Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Record

After the O's started 6-1, I predicted how they would finish the month of April. Here's what I said:

"I'll go with:

CWS: 3-3
TB: 2-3
TX: 1-1
NYY: 1-2
TOR: 1-1
SEA: 1-2

TOTAL W/L: 9/12

April Record: 15-13

Contain complain with a record over .500. I think this is near the low point of what they can do. 17-11 or even 18-10 are certainly possible."

So what happened?

CWS: 2-3 (The sixth game ended in a rain delayed tie, for now.)
TB: 2-3 (Yup.)
TX: 0-2 (Lost both in the double header.)
NYY: 2-1 (Nice job, O's.)
TOR: 1-1 (Yup, again.)
SEA: 2-1 (Ha ha, Seattle. Pnwd.)

TOTAL W/L: 9/11

April Record: 15-12

Now that's what I'm talking about.

The Orioles are on pace to win 90 games this year. If they play like a 62 win team from now one, they'll win 67. Play like a 66 win team and they'll win 70. A 70 win team will take the total to 73. I doubt they are still above .500 at the end of May, but they only need to play like a 72 win team to get there (they'd go 12-15 and be at 27-27).

If the season ended today, the play-offs would look like this:

BOS vs. OAK
LAA vs. CHW

ARI vs. STL
FLA vs. CHC

Yaye, small sample sizes! Read more ...

O's-Rays, A Kakes-less Offense

Despite just the one walk, Matt Albers was pretty wild against the Rays (94 pitches, only 57 streikes). Albers did turn in a quality start, going 6 innings and giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. Bob McCrory made his major league debut, and he was wilder. He walked 2 and gave up 2 hits, and threw only 9 of 22 pitches for strikes, while only getting one out. He was taken out with the bases loaded and having already given up a run. Dennis Sarfate came in and faired no better. He let all three of McCrory's runners score, as he gave up 2 walks and 2 hits. He also gave up a run of his own, before getting out of the inning. Sarfate gave up another hit and walked a batter in his following inning, but kept the Rays off the board. Jim Johnson also walked a batter in his inning, but that was it. Combined, they pitchers gave up 8 runs, and the team lost 8-1.

Through all of this, Andy Sonnanstine shut down the O's bats, going 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. Nick Markakis got the day off, and it was very clear how important he is to the offense. Nice job by Adam Jones, who had a line-drive single and walked, and Brian Roberts, who had a couple of hits and drove in the O's only run (Jones).

The Rays and Orioles are once again tied at 15-12, but now it's for second, a half game behind the Red Sox. Not a bad place to be at the end of April, I think. Read more ...

Owings Watch

Micah Owings didn't pitch for the Diamondbacks, but that didn't stop him from hitting a two run home run. Owings pinch hit for the pitcher, and tied the game with his first homer of the year. Arizona went on the beat the Astros 8-7, and became the first team in the majors with 20 wins.

For the year, Owings is hitting 42 / 450 / 632 while Giants clean-up man Bengie Molina is hitting 299 / 330 / 506. As an extra added bonus, Owings has an EqA of over .300 while Molina's is .287. Read more ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"They Were Who We Thought They Were"

Best record in the AL? How about them Oakland A's? Moving to 17-10 with their 14-2 win over the Angels, Oakland got major contributions from their latest pick-up. Frank Thomas went 3-3, and missed the cycle by a home run. That was Thomas' first triple since 2002. Billy Beane may not be quite the genius he is sometimes made out to be, but he got the Big Hurt's comeback year (2006 - 39 HR and a .926 OPS) for cheap, let him go to the Blue Jays for a lot of money (and got a draft pick for losing him), then resigned him for the minimum when Toronto let him go. Thomas moved right into the middle of the A's line-up and is hitting 313 / 476 / 500 so far for them. Oakland is scoring nearly 5 runs per game due to a .344 OBP (almost 30 points higher than Seattle despite similar batting averages), and that's with Emil Brown leading the team in HR (3) and RBI (25). By the way, the guy who replaced Brown in Kansas City (for $36 million), Jose Guillen, is hitting 177 / 202 / 323. Oakland's starters are giving them solid innings, so they are employing an 11 man pitching staff. That means that they have an extended bench, so they can play match-ups on offense, get platoon advantages, make pinch-running and defensive substitutions, and generally fully utilize their roster. Now that's a smart front office.

Teams I thought would be better than expected:

O's: 15-10 (first place in the AL East)

Rays: 14-12 (second in the AL East)

A's: 17-10 (first place in the AL West)

Braves: 12-14 (have scored 23 more than they've allowed so should be 15-11 and in first place in the NL East)

Marlins: 15-11 (first place in the NL East)

Brewers: 14-11 (second place in the NL Central)

Not bad, so far.

Teams I though would be worse than expected:

Blue Jays: 11-16 (last in the AL East)

Tigers: 12-15 (last in the AL Central)

Angels: 16-11 (second in the AL West - in fairness, I did pick them to win the division)

M's: 13-14 (third in the AL West)

Phillies: 15-12 (second in the NL East)

Cardinals: 17-11 (second in the NL Central - if you had Ryan Ludwick with a 1.006 OPS then raise your hand; or Skip Shumaker having a .390 OBP; or Kyle Lohse with a 2.36 ERA. So many surprise on this roster.)

It's still early, but I'm feeling pretty confident about most of my picks. I thought the Yankees would be better than they've been, but I did say "other than Cano and A-Rod, that offense is susceptible to some age/health issues." Woops on A-Rod there. And Cano has been pretty bad. And "Hughes is going to be really good" could still end up being true, but it isn't looking good so far. So yeah, why not the O's? They've been playing above their heads (third order wins via BaseballProspectus of 13-14 (it's in between), which is last in the East but still better than the M's) but it's not completely crazy to think that they could get lucky for another five months. Read more ...

Danys Baez Doesn't Look So Bad Now

Remember when I said that Barry Zito was the highest paid back-of-the-rotation starter ever? Well, scratch that. He's the highest paid middle reliever ever. That's right, San Fransisco's $126 million man is heading to the pen after an atrocious 0-6 start.

A lot has been made of Zito's lost velocity - his fastball is sitting at 83 mph now, and it may by a byproduct of poor mechanics. Paul Nyman started to look at that at HardballTimes. His walk rate is way up (4.7 per nine) and is K rate has fallen off a cliff (3.5 per nine - down from 6.0 last year).

The Giants have to hope that Zito can get things figured out, because their pitching is the only thing keeping them competitive. Read more ...

O's-Rays, Olson Makes His Mark

Garrett Olson starts things off well with a strike to Akinori Iwamura. After a couple balls, Iwamura grounds out to short (it's the Pelican out there again today). Carl Crawford gets ahead 3-0 (some questionable calls in there) but Olson comes back to strike him out looking. BJ Upton flies out to right to end the inning. That fastball command that he was lacking last year, seems to be there so far today.

Brian Roberts grounds out, but Mora works the count and draws a walk. Markakis actually chases a 0-1 pitch, and fouls it off. Nick fouls out to Evan Longoria, and there are two down. A big reason for the Rays turnaround has been the play of their defense - they've gone from dead-last in defensive efficiency (the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs) to third. The O's, by the way, have gone from 18th to second. The defense can't help you when you walk guys, however, and that's just what Jason Hammel does against Kevin Millar. Aubrey Huff then walks on four pitches to load the bases for Luke Scott. Scott grounds out to second, and
the O's leave three on. Come on guys, where's the clutch hitting?!?

Olson throws Carlos Pena a 3-2 breaking-ball, and gets him to ground to second. Longoria pops out, and Johnny Gomes goes down swinging at a high fastball. Six up, six down for Olson.

Ramon Hernandez gets ahead 3-0 and singles, and the Pelican follows it up with a bloop single of his own. B-Rob lines out to left, but Mora comes through with a single to score Ramon. 1-0 O's, and there are runners on the corners for Kakes. Nick lines one off of Pena's glove at first - it's an RBI single for Markakis.
Millar flicks one to right, but Eric Hinske makes a diving catch to end the inning.

Navarro strikes out swinging at a change-up. Hinske walks on a 3-2 breaking-ball, and Jim Palmer is blaming the pitch selection on Ramon. I agree, and have been unhappy with Ramon's game-calling all year. A hit-and-run results in a single to right, and the throw by Nick goes over the cut-off man allowing the runner to go to second. Olson will have to work out of a bit of a jam here. Iwamura walks to load the bases. Crawford grounds to third, and Mora goes home to get the force. The bases are still loaded, but there are two outs. Olson will get out of it, throwing the fastball by BJ Upton for his fourth K of the game.

Huff walks again, on four pitches. Luke Scott flies out to right, and Adam Jones lines a single to left. Ramon Hernandez sends a ball deep to right, and it'll be over Hinske's head. Huff scores, and Jones is being waved in. He is somehow out by a mile (upon replay, Jones fell down while rounding third). Ramon goes in to third, but he should have gotten a pair of RBI on that one. It's still 3-0 Orioles, and Hammel is being taken out of the game. Luis goes down swinging against JP Howell, but Olson now has a little more breathing room.

Carlos Pena grounds out again, and Olson gets Longoria looking on a breaking-ball. That's K number 5. Gomes grounds to short, and the Rays go down 1-2-3.

Brian Roberts walks in the fourth, but that's it for the O's.

An infield hit and a walk put two on with none out, but Olson is once again able to get out of it without a run scoring.

Howell walks Luuuke, but strikes out a pair to keep the Rays back just three.

Upton grounds to third, and Mora has to spin and throw - he doesn't get much on it, but Millar does a nice job to pick it out of the dirt. Pena grounds slowly to first, and Millar can't make this one - it'll be another infield hit. Olson walks Longoria on four pitches, and Randor is warming in the pen. I'd like to see Trembley get Garrett out of there with a chance to still get the win. Wow, Ramon finally does something right behind the plate. Navarro takes a ball, and Hernandez fires to first to pick off Longoria. That'll end the inning, and very possibly Olson's night. Great job by Garrett - 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 5 K. The walks are a concern, but he looked good. I'd definitely rather see him pitching instead of Trachsel.

Apparently, Luis has been told that he has a week or so to take hold of the starting shortstop spot with Fahey in the minors. The Pelican helps his cause with a single to third that Longoria can't handle. Roberts hits one deep to left, and Crawford has the ball go off his glove for a double. Mora sends one to left himself - Crawford handles this one, but both runners tag-up. That makes it 4-0 O's. Markakis does his usual not swinging at balls out of the zone, but gets called out on strikes anyway. Nick is striking out a ton this year (he's on pace for 156) but I'm not too worried about it since many of the strike-outs have been called, on pitches that weren't really strikes. I'd rather he K more, than swing at balls (well, maybe not with one out and a runner on third). No big deal, as Millar picks him up with a single to center. 5-0 Orioles. Actually, let's make it 7-0. Huff Daddy (that's what the guy on the radio calls him, and I wanted to try it out - it's better written than spoken, but I'll avoid it in the future) sends one over the center-field fence for his fifth HR of the year. I think it's safe to say that Olson will be picking up his first win of the season.

Huh, with a 7-0 lead Trembley is letting Olson (88 pitches) go out for the seventh. Why not bring in Bob McCrory in the low-leverage situation to get his feet wet? Navarro walks on four pitches, but Olson comes back to strike Hinske out swinging. Bartlett bloops one to short center, and Roberts can't make the over-the-shoulder catch. Adam Jones picks it up and quickly fires to second to force Navarro. Iwamura send one deep over Jones' head in center for a double, and the shut-out is gone. Now Trembley is taking him out. So it's actually 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 6 K on 105 pitches. I don't think there was any reason for Olson to start this inning. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter, but why not let him go out with a shut-out, instead of having to be taken out in the middle of an inning after giving up a run.

A hit by Crawford off of Bierd puts another run on Olson's line, and now it looks a lot more pedestrian at 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K. BJ Upton drills one to the opposite field - two run home run, and it's now 7-4. Should have brought in McCrory. Carlos Pena threatens to make it 7-5, but Adam Jones reaches up and makes the catch on the warning track in deep left-center.

Jones hits a rocket to short, but Bartlett makes a nice play to knock it down and throw him out. Bartlett wasn't just a throw-in in the Delmon Young - Matt Garza trade; he's a big part of the Rays' improved defense. Ramon continues his good day by drawing a walk. The Pelican grounds to second, and with first base open, the Rays will intentionally walk Brian Roberts. They're already down by three, and are putting extra runners on base - the lead-off man no less. It works out OK this time as Mora strikes out.

Chad Bradford is in to start the eighth (should have brought McCrory in to start the seventh - it would have saved the pen, I think). Bradford gets his usual ground ball, but Longoria hits it up the middle for a single. Recently acquired (from MIL) Gabe Gross pinch hits for Gomes. Chad gets Gross looking for the first out. Another ground ball up the middle will bring Hinske to the plate as the tying run. Walker will be coming in to face the lefty. Jamie does his job, striking Kinske out looking with a fastball right on the outside corner. Bartlett grounds out, and the Rays can't score.

Former Oriole Kurt Birkins is coming in to face Nick Markakis. Birkins gets ahead 0-2 and gets Nick to ground to short. Millar walks, but Kurt comes back to K Huff swinging. Jay Payton will bat for Luke Scott (grrr, let Scott hit - he can hit lefties about as well as Payton can (.850 OPS for Luke vs .760 for Jay last year , actually)). Payton flies out and (for the tenth time this year) it'll be George Sherrill time in the ninth.

Iwamura goes down swinging, and Sherrill looks good coming back from the blown save in Chicago. Crawford grounds slowly to third, but Mora throws him out by a step. Upton takes for balls, and walks down to first. Sherrill vs. Pena (don't pull a Jamie Walker, George). He gets some, but not enough - Nick makes the catch in right and the O's take the game 7-4, ending Tampa Bay's six game win-streak. The Orioles are now 15-11 and remain tied with Boston (and a game ahead of the Rays) for first in the East.
Read more ...

Bye Bye, Brandon

The Orioles made a roster move, sending down Brandon Fahey (thankfully - why do they need three of the same player?) and designating Greg Aquino for assignment (I had higher hopes for Aquino, but it was clear Trembley didn't trust him and he was going to be the first guy to go), and calling up Garrett Olson (to start today, as was to be expected) and Bob McCrory (hard-throwing reliever - 1.80 ERA, 10 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K).

I like the move. Olson earned the right to make the start by striking out over a batter an inning - hopefully he won't nibble on the corners and go after hitters this year. If he pitches well, then he may be up for good. Fahey looked worse than the Pelican (if only by a little) and Eider Torres should get a long look now. It's really only a matter of time before Alex Cintron is up, and he's hitting pretty well in AAA so far (295 / 340 / 455 with 2 HR in 10 games). McCrory is a guy that (like Dennis Sarfate) that could be pretty good if he can harness his control. The guy throws in the mid-to-upper 90's and has four pitches at his disposal.

Despite the winning record so far, this year is about finding out who will contribute to the O's in the future. Aquino probably wasn't going to, but McCrory may. A Sarfate, McCrory, Hoey, Mickolio back of the bullpen is a hard-throwing bunch (even if they don't always know where it's going). Read more ...

Nick Won't Chase

FanGraphs has a new section on their player pages - batter plate discipline.
" * O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
* Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
* Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
* O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
* Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
* Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
* Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone."
I looked at the MLB leaderboard for the stats, and guess who's third this year in swinging at the fewest pitches out of the zone? That would be Nick Markakis. He's at just 11.6% (down from about 23% the last two years), which puts him behind only Nick Johnson and Frank Thomas. Markakis is making contact with the pitches out of the zone that he swings at a high rate (70% vs. league average at 60.8%) but is missing pitches in the zone more than average (82.3% contact rate vs. 88.2% average). Nice to see Nick putting that eye to good use this year. Hopefully he can put better swings on the ball when he gets it in the zone.

Adam Jones has actually done a pretty good job, reducing the rate at which he swings at pitches out of the zone (28.3% - below average, but right there with Miguel Cabrera) from last year, and actually making contact with those pitches at an average rate.

I'll look at these stats on a team level at some point. Read more ...

Monday, April 28, 2008

And He's Out By Five Feet

I was meaning to look into this at some point myself, but the good people at OriolesHangout (Ted Cooke, specifically) saved me the trouble. After yet another runner was caught trying to steal a base as part of a strike-'em-out throw-'em-out double play, I had the suspicion that the O's aggressiveness on the bases was costing the team runs.

Mr. Cook looked at the team's steals, pick-offs, and the events related to them via Run Expectancy and Win Probability.
"Between successful stolen bases, times caught stealing, pickoffs, bases gained from errant pickoff attempts, and the Roberts play at home, the Orioles have been safe 29 times, and have been thrown out 13 times. This aggressiveness has cost the Orioles to the tune of 0.314 runs in terms of Run Expectancy, and 0.050 Win Probability Added Points."
As I (and many others) suspected, the team is being too aggressive (or is just executing poorly). Stolen bases and the like are exciting to see, but right now they aren't helping the team. Other than Roberts and maybe Markakis (6 out of 8, 18-24 last year), guys shouldn't really be in motion so often. Starting Millar on a 3-2 count to Huff to stay out of the double play is all well and good, except that Millar is slow as dirt and Huff strikes out a good amount. I don't know how many double plays the team has avoided with this strategy (and that's something to check on) but it seems that it hurts about as much as it helps (I know that my opinion here is affected since I remember the times it doesn't work more than the times it does). The steals have the team coming out slightly ahead, since they're stealing at close to 75%, but this isn't an offense that can give up extra outs very often, especially with guys on base. I (or maybe someone else) will keep an eye on this going forward.

[As an aside, OH did a question/answer segment with some Baysox pitchers (Chris Tillman, Jim Miller, and Chorye Spoone) and I came away pretty disappointed. I really like Spoone, but if he wasn't a baseball player he would be a "professional hunter" and his favorite artists are "Eminem and Nickelback". Miller wins points for having a Math degree, but he also likes to jam to Alter Bridge. Tillman doesn't have a favorite band, so he only loses half credit for not committing - nobody really listens to everything, or they aren't really listening to music at all.

Seriously, why did it have to be Nickelback? Eminem, fine, but Nickelback? You're killing me here, Chorye. As stupid as it is, I don't think as highly of him as a player anymore. Oh, and his favorite food is mac and cheese. I can actually see him in his hunting attire, with a gun in his arms, eating a bowl of mac and cheese and "singing" along with a Nickelback CD. *Shudder*] Read more ...

From Triple-A To #1 Starter

I knew that Cliff Lee was having a great season (31.2 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 29 K, 0.28 ERA) but I had no idea how great it's been. Rany Jazayerli at BaseballProspectus looked at Lee's recent stretch of games (vs, OAK: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K - vs. MIN: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K - vs. KCR: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) and found something amazing:
"On three consecutive occasions Lee has pitched 8 innings or more, allowed no more than 3 hits, walked no more than one batter, and struck out at least 8 batters.

We have game logs going back to 1956, courtesy of Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.com. Since 1956, do you know how many pitchers had made three straight starts with 8+ innings, <=3 hits, <=1 walk, and 8+ strikeouts? Here's the list, which I have put in alphabetical order for your convenience: Cliff Lee. Here's that list again, sorted by last name: Lee, Cliff. That's it. Lee's stretch of pitching is unmatched in at least 50 years, and quite possibly ever, when you consider that strikeouts tend to decrease in frequency as you go back in time. Even if you eliminate the strikeout requirement entirely and just look for pitchers with 3 consecutive starts with 8 innings, 3 or fewer hits, and one walk or none, only two pitchers in our database have such a stretch. One is Woodie Fryman, in 1966. The other is Sandy Koufax, in 1963."
Wow. This is one of those things that nobody expected, but makes a big impact on the play-off race. Read more ...

Not A Bulls-Eye, But Close

The HardballTimes has put out their weekly DartBoard, that looks at the way each team has played thus far and projects out their records based on their level of play to date and a neutral schedule.

The Orioles are ranked #11, with a projected wins of 87. They made a comment similar to one I had last week:
"If only they could play the Mariners all season long (6-1 against them so far), they might have a chance, but since they cannot, it's unlikely they'll sustain this level of performance though their defense may prop up their pitching enough to make them look like a decent team."
Keep in mind, the wins are determined by actual production, not the team's current record.

The total rankings are:
ARI - 113
CHC - 103
CHW - 100
OAK - 98 (What rebuilding?)
ATL - 98
STL - 94 (Surprised me)
TBR - 93 (Legit contenders)
PHI - 91
BOS - 91
NYY - 88
BAL - 87
FLA - 85
CLE - 83
LAA - 83
CIN - 82
MIL - 82
COL - 82
NYM - 81
DET - 79 (Not as good as some thought, eh?)
LAD - 78
SEA - 74 (Just as good as I thought, eh?)
TOR - 71
HOU - 70
SFG - 65
MIN - 65
KCR - 63
SDP - 62
TEX - 62
WSH - 55
PIT - 52 Read more ...

Pitching Duels

NYY-1, CLE-0
CC Sabathia continues turning his season around with an excellent start (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB 8 K). He still took the loss, since Chien-Ming Wang was better (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K). Wang has upped his K-rate this year, which bodes well for his future. The only run on the board came courtesy of a Melky Cabrera home run. Melky is still hitting 8th, despite a 291 / 356 / 506 line with 5 HR. That power is not something I expected from him, and makes Cabrera a legitimate starting center fielder.

WSH-2, CHC-0
This game was similar to the above one. Chicago's lefty starter Ted Lilly started off the year poorly, but pitched well (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K) and still got the loss. John Lannon continued and improbable scoreless streak (19 innings now) going 7 innings and giving up 4 hits and 4 walks, while K'ing 3. Ryan Zimmerman's bad 2008 continued with an 0-4, 3 K day.

TBR-3, BOS-0
The Rays completed their sweep of the Red Sox behind a fantastic start by James Shields (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K). Josh Beckett was the hard luck loser in this one (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 13 K), giving up a home run to Evan Longoria.

ARI-2, SDP-1
This was a battle of two of the best in baseball, and both guys brought their A games. Jake Peavy (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 9 K) took his first loss of the year and actually raised his ERA to 2.09. The winner, for the sixth time this year, was Brandon Webb (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K) who had shaky control but lowered his ERA to 1.98. A two run homer from Chris Snyder was all he needed today, but with the way the D'Backs put runs on the board, Webb looks like a near lock for 20 wins (at least).

CIN-10, SFG-1
I'm throwing this one in to show the other side of the coin. While Reds' starter Edison Volquez continued to dominate (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 10 K) and now sits at 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA, Giants' veteran Barry Zito continued to pitch really, really poorly (3 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 1 K). The former Cy Young winner is now 0-6 with a 7.53 ERA and is allowing almost two baserunners an inning. With the way the Giants put runs on the board, Zito looks like a near lock to lose 20 games (with that contract they'll keep running him out there, and it doesn't look like his performance will improve anytime soon). When Noah Lowry comes back, Zito will become easily the highest paid #5 starter ever (and I think he'll hold that record for a while), as Matt Cain (5.27 ERA, but 26 K's) and Tim Lincecum (4-0, 1.23 ERA, 36 K's) have been joined by former top prospect Jonathan Sanchez (3.54 ERA, and also 36 K's) at the top of a very good young rotation. Read more ...

O's-White Sox, To Be Continued...

I missed almost all of the game. It seems that Daniel Cabrera didn't have his best control today (6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 2 K) but was able to work out a few jams. Javier Vazquez shut the O's down pretty well (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K) with his only blemish being an Aubrey Huff home run.

I listened to the seventh inning on the radio, and Ozzie Guillen made some poor managerial decisions. After Daniel walked Nick Swisher to lead off the inning, Ozzie had Orlando Cabrera put down a sacrifice bunt. Why, when the pitcher has been wild all game, do you give away an out? With first base open, Daniel then walked Thome, and Dave Trembley wisely took him out of the game in favor of Chad Bradford. Konerko singled in a run, but that's all Chicago would get. As they say, when you play for one run then that's likely all you will get. Instead of a potential big inning, the White Sox scored only one run and the O's were able to tie things up in the ninth.

Down 2-1 in the ninth with Bobby Jenks in to close it out for the White Sox against the top of the O's order. Brian Roberts with a double to left, and the Orioles have something brewing. Please don't bunt Melvin. And he doesn't need to, as Roberts steals third on his own. Wow, high risk play, but great job by B-Rob to get in there. Mora with a single up the middle and the Birds have done it again, tying it up against Jenks. Aww, Melvin. You can't get picked off in that situation (well, I guess you can since you did). Good job by Nick to work the count after falling behind 0-2, but (as expected) he ends up striking out swinging at a high fastball. They don't score, at it'll be Jim Johnson coming in for the bottom of the ninth.

A Thome strike-out begins a 1-2-3 inning for Johnson, and it'll be extra innings today.

Nice job by Huff to ground out to second and then get ejected by the first base umpire. With only Eider Torres left on the bench, I don't know if he comes in at DH or if the pitcher must now bat. Either way, Huff deserves to get yelled at for that. Luuuke flies out, but an Adam Jones double puts the go-ahead run in scoring position for Brandon Fahey. This is exactly the situation I was dreading. Jay Payton pinch hit for Quiroz, and then Ramon Hernandez pinch hit for Luis. That meant that Fahey (who came in for Payton) would be batting ahead of Ramon. If Trembley had done it the other way around, then Ramon would have been up in that situation. Instead, Fahey grounds to short, with Jones getting thrown out at third.

Quentin continues swinging a hot bat, as he leads off with a double. Crede flies out to right, and Carlos tags up and makes it to third with one out. Johnson could really use a K now. I didn't see what happened, but it seems Brian Anderson tried to bunt and missed, and Quentin was caught away from third. With none on and two outs, Anderson strikes out. Good job by Jim (with some help from Chicago) to get out of the inning.

Ramon Hernandez sends it high... he sends it deep... and that ball is gone. And the O's take the 3-2 lead on Ramon's third home run of the year. This Orioles team just keeps coming back. They don't get any more, but it'll be George Sherrill time in the bottom of the 11th.

Man, Sherrill blows his first save as the O's closer, giving up a solo home run to Juan Uribe. Swisher flies out, but Orlando Cabrera reaches on an error by Fahey at short. The team has three shortstops, and not a single one hit (at all) or field (particularly well). Sherrill gets out of it, and the game continues.

Well, not today it doesn't. The rain is coming in, and the conclusion of this one will be made up at a later date. That should be interesting, as it's a "sudden death" type situation. Good job by the O's to take Cabrera off the hook - hopefully this game was just a blip and not a regression. Too bad they gave it up.
Read more ...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nix Out, Roberts In?

The Colorado Rockies have designated second baseman Jayson Nix for assignment. Nix is hitting just .111/.216/.133 and has an amazing -7 OPS+ (even KCR SS Tony Pena is at 3). Nix hit just .292/.342/.451 in AAA in a pretty good offensive environment, but he does have a very good glove. If Andy MacPhail is willing to look into it (and I'm confident he is) this could provide a good situation for a Brian Roberts trade. With the Diamondbacks way ahead in the NL West and the Rockies expecting to compete this year, they may be pressed to make a deal. Perhaps blocked (and slightly old) first baseman Joe Koshansky (.324/.446/.632 this year, .295/.380/.490 last year in AAA), potentially blocked (if Garrett Atkins is signed) third baseman Ian Stewart (.289/.382/.618 this year, .304/.379/.478 last year in AAA), and blocked shortstop Chris Nelson (.274/.304/.393 this year in AA, .289/.358/.503 in A+ last year) would be involved. That would be quite a coup for the O's and if they sent Nix along, the O's could reload entire infield in one deal (though I imagine they would have to send a pitcher or something along with Roberts to make the deal work - maybe they could use their large budget and pay the rest of Roberts' contract to appease the Rockies). Something to keep your eye on. Read more ...

Owings Watch

Micah Owings had his worst start of the year against the Padres (5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K) but also went 3-3 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored. He's now hitting 389 / 421 / 444 on the year and has a 125 OPS+. San Fransisco Giants' clean-up hitter Bengie Molina is hitting 313 / 337 / 525 with a 125 OPS+. Their production at the plate has been very similar, and Owings hasn't even homered yet. There is a down side to such offensive prowess from a pitcher, and it's that he constantly has to run the bases. While pulling into second on his double, Owings sprained his right ankle and had to be removed from the game. It isn't too serious, and he should be back swinging the lumber (and pitching pretty well too) in no time. The D'Backs called up top prospect Max Scherzer to possibly take Owings' place if he can't make his next start. Scherzer has a 1.17 ERA with 38 K's to just 3 walks in 23 innings at AAA. That reminds me of the numbers Tim Lincecum put up before he was promoted (0.29 ERA, 46 K's in 31 IP). Read more ...

Bad Managing

Post #2 in the set "Imagine How Mad I'd Be If He Was The O's Manager." The Toronto Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East. With this kind of managing, I'm not surprised. (Hat-tip to Joe Posnanski, one of the best sports writer around)
"I’ve never seen a more offensive walk than Friday night. Never. Toronto trailed the Royals 5-4 in the eighth inning. The Blue Jays trailed 5-4 because that gutty shortostop David Eckstein dropped a double-play throw from the pitcher. No matter. They trailed 5-4, and the Royals had runners on second and third, and there was still one out, and Tony Pena Jr. was at the plate. I mentioned this in the last blog post, I believe — I like Tony Pena a lot. Great kid. Got a lot of the energy and joy for baseball his old man has. And he’s a terrific fielder. And he’s smart enough to adjust, at least I think so. But facts is facts: Tony Pena Jr., at this moment and time, is the worst everyday Major League hitter I’ve ever seen. I mean the worst. There are numbers to back this up — .148/.172/.164 would be three of those numbers — but this is truly a case where seeing is believing. His swing is now longer than the Bill Clinton autobiography. He starts it on a Tuesday, it ends on a Thursday. It lasts longer than that ”Deal or No Deal“ show. It’s a long, long swing.

And with that sort of swing, he’s an out. That’s all. An automatic out. Every so often when a pitcher lets his mind wander, Pena Jr. will fights off a bad pitch, bloop a hit the other way, but it is almost always a mistake pitch. I assume (and hope) that he will make those adjustments I mentioned, shorten the swing, punch a few balls into gaps, and all that. But right now, at this moment, if you don’t make a mistake to Tony Pena Jr., he’s out. Period.

And John Gibbons, after pitcher Scott Downs fell behind Pena 2-0 count, had him walked.

I’m just telling you … I’d have fired somebody. I’m just telling you that intentionally walking Tony Pena Jr. or any other light-hitting middle infielder hitting .150 would be a fireable offense on my team. I’d have that written on a clubhouse sign.

And Gibbons (or whoever) would tell me how the walk set up the double play, tell me how by walking Pena they got the lefty-lefty matchup they wanted, tell me that in that situation, down two balls, you HAVE to walk Pena because any major league hitter becomes dangerous ahead 2-0 in the count and blah blah blah. Thank you. Please have your desk cleared by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

In this case, the Baseball Gods were as offended as I was, and the next batter — David DeJesus — scoffed at the whole lefty-lefty thing and drilled a single that scored two runs. Then Alberto Callaspo hit a single that scored another. The Royals snapped their losing streak and won 8-4. It was just. It was right. I’m not an owner, and it’s good thing. All I can say is: I implore you, Canada. Somebody stop John Gibbons before he walks again."
The O's employed the intentional walk last week and it led to a big inning. There is a time and a place for it, but those situations are few and far between. I especially like when a team walks the bases loaded and leaves the pitcher in the game, and he can't find the zone and walks in the winning run. It's hard enough to locate well when you're in a groove, why would the manager assume the pitcher can do it effectively after intentionally changing their approach and throwing 4-8 pitches way outside? Toronto got what it deserved in that situation, and John Gibbons was in the hot seat to start the season - he should be gone pretty soon unless the Jays turn things around. Read more ...

Morris Mercifully Given His Release

The Pirates finally released Matt Morris (0-4, 9.67 ERA, 2.15 WHIP). Morris came over from the Giants near the end of last year - it was one of the last moves from former GM Dave Littlefield. It didn't make any sense, even at the time, as Morris had a large contract (about $10 million a year), the Pirates are a non-competitive small-market team, and Morris wasn't pitching well (4.37 ERA, 1.47 WHIP for SFG). He's little more than Steve Trachsel at seven times the price. The money was a sunk cost at this point, so it was the right move by Frank Coonelly to recognize that Pittsburgh had many pitchers who could put up better numbers and let Morris go. I find it doubtful that any team will pick him up at this point, as Morris has a Fielding Independent ERA of over 7. He likely ends his career with 121 wins and a 3.98 ERA, and a couple of All-Star appearances. He did finish 3rd in the Cy Young voting in 2001 with the Cardinals, compiling a 22-8 record with a 3.16 ERA and 185 K's in 216 innings. He's fallen pretty far, but had a solid career. Good luck Matt, and thanks for shaving that soul-patch. Read more ...

Good Job Seattle, Thanks

The Seattle Mariners really are one of the worse run organizations in baseball. That's one of the reasons I was confident in predicting they'd win less than 85 wins this year. In a pretty shocking move, the M's have extended catcher Kenji Johjima's contract through 2011, despite having power hitting catching prospect Jeff Clement tearing it up in AAA. Clement's defense might leave a bit to be desired, but the trade-off to get his bat in the line-up at a premier position should be worth it. I had assumed that Johjima was keeping the catcher position warm until Clement was ready, and I think he's pretty much ready. Seattle could really use his bat in the line-up right now, but he may just end up being a trade-chip for them at the deadline. Maybe they'd like to take Jay Payton off the O's hands - he's a veteran righty pull hitter with a lack of patience at the plate. I'd even include Steve Trachsel and Aubrey Huff, if they threw in Carlos Truinfel. Come on, he's like 3 years away from the majors and you're trying to contend now.

Here's a good breakdown of the deal, at fangraphs by the guy who runs the ussmariner blog.
"When you look at the following graph, what is your initial reaction?



Now, take that reaction and add the following information:

1. Catcher
2. Turns 32 years old in two weeks
3. Right handed pull hitter, your team plays in a park that hates right handed pull hitters

Okay, now, let’s go through the formula. If you take Initial Reaction + Position Knowledge + Age + Park Suitability and your conclusion is Contract Extension, congratulations, you’re qualified to work for the Mariners. They just extended Kenji Johjima through the 2011 season. Johjima’s a solid player and has been a real asset since arriving from Japan, but the timing of this move seems odd. Top prospect Jeff Clement is tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma, and while his defense is underwhelming, the team could really use a left handed bat in the line-up. Extending Johjima ensures that Clement will be moving to first base or designated hitter, reducing his value to the club and taking away the chance to balance the line-up.

The Mariners just continue to fail to learn lessons from their past mistakes. The organization consistently gives overly long contracts to replaceable declining veterans, then gets surprised when those guys don’t perform at their career averages. I’m sure they’ll be stunned in several years when Carlos Silva and Johjima are struggling and eating up a good portion of the payroll along with premium roster spots."
Thanks Seattle for giving me confidence that I made the right call. Read more ...

O's-White Sox, Konerko:2, Orioles:1

Jeremy Guthrie had given up 5 home runs on the year. Make it 6, as Paul Konerko takes a middle-of-the-plate fastball deep to left. 1-0 White Sox in the bottom of the second. It looks like Kevin Millar is getting the day off. That's good, since he has really been struggling lately - it seems that he has failed to come through in many RBI opportunities in the last few days. He is walking less than he had been, and has been hitting the ball on the ground much more than he used to.

[In response to an Amber Theoharris segment:
Sac bunting isn't "team baseball" as it usually hurts the "team" while actually helping the player since he is seen as "selfless" and having "done his job". Mora is good at bunting for hits, so I'm OK with him trying to drop one down every once in a while, but he really shouldn't sacrifice as often as he did last year (and appears to be doing it less this year).]

Fahey hits the ball hard but it goes right into Jose Contreras' glove for an out. Jim Palmer takes the opportunity to make fun of Daniel Cabrera's defense (he would be diving out of the way). Way to build up the guy's confidence there Jim. Brian Roberts ties the game with his third home run of the year, and it was a no-doubt-about-it shot. Got a fastball that tailed right over the middle of the plate. Mora tries to bunt again, and fouls it off. And again, but takes a ball. The guy just gave up a homer - swing (or take) away, Melvin. Nick rips a single through the right side, and Huff follows it up with one of his own, but foul.

Apparently, Nick says he wants to steal at least 20 bases this year. That's all well and good, as long as he isn't getting thrown out 10-15 times. And there he goes, taking second without a throw. That's six on the year, and I'm thankful for it from a fantasy baseball perspective - an outfielder that can put up .300, 100, 25, 100, 20 numbers is second round material. Huff walks, but Payton is first-pitch swinging and flies out to right to end the inning.

Nick Swisher doubles and steals third, but Guthrie strikes out Thome to end a scoreless bottom of the third.

Adam Jones hits a rocket to center, but Anderson is there and makes the catch. The O's go down 1-2-3.

With runners on first and second and one out, Alexie Ramirez grounds back to Guthrie. Jeremy turns and makes a high throw to Fahey at second. It sure looked like Fahey stayed on the bag while making the catch, but the ump rules that he wasn't. The throw to first doesn't get Ramirez, and instead of an inning ending double play, the bases are loaded with no outs being recorded there. I've almost never seen an umpire not give that call to the fielder, even in situations where it was pretty clear that he wasn't on the bag when he caught the ball. Guthrie gets out of the jam though, so no real damage was done.

Mora gets an infield single, but the O's fail to score. Still 1-1 going into the bottom of the fourth. Guthrie is pitching pretty well, but unless they score some runs he will again fail to get his first win of the year.

The Sox go down 1-2-3, with Guthrie picking up his fourth and fifth K's of the game.

Aubrey singles up the middle to start the fifth, but Payton grounds into the force at second. One out with a runner still on first for Luuuuke. Scott grounds out, and Jones goes down swinging to end the inning.

Paul Konerko tags another one. That makes it 2-1, as Konerko gets another fastball in the middle and of the plate and send it out to left. Guthrie is again troubled by the long-ball, as he's given up 7 on the year. If he can't get that rate down, it'll be a long year for him. A soft single to center will end Guthrie's day. Matt Albers is coming in to keep the score where it is. Carlos Quentin singles to center, and the Sox have something going in the sixth. Ramirez puts down a sac bunt to move the runners along, and the O's bring the infield in. Brian Anderson grounds to short, but Brandon Fahey's throw home hits the runner. The run scores, and as the ball gets away Quentin comes all the way around from second to make it 4-1. Still only one out and a runner on second. Albers gets out of it, but the O's are gonna need some runs now.

Brian Roberts gets a two out single against Contreras, and Ozzie Guillen is calling in side-arming righty Ehren Wasserman to pitch to Melvin Mora. Roberts steals second and Mora walks, and that's it for Wasserman as Matt Thorton will be coming in to match up with Markakis. Now would be a good time for his fifth home run of the year. Nope. Markakis strikes out swinging, and the O's fail to score.

Greg Aquino is brought in to soak up a couple innings and save the rest of the pen. Aquino shows his usual lack of command and walks the first two hitters. Greg forgets to check on Orlando Cabrera at second and so he takes third. Now a double play will still score a run. 3-0 count to Konerko, who's already homered twice. A third straight walk loads the bases, and Aquino has a chance to pull a Houdini. AJ Peirzynski strikes out swinging at a slider, and a ground ball could get him out of the inning. Carlos Quentin gets hit in the back to force in Chicago's fifth run. Bases still loaded and Dennis Sarfate is coming in to try to minimize the damage. This may be Aquino's last appearance with the Birds, as the team is likely to bring up a pitcher from AAA (Garrett Olson probably) to make the start on Tuesday (the double header messed up the rotation), and Greg is clearly the last pitcher on the roster.

Sarfate gets the ground ball, but it's hit too slowly to turn two. A run scores to make it 6-1, White Sox. Brian Anderson pops out to end the threat. Good job by Dennis to throw two pitches and get two outs. A five run lead is a bit much to overcome at this point, even for this year's version of the Orioles.

Matt Thorton set the O's down in order, including K's of Huff and Scott. If Daniel Cabrera is on his game then a series split is OK by me. Winning 7-8 of the 17 games on the road during this long stretch would be a victory for the team, I think. It would leave them right around .500 (above or below depends on how they do against the Rays on the quick three game home stand) which is better than a lot of people thought they would be in the middle of May.

Sarfate needs to tense up that glove on his follow-through - it would help with his control. A Dennis Sarfate that has command of his fastball is a very good reliever. He pitches a perfect eighth, and the O's will need at least five off of Octavio Dotel.

They need baserunners, so of course Adam Jones is swinging at the first pitch - he flies out to right. Ramon Hernandez's poor season continues as he waives at a high fastball. Two down for Brandon Fahey. He grounds into the hole at short, but Orlando Cabrera makes a great play to throw Fahey out to end the game. Guthrie pitches pretty well, but the O's can't do much against Contreras once again and lose 6-1.

There is now a three-way tie for first in the East with the O's and the Rays at 14-11 and Boston at 15-12. New York is 1.5 back at 13-13, and Toronto is in the cellar at 11-15.
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O's-White Sox, Let's Split Two

I can not say enough about Brian Burres' start against Chicago. 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K and the win. I still maintain that his proper place is in the bullpen, but this year Burres is carrying the rotation - 3 wins and a 2.49 ERA are both tops amongst starters. He has just a 13:10 K to walk ratio, but has given up only 1 home run, so it's taking a lot of baserunners to bring in runs. His hits and home runs are going to go up, and his ERA with it, if he can't bump the K's up a bit, but right now he's looking like a legitimate #4 starter. The effort was especially important since it saved the bullpen for the second game.

Chicago's lefty John Danks was pretty good too - he had a perfect game through five - but Guillermo Quiroz eventually got to him with his first major league home run. The Birds added 3 more against Octavio Dotel and took game one of the double header 5-1.

Game two went less well as Steve Trachsel was on the mound. Trachsel was brought in to provide some veteran stability to the rotation, but he gave up 5 runs on 10 baserunners in just 3 innings. He's got a 6.08 ERA on the year (I was expecting an ERA of 6 from him) and he's once again walked more than he's struck out. If he can't provide innings, then he shouldn't be in the rotation much longer.

Jim Johnson continued his success out of the pen, providing 2.1 scoreless innings and the rest of the relievers kept to White Sox off the board as the O's bats made a comeback from their 5-2 deficit. They did just that on a Millar homer, and then a triple by Brian Roberts and a double by Melvin Mora, tying the game at 5-5.

Unfortunately, Randor Bierd didn't bring his control to the park today. A walk-single-walk with a fly out in between loaded the bases with two outs. I said that I'd be OK with the loss if Brian Anderson (the batter) singled through the infield, as long as Randor didn't walk or hit him, or throw a wild pitch. Well, that's exactly what happened as Anderson grounded one past a diving Pelican to give Chicago the 6-5 win.

With Guthrie and Cabrera pitching in the next two games (it's a four game series) I feel pretty confident of at least getting a split. Considering Trachsel was facing Mark Buerhle, a loss was entirely expected in this one. On the bright side, the O's are tied with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.
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Bedard Back

Erik Bedard is back, and didn't appear to be affected by his injury against the A's.
Bedard picked up his second win with a 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K performance as the M's beat Oakland 5-3. I'm glad he's back and pitching well, but I was hoping Oakland could have made a slightly larger comeback against the Mariners' pen. Mike Sweeney, trying to keep his job after the arrival of Frank Thomas, homered for the A's.

So far this year (in a very small sample size) Bedard's strike-out rate has fallen a bit (as was to be expected), but his walk and home run rates are way up above 2007. His ERA is just 2.04 because of a very low hit rate, which should go up over time. I still think he'll have about the same year as '07, maybe a little worse, but at least now we'll actually get to find out. Read more ...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Loewen Hurt Again

Adam Loewen has been placed on the DL with an elbow injury, and the team has recalled Eider Torres from AAA. Torres, an infielder, may get a chance to start some games at shortstop. I don't really understand the point of bringing him up, as they already have the Pelican and Fahey on the roster. Even though Scott Moore isn't hitting that well in AAA, he is the far better player and could give Mora and Millar (as well as Roberts) some days off. I'll take the extra power over having three near identical poor hitting middle infielders.

I assume this means that Matt Albers will be back in the starting rotation with Jim Johnson taking his spot as the main long reliever. That doesn't sound like a bad move, but I expect Garrett Olson to get a shot soon, considering the way he's been pitching lately. Maybe to push Burres to the pen where he belongs? This may end up being a blessing in disguise, as Loewen's rehab may allow him to get some needed time in the minors to work on his control. Read more ...

Reds Rebuilding - Utley Sucks - Tribe Takes Two

HOU-5, CIN-3
Cueto-mania is over, at least for the time being, in Cincinnati. Johnny's ERA rose to a still good 4.05 with his 7 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 K performance against the Astros. Lance Berkman went 3-3 with a homer and 3 RBI for Houston. The Reds are 9-14, and may be punting on this season in favor of contending next year with a young (but slightly more experienced) team.

PHI-3, MIL-1
Chase Utley went 3-4 (all singles) with a run scored for the Phillies. Pff... bum. Didn't even hit a homer. As of (I believe) two days ago, Utley lead the majors in extra-base hits with 20. The next guys had 14. He had almost as many home runs (10) as these guys had doubles, triples, and homers combined.

DET-8, TEX-2
The Detroit keeps on rolling, and it's getting a boost from the return of Curtis Granderson. Granderson homered, as did Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, and Magglio Ordonez (twice). Jeremy Bonderman gave up just two runs on two hits in 4.2 IP, while striking out seven. Unfortunately, he also walked seven, as so couldn't stay in long enough to get the win.

LAA-7, BOS-5
Justin Masterson pitched very well (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K) in his major league debut for the Red Sox. He didn't get the win, however, as the Boston bullpen gave up 6 runs over the last three innings. Gary Matthews Jr. went 3-5 with 3 RBI for the Angels. Joe Saunders got the win, and is now 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA on the year for LA. See, they do have some pitching depth. Maybe even enough to win the division.

COL-4, CHC-2
The Rockies only scored 4 runs - in line with their offensive troubles this year - but they kept the juggernaut Cubs (over 6 runs per game) to just 2 and improved their record to 10-12. Manny Corpas is apperently out of the closer's spot after a very rough start to the season - former closer Brian Fuentes pithced a perfect ninth (including 2 K's) for his first save of the year.

OAK-11, MIN-2
Fransisco Liriano's way back from injury isn't going so well. He's 0-2 after his disaster of a start against the A's (0.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 0 K). On the other side, rookie Greg Smith went to 2-0 with a good start (7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K), while Andrew Brown and Joey Devine each pitched a scoreless inning. Both relievers have tidy ERA's of 0.00 this year. Frank Thomas walked twice and scored a run in his return to Oakland.

CLE-9, KCR-6 CLE-2, KCR-0
Due to rain, the Indians and the Royals played a double header - I bet KC wished they had held some offense back for the second game. Grady Sizemore went 4-5 with a homer and a stolen base in the early game. Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona struggled mightily (5 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 1 K) but the Royals helped him out by swinging early and often despite his control problems. Lucky for the Indians, Brett Tomko pitched worse (4 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 2 K).
Game two saw a pitcher's duel between Brian Bannister and Cliff Lee. Banny was good (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB 4 K), but Lee was dominant (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Cliff is now 4-0 with an 0.28 ERA on the year. If Cleveland fans had to guess (before the season) which lefty would be carrying the rotation, I assume 99.993% would have gone with Sabathia over Lee. He can't keep up the 29 to 2 K:BB ratio, but I think he is very capable of having a solid season for the Tribe.

STL-6, PIT-2
The Cardinals won yet again, and this time it was Joel Piniero with the quality start (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K). St. Louis is 14-9, and I have no idea how. On the Pirates side, Tom Gorzellany, who was worked hard down the stretch last year, continues to struggle - he only gave up 3 runs in 5 IP, but walked 7 and has an 8.46 ERA on the year.

ATL-7, FLA-4
A five run first and a Chipper Jones HR later was enough for the Braves to get back to .500 at 11-11. Manny Acosta pitched two innings to pick up his second save of the year. Josh Willingham went 3-4 with a homer and drove in all 4 Florida runs.

TBR-5, TOR-3
Did Evan Longoria deserve a contract after only playing 6 games? 2-2, 2B, 3B, BB, SB, RBI, R. He's hitting 282 / 383 / 564. Where can the Orioles get one of those? I'd sign him before he played his first game.

WAS-10, NYM-5
Felipe Lopez had the very rare 6 RBI day from the lead-off spot. Six Nats each picked up exactly 2 hits, and Johnny Estrada added another as a pinch hitter. Carlos Delgado went 0-4 with a K and is hitting just .198. It may be the end of the line for him. That's bad news for the Mets, as they don't have a ton of depth, or the pieces to make a trade.

SFG-1, SDP-0
Rich Aurilia hit a solo home run, and that was it. Tim Lincecum moved to 4-0 with a very good start (6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 9 K), and Chris Young's went for naught (7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 10 K).

ARI-6, LAD-4
Chad Billingsley struck out 12 in 6 IP. He also gave up 5 runs, as the D'Backs extended their lead to 7 games over the Dodgers. Arizona is an MLB best 16-6 and their 6 game lead over second place Colorado (10-12) is larger than the leads the first-place teams in the AL East and Central hold over the last place teams in those two divisions. Amazing. Read more ...

Big Turn Around

Here's the win probability graph for the game from fangraphs. It shows each team's chance of winning at different points in the game.



The home run by Ichiro was a huge swing, but B-Rob got it right back. It wasn't looking good in the fourth, but the O's battled and whittled the lead down before having that huge top of the seventh - the double by Adam Jones especially gave the O's an edge. The hit by Betancourt in the ninth gave them life, but turning that double play against Ichiro really snuffed it out. Read more ...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

O's-M's, What A Come-Back

Brian lines one right to a drawn in Beltre for the first out of the game. Melvin Mora walks on four pitches, and Nick Markakis lines a pitch up the middle. It goes off Washburn (kick-save, and a beauty) and Beltre tries to bare-hand the deflection. He can't, it goes under his glove, and Mora scampers to third. Nick extends his AL lead in OBP, and runners are on the corners for Millar. 3-1 count and Millar swings for the fences, and misses the high fastball. Then he strikes out and Markakis is easily gunned down trying to steal second. Just like that Washburn is out of trouble and the inning is over.

Ichiro walks, but then gets picked off by Loewen. He's behind Lopez 0-2 though. Jose ends up flying out to center. Ibanez runs the count full, but takes a called third strike to end the inning.

Huff grounds one up the middle, and Betancourt makes a nice play ranging to his left to make the play. Jay Payton (in for Scott since there's a lefty on the mound) pops out to second, and Ramon flies to right.

Beltre works the count full, and homers into left field, 1-0 M's. Loewen gets ahead of Vidro 0-2 and gets him to ground weakly to third. Sexson follows suit, and then so does Johjima, as Mora has a busy inning.

Adam Jones gets ahead 2-1 and drives one deep to right center for a double. I'm mentioning counts more because with some of the O's pitchers (Cabrera, Loewen) and hitters (Jones) it is something that is very important for their progress. Fahey squares to bunt, and after taking the second pitch Johjima tries to pick Jones off at second. The throw hits him, allowing Jones to go to third. Fahey now has his a chance to pick up his second RBI if he can hit the ball with any authority. He gets it into the air, but it only goes about 200 feet to left and Jones can't score. He's probably a worse hitter than a number of pitchers. Brian Roberts walks on five pitches. Mora can't get the runner in from third as he pops out. It'll take a two-out hit from Markakis now. Good job by Kakes to not try to do too much and take the walk. Millar can't get it down as he pops out himself. That's the second jam Washburn has gotten out of without any damage.

Bloomquist send the ball into the left-center gap, but Payton gets there quickly and is able to keep Willie to a single. Betancourt hits it through the hole on the right side and Bloomquist heads to third with no outs. Ichiro then draws a walk to load the bases. Can Loewen escape pull a Houdini himself? Nope - Lopez hits a sac fly to right, 2-0 M's. Ibanez then hits a sac fly to Jones in center, 3-0. Seattle gets guys on and brings them in; Baltimore gets guys on and leaves them their. God, where's the clutch hitting? Beltre walks on four pitches, and Loewen looks like he won't be lasting long today. The runners get huge jumps and pull off a double steal. Two in scoring position now. Score they do as Vidro hits one over Jones' head in center, and it bounces over the wall for a ground-rule double. "Vidro... underrated" says Gary Thorne. Well Gary, Vidro is rated highly enough that the M's didn't sign Frank Thomas to hit 20 more home runs than him. I'd say overrated, or rated just about right at best. That's it for Loewen, as Randor is coming in. Adam's line (2.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K, 60 pitches with only 33 for strikes) is not good. He's still learning, but it isn't going well. It'll take a big comeback for the O's to win this series. Bierd gets Sexson to ground out to short to finally end the inning. 5-0 Mariners.

Huff flies out to center on the first pitch of the fourth. Jay Payton gets the O's on the board with a solo home run to left. One down, four+ to go. Ramon Hernandez pops out. Adam Jones grounds to short, but Betancourt couldn't handle the ball and Jones is on via error. Time to take advantage... Brandon Fahey. Man, where's Alex Cintron? (Man, I'm hoping for Alex Cintron - that makes me doubly depressed.) Fahey launches it... into short left-center for a single. Washburn is able to get Roberts swinging to (again) end the scoring threat.

Very nice play by Fahey to back-hand a ball on the outfield grass in the hole at short and fire to first to beat the slow-footed Johjima. Randor shows some good reflexes, spearing a come-backer and throwing Bloomquist out at first. Betancourt grounds to the left side, and Mora makes a diving stop and throws him out at first. Mora is one of those guys whose defense isn't as good as it seems, because of all the nice looking plays he makes. Bierd still hasn't given up a run this year - hopefully the O's can put an 8 spot on the board and get him a win.

Mora works the count full and singles threw the hole into left field. If he had homered, Throne would have mentioned his defensive play that ended the previous inning - it's standard commentator stuff. Nick Markakis works the count to 3-1 and lines a single up the middle, that goes off of Lopez's glove. (See what happens when the batter gets ahead in the count?) Maybe they can actually get a hit with runners in scoring position this time. Nope. Double play from Millar. The runner scores to make it 5-2. but now there are none on with two outs. Huff grounds out, and yet another threat is over with minimal damage. The score should be 5-5, 5-4 at least, but the O's are hitting horribly in the important situations today.

Ichiro grounds to second, and Bierd has continued his impressive work from the pen. How badly do you think Detroit wishes they still had him right now? Lopez grounds to second. I said previously that Randor could be an improved version of Todd Williams (come in when they need a ground ball, or to bridge from the starter to the back-end of the pen), and he's looking like it so far. He gets a pitch up to Ibanez, who hits it deep off the wall in left-center for a double. That's it for Bierd, as Matt Albers is coming in. Good job by Randor to keep the M's off the board - hopefully Albers doesn't allow his runner to score. Albers proceedes to walk Beltre on five pitches, and Vidro is coming up with a chance to expand the M's lead. "Ever dangerous...Vidro" - Jim Palmer. Yeah. Ever dangerous to the tune of a 200 / 264 / 300 year. He grounds to second to end the inning, and Bierd is unscathed again. Time for some offense. What can the O's do next? Get five hits and still not score? Homer but forget to touch a base? The runs have to start coming in eventually.

Washburn is out and Roy Corcoran is in. Payton grounds the ball up the middle, and Jose Lopez backs a great play to back-hand it jump, spin and throw. Payton looked out, but was called safe. Another baserunner to be left stranded? Ramon chops one high in the air, but Beltre has plenty of time to throw him out at first. Come on Adam Jones - make them feel bad for trading you. Payton gets a big lead and steals third. A good throw would have gotten him, but it was off-line. Now Jones doesn't even need a hit to bring in a run. He gets behind 1-2, though. Adam hits a slow dribbler to third, and even a very good bare-handed play by Beltre isn't enough to beat the speedy Jones. Payton scores, but the terrible (baseball player, not person) Brandon Fahey hits the first pitch back to the mound for a double play. Another potential rally squashed. If they keep getting 2-3 runners on an inning then maybe they can come back to tie if the pen keeps Seattle at 5 runs.

Albers gets ahead of Sexson 1-2 and makes him look silly on a curveball. Trivia Question - Last O's third baseman to win a Gold Glove? Brooks Robinson. The trivia question on the MLB.com game-cast was much harder. A pop-up to Fahey and a grounder to Roberts ends the inning. The O's are only down by 2 and have a couple innings to go. (I'm not counting the ninth, since I assume Putz would shut them down again.)

Arthur Rhodes coming in to face Roberts, Mora, and Markakis. Roberts works the count full and lines a single to left. Brian isn't hitting that well, but he is still having quality at bats. Mora then singles up the middle. Markakis is coming up in a big situation. Last time he walked to load the bases and Millar couldn't get the run in. Will he be swinging early this time? He's been on base all three times today. Guess he's not changing his game as he gets ahead 2-0. Another game-winning home run? Another pitch misses, and another walk would put him in sole possession of first place in that category in the AL. And that's exactly what happens. That will load the bases for Millar. Nick walked 61 times all of last year, and he already is up to 19 through 22 games this year. He may finally be turning into that 300 / 400 / 500 type hitter that I was hoping for. That's Bobby Abreu (first guy I thought of - good thing too as he's a career 300 / 407 / 500 hitter), except with plus defense, and at an earlier age. Mark Lowe is coming in for Rhodes, and he falls behind 3-1. Millar swings at the pitch and flies it deep to left. Roberts scores to make it 5-4, but Mora can't advance to third. It'll take an actual hit to tie the game. Lowe has thrown Huff three straight change-ups to get ahead 1-2. The O's may lose this game, but they have really battled back here. Not for now though, as Huff lines the ball into center and Mora comes in to score ahead of Ichiro's throw. That ties the score at 5-5, and Jay Payton is up with Nick in scoring position. Jay is 2-3 with a HR, and so I'm not going to say that Luke Scott should be pinch hitting. Loewen pitches poorly again, but is taken off the hook. The O's pen doesn't have a "Putz" (ha ha) but it is the deeper of the two. Payton flies out to deep center and Kakes goes to third. A wild pitch would give the O's a lead now. Maybe Ramon can get out of his slump. Well, not by swinging at a first pitch in the dirt. Ramon works the count full, and takes a pitch in the dirt for ball four. Bases loaded - two outs - tie game - Adam Jones coming to the plate. A grand-slam here automatically wins the Bedard trade for the O's. He tried for it, but is out in front of the change-up. And a second time, as Jones is behind 0-2. After fouling off a couple pitches, Jones hits it high; he hits it deep; he hits it just off the top of the wall in left (oh, soooo close!). That'll score a pair, and the O's are up 7-5. It is a bit preemptive, but I'm going to listen to "Orioles Magic" now. Sean Green is coming in, and Luke Scott is hitting for Fahey. Green is way better against righties, so Scott can put a good swing on it here. He does, but the hard grounder is knocked down by Sexson at first and the inning is over. Still, big inning for the Birds. That's what happens when you keep getting guys on base - some of them have to score. That's how the A's are scoring runs despite being out-homered by Chase Utley.

O-R-I-O-L-E-S, Magic, Magic, Magic, Magic... Orioles Magic, Feel It Happen!

Back to the game. Albers stays in for the seventh. If he can get through it, that allows Trembley to mix-and-match Walker and Bradford in the eighth, as he seems to like doing. Betancourt starts the inning with a single to left however. Never mind about Albers going though the inning, as Walker is coming in to face Ichiro. Remember Jamie, he isn't Carlos Pena. Dammit Jamie, not Carlos Pena. And just like that the lead is gone as Ichiro hits a two run home run. 7-7. Just don't lose it now. I guess that's what I get for the preemptive "Orioles Magic" listen. Lopez single past a diving Pelican up the middle. Still no outs in the inning. Now there are two, as Ibanez grounds to Walker who starts the double play. That's it for Walker, as Chad Bradford is coming in to face Beltre. An 0-1 change-up on the outside corner at 66 has Adrian way out in front. And another gets him swinging. To the eighth we go in a tie game.

Sean Green does much worse against lefties (.918 vs. .730 OPS last year), so I wouldn't leave him out there to face the top of the O's line-up. See... Brain Roberts (hitting left-handed) homers to right and that gives the O's the lead right back, 8-7. He gets one "Magic" for that. Mora grounds out sharply to second. Markakis works the count full, and hits a high fly ball to deep center field. Ichiro makes the catch on the warning track just in front of the 405 ft. marker. Millar gets a pitch away and hooks it to the shortstop for an easy third out. If he goes the other way maybe he gets a hit there. In any case, the O's have retaken the lead, and Chad Bradford will try to not give up three seeing-eye singles to give it back.

Jose Vidro hits one extremely high to right, but Nick is there near the track to make the catch. Brandon Morrow is warming in the M's pen, even though he should have been in for the top of the eighth. Sexson gets jammed a bit and flies out to right. Johjima hits one to right, but Nick is able to keep him to a single. Miguel Cairo is pinch running for the slow catcher. Bloomquist grounds the first pitch to third though, and the O's will have a lead going into the ninth.

Morrow comes in an inning late to face Aubrey Huff. Huff runs the count full but lines out to center. Payton gets blown away on three fastballs at 96, 97, and 98. Then he breaks off a wicked slider to Ramon at the knees. Hernandez flies out to right on the next pitch, and it is once again George Sherrill time. He only has a one run lead today, so he need to be a bit more careful.

Betancourt gets jammed, but is able to bloop a single into short center. Oh man, very quick turn of the double play: Roberts to Hernandez to Millar. That erases the baserunner and there are now two outs. Lopez hits a ground ball to short - the Pelican makes the throw and the game is over. Save number eight for Sherrill, and the O's take it 8-7. The Birds also win both the three game set, as well as the season series versus the Mariners. Baltimore improves to 13-9, while Seattle drops to 11-12.

Magic, Magic, Magic Magic...
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Big Hurt To The Good West Coast Team

Frank Thomas has (thankfully) signed a contract with the Oakland A's. Oakland is upgrading from Mike Sweeney/Jack Cust for the league minimum, and an offense that is near the bottom of the league in home runs should get a boost. As an extra added bonus, it keeps Thomas away from the rival Mariners, who likewise could have used his bat. While the A's are "rebuilding", they are currently playing very well and the weaknesses of the Angels (rotation depth), M's (bad offense), and Rangers (just bad) leave Oakland in a position to actually be somewhat competitive in the AL West. With a few lucky breaks, I could easily see them winning it with 86 or so victories - here's hoping. It would happen in the one year I don't pick them to do it.

The Thomas signing does raise an interesting question: why doesn't Barry Bonds have a job? They are similar players (old sluggers that have been considered "clubhouse cancers", though Bonds can play left once in a while and bats lefty - both advantages over Thomas) and yet Bonds hasn't even been offered a contract. Collusion? Perhaps, but it's not as if he doesn't deserve it - even though two wrongs don't make a right (though two Wrights do make a plane). If the M's miss the playoffs by a game while they have a DH with 4 home runs, then I would be pretty mad as a Seattle fan (if I was a Seattle fan). If they think they're a contender (implied by the Bedard trade) then they should put the best team on the field they can. That's not what they're doing, and I hope it continues. Read more ...

Tigers Attack - Moose Loose - Utley Awesome

I think the Tigers' offense is officially out of its slump. They 19 on the board against the Rangers, including 11 in the sixth inning alone. Every Detroit starter was one base at least twice, and Carlos Guillen went 3-4 with 5 RBI. After a very tough start, Detroit is now 9-13 and tied with the Indians for last place in the Central.

Hanley Ramirez and Mike Jacobs each homered (the seventh for both) as the Marlins beat the Braves 7-2. Florida is in first place with a 13-8 record despite being outscored 104-101. The Braves, on the other-hand, are 10-11 even though they've outscored their opponents 105-81. I think their places in the standings will be switching some time soon.

Ken Griffey Jr. homered in the first inning and Edwin Encarnacion homered in the ninth inning for the Reds. Too bad for them that they were outscored 9-1 by Houston in between, and so lost 9-3. The 7 run fourth was more than enough for Chris Sampson (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K), as he picked up his first win of the year. The 9-13 Reds fired their GM, Wayne Krivsky, in favor of Walt Jocketty (the former Cardinals GM). I don't think this is much more than a lateral move, as Krivsky actually did an OK job. He made a few great moves (getting Brandon Phillips, Jeff Keppinger, and Josh Hamilton for almost nothing) but also gave money to not very good players (Mike Stanton, Alex Gonzalez, and Juan Castro).

Mike Mussina may have bought himself some extra time in the rotation with a quality start against the White Sox (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K). Jorge Posada went 4-5 with 2 RBI, and the Yankees move to 12-10 with their three-game win-streak.

The Giants didn't score for the first 8 innings, but Bengie Molina hit a solo home run to tie the game against the Padres at 1-1 in the top of the ninth. San Fransisco scored 2 more in the top of the 13th, and ended up with a 3-2 win. Starters Matt Cain (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K) and Greg Maddux (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K) pitched well but weren't involved in the decision. The Giants and the Padres are both 9-13 now.

The A's keep getting quality pitching performances from "unknown" guys, and this time it was Chad Guadin (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K). Embree and Street each K'ed a pair as Oakland beat the Twins 3-0. The A's are 13-9 and tied with the Angels for the AL West lead. It's legit too, as they've outscored their opponents 98-80.

Dan Haren finally had a bad start for the D'Backs (4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 5 K) as they lost to the Dodgers 8-3. Andruw Jones batted second for LA, and went 1-5 with 2 K's. Rafael Furcal continued his hot hitting (.398 for the year) with 2 hits and a pair of steals. Arizona's Chris Young went 0-5 with 4 K's and is hitting .212 for the year (though with a .330 OBP and 5 HR).

Chase Utley hit his 7th home run in his last 7 games. His HR streak was stopped at 5 games, but he only took one off before getting back to it. He's hitting 368 / 441 / 839 for the year, and is a god bet to win the MVP if the Phillies are in the play-off hunt. Oh, and the Phillies lost to the Brewers 5-4, as Prince Fielder hit his second and third home runs of the year (he's only 7 behind Utley now). Read more ...

O's-M's, D-Cab In Control

The O's have lost two in a row, and the team would like Daniel Cabrera to keep progressing and be the stopper. He's facing a guy in Carlos Silva who has much worse stuff, but far better control.

Brian Roberts takes three pitches and is out on strikes - the third one was well outside though. Melvin Mora bloops one just over the second baseman for a hit. Markakis gets called out on strikes, an a pitch that starts inside and tails back to almost be a strike. Millar grounds to short to end the inning.

Ichiro starts things off for the M's with a line drive single to right. Ichiro then steals second, as the Pelican can't hold on to Ramon's throw (he might have been out otherwise). Jose Lopez grounds to Millar, and Daniel does a nice job covering first base (well, not a nice job, but he actually does his job, which is improvement). Raul Ibanez hits a long fly ball to center, to bring Ichiro in from third. 1-0 M's.

Silva is throwing strikes, so Luke comes out swinging. He ends up flying out to center. Aubrey Huff draws one of the few walks Silva will give up. A fly out and a ground out end the inning.

Daniel gets ahead of Vidro 1-2, and runs that "Maddux" fastball at 96 over the inside corner. Sexson grounds to the Pelican on the outfield grass, and Millar picks the throw out of the dirt to get the out. Johjima pops out the third pitch, and that's a very quick 1-2-3 inning.

[What player hit a HR in his first ML at bat in 1952, but never hit another one and went into the Hall of Fame in 1985? I knew it was a pitcher, but I'm not familiar enough with pitchers from back then to know the answer. The commentator gave the clue "think RA Dickey" (the M's knuckleballer) so I guessed Hoyt Wilhelm, which is the correct answer. Interesting question.]

The O's go down in order in the top of the third, as Carlos Silva is rolling along.

Another three-up three-down inning for Daniel. He's thrown just 26 pitches so far - 24 fastballs (93-97, but mostly 95-96) a slider and a change-up. Both non-fastballs came in the third, and were in the zone (though one is flied out and one is called a ball).

Nick Markakis takes a pitch outside, but is still called out on strikes (again). Kakes is upset and has a few words for the umpire. That's not something you often see, but Nick knows that those pitches are balls, even if the umpire doesn't. Millar grounds out, and Luke is called out on a pitch inside. Huge strike-zone tonight, but Daniel isn't really taking advantage of it - he's pounding the true strike-zone.

Daniel can't catch break - he throws a fastball right in the zone and it's called a ball, while Silva is getting pitches a foot outside. Jose Lopez battles for eight pitches (all fastballs) and singles to right. I would have called a slider or change at some point in the at bat (like one of the last couple pitches), because Lopez was timing the fastball at that point. Five more fastballs and Ibanez singles to center. A change-up in the 1-2 count might have been a good idea. Daniel starts the next hitter off with a couple sliders, one for a ball and the next for a strike. Why throw them at this point? He almost gets Beltre on strikes, but his fastball just off the outside corner (which Silva would get) is called a ball. Beltre then bloops a single to left that Luke just can't get to. Vidro grounds a slider sharply to first. Millar makes a sliding stop and throws the runner out at second - they can't get the double play and a run scores to make it 2-0. Sexson lines the first pitch at Mora - two down. Johjima falls behind 0-2 and grounds far to Brian's left. B-Rob ranges over and makes a good throws from the outfield grass to end the inning. Fantastic job by Daniel to get out of the jame with only one run scoring.

Aubrey Huff lines the first pitch up the middle for a single. Nice job by Adam Jones, falling behind 0-2 but taking an outside pitch and singling into right field. Ramon hits one to deep left, off of the wall. Huff didn't know if it would be caught and got a late break - he ran through the stop-sign and got thrown out at home. That's a 350 foot single for Ramon, and there are still 2 on but with 1 out now. The Pelican grounds into a double play to end the inning. The O's threaten, but can not score and it's still 2-0 M's.

Daniel finally gets the benefit of the wide zone as Beltre is called out on a fastball off the outside corner. He gets ahead of Betancourt 0-2, but a fastball up and over the plate and Yuniesky doubles down the line in right. Ichiro grounds out, advancing the runner to third. A ground out to Mora ends the inning.

Brian Roberts serves a single into left to get things started in the sixth. Melvin drives one deep to right, and nobody will get there. The triple scores Roberts and that makes it 2-1. Kakes grounds to second, but that scores Mora to tie the game. Millar flies out to left, and Luke grounds to first to end the inning.

Daniel gets ahead of Ibanez 1-2 and throws a 96 mph fastball by him. That's the first K of the game that wasn't looking. Beltre pops out on a 98 mph fastball, and Vidro bounces out on the first pitch (good play by Roberts to get him by a half-step). Another 1-2-3 inning for Cabrera.

Aubrey Huff draws his second walk of the day. Looks like Silva is hurt, as he's being removed from the game. Sean Green comes in and strikes out Adam Jones. Then Ramon Hernandez goes down on three pitches. The Pelican doesn't swing and draws a walk. Brian has a great at bat, but grounds the 12th pitch down the first base line, where Green picks it up and tags him.

Sexson falls behind 1-2 and can't hold his swing on a slider in the dirt. Now that's how you do it. Daniel gets ahead of Johjima and gets him to chase a slider in the dirt. I'm glad he (or Ramon) is finally listening to me. See how easy that was? Bloomquist flies the first pitch to right, and it's yet another easy inning for Daniel.

Mora grounds out to third, and gets thrown out by a step. The M's are bringing in the lefty to face Markakis. And that was a mistake. Nick Markakis turns on the first pitch, and lines it into the right field stands. That's his 4th of the year, and gives the O's a 3-2 lead. Nick's hitting 310 / 449 / 521 for the year, and he usually doesn't start hitting well until the second half. Is he going to hit 350 / 500 / 700 in August (career 1.027 OPS compared to .836 overall)? I'm excited - I predicted 25 HR, while most people saw a drop in power (which makes sense given his expected numbers from last year). Anyway, Millar grounds out and Luke strikes out to end the inning.

Daniel gets ahead of Betancourt 0-2 (I've been saying 0-2, 1-2 a lot) and he flies out softly to right. He's still throwing 96-96, which is very impressive. Ichiro gets ahead 3-1 but pops out to short. Jose Lopez flies out left and Daniel is mowing down the Mariners hitters.

Huff grounds out to short to start the ninth. Brandon Morrow comes in and just blows the fastball by Adam Jones. That's Jones' second K of the game. Ramon grounds to the left side, and Adrian Beltre makes a great play to get it and throw him out.

It's George Sherrill time in the bottom of the ninth. Ibanez singles past a diving Roberts into center field. Beltre hits it hard, but Jay Payton (in for Luke Scott) makes the catch in left. Vidro strikes out swinging at a good breaking-ball; two outs. And Richie Sexson pops the first pitch up - Millar is there and makes the catch. The O's win 3-2, and Sherrill picks up his 7th save.

The Player of the Game is definitely Daniel Cabrera. It took just 95 pitches (65 strikes) to go 8 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and no walks, and striking out 5. He has dropped his walk total in every game this year, and I think he really has a chance to have a solid year.

Adam Loewen will face Jarrod Washburn in the rubber-game of the three-game set tomorrow. The O's can guarantee a win in the season series versus the M's with a victory.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

O's-M's, That's Why You Don't Put Runners On

The game in Seattle starts a string of 17 out of 20 games being on the road. If they can come back after these 20 at .500 then I will be very pleased.

Jeremy Guthrie, looking for his first win, will face Felix Hernandez. Hopefully the O's can get to him this time.

After four fastballs from 94 to 98, Brian Roberts gets a curveball and serves it into center to start the game with a single. And they're talking about Brian Robert's "disruption factor" again. Oh well. Mora gets his bat broken on a 95 mph fastball in on his hands - he grounds weakly to third. Kakes up with Roberts in scoring position.

Approximate Gary Throrne quote: "It's truly amazing the impact the baserunner has on the game." It is amazing - I thought it would be a big difference, but it really, really isn't. It's also amazing how much people talk about it.

Markakis walks (again) to bring Kevin Millar up. Millar bloops one over second to score Brian and send Nick to third. The O's haven't hit a single ball hard at all, yet they have three baserunners and a 1-0 lead. Awww, Felix pulls a Maddux and starts that fastball inside to Luke Scott and has it run back over the inside corner...at 96 mph. Yeah, this kid is gonna be good. What the hell is that?!? Millar gets picked off at first - he gets into a rundown - Kakes takes off for home - the throw goes home - Nick goes back to third - the throw from home to third gets him - the third baseman drops the ball - Nick is safe at third (but is still counted as "caught stealing") - Millar takes second. That's some crazy stuff. It all is for naught as Huff takes a called third strike on the inside corner himself.

Ichiro starts the M's half of the first with a triple over the jumping Nick Markakis in right. Jose Lopez lines out softly to his counterpart at second. Raul Ibanez grounds to Roberts, and Ichiro comes in to score to tie the game. Guthrie falls behind Beltre 3-0, but gets him to fly out to right.

[The guy who played Socrates Poole (from The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., staring Bruce Campbell) is on abc. Looking it up... the show is Boston Legal. Campbell beats Shatner by a little, and campy Wild West beats Boston law firm drama by a lot. So just go check out Brisco, Soc, Lord Bowler, Dixie Cousins, and Comet the wonder-horse.]

Adam Jones shows his quick bat pulling a couple hard fastballs foul, but flies out to right. Ramon Hernandez doubles to left field, and the Pelican moves him to third with a ground out to second. Now that he's stopped hitting (at all) he needs to play some flawless defense to keep his job (which he hasn't been doing). Brian Roberts works a walk and steals second without a throw. Two on with two out and a 2-0 count for Mora. Melvin walks to load the bases, but Markakis is the third lefty to take the tailing fastball for strike three.

Jose Vidro grounds sharply to Millar at first, with Guthrie covering. Richie Sexson ground slowly to third, and Mora does a nice job to recognize that he has plenty of time and doesn't rush his throw. Then he blows Brad Wilkerson away with a high fastball. 1-2-3 inning for Jeremy - he's thrown 23 pitches to Felix's 52. Way to work the count against him this time guys.

A couple of ground outs to the right side by Millar and Scott gives Hernandez two quick outs. Huff strikes out on another pitch inside - this time swinging at a slider down and in. That's 4 K's for Felix, and he is really handling the lefties in the line-up. If I'm a lefty with two strikes, I'm looking inside. Maybe Luke wrote that down in his notebook.

Kenji Johjima works a lead-off walk to start the third for the M's, but Guthrie comes back to strike out Betancourt. Ichiro grounds to Roberts to force the runner at second. With Suzuki on first, Palmer and Thorne are talking about him stealing 80 bases (like his manager suggested he could). Good thing Ichiro himself understands the importance of not getting caught, and is unwilling to run with reckless abandon. Jose Lopez singles up the middle to bring up Seattle's best hitter so far, Raul Ibanez. Ibanez flies out to Jones in center to end the scoring threat.

[Spoon's "My Mathematical Mind" is playing in the background of and Accura commercial. Spoon is an incredibly solid band - none of there albums are among, say, my 30 favorites, but all 5 are very, very good. Hard to finds a band that doesn't have a miss-step in their main catalog.]

Adam Jones showing that quick bat again, pulling a 95 mph fastball sharply into left field - on an 0-2 pitch no less. Unfortunately Jones starts leaning toward second and gets picked off. When you play a rookie (or almost rookie) then you need to expect some rookie (or almost rookie) mistakes. Ramon flies out to center, and there are two down. I'm calling a Pelican home run here. (If I'm right I look like a genius; if I'm wrong then nobody will remember, except that I just brought your attention to it.) Well, he hit it in the air about 330-340 feet. That counts as a HR on the Pelican scale.

Adrian Beltre is out in-front of a change-up as he strikes out on three pitches. Vidro hits one hard, but Markakis is there and makes the catch. Richie Sexson hits it hard to center, but Jones tracks back and makes the grab to end the inning. Sexson is probably telling himself "three years ago that would have gone out." 52 pitches for Guthrie to 72 by Felix, through four.

B-Rob flies out to start the fifth. Mora lines one to center for his first hit of the game. Markakis really has trouble catching up to a good fastball. And he strikes out again - swinging. Then Millar goes down swinging. That's six K's for Felix, and the game is still 1-1.

Willie Bloomquist - in there for Wilkerson - grounds out to second. Johjima follows at up with a single to right-center. Then Betancourt walks to put two on for Ichiro. Jim Palmer is amazed that Ichiro is only 1-11 with runners in scoring position, because he usually hits for a higher average in those situations - no idea about sample size. Ichiro checks his swing, and taps the ball to Guthrie's right. Mora was charging in on the ball, so Guthrie grabs it and races to third to force Johjima - he beats him by a hair. On the next pitch, Ramon tries to pick Ichiro off at first, but ends up throwing the ball into right field. Betancourt runs through a stop-sign at third, but scores anyway to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. Lopez grounds to short to end the inning. Poor Jeremy - it looks like another quality start may not result in a win.

Luke Scott falls behind 1-2 and grounds out to second. The O's bats haven't had much going lately. Aubrey Huff also falls behind 1-2, and he gets another slider down and in and launches it out to right-center. That's Huff's third HR, and it ties the game at 2-2. Adam Jones pops out to short. Ramon Hernandez grounds to Betancourt to end the inning, but Guthrie is off the hook for now. Felix is up to 100 pitches now, so the offense may get a few innings to knock around the M's pen, though closer JJ Putz is back from the DL.

Ibanez goes down swinging on a high change-up. Beltre checks his swing on a ball in the dirt, and immediately points to the first base umpire for an appeal. The home plate ump does so, the the man at first says he went around. Thorne and Palmer comment that they've never seen a player do that before. I have on a number of occasions, though I don't remember any specific hitter who did it. Beltre ends up flying out to right. And another Orioles Trivia Question bites the dust. What AL player has won 2 All-Star game MVPs? That would be Cal Ripken Jr. I guessed Cal, because it was an O's question, so it was either an Orioles or a Mariner. Also, Cal went so often, and I figured he won one later in his career when he didn't really deserve it.

The Pelican pops out, as Felix is out there for the seventh. Former Oriole Arthur Rhodes is warming up in the M's pen. Brian Roberts becomes Hernandez's seventh strike-out victim. Mora hits it hard again, but this time Ichiro is there to make the catch.

Richie Sexson waves at a slider to start the inning with a K. Bloomquist hits one down the first base line, but Kevin Millar makes the diving stop and races to first to get the out. Guthrie gets ahead of Johjima 0-2 and drops down with a fastball out of the zone. I don't know if that change in arm angle was intentional or not. He ends up getting the batter to ground out to second. Guthrie is up near 100 pitches - he's still throwing 93-95, but he threw only 3 fastballs in that inning. There were also 3 change-ups and 6 breaking-balls.

Rhodes is coming in to face Markakis - I don't know if he's happy to see Felix out of there with Arthur in. Apparently yes, as he singles to left field. Markakis takes off, and Millar lines out to short - that's an easy double play. Rhodes then gets Luke Scott swinging to end the inning.

Guthrie is out for the eighth, and Betancourt greats him with a double. Ichiro is up, and he may be bunting. He does try it, but fouls the pitch off. Then he doesn't bunt, and pops out to Ramon Hernandez in foul territory. Lopez lines one hard to center, and Jones makes then catch. Adam then unloads a rocket to the cut-off man to keep the runner at second. Raul Ibanez is going to be intentionally walked to set up the righty-righty match-up. Why not just throw him a couple pitches out of the zone first to see if he'll chase? If not, then walk him. Guthrie falls behind Beltre 3-1, and that's why the intentional walk can be dangerous. The walk loads the bases for Jose Vidro. Man am I glad the M's don't have Frank Thomas or Barry Bonds at DH instead. Guthrie is getting the chance to get himself out of this, and he falls behind Vidro 1-0. Vidro singles to right, and two runs score to make it 4-2. Would they have scored if Ibanez hadn't been walked? Maybe, but they put themselves in a position to give up multiple runs by putting the runner on. Now Sarfate is coming in, but it may be a batter too late. Sarfate strikes Sexson out on a 98 mph fastball to end the rally.

It's JJ Putz time in the ninth. Maybe he'll be rusty from his DL stay. Huff starts things off well with a double. Let's keep it going guys. Adam Jones up as the tying run. Putz sets him down swinging at a fastball up and out of the zone - one out. Ramon Hernandez up with a chance to make up for his error. Nope. He strikes out on three pitches - the third a splitter in the dirt. It's up to the Pelican. Just kidding, it's Jay Payton pinch hitting. Still no lefties on the bench. Every time I say that he gets a hit. You suck Jay Payton - you totally can't hit a home run here. 0-2 to Payton... and he fouls off a pitch at shoulder level. Splitter in the dirt? Yes, but Hay doesn't swing. Then he does, and grounds out to short. They can' even bring Huff in, and the O's lose 4-2. This is a game they should have had - Guthrie pitched well but was left in too long and the O's couldn't take advantage of their opportunities. Also, that pointless error by Ramon really hurt. The Orioles move to 11-9, while the M's are over .500 at 11-10.
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Owings/Votto/Nats Watch

Arizona starter Micah Owings went 2-3 with a run versus the Giants on Monday. He also moved to 4-0 with another quality start (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K), which actually raised his ERA to 2.42. For the season he is hitting 308 / 357 / 308 while Giants #4 hitter Bengie Molina is at 279 / 296 / 456. Just wait until Owings gets that power stroke going. Micah has combined with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren to give the D'Backs a very good top of the rotation to go along with their explosive young offense. Right now it looks like they may run away with the division, but I expect the offense to go into a funk sooner or later.

It took 18 games, but Reds' first baseman Joey Votto finally walked. He also homered (his fourth) and is hitting 300 / 314 / 600 for the year. Votto showed a good eye in the minors, so I wonder if this is Dusty Baker's influence. Hopefully he'll get that walk rate up, so that he can contribute fully to the team - he should be a very solid player (though not necessarily a star).

The Nationals dropped to 5-15, and 2-15 since their 3 game win streak to start the season. They got 10 hits against Braves' starter Tim Hudson, but could only score 2 runs. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting 226 / 253 / 345, and the Nats are easily the worst team in baseball right now. Read more ...