Saturday, May 31, 2008

Webb Gem

There was a pretty fantastically pitched game in Arizona tonight, as Brandon Webb (9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K) out-dueled Nationals' starter Jason Bergmann (8 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 8 K). All of Arizona's offense came on four swings - home runs off the bats of Mark Reynolds (twice), Justin Upton, and Chris Young. [I started writing this when it was 1-0, but the D'Backs kept the solo homers coming. Bergmann only made those 4 bad pitches, so I decided not to change anything else.] Otherwise, Bergmann was great, throwing 74 of 105 pitches for strikes. Webb, though, was masterful. That sinker just dove to the bottom of the strike-zone, and he mixed in a very effective curveball. The win makes Webb baseball's first 10 game winner this year, and puts him in a good position to pick up his second Cy Young award.

The game had some great commentating too... "you can't win if you don't score runs; that has a lot to do with offense". So true, so true. Read more ...

He Is So Very, Very Good

Jay Bruce is the frakking MAN. Bottom of the tenth, 7-7 game against the Braves...

GONE! Way, way gone. This guy is unbelievable. It's only five games, but he's hitting 579 / 680 / 895... as a 21 year-old. The next Larry Walker indeed. You know, I don't blame the Reds at all for not giving Bruce up for Erik Bedard, even in a one-for-one deal. He may have arrived late to the race, but Bruce may still win the Rookie of the Year award (like Ryan Braun did last year). I hope that some day soon, O's fans will have an opportunity to be this excited about Matt Wieters. Read more ...

I Did Not See That Coming

A little while ago, I looked at the PrOPS stats for the O's offense. I happened across the league totals today, and was surprised by what I saw. First, despite his recent struggles, Nick Markakis is actually 9th in the AL in PrOPS at .874,with a predicted line of .279/.385/.489. Also, 17th in the AL is much-maligned jokester Kevin Millar. His predicted line of .281/.365/.473 (for a .838 PrOPS) has him ahead of Paul Konerko, Hideki Matsui, and Manny Ramirez, to name a few. Melvin Mora (.291/.341/.466, .806) is ahead of Carlos Pena, Miguel Cabrera, and Vlad Guerrero. Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, and Brian Roberts are all in the .778-.788 range. In fact, 6 of the 7 qualifying O's have an actual OPS below what their OPS is predicted to be, with Adam Jones as the only exception. The offense is scoring just 4.07 runs per game so far, but I think it'll pick up. I thought that this was about an average offense, and that's still where I expect them to end up. Seriously, Millar ahead of Manny? Baseball is a crazy game sometimes.

[Also, #1 in the majors is Albert Pujols at 1.098 and #2 is Ryan Ludwick at 1.091. No wonder they have such a good record.] Read more ...

A Win-Win (Except For The Oppostion)

Rarely do trades work out as well for both teams as the one between the Rangers and the Reds that occurred this past off-season. Texas sent under-performing pitching prospect Edison Volquez to Cincinnati in return for formerly "troubled" but extremely talented outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton hit very well when on the field (he was injured and played in only 90 games) in 2007, posting a 292 / 368 / 554 line with 19 HR, a 131 OPS+, and a .295 EqA. That was very impressive, especially considering he had played only 15 games (all in A-ball) since 2002. I have to admit that I didn't think his hot hitting would translate to this year, as pitchers started to figure him out. Boy, was I wrong - .327 average (3rd in the AL); .372 OBP (16th); .597 SLG (1st); 13 HR (2nd); 58 RBI (1st, by 10 RBI). He's got a 163 OPS+ and a .329 EqA, and (along with Carlos Quentin) is among the current front runners for the MVP award. He hasn't even been lucky, as his BABIP matches up with his line-drive rate pretty well. Most stories about Hamilton will mention how amazing his return from substance abuse is, but I'd like to say that this level of play is pretty amazing for anybody. By all accounts, Josh has turned things around and seems like a pretty decent guy. He's been one of the best players in all of baseball this year, and I hope he continues his success. To think, any team in baseball could have had him when he was left unprotected by the Rays in the Rule 5 draft. That also goes to show how many great players Tampa Bay have, that they would leave such a potentially elite talent exposed.

What Hamilton has been for the Rangers, Volquez has been for the Reds. After several trips to the majors without being able to duplicate his success in the minors, Edison has been a dominant starter this year. His 1.46 ERA is almost a full run less than the next closest pitcher (Tim Lincecum), which translates to an insane ERA+ of 304. He has 83 K's (again ahead of Lincecum) for a rate of 11 per nine, and has kept the ball in the yard (just 3 HR) with a highly improved groundball rate (54.8% from around 40% before). His sudden imporvement may have come from trusting his change-up more. It is a very good pitch, and he has gone from throwing it 22% of the time to 29% of the time. With the difference in velocity between the change (82 mph) and the fastball (93 mph), with the occasional breaking-ball thrown in, Volquez has been able to keep hitters off-balance and establish himself as a premier starter. A rotation of Aaron Harang, Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and (eventually) Homer Bailey is something to build around in Cincinnati. Read more ...

Friday, May 30, 2008

O's-Yankees, Missed Opportunities

Camden Yards (or Fenway South, as the Sox fans call it) host the first game of the four game series between Boston and the O's, with Daniel Cabrera facing Josh Beckett. Hopefully Daniel can bounce back for a poor start against the Rays.

Jacoby is very, very fast. He slices one to left and, even though Scott got to it quickly, made it into second with a double. Dustin Pedroia lays down a sac bunt (in the first?) and Daniel fields it cleanly and tosses to first for the out. I've been surprised how rarely batters have tested Cabrera, given his reputation (earned) of being a very poor fielder. David Ortiz lines one past a diving Bynum (playing where Roberts usually does) into right for an RBI single. Manny doubles to left, and the Sox have a big inning in the making. Mike Lowell puts a ride into one, but Scott tracks it down at the wall. Both runners tag, with Ortiz scoring to make it 2-0 Boston. Youkilis flies to Scott swell, to end the inning.

O's go down in order in the first.

With one out, Coco Crisp gets a two-base walk. I'm sure there will be lots of jokes about that tomorrow. Ball four was in the dirt and bounced away, and Crisp was able to get all the way to second before Ramon found it. Then he steals third pretty easily. Alex Cora tried to put down the suicide squeeze, but misses the ball. Crisp is dead-in-the-water between third and home, and Razor runs him down easily. Cora then gets drilled in the leg by a pitch. Daniel doesn't look like he has it today. Jacoby grounds to Roberts, who handles a tricky hop and throws him out.

Huff goes down looking to start the second. Millar gets the O's first baserunner, singling to left. Scott pulls the first pitch he sees past Youk at first for a single, with Millar going to third. Luke takes off on a 3-1 pitch, and Varitek's throw was off-line. Scott is safe, and Millar comes in to score to make it 2-1. Ramon grounds out to second. Adam Jones grounds sharply to first, but Youk shows why he won a Gold Glove, making a sliding catch and tosses to Beckett who just barely beats Jones to the bag. On replay actually, Beckett never touched the bag. Dave Trembley argued it, but that kind of thing is never overturned.

Ortiz ropes a one-out double over Nick's head in right to bring up Manny, who is sitting on 499 career home runs. Ramirez goes down swinging at a high fastball. Lowell grounds out to end the inning.

After Bynum strikes out on three pitches, Brian gets on via a Pedroia error. Mora strikes out swinging, as Roberts steals second. The throw beat him, but Pedroia couldn't apply the tag. Say what you will about runners distracting pitchers (and I have - I think it's mostly hoowie), but seeing the runner moving behind the pitcher probably does more to distract the hitter. Nick strikes out looking on a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner.

Cabrera has his first 1-2-3 inning, ending it with a K of Coco.

Aubrey Huff ties the game with a solo home run to right-center field. It was a first-pitch fastball on the outer half, and he just turned on it. That's all the O's get, but it's now 2-2.

Jacoby double into the right-field corner, but is left stranded. Daniel is using his breaking-ball and change-up more than I he has recently. It may be in response to not having command of his fastball tonight.

Dustin Pedroia has a very good defensive reputation (and from what I understand has backed it up) but hasn't looked too good tonight. Bynum hit one sharply at him, but he wasn't able to back-hand it and the ball went into right-field. Beckett K's Roberts and Mora to end the inning.

Manny hits one deep to center, but Jones is there to make the catch. Mike Lowell pulls a double down the third base line, but Melvin is able to get to a Youkilis grounder and throw him out. Daniel walks Varitek on five pitches, and looks visibly frustrated with the strike-zone. None of the pitches were that close, and Crisp does him a favor by expanding the zone and grounding to Roberts. Still a 2-2 game.

Nick goes down swinging again, on a fastball at 96 tailing off the plate away. Strike-out number nine is Aubrey Huff, unable to check his swing at a curve in the dirt. Millar draws a two-out walk to bring up Luke Scott. Scott follows suit, with a walk of his own. Razor coming up with two on and two out. Ramon runs the count full, and takes a high fastball to load the bases on Beckett's third consecutive walk. Adam Jones is coming up with a big chance to give the O's the lead. He has a pretty good at bat, but ends up striking out swinging at a fastball.

Jacoby is on again - he hit a grounder to third where Melvin gets it, spins, and hurries the throw past Millar at first. Ellsbury steals second, and then later third, but the Sox can't bring him in. Daniel is up to 113 pitches (just 64 for strikes) and so this may have been his last inning. At least it looks like Beckett is done too with 118 pitches and faltering control.

Hideki Okajima is in to face Freddie Bynum. Groundball to short results in the first out, with Roberts coming up. Brian singles to right-center and takes a big turn around first. Don't take too many risks here - bad baserunning has cost the O's enough runs this year. Mora flies out, and Nick strikes out again. Despite lots of chances on both sides, it's still a 2-2 game.

Jim Johnson is in the game, so we can close the book on Daniel. He didn't have his best stuff, but the 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K day doesn't look that bad. JJ gets Manny to pop out on the first pitch. Then he gets Lowell to pop one up, but it falls between three fielders in left-center for a single. Oh, but boy the the O's turn a nice double play to end the inning. Youk grounds up the middle; Bynum gets to it and flips to Roberts as he is falling backwards; Roberts catches it with his bare hand, touches second, and then throws to first. Very nice play.

The O's go down in order in the bottom of the eighth.

George Sherrill is coming in for the ninth - I like that Dave Trembley uses Sherrill in non-save but still high-leverage situations. If he's your best reliever, then that's how you're supposed to use him. With one out, Coco Crisp is called out looking on a 3-1 pitch. That is fantastic. Crisp actually thought it was a ball, and started to go to first. Jim Palmer is bringing up a comparison to Leslie Nielsen from Naked Gun, where he is the ump at the Angels game. I think it's apt. That's embarrassing to both the ump and the player. Anyway, Crisp ends up popping out and then pinch hitter Jeff Bailey goes down swinging.

Manny Delcarmen is in for Okajima. Razor hits a ball to deep center-field, but Crisp has plenty of room to make the catch. Jones strikes out swinging at a curve in the dirt. These Sow pitchers have some good stuff. Bynum grounds one past a diving Pedroia for a single - that turns the line-up over. Bynum steals second to put the winning run in scoring position. Roberts is behind in the count at 1-2, but it takes just a single to (probably) win the game. Brian battles back though, running the count full and fouling off a few pitches before taking ball four. Melvin Mora up now. A groundout ends the inning - it'll be extras once again for the Birds, with Matt Albers coming in.

Albers is looking really sharp tonight - he's keeping the ball low in the zone and has good break on the curveball. He retires the Sox in order, including getting Ortiz to ground out to Bynum at the second-base position.

Side-arming lefty Javier Lopez is in to face Markakis, who already has three K's on the day. His average is down to .246, and he hasn't looked good at the plate. Nick works the count to 3-1 and fists an inside fastball into short left-field for a single. Lopez gets Huff to flyout to center, and then is removed for Craig Henson. Millar grounds out to third, and with first base open, Luke will get the intentional pass. Ramon once again has a chance to put the O's on top. 3-2 count... and he goes down swinging. If the O's lose this game, there is going to be talk of all of the failed opportunities.

Manny pops out on the first pitch again - it's nice to have a guy like Albers who can go a few innings in the pen. Lowell flies out to right, and then Youk goes down swinging. Boston still has Papelbon out there, but I think the pen advantage shifts to the O's at this point.

The Orioles don't threaten in this inning, going down in order.

Albers is still in there, and he gets Tek swinging to start the 12th. Julio Lugo (in for Cora after Bailey pinch hit) draws a two-out walk, and Jacoby follows it with yet another hit. Ellsbury steals second without a throw, and Albers falls behind Pedroia 1-0. Dustin grounds to Mora, who avoids Ellsbury almost running right into him, and makes the throw to first. We go to the bottom of the 12th. Jeez.

Former Oriole Mike Timlin brings his 6.89 ERA into the game. At 42, Timlin is probably nearing the end of the road. Mora thinks he checks his swing on a 3-2 pitch, but he sure didn't (and the umpire calls him out). Kakes! Finally he hits one hard, lining a double past a diving Crisp in left-center. Huff gets the IBB, to bring Millar up. Timlin falls behind 2-0, and things are tense. Millar grounds one to short where Lugo bobbles the ball. Things look good, but Millar doesn't ran that hard to first and Lugo has time to throw him out. With first open again, Luke gets an IBB. Ramon up (again) with runners in scoring position. Razor shows bunt, but pulls the bat back - that reminds me of the game in Oakland that he won by beating out a bunt hit to drive in the winning run. A flyout to left ends the inning. So many men left on...

Albers is done after three very good innings, and Jamie Walker is coming in. My confidence level isn't high here. He gets Ortiz to pop up the ball in foul territory, but Ramon drops it. Not a good night for him. Ortiz ends up grounding out anyway. He will only face one batter, as Chad Bradford is coming in. Not a lot left in the pen - Dennis Sarfate and Lance Cormier. Manny is on, as Mora throws his groundball away. He's on second for Lowell. The error comes back to hurt, as a single to left brings Ramirez in to make it 3-2. Papelbon will be coming in. An infield single by Youkilis will end the day for Bradford. He got no outs and will be saddled with the loss baring an O's comeback. Sarfate coming in. He has a good K rate, but is walking too many - that's been his general profile and he's sticking to it. Lowell and Youk pull off a double steal - not something you usually see from those guys. Tek goes down swinging at a fastball at 97 up at the letters. Crisp hits what should be an inning ending groundball to short, but this time it's Bynum throwing it away. Two runs score, and it's 5-2 Boston. I'm gonna call this one, as the chances of the O's scoring 3 or more against Papelbon are extremely remote. Sarfate losses command, walking Lugo on four pitches and then starting Ellsbury off with a ball. Good move by Rick Kranitz to take a trip to the mound. Sarfate comes back to strike Jacoby out. Bottom of the 13th.

It looks like Adam Jones beats out an infield single, but is called out on a bang-bang play. Jay Payton hitting for Bynum - he swings at a 3-2 pitch a foot outside and obviously misses. Two outs. Roberts goes down looking to end it.

The O's lose 5-2. It was a game that they should have won, and the missed chances were painful to watch. The probabilities were in their favor, but they couldn't make it happen. A team like the Orioles can't beat a team like the Red Sox if they make so many mistakes.

Read more ...

Birds On A Wire

I just have to say; "Hahahahaha".

I started watching The Wire recently, and am currently on episode seven of the first season. I can see why the show is so critically acclaimed, and I think it is quite good. I don't think as highly of it as some people, but I think that's a byproduct of not living in the city (and rarely going there) and having just watched Battlestar Galactica which I think is a fantastic show, making The Wire somewhat pale in comparison.

In any case, what I'm laughing at isn't an actual part of the show, which is not really funny at all. There was one scene where a character walks into a room and and an O's-Yankees game is in. From the dialog, it can be gathered that the score is 4-3 (Orioles) but Bernie Williams has just doubled. One character says that the team is always letting the Yankees back into the games, but another counters that the Orioles "have a bullpen this year." When asked who's pitching, the reply is "Buddy Groom". Ah yes, Buddy Groom - bullpen savior. (In all fairness, Groom did have a 1.60 ERA in 2002.)

I decided to check out which game it was using the clues available, but they were largely inconsistent. A character mentioned that the O's were up 4-3, but it sounds like the commentator of the game says that (later) after a home run by New York that they had taken a 4-3 lead. Then Chris Singleton is mentioned as homering. This would maybe point to a game on June 26, 2002 where Rondell White hit a two-run homer to make it 4-3 Yankees, and Chris Singleton homered in the next half-inning. Buddy Groom wasn't in the game at that point, and Bernie Williams did double (as a character stated), but it was off of Willis Roberts (it sounds like later a character says that they're bringing "Roberts" in, maybe), who relieved Groom. The score was 7-7 at the time though. Ryan McGuire is also mentioned (as going after a ball in the field) but he only played for the O's in one game against the Yankees, which Groom didn't appear in at all. The characters say that the O's lead 4-3 but Williams just doubled and Groom is pitching. Such a game does not exist, as far as I can tell. If it was a 2002 game, then the O's ended up going 67-95 that year, but did have a very effective pen.

I was disappointed that it seems that the game from the show doesn't appear to have happened. Maybe I missed something - if anyone happens to find that game, or has some clues to what happened in it (I can't make out the background sounds very well), then leave it in the comments. Thanks. Read more ...

Sign The Man!

Crawdaddy does it again:
"It is understandable why the Orioles might be reluctant to secure Markakis for the long term. If he falters it be a costly mistake (about 50 MM). If he stays the same as he is now, he basically get what he would have gotten anyway. If he breaks out . . . then he will cost a lot of money and years. That is basically what it comes down to. If you are sure that he is going to be a premium player, then you should lock him up in order to maximize your cash efficiency for other players on your roster. Ideally, the only time you pay a premium is when you bring players into your organization via free agency.

I think signing Markakis should be a priority and it will be fine to lock him in for 6 years at 66.01 MM. Perhaps a bit smarter of a contract would grant him 4 years at 40 MM and 2 team options years for 13.005 MM a piece. That way, he would still get a great deal of value for his first 4 seasons of the contract and the team would have an out if he completely crashes. I think Nick is not a high risk player. As opposed to the previous players mentioned (i.e., Craig Worthington, Ben Grieve) is not someone who relies on two tools. Markakis has plus ability in all skills and I think that makes him an easy one to bet on. Of course, this assumes Nick wants an extension. He certainly wants to be paid more, but I am not sure he wants to be lock in long-term. If he buys into the hype (Rob Neyer predicted that over the next 5 years he would be the best RF in the game), then he would be foolish to sign long term. Time will tell.

Though perhaps the biggest lesson is the savings attributed to developing young talent. Looking at Nick Markakis' 75th percentile projection, what we see is that over the next 6 years is that he could earn 103 MM if he goes the arbitration and free agency route. In turn, to get that much production off the free market, it would cost 157 MM. Even with respect to the average RF, you get a savings of 22 MM over 6 years. This is probably the lesson we have learned over the last decade or so: 0-3 year players are worth a lot of money. So, the next time you get excited by your team acquiring an established player (i.e., Bedard) for a collection of prospects (i.e. Adam Jones, Chris Tillman) . . . remember that with the extra 20-30% savings your team may be making, you can extend your own guys or pay the premium for the specific free agent talent to get you over the hump."
The analysis leading up to this conclusion is excellent, and the point is clear. The longer they wait, the more the O's are going to have to spend. Read more ...

Dream A Little Dream

Put today's XKCD in the "funny because it's true" category.

Every Damn Morning

"There was something about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill..."

I only remember a couple dreams recently; one was with me, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and a couple of miscellaneous people solving crimes. We found a body in a car covered in gold - gold that made people addicted to it. I think that was something like the Murgo gold from The Belgariad, which I've been listening to. The other was a TV show (yes, the dream was an actual show that I wasn't in) that was a cross between Law & Order and the X-Files, starring Nick Markakis. Does that make me sound crazy? Read more ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

O's-Yankees, Poor Jeremy

I'll keep this one quick, as I'm pretty tired (going 0-3 with a K while your softball team loses 21-1 and then someotherbignumber-0 will do that to you).

The third game of the O's-Yankees series went about as expected.

Jeremy Guthrie pitched pretty well (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K) but got no run support (2, on a homer by Melvin Mora). Jason Johnson pitched a scoreless inning in relief, but was lifted in favor of Jamie Walker with some lefties coming up. Walker, as has been the case all year, was largely ineffective (a run on two walks and two hits in 2/3 of an inning).

Andy Pettitte (23-6, 3.77 ERA career vs. the Birds before this game) pitched like Andy Pettitte does against the Birds - 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Joba K'ed 3 in 1.1 IP, and Mo pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

The O's drop the game 4-2, but still end up taking the series. They are now 26-26 and to split the first two games of their four-game series with Boston to end May at .500. Read more ...

Soon To Be Former #1 Prospect

You know who's way better than Corey Patterson? That would be Jay Bruce, who went 3-3 with a double, 2 RBI, 2 runs, and 2 walks in his first game for the Reds. Just for good measure, he also stole a base. Would the Reds be in contention in the Central if Bruce was up all year? Maybe. On the other hand, Cincinnati have allowed themselves an extra year of control of Bruce, as well as one more year before he's eligible for arbitration. If they're not playing for this year (and with the way the Cubs are playing, it's doubtful they could make much of a run at the division) then it was the right decision. In any case, the team has a lost of exciting young players to build around for the future. Read more ...

O's Beat The Last Place Yankees

That game was amazing. It calls for two things.

(1) A look at the win probability over the course of the game:

The Yanks were in good positions throughout the game, but that upward sloping line at the end is all that matters.

Individually, Damon has the player of the game (.519 Win Probability Added) while A-Rod, despite the HR, was Choke-Rod in this one (-.343 WPA). It's cool, because Nick was almost as bad (-.331 WPA). Aubrey Huff (.391 WPA) and Kevin Millar (.255 WPA) came up big for the O's.


Read more ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

O's-Yankees, Home Run Derby

Brian Burres just needs to follow the same gameplan he had last time out against New York, and hopefully the O's can get to Ian Kennedy this time around (6 IP, 1 R last week against the Birds).

Bobby Abreu beats out an infield single, but that's all the Yanks get in the first.

[Apparently, Joba Chamberlain's first name is pronounced "jah-buh". I think that sounds dumb, and will continue to refer to him as "joe-buh". Alrighty then.]

The O's go down in order in the first.

Jason Giambi - the Giambino - puts a Ruthian swing on a hanging curveball. It went oh so very far, landing on Eutaw Street. 1-0 NY. Former Brave and Dodger, Wilson Betemit follows that with a single to left. Then Robbie Cano lines a single to center. Burres isn't fooling anyone in this inning. With two outs, Johnny Damon shows why he was such a valuable lead-off hitter (other than the OBP) - his flashes of power. Damon hits a line-drive over the scoreboard in right to make it 4-0. Burres hits Jeter in the foot with a bouncing curveball. A come-backer to the mound from Abreu finally ends the inning.

Aubrey Huff gets the O's first hit, lining a pitch up the middle for a single. 4-0 score, meet Kevin Millar. His seventh home run of the year cuts the lead to 4-2. Did I say 4-2? Make that 4-3. Razor Ramon hits his fourth, and boy did he unload on that one (87 mph fastball right down the middle). Adam Jones with the let-down; he just singles past Derek Jeter (how does anyone think he's a good shortstop? Miguel Tejada could have gotten to that ball). Freddie Bynum flies out to deep center, and Adam Jones tags up and goes to second. Damon's throw is not nearly in time. On a passed ball, Jones then scampers to third. Brian Roberts chops one that A-Rod fields, but he hurries his throw and the error allows Jones to score. The game is now tied at 4-4, and that last run is based largely on Jones' baserunning. Another passed ball allows Brian to get into scoring position at second for Mora. Melvin goes down swinging, but it's now a brand-new ballgame.

Giambi hits an opposite-field double that Luke Scott can't quite get to, but Burres is able to keep NY off the board.

Scott is the only baserunner of the O's half inning, getting on via a Cano error.

With two outs, Damon rips a double down the right-field line, and Cap'n Jeter follows it up with an RBI single up the middle. A third lefty takes Burres deep as Bobby Abreu hits a two-run homer. 7-4, Yankees. Brian tried to drop-down on that pitch (well, he did succeed in lowering his release point) but it ended up right in Abreu's wheel-house. The lead is back to four, as A-Rod goes back-to-back with Abreu. He just sent it out to dead-center, and that will end Burres' day. Lance Cormier will come in to try to eat some innings, but the way the ball is flying out of the park, the O's are certainly still in the game. Cormier gets the final out of the inning.

A-Rod makes another throwing error; this time allowing Razor to reach. Adam Jones erases him though, with a double play grounder. Bynum lines one to third for the final out. No quick answer this inning from the O's offense.

Jason Giambi, who swings at pitches out of the zone less than anyone in baseball, strikes out looking at a 3-2 fastball just below the outside corner. Cormier then gets Betemit swinging at a curveball. A Cano groundout means the Yanks are retired in order for the first time today.

Roberts singles to right to start the O's rally. Is it a rally when the guy just hits a homer? Mora's sixth of the year (and the seventh of the game overall) makes it 8-6. Nick pops up the first pitch he sees and is now 0-3 on the day. All this was off of Ross Ohlendorf, who came in for Kennedy after the third inning (and I barely noticed - they both look similar and have high-socks; I guess I should have realized that "Kennedy" wasn't doing his "Mussina" dip to start his wind-up.) Jeez, I wonder if I could hit one out of Camden Yards right now. Luuuuke takes an outside fastball and send it deep into the warm night air. 8-7. What the hell is going on? I wish I had someone to call about this. Kevin Millar send one deep to left. That's the third set of back-to-back home runs in the game (two by the Birds). The game is now tied at 8-8, and 14 of the 16 runs have scored via the longball. Razor strikes out to end the fifth. What an incredibly entertaining game.

Cormier gets a couple of outs, but also allows a Damon single and walks Abreu. Dennis Sarfate will come in to face A-Rod. And he doesn't even have to as the Captain gets picked off second base before Sarfate even has to throw a pitch. Just like that, the Yankee threat is over.

With one out, change-up specialist Edwar Ramirez will come in to face Bynum. Freddie is retired, but Brian battles and serves a pitch into left for a single. Mora singles past a reaching Jeter (I wonder how often New York commentators have to say that?) and Roberts motors over to third. Now would be a good time for Nick's first hit of the day. Nope. A grounder to first ends the inning. Suddenly neither team can score a run.

Sarfate blows A-Rod away with a high fastball at 97. That's a pitch that Rodriguez is actually susceptible to, but if you don't get it up enough then he can hit it a long way. Matsui and Giambi fly out, and it'e time to stretch.

Kevin Millar's good night continues as he pulls a two-out double to left. The Farnz is coming in to face Razor. Aww... Ramon singles to first and Millar is sent home (despite him being slow and Abreu having a good arm) - he is just out (actually, he might have gotten his toe on the plate before the tag was applied).

JJ comes in and gets Betemit on the first pitch. A quick 1-2-3 inning for Johnson.

Adam Jones works Farnzy for a four-pitch walk to start the bottom of the eighth. Bynum puts down a sac bunt with two strikes (I don't think that's a great play against a but who just threw four straight out of the zone and brings high heat) and the Yanks intentionally walk Roberts with first-base open. It works, as Mora grounds to second for an inning-ending double play. To the top of the ninth.

Despite his easy eighth, JJ is removed in favor of closer George Sherrill. I like that Dave Trembley doesn't just keep Sherrill for save situations, but brings him in if the score is close and there are lefties coming up. Johnny Damon hits it to left and thinks double right out of the box. Luke Scott has a pretty good arm, but he isn't able to get him at second. Jeter is way out in front of a breaking-ball, and goes down swinging. And then Abreu goes down looking on a fastball on the inside corner. It is pouring down rain, and I don't know if there will be an end to this one. With first-base open, the O's are playing match-ups and walking A-Rod to bring up the lefty Matsui. After some delays for the batter to towel himself and for Joe Girardi to complain that the game hasn't been delayed yet, Matsui lines out to Millar. I'm with Joe (and the broadcasters), the game was going to be stopped before the O's bat anyway; there's no reason not to stop it before the field took on too much water. I don't know if they will be able to get the bottom of the ninth in.

Back after the delay, Mo Rivera comes on and pitches a 1-2-3 ninth with K's of Markakis and Huff. It'll be extra innings.

Matt Albers relieves Sherrill, and will be in for the next few innings if need be. Giambi grounds out, but Betemit pulls a pitch past Millar for a single. The go-ahead run is on, and Albers falls behind Cano 3-0. Robbie grounds to Mora, but the relay throw from Roberts at second is not in time to turn the double play. Jose Molina flies to center for the third out.

Mo is still in there, and he gets Millar to ground out. Razor gets a high cut fastball and hits down the first-base line for a double (his slide into the bag was... let's say less than graceful). Alex Cintron comes in to run for him with Adam Jones coming up. Jones strikes out swinging on the cutter. It really is an amazing pitch. Jay Payton pinch hits for Bynum - this is where it's troublesome to not have a lefty on the bench. (That's not necessarily true against Mo because of the cutter, but every time I say something like this it seems that Payton comes through.) Jay walks on four pitches - I guess that's OK, as he didn't end the inning. Jim Palmer is complaining about Mo getting a called strike on Roberts on a pitch 4 inches outside. I agree generally, but it's not an unusual occurrence for a future Hall of Famer to get an extra inch or two. Brian pops out on the next pitch.

Damon draws a lead-off walk to start the 11th. Jeter lays down a sac bunt down to third, but Roberts is late covering first and Mora's throw is off-line setting up a first and third with none out. Abreu is getting intentionally walked to load the bases for the guy who will probably go down as the greatest player of all time. It's the top of the inning, not the bottom. Being down by one run is bad, but being down by three or four is much worse. What a fantastic defensive play by the O's infield. With the fielders in, A-Rod hits a shot towards second base. Roberts gets it and throws a strike to Quiroz at home to get the force, and then Guillermo fires to third to get a not-sliding Jeter (not a good night for the Captain). The unconventional double play leaves the O's one out away from getting out of it, but Matsui grounds one right through Albers' legs. The hit brings in Abreu to give NY the 9-8 lead. How comes out for the Yanks in the bottom of the inning (assuming Albers gets Giambi)? And he does, swinging at a curveball. Come-back time, guys.

Former Orioles and occasional head-hunter LaTroy Hawkins is coming in for the save. Mora takes a close pitch with two strikes (called a ball), gets a fastball in the middle of the plate, and hits it to right-center for a single. Come on Kakes, break that 0-5. Nick puts a charge into one to left, but it doesn't carry as well as similar balls did earlier in the game. Matsui is there to make the catch.

Woooooo! Aubrey Huff lines one into the left-center and Melvin Mora comes aaaaaaaall the way around to score. The throw to the plate is not in time, and allows Huff to get to third with just one out. He is the winning run. Luke gets walked intentionally to set up the double play. Then Millar will also get the free pass. What a good chance for Alex Cintron (getting his first PA of the game) to endear himself to the O's faithful. Didn't the Pelican come through in just such a situation earlier in the year? Why yes he did, and so does Cintron! He hits one more than deep enough - no one catches it and Huff comes in to score. The O's win. The O's WIN! 10-9 in eleven innings.

New York scores 4, the O's come back with 4 of their own. The Yankees score 4 more, the O's follow suit. The Yanks put 1 up in the top of the eleventh, the O's decide "hey, lets stop this whole match-and-no-more thing", scoring 2 to win it. 26-25, and in good position to end May with a .500 record. Not many people thought the team would be here at this point (even I only though so in my more optimistic and closed environment situations).
Read more ...

O's-Yankees, Slump Busting

This game had a couple of O's who had gotten on rough times recently. Garrett Olson, after starting the year very well, had been giving up a lot of hits; culminating in the 6 runs and 8 hits (in 2.2 IP) he gave up against the Yankees in his last start. Boy did he ever turn that around, going 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K against that very same New York team. Learning from his mistakes and making adjustments like that indicate that Olson has a good chance of being a solid major leaguer (especially on this team).

The second player is the often mentioned Nick Markakis. Well, Kakes busted out in a big way, going 3-4 with a homer and a double, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. He also didn't strike out. Aubrey Huff added a three-run bomb of his own as the O's got back in the win-column with the 6-1 victory.

Jamie Walker continued his struggles, giving up a run on two hits in the ninth inning. His struggles as the lefty set-up man could mean that Adam Loewen may find himself in the pen when he gets back from his injury (whenever that may be). I think putting him back there to work out his issues while bringing in Matt Albers to take Steve Trachsel's spot (he can't be allowed to pitch again right? right?) in the rotation (now that JJ has stepped up and Sarfate is back there with Bradford, Albers isn't really needed in the pen - especially if Loewen is there to be the potential long-man) is a fine idea.

Anyway, the win stops the O's skid at five games (Joe Posnanski, a Royals beat writer, has a recent post about losing streaks - which he classifies as 8+ games.
"8+ losing streaks since 2002

1. Kansas City, 11
2. Baltimore, 10
3. Colorado, 9
(tie) Detroit, 9 (six of those in 2003)
5. Tampa 8.

8+ losing streaks since 2004

1. Kansas City, 9
2. Colorado, 6
(tie) Tampa, 6
Baltimore, 5
Pittsburgh, 4...

It’s just a bloggy thought. But I think you look at the teams that routinely fall into losing streaks, you see Kansas City and Baltimore and Pittsburgh and Colorado (until last year) and Tampa (until this year), where the losses have made many fans apathetic, where the intensity of media coverage is down, where the reaction to another losing streak is not necessarily to boo but to turn away."
It's an interesting theory. I think those teams have just been very bad, so if their best couple players are in a slump then the whole team can go south quickly.)

and Baltimore gets back to .500. Read more ...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Punching Aruban

Sir Sidney is 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA for the Rangers. Ponson hasn't been particularly good in recent years, but a part of that is his poor luck on balls in play. This year his BABIP is more in line with were it should be (it's at .306) and so his ERA matches up well with his FIP (3.29). He's not striking out many batters (4.31 per nine), but is showing good control (2.27 BB/9) and is getting a ton of groundballs (57.7%) and so is keeping the ball in the yard (0.23 HR/9). I doubt he keeps his ERA under 4, but I think Ponson can be a credible #4/5 starter this year. Read more ...

O's-Rays, D-Cab Can't Prevent The Sweep

Six walks. Nine hits. Those are not things one would want to see from Daniel Cabrera. That's not the knew D-Cab; that's the kind of game he would have in years past. Except back then he might have K'ed 4 or 5, instead of the one that he did have. That he only gave up four runs (all in the same inning and two on a homer by Carlos Pena) is pretty impressive. The O's made a game of it, scoring four themselves, including a home run by Rays' killer Aubrey Huff. With the game tied 4-4 with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Jason Johnson (who had already pitched 2.1 scoreless innings) was lifted in favor of George Sherrill. It was Sherrill's job to retire Pena and Evan Longoria to send the game into extras. He got ahead of Pena, but couldn't put him away. After the walk, Sherrill left a pitch up and out over the plate, and Longoria rocketed it into the gap in right-center. Pena was able to come all the way around from first to score, and the Rays took the game 5-4.

That makes it five losses in a row for the O's, who drop back down below .500 to 24-25. The team next heads to New York for three before coming home to host Boston. I thought that the O's would finish the month at 27-27, but they'll need to take three of the next five for that to happen. The way the team is playing now, that doesn't seem too likely.

In other news, Nick Markakis went 0-4 with a K. His line now stands at 247 / 369 / 418, and in his last 10 games he's just 7 for 49 (.143) with only two extra-base hits (a double and a homer), and 3 walks to 14 K's. Read more ...

The People's Game

I read this, and thought it was funny and worth sharing;

"When Terry Francona, told that Kevin Youkilis' nickname is "The Greek God of Walks," responded, "I've seen him in the shower. He isn't the Greek god of anything.""

One of the reasons I like baseball is that a guy like Youk wouldn't be able to play any other sport. Or, say, Brian Bannister. Or Kevin Millar. Or a whole lot of other guys. But they can play baseball, and the sport is better for it. Read more ...

O's-Rays, Didn't Even Bother

I had so little faith in Steve Trachsel that I didn't even bother to watch the game. Trax was indeed awful, giving up 9 runs while only getting 5 outs. The bullpen held the Rays down OK (6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 K) but this O's offense - especially with Roberts and Markakis on the bench - is not designed for these kind of comebacks. The losing streak went to four as the O's lost 11-4. Daniel Cabrera needs to be a stopper tomorrow. We all knew that there would be days like this - I am under no illusion that this is a contending team. Still, a few less blow-outs would be nice. Read more ...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Two (Many) K's In Markakis

Nick has been striking out a lot lately, and there was an article written about it by in the Baltimore Sun.
"Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis acknowledges that he goes through a couple of stretches a season in which he picks up strikeouts in bunches. Those stretches are just lasting a little longer than usual this season...

Fifteen of Markakis' strikeouts have come with runners in scoring position, and the outfielder entered last night's game hitting just .220 in those situations. Markakis struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning last night...

"This is all new to me right now," said Markakis, who is hitting .257 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. "The way I'm getting pitched to is new to me. It's just something that I have to adapt to. I think in the long run, it will be something that I'm able to cut down on."

The third-year player rarely shows emotion on the field. But there have been times recently when he has worn a look of frustration on his trip back to the dugout after a strikeout. A considerable number of his strikeouts, including three of his four in the first two games here, have come with Markakis looking at a called third strike. Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he has spoken to hitting coach Terry Crowley about it but has not addressed Markakis.

"You really can't do anything about it," Markakis said. "Whether it was a ball or strike, I'm going to stay within my zone. I'm not going to go out of that zone just to put the ball in play. I have a pretty good understanding of what the strike zone is. If they ring me up on a bad pitch, I'll continue to take it. Once you start doing that and going out of the strike zone, you get into bad habits, and that's something that I don't want to start.""
I went through and looked at all of Nick's strike-outs for the year using MLB's Gameday feature. [I missed one strike-out somewhere. As usual, I'm not going through it again - I think we can get some idea of what's going on without that 47th K.]

Of the 46 strike-outs, 26 were swinging and 20 were looking. I tried my best to break things down to pitches in the zone versus out of the zone. For pitches that were borderline, I erred on the side of calling it a strike. The totals were:

It looks to me like Nick really is getting cheated on a number of called third strikes. If he takes it then there is a good chance that the ball really is out of the zone. The percentage of strike-outs looking has been pretty constant throughout the year, as has the proportion of correct calls in that category. That means he isn't getting fooled more often recently and taking pitches in the zone for a strike three.

The real issue is the swinging K's. In the first part of the year, he swung and missed at about an equal number of pitches in and out of the zone for the third strike. Lately though, the number of pitches he has chased before heading back to the bench has gone way up. That makes me think that he is pressing and really trying to not strike out, while also not seeing the ball terribly well. If he will stick to what he said above ("'I'm not going to go out of that zone just to put the ball in play") then I think he'll be OK. I hope Terry Crowley doesn't try to get him to swing with two strikes more - that would likely exacerbate the problem. It would be very handy to know what the breakdowns are for other hitters but, well, I've still got a good deal of Battlestar Galactica to watch.

[I'm glad I waited until the last (fourth) season to check it out. The show is so damn suspenseful that I couldn't stand to have to wait a week (or, three times, a few months) to see the next episode. It's really very good, though I actually get mad at some of the twists, as well as how addicting it is - watching it for 45 minutes quickly turns into 3 hours.]

In general, Nick is 7th in the majors in not swinging at balls (just 14%) - he's behind three A's (Cust, Thomas, and Barton), two Yanks (Giambi and Abreu), and a Ray (Upton). He's also pretty good at making contact with such pitches when he does swing (34th at 73%). His contact rate on pitches in the zone however, isn't that great (84% - down from 90% last year). I have no idea if his contact rate goes up over the course of a year, but since his batting average goes up I'm gonna guess "yeah", if only a little. It has already gone up from earlier in the year (70 to 73 OZ, 82 to 84 IZ). So in conclusion, I think that Nick should go back to taking pitches that he doesn't think are strikes, and just relax. He is a good hitter, and the results will come (eventually). Read more ...

O's-Rays, Can't Buy A Run

Jeremy Guthrie will try to stop the O's two-game skid against Matt Garza and the Rays. Tampa Bay has been very good at home this year.

Garza has an easy first, ending it by getting Nick looking.

Jeremy counters with a 1-2-3 inning of his own.

Aubrey Huff continues his hot hitting against the Rays, driving a ball deep to right-center. It bounced off the wall and BJ Upton over-ran it, and Huff goes in with a stand-up triple. Garza then walks Millar on four pitches, and he'll be seeing a visit from the pitching coach. Luke Scott can't bring Huff in, popping out in foul territory to Evan Longoria. Ramon gets his bat broken and grounds one weakly to first. Huff is thrown at easily trying to score. Runners on the corners with no outs will be wasted if Adam Jones can't come through with a clutch hit here. Garza doesn't really give him anything to hit, and Jones takes the walk. Freddie Bynum grounds out to leave the bases loaded. Guthrie just can't seem to get any run support.

Carlos Pena hits one deep to right, but Kakes is able to run it down. Whether he really deserves it or not, I think Nick will win a Gold Glove or five in his career. Another 1-2-3 inning for Guts, with Cliff Floyd going down swinging to end it.

The Orioles go down in order again, with Nick striking out (check) swinging this time. Maybe he needs a day off or something, to just taking batting practice and relax.

The Rays get their first baserunner, as Dioner "Bandwagon" Navarro singles to center. That's all though, as they game is scoreless trough three.

Another quick one for Garza, who got his third K (Millar). Pretty good pitching duel going on - hopefully it ends better than yesterday's.

BJ Upton draws a one-out walk, and moves to second as Guthrie's pick-off attempt was off-line. With first base open, Guthrie was careful with Pena and ended up walking him too. Guts comes back to strike out Longoria swinging (boy did he ever swing hard at that high fastball). Then he got Floyd on a check swing (though it looked like the pitch was a strike at the knees anyway) to get out of it.

Ramon starts the fourth with an infield single - nice hustle Razor. Garza twist Jones into knots, and gets the third check-swing K of the game (I don't remember seeing that so often - maybe the pitchers are especially hard to read today). Freddie Bynum lays down a beautiful bunt that Longoria can't do anything with. Two one for the top of the line-up. Roberts pops out to the right of first base, and Pena reaches into the stands to make the catch. Melvin lines softly to first, and the O's again can't get that hit with runners in scoring position. I have to think that that will even out a little over time, and when it does the offense should look much better than it does now. Poor Jeremy.

With one out, Eric Hinske bloops a single over the shortstop. He tries to steal second and then stops half way there. Too bad Ramon's throw bounces in front of Roberts, and Hinske is able to make it in safely. Jason Bartlett walks on a borderline pitch, and that brings up the top of the Rays order. We'll see if they do what the O's couldn't. Iwamura rockets one to deep center field - I though it was an easy double (maybe triple) - but Adam Jones is able to run it down and keep Hinske from advancing. Fantastic play. He (almost) has Corey Patterson's speed, but his instincts out there are better and see he's probably a better outfielder. Carl Crawford comes through in the clutch though, pulling a single through the right side. Nick's throw is not in time, and the Rays take a 1-0 lead. Guthrie gets Upton to ground to Millar to end the inning.

With two outs, Millar doubles into the left-center gap. Can Luke come through (please somebody come through)? Again, Garza doesn't give in with a runner in scoring position, and Scott takes the four pitch walk. Ramon skies one to center. I understand how this can be frustrating to the hitters, but I still don't think that they should swing at pitches out of the zone in an effort to "make something happen". Nick's got it right:
""You really can't do anything about it," Markakis said. "Whether it was a ball or strike, I'm going to stay within my zone. I'm not going to go out of that zone just to put the ball in play. I have a pretty good understanding of what the strike zone is. If they ring me up on a bad pitch, I'll continue to take it. Once you start doing that and going out of the strike zone, you get into bad habits, and that's something that I don't want to start.""
Pena hits the first pitch he sees to center for a lead-off single. Longoria strikes out swinging at a fastball again. Walker and Bradford are warming in the pen. Cliff Floyd goes down for the third time (swinging again). Navarro pops one up for the third out. Guthrie was pitched well enough to win (again), but unless the O's put some runs on the board this inning it won't happen.

Easy inning for Garza. Sorry Guts, it's not your lucky day I guess.

Dave Trembley is looking to get Guthrie a win, leaving him in for the seventh and hoping the Orioles can put some runs on the board. Well, maybe not. After two quick outs, Walker is coming in to face the lefty Iwamura. I actually would feel better having Guthrie face him, given Walker's struggles versus lefties this year. Akinori flies out to left on the first pitch he sees. Come on guys, are a couple runs too much to ask for?

Melvin swings at the first pitch and flies at. Now would be a good time for Nick to hit the ball hard. I don't even care if someone catches it (well, that's not exactly true) - I just want to see some solid contact from this crew. I'll also take a four pitch walk. Really, a couple of the pitches could have been called strikes - I guess once word gets around that you have a good eye up there, you start to get some calls. That's what happens for pitchers like Greg Maddux; he throws so many strikes that the ump just kind of gets into the habit of calling pitches in his favor. That's it for Garza, who looked extremely good (7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K). Trevor Miller in to face Huff. Oh man, Aubrey pulls one down the first base line, but the ump calls it foul. Huff is flipping out, and rightfully so - it was clearly fair. Sometimes when things don't go your way, they really don't go your way. He grounds into a double play on the next pitch. Instant replay, anyone? Seriously, that really sucks.

Walker retires Crawford, and Bradford is coming in to face Upton. Chad gets his usual groundball, but it goes up the middle for a single. Dave Trembley was apparently thrown out of the game while removing Walker, as he started arguing with the umps again. Eh. Bradford is done after one hitter. With Carlos Pena coming up, George Sherrill time will be starting a little early today. Sherrill doesn't throw a pitch, but still manages to let Upton go to third. His pick-off throw was way off-line, allowing BJ to actually think of scoring. Wow. More awesome outfield defense, as Pena lifts one to deep left-field. Luke Scott (who is actually a better defender than Payton, despite the latter being brought in to play left in the later innings) makes an amazing leaping/diving catch on the warning track. Upton scores though. The errors have really hurt today. Without them, it might still be 0-0. Evan Longoria goes down on strikes again. Quick, somebody write an article about how the Rays made a mistake signing him so early.

Troy Percival made a great come-back last season, and now this year with the Rays. He has really helped solidify their bullpen. Millar gets ahead 3-0, but Percival comes back and gets him to pop out. Luke Scott strikes out swinging, and Ramon grounds out to second to end the game.

The Orioles drop a very winnable one, 2-0. Jeremy Guthrie falls to a much undeserved 2-5. The offense is really slumping, top to bottom. They've been shutout in two of their last three games. With Steve Trachsel going tomorrow, it's likely the losing streak will reach four. I'm looking at Daniel Cabrera to continue his turn-around season and really be a stopper. He may need to pitch a shutout himself though.
Read more ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

O's-Yankees, Now An Anti-Blowout

I missed the game today, but it appears that Brian Burres did indeed take some tips from Garrett Olson's game yesterday. Burres pounded the zone, throwing 70 of 99 pitches for strikes. His final line was 7.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K. He didn't get much support, as Ian Kennedy pitched pretty well also (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K). He got Nick on strikes three times, swinging at fastballs. Melvin Mora's hand is in bad shape I guess, as Aubrey Huff started at third base.

It went to a battle of the bullpens, which I would be pretty confident about with Joba going two innings yesterday. Kennedy let way to Jose Veras, then Kyle Farnsworth, followed by Mo. All three pitched scoreless innings. Jim Johnson came in for the O's and pitches a scoreless eighth. He got into trouble in the ninth, giving up a a single and a walk before Robbie Cano hit a two-out single to left to bring in the winning run. The O's lose, 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. That big blowout in the first game is all but forgotten, as the Birds drop the series two games to one.

Oh well, the Orioles are still 2.5 games ahead of New York. That's good. Read more ...

Down On The Farm

I think it's a good time to take a look around the minors again. Just how are those Orioles farmhands doing?

Scott Moore is hitting just 191 / 276 / 372 with a less than ideal 7:26 BB to strike-out ratio. He has always been a high strike-out guy, but the walks haven fallen off quite a bit. Once his BABIP levels off (it's .231 and it should be .280) he should be OK with the average. His wOBA (weighted On-Base Average - "The formula for wOBA is wOBA = (0.72 BB + 0.75 HBP + 0.90 1B + 0.92 RBOE + 1.24 2B + 1.56 3B + 1.95 HR) / PA. Pretty simple - the multiplication is performed according to run values of each event scaled to look like OBP (in this case, the ratio of one to another is more important than the actual multiplications).") is .287; down from .385 in AAA last year. I still think that he can become a solid utility player - one that has a much better bat than the usual breed. He hasn't been playing as much 2B/SS as I expected though. I don't know if that means he can't handle the positions or what.

Mike Costanzo (basically, Scott Moore V.2) is at 238 / 305 / 344, 15:55. Moving up to AAA, his walks have gone way done and his K's have gone up. He hasn't even been unlucky with the BA, as his BABIP (.355) is where it should be (.350). Continuing the Moore comparison, he has a .286 wOBA, down from .358 in AA last year. He hasn't been seeing much time behind the plate - which is something I would like to see. Like Moore, he probably won't be a regular at the major league level, so his main chance to contribute is to keep his walks up (to go with his power, which actually hasn't shown up yet) and to be capable of playing multiple positions. If he can slide in as a back-up or emergency catcher, it'll be much easier for him to find a spot on the bench.

Hayden Penn: 59.2 IP, 4.68 ERA, 22:34 BB to K ratio, 4.78 FIP. He's giving up a few too many HR, but the main problem has been the low K rate. The walks aren't great at 3.3 per nine, but he has to strike out more than 5.1 per nine to be an effective starter with his flyball stuff. I expect the K's to pick up as we move along this season, as he has been much better about that in his minor league career. Still only 23, so there's no reason to write him off.

Radhames Liz: 52.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 22:50, 3.40 FIP. Liz has pitched much better than his ERA would show. His K's are down a little, but he has also cut his walk rate. After a rough stretch (coinciding with talk of him coming up to the majors) Liz was very good in his last start (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K). Another power arm for the bullpen, I think. For some reason, I've never really thought much of Liz - I was always surprised when he was mentioned on prospect lists. I guess that means I won't be disappointed if he flames out, but he still has an electric arm.

Nolan Reimold: 282 / 359 / 471, 21:24, .355 wOBA. After a slow start, Reimold is really picking it up (317 / 385 / 585 in May). Bring the 24 year-old up to AAA and see if he'll be in a position to help the team in the second half (or next year).

David Hernandez: 47.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 23:59, 3.80 FIP. If Hernandez keeps striking out over a batter an inning (which he's done every year) then has relative lack of "stuff" won't keep him from getting mentioned in prospect circles. The walks are an issue, but he should see AAA soon. I don't think he'll make the rotation, but he could be a successful reliever in the majors.

Chorye Spoone: 17.1 IP, 4.67 ERA, 11:17, 4.07 FIP. I don't know why the innings are so low; perhaps he was hurt? The walk problems he alleviated somewhat last year have come back, but it is a very small sample-size. Spoone is a guy I really like - I think he can definitely be a #2/3 starter in the bigs.

Chris Tillman: 42.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 22:40, 3.56 FIP. Looks like promoting him to AA was a good call. The walks are still too high, and he's been lucky with balls in play, but I definitely like what I see. Maybe not the "Ace of the Future", but a very good pitching prospect nonetheless.

Jason Berken: 51.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 4:44, 2.66 FIP. A K to BB rate of 11 is very impressive. His control has been fantastic, and a move up to AAA is probable soon. He is 24, so he's not really a top prospect, but there's no reason he can't step up and contribute.

Brad Bergesen: (AA) 33 IP, 1.36 ERA, 8:12, 3.69 FIP. The .233 BABIP means he's been lucky, and he isn't striking anyone out so for. He's getting lots of groundballs though, and has shown solid control. Has already made the jump from Frederick this year, so he will probably stay in AA for the rest of 2008. With him and Spoone, that Bowie infield should get a lot of work.

Kam "The Almighty" Mickolio: 24.1 IP, 4.07 ERA, 14:22, 3.78 FIP. He's come as advertised; lots of K's, lots of walks, and lots of groundballs (56%). Once his control improves even a little, I think he'll be making his way to AAA.

Billy Rowell: 282 / 347 / 435, 8:27, .343 wOBA. Where's the power? Rowell is supposed to be a big strong guy, but he has just 14 HR in his professional career (2 this year). The line-drive rate that fell off a cliff last year is still down, and he is hitting everything on the ground (65% GB rate). He is only 19, so there is plenty of time for him to develop, but it was a lot easier to swallow poor production when he was really young for his league.

Ryan McCarthy: 310 / 370 / 476, 4:8, .369 wOBA. Who the heck is this kid, and do the O's have a shortstop prospect on their hands? He's been lucky on balls in play, but I'll now add him to the list of players to follow in the minors. [Oops. I just saw that he is already 24, soon to be 25. That won't cut it in A+ ball.]

Brandon Snyder: 253 / 290 / 387, 7:31, .294 wOBA. Yikes. He's cut his K's a bit, but he's just not walking anymore. Already 21 in A+ ball, so his chances of becoming a starting first baseman aren't looking great (for those of us who thought he might actually hit well enough to play first).

Pedro Floriman: 186 / 222 / 209, 2:16, .200 wOBA. This guy was the SS of the future when he debuted hitting 333 / 456 / 425 in Rookie ball in 2006. His once good batting eye is gone, as are his chances of ousting Alex Cintron (or whoever is eventually there) are nearly gone with it.

Matt Wieters: 348 / 435 / 617, 22:26, .418 wOBA. What the heck is he still doing in Frederick? He has 11 HR and is destroying those pitchers. A September call-up to Baltimore really isn't out of the question - especially if Ramon is traded.

Jacob Renshaw: 50.1 IP, 3.93 ERA, 20:34, 4.77 FIP. A solid enough pitching prospect in general, but free talent considering he was acquired from the Cubs for Steve Trachsel. I expect nothing from him in the majors, and so I won't be disappointed.

Brandon Erbe: 47.2 IP, 5.10 ERA, 11:45, 4.59 FIP. He's given up a lot of homers (9), but has otherwise been very good. If the HR thing is flukey, then he might see AA this year. The 4 K's per walk is where he was back in 2005 when people were so excited about him. It was less than 2 in his horrible 2007 campaign, so there is some reasons to think he's turned it around. Electric arm could find itself in the pen as well, but it would look awfully good at the front of the rotation.

Jake Arrieta: 59.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 27:64, 2.62 FIP. Pretty good fifth round draft pick, eh? He is old for the league (22) but he is dominating and needs to be moved up to AA right now.

Tony Butler: 34 IP, 3.97 ERA, 5:26, 3.56 FIP. Boy is that Bedard trade looking good so far. His control issues have disappeared, and he has been all kinds of fantastic at Delmarva. How can he not be promoted to at least Frederick soon?

Zach Britton: 51.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 10:36, 3.30 FIP. For the second straight year, Britton has almost halved his walk rate. Like Butler, he should be moved up to Frederick in the near future. [I'm a big fan of advancing guys that have had success. I'd rather a guy be a bit below average but young for his league than blow away inferior competition. I think players - especially pitchers - learn more that why. If a 22 year-old has a ton of success in A ball just throwing it by people, then leaving him down there may make him more attached to that manner of pitching. But seriously, what do I know?]

Cole McCurry: 40.2 IP, 5.57 ERA, 9:39, 3.99 FIP. Another lefty at Delmarva. He's given up some runs, but you have to like the control and the strike-outs. Hadn't heard of him before now, but if he has many more starts like his last one (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K) then some other people will be taking notice.

Sean Gleason: 33 IP, 1.36 ERA, 9:27, 3.17 FIP. I've never heard of the kid, but he is pitching really well. He posted a 3.36 FIP at Bluefield last year, so I'm surprised I haven't seen him mentioned before.

I've ignored some older players who are having good seasons, because it's doubtful that they'll be of much use to the Orioles in the future (with regard to contributing in the majors). Another thing to notice is the extreme bias towards pitchers. That is clearly where the strength of this system lies. That's why it irks me that almost everything I've heard has the O's taking lefty Brian Matusz with the number four pick in the draft. That's fine if there are no position players available there, but I've heard that they'd still pick Matusz even if toolsy shortstop Tim Beckham is available. That would be a mistake, I think. I know you're not supposed to draft for need early on, but Beckham has a high ceiling (enough to go #1 definitely) and that he plays a position the O's are weak at is just gravy. I don't think reaching for the other Beckham (Gordon) would be a great decision, even though he also plays short. He doesn't have Tim's tools, and so bypassing him for Matusz is OK with me. If the team thinks that they can sign Mark Teixeira (for example) then not getting one of the first basemen (like Justin Smoak) is fine also. Picking a catcher, even though there are a couple of really good ones, wouldn't make much sense either. More on the draft when it happens. Read more ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

O's-Yankees, (Another) Blowout In The Bronx

The Orioles try to continue their winning ways after beating up on the Yanks yesterday.

Two strike-outs for Darrell Rasner in the first - Roberts swinging and Markakis looking on a pitch way inside.

I guess Jeter wasn't hurt to badly by that pitch, since he's in the game today. Bobby Abreu singles, but Garrett Olson comes back to get A-Rod looking to end the inning.

1-2-3 go the O's again. No early lead today.

At least not for the Orioles. A Shelly Duncan single and Robbie Cano double put New York up 1-0. Chad Moeller singles to make it 2-0. Then Melky singles. Olson looks like he is getting hit around pretty good. Usually after a coaching visit pitchers settle down a bit, but Olson walks Damon to load the bases. Jeter grounds out to bring in another run, but an Abreu groundout ends the inning. 3-0 Yanks.

Rasner is changing speeds, mixing his pitches, and throwing strikes. Freddie Bynum doubles with two outs, but Roberts strikes out swinging again.

A-Rod homers for the second straight day, and Matsui walks. I doubt Olson will be in much longer. One out later, Cano singles to right. I don't know what happened, but Mora is hurt and Cintron is coming in for him. Another groundout, and then Melky gets hit with a pitch to load the bases. Olson clearly doesn't have it today. 6-0, as Damon singles to left. Dennis Sarfate is coming in. He ends it by getting Jeter looking. I guess this is some payback for yesterday.

Cintron gets off to a good start with a line-drive single. I wish he had been up all year, though I am under no illusions that he is a particularly good player. Nick follows it up with a single of his own. The O's still have time, but they need to put some runs on the board. Huff flies out, Millar pops out, and Scott strikes out. Two on but they fail to score.

Sarfate keeps dealing, striking out Abreu swinging. A-Rod fouls off some fastballs, and finally gets a curveball that he hits to right for a double. He doesn't score though, as Matsui grounds out and Duncan strikes out. Nice job by Dennis, who we haven't seen much of lately.

1-2-3 again. Come on guys, don't get shutout by Darrell Rasner.

Sarfate is taking one for the team, pitching more innings than he usually would. He walks Melky, but gets another strike-out and keeps the Yanks off the board.

Roberts walks to start the sixth, but Cintron erases him with a double play ball. Kakes gets his second hit of the day, lining a single to center. Huff grounds out to end the inning. Still 6-0.

That's it for Sarfate. Lance Cormier is in to just finish things off. Jeter walks and steals second (up 6-0). Nice. Abreu strikes out, but A-Rod brings the Captain in with another double to right. There's a reason he was the MVP last year - the guy is the best player in baseball. Matsui walks, and Rodriguez goes to third on a passed ball. He comes in on a Duncan groundout to make it 8-0. Cano hits it Roberts to end the sixth.

Millar singles, but the O's can't bring him around. What a poor offensive display tonight.

Jamie Walker is coming in. Maybe he can regain his 2007 form in the low-pressure situation. Single-out-single-out-single loads the bases. Maybe not regaining form then. The Yankees do the nice thing and pinch-hit for A-Rod with Morgan Ensberg. He goes down swinging to leave three on.

Joba is in to get some work. Cintron draws a walk, but that's it. Just one run, guys - just one.

Matt Albers relieves Walker and pitches a quick, scoreless eighth. Time for a rally.

With one out, Millar singles and then Luke works Joba for a walk. Quiroz and Jones both go down though, to end the game.

An all-around poor game for the Orioles, as the drop the second game of the series 8-0. Olson had his worst start of the year, and the offense could not solve Darrell Rasner. On the bright side, Albers and Sarfate both pitched pretty well. It'll be Brian Burres vs. Ian Kennedy in the rubber game. Hopefully Burres can figure out what Olson did wrong and not make the same mistakes.
Read more ...

It Used To Be True

People are starting to notice :
"The sky is blue. Water is wet. Daniel Cabrera has command problems. All of these things have been inarguable truths forever, and they’re so clear, there’s been no reason to state the obvious. His career BB/9 is 5.14, which is just one shade south of abominable. He’d walked 100 or more batters in each of the last two seasons. During the 116 starts he made from 2004 to 2007, he’d gotten through without walking a batter just three times.

Well, after last night’s 7 IP/2 R performance where he didn’t walk anyone against the Yankees, he’s now accomplished that same feat three times in his last six starts. He did it three times in 116 starts prior to this year, and he’s already done it three times in the last month. In his last four starts, he’s thrown 30 1/3 innings and walked just three batters. Three walks was a normal inning for Cabrera last year, but now he’s walking three guys over a three week stretch? This is baseball’s version of cats and dogs living together.

Is this command improvement (3.21 BB/9 on the year is a huge improvement for Cabrera, believe it or not) based on some identifiable change in Cabrera’s skillset? Well, to start off, we see that Cabrera isn’t throwing nearly as hard as he did when he came up three years ago. In 2005, his average fastball was 96.2 MPH, making him the hardest throwing starting pitcher in baseball. This year, he’s at 93.1 MPH, which ties him for just the 9th highest average fastball in among starters. He’s still a power pitcher, but it appears he’s (intentionally or not) taken something off of his fastball, and this reduced velocity correlates very well with lower walk rates.

Also, we note that Cabrera has essentially become a one pitch pitcher. In fact, he’s taking the idea that a pitcher needs secondary pitches and throwing it out the window. He’s thrown 87 percent fastballs this year. Eighty-Seven Percent. That’s up from 74% last year, and the difference is almost entirely from the slider, which he’s using half as much as he did a year ago. Instead of throwing one of every five pitches as a breaking ball, he’s now throwing one in ten.

These two shifts represent a real change in approach for Cabrera. He’s gone from a big time power fastball/slider guy with no idea where the ball is going to a fastball pitcher with an occasional slider and decent command. Not surprisingly, he’s posting the highest ground ball rate of his career, which is directly related to the amount of fastballs he’s throwing. However, those extra ground balls and fewer walks have come at the expense of his strike out rate, which is now a below average 5.48 K/9. He ranked in the top five in strikeout rate in both 2005 and 2006, racking up nearly one per inning over those two seasons. The move away from the slider and the reduced velocity has allowed hitters to make more contact, but he’s counter balanced that drop with the improvements in walk rate and ground ball rate.

Cabrera seems to be learning that his pitch selection and velocity is a sliding scale. By throwing more fastballs at a reduced velocity, he’s getting ahead in counts and keeping runners off the bases. He might not lead the league in strikeouts anymore, but he might have finally figured out how to be an effective major league starting pitcher."
Daniel has been somewhat of a punchline for national baseball people. I'm glad that is coming to an end, and if he can keep up his production then I think people may go back to thinking he could be a top starter "next year", as they used to say (every year, before being proved wrong). An increase in his strike-out rate once he learns to harness the breaking-ball in certain situations could jump him into legitimate #1 starter territory. The stat about zero-walk games is pretty amazing I think. Read more ...

Owings Watch

Micah Owings had a rough day against Mark Hendrickson and company, going 0-3 with 3 K's. That drops his line to 323 / 382 / 484 for the year. He's still hitting well, but he isn't showing the "pop" he had last year. Owings had better success on the mound (7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 10 K), but a Dan Uggla homer and a combined 13 K's from Florida pitching led to a 3-2 loss for Arizona. Read more ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

O's-Yankees, Blowout In The Bronx

Good pitching match-up with Daniel Cabrera trying to continue his success against a returning A-Rod and the Yanks, facing past Oriole and future Hall-of-Famer Mike Mussina.

Brian Roberts falls behind 1-2 but comes back to draw a lead-off walk. Mora grounds to third, with Roberts going to second. Moose appears to be throwing a whole lot of non-fastballs. He doesn't throw a single one to Nick, who goes down swinging at a splitter. Two outs and it's up to Aubrey Huff. He lines one down to right-field line for a single, 1-0 O's. Kevin Millar singles to center - he went down a got a curveball. Luuuke grounds one to Cap'n Jeter. It's an easy play, and Jeter just throws it high, pulling Giambi off the bad at first. Scott is safe, and the bases are loaded. Ramon Hernandez walks on four pitches to drive in a run. 2-0. Adam Jones falls behind 0-2, but takes a high fastball the other way for a bases-clearing double. 5-0 Orioles. Mussina doesn't throw nearly hard enough anymore to get away with pitches like that. Freddie loops a low breaking-ball into right field. Jones scores from second to make it 6-0. Roberts gets his second plate appearance of the inning. He slices one to left and Johnny Damon can't make the diving catch. It's a stand-up triple for Brian, and Mussina will leave down 7-0 (though only one run is earned). Mora grounds out to A-Rod (again) to end the first. Daniel will have a pretty big cushion with which to work.

Not a great start as Cabrera falls behind Damon 3-0. Johnny singles to right to start the Yankee attack. The Captain continues his excellent first inning by grounding into a double play. Bobby Abreu hits one deep to left, but Scott is there and makes the catch.

Millar walks with two outs, and Luke Scott lifts one to left. The ball takes off on Damon a bit, and it bounces off his glove, scoring Millar. 8-0 O's. Ramon walks. No lead is really safe with the Yankees offense, but I feel pretty confident with Cabrera on the mound. I feel even better now as Jones bloops a single to right to bring in Luke. Bynum flies out to Damon, but it's 9-0 already.

Mora returns the throwing-error favor, allowing A-Rod to reach. Matsui just beats out a potential double-play ball. Jason Giambi breaks his bat, but his bloop into left falls in front of Scott. Robbie Cano goes down swinging at a low fastball. Daniel really pounded him inside in that at bat. Melky Cabrera flies out deep to center to end the threat.

Brian Roberts takes his third trip to the plate in as many innings. Ross Ohledndorf, who relieved Mussina, gets him looking. Mora grounds out again, and Nick follows it up with his first hit of the day, lining one to center. Huff grounds to Cano to end the inning.

With two outs, Daniel comes up and in with a fastball to Jeter, and hits him on the hand. He'll be leaving the game. Abreu can't capitalize, as he grounds out to second.

Kevin Millar extends the lead to double digits with his solo home run to start the fourth. An Adam Jones infield single is all the O's would get after that. 10-0.

Two groundouts and a strike-out by Giambi (looking an that tailing fastball on the inside corner at 96) as the Yanks go down in order.

Former Orioles Latroy Hawkins comes in from the pen. 1-2-3 go the Birds.

Daniel follows suit with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. He got Melky with another of those "Maddux" fastballs.

Two quick outs, and Edwar Ramirez relives Hawkins. He walks Scott and gives up a single to Ramon, but gets Jones swinging to end the inning.

Damon lines one towards right, but Kevin Millar takes to the air and makes the catch. Alberto Gonzalez - in there for Jeter - strikes out looking on a fastball on (off) the outside corner. Abreu grounds one up the middle, and beats it out even though Roberts kept it in the infield. A-Rod puts the Yankees on the board, hitting the next pitch out to deep left-center. 10-2. Matsui grounds out to Millar to end the comeback.

Another 1-2-3 inning.

Giambi starts the seventh with a single up the middle. After a flyout by Cano, a Mora to Roberts to Millar double play off Malky's bat ends the inning.

Markakis goes down on strikes for a third time. In Nick's defense, he does take a lot of pitches and the strike-zone was fairly wide today. Huff works new pitcher Jose Veras for a walk. Ramon goes down swinging. The lead is back to 10, as Luuuke hits one into the upper deck. He did a good job of fouling off pitches until he got a good one; a down and in fastball that he absolutely crushed. Ramon grounds weakly to Morgan Ensberg (in for A-Rod) for the third out.

Dave Trembley is getting some starters out of the game. The Pelican makes an appearance coming in for Roberts at second; Cintron replaces Mora at third; and Lance Cormier is in to finish the game for Daniel Cabrera. Luis makes a great play, diving to catch a liner off the bat of Johnny Damon. He has looked much batter at second than he did at short. 1-2-3 go the Yanks.

Adam Jones greets Mo Rivera with a single up the middle. That's Jones' fourth hit of the game. A groundout and a line-drive double play (by Luis) sends the game into the bottom of the ninth. I wish this game was in Baltimore and I was there. What a fun experience that would be.

Abreu singles to left to start the inning. How horrible of a loss would this be? Shelly Duncan flies out to right for the first out. Matsui singles to put two on. Cormier may have some trouble with lefties. Not with righties though, as Morgan Ensberg grounds into a double play to end the game. I don't remember many games like this. The O's route the Yankees, 12-2.

Daniel left the game having thrown 86 pitches (52 for strikes). Of those, 83 were fastballs (and 3 sliders). That is insane. The Yankees pretty much knew exactly what pitch was coming every time and a two-run homer by A-Rod was all they could get. His final line was 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K. It's his second straight game without a walk (and against a generally patient line-up). Daniel is now 5-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 41 K's to 24 walks. Take out his 7-walk game in horrible weather versus Chicago, and it's 39:17 - he's never had a ratio over 1.8 before (that's a ratio of 2.3 - not great but not bad). People are going to write the standard "Contenders or Pretenders" articles, and the Orioles will be mentioned as "pretenders". They main not be "contenders" yet, but they will still be competitive. That's something, at least.

This is nice to see. The Yankees were pretty much out of it by the bottom of the first. Complete domination by the Orioles.

Read more ...

Maybe He Should Spell It "Kole" With A 'K'

I'd never seen Cole Hamels pitch before today [MASN2 had Phillies-Nats instead of the O's game]. His stuff looks pretty unimpressive, but I understand why hitters have trouble with him. His fastball is at 90-92 and his change-up is at 80-82, but they look exactly the same. Then he throws up the occasional looping curveball, and I don't know how hitters can keep their timing at all. Jason Bergmann pitched very well in his own right (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K including Ryan Howard three times), but Hamels absolutely dominated a weak Nationals line-up (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K). Neither starter got a decision however, as the game was still tied 0-0 going into the ninth. The Phillies scored a run, and took the game 1-0.

I've heard that Hamels' mechanics may lead to an injury, and though I can't say anything in particular about them (I'd need to see some slowed down video) they don't look that nice to me, in general. As a baseball fan, I hope that he is able to stay on the field, as Cole is one of the best pitchers in the league. Read more ...

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Mets Still Don't Have One

Top Batters:
Kansas City - David DeJesus 0-4.

Boston - Jason Varitek 2-3, HR, 2 RBI

How was DeJesus KC's best hitter in their 7-0 loss to the Red Sox? Well, he didn't strike out. That's pretty good considering Jon Lester K'ed 9 batters. He didn't pick up either of the two walks Lester issued, though. Hits? Well, no Jon didn't give up any hits. I guess you could call it a "no-hitter". Now, when is the last time the Sox had a no-hitter? Hmmm... I can't seem to place it... oh yeah; it was Clay Buchholz also K'ing 9 (and walking 3) against the O's in his second major league start late last year. Congratulations to Jon, I guess. At least it wasn't against Baltimore.

[Edit: Joe Posnanski had a great write-up of the game; recommended reading.] Read more ...

High Leverage, Flat Brim

FanGraphs has a nice little post about George Sherrill:
"With the new design of the home page up and running I recently noticed that Orioles closer George Sherrill not only has the oldest-sounding name in baseball but also leads all relievers with a 2.03 WPA. Sherrill, part of the Erik Bedard trade, has 17 saves out of the Orioles 23 wins; his saves:team wins percentage of 73.9 leads all closers as well.

Something interesting about his success—other than the fact that five of his saves have come against his former employer Seattle—is his higher than expected 3.43 ERA. Granted, ERA is not too useful of a barometer when analyzing the efforts of a closer, but his high saves total and high WPA led me to believe he has been shutting down opponents with the greatest of ease.

A closer look at his game logs shows that, of his 8 earned runs allowed, three have come in non-save situations and another two in his blown saves. In all successfully converted saves, Sherrill has allowed just three earned runs. Despite this relative success, there are four other closers who have been performing extremely well while surrendering next to nothing, regardless of whether or not their appearances coincide with blown saves or non-save situations.

Billy Wagner: 16 GP, 17 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 19 K
Brad Lidge: 19 GP, 19 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 8 BB, 21 K
BJ Ryan: 14 GP, 14 IP, 11 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 17 K
Mariano Rivera: 16 GP, 17 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14 K

Here are the averages of these four stacked up next to Sherrill:

Sherrill: 21 GP, 21 IP, 13 H, 8 ER, 10 BB, 16 K
Others: 16 GP, 17 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 17 K

Another interesting area to look at is the situation in which the closer entered. Coming into a bases loaded, no out situation with a one-run lead is much different than entering into a nobody on, one out situation with a two-run lead. The statistic gmLI measures the difficulty level when the pitcher entered the game. Here are the average gmLIs of these five closers:

Wagner: 1.34
Lidge: 1.83
Ryan: 2.10
Rivera: 1.65
Sherrill: 2.21

Generally speaking, the average LI, or neutral event, is 1.00; 10% of all events will be over 2.00.

Sherrill has the highest average gmLI of the five while Wagner has the lowest. While it is definitely remarkable that Wagner is yet to surrender an earned run—he has given up 4 unearned runs—it looks as though Sherrill has been less successful in preventing runs due to pitching in much tougher situations.

These other four may have better peripherals, but do not let Sherrill’s ERA fool you: In just 21 innings pitched he has contributed two wins while pitching in tough situations."
I'm glad I picked Ol' Flat-Brim up in three of my fantasy leagues. He has the worst control of the group, and the lowest strike-out rate, so I don't think his success will continue at quite this level. Still, when they do decide to trade him (and they will, even if it isn't this year) he should bring back a couple of decent prospects. It's always nice to see the O's getting some positive attention from non-Baltimore sources. Read more ...

Rule 5 Pick To Shutdown Closer

Another young player; another smart front office; another team-friendly long-term contract. This time it was Kansas City closer Joakim Soria, who apparently approached the team himself. He was given a three-year deal (through 2011) for $8.75 million, even though he wasn't eligible for arbitration until after the 2009 season. The Royals also have three team options, that could keep Soria in KC for his first free-agency year - it would run the total deal to about six-years $30 million. If they move Soria into the rotation, as has been discussed, then he could get another $2 million. Very low risk for the Royals ($8.75 million buys maybe a year of an OK closer) and they could keep him around for a while at a discounted price.

Mariano Rivera and his 7.5 WARP1 a year (about) just got 3 years, $45 million - that's $2 million per WARP1 per year. Soria was worth about 5 WARP1 last year (about $10 million) and is only getting better (1.04 ERA, 20 K's to 2 BB in 17.3 IP - he's also given up just 5 hits). Read more ...

Falling 'Stro

If you're a team that is surprisingly contending behind a great offensive core, but only have one legitimate pitcher, it stands to reason that you would protect that pitcher as well as you can, right? Well, not if you're the Astros.
"Oswalt walked off the mound at the end of the sixth inning Saturday night having thrown 105 pitches. More important, he had already felt a “twinge” in his right groin area.

When someone, presumably pitching coach Dewey Robinson, approached him about going back out for the seventh, Oswalt said he tried to make it clear he’d had enough.

“I told them I thought that was it,” he said after the game. “They wanted me to go one more.”

In his postgame news conference with reporters, Cooper remembered the conversation differently.

“He just said he thought he could go back out for the seventh,” Cooper said. “We felt we could get one more out of him.”

Oswalt did go back out for the seventh, but threw just five more pitches before summoning the medical staff and limping off the mound."
Nice job Houston. Have fun with your new "ace", Wandy Rodriguez. At least Lance Berkman has a 231 OPS+. (That's not a mistake - it's actually 231.) Read more ...

Another Uwe Boll Classic

I played Dungeon Siege (well, Dungeon Siege 2) and I have to say that it was a pretty fun game. Not terribly complicated, but fun. When I originally saw the trailers for In The Name Of The King, I thought it looked pretty dumb - a Lord Of The Rings knock-off. Then I found out that the movie was actually based on the game; it's A Dungeon Siege Tale. After watching it, I have to conclude that yes, it is pretty dumb (and clearly a LOTR knock-off). That was as expected. The part that was surprising was the number of legitimate actors in the movie. Action star Jason Statham played the lead role of Farmer. Fine; he's been in some not-so-great roles. Then there was Ray Liotta as Gallian, the villain. He did a pretty poor job (actually, everyone did - the acting was pretty retched). It also had Ron Perlman, Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, Matthew Lillard, John-Rhys Davies (why not just steal the whole cast?), Kristanna Loken, and of course, Burt Reynolds. Yup, Burt Reynolds. In A Dungeon Siege Tale. The movie got a 15 on Metacritic, which I think is a little harsh, as I did manage to get through the whole thing.

I will say that it didn't have any redeeming qualities, though it was still about 1,000 times better than Vampires vs. Zombies. That is easily - easily - the worst movie I've ever seen. I had to watch the damn thing three times before I could figure out what was going on. [The movie interestingly stars scream-queen Brinke Stevens, who is actually a member of Mensa. I think that actually makes me think even less of it, for some reason.] Read more ...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Braun's Brawn (Very Original, I Know)

Ryan Braun homored twice in Milwaukee's losing effort against the Red Sox. He homered against the Sox on Saturday, against the Dodgers Thursday, the Cardinals (twice) on both Monday and Sunday. That gives him 8 home runs in his last 8 games, including 3 two-homer games. So much for the power-outage - he's now third in the league in HR. It's nice to see the Hammer get going. His average is up to .291, but unfortunately he only has eight walks on the year. With Gallardo and Capuano down, the Brewers are probably going to have to slug their way into contention. Once Prince Fielder gets into the act, they just might be able to do it. Read more ...

It Seems Like A Pattern

Everybody remember when the Reds were trailing the D'Backs in the bottom of the ninth about a month and a half ago (April 2nd)? I'll give you a hint: that was the game where Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off homer after failing to get down a sacrifice bunt.
""Because he was 0-for-5 with strikeouts his last two times at bat, Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker flashed Encarnacion the sacrifice bunt sign, even though he had never bunted successfully in the major leagues.

“I said to (coach) Chris Speier, ‘I hope he doesn’t get the bunt down so he can hit a game-winning home run,’ “ said Baker."
Well, amazingly, it happened again.
"With the Reds trailing by one run in the ninth inning Saturday, Adam Dunn's initial intention with runners on first and second and one out was to bunt his teammates into scoring position. After two unsuccessful sacrifice attempts, a frustrated Dunn chose to swing away. Dunn's backup plan sailed 449 feet into the right-field Sun Deck for a three-run walk-off home run..."
I saw replays of the homer; it was a monster shot. They didn't show that Dunn (46-40-40-40 HR the past four years, 2 career sac bunts) failed to sacrifice. They also didn't show that Dunn was batting seventh in the line-up (ahead of Paul Bako). That is a complete waste of his .354 OBP, which is third on the team behind the injured Jeff Keppinger and the aforementioned Bako. FireJoeMorgan has a theory:
"Maybe Dusty takes these guys who have between zero and two sac bunts in their lives, and makes them try to bunt, and when he takes the bunt sign off they are so relieved they launch walk-off homers."
That sounds so crazy that it just might be true.

In other Reds' news, Corey Patterson has a .273 OBP while Jay Bruce is hitting .328/.359/.565 in Triple-A. His plate discipline leaves a bit to be desired, but it's definitely better than Corey's. This is one thing that I really don't understand. I'll admit that Dusty Baker might be good at dealing with the media; he may get the most out of his players; he might be a good leader of men. None of those things mean that he is completely qualified to be a major league manager. If you can't find a good "people person" who actually knows not to bunt with Adam Dunn (like the average 12-year-old baseball fan should), then give Dusty Baker a list of things to do and to not do. It's what Billy Beane did in Oakland - he was in charge of how things worked and who played, and Art Howe would stand on the top step of the dugout with his chin out, exuding an air of strength and confidence. Let the manager lead the "people"; the guy who knows how baseball works should lead the "players". Read more ...