-handed hitters before sealing that mark on Gurka.

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ON Mailbag 4/21 – 4/27 http://orioles-nation.com/2014/04/27/mailbag-421-427/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/04/27/mailbag-421-427/#comments Sun, 27 Apr 2014 16:07:47 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14787 Questions submitted to Orioles Nation for the Weekly Mailbag for the week of 4/21 - 4/27. Topics include Majors, Minors, Transactions, etc.

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Welcome to the Orioles Nation Mailbag. If you have future questions, you can submit them here:

All major league questions answered by Alex Conway.
All minor league questions answered by Tucker Blair.

Tucker,
Seems as though Parker Bridwell is still struggling with consistency. Any idea if Orioles are thinking of putting him in relief and just focus on a couple of pitches.

The most maddening player in the Orioles’ entire system. I love Parker’s arsenal and overall ability. There is no denying his talent. However, he has certainly struggled to find consistency. I have now seen two of his starts on the year, and have reports from the others.

Over at Baseball Prospectus ($$), I wrote my thoughts on his first start. He has improved mechanics; keeps himself compact and has good drive with a solid arm action. I also heard that Bridwell has kept himself more composed on the mound, and I can agree with this. The problem has always been consistency, as stated in your question. I have his fastball 93-94 mph, 91-93 mph, and heard one of his road starts he was sitting 87-90 mph. Obviously, that is a tremendous amount of inconsistency. The power curve and change are also inconsistent. One start, his curve was flashing plus and showing great depth. The next start is was loopy and the change was the pitch showing well.

My overall thoughts on Bridwell stay the same though. Keep him in the rotation for now. Allow him to continue as a starter at Frederick, and the Orioles can move him to the bullpen in the next year or two once he gets to AA. He will grow more as a pitcher by sticking in a rotation and battling through a lineup three times a night. In the long run, I do think Bridwell ends up as a reliever, and he could be a damn good one.

- Tucker Blair

Troy Patton will soon be back. Who’s the odd man out to make room for him?
An interesting roster question and one that I was surprised the Orioles put themselves in when they tendered him a contract. I figured Patton a candidate for non-tendering in the Offseason. In the current Bullpen, no lefty makes sense to get rid of; Zach Britton and Brian Matusz are key pieces of the bullpen. Out of the righties, Josh Stinson is the only that makes sense. Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, and Ryan Webb aren’t leaving. However, Stinson has no options remaining so he would have to be exposed to waivers if the Orioles decided to send him down for Patton. Also, Stinson serves as the mop up long man, something Patton cannot pull off. The other option is going with an 8 man bullpen. Buck has stated multiple times that he would go with a 13 man staff. However, with Chris Davis now on the DL, I do not see that being in the near future even with Manny coming back. The only other option is that they DFA Patton and hope he sneaks by waivers and stash him in AAA. My best guess is that the Orioles DFA Stinson and add Patton.

- Alex Conway

Baseball Prospectus released a new PECOTA Takes on Prospects this week, and the highest Orioles prospect in the rankings not named Gausman was Wynston Sawyer, who I’d never even heard of before. Did PECOTA find a diamond in the rough, or is this just some statistical fluke?

This is an interesting topic and one that I am surprised has not received more buzz. I have reached out to Andrew Koo over at Baseball Prospectus to provide an answer on this, and BP will be running a second article to look at some of the discrepancies and flaws that might be tied into the projection system.

Speaking of Wynston Sawyer, I do think this is more of a statistical fluke than a diamond in the rough; and that is not a knock on Sawyer by any means. Baseball is certainly not easy, which is why Sawyer as a top 50 productive prospect was eye-raising. He does a few things well, such as barreling the ball and plate discipline, but the power has not always been present in-game and the defense is inconsistent. I think the main flaw being targeted here is how Sawyer went from 2 to 8 HR from 2012-2013. He slugged .284 in that first season in the SALLY. It’s a large jump number-wise. More on this topic will come along shortly, and I will certainly pass it along.

- Tucker Blair

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Baltimore Orioles 2014 Season Preview http://orioles-nation.com/2014/03/30/baltimore-orioles-2014-season-preview/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/03/30/baltimore-orioles-2014-season-preview/#comments Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:00:41 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14678 Staff Writer Alex Conway previews the 2014 Orioles season and predicts a final record.

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Delmarva Shorebirds 2014 Season Preview
Frederick Keys 2014 Season Preview
Bowie Baysox 2014 Season Preview

It’s here…it’s finally here. After months of waiting, opining, conjecturing, prognosticating, and speculating – Opening Day is upon us. The off-season ended with a bang after months of rumors and tease with the signings of Suk-Min Yoon, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Nelson Cruz. Some familiar faces are gone. Some new faces are hoping to become familiar. The best positional prospect in the organization will be on the Opening Day roster, the best pitching prospect not too far behind.  However, now it’s time to look forward. With that in mind here is the 2014 Season Preview.

First Base: Chris Davis

The only issue surrounding Chris Davis is one of regression. He had such a stellar 2013 season that everyone everywhere is questioning whether he can replicate that performance. My favorite Chris Davis stat from last season is that he had a .348 ISO (Isolated Power, which measures a hitter’s ability to hit for extra bases); the next highest .ISO was Miguel Cabrera at .288. It is unlikely Chris Davis can produce at that rate again. However, he has had a great spring power-wise and all reports are that he is locked in once again. Chris Davis will be the starting first baseman all season long.

Second Base: Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty 

Flaherty will see plenty of playing time in 2014, especially with Machado out early.

Flaherty will see plenty of playing time in 2014, especially with Machado out early.

Second Base has been a thorn in the side of the Orioles for a couple of seasons now. Injuries and poor performance have given some of the worst production in the league at the position over the past couple of seasons. Going into spring training Ryan Flaherty had the hold on the job, however with Manny Machado going on the DL and Johnathan Schoop raking, the picture has become murkier. Schoop is going to be on the Opening Day roster and will play while he is on the big club. The return of Machado may send Schoop back down, but for now he is in the picture. Expect a platoon between Schoop, Flaherty, and utility man Steve Lombardozzi between second and third base with two playing and one riding the pine each game.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty, Johnathan Schoop

The job is Manny’s when he returns. However, until that happens, Flaherty and Schoop will switch off with Steve Lombardozzi possibly pitching in. When Manny returns, the concerns for third base go way down. Manny had an excellent first season batting, with some troubles in the second half, and an all-time great defensive season. The Platinum Glove award winner has a stranglehold on third base.

Shortstop: J.J. Hardy

The steady rock that is J.J. Hardy returns for another year. The only question surrounding the shortstop is that of extension talk. Hardy remains great with the glove and a great value with the bat at his position. Hardy will play another 150+ games at shortstop (hopefully).

Left Field: David Lough, Nelson Cruz

Another position on the field that has been one of consternation for Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter is Left Field. Two new candidates will look to fill the position this season. Trade acquisition David Lough looks to be the starter against Right Handed Pitchers and a late-inning defensive replacement. Lough has top-end speed, plays plus defense, and has a decent bat. It Nelson Cruz appears will be patrolling Left Field against Left Handed Pitchers against my strongly held wishes. Cruz has a high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and lots of power with the bat and a bad game defensively. Cruz and Lough will split the games with Lough playing a majority of the time at the position.

Center Field: Adam Jones

Jonesy returns as the face of the team. Everyone knows the kind of player Adam Jones is.  Fans and some media personality love to complain about the defects in his game, however he still stands out on the field and in the batter’s box. Jones will be the everyday centerfielder.

Right Field: Nick Markakis

Can Nick Markakis rebound in his contract year?

Can Nick Markakis rebound in his contract year?

2014’s highest paid Oriole, Nick Markakis, will look to rebound in what is effectively the last season of his contract. Markakis has had to deal with injuries and the Orioles have had to deal with ineffectiveness for multiple years running. Markakis, after a long overdue healthy off-season, has put on muscle and reports from Spring Training are great. He will play right field every day.

Catcher: Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters’ defensive game has never been better. His offensive game has clear holes. Wieters is unlikely to turn into Joe Mauer, but a better season at the plate is definitely a possibility. Wieters will be the starting catcher.

Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Delmon Young

Delmon Young will be the designated hitter versus left handed pitchers and that is his sole role on the team. He can and should produce in that role. Young however does not have a strong hold on that role. Steve Pearce has a shot at surpassing Young if Young underperforms. Nelson Cruz will be the DH versus right handed pitchers and basically has no threat on the roster for that role.

Bench: Steve Lombardozzi, Steve Pearce, and Steve Clevenger

The three Steves will comprise the bench starting the season. Expect lots of turnover amongst these positions as Dan Duquette has been known to manipulate the bottom end of the roster like crazy. Lombardozzi will be the utility man, Steve Pearce the 4th outfielder, and Clevenger the backup catcher.

Starting Rotation: Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris

The starting rotation was pretty mediocre last season and if the Orioles hope to win more than 85 games this year it will have to be better. Veterans have been added and the depth is actually quality depth this season. Opening Day starter Chris Tillman will look to cement his status as a solid big league pitcher coming off an “all-star” season. Ubaldo Jimenez, the number two starter, will try to capture and hold onto whatever allowed him to produce at such a high level last season. If Jimenez can be the pitcher he was in 2013 for 2014, the Orioles rotation looks a whole lot better. Wei-Yin Chen will try to stay healthy and try to figure out the seventh inning this season, other than that, Chen is who he is. Gonzalez continues to produce and continues to amaze in his ability to get outs, nothing different should be expected this season. Bud Norris has a tenuous hold on the fifth spot in the rotation with Kevin Gausman and others nipping at his heels. Norris concerns me, but he has put up a solid spring and will have time to cement his role as the fifth starter. The rotation as a whole should be better and if a couple of things break right, could be very good.

Bullpen: Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Evan Meek, Josh Stinson 

Josh Stinson secured one of the final bullpen spots. Can he hold it all season?

Josh Stinson secured one of the final bullpen spots. Can he hold it all season?

The bullpen also disappointed last season. The magic of the 2012 team was held up on the bullpen preforming great in the late and close high leverage situations. The 2013 season was a different story in similar situations. Tommy Hunter looks to replace bullpen stalwart Jim Johnson as the closer. Expect Buck to have a quicker hook with Hunter than he did with Johnson if Hunter consistently falters in the ninth. O’Day, Webb, and Matusz are solid locks to be on the roster all season long and should be effective relief pitchers. Britton, Meek, and Stinson earned their spots in Spring Training and could lose them just as quick. Solid bullpen depth at Norfolk should mean that if any one of those three under-performs, they have a quick ticket off the roster. The bullpen, in my mind, is the weakest section of the team with a lot of unknowns remaining—as most bullpens have. The bullpen could be great, it could be awful, and the volatility of relief pitchers creates a hard situation to predict.

Season Prediction:

Obviously, all of these predictions and previews are based upon a lack of injuries—a risky assumption. Also obviously, predicting a record for a 162 game baseball season is relatively foolhardy. Regardless of those two facts, The Orioles can contend for the division and the playoffs if three things happen. One, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters need to produce better than they did last season at the plate. Two, Manny Machado and Chris Davis cannot regress greatly. Three, the starters are able to stay in games longer and the bullpen is able to perform well late and close. If those three things happen, the Orioles will be contenders. I predict a season record of 88-74 (+/- 5), wildcard contender, and possible playoff team.

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Projecting the 25-Man Roster http://orioles-nation.com/2014/03/03/projecting-25-man-roster/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/03/03/projecting-25-man-roster/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 12:00:08 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14566 The ON Staff projects the 25-man roster for Opening day.

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The ON Staff took their best shot at projecting the O’s roster and lineup for opening day. Spring Training has just started, but we thought it would be fun to look back in a month and see how terribly wrong we were. or right. I guess we shall find out!

A few notes:

- The staff did not fluctuate too much on the overall outlook of the roster. All three have the same rotation.
- The lineups also did not fluctuate very much for opening day. All three fully expect Manny Machado to be ready.
- Dylan Bundy is most likely headed for the 60-day DL to start the year, and Kevin Gausman is most likely optioned to start the year.

Alex Conway‘s 25-Man Roster Projection:

Alex has OF Francisco Peguero winning his final bench spot. (Courtesy: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports)

Alex has OF Francisco Peguero winning his final bench spot.
(Courtesy: Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports)

1B: Chris Davis
2B: Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
SS: JJ Hardy
LF: David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
C: Matt Wieters
DH: Nelson Cruz

BC: Steve Clevenger
Util: Alexi Casilla
PH: Nolan Reimold
4th OF: Francisco Peguero

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Wei-Yin Chen
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris

Zach Britton

Alex has LHP Zach Britton winning his final bullpen spot

BP: Tommy Hunter
BP: Darren O’Day
BP: Ryan Webb
BP: Brian Matusz
BP: Kelvin De La Cruz
BP: Suk-Min Yoon
BP: Zach Britton

Opening Day Lineup
1. Nick Markakis
2. Manny Machado
3. Adam Jones
4. Chris Davis
5. Nelson Cruz
6. Matt Wieters
7. David Lough
8. JJ Hardy
9. Ryan Flaherty

Roster Casualties: RHP Edgmer Escalona, RHP Josh Stinson, Michael Almanzar (Rule 5 selection), OF/1B Steve Pearce,
Optioned: RHP Kevin Gausman, LHP Michael Belfiore, LHP Tim Berry, RHP Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy (60-day DL Candidate), RHP Steve Johnson, LHP T.J. McFarland, C Johnny Monell, C Michael Ohlman, 2B Jemile Weeks, 2B Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia
Suspended: LHP Troy Patton

This is the 25 man and OD Lineup I think that Buck and Dan will put together. I think Peguero makes the roster due to upside and likelihood some other team would pick him up if placed on waivers. I could see Almanzar making the team only because Duquette has shown that keeping Rule 5 guys on a roster all year long is part of his M.O. However, I think Peguero essentially fits that role. I think Hardy slips to 8 in order to break up the lefties which Buck always seems keen on doing. I could also see Reimold in LF on Opening Day because of them likley facing Lester. However, I think Lough plays because of a greater defensive prowess and Lough not having any split weakness against lefties.

Tucker Blair‘s 25-Man Roster Projection:

Tucker has OF/1B Steve Pearce winning his final bench spot (Photo Courtesy: Orioles.com)

Tucker has OF/1B Steve Pearce winning his final bench spot (Courtesy: Orioles.com)

1B: Chris Davis
2B: Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
SS: JJ Hardy
LF: David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
C: Matt Wieters
DH: Nelson Cruz

BC: Steve Clevenger
2B: Jemile Weeks
4th OF: Nolan Reimold
LF/1B/DH: Steve Pearce

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Wei-Yin Chen
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris

Tucker has Josh Stinson winning his final bullpen spot (Courtesy: Baltimore Sun

Tucker has Josh Stinson winning his final bullpen spot (Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)

BP: Tommy Hunter
BP: Darren O’Day
BP: Ryan Webb
BP: Brian Matusz
BP: Kelvin De La Cruz
BP: Suk-Min Yoon
BP: Josh Stinson

Opening Day Lineup
1. Nick Markakis
2. Manny Machado
3. Adam Jones
4. Chris Davis
5. Nelson Cruz
6. Matt Wieters
7. JJ Hardy
8. Ryan Flaherty
9. David Lough

Roster Casualties: RHP Edgmer Escalona, LHP Zach Britton, Michael Almanzar (Rule 5 selection), OF Francisco Peguero
Optioned: RHP Kevin Gausman, LHP Michael Belfiore, LHP Tim Berry, RHP Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy (60-day DL Candidate), RHP Steve Johnson, LHP T.J. McFarland, C Johnny Monell, C Michael Ohlman, 2B Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia
Suspended: LHP Troy Patton

My lineup and roster are not terribly different from the one Alex projected. I have Reimold and Pearce winning out the final two bench spots, because I truly feel as if they offer the most to the club. Reimold, if healthy (alright, alright, relax), has major league talent and has shown in spurts what he can do. If I can have that coming off the bench or getting time in LF/RF/DH when needed, then I think he provides the most value. Steve Pearce is a great bench option. All the guy has done with the Orioles is get on base and provide value. I will beat this horse until it is beyond dead, but he had a .261/.362/.420 batting line in 2013 with a .345 wOBA. Do you know how many players had a .345 wOBA or higher last year for the Orioles? Three (Chris Davis, Danny Valencia, Adam Jones). Even in limited play, Pearce showed that he is a piece the Orioles could certainly use. I also like that he can play adequate LF and 1B in a pinch if needed. David Lough can fill in at CF if needed, which is rare with Adam Jones manning the position every day.

I have Weeks on the bench because I think the Orioles can use some formation of Weeks and Ryan Flaherty to solve their utility role. The Orioles’ left side of the infield played almost every game last year, and I think it is possible again for them to get significant playing time. I’m rolling the dice though, as Manny Machado could need a little more time to fully heal and JJ Hardy has been injury prone before his time with the Orioles. My bullpen has Josh Stinson with the final spot because he can pitch in middle relief, long relief and even spot start. I am worried about Zach Britton and I think he would be best served as getting a fresh start somewhere else. The only problem I have with my roster is I leave an extra spot on the 40-man due to the DFA of Edgmer Escalona. I feel that the Orioles could potentially look to maximize their roster here, but we shall see.

Jeff Kryglik‘s 25-Man Roster Projection:

Jeff has RHP Edgmer Escalona winning one of his final bullpen spots (Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)

Jeff has RHP Edgmer Escalona winning one of his final bullpen spots (Courtesy: Baltimore Sun)

1B: Chris Davis
2B: Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
SS: JJ Hardy
LF: David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
C: Matt Wieters
DH: Nelson Cruz

Bench:
BC: Steve Clevenger
2B: Jemile Weeks
OF: Steve Pearce
OF: Nolan Reimold

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Wei-Yin Chen
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris

BP: Tommy Hunter
BP: Darren O’Day
BP: Ryan Webb
BP: Brian Matusz
BP: Edgmer Escalona
BP: Suk-Min Yoon
BP: Zach Britton

Opening Day Lineup
1. Nick Markakis
2. Manny Machado
3. Adam Jones
4. Chris Davis
5. Nelson Cruz
6. Matt Wieters
7. J.J. Hardy
8. David Lough
9. Ryan Flaherty

Roster Casualties: LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, RHP Josh Stinson, Michael Almanzar (Rule 5 selection), OF/1B Francisco Peguero,
Optioned: RHP Kevin Gausman, LHP Michael Belfiore, LHP Tim Berry, RHP Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy (60-day DL Candidate), RHP Steve Johnson, LHP T.J. McFarland, C Johnny Monell, C Michael Ohlman, 2B Jonathan Schoop, OF Henry Urrutia
Suspended: LHP Troy Patton

It is honestly killing me to put Weeks, Pearce and Britton on this roster, but I really don’t see where else they could go. Spring Training will change a lot of things, but for my money, I have to roll with these guys as my main bubble guys, in addition to Escalona.

This is Britton’s last chance. He has no more options. He will not be a starter in this league outside of maybe a spot start here and there. If he cannot stay healthy, game over. Even when he is healthy, still might not be consistent enough to warrant a roster spot.

Weeks, to me, is a guy you have to keep over Casilla pending Spring Training. While Casilla has the speed, like Weeks, and Major League experience advantage, you want someone in there who is a little younger. There is no secret that the club wants Schoop to win this job, but I don’t think we’ll see him until mid-to-late Summer.

I like Peguero, but his bat sees a significant dropoff in his MLB service time in comparison to his minor league numbers. To me, it would be nice to see him on the big club, but Pearce is that Nate McLouth type. High energy, high effort guy who you need in your lineup to boost the morale of the troops in the locker room. Not consistent, but a guy I would keep around.

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Missing on Bronson Arroyo isn’t devastating http://orioles-nation.com/2014/02/10/missing-bronson-arroyo-isnt-devastating/ http://orioles-nation.com/2014/02/10/missing-bronson-arroyo-isnt-devastating/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:00:52 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14512 Jeff gives us his reason why the Orioles missing on Bronson Arroyo isn't devastating.

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Courtesy: Yahoo! Sports

Courtesy: Yahoo! Sports

With pitchers and catchers set to report on February 13, the Baltimore Orioles will begin their 2014 campaign for a World Series title without any significant additions to bolster the starting rotation.

General Manager Dan Duquette and the rest of his comrades in the front office missed out on the Bronson Arroyo bidding war as the 36-year-old opted for a two-year deal worth at least $23.5 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks, per FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. He also has an $11 million option with a $4.5 million buyout for 2016.

While some fans and those who follow the Birds may be up in arms that Baltimore missed out on the right-hander, an addition of the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher wouldn’t have changed too much in a rotation that still lacks a true ace.

Arroyo was never going to come into Baltimore and be inserted as the top guy. RHP Chris Tillman still occupies that role and even that is a bit of a stretch for a guy who allowed 33 home runs in what was his first year as a full-time starting pitcher in the organization. But Tillman still went 16-7 and ate up 206 1/3 innings in 2013 with a 3.71 ERA. Arroyo went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA over 202 innings as he allowed 32 home runs.

And that’s the issue… the home run total.

As good as both of these pitchers are, the big fly can burn them and burn them bad. Just two years ago, Arroyo allowed a league-high 46 home runs as a member of the Reds. He hasn’t allowed less than 26 since 2005. In a ballpark like Camden Yards, where home runs fly as often as seagulls do at beaches, a traditional fly ball pitcher isn’t well-suited for that environment.

Hence why there is still doubt with Tillman at the top and Wei-Yin Chen riding his coattails.

Guys who tend to be plagued by the long ball, but also have the ability to eat innings are a risky proposition at best. The Orioles’ rotation hasn’t upgraded from last year and bringing in an aging pitcher like Arroyo wasn’t going to change much.

Two things would have been beneficial if he had agreed to terms with Baltimore:

1. He eats innings and with the lack of quality starts in the rotation last season, in addition to the high volume of innings logged by the bullpen due to starters’ inability to get past the fifth and sixth innings, this would have provided less wear and tear for the likes of RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Tommy Hunter and LHP Brian Matusz.

2. Arroyo has never been on the disabled list in his major league career. He is entering his 15th season as a professional.

Duquette has said he intends to get the payroll over $100 million before the start of the regular season. He still has some work to do if he wants to reach that goal.

Missing out on Arroyo isn’t that crippling to the organization as he fits the mold of what several of the other starters in the rotation provide other than his vast major league experience.

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Taking a Look at the Orioles’ Bullpen Picture http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/19/taking-look-orioles-bullpen-picture/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/19/taking-look-orioles-bullpen-picture/#comments Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:21:44 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14403 Will takes a look at the Orioles’ Bullpen picture after the signing of Balfour.

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The Orioles’ big off-season move so far has essentially been the departure of Jim Johnson via trade. However, when taking a closer look at the wide assortment of bullpen candidates, it seems that the Orioles actually have some very impressive depth from which to fill out the ‘pen. Let’s take a look.

Locks (These players, if not traded, injured, or moved to the rotation, will be in the 2014 bullpen)

Grant Balfour:

After a week of holding out for a third year, Balfour has finally lessened his demands, allowing the Orioles to ink him to a 2 year 15 million dollar contract (with 500,000 deferred each year, such that the Orioles will be paying him 7 million a year). This substantive deal makes the Jim Johnson trade look much better, in hindsight, as the Orioles have essentially swapped their 84.8 SV% closer for the A’s 92.7 SV% closer and a few other lesser pieces paid for with the monetary difference. As Alex Conway discussed last night, Grant Balfour is a good, but not elite, closer who should be a solid replacement for Jim Johnson. Barring injury, it looks like the 9th inning is in good hands.

Tommy Hunter:

Despite talk of giving Hunter a shot at the 2014 Orioles rotation, expect Hunter to be back firing high 90s fastballs in the 8th inning. Being a fly ball pitcher, Hunter has historically struggled with the long-ball. However, his 1.1 HR/9 rate in 2013 halved his HR/9 from 2012, and the Orioles expect him to continue to repress that number in 2014. Overall, Hunter is a very solid bullpen piece who fits the prototypical late-inning mold of a power pitcher with high-end velocity. However, to fully establish himself as a big league set-up man, Hunter will have to prove that he can be effective pitching multiple games in a row, as Buck Showalter seemed hesitant to throw Hunter on back-to-back days in 2013. Of course, he also threw multiple innings in 26 of his appearances.

Darren O’Day:

O’Day will undoubtedly be back in 2014 as one of, if not the best side-arm reliever in the game. O’Day gives Showalter extremely valuable late inning match-up diversity when coupled with the former and latter options on this list. While some of O’Day’s peripheral statistics like HR/9, H/9, and K/9 declined slightly from career norms, I wouldn’t worry about this as O’Day had some injury struggles late in the year that could have stemmed from overuse. If the starters can go deeper in games, O’Day should gravitate back towards his career norms. Either way, O’Day will continue to provide the Orioles with value in 2014.

Brian Matusz:

At the beginning of the offseason, many people around baseball speculated that Brian Matusz could be on the move this winter due to his climbing arbitration salary and his failure to become the ace pitcher the Orioles hoped he would be. However, following the trade of Jim Johnson, it looks like the Orioles will hold on to Matusz, and even give him one last shot to fill the back end of the 2014 rotation. Despite this, barring a spectacular return to his second-half 2010 form, expect Matusz to join Hunter and O’Day as late inning options to help pave the way to Balfour. Over the past season-and-a-half, Matusz has shown an extraordinary propensity for dominating the game’s leading left-handed sluggers, so even if Matusz cannot re-discover how to pitch to righties, he should provide solid value to the Orioles’ 2014 bullpen.

Ryan Webb:

Webb is a very solid ground-ball reliever who should serve a similar role as Luis Ayala did in 2012: a 6/7th inning reliever who consistently gets groundball outs and provides a bridge to the later-inning relievers. For more on Webb, check out Alex Conway’s analysis: a more optimistic, but still very realistic evaluation of his potential 2014 value. Thus, Webb could turn out to be a mid-late inning reliever, who either way is likely to be a key cog in the 2014 Orioles’ ‘pen.

Solid Maybe’s (These players each have a reasonable chance at making the cut, especially if previously mentioned players get moved to the rotation or traded. However, they do not have the same job security as the others)

Troy Patton:

It might come as a surprise to some that Patton is not a lock. However, when one looks at the major regression that Patton experienced from 2012 to 2013, there is no reason to hand Patton a spot. If in Spring Training Patton looks like the 2012 version (2.43 ERA, 0.8 HR/9, 1.9 BB/9, 7.9 K/9) he is definitely deserving of a spot. Yet if he looks as he did in 2013 (3.70 ERA, 1.3 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 6.8 K/9), it might make more sense for one of the Orioles’ many other lefty options to join Brian Matusz as the second left-hander in the bullpen.

Brad Brach:

I see Brach as a bit of a wildcard for the 2014 bullpen picture. If he can command the ball, his funky delivery and decent stuff tend to draw lots of swings-and-misses analogous to a late-inning reliever. However, because of his lapses in command, Brach has only been a very average middle reliever (as suggested by Tucker) over the last couple seasons. A decent comparison would be to Alfredo Simon, as Simon struggled with his command earlier in his career with the Orioles, yet has become a more effective bullpen option in the last couple years  for the Cincinnati Reds due to improved command. Thus, it would be premature to project Brach as locked into the 2014 bullpen. However, if he can find his command, do not be surprised to see him pitching in Baltimore in 2014.

Zach Britton:

While Britton has been thought of as a starter for his entire career, it could be that the Orioles’, if not impressed with Britton’s spring training starts, try to move Britton to the ‘pen in a similar role as T.J. McFarland in 2013. Then again, the Orioles’ might decide to move on from Britton, despite his still apparent talent, if they don’t believe he can at least be an average long reliever. Tucker took a look back at Britton to see what went wrong.

Kelvin De La Cruz:

De La Cruz is another interesting piece, who, like Brach, has the potential to rack up K’s at the back of a big-league bullpen if he can harness his command. The Orioles signed De La Cruz to a major league deal and Dan Duquette has said that he believes De La Cruz is ready to perform at the big league level. So even if De La Cruz could not be considered a lefty bullpen lock, he is certainly in the picture.

Josh Stinson:

To be honest, out of all the guys not locked into the bullpen, I like Stinson the most. After being called up at the end of the season, he showed improved velocity (mid 90s) and much sharper stuff than in his early-season sport start against Toronto. In 10.0 innings from late-August to the end of the season, Stinson allowed just one earned run. Closer to the end of September, Buck Showalter seemed to develop some faith in Stinson in relatively high-leverage situations. While some might disagree, I think Stinson has the ceiling of a late inning reliever, not just a mediocre swing-man that some project him to be. However, the Orioles might prefer to stash him in AAA as an insurance starter.

Probably Not’s (While these guys have some varied appeal, they are simply too far down on the depth chart to be reasonably projected as part of the big league ‘pen at this time)

Edgmer Escalona, Steve Johnson, Mike Belfiore, Chris Jones, and T.J. McFarland:

Escalona has a power-pitcher appeal but had a tendency to allow blow-up innings with the Rockies last year. Tucker wrote a brief report on Escalona. After flashing potential in 2012, Johnson struggled mightily with health and effectiveness in 2013. While putting up strong minor league stats, Belfiore struggled in a brief major league cup-of-tea. Chris Jones was mediocre in the AFL and is low on the left depth chart, and T.J. McFarland might be converted back to a starter in AAA as the Orioles no longer have to keep him on the 25 man roster. Again, there is an outside chance that one of these guys impresses so much in the spring that the Orioles cannot help but bring them north with the big club, however it would be much more reasonable to project them as part of Norfolk’s pitching staff.

In summary, the Orioles have a plethora of bullpen options who have the potential to contribute to the big club in 2014. Dan Duquette has quietly built substantial depth from which Showalter can construct a bullpen staff with the potential to be one of the best in the league.

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Orioles Leave Winter Meetings Without A Starting Pitcher http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/13/orioles-leave-winter-meetings-without-starting-pitcher/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/13/orioles-leave-winter-meetings-without-starting-pitcher/#comments Sat, 14 Dec 2013 00:00:30 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14382 The Baltimore Orioles Left the Winter Meetings Without A Starting Pitcher. "They look like a team that's caught in between"

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Courtesy: Baltimore Sun

Courtesy: Baltimore Sun

With the winter meetings now behind them, the Baltimore Orioles still have a boatload of work on their desk as they failed to address their two most important needs heading into the 2014 season.

A team carried by offensive prowess can only go so far until the starting pitching and bullpen caves in on their chances of prosperity. As of right now, the Orioles are banking on a lot of players’ potential much like they did during the off-season following their 93-win 2012 campaign; and it resulted in a winning season without a playoff berth in 2013. 2012 was the most important off-season in recent history for the franchise and this one is equally as important. With the way the roster shakes out now, it appears as if Baltimore’s chances of contention are stagnating as they have yet to make any significant splashes to help bolster the product on the field.

The Orioles starting rotation would look roughly like this as of right now:

1. RHP Chris Tillman

2. LHP Wei-Yin Chen

3. RHP Miguel Gonzalez?

4. RHP Bud Norris?

5. RHP Kevin Gausman?

Sure, Tillman pitched well above what anyone thought he could be in 2013, but his repertoire translates to more of what a No. 2 and No. 3 starter can do for a club when they take the bump every fifth day. Knowing his propensity to give up the long ball, Baltimore is banking on his career-high in wins (16) to translate to back-to-back quality seasons. There’s a full scouting report on the 25-year-old now as he has gone through his first full MLB season and it is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on him to replicate those numbers in 2014.

Considering the injury-riddled seasons and up-and-down nature of both Gonzalez and Chen, it is hard to imagine that manager Buck Showalter deep down feels as strongly about this rotation as he did with the one heading into 2013. Stability is good for certain pieces of an organization to have, but when the starting pitching is average at best, someone should be addressing that pressing issue before anything else.

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

It is also hard to rely on youthful talents like Kevin Gausman at this stage of his career. Doubting that Gausman can become a great player in this league is far’fetched, but his role on this club is still to be determined. The former LSU Tiger showed flashes of brilliance with his big league fastball and developed his change-up into somewhat of a strikeout pitch, but his control and ability to hit his spots were erratic and it’s clear he still has a lot of work to do. Plus, he made good and bad appearances as both a starter and reliever. Given the situation of the bullpen at this stage of the off-season, it is unclear where the 22-year-old fits.

The same can be said about Bud Norris. Coming over from the Astros, it appeared as if he had inked up a starting spot for the future. However, lack of a true rotation and precarious bullpen struggles since his arrival to Baltimore left Showalter with decisions to play him in various situations.

But starting pitching is the main issue with this team. Not the closer. Not the left field mess. Not the designated hitter.

And the Orioles missed on few that could have helped that situation improve.

While the candidates were not exactly world-beaters in terms of potential No. 1 starters for the Orioles, general manager Dan Duquette watched as many of his potential “targets” went away to other organizations for more money than the Orioles offered, despite Baltimore freeing up money with the contract of second baseman Brian Roberts, closer Jim Johnson’s trade to Oakland and the extra $25-plus million received from Major League Baseball in added revenue.

The Orioles watched as 40-year-old RHP Bartolo Colon inked a two-year, $20 million deal with the New York Mets. Duquette saw LHP Scott Kazmir get two years and $22 million from the Oakland Athletics. RHP Scott Feldman went to the Houston Astros instead of remaining in Baltimore. RHP Edison Volquez signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates — Pittsburgh ended their 20-year playoff drought in 2013 and are looking to return back to the postseason.

The lone signing that is worth any value is RHP Ryan Webb from the Miami Marlins, but even his role is uncertain as Baltimore is yet to address their need at closer. Webb will help the bullpen in what likely will be a middle-relief role for the 27-year-old, but it is not a game-changer. Maybe it is RHP Tommy Hunter. Maybe it is RHP Grant Balfour, who the Orioles are reportedly talking to but remain apart on years and terms of the contract.

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote a piece discussing his winners and losers of the winter meetings Florida. The Baltimore Orioles were on his list of losers and when he talked with a few people about the club, the overwhelming sentiment was that the team has become too complacent.

“They look like a team that’s caught in between,” one baseball executive told Stark. “They act like they don’t have any money, although I’m not sure why. They’re a little short on having enough talent to keep pace in the division. And they don’t seem like they’re going to do much to address it. They feel like they’re a team with nowhere to go.”

Courtesy: MSN - FOX Sports

Courtesy: MSN – FOX Sports

The reason for the bullpen’s struggles last season was the starting pitching’s inability to go deep in ball games. The Orioles had two complete games during the entire 2013 regular season. Two. One of which belonged to Feldman. The Orioles ranked 10th in the American League with 78 quality starts and 24th in all of baseball. Having to rely on Johnson, Hunter, LHP Brian Matusz and RHP Darren O’Day diminished this team’s long-term success as they were overworked by the month of August.

And it is what wore them down in 2012 as well. When the bullpen needed to come up big in the ALDS against the New York Yankees, they folded.

It’s not a blame that can be placed purely on Showalter either. Not having the horses to run the race will hurt any team’s chances of winning consistently.

The Orioles have holes scattered about despite being an 85-win baseball team in 2013. But they also have money available to address those holes. They choose to remain complacent and watch as the rest of the league jumps the gun on potential fixes to the starting pitching problem.

These next three months will show if the Orioles really have an incentive to win now or plan for the future like they have been since the early 2000′s. They missed on the opportunity to become a perennial contender last off-season and while the winner of the free-agent market and off-season doesn’t necessarily translate to wins on the field — the Toronto Blue Jays finished fifth in the AL East with 74 wins– hopefully they don’t sabotage themselves twice.

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Where were the Orioles in the Doug Fister ‘Sweepstakes’? http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/09/orioles-doug-fister-sweepstakes/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/09/orioles-doug-fister-sweepstakes/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 12:00:26 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14343 Could the O's have put together a package to land Detroit's Doug Fister? Do they have any other trade options that are similar? Will dives into the minors and tries to piece together a logical trade.

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The fallout of the Doug Fister trade has largely been a slew of media pundits from various sports networks blasting the Detroit Tigers for an apparently lopsided deal that brought Detroit a young lefty specialist, an average utility man, and a back-of-the-rotation pitching prospect. In return, the Washington Nationals received a very good pitcher with strong results in the American League. Not to necessarily throw my hat in the ring with these guys, but the return for Fister – a top 10 WAR pitcher in the American league over the last couple years – was indeed quite underwhelming.  This brings forth the question of what kind of package the Orioles could put together for a similar pitcher.

Let us begin by building a package using the Washington National’s model in the Fister trade. Below is the Orioles’ (closest) version of the players the Nationals surrendered.

Doug Fister for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray

Doug Fister for Brian Matusz, Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez

Eduardo Rodriguez

The Orioles would likely have to surrender a prospect like Eduardo Rodriguez for a significant upgrade in their rotation via trade

Krol and Matusz are both young left-handed relievers whose splits peg them as specialists, but whose talent suggests the potential for more value. While Krol is a bit younger, throws a bit harder and is much cheaper, Matusz is a former fourth overall pick who has had success in the past as a starter and was projected as an top-line starter not too long ago. While their value appears similar, I would give Matusz the slight edge as his ceiling is probably higher (note that Matusz is also due to make more money in 2014).

Lombardozzi and Schoop are both versatile infielders who offer different kinds of value. Lombardozzi is a much more polished player with 691 more major league at-bats than Schoop. However, Lombardozzi will likely never be more than a useful utility player while Schoop has the potential to be an above-average 3B, SS, or 2B. At this point, Schoop’s dearth of potential makes him a more valuable trade chip than Lombardozzi.

When comparing Ray and Rodriguez, two young lefties at similar points in their careers, the picture painted by reading scouting reports generally leaves us with the idea that Ray has the potential to be a 3-5 starter, while Rodriguez has the potential to be a future 2-3. Ray is described as having average stuff across the board, with good pitchability, while Rodriguez’s stuff is pegged as above-average and getting better. Signs point mostly to Rodriguez getting the favor here, although the Tigers clearly liked what they saw in Ray.

While trying not to overvalue the Orioles players as a fan (or a GM) will often do, evaluating the two veritable copies as far as players go leads one to the conclusion that the Orioles could probably have trumped the Nationals bid with a similar package. So now, just for fun, let’s consider whether this package would be enough to acquire an experienced starter who could be on the move this offseason, and would offer considerable appeal to the Orioles.

However, first it should be explained why the Orioles would trade the three aforementioned players. Matusz is the easiest to explain, as he offers appeal to other teams who still view him as a potential starter, and his projected salary does not look to match what the Orioles will want to pay him. Schoop is a prospect who really could solidify the right side of the Orioles infield one day, however, after a brief audition at the end of last season and through his mediocre play in the Arizona Fall League, it is clear that Schoop needs more minor-league seasoning and probably will not be truly ready to help next year’s contending Orioles team. Finally, Rodriguez is a very fine-looking prospect who the Orioles would not be quick to let go of. However, with the Orioles shoddy record in developing pitching, particularly when recalling the “real-deals” and “sure-things” from the past few years (cough Matusz cough Britton cough Arrieta) who simply haven’t panned out as expected, it would make sense to trade Rodriguez for an established pitcher. Odds are, even by way of optimistic projections, Rodriguez wouldn’t surpass Fister in production. Of course, Rodriguez would be a cost-controlled asset.

Without further ado…

Cincinnati Reds trade Homer Bailey

Orioles trade Brian Matusz, Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez

This is an interesting trade to consider, as it is no secret that the Reds are open to trading Bailey. They possibly could move Bailey in order to enable them to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo , and allow Aroldis Chapman to slide into the Homer Baileyrotation. The Reds are trying to clear some payroll and maximize on Bailey’s value with him being a free agent in 2015, and with the Orioles having just cleared payroll of their own (shifting it to the penny-pinching A’s??), they could fit Bailey’s projected 9 million dollar contract into their budget. Perhaps they could even extend him to maximize their investment. Schoop could be an intriguing piece if the Reds are really looking to move Brandon Phillips and no team is going to balk at acquiring a top lefty pitching prospect. However, the Reds have no need for Matusz due to the presence of the more dominant Sean Marshall (plus taking his projected 3.5 million dollar salary would just be backtracking).

Would the reds accept?: Probably not.

So who could replace Matusz? We could dig deeper in the Orioles minor league system, but the Reds are a contending team who might be looking for more big-league-ready talent. Forget Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, or even Mike Wright since the Orioles would not want to let go of more strong pitching prospects who could become major contributors to the 2015 Orioles. There is no clear-cut player who would make sense as the third Oriole in the deal but perhaps they could offer the Reds Henry Urrutia, Bud Norris, or Nolan Reimold. I don’t think the Orioles would part with Norris after giving up talent to get him from the Astros, I doubt the Reds would want Urrutia because of his shaky, though admittedly improving, defense in the DH-less National League. Reimold could be a fit if the Reds see the same potential in him that the Orioles have (his power is undeniable).

In conclusion, the Orioles should have tried to work out a deal for Doug Fister, perhaps they ‘were not at the right place at the right time’, however it’s Duquette’s job to be. Additionally, in order to make the Orioles a viable contender in 2014, they MUST shore up their rotation, and acquiring Homer Bailey would do just that. Thus, the Orioles should gauge the Reds interest in Schoop and Rodriguez, and see if they could somehow sweeten the deal. With the New York Yankees shelling out dough like it’s the 2000′s, the Boston Red Sox fresh off a World Series victory, the Tampa Bay Rays making smart investments per usual, and the Toronto Blue Jays desperate to make a splash, the Orioles need to get aggressive – or spend bigger, to float to the top of the division.

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Why the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers are a Match Made in Heaven http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/02/orioles-dodgers-trade-partner-match-made-heaven/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/12/02/orioles-dodgers-trade-partner-match-made-heaven/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 23:21:29 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14323 The Baltimore Orioles want to trade Jim Johnson and the Los Angeles Dodgers are, reportedly, interested in acquiring him. What would a deal with the Dodgers look like and just how huge of a deal could it be?

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On the heels of the news that the Dodgers are in the mix for Jim Johnson, it’s exceedingly fun and intriguing to speculate on the Dodgers as a potential trade partner for the Baltimore Orioles. While trade scenarios with the Orioles only giving up Jim Johnson are interesting in their own right, when one looks at the larger picture, both teams have multiple players who would likely appeal to the other team. So, let’s explore:

Who Would the Orioles Want?

It’s been pretty thoroughly documented that the Orioles are primarily looking for quality starting pitching (who isn’t?), a DH/LF type, a second baseman,  and perhaps some bullpen help,  along with salary relief/flexibility. While the Dodgers don’t have much to offer in terms of middle-infielders, that’s the least of the Orioles concerns since the Orioles will likely resign Brian Roberts and have a solid contingency plan (Ryan Flaherty).

Starting Pitching: The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Dan Haren locked into the first four spots of their formidable rotation leaving a few pitchers to battle it out for the final spot. However, the losers will likely find themselves floundering in the minors, exiled to the bullpen, traded, or released, thus we should consider all of these options as expendable trade candidates. It is also important to keep in mind the vastness of the Dodgers budget and the distinct possibility that they will sign another free agent starter (Santana/Garza/Jimenez) which would create even more of a surplus. Now, the expendables:

1. Chad Billingsley

Pros: There’s a lot to like about Billingsley as he is an experienced but still relatively youthful pitcher at 29 who boasts a Matt Garza-like resume of solidly above average career numbers (3.65 ERA, 110 ERA+ vs Garza’s 3.84 ERA, 108 ERA+). Additionally, Billingsley can eat some innings as in his four full seasons he has logged an average of 194 innings per year. He would bring stability and consistency to the staff along with #2 or #3 starter potential.

Cons: The big catch to Billingsley is his health as he didn’t pitch past April last year due to Tommy John surgery. While reports have been extremely favorable, suggesting that Billingsley will be full-go for spring training, it is always difficult to predict how long it will take for pitchers to find their stride after such a major surgery; even Adam Wainright seemed to have a warm-up season following Tommy John surgery. Also, the Orioles might be a bit hesitant to pay 12 million (Billingsley’s 2014 salary) to a guy whose health is in question.

Note: Billingsley is signed only through 2014 with a 14 million option for 2015, a dual-edged blade as the Orioles might not want to trade for a one or two year rental, or they might be hesitant to give too much value for a player who isn’t controllable for a longer period of time.

2. Josh Beckett

Just kidding

3. Stephen Fife

Pros: Fife is an interesting pitcher who made a handful of starts with mild success (3.86 era 93 ERA+) for the Dodgers last year when their other more primary options went down with injury. Fife’s groundball tendencies would play well at hitter-friendly Camden Yards and work perfectly with the gilded left side of the Orioles infield.

Cons: Fife is a widely unproven pitcher who arguably isn’t any more valuable than arms that the Orioles already have such as Zach Britton, Josh Stinson, or T.J. McFarland.

Additionally, the Dodgers have some B level starting pitching (Think Tim Berry/Mike Wright) that the Orioles could definitely use for depth and potential impact in 2015/2016. Just to float a few names: Ross Stripling, Jonathan Martinez, and Carlos Frias, are all interesting pieces who could help facilitate a larger-scale deal.

Outfield/DH types: It’s old news that the Dodgers are trying to trade one of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp, and I could see the Orioles interested in all 3 of those players to varying degrees if the Dodgers threw in a hefty chunk of cash.

1. Carl Crawford

Pros: Carl Crawford is a bona-fide Nate McClouth who brings speed, decent on-base capabilities that are elevated through high batting-averages, and solid defense to the field. Crawford could easily solidify the left field position and the lead-off spot, killing 2 birds with one stone. The DH position offered by the American League could help keep Crawford healthy as he struggled to stay on the field last year.

Cons: Most would agree that Crawford is a faded star who will never rack up triples and stolen bases like he once did. While his value deteriorates as he ventures further into his 30s, his price tag climbs to over 20 million, a price the Orioles would definitely scoff at. Any trade involving Carl Crawford would require the Dodgers to eat a significant portion of his salary. Even so, Crawford looks like the least appealing of the three.

2. Andre Ethier

Pros: Andre Ethier has always reminded me of Nick Markakis, a corner outfielder with fading power that was never any more than average, yet well above average on base capabilities. Comparing their career slash lines Markakis/Ethier (.292/.288 .360/.362 .441/.470), we can see that they are pretty much the same player, they even hit and throw with the same sides. One might question the value of another apparently fading Markakis, however the two are both extremely patient hitters with discerning eyes and solid line drive strokes that could provide huge value sandwiching Manny Machado in the line-up (protection), boosting the on base capabilities of the team, and setting the table for the R/L power bats of Jones and Davis.

Cons: Ethier, like most of the Dodger’s commodities, is a player with an enormous contract that will be paying him from 15-18 million a year for his 32-36 seasons. Like Crawford, it’s difficult to imagine the Orioles paying that sort of money to a declining player exiting his prime and inching closer to the middle portion of his 30s.

3. Matt Kemp

Pros: Just imagine sitting on the couch, watching Machado making one of his signature preternatural plays to end the frame and hearing Jim Palmer say, with the MASN music in the background, Kemp-Davis-Jones, up next. No one is going to run to the bathroom for that commercial break. But seriously, a healthy Kemp plugged into the middle of the Orioles line-up would give the Orioles the most dangerous, dynamic trio in the American League. Simply put, when healthy, Kemp is one of the most dynamic, powerful right-handed hitters in the game, whose defense would presumably play up if shifted away from center-field. There is no doubt that the Orioles would love to have Kemp hitting ahead of Chris Davis.

Cons: However, the Dodgers are paying Kemp 21.5 million dollars through his age 34 season, an actually relatively reasonable and worthwhile contract IF Kemp stays healthy. That’s a big if for a contract that could cripple a mid-market organization like the Orioles. Even if Angelos was on-board with the idea, would the Dodgers really want to trade Kemp while his stock is so low? Kemp is definitely the highest risk/cost, greatest reward trade-target of the three.

Who Would the Dodgers Want?

This is a much simpler question to answer, no need for numbered subsections. The two most intriguing pieces to the Dodgers that the Orioles would consider parting with would be Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters. Johnson and his large salary would fit perfectly in an already strong Dodger’s bullpen; Johnson would likely set up for Kenley Jansen, a role Johnson thrived in in 2011. Weiters would provide a nice upgrade over A.J Ellis, particularly if the Dodgers think Wieters will improve to his 2012 level of acumen, or better. If the Dodgers like Wieters, they certainly have the resources to lock him up for an extended period, so his two years left of team control wouldn’t be a huge issue in negotiations.

So, What Would an Orioles-Dodgers Blockbuster Look Like?

Before I propose this trade, let us remind ourselves that the chance of such an enormous blockbuster is miniscule, however, the Orioles are clearly interested in shaking things up, and the Dodgers haven’t been afraid to pull the trigger on huge deals in the past. Here we go:

The deal would begin with the Dodger’s apparent interest in Jim Johnson. If the Orioles were aiming high, say they ask for Matt Kemp in the deal (shoot for the moon, even if you miss…well whatever) and offer to pay his entire salary. The Dodgers still won’t pull the trigger, so they request Matt Wieters. The Orioles don’t want to lose Wieters without getting some starting pitching and filling the catching vacancy, so they ask for Chad Billingsley and A.J Ellis. The Dodgers feel the deal is still heavily tipped in the Orioles’ favor, so they ask for Gausman. The Orioles offer Eduardo Rodriguez instead, but want the Dodgers’ electric closing prospect (#13 in their system) Jose Dominguez to fill the vacancy caused by the impending departure of Johnson. The Orioles offer to throw in Brian Matusz to catalyze the completion of the deal.

Final: Orioles trade Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brian Matusz for Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, A.J Ellis, and Jose Dominguez. This trade is straight up, no cash involved, a big risk for both sides. Kemp is truly the wildcard; his contract is immensely dangerous to the Orioles if injured or ineffective, while the Dodgers might be trading away the best player in the NL. Considering this, and swallowing the orange kool-aid that lives in the throat of Orioles fans, it might be necessary to subtract Eduardo Rodriguez and add Dylan Bundy/Kevin Gausman. But, for the sake of optimism, we’ll assume the Dodgers are happy just to shed Kemp’s contract.

In Summary

There is a reasonable chance that the Orioles do trade Jim Johnson to the Dodgers, but the blockbuster hypothesized in this article will likely not come to fruition in any way, shape, or form. Still, it’s fascinating to speculate since the Orioles and Dodgers do match up well in trade scenarios.

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Kennie Steenstra Interview http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/22/kennie-steenstra-interview/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/22/kennie-steenstra-interview/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:00:24 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14284 Orioles-Nation was given the opportunity to speak with Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra regarding the present and future of Frederick’s pitching prospects, and what he does to keep himself busy during the off-season.

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The High-A Frederick Keys finished the 2013 campaign with a 27-43 record in the Northern division of the Carolina League. But with plenty of depth within Baltimore’s minor league farm system, the Keys have plenty to look forward to in the coming years.

Orioles-Nation was given the opportunity to speak with Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra regarding the present and future of Frederick’s pitching prospects, and what he does to keep himself busy during the off-season.

Orioles-Nation: How much time during the off-season do you usually spend thinking about baseball and/or the upcoming season?

Kennie Steenstra: I spend a great deal of time thinking about baseball in general, watching the transactions, and keeping up with some of the pitchers I have had over the years. As winter winds down and spring training approaches, I tend to start thinking more about what pitchers I might have and what the upcoming season will look like.

ON: Do you have certain things you like to focus on most during the off-season, maybe things to improve upon or adjustments to make with certain pitchers?

KS: Generally my focus is on taking a break and spending time with my family. I do put thought into how things went with certain pitchers and some things to suggest for next year to further advance their development. Sometimes it is good to step back and think about a new approach when someone has been struggling.

ON: You’ve jumped around the Orioles’ organization as a pitching coach over the years (Shorebirds, Keys, Baysox), who would you say are some of the pitchers that have stood out most to you in terms of developing?

KS: I’ve been fortunate to have some talented staffs over the years, especially the last few of them. Obviously guys like Kevin Hart, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Pedro Beato, and Brad Bergesen, etc. jump out to me. Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez made huge strides this past season, as evidenced by their Arizona Fall League results recently. Mike Wright and Jake Pettit also made wonderful progress back in 2012.

ON: As a former minor league and major league pitcher yourself, what lessons (that you learned or experienced firsthand) are you now applying to the pitchers that you’re coaching?

KS: After pitching in the minor leagues for over 10 seasons, and now getting ready to coach my 10th season, there aren’t too many situations that arise that I either did not go through myself or have seen someone go through. I feel that my experiences definitely help me relate better to the pitchers that are under my watch.

ON: What are your thoughts on young pitching phenoms such as Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman?

KS: They are both incredible talents and we are lucky to have them. I’ve spent more time with Dylan, but got to know Kevin some at the end of the 2012 season when he pitched for us in the Eastern League playoffs. Both of them have electric stuff and are super-competitive. Should be fun to watch both of them for many years to come.

ON: Have you seen or heard much about 2013 First-Round pick Hunter Harvey yet? If so, what’s your take on him?

KS: I have not met him or seen him personally. I have heard/read wonderful things about him. Obviously, he comes from good bloodlines, which can only help him as he moves forward.

ON: When working with new guys, whether they be young draft picks such as Harvey, or veterans that are brought into the organization from another team, what are some of the things that you do to get acclimated with them?

KS: No matter the situation, players are all similar in one regard. They want to get better and are looking for ways to move forward and reach their goals. My approach is to get to know each pitcher personally and attempt to give them insights on how to improve. I feel you need to talk with players about their backgrounds, what has/hasn’t worked for them in the past, and just a general knowledge of what drives them. The tricky part is figuring out each player’s personality and what motivates them.

ON: What are your expectations for the Keys heading into 2014?

KS: It is so hard to predict at this time. Our roster will depend so much on what moves are/aren’t made above us, and who ends up coming our way. The good news is that I feel our organizational depth has increased so much in the last few years, that the odds of us having some quality players/pitchers is strong.

ON: During your playing career you spent time with several different organizations, including the Orioles. Was there anything specific that drew you to Baltimore’s organization when you decided to get into coaching?

KS: When I decided to get into coaching after my playing days were done, I obviously contacted the organizations that I had played for first. Unfortunately, the process took longer than I would have liked, and I actually spent a year coaching Independent ball in Lincoln, NE. That fall I was contacted by Dave Stockstill about a possible opening, and after an interview or two, was hired to coach in Delmarva the next spring.

ON: Any final thoughts on the improvements that the Baltimore Orioles should make in order to make a playoff push in 2014?

KS: I have a great deal of confidence in our leadership to make the additions/subtractions that we need to help us get back to the playoffs. As far as the player development side of things, I feel that we have made great strides the last few years to have players ready to compete at the big league level.

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Looking Back at Britton, Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/19/looking-back-at-britton-matusz-arrieta-and-tillman/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/19/looking-back-at-britton-matusz-arrieta-and-tillman/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 12:30:32 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14233 Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman were supposed to be the saviors of the Orioles' franchise at one point. What has happened over the past few years?

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Pitching, pitching, pitching – It is all the buzz in Baltimore. I think it has been like that for a decade now, maybe longer. The truth is, the Orioles have not been successful at developing pitching. Development has not just failed a few, but an entire decade worth of starters. Matt Riley, Adam Loewen, Radhames Liz, Daniel Cabrera, Josh Towers…I will stop there.

Developing pitchers is not easy. It never has been. However, the Orioles have been one of the worst clubs over the past 15 years at developing pitchers (talent in general). I think they are slowly improving now, but the damage has already been dealt and it may be too late to fix some of it. The main problem that scouts and people within the industry that I talked to have said – you cannot peg a square into a circle hole. Often times, it sure seems as if the Orioles have gone down this route with their pitchers. Tweaking a delivery, taking away something that was working because it was not in their vision, etc. There are countless examples that I have heard over the years. I cannot pinpoint one select example, because who am I to say where it was the right move or not? While I do not think anyone has surefire proof of this, the success rate over the past 15 years is probably enough to indicate that pitcher development has been a colossal failure. It is tough to pinpoint one singular person or group on the failure, but rather that it is an organization-wide dilemma. We will not know how the development of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Mike Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Hunter Harvey and others will go for a few years. However, we already have a taste of what is happening/happened with the last group of “cavalry”.

That group would be Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. It is a fascinating group if you think about it. All four of these pitchers are completely different in terms of body frame and pitching style. All four have traveled down wildly different paths in their quest for major league success. All but one has not panned out as a starter. I do not want to say they “failed”, because that is just cruel. This game is too damn hard to say someone failed because they pitched at the MLB level. I will not degrade someone because they were more talented than 99% of the world at baseball. But the honest truth is they have not been successful in a starting role in the MLB.

I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at some of the older scouting reports on the cavalry. Let us see what has gone wrong with these four:

Zach Britton

Game revolves around his sinker — which sits in the low 90′s — and can get it into the 94-95 mph range at times, and has hit 96 mph. Throws the pitch 55%-70% of the time. Slider is an above-average pitch and a true weapon against lefties, and only improving. Changeup is a work in progress, and is slightly below-average. Does an excellent job of keeping his slider and sinker down in the zone, but struggles to command changeup at times. Smooth mechanics. Gets into the driveline early, which should allow him to rack up the innings. Complete package and perfect pitcher for Camden Yards. Very good mound presence. Projects as a #2-#3 starter.

I think Britton is an easy one to figure out. The changeup has not improved in the manner that was hoped. It simply does not create enough of a difference from the fastball. The other problem is that production from the change is primarily tied into your fastball. Britton has run into the difficulty that many pitchers have when they get their opportunity in the majors. Players at AA and AAA have always chased his sinker in the dirt. In the majors it has been a different story. He is often pounding that pitch into the dirt because that has been the only spot that players have not made contact on it – creating poor counts and lopsided pitch counts. Unfortunately, this also really differentiates away from the change. I think his shoulder injury has been a large factor is his troubles as well. Take a look at Britton in 2011 with Bowie and Britton in 2013:

Britton 2011-2013

Obviously, we can see that Britton is more upright in 2013. If you are having a hard time noticing what I mean, check out the yellow line and notice the difference in the angles. In the left picture, Britton is more balanced and not relying on any particular part of his body for force in his delivery. Without delving too far into pitching mechanics, balance is a huge issue with pitchers. Pedro Strop is a huge example. Amazing when he is keeping himself balanced, awful when he is opening up or striding too far.

The following was noted on Britton in 2011:

There are some slight concerns about a hard front leg plant, but his front left makes a good angle and allows him to use his back leg more and rotate towards his hips. As long as front leg doesn’t get too stiff, he should be just fine going forward with his current delivery.

That exact thing has happened. The front leg has seemingly become too stiff and further illustrates the off-balanced delivery. This takes pressure away from a lower half drive, which limits the sharpness of his arsenal.

Is it too late for Britton to become a productive MLB starter? No, I do not believe so. But there are major concerns. He has not been terribly deceptive in his last few starts at the MLB level. If the sinker and change are not fooling hitters, then it will be tough to consistently pitch as a starter. Britton was in the instructional league after the season ended, so clearly the O’s are working on ‘something’. Let us hope he can come back strong and help out the big league club in 2013. He has the talent.

Brian Matusz

Brian Matusz is a very well rounded pitcher. Lefty with plus stuff and command. Low 90s fastball generally has good late life though can be fairly straight at times. Changeup is a tremendous pitch which grades out as plus; throws it with the same arm slot as his fastball. Curveball is also above-average at times, though changeup is his primary out pitch. Has used slider much more frequently lately. Spots all of his pitches well. Advanced feel for pitching. Smart and knows how to mix his pitches well. Delivery isn’t particularly pretty but he repeats it well and its deceptiveness works for him as well.

Matusz is a little more difficult to dissect, and it goes beyond the obvious “cannot get right-handed hitters out”. Obviously, we all know he has struggled with that, considering he was essentially relegated to LOOGY duties in

Matusz finished the season with a 10.69 ERA, the worst ERA ever for a pitcher with at least 10 starts.

2013. His delivery has not changed dramatically to me. I do not love it, but it is probably not the reason he has struggled. I think the main issue has been that the fastball is not deceptive enough against right-handed hitters; which makes the changeup lose effectiveness. I think the change is still a good pitch, and it is really evident against left-handed hitters. There have been reports that he is working on tightening up the change grip, which would also indicate that the pitch had improvement left.

There are a ton of theories on Matusz. The one that has constantly stuck out to me is that he could have used more time in the minors to work on getting right-handed hitters out. Sure, we could probably say that about every single pitcher for the Orioles in the past decade.

The point of emphasis on Matusz is that none of his pitches were more than average as a starter. He has five average to above average pitches (two-seam, four-seam, slider, change, curve), but as a whole it was not enough to get by. The curve was primarily used when he was in the rotation. In the bullpen, he has mostly stuck with the slider against left-handed hitters. In fact, Matusz essentially removed the curveball from his arsenal in 2013, only throwing it 4.9% of the time. This is a complete shift in philosophy, and I think it mainly points out that the curveball was simply becoming ineffective. I will leave the numbers to the talented sabermetrics crowd, but I think they will come to the same conclusion on that front.

Matusz is a good pitcher and will continue to have success at the MLB level in some notion. However, it may not be as a starter; especially if he stays with the Orioles.

Jake Arrieta

Righty with a 91-95 mph fastball with some slight, late life. Works with two breaking balls — a curve and a slider — both of which are above-average. The slider is thrown in the 84-87 mph range, while the curveball is thrown in the 76-79 mph range and has some very sharp 11-5 break before it reaches the strike zone. Changeup has some late fade away from lefties and works well when thrown to the outside of the plate. Has the stuff to work up in the zone, but doesn’t command his pitches well enough to do it consistently. Clean, with a repeatable delivery. Has done a better job with foot placement and stride length and his arm slots have always been good, but not great. Mechanics do not point to any future issues.

Arrieta is the one player that I would say makes ‘sense’. I do not see anything out of the regular from him in terms of development. Sometimes, a pitcher just does not work out in their first opportunity in the MLB. Arrieta Jake Arrietaactually has a fairly strong delivery, and has improved on that foot placement and stride. Is it perfect? No, and not many pitchers have a perfect delivery. The main problem with Arrieta has simply been inconsistency with command. He has some terrific stuff, but often has a hard time within the zone and is often punished for it. No matter how good your stuff is, when a spot is missed the pitch will be hit. I do not believe in the silly narratives that Arrieta has “mental” issues on the mound. It is most likely because pitching at the MLB level is really difficult. Becoming rattled and having mental issues are two entirely different subjects. I believe there are many pitchers that become rattled. It does not mean they have mental issues. Arrieta just loses it at times on the mound. His release points will differ or his landing will shift. This is tough stuff to replicate, but it can make a huge difference in performance. Maybe he does not have the greatest pitchability on the mound, but that is also something that some players do not learn overnight, or over the course of a career.

The TCU alum is the classic case of a pitcher that could eventually “click” at an older age and put together a really strong season. I do not believe anyone would be surprised if that happened, as the stuff is just so electric. Unfortunately, it will not be with the Orioles. I think it is safe to say that Arrieta was the most maddening Orioles pitcher of the past few years. I wish him the best of luck in Chicago and I hope he proves his worth.

 Chris Tillman

Fastball sits in the 91-95 mph and he touches 96 at times. Fastball is straight and he must work down in the strike zone in order to limit home runs. Curveball is an above-average offering, with 12-6 break and good depth. He added a cutterprior to the 2010 season but hasn’t used it as much recently. His changeup has come a long way and is now slightly above-average. Control and command have both greatly improved with new delivery, which is also the reason his velocity has returned. Struggles to stay away from the middle of the plate at times. Smooth delivery and athletic frame.

Ah, the one that has turned into a productive starter. Tillman took a different path to the majors than the other three. He failed first, went back to the minors, and then refined what was necessary before returning. It was not anChris Tillman easy process and often I thought that he would never surface as a productive MLB starter. Boy, was I wrong. Tillman has not only become a starter in the MLB, but he was rather exceptional in 2013. The main things that Tilly (sorry I couldn’t resist) worked on in the minors was a new delivery.

This new delivery kept himself more balanced, more in-line with the path to the plate, and it improved his command, control and fastball velocity. It took him some time to piece it all together, but he refined almost every aspect of his game in his second tour at Norfolk. I do have to give credit to Rick Peterson for that, as he was the one whose voice seemed to reach Tillman (at least this is the report that was spread around).

The extra velocity allowed him to sneak his fairly straight fastballs by MLB hitters, while it is obvious that better command and control brings better success. Tillman already was working on a terrific plane for a pitcher, so even marginal improvements would have been noted. I think the Orioles have to be excited about Tillman down the road. Maybe, just maybe, he gives Orioles fans hope that they can develop a starting pitcher. (although we should probably note that they did not draft him, but they did develop him through the minors for the most part)

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Orioles Eligible for Rule 5 Draft http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/08/orioles-eligible-rule-5-draft/ http://orioles-nation.com/2013/11/08/orioles-eligible-rule-5-draft/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 12:30:43 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=14176 The Rule 5 Draft is approaching: What Orioles are eligible and what are the odds that they are selected?

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The Rule 5 Draft is right around the corner, and teams have already started working on their roster shuffle.  Way back in 2012, Don Olsen provided a solid summary of what the Rule 5 Process is:

The basic outline of the plan was intended for players to find additional avenues to reach the majors, when a team limits the chances of a player making the parent club. There are three basic principles that make minor league players subjected to this process.

Major League Phase:

1. The minor league player is left unprotected off the the 40 man roster as of November 20th when the roster has to be submitted to the Major league front office.
2. Left unprotected and 4 years of MilB service at age 19 or older. This is typically JC and 4 year college drafted players.
3. Left unprotected and 5 years of MilB service at age 16-18 years. These are typically international free agents and drafted high school seniors.

Minor League Phase:

In addition to the qualification rules of the major league phase, teams can protect 38 players on their AAA roster and 37 players AA.

All teams do a solid job identifying their best prospects and stash away the top 75 players. Usually, it is pitching that is selected at the AAA and AA phases to help with depth.

With that, let us take a look at some of the Orioles’ players that could potentially be targeted by other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft. It should be noted that the “odds of being selected” listed are just for fun. It is essentially impossible to gauge what teams’ believe is valuable:

(Note: There are many players that are eligible within the system. I only named the ones that I feel have the best chance at being selected)

Michael Ohlman

Michael Ohlman orioles

Ohlman was the best hitter in the O’s minor league system last year, outside of Henry Urrutia. He has missed a lot of time throughout his minor league career, but looks to finally be healthy after an early season shoulder injury. Ohlman is a good athlete but still has work to do behind the plate. He has all the tools to be a good catcher, but needs to improve footwork and blocking, although they have drastically improved in the past year.  Most of this has lagged behind due to simply not being on the field enough. He has above-average arm strength but struggles to make accurate throws; which can be fixed with improved footwork.

The bat has above-average raw power. It is a solid bat with a good approach and plate discipline. Scouts have noted that the decision making at the plate has really improved over the past two years, which has led to his improved hitting performance. He is certainly a better game-caller now than in the past, and pitchers such as Zach Davies have noted how in-sync they are with Ohlman catching.  He has potential to be a major league starting catcher, but will need to improve defensively and will need to show stability in terms of health and performance at the higher levels.

On that note, I think it is possible that a team takes a flier on Ohlman as a bench bat or backup catcher. However, it’s really tough to keep a player like this on the 25-man roster since they are in such an important role. If a team thinks that Ohlman’s bat is that valuable – they could snag him. It is also important to keep in mind that he has not played above A+ ball yet, and AA is really were you truly start to see whether a player has true potential to perform in the MLB. The Orioles should protect Ohlman, but there is a possibility they will not. It’s clear that the defense is a work-in-progress still, but will that be enough of a deterrent? I am not 100% sure.

Odds of being selected: 20%

Jason Gurka

Gurka is a solid athlete, but a smaller framed pitcher. The Orioles have him working on conditioning and he is currently in the Arizona Fall League. He is a bullpen arm all the way and could end up being a potential LOOGY, as he handles lefties extremely well.

His arsenal consists of a 87-92 mph fastball with heavy sink and late tailing action, a 80-83 mph change up with average fade and a 79-82 mph slider with more of a slurve to it. The slider has good bite and the plane he throws on makes the pitch more effective. Overall,  it is the quintessential LOOGY arsenal.

I think Gurka is definitely someone that could be looked at. His ceiling may not be supremely high, but he offers a valuable asset that clubs routinely search for to fill out their bullpen. He is also easy to stash in a LOOGY role. I also do not think the Orioles will protect him, as they already have multiple LOOGY on the 40-man in Mike Belfiore, Chris Jones, Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland and even Troy Patton. It really depends on whether a team believes the effort of stashing him is worth it.

Odds of being selected: 10%

Oliver Drake

The former Navy alum has already seen time on the Orioles 40-man roster. He was eventually removed and spent a year injured. He returned in 2013 and put together a very strong season in the Baysox bullpen. His fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range while touching 95 mph with sink. It is a good pitch that hasn’t seemed to regress with the injuries. His best pitch is probably a plus slider that sits in 82-85 mph range and really has some good bite on it. There is also some form of a change up, but it’s clearly behind the other two pitches.

Drake is an interesting case. I think he eventually will be in the MLB and might even end up being productive for a long time – barring injuries. If a team thinks he is fully healthy, I would not be surprised if he is selected. He was good enough once to be protected, so that alone should show that there is some value here.

Odds of being selected: 10%

Clayton Schrader

Schrader has long been a favorite of mine. I am a stuff kinda guy. He has some serious stuff. He works with a plus fastball in the 92-95 mph range and a 83-85 mph slider. There’s a lot of effort in his delivery, which puts some extra pressure on his back, neck and arm. He is the definition of a power arsenal, and the stuff can be unhittable at times. However, his command and control fluctuate with each outing. Sometimes he will look absolutely dominant – other times he struggles to throw a strike.

Schrader has hit a road-block at AA Bowie. I’ve seen him plenty of times in the past two years and he is certainly frustrating to watch because you know the stuff is so good. I think there is a small possibility a team could take a flier on Schrader and see if some new voices can help fix his command and control issues. Most likely, he doesn’t get selected because there is still too much to worry about with his game and he is primarily a one inning guy.

Odds of being selected: 5%

Tim Berry

Berry has taken a long road to success, but he may finally be at a corner to take the turn. He has slowly risen up through the system, and has not garnered much buzz until this past season. His arsenal consists of a sneaky Tim Berryfastball that hovers around 90-92 mph, an improved change up around 82 mph and a good curveball with a sharp spin that comes in around 75 mph. At this point last season, Berry still was refining his change up and his command was wavering. Both have improved in 2013 to the point where he is giving the Orioles a tough decision.

I think Berry needs to see time at AA to work on the above mentioned areas. His command is borderline fringe at this point and it could be exposed at higher levels. However, he has really improved his game and there is definitely value in a lefty with a good hook and a decent fastball that has some life to it. I doubt he is selected but a team could view him as a guy to stash and give mop-up duty to while he continues to refine his game.

Odds of being selected: 10%

Eddie Gamboa

Eddie Gamboa was one of the best stories in 2013. He went from being pure organization filler to an asset on the rise. It was all about the addition of the knuckleball. Let’s be honest, we do not have much experience watching knuckleballers pitch – so his season may be impressive simply because of the innovative twist. Gamboa actually throws two variants of the knuckle – 65-69 mph and 75-80 mph. Both have good movement and improved as the year went on. The great thing about Gamboa is that he still works with his 90 mph fastball, a decent curve and an average change up. None of those pitches are standouts or really anything more than fringe – but it doesn’t matter when they become secondary offerings to the knuckleball.

Gamboa is a really interesting case. I think he is the exact type of player I would target in the Rule 5 if I was running a club. He is unique and also has suddenly improved drastically. I think a club could find a spot in the bullpen for him where he can play mop up duty and continue to harness his knuckleball. I am not sure how he correlates to the MLB though, as the knuckleball is such an unknown area.

Odds of being selected: 15%

Caleb Joseph

He has essentially cemented his role in the Baysox hall of fame, but Joseph has piqued the interest of some after a terrific 2013 season. It is important to note that he has really played a long time at the AA level, and he is no spring chicken at this stage of his minor league career. However, there has been serious buzz within baseball about whether he deserves a shot to prove his worth at the next level. I think most of that buzz has primarily come from the media.

Joseph is a decent bat. He has calmed the swing down from years past and the plate approach has improved. I am not sure how much of that is from extended periods of time in AA. If a team thinks the bat has potential to play at the MLB level, they could look to take him as a backup C/LF/1B option off the bench. I do not think Joseph sticks as a catcher in the MLB though. The footwork is just not there, and it affects some other aspects of his game like throwing. He is not below-average behind the plate, but not on the level that a team needs as a backup catcher. He does call a good game though. I think it is unlikely he is selected, but a NL team could view him as a decent guy off the bench.

Odds of being selected: 5%

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Orioles Stay Alive With 13 Inning 2-1 Win Forcing Game 5 http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/12/orioles-stay-alive-with-13-inning-2-1-win-forcing-game-5/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/12/orioles-stay-alive-with-13-inning-2-1-win-forcing-game-5/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2012 18:26:22 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13473 The Baltimore Orioles saved their magical season in New York with their backs against the wall Thursday night.

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The Baltimore Orioles saved their magical season in New York with their backs against the wall Thursday night.  Down 2 games-1 in the best of 5 ALDS, the birds pulled off a 2-1, 13 inning win in The Bronx, forcing a decisive Game 5 Friday evening.

Joe Saunders, who pitched the birds into the ALDS with a dominant performance in Texas last week, got the ball with the season on the line, and he was again sensational.  Saunders threw 5.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits.  He was a bit wild, walking four, but he fanned 5 Yankees, including striking out the side in the third following a leadoff double from Jayson Nix.

The Orioles appeared ready to give Saunders a lead several times.  They put two on with none out in the first, but couldn’t push anything across.  In the third, the Orioles had runners on second and third with nobody out, but again, came up empty.  Runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth, and nothing. Finally, leading off the fifth, the Orioles called on the long ball to get on the board.

Nate McLouth blasted a 1-2, 91 MPH fastball deep into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead, a lead that would stand for an inning and a half.  In the Yankees sixth, the Bronx Bombers manufactured a run.  Derek Jeter led off against Saunders with a double.  An Ichiro sac bunt mover Jeter to third.  Saunders walked Mark Teixeira, and got Robinson Cano on a force out.  Jeter scored on the play, and it was 1-1.  Saunders was lifted for Tommy Hunter.  Hunter blew away the struggling Alex Rodriguez, fanning the Yankees third baseman on a 97 MPH heater.

Hunter was the first of seven Orioles relievers on the night, with all contributing big outs.  He was lifted for Troy Patton after an error by Ryan Flaherty.  Patton was replaced gave way to Luis Ayala one out and one hit later.  With runners on first and second, Ayala struck out Jeter looking.  Buck Showalter decided to let Ayala start the eighth.  Ichiro led off with a single, and moved to second on a Teixeira hit.

Brian Matusz came on, and got Cano on a grounder that advanced the runners.  On came Darren O’Day for his most impressive performance, possibly all season.  O’Day struck out ARod, and got Nick Swisher on a fly out to right.  The potential disaster, late in the game, was averted.

O’Day stayed on in the ninth, getting the Yankees—including Wednesday night’s villain Raul Ibanez—1, 2, 3.  O’Day stayed on through a blemish-free tenth.  Buck reached deeper into the pen in the eleventh, plucking out forgotten man Pedro Strop, who’s performance was far from forgettable.

Strop’s very first pitch was a nasty slider that caused Alex Rodriguez to buckle a bit, for a called strike.  It seemed to feed the enigmatic right hander’s confidence, which had been sorely lacking from Strop for the better part of a month.  Strop set the Yankees down in order with one strikeout in the eleventh.  He gave up a hit in the twelfth, but nothing else.

The Orioles would break through in the top of the thirteenth inning.  Manny Machado led off with a liner over Cano and into the right-center field gap for a double.  McLouth’s ground out moved Machado to third.  Then JJ Hardy broke out, driving a double to the left field wall.  Macahdo scored, and it was 2-1.  But Chris Davis and Adam Jones left Hardy at second, and the O’s went into a save situation with their slumping closer.

Jim Johnson struck out Mark Teixeira looking on a big curve ball for the first out.  Next, Cano lined out to McLouth in left.  And for a second straight night, Yanks manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for ARod, this time with Eric Chavez.  On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Chavez lined out to third for out number three, and a 2-2 series tie.

Game five features Jason Hammel for the Orioles against CC Sabathia for the Yankees.  First pitch is at 5pm.

 

The GOOD:

  • The pitching:  8 Orioles pitchers combined to go 13 innings, giving up just 1 run on 7 hits, 5 walks, and 11 strikeouts.  They held the Yankees to 0/9 with RISP.

 

The BAD:

  • The offense:  1/11 with RISP.
  • Davis:  0/6, 3K, 5LOB
  • Jones: 0/6, 2K, 5LOB.  Jones is now hitting .105 in the ALDS.

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O’s Choke On The Big Apple, Down 2-1 in ALDS http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/11/os-choke-on-the-big-apple-down-2-1-in-alds/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/11/os-choke-on-the-big-apple-down-2-1-in-alds/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2012 20:24:23 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13469 The Orioles find themselves in a position now where another loss in either of the next two games will cost them the season. The birds dropped a heartbreaker in New York to the Yankees, 3-2 in 12 innings Wednesday night.

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The Orioles find themselves in a position now where another loss in either of the next two games will cost them the season.  The birds dropped a heartbreaker in New York to the Yankees, 3-2 in 12 innings Wednesday night.

Three rookies had the Orioles out in front of the Yankees through 8.5 innings.  Ryan Flaherty blasted a one-out homer in the third, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.  Manny Machado broke a 1-1 tie with a homer into the Orioles bullpen in the fifth.  And rookie righthander Miguel Gonzalez held the potent Yankees offense at bay, striking out eight, walking none, giving up just one run on five hits through seven innings.

In fact, Gonzalez’s numbers SHOULD HAVE been much better.  Given the lead on Flaherty’s homer, Gonzalez opened the bottom of the third by striking out Curtis Granderson.  Next, Russell Martin doubled to left.  Eric Chavez grounded to first, moving Martin to third with two outs.  Derek Jeter, longtime Oriole killer, strode to the plate.  But instead of Jeter killing the O’s in this at-bat, the Orioles did it themselves.

Jeter picked on a fastball up and in.  He put his trademark inside-out swing on it, and drove it to deep right center.  Adam Jones, who was playing shallow, did not get a great break on the ball, and never really seemed too concerned that he may not reach it.  At the last moment, Jones reached up for the ball, only to have it sail over his glove.  It went for an RBI triple, but it was a badly misplayed ball that Jones usually makes the play on.  And, in the end, it was extremely costly.

Machado’s home run gave the O’s the lead in the middle innings, and that lead lasted into the late innings.  Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth in relief of Gonzalez.  The Orioles offense was stagnant in the ninth, as it had been since Machado’s fifth inning home run.  In fact, the Orioles would only pick up two more hits the rest of the way after Machado’s shot.

Into the bottom of the ninth we went.  Jim Johnson, who’d imploded in game one, and set the Yankees down in order in game two, was called in to save the 2-1 lead.  And he did not get it done.  Batter one-Ichiro-put a charge into one, driving left fielder Nate McLouth deep for the catch, and out number one.  Next, Joe Girardi pulled a shocker, lifting the struggling Alex Rodriguez for pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez.  Yes, it was a bold move.  Yes, it worked out pretty well for the Yankees.

Ibanez turned on a thigh-high, 94 MPH fastball, and blasted a no-doubt-about-it shot into the right field seats, tying things at 2.  For Johnson, it was a horrible pitch at a time where there was absolutely no room for error.  The Orioles, just two outs away from a 2-1 series lead, were now headed to extra innings.  And, yes, that has been a strength for this team, statistically to a mind-blowing extent.  But these games are playoff games.  And playoff games are different, especially in The Bronx.

Robert Andino led off the tenth with a single to left.  One out later, though, he was caught leaning off the bag at second on what would turn into an unassisted double play on a sharp line drive from McLouth.  The birds went three-up, three-down in the eleventh.  In the bottom of the eleventh, Brian Matusz came on in relief of Jim Jihnson.  Matusz got the Yankees in order.  In the O’s twelfth, a two-out hit from Mark Reynolds went undelivered.  And Matusz headed back to the hill in the bottom of the twelfth, facing a pair of left handed hitters to start things.  Actually, he never made it past the first lefty.

Matusz’s first pitch to Raul Ibanez missed its spot.  Matt Wieters set up for a pitch down and away.  Matusz’s 91 MPH fastball was up, and Ibanez launched it—a second-deck, walk-off home run to win it for the Yankees, 3-2.

The O’s will be playing for their lives Thursday night in New York.  Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23) goes for the Yankees.  Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63) gets the Game 4 assignment for Baltimore.  Gametime is 7:30.

 

The GOOD:

  • Rookies Flaherty, Machado, and Gonzalez led the way.  If only the veterans would have followed.

 

The BAD:

  • The O’s fourth inning opportunity (two on, none out…bases loaded, two outs) was totally missed.
  • Jones:  1/5, 1K, 1LOB, 1 huge misplay in center.
  • Jim Thome:  0/5, 2LOB.  JJ Hardy:  0/5.
  • Jim Johnson:  13.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP in the ALDS.

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Must-Win Goes to O’s Over Yankees, Series Even At 1 http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/09/must-win-goes-to-os-over-yankees-series-even-at-1/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/09/must-win-goes-to-os-over-yankees-series-even-at-1/#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2012 23:10:38 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13466 The Orioles had their backs against the wall heading into Game Two of the ALDS against the Yankees at Camden Yards Monday night.

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The Orioles had their backs against the wall heading into Game Two of the ALDS against the Yankees at Camden Yards Monday night.  Already down 1 Game to none, the birds knew that, despite the fact they’d won every series between the two at Yankee Stadium this year, they couldn’t go into New York down 2-0.  The magical season, their first playoff berth since the Clinton administration, their worst-to-almost-first 2012…it ALL hinged on their ability to win Game Two.

Facing this daunting task of a must-win, the Orioles reverted back to their winning ways of the early part of 2012.  The birds picked up that win, but they did so despite themselves.  They were sloppy afield, with a couple of errors and two missed tags at the plate on the same play.  They were less-than-little-league on the basepaths, with JJ Hardy costing the O’s an important run on a huge blunder.  They were not great at the plate, collecting just 7 hits and 1 walk.

But  the hits they did get were timely (3-6 w/ RISP), and the pitching was outstanding all the way around.  Wei-Yin Chen (W, 1-0) hadn’t won a game in nearly two months, and had an ERA well above 5 since August.  One of his roughest outings of that stretch—and, indeed, of the entire season, was his last start against the Yankees.  At Camden Yards September 7, he gave up 7ER in 4.2 innings, taking the loss for the second straight start.  But Monday night, Chen’s A-Game reappeared just in time.

Chen escaped a harrowing first inning relatively well.  Derek Jeter led off with a single.  He moved to second on a Mark Reynolds error that put Ichiro on first.  Alex Rodriguez absolutely scorched a line shot that O’s second baseman Robert Andino made a terrific diving catch of, then flipped to Hardy at second to double off Jeter.  That ended up being a very big play in this game, because the next batter, Robinson Cano, lined one off the wall in right.  Chris Davis made a nice play off the wall and a good throw to Andino for the relay.  Andino’s throw was a bit up the third base line, but was in plenty of time to nail Ichiro coming in.

Matt Wieters, though, appeared to catch the ball inside the third baseline instead of outside.  He then had to reach back to try to tag Ichiro, who avoided Wieters.  But Ichiro’s momentum pulled him well off the plate, and he blew past the dish, having to turn around and come back.  Wieters made a lunge across home plate and threw his glove in Ichiro’s direction.  But the veteran outfielder did a bit of a dance, and reached his right hand around Wieters, touching the plate before Wieters touched him, and the Yankees led 1-0.

It stayed 1-0 until the Orioles were finally able to make something happen against Andy Pettitte (L, 0-1) with two outs in the third.  Andino picked up the first O’s hit, a bloop to center.  Nate McLouth’s single to center moved Andino to second.  A walk to Hardy loaded the bases with two outs for Davis.

Davis picked on a 1-0 hanging slider from Pettitte and singled to right.  Both Andino and McLouth scored for a 2-1 Orioles lead.  Next, Adam Jones hit a slow roller toward the hole at short.  This is a play Derek Jeter has probably made 5,000 times in his career, but this time, the ball found its way under Jeter’s glove.  But with two outs, and with third base coach DeMarlo Hale frantically waving Hardy home, the Orioles shortstop held up.  Not only did he not try to score, he didn’t even round third base, suggesting he may have been decoyed by Alex Rodriguez, who’d held his glove up as if anticipating a throw from Jeter.  It was a terrible baserunning play by Hardy, and when Pettitte got Wieters on a popout to Cano on the very next pitch, it proved to cost the Orioles a run.

But Chen would make sure to hold the Yankees right where they were until he got a little more offensive help.  He wasn’t perfect in so doing.  In the fourth, he gave up two hits.  A Hardy error allowed Russell Martin to reach in the sixth.  Into the Orioles half of the sixth, Wieters led off with a double.  Reynolds, looking to move Wieters along to third, was willing to make a productive out.  The pull hitter instead slapped one to the right side, and the ball had eyes, squeezing under Cano’s glove and into right for a hit.  Wieters scored, and the Orioles were up 3-1.

Chen gave up an RBI hit to Jeter in the seventh, and left with one out, but the tying run on first in Ichiro.  Darren O’Day came on for one batter, Alex Rodriguez.  O’Day struck ARod out, but Ichiro stole second.  Buck Showalter called on Brian Matusz out of the pen.  The lefty, a disaster as a member of the Opening Day rotation and a godsend out of the ‘pen, did his thing again.  After an intentional walk to Cano, Matusz got Nick Swisher on a fly out to left, for out number three.  Rarely used much past a batter or two in relief, Showalter left Matusz out there for the eighth.  Matusz responded by giving up a leadoff hit, then setting the next three Yankees down in order.

Into the top of the ninth, and the Orioles held the 3-2 lead.  The closer, Jim Johnson, who’d saved 51 games during the regular season, was called on out of the pen.  After Sunday night’s complete collapse by Johnson (5R, 4ER, 0.1 IP), Orioles Nation had every reason to be petrified.  But Johnson pitched as uneventful a ninth as he has all year, getting Rodriguez swinging to wrap up a 1,2,3 inning, and the 3-2 Orioles win.

Game three of the series, which is tied at 1 game apiece, happens Wednesday night in The Bronx.  Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32 during the regular season) goes for New York, vs. Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25) for the Orioles.

 

The GOOD:

  • Chen picked a great time for his best outing since July:  6.1IP, 2R, 1ER, 8H, 3K, 1BB.
  • O’Day, Matusz, J. Johnson comibined out of the ‘pen:  2.2IP, 0R, 1H, 4K, 1BB
  • Davis:  2/4, 2RBI, now batting .500 in the ALDS.
  • Andino:  1/3, 1R, 1 great play.  He’s hitting .400.

 

The BAD:

  • Hardy picked a horrible time to have maybe his wost game of the year:  0/3, 1BB, 1K, 1E, 1 very big baserunning mistake.  If the Orioles would have lost by a run instead of won by one, that play could go down in Orioles lore.  And not for good reasons.

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O’s Slay AL Champs, Advance To ALDS vs Yankees http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/06/os-slay-al-champs-advance-to-alds-vs-yankees/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/10/06/os-slay-al-champs-advance-to-alds-vs-yankees/#comments Sat, 06 Oct 2012 04:48:45 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13454 In their first playoff appearance since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles traveled to Texas for a one-game playoff game with the two-time defending AL Champions, the Texas Rangers.

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In their first playoff appearance since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles traveled to Texas for a one-game playoff game with the two-time defending AL Champions, the Texas Rangers.

Joe Saunders took the ball for the birds, sporting a lifetime record and ERA against Texas that led sent shivers up the collective spine of Orioles Nation.  For Texas, Yu Darvish took the hill.  The Orioles had never faced the Rangers’ ace.

The Orioles got on the board first, in the first.  Leadoff man Nate McLouth reached on an error, stole second, and scored on a JJ Hardy base hit.  The birds had their first run in the playoffs before they’d gotten out in the playoffs.

The Rangers answered in the first, though, scoring on a double play ground out from Josh Hamilton.  The game was tied at one in the first, and it looked like a game where the Orioles may have to outslug the hard hitting Rangers.  This was certainly NOT the O’s gameplan going in.  But both Saunders and Darvish settled down, and the 1-1 tie became a pitcher’s duel into the sixth.

JJ Hardy and Chris Davis opened the sixth with back-to-back hits.  With runners on first and third, Adam Jones put an inside-out swing on a slider down and in, and lifted a sac fly to right.  Hardy scored, and the O’s had a 2-1 lead.

In the seventh, Ryan Flaherty picked up a one-out hit.  Pinch runner Robert Andino moved to second on Manny Machado’s sac bunt, and moved to third on a wild pitch from reliever Derek Holland.  McLouth’s bloop single to left plated Andino for a 3-1 lead.

The birds picked up two huge insurance runs in the ninth, with Machado and McLouth delivering RBIs.  Major League saves leader Jim Johnson got into a bases loaded jam in the ninth, but escaped unscathed, and the birds of Baltimore advance to take on the Yankees in the ALDS Sunday.  Game one of the series gets underway Sunday at 6, with CC Sabathia pitching for New York.  The Orioles have yet to announce their starter.

 

The GOOD:

  • BRING ON THE YANKEES!
  • The O’s turned three double plays to support superb pitching from Saunders, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, and Johnson.

 

The BAD:

  • Two errors.

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Machado and Davis Lead O’s Past Sox, Back Into 1st Place Tie http://orioles-nation.com/2012/09/30/machado-and-davis-lead-os-past-sox-back-into-1st-place-tie/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/09/30/machado-and-davis-lead-os-past-sox-back-into-1st-place-tie/#comments Sun, 30 Sep 2012 14:00:18 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13380 The Orioles and Red Sox have met numerous times at Camden Yards in September in games with playoff implications. Implications for one of the teams, anyway, and the Orioles haven’t been that team. Oh, 2012…how Orioles Nation has waited for you.

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The Orioles and Red Sox have met numerous times at Camden Yards in September in games with playoff implications.  Implications for one of the teams, anyway, and the Orioles haven’t been that team.  Oh, 2012…how Orioles Nation has waited for you.

There are four games left in the regular season, and the Baltimore Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East.  Go ahead.  Read it again.  We’ll wait…

That’s four games LEFT, not four games IN.  September 29, and the Orioles are in the penthouse.  In 2012.

Before the game Saturday night, the Orioles honored Brooks Robinson with the unveiling of his statue.  There was a sell out crowd.  The Orioles also found out before the game that the Toronto Blue Jays had beaten the first place New York Yankees for the second time in three days.  With a win over Boston, the Orioles would slide back into a tie for first.

Rookie Steve Johnson took the mound for the O’s, carrying a 4-0 record with an ERA well under two. He set the Sox down in order on the first, but ran into some trouble in the second, giving up a walk and a hit.  But he was helped out when Matt Wieters caught Cody Ross trying to steal.  A strikeout and foul out later, and the threat was over.

In the O’s second, Manny Machado smoked a single to center, scoring Chris Davis for a 1-0 Orioles lead.  In the fourth, Orioles star center fielder Adam Jones, who has played ever single game this year (including the All-Star Game) generated a run with his ever-present hustle.

On a grounder to short, Boston’s Mike Aviles fielded and threw high to first.  First baseman Mauro Gomez leaped, grabbed the throw, and came back down on the bag.  But Jones, as he always does, busted it down the line.  Running full speed all the way, Jones crossed the first place bag before Gomez came down.  As it turned out, this play was enormous.  One out later, Chris Davis launched another homer, his fourth in the current homestand and 30th on the season.  Jones’ hustle turned what would have been a solo home run into a two-run shot, and a 3-0 lead.

In the Sox fifth, Johnson gave up a two-run homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the lead was quickly back down to just one.  After Johnson gave up a leadoff hit to Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to Scott Podsednick in the sixth, Buck Showalter went to the bullpen for Tommy Hunter (W, 7-8).  A ground out and sac fly later, the Sox had tied the score at three.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Orioles rookie provided the game’s big blow.  Machado ripped a 1-1, 92 MPH fastball just over the left field wall for home run number seven, and a 4-3 lead.

Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day provided the O’s with a shut down eighth inning, and Jim Johnson set the Sox down in order in the ninth for his 49th save, and the 4-3 win.

The Orioles will hope to finish off the sweep of the Red Sox Sunday at 1:35.  Joe Saunders (2-3, 3.62/8-13. 4.08) pitches for the O’s, vs. Zach Stewart (0-1, 27.00/1-3, 7.91) for Boston.

The GOOD:

  • On the night the Orioles honored Brooks Robinson, the defense came to play.  Manny Machado started a brilliant 5-4-3 double play with a fine, backhanded pickup on a short hop.  Fading into foul ground off balance, he spun and delivered a perfect throw to Robert Andino at second, who fired to Mark Reynolds at first for two.  Reynolds himself too over the fifrth, with a diving, double-saving stop and put out, followed by a spectacular catch in foul ground that actually saw him end up pinned between the tarp and the stands, and Endy Chavez made a great diving catch in right.
  • Bullpen of Hunter, Matusz, O’Day, J. Johnson:  4IP, 1H, 0R, 1k, 1 inherted runner scored.
  • Davis:  2/3, 2R, 1HR, 2RBI.
  • Machado:  2/3, 1R, 1HR, 2RBI.

The BAD:

  • JJ Hardy looked very bad against Sox starter Felix Doubront (L, 11-10).  0/4, 1K, 3LOB.
  • Andino:  0/2, 2K, 1LOB

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Tillman and Flaherty The Heroes in 9-1 O’s Win Over Boston http://orioles-nation.com/2012/09/29/tillman-and-flaherty-the-heroes-in-9-1-os-win-over-boston/ http://orioles-nation.com/2012/09/29/tillman-and-flaherty-the-heroes-in-9-1-os-win-over-boston/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2012 18:17:53 +0000 http://orioles-nation.com/?p=13378 Chris Tillman, like Gonzalez, has been a savior for this team. Since he joined the club just before the All-Star break, who’s been better? No one on this staff.

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The Orioles must start thinking about playoff rosters.  Sure, Buck Showalter will tell you the focus is on these lat five regular season games, and that’s good.  They should be.  They’d BETTER be.  But make no mistake, tt’s a good bet that the playoff roster is a subject being kicked around.  There are sure things on the roster, and there are those on the bubble.  And then, there’s the pitching staff.

If you want an idea of what the starting rotation is going to look like, obviously, you don’t even need to pick up a copy of the Opening  Day roster.  Brian Matusz?  He’s in the ‘pen.  Tommy Hunter?  He’ll be in the ‘pen also, IF he makes it.  Jason Hammel?  If he’s healthy, you’ve got to believe he’s in.  Jake Arrieta?  He won’t be on the post season roster.  Wei-Yin Chen has a September ERA of over 5, but he MUST be in the rotation.  Right?

So we’ve got Hammel (maybe) and Chen.  Who else?  Joe Saunders?  Probably.  He’s a veteran who’s been there.  And starter #4 will come down to two guys who didn’t break camp with the Orioles this spring.  Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched in Wednesday’s 12-2 win over Toronto. And then, there’s Friday night’s starter.

Chris Tillman, like Gonzalez, has been a savior for this team.  Since he joined the club just before the All-Star break, who’s been better?  No one on this staff.  Tillman improved to 9-2 on the season with Friday night’s dominating performance in the O’s 9-1 win over the Red Sox.  Tillman surrendered just one hit—a bunt single on the game’s second pitch to Scott Podsednick.  Podsednick went to second on a throwing error by Ryan Flaherty.  One out later, he scored on a sac fly from Dustin Pedroia, and the Sox had a 1-0 lead.

Tillman would walk Daniel Nava in the third, and that was it.  The Sox went in order after that, 14-up, 14-down, and Tillman, provided plenty of run support by the suddenly sizzling offense, thre eight innings, giving up just the one unearned run on just the one bunt hit.  He fanned four, and walked one—a stifling performance.

Back to that offense.  Down 1-0, the Orioles got right to work against Red Sox starter Aaron Cook (L, 4-11).  Nate McLouth singled on Cook’s first pitch.  One out later, Chris Davis, who’d homered twice Wednesday against the Blue Jays, Hammered a line drive home run (29) into the right field seats, for a 2-1 Orioles lead.

One out later, Jim Thome singled.   Mark Reynolds walked,  Manny Machado singled, and he bases were loaded for Ryan Flaherty.

Flaherty jumped on a low, 2-1 fastball and drove it deep into the right field seats for his first career grand slam (6).  The Orioles led 6-1, and the game was essentially over.

Back-to-back-to-back doubles from Reynolds, Machado, and Flaherty plated two more O’s runs in the fifth, and Taylor Teagarden’s single scored Flaherty for the 9-1 win.

The Orioles will send Steve Johnson (4-0, 1.62) to the mound Saturday vs. Boston’s Felix Doubront (11-9, 4.91).  First pitch:  7:05.

 

The GOOD:

  • Tillman is, right now, the ace of this staff.  How crazy is that, for a playoff-bound squad?
  • Flaherty:  2/4, 2R, 1HR, 5RBI.
  • Multi hit efforts from Thome (3/4) and Machado (2/4), as well as Flaherty.

 

The BAD:

  • Flaherty’s error, though he certainly made up for it.

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