Monday, April 27, 2009

Early Look At The Minor Leaguers

Since the present isn't especially bright (what with Matt Albers blowing a 4-3 lead as the O's lost 6-4 to Texas), maybe a look to the future via the Orioles' minor league affiliates would be better.

  • Nolan Reimold is just destroying the ball, hitting .417/.486/.750 with 6 HR and 3 SB to boot. Now the O's just need to find a place for him.
  • Scott Moore isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball (.288/.348/.475), but that kind of line might translate into fine numbers for a utility player at the major league level.
  • Matt Wieters was hurt and is hitting a lowly .270/.400/.405, but he has hit a 5 run HR. Twice.
  • David Pauley had a tough spring, but he has an ERA of 3.00 with a 0.94 WHIP and an 8:3 strike-out to walk ratio in 18 innings. Then there's the 53% groundball rate.
  • David Hernandez just keeps striking people out; he has 23 K's in 14 IP with just 5 walks. Wow.
  • By comparison, Chris Tillman's 15 K's in 14 IP (with 7 BB's) seems unimpressive. At least he has a 1.29 ERA.
  • Brandon Snyder's bat is back (.355/.397/.548), but I don't know if it's back enough to play at first-base at the major league level.
  • Jake Arrieta continues getting K's (22 in 18 IP) while working on his control (8 BB). The 2.00 ERA is shiny though.
  • Not as shiny as Troy Patton's 0.55 ERA, despite just 10 K's and 6 BB in 16 IP. I have to think he'll see Triple-A in the fairly near future, with a call-up to the majors later in the year a possibility. It's just nice to see him back healthy.
  • Brandon Erbe is still just 21, and he's acquiring himself quite well in his first go-around at this level. 1.29 ERA, 14 IP, 16 K, 7 BB, 2 HR. And yet he's somehow 0-3.
  • 2008 draft-pick Caleb Joseph is hitting .327/.327/.462, which is pretty good for a catcher. The zero walks is a cause for concern though.
  • Ryan Adams has a higher OBP than SLG with his .364/.462/.455 line. If only he could play shortstop.
  • Pedro Florimon can play shortstop (though he has 8 errors) and he's showing some pop (.297/.352/.516) after not doing anything at all last year (.595 OPS).
  • Billy Rowell has been moved to the outfield, where his bat will play even less (.274/.366/.419). I went down to Frederick a little while ago, and he looked bad both at the plate and in the field. Not much confidence that he'll make it to the big leagues.
  • Brian Matusz may be a little too advanced for this level (26 K's in 21.2 IP). I was expecting better control though (9 BB's) and hopefully the HR (3 already) don't become an issue.
  • Pedro Beato is on his way back after 5.85 ERA last year. His ERA is still high (4.50), but he does have 18 K's in 20 IP. And 5 HR. Oh well.
  • Zach Britton has a nice 1.93 ERA, but his control (8 BB's in 14 IP) and groundball tendencies (48% after an excellent 65% last year) are less than ideal.
  • Rich Hill has made one appearance, striking out 3 in 3 IP and not allowing a walk (though he did hit a guy, which is way more satisfying). Looking forward to seeing him in Baltimore soon.
  • Xavier Avery is hitting .140/.140/.160 and has 20 K's in 50 AB. I'm just saying, I didn't think he was a particularly good pick in the draft.
  • Rick Zagone has a 1.72 ERA with 11 K's and 6 BB"s in 15.2 IP. And an 81% groundball rate. At least the infielders get a lot of practice.
  • Maybe it's the ballpark since Oliver Drake has a 60% groundball rate to go along with 11 K's to 2 BB's in 13 IP.
The Big Three pitching prospects are all off to good starts, with Brandon Erbe and David Hernandez providing some depth behind them. Reimold and Snyder are showing that the system isn't all pitching, and of course Matt Wieters is just awesome. The O's should see some reserves showing up sooner than later. Read more ...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Big Daddy Reuschel Has A Case For The HOF?

Chone Smith, who developed the historical WAR data for position players a little while ago, has added it for pitchers as well now.

#1 since 1955 is Roger Clemens at 128.3 WAR. That's what happens when you pitch for 24 years at such a high level.

A distant, distant second is Tom Seaver at 105.4 WAR. Roger Clemens was Tom Seaver plus 11 additional league average seasons. That's pretty absurd.

The top pitcher not in the Hall of Fame is Greg Maddux at 96.7 (4th overall). There are eight other pitchers from the recent past (some of whom are still active) in the top 20:

Clemens - 128.3, 1st
Maddux - 96.7, 4th
Randy Johnson - 91.8, 8th
Pedro Martinez - 75.2 12th
Mike Mussina - 74.8, 13th
Curt Schilling - 69.8, 15th
Tom Glavine - 67.2, 16th
Kevin Brown - 64.9, 19th
John Smoltz - 64.8, 20th

Just for a bit of perspective, #21-23 are Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, and Jim Bunning. As hard as it is for some people to understand, not being one of the 3-4 best pitchers in one's era doesn't mean that a pitcher isn't one of the best of all time. I think Clemens-Maddux-Johnson-Martinez is the expected order for most people, but some (mostly those that don't tout him as a HOFamer) may be surprised to see Mussina following those four (and neck-and-neck with Pedro). Even I was somewhat surprised to see Kevin Brown that high, and above Smoltz. Brown had four seasons ('96-'98 and 2000) better than Smoltz's best year.

Other observations:
  • Catfish Hunter - who I don't think should be near the HOF - is 92nd with 32.5 WAR. That's below Bruce Hurst and Camilo Pascual; neither of whom I've ever heard of.
  • As closers go, Mariano Rivera is certainly the cream of the crop. He's 45th amongst all pitchers with 46.9 WAR, and a couple more season like the last one he had would move him it the mid 30's (Dave Steib, Robin Roberts, Orel Hershiser territory). Goose Gossage is currently the top closer in the Hall with 40.1 WAR. Interestingly, career saves leader Trevor Hoffman is all the way down at #122 (a spot below Mike Boddicker) with 28.6 WAR. Closers just aren't that valuable unless they're very, very good. Like Mo.
  • Bert Blyleven (#7, 90.3 WAR) is a clear Hall of Famer. No doubter. Almost 5 WAR ahead of Bob Gibson. Seriously guys, just vote him in already.
  • Jack Morris is 66th with 39.4 WAR. Below Tom Candiotti. And Brad Radke. And Bob Friend. And Claude Osteen. Why is there even a debate about this?
  • Rick Reuschel, who I know next to nothing about, is 17th with 66.3 WAR. 214-191, 3.37 ERA (114 ERA+), no Cy Youngs (two #3 finishes), 3 All-Star games. No surprise that he didn't get much attention (two votes - 0.4% - and then he feel off the ballot). Nick-named "Big Daddy". Huh, I guess I learned something today.
[And an amusing, if somewhat lengthy, story about Reuschel:
"Larry Bowa of Philadelphia Phillies fame and himself a Cub for a few years, tells a story that reveals the mettle of the big guy. In the mid 70's, the Phillies had just been tatooed by the Montreal Expos in a weekend series in Canada and Bowa told a Montreal reporter in streams of colorable sentences that he wasn't upset at all because they were going to Chicago the next day and would beat up on the sad sack Cubs. The Phillies showed up the next day and had to face Reuschel who had apparently gotten a copy of the Montreal newspaper from some source. Reuschel said nothing but drilled Bowa in the ribs with his first pitch when the Phillies' shortstop stepped up to the plate. Bowa went down hard and got up slowly and walked down to first, chirping to Reuschel the whole time and calling him all sorts of obscenities. Reuschel let his actions speak for himself as he never said a word in reply. Leading off first base, Bowa then shouted repeatedly in similar obscene terms to Reuschel that he was going to steal second base. He never got the chance because Reuschel promptly picked him off before throwing a pitch to the plate. The proud but humbled shortstop from Philly picked himself up again from the dust and walked off the Wrigley turf to the hoots and jeers of the Chicago partisans. This was bad enough but it was to get worse for Bowa. As fortune would have it, Reuschel got a single the first time up with one out and Bowa saw a chance for revenge. He shouted to Dave Cash, Bowa's doubleplay partner and Spring Training greyhound racing amigo, that if "you get a grounder Doggie, give me a good toss and I'll hit that big ugly f***er right in his forehead." Luck seemed to be turning around for the Phillies shortstop as the leadoff batter did indeed hit a perfect double play grounder to Cash who, things actually going the same for Bowa that day, promptly juggled the ball before flipping it to Bowa. This bobble by Cash allowed Reuschel to come in high at second base and Bowa was spiked severely enough to have to leave the game bloodied. Sitting in the Phillies' dugout with his flesh torn open by the big guy who now stood on second base, Bowa did the math- he hit me, he picked me off, and he tore up my leg with his spikes. That was enough for the Phillies' shortstop. He knew Reuschel had gotten the best of him that day and promptly waved a white towel of surrender from the dugout in the direction of Reuschel before retreating to the clubhouse for treatment. Reuschel still said nothing but doffed his cap to Bowa in thanks for the tribute."
Anyway; back to the program.]
  • Of the active pitchers that are younger and still have a few years left to build their resumes, Roy Halladay leads the way with 40.6 WAR. He's 32, so seven more years averaging about 3 WAR would put him into the Jim Bunning range.
  • Johan Santana is at 38.5 WAR at the age of 30. I like his chances to move up to around Mike Mussina, who had 35 WAR at the same point in his career.
  • Roy Oswalt has 36.4 WAR and is 31, while CC Sabathia is 28 and has 33 WAR. Those four guys - Halladay, Santana, Oswalt, and Sabathia - are the four active pitchers who look to have the best chances of putting up really impressive career totals.
While Wins Above Replacement isn't the be-all and end-all of analysis and valuation, it is a major piece of the puzzle and serves to make some pretty solid Hall of Fame cases for some pitchers and against others. Read more ...

O's-Rangers, Berg Taken Deep But The Bats Pick Him Up

After a couple of one-run losses to the Rangers, the O's send Brad Bergesen to the hill. Berg was good in his first start, but Texas likes to hit - and they especially like to hit the fastball - so he'll really have to hit his spots and keep the ball down. Berg's success in this game may come down to how well he can utilize his slider.

The O's are an AL worst 2-8 in their last 10 games, and despite the top of the order hitting very well thus far, they're only about average as an offense (.339 wOBA as a team; 1 run above average). The pitching staff has been bad (5.60 FIP - which is actually only the third worst in the league), but it's almost entirely due to their horrible 1.88 HR/9. Their 7.12 K/9 is fourth best, and their 3.36 BB/9 is fifth. There is some hope that once their HR/FB (13.8%) regresses towards the mean a little, the team's pitching staff will be good enough to keep them in games more often than not.

Top 1:
  • Ian Kinsler launches the first pitch of the game high and deep to left-field. Luckily it goes just foul - a long strike one. Berg takes advantage and gets him swinging on a tailing fastball down and away.
  • David Murphy grounds out to second.
  • And Berg gets Michael Young swinging.
  • Pretty good first inning, I would say. For a guy with a 4.38 K/9 at Double-A last year, Bergesen has shown some ability to get strike-outs at the major league level.
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts pulls the first pitch through the right side for a lead-off single.
  • Adam Jones bloops the first pitch he sees into short left-field. Murphy doesn't get to it in-time and Jones gets in to second as Roberts hustles over to third.
  • Nick Markakis swings at the first pitch and hits a deep flyball to left. This one is caught, and Roberts comes in to score, but Jones is thrown out trying to advance to third.
  • Aubrey Huff grounds back to the mound to end the inning.
Top 2:
  • Hank Blalock flies out to center.
  • Marlon Byrd doubles just fair down the right-field line.
  • Nelson Cruz strikes out swinging on a nice slider down in the zone.
  • Chris Davis gives the Rangers a 2-1 lead with a home run to dead center-field.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia singles to right.
  • Elvis Andrus hits a line-drive to right, but Markakis is there to make the catch.
Bottom 2:
  • Chad Moeller draws a two-out walk.
  • Felix Pie follows it up with a single to right.
  • Cesar Izturis flies out to left to end the inning.
Top 3:
  • Kinsler grounds out to second.
  • Murphy works the count well again, and this time ends up with a walk.
  • Young grounds a tailor-made double play ball to short, but Izturis doesn't glove it nd everybody's safe.
  • Blalock grounds to first, with Huff making the throw to second to get the force. It was hit too slowly and Huff was playing too deep to turn two.
  • Byrd grounds out to third. Despite the error, Bergesen is able to get out of it without any damage.
Bottom 3:
  • Roberts his a slow roller back to the pitcher.
  • Jones doubles into the left-field corner.
  • Markakis can't check his swing on a high fastball and he goes back to the dugout.
  • Huff grounds out to second to end the inning.
Top 4:
  • Cruz grounds out to second.
  • Davis lines out to left.
  • Salty lines one into right-center, but Jones is able to cut it off and keep him to a single.
  • Andurs follows suit.
  • Kinsler grounds to third, with Wigginton's throw just beating a sliding Andrus at second.
Bottom 4:
  • Wigginton flies out to right.
  • Salty can't come up with a Scott pop-up in foul territory, and Luke takes advantage of the extra chance and draws a walk.
  • Moeller flies out to right.
  • Nice at bat by Pie, refusing to chase pitches out of the zone and drawing a walk.
  • Izturis with a single to short left, but Scott gets thrown out easily at home. Have to question the decision to send him a little, as Murphy got to the ball quickly, Scott had a bad jump, and the top of the order was coming up. Oh well; still 2-1 Texas.
Top 5:
  • Murphy homers to left-center to start the fifth. It looked like a routine flyball, but it just kept carrying.
  • Young doubles to left-center.
  • Blalock homers into the O's bullpen. 5-1, Rangers.
  • Back-to-back infield hits on groundballs to third. Wigginton made a bad throw on the first one and a nice diving stop on the second one, though both batters were safe.
  • That'll be it for Bergesen with Baez coming in. Berg's line doesn't look good (4 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 3 HR), but he pitched pretty well I'd say.
  • Davis can't hold up on a high fastball and Baez gets his first strike-out.
  • Nice running catch by Pie in left to retire Saltalamacchia.
  • Wigginton can't handle a grounder to third, and the bases are loaded on the error.
  • Kinsler grounds out to short to leave them stranded.
Bottom 5:
  • Brian Roberts deep and gone over the scoreboard. The ball is flying.
  • Jones grounds out to second.
  • Markakis lines a high fastball into right for a single.
  • Huff pulls a single through the right side, but Cruz overthrows the cut-off man. The two-base error lets Nick score and Aubrey take second.
  • Wigginton flies out to center.
  • Scott doubles to deep left-center to score Huff, and the lead is cut to 5-4.
  • Moeller can't bring them all the way back though, as he flies out to end the inning.
Top 6:
  • Nice 1-2-3 inning for Baez, getting a couple of grounders and a strike-out.
Bottom 6:
  • Jason Jennings in for the Rangers on the mound.
  • Pie tries to bunt for a hit, but he doesn't lay down a very good one and Jennings is able to throw him out.
  • Izturis gets hit in the foot with a breaking-ball and hops down to first-base.
  • Hit-and-run on, with Roberts shooting the ball through the hole between short and third. Two on with one out.
  • Adam Jones goes out and hooks one into deep left-field. The ball is carrying well today, and it goes just over the fence for a three-run home run. O's take the lead, 7-5.
  • Markakis draws a five-pitch walk.
  • Huff grounds into an inning-ending double play.
Top 7:
  • Byrd with a soft liner up the middle that Izturis ranges over to get.
  • Cruz grounds to short. Izturis' throw is off-line, but Huff makes a nice dive to catch it while keeping his foot on the bag just long enough to get the out.
  • Baez throws a fastball by Davis for his third K. Three perfect innings from Danys out of the pen have been huge for the O's today.
Bottom 7:
  • Moeller lines a two-out single into left-center.
  • Pie flies out to end the inning.
Top 8:
  • Jim Johnson in for the eighth.
  • Salty flies out to left.
  • Wicked curveball on the inside corner gets pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton looking.
  • Kinsler pops out behind the plate. Easy inning for JJ.
Bottom 8:
  • Izturis grounds out to second.
  • Roberts singles to left. That's his fourth hit of the day.
  • And he erases himself getting caught attempting to steal second.
  • Jones draws a walk. Eddie Guardado coming in to face Markakis.
  • Adam steals second, and it comes in handy as Nick singles to right to drive in the run. 8-5, O's.
  • Huff flies to right for the third out.
Top 9:
  • George Sherrill in for the save.
  • Andruw Jones pinch-hits for Murphy. He doubles just out of the reach of Pie's glove in left.
  • Young grounds out to third, with Huff coming off the bag at first to get Wigginton's errant throw and tagging the runner as he went by.
  • Blalock pops out.
  • Byrd with a flyball to left - Markakis is there and makes the catch.
O's comeback to win this one 8-5, with the top of the line-up (Roberts-Jones-Markakis) going 9-12, with 2 BB, 2 HR, 6 RBI, and 6 R. Everyone got a hit except for Wigginton, who took another 0-fer and dropped his average to .227.

Brad Bergesen pitched pretty well, but his pitches - namely the two-seam fastball and slider, which are the ones he sues most - look pretty similar and Berg doesn't mix them well enough to fool hitters multiple times through the line-up. He needs to mix in his change-up more and use his four-seamer to change the batter's eye level. Personally speaking, Bergesen is kind of boring to watch; though I'd gladly take that over the kind of excitement a pitcher like Daniel Cabrera used to provide.

And Danyz Baez continued his resurgence out of the pen, striking out 3 in 3 perfect innings to bring the totals to 10 K's in 10.1 IP and a 3.48 ERA. Not quite worth his salary, but it's better than the 6.44 ERA he gave the team in '07.

The O's bring their record to 9-10, and will work for the split in this four game series against Texas tomorrow with Jeremy Guthrie on the hill.
Read more ...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

O's-Rangers, Hendrickson Deserves The Loss

The O's looked like they were going to take the first game in there series after Koji Uehara gave the team another solid start (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K), but Jim Johnson (a run on four hits) and George Sherrill (a two-run home run by Michael Young) blew a 4-2 lead, and the team fell 5-4.

Mark Hendrickson will to try to even up the series - as well as the O's season record - against one of the league's best offenses. On the other side of the ball, Nick Markakis is looking to extend his hitting streak to 12 games (and his on-base streak to 26) against Scott Feldman, who's getting his first start of the year for Texas after three appearances out of the pen.

Top 1:
  • Not a good start for the Birds. Hendrickson got ahead 1-2, but Ian Kinsler fouled off a couple of pitches and got a fastball in the middle of the plate that he promptly deposited into the O's bullpen. Early 1-0 lead for Texas.
  • Michael Young grounds out to short.
  • Josh Hamilton lines the first pitch he sees into center for a single.
  • Andruw Jones draws a walk. That apparently was the first walk allowed by O's pitching in 23 innings. I wonder if those pitchers knew what team they played for.
  • Marlon Byrd pops out.
  • Nelson Curz grounds out to short.
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts, who hit his first home run of the year yesterday, flies out ot right.
  • Adam Jones fouls a bunt attempt off of his hand. That was a really stupid thing to try to due, and the execution wasn't particularly good either. Jones ends up grounding to second.
  • Nick takes ball one down low. It looked he knew exactly where the ball was going as soon as it left the pitcher's hand. Feldman does a nice job to jam him on a subsequent pitch though, and Nick grounds out to second.
Top 2:
  • Hendrickson can't keep this up. Chris Davis hits a towering home run over the scoreboard to lead off the inning. 2-0, Texas.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia lines a single up the middle.
  • Elvis Andrus grounds to short, with Izturis getting the force at second. Andrus is far to fast to turn the double play on such a slow grounder, but Roberts tries anyway and overthrows Huff at first (though the bounce kept the runner from advancing).
  • Kinsler goes deep again. 4 outs, 3 HR for Hendrickson. And 4-0, Rangers. I'm not ready to call the game yet, but Mark is not pitching well at all - leaving high 80's fastballs in the middle of the plate and not being able to get his slow curveball over consistently (or in the case of the Davis blast, getting it over but in a bad spot).
  • Young and Hamilton both flyout to right.
Bottom 2:
  • Aubrey Huff swings and misses at a nice slider in under his hands for strike three.
  • Ty Wigginton grounds out to first, which will drop his .516 OPS a few points.
  • Luke Scott flies out to right.
Top 3:
  • Andruw Jones lead off the third with a home run to center. Now I'm done. Not with the game so much as with Hendrickson. I assume that this has never happened to a starter before, but I imagine we'll hear all about that from all of the game recaps. Just awful.
  • A groundout and a couple of K's ends the inning. 5-0 Texas, and there's action in the O's pen.
Bottom 3:
  • Gregg Zaun is hitting just .116, but 4 of his 5 hits are doubles and he has more walks (8) than strike-outs (7). And now that BA will go down, as he grounds out weakly to third.
  • Felix Pie strikes out looking and he knew it - as soon as the catcher caught it he turns around and went back to the dugout, even before the umpire made a call.
  • Cesar Izturis puts the O's in the hit column with a single to short right-field.
  • Roberts pops out. Usually we only see this kind of listless play from the Birds on a Sunday.
Top 4:
  • Salty might be hurt or something, because he only singles (off of a diving Wigginton's glove) to start the fourth.
  • Andrus lines out to second, but Salty gets back to first before Roberts can double him off.
  • Kinsler strikes out on a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner.
  • Young strikes out swinging. It's amazing what a pitcher can do once he stops throwing batting practice.
Bottom 4:
  • Jones grounds out to short.
  • Markakis doubles into the left-field corner. The pitch was down and away, and Nick just flicked his bat at it.
  • Huff flies out to left.
  • Wigginton lines a single to center. They send Markakis, and the throw beats him, but a great slide under the glove lets Nick score. The O's are on the board.
  • Scott draws a walk.
  • Zaun pops out to leave the runners stranded.
Top 5:
  • Hamilton gets on with a slow nubber down the third-base line. Wigginton charged it, but didn't even bother to make a throw.
  • Jones hits a pop-up into short left-field, and neither Pie (who got there a little late) nor Izturis (who had the ball go off his glove) could make a play.
  • Double steal without a throw on the first pitch to Byrd. And it pays off, as Marlon flies out to deep left to bring in a run. And Jones was able to tag-up and get to third with just one out.
  • Finally - mercifully (for me anyway) - the O's go to the pen. Brian Bass will try to keep the score where it is and hope the Birds can get some more runs on the board.
  • Cruz hits a ball off the end of the bat about 3 feet in front of the plate. He thought it was foul, but Zaun quickly recovers the fair ball and tags him for the out.
  • Davis draws a walk.
  • Salty strikes out to end the inning, but the Rangers extend their lead to 6-1.
Bottom 5:
  • Pie pops out.
  • Izturis bounces out to the pitcher.
  • Roberts doubles to deep right-center - the 270th double of his career, which moves him into 5th all-time for the Orioles.
  • Jones does a nice job to lay off of a 2-2 curveball out of the zone. It's a pitch he would have swung at last year, and almost swung at this year. Unfortunately he grounds the 3-2 pitch back to the mound.
Top 6:
  • Single to center for Andrus. Another inning, another lead-off hit.
  • Kinsler goes down swinging.
  • Andrus takes a little too much of a lead at first, and Bass is able to spin and pick him off. Don't see that too often with right-handed pitchers.
  • Young strikes out swinging.
Bottom 6:
  • Rookie left-hander and top prospect Derek Hooland takes over for Feldman.
  • And he is throwing some cheese - 96 mph fastball on the outside corner strikes Markakis out looking.
  • Huff is out in-front of a breaking-ball and flies out to right.
  • Ty Wigginton sure likes hitting against lefties. He deposits Holland's first pitch - a fastball at the letters - into the O's pen.
  • Scott bounces out to second. The Orioles get one back; it's now 6-2.
Top 7:
  • David Murphy - in for Hamilton - grounds back to Bass.
  • So does Andruw Jones.
  • Byrd singles into left, right in-front of Pie. I had though that Felix would show better range out there.
  • Cruz with a flyball to deep right-center, but Markakis is able to run it down at the warning track.
Bottom 7:
  • Zaun does a nice job to work a walk. That's why I'm not really concerned about his low batting average - once his BABIP normalizes (it's a minuscule .139 right now), his BA should move up near .220 and so his OBP (.255 coming into the game) should like-wise increase into the very solid .340 area, since he is still adept at getting on base via the walk.
  • Luis Montanez, hitting for Pie, strikes out swinging.
  • Izturis gets on with an infield hit.
  • Roberts with a line-drive to left, but Murphy is there to make the catch.
  • Jones grounds out to third. Big opportunity wasted there.
Top 8:
  • 1-2-3 inning for Bass, including another K. He has done a great job out of the pen today, both in keeping the game from getting our of control and in eating some innings.
Bottom 8:
  • The O's need baserunners, and Nick does his job and draws a walk. Markakis is on pace to draw exactly 99 walks for the second year in a row. And he's been a slow starter in his career.
  • Huff pops out.
  • Wigginton flies out to short center.
  • Scott flies out to left.
Top 9:
  • Matt Albers in to get some work.
  • Kinsler flies out to left, even though it was Jones ranging over to make the catch.
  • Young strikes out swinging.
  • Murphy flies out to center. Need for in the ninth, with the bottom of the order coming up.
Bottom 9:
  • Zaun grounds to short, but Andrus throws the ball low and Davis isn't able to scoop it. Runner on second to star the ninth.
  • Montanez single to right-field to put runners on the corners.
  • Izturis with a soft liner into left. Murphy dives, but can't come up with it and the ball goes all the way to the wall. Double for Cesar, and the score is now 6-3. This was all against lefty CJ Wilson, though the Rangers have closer Frank Fransisco warming in the pen.
  • Roberts swings at the first pitch - a fastball up and out of the zone - and pops out to second. Bad at-bat in that situation for Brian. It will by Frankie coming in for the save opportunity.
  • Adam Jones with a line-drive single to right-field. Two runs in, and the deficit is down to one run.
  • Markakis strikes out swinging. It looked like he was trying to win the game with one swing, and Fransisco blew the fastball by him.
  • Huff flies out to left to end it.
The O's made a valiant comeback, but Mark Hendrickson dug them into too deep of a hole. When your starter gives up four home runs, you're not going to win very often. At least Bass pitched well in relief (3.2 shutout innings, with 4 K's) and the offense woke up a little in the later innings. The Birds will try to avoid losing the series tomorrow, with Brad Bergesen making his second start.
Read more ...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eaton Leads O's Passed Pale Hose, 6-2

Adam Eaton really needed this start to keep a firm (relatively speaking) hold on a rotation spot, even with the injury that'll side-line Alfredo Simon for the rest of the year. And it was a dandy; 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 9 K. As I said during his last start, Eaton didn't really look as bad as his line (mostly the ERA) would indicate. His ERA is still high at 7.04, but he's not walking guys (2.35 BB/9) or giving up home runs (0.6 HR/9) and he's one of two O's (Chris Ray being the other) striking out over a batter per inning (11.15 K/9, compared to 6.57 for his career). I said some not particularly supportive things about Eaton when he was signed, but right now I have to say that I'm OK with him keeping a rotation spot for at least a little while longer. He lucks into a good first half and maybe the team can spin him for something at the deadline.

Also, it never hurts when the offense puts 6 runs on the board for you, with every Oriole getting on base again. Maybe I didn't pay attention to it before this season, but it seems like every other game that happens with the bats (that eight or nine guys all get on). I suppose I could look into it (I won't), but I would assume that such a thing isn't really common. Maybe I'm off base (no pun intended - well, maybe a little bit), but I still think it's a good thing to see and so I'll keep mentioning it until I realize that I'm wrong (I guess 9 times on-base - you for each hitter - and 27 outs would be an OBP around .250, which is pretty bad. That realization came about fairly quickly.). In any case, good job O's hitters. Read more ...

Is Something Wrong With Jeremy Guthrie

Jeremy Guthrie pitched poorly in the World Baseball Classic; he pitched poorly in Spring Training; and he's not off to a particularly good start this season. I was expecting some regression based on his low BABIP the last couple of years, but nothing to this degree. So what's going on?

2007: 3.70
2008: 3.63
2009: 5.16

Well that's clearly not good, but it's only been 22.2 innings so far this year and ERA isn't a very good stat anyway.

2007: 4.41
2008: 4.53
2009: 5.93

Well that's clearly not good, but it's only been 22.2 innings so far this year.

2007: 6.3
2008: 5.7
2009: 4.8

As trends go, that is a really bad one. It's hard to really succeed in the majors with a 5.7 K/9. It's almost impossible to do it with a 4.8 K/9, unless you've got a lot of other things working in your favor.

2007: 2.4
2008: 2.7
2009: 4.0

And one of those things has to be good control. Jeremy has shown above-average control since he came to the Orioles, but he did have some issues with it before that (and it's one of the reasons Cleveland let him go).

2007: 1.18
2008: 1.13
2009: 1.59

At this rate, he'll give up 35 HR if he pitches 200 innings this year. That is just unacceptable, but I don't think it'll keep up.

2007: .277
2008: .267
2009: .316

Small sample size, but some regression was to be expected. Doesn't help that the defense has actually not played well thus far.

2007: 1.11
2008: 1.15
2009: 0.70

Guthrie's never really been a groundball pitcher, but he's giving up way more flyballs this year. That's why the home runs are up - his HR/FB has actually fallen from 11.2% to 10.5% to 10%, but he's giving up so many more balls in the air that some of them are finding their way over the fense. This is something that should get back to near his career averages sooner than later. And the home run rate should fall some along with it.

FB %, velocity, and movement:
2007: 67.8% (93.4 mph), -6.1 X, 10.4 Z
2008: 64.1% (93.2 mph), -5.0 X, 9.9 Z
2009: 55.9% (92.5 mph), -4.4 X, 10.0 Z

The X is the horizontal movement, and the Z is the vertical movement. Jeremy is using his fastball a lot less in 2009, and it has less run in on right-handed batters and has lost some velocity. Not a huge cause for concern yet, but the pitch has gone from having slightly below average movement to being relatively straight. Maybe Bergesen can teach him the two-seamer.

SL %, velocity, and movement:
2007: 22.4% (83.7 mph), 3.0 X, 1.2 Z
2008: 18.1% (84.3 mph), 3.3 X, 1.3 Z
2009: 19.0% (84.1 mph), 3.7 X, 1.2 Z

He's throwing the slider about as much as he did last year and it has some more bite to it, running away from right-handed batters. You'd think it would be a pretty good strike-out pitch for him.

CB %, velocity, and movement:
2007: 4.5% (74.9 mph), 5.9 X, -3.3 Z
2008: 6.3% (73.9 mph), 6.1 X, -4.8 Z
2009: 6.2% (74.9 mph), 4.8 X, -4.6 Z

His curveball has actually lost some movement, after getting sharper last year. Very small sample size though, so take all that with a grain of salt.

CH %, velocity, and movement:
2007: 5.3% (82.8 mph), -6.2 X, 7.2 Z
2008: 11.4% (84.9 mph), -5.2 X, 6.5 Z
2009: 18.6% (84.6 mph), -4.5 X, 6.6 Z

When I looked back at his 2008 season, I noted that Jeremy had used his change-up more, and that he had some success with it. Well he's going to it even more in '09, though I don't know how batters are fairing against it. It has seen a similar loss in movement to his fastball, and is likewise a relatively straight pitch.

O-Swing%, O-Contact%, Zone%
2007: 23.3%, 65.6%, 53.7%
2008: 26.6%, 65.9%, 50.9%
2009: 22.2%, 70.0%, 56.3%

Batters are swinging at pitches out of the zone less against Jeremy in 2009, though when they do they're making more contact. That's not good, but we're not looking at all that many pitches at this point. The percent of pitches in the zone is interesting; he's throwing more strikes, and yet his walk rate is way up. Batters are swinging at the same percentage of pitches in the zone as last year (65.5% in both) and actually making contact at a lower rate (88.6% vs. 89.8%). It seems that the extra walks are a bit flukey.

The ERA doesn't look good thus far, but it's early and I think things will turn around. The issues driving that high ERA (and FIP) are his walks and his home runs, and both of those things really shouldn't continue at near their current rates. I'm mildly concerned about the fastball movement and velocity, but he started out last year with a lower velocity for his first couple of starts before picking things up and he's already started doing that this year (his average FB vel. went up in each game). Maybe he could have used a little more work during the spring, and a FIP around 4.50 again going forward is pretty likely. Jeremy's not a #1 starter, but he's our #1 starter. Read more ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

O's-White Sox, A Very Successful Debut For Bergy

With Alfredo Simon on the shelf and Radhames Liz very ineffective out of the bullpen, the Orioles called up right-hander Brad Bergesen to make his Major League debut. He pitched pretty well in Spring Training, and is 1-1 at Triple-A, with 11 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 2.45 ERA. I'm expecting him to come out and throw his sinking fastball for strikes (54% groundball rate in AA and 63% in A-Ball last year), use his defense, and get knocked around occasionally.

Bergesen will be counted on to turn things around for the O's - who have lost five straight - against Jose Contreras (who always seems to flummox the Birds with his junk pitches) and the White Sox. At least, if the weather allows it.

Top 1:
  • Fine start for the 23 year-old, getting Chris Getz to groundout to third on a 2-0 pitch.
  • Bergesen jams Josh Fields and gets him to ground back to the mound.
  • I didn't think he could throw so hard, but Bergesen got Carlos Quentin to swing and miss at a 94 mph fastball up in the zone before Quentin starts fouling off a whole bunch of pitches. Eventually Bergesen gets him swinging with a good slider down and away.
  • Seeing that inning unfold, it's not that easy to argue that Adam Eaton deserves a spot in the rotation over Bergesen.
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts grounds out to second.
  • Luis Montanez, who was called up to take the place of the injured Ryan Freel and is in LF, grounds out in front of the plate. Adam Jones' hamstring is apparently still sore.
  • Nick Markakis inside-outs a pitch and gets on with a bloop single over the third-baseman.
  • Aubrey Huff grounds out to first to end the inning.
Top 2:
  • Jim Thome grounds out to short.
  • Jermaine Dye walks on four pitches.
  • Paul Konerko bounces to Wigginton at third, who starts the easy double play.
  • Two innings in the books for Bergesen, and I have to say that (while it's early) I could get used to watching games like this.
Bottom 2:
  • Ty chases an 0-2 slider out of the zone for strike three.
  • Luke Scott goes the other way with a single to left-center.
  • Gregg Zaun fouls a ball off his leg and collapses to the ground. He hops around for a while, but eventually gets back in the box and flies out to deep right-field.
  • Felix Pie shows some patience and draws a walk.
  • Cesar Izturis grounds out to leave two on-base.
Top 3:
  • AJ Pierzynski grounds out to second.
  • Alexei Ramirez grounds out to third, with Wigginton making a nice back-hand stop.
  • Great sinker on the inside corner gets Brian Anderson looking.
  • Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds. And get groundballs.
Bottom 3:
  • Roberts grounds out to second again.
  • Montanez chases an 0-2 fastball way outside. He doesn't look as good at the plate as I expected, given his modest Triple-A success this year.
  • Nick Markakis grounds up the middle, but the second baseman was shaded over towards first a little and the ball gets through for his second single of the game.
  • A bomb right down the right-field line by Huff gives the O's a 2-0 lead.
  • Wigginton pops out to end the inning.
Top 4:
  • Getz starts the fourth with a walk.
  • Great sinker down and in gets Fields swinging.
  • Groundball to third should have been another double play, but Ty can't handle the play. Runners on the corners with one out for Thome.
  • A pitch right down the middle is called a ball, but Bergesen comes back to that tailing fastball and gets Thome looking.
  • He has a chance to get out of it - and gets a groundball - but it goes up the middle for a single (the first Chicago hit of the game) to bring in a run.
  • Another single passed a diving Roberts brings in Quentin, but Nick Markakis guns down the runner at third to end the inning.
  • The score is back even at 2-2, but no runs should have scored in that inning.
Bottom 4:
  • Scott draws a walk.
  • Zaun grounds to the right side, with Getz making a diving stop and throwing him out at first.
  • Pie grounds out to first.
  • Izturis lines out to first.
  • The O's can't make their lead-off walk pay off.
Top 5:
  • AJ grounds through the right side for a single. Kind of wish the O's infield defense was better.
  • Ramirez, with the first hard-hit ball off Bergesen, doubles down the third-base line.
  • Groundball to short lets the runner score from third on the throw to first to get Anderson.
  • Getz gets crazed by an inside fastball and goes to first.
  • Fields flies out to deep right.
  • Quentin grounds out to short, but the Sox have taken a 3-2 lead.
Bottom 5:
  • Roberts draws a four-pitch walk.
  • Montanez falls behind 0-2 and grounds out to short. I'd rather he not continues hitting second - I see no reason not to just move Markakis up in the line-up while Jones is out.
  • Speaking of Nick, he drives a double into the right-center field gap to tie the game.
  • Huff gets the intentional walk with first-base open and the righty on-deck.
  • Wigginton pops out. He did not look comfortable at all against Contreras' side-arm breaking-balls.
  • Scott singles sharply passed Getz at second to bring in Markakis and give the O's back the lead.
  • Zaun grounds out to third to end the inning.
Top 6:
  • Thome drives a ball to deep center, but Pie is able to run it down at the wall (despite taking an indirect route out there).
  • Dye grounds out to short. That'll be Bergesen's last batter - with Paul Konerko coming up Dave Trembley will go to Danyz Baez out of the pen. Very impressive debut for Berg.
  • Konerko grounds out weakly to first.
Bottom 6:
  • Pie grounds out to first.
  • Izturis draws a walk.
  • Cesar steals second, and goes to third as the throw from the catcher goes into center-field.
  • Roberts draws his second walk of the game.
  • Montanez pulls a pitch down the third-base line for a double - Roberts stops at third but Izturis comes in to score and extend the lead to 5-3. They're bringing in the lefty Clayton Richard to face Markakis, who's 3-3 thus far.
  • The White Sox bring the infield in, but Nick shoots a ball the other way right through it to make it 6-3.
  • Huff hits a hard groundball, but it goes right to the shortstop who starts the inning ending double play.
Top 7:
  • Chris Ray out for the eighth. This makes the decision to use Baez last inning even more confusing. Why not have let Bergesen pitch to at least Konerko, if not Pierzynski?
  • AJ flies out to deep left-field.
  • Ramirez lines the first pitch he sees into left for a single.
  • Ray blows a fastball by Anderson, but Ramirez steals second on the 3-2 pitch as Zaun's throw bounced in to second.
  • Getz grounds up the middle, with Roberts making a sliding stop and barely throwing him out at first to end the inning.
Bottom 7:
  • Wigginton grounds out to short.
  • Scott lines a single into left-field. It looks like he's working on going the other way today.
  • Zaun singles to left, batting right-handed for the first time in the game.
  • Pie bounces out to second.
  • Izturis doubles down the first-base line to really break the game open; 8-3 O's.
  • Roberts grounsd back to the mound for the third out.
Top 8:
  • Jim Johnson in for the eighth, despite the five run lead.
  • Fields goes down swinging at an inside fastball.
  • Quentin draws a walk.
  • Nice change-up gets Thomes swinging. I didn't think JJ really used that pitch out of the pen, but it had some good sink and tail on it.
  • Nasty sink on a two-seam fastball at the knees gets Dye looking. JJ strikes out the side in impressive fashion.
Bottom 8:
  • Montanez grounds out to second.
  • Wow. 4-4 on the day and with a 8-3 lead in the ninth, Nick works a walk. You'd think maybe he'd swing for the fences.
  • Like Aubrey Huff, who goes yard for a second time tonight. 10-3, O's.
  • Wigginton grounds back to the mound.
  • As does Scott. I think they added enough insurance runs, though.
Top 9:
  • Brian Bass closes out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Nice to be back in the win column. Brad Bergesen was tremendous (5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) and his 10-2 groundball to flyball ratio will play very well once the weaather heats up at Camden Yards. It's only one game, but I'm slightly more confident in his ability to stick around as a major league starter.

On offense, everyone in the line-up except Wiggy got on. Nick Markakis went 4-4 with a walk, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. Aubrey Huff hit a pair of two-run home runs, and walked. Luke Scott had three hits and a walk. Very imperssive win for the Birds.
Read more ...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Glad To Be Out Of Fenway

Nothing like a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox to bring an O's fan back down to earth after a solid start to the season. Just a quick recap of the horror:

Game 1: 10-8 loss, with Jeremy Guthrie (4.2 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 4 BB, 5 K) blowing a 7-0 lead.

Game 2: 6-4 loss, with the O's coming back from the 6-0 hole that Adam Eaton dug (4 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 4 K) but not making it all the way.

Game 3: 2-1 loss, with Jon Lester (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K) being just a bit better than Koji Uehara (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K). Koji became the first O's pitcher to get out of the sixth inning this year. Adam Jones had to leave the game with a sore hamstring.

Game 4: 12-1 loss, with Mark Hendrickson being decent (5 IP, 3 R, 6 K) but Dennis Sarfate (1 IP, 3 R) and especially Radhames Liz (1 out, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP, and 6 R) not so much. Jones didn't play, and Ryan Freel had to leave the game after getting hit in the head with an errant pick-off throw.

The O's have a 6.43 ERA (6.21 FIP) from their pitchers, which can't possibly continue, and -7.6 UZR with the gloves (with Jones, Pie, Markakis, and Izturis all joining Huff as below average thus far), which shouldn't continue, and yet they're still just 6-7 on the season. A lot of that has to do with a .277/.363/.429 team batting line, but that's not quite as far off from what it should be. They win 6 out of every 13 games for the rest of the year and that's a 75 win season, which I think most people would be pretty happy with.

The O's come back to Baltimore for an eight-game homestand, starting off with the Chicago White Sox tomorrow night.

Read more ...

It's The Talent, Stupid

A lot of Orioles fans have a poor opinion of Albert Belle, mostly related to the big contract he was given and the degenerative hip condition that ended his career. Then there was his extremely well established "bad attitude." Even I was guilty of it; when Belle was with the White Sox and they played a game in Baltimore, a couple of friends and I taunted him from the stands by first-base when he got on with shouts of "Ding-Dong." He didn't take too kindly to it, and glared back at us. Still, the guy was a fantastic hitter for his career, putting up a .295/.369/.564 line with 381 HR and a .396 wOBA. He's also the only player in history to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season.

I still think he has about as a good a case for the Hall of Fame as Jim Rice did (39.8 WAR to 42.9 WAR, though neither should be in) - and don't even try to tell me that Belle didn't inspire an equal amount of fear in pitchers (even if the whole idea is stupid). And then there are stories like this (hat-tip to Joe Posnanski):
"Email from brilliant reader Tom:

"I saw Albert Belle try to turn down a HBP once. It was Turn Ahead the Clock day, and the Orioles were wearing billowing trash-bag “futuristic” uniforms. Belle was 4-for-4 with a walk and 3 home runs already, including a two-out game-tying shot in the bottom of the ninth. And he had driven in 6 of the O’s 7 runs. So when the ball ran in on his floppy outfit in the bottom of the 11th, with a man aboard, he waved off the ump and tried to stay in the box. My friend and I at the game had absolutely no doubt that had he gotten away with it, he would have hit his fourth homer. Belle felt the same, evidently. But eventually they ordered him along to first base, and Cal Ripken singled in the winning run three batters later."

The date was July 25, 1999. The Orioles were playing the Angels and Shigetoshi Hasegawa was pitching. What made the game weird was that Belle actually talked after the game.

“I’m not going to be accessible but when the situation calls for it, I’ll talk,” he told reporters. “This is one of those times.” And the story confirms that Belle did indeed stay at the plate while fans chanted “Albert! Albert!”

“I told the umpire I wasn’t going to first, that I’d take the 1-0 count,” Belle said after the game. “I told (Angels catcher Matt Walbeck) to tell the pitcher to throw the ball over the plate.”"
Some fans like scrappy players like David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist. I like players who are good at baseball, though I do have a particular affinity for guys that people don't like for unimportant reasons. Guys like Belle who are considered "surly" but may just want to go out and play ball. A better example of this might be Erik Bedard, who really does seem like a nice guy that wants to be left alone to do his job. I can empathize with his reaction to the media attention, and so I find his responses to be particularly amusing.

Like when he told reporters:
"You get four questions."
“Why only four?"
"That's one."

Next time out?
"Five questions... That's one more than last time."

Or after striking out 10 in a game:
Q: Double digits, though, you have to feel a little bit good about that. Give yourself a little credit.
Bedard: Not really.
Q: More movement on your fastball this game?
Bedard: The same. Same as usual.
Q: Any pitch that was more effective tonight?
Bedard: (Shakes his head).

Asked if he's healthy in his first game back after shoulder surgery; "Yep."

And finally, some greeting cards from Mr. Bedard, courtesy of LookoutLanding:

It's the smiley face that really gets me. Read more ...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Amazing Pitching Performances

Zach Greinke pitched a complete game shutout tonight, as the Royals beat the Rangers 2-0. He gave up 7 hits and 0 walks, and struck out 10. That brings his season line to 20 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 26 K, and a 0.00 ERA. He's 3-0, and looking like a pretty strong candidate to be in the Cy Young discussion this year.

In other news, Rich Harden pitched an amazing (in another sense) game a couple of days ago. He went 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 8 K. Nine baserunners and eight strike-outs in three innings. And that ninth out actually occurred on the bases, so Harden didn't retire a single runner on balls in play. That has never happened before, for a pitcher that pitched that many innings in a game.
Read more ...

O's-Red Sox, Eaton's ERA Balloons To 11.25

The O's jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first game of their series against the Red Sox, but Jeremy Guthrie got knocked around for 8 runs (5 earned) on 8 hits and 4 walks in 4.2 IP. On the bright side, he did strike out 5. Danys Baez gave up what turned out to be the winning runs in the 10-8 game, with Matt Albers pitching the only scoreless innings for the Birds (two of them) though he did give up four baserunners. The top of the order did go 6-12 with 3 walks and 7 RBI (5 by Markakis, with 4 coming his second home run of the year). And every starter except Cesar Izturis got on base again.

The 6-4 Orioles will send Adam Eaton to the mound against Josh Beckett and the 4-6 Red Sox, as the try to even up the series. The Sox have three guys in their line-up with an OPS over 1.000 (Jason Bay at 1.281, Kevin Youlikis at 1.150, and JD Drew at 1.066) and the O's counter with three of their own (Adam Jones at 1.259, Nick Markakis at 1.063, and Brian Roberts at 1.037).

Top 1:
  • Brian Roberts can't catch up to a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner, and starts the game with a strike-out.
  • First-pitch curveball to Adam Jones buckles his legs a little and is in there for a called strike. High fastball swung on and missed for K number two.
  • Nick Markakis takes an 0-2 curveball into center for a single. The pitch was down and out of the zone, but Nick just dropped the head of the bat on it.
  • Aubrey Huff checks his swing on the first pitch a hits a slow roller to third to end the inning.
Bottom 1:
  • Jacoby Ellsbury flies out to right.
  • Fastball on the outside corner gets Dustin Pedroia looking. The strike-zone is fairly large tonight, as the ball was almost certainly off the plate and low.
  • 3-2 curveball gets David Ortiz looking. Great pitch by Eaton, and it's nice to see a 1-2-3 inning.
Top 2:
  • Ty Wigginton grounds out to third.
  • Luke Scott single in-front of JD Drew in right.
  • Gregg Zaun doubles off of the Green Monster in left-field, with Scott holding up at third.
  • Felix Pie swings and misses a curveball in the dirt. Then he takes a curveball for a strike. Then a few pitches later he takes another one for strike three.
  • Cesar Izturis grounds up the middle, but the shortstop was shaded that way and makes the play. The O's threaten, but can't get a run across.
Bottom 2:
  • Kevin Youkilis with a lead-off double into the left-field corner.
  • Hanging curveball to JD Drew is caught by Jones in center.
  • Jason Bay draws a walk. Not the worst thing in the world with first-base open and Mike Lowell coming up.
  • Line-drive to left snagged by Pie.
  • Jason Varitek doubles down the right-field line to give the Sox a 2-0 lead.
  • Nick Green grounds back to the mound to end the inning.
Top 3:
  • Roberts takes a fastball way out of the zone for a strike. Jim Palmer says that he wants to go down and pitch given the size of the zone. Roberts is talking about it with the ump, and Dave Trembley comes out to defend his player. Brian ends up flying out to left.
  • Jones grounds out sharply to third.
  • Markakis draws a walk. I was worried that given his high batting average, Nick would stop walking. He has, but he's kept his plate discipline in tact (18.2% of balls outside the zone swung at this year, compared to 18% last year). He may actually improve for a third straight year. $66 M is a steal.
  • Huff thought he walked on four pitches, but the ump calls a 3-0 fastball almost a foot outside a strike. The second one is called a ball, and Aubrey goes to first-base.
  • Wigginton flies out to leave a couple stranded.
Bottom 3:
  • Ellsbury flies out to center.
  • Pedroia bloops a single into right-field.
  • Ortiz bloops a curveball into left-filed. Eaton isn't pitching poorly, but sometimes the hits just fall in.
  • Youkilis isn't happy about the zone either, as a couple of calls aren't to his liking. Doesn't much matter, as a he takes a high change-up over the Monster for a three-run homer. 4-0 Boston.
  • Curveball off the plate gets Drew looking. It wasn't the worst call of the night.
  • Bay walks again, as Eaton doesn't even come close to getting one into the gigantic zone.
  • Big jump lets bay steal second despite a nice throw from Zaun. Single by Lowell brings him in on the next pitch. At least Pie plays the ball well off the wall to keep it at one base.
  • Varitek flies out to center. You have to be pretty bad to give up five runs with this strike-zone to work with.
Top 4:
  • O's go down in order in the fourth.
Bottom 4:
  • Three hits brings in the sixth Boston run, but Eaton is able to get Drew swinging to leave a couple runners on.
Top 5:
  • Izturis drops a great bunt down the third-base line. Not even a throw, and Cesar singles to start the inning.
  • Roberts doubles into the left-field corner. Breaking up this shutout would be nice.
  • Jones walks to load the bases. Beckett tried to get him to chase a pitch out of the zone with two strikes, but Adam wouldn't do it.
  • Markakis walks for the second time to bring in a run. Great at bat, not trying to do too much.
  • 2-0 fastball up in the zone gets driven off the Monster by Huff to clear the bases (with an assist to Nick Green in not coming up with the throw from the outfield). Just like that it's 6-4, with still no outs.
  • Wigginton hits a line-drive, but it goes right to Lowell at third.
  • Scott grounds back to the mound, and Beckett catches Huff too far off base. Aubrey gets tagged out, but he stays in the run-down long enough to allow Luke to get to second.
  • Zaun flies out to right-field, but the O's are right back in this game.
Bottom 5:
  • Brian Bass in to start the fifth. Another four-inning performance from Eaton, who's line once again looks a little worse than his pitching would have implied.
  • Lowell with a one-out double into left-field. Pie made a bad throw, where a good one might have had him.
  • Varitek walks.
  • Green pops out to Huff.
  • Ellsbury grounds to short, with Izturis' throw jsut beating him at first. Nice job by Bass to get out of the inning.
Top 6:
  • O's can't keep the momentum going, being retired in order.
Bottom 6:
  • Pedroia gets drilled in the leg with a fastball, and limps down to first-base.
  • Given that, it seems strange that he would try to steal second. Zaun makes a great throw, and Pedroia is out pretty easily.
  • Ortiz grounds out, on a play that would have been difficult if - as Gary Thorne says - the big DH could run at all.
  • Bass strikes Youklis out swinging with a good breaking-ball.
Top 7:
  • Okajima in there for Beckett.
  • Jones strikes out looking.
  • Markakis strikes out swinging.
  • Huff pops out on the first pitch.
Bottom 7:
  • After a double by Drew, Chris Ray comes in to pitch.
  • He strikes Bay out swinging.
  • Lowell flies out to center.
  • Varitek gets intentionally walked (despite being a pretty bad hitter) to bring Green up.
  • Actually it won't, as lefty-swinging Chris Carter will pinch-hit. I might have preferred to pitch to Varitek, even without considering the extra runner aboard. Doesn't much matter, as Ray strikes him out looking.
Top 8:
  • Wigginton rips a single to center off Saito. Ty somehow steals second, despite the throw beating him to the bag.
  • Scott strikes out swinging.
  • Zaun can't check his swing, and goes down as the second K of the inning.
  • Pie flies out to right. If there will be a comeback tonight, it'll have to be off of the closer.
Bottom 8:
  • Jim Johnson will try to keep the defecit at two.
  • JJ gets Ellsbury to ground to second, with Roberts making a nice play to throw across his body to get the speedy runner.
  • Pedroia chases a 94 mph fastball up and out of the zone (probably - hard to tell in this game). First strike-out for JJ.
  • Ortiz flies out to medium-depth right-field, and it's Roberts raging out there and dropping the ball. Brian was already on the outfield grass due to the shift, and that's why he was the once to attepmt the catch with Nicl playing very deep.
  • Youkilis doubles into left for his fourth hit of the day.
  • Drew gets the intentional walk to load the bases for Bay. I don't like where this is going.
  • Johnson gets Bay to flyout to right, a couple of pitches after a ball falls a 2-3 inches foul down the left-field line.
Top 9:
  • Jon Papelbon in for the save.
  • Izturis starts things off and takes a fastball nowhere near the inside corner for a strike. Cesar works the count full, but ends up popping out.
  • Roberts gets ahead 3-0, and singles through the left side on a 3-2 pitch. Tying run coming to the plate.
  • Jones gets hit on the elbow with a first-pitch fastball. The tying run is now on base.
  • After falling behind 0-2, Nick works gets it to a full count before flying out to right. It's up to Aubrey Huff.
  • Pop-out to short ends the game.
The minor comeback was nice, but it wasn't enough. The bullpen didn't give up any runs, at least. And this time it was every Oriole expect Pie getting on base. The O's will try to stay above .500 tomorrow, as well as keep there undefeated streak in series going.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Keep Zaunie In There

Win-Win-Loss, Win-Win-Loss, Win-Win-Loss.

With Gregg Zaun (ZAUN!) behind the plate, the O's are 6-0 with 45 runs scored (though ZAUN! is hitting just .136/.269/.273) and 28 runs allowed (4.67 per game).

With Chad Moeller behind the plate, the O's are 0-3 with 11 runs scored (Moeller is hitting .364/.364/.727) and 41 runs allowed (13.67 per game).

Incredibly small sample size, but it at least merits keeping an eye one. (Not really, but it's kind of interesting.) Read more ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

O's-Rangers, Why Even Bother Having A Broom?

The O's seem to have a pattern down, where they win the first two games of a series based on solid offensive production before getting blown out in the third game. I'd be perfectly happy if that held all year, as the O's would win over 100 games despite being outscored on the season.

In the first game in Texas the line-up showed its depth once again, with every starter except Cesar Izturis getting on base. Aubrey Huff had a four-hit, three-RBI day, and Felix Pie picked up three hits including his first home run in and Orioles' uniform. Koji Uehara didn't show his patented control though, walking four and giving up 7 runs in five innings pitched. Danys Baez gave up a couple of runs, but the rest of the pen held strong and the O's won 10-9.

Game two was a homer-a-thon, with Michael Young giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first. Aubrey Huff tied it up in the second with his first home run of the year, but Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis went deep in the bottom of the frame to make it 3-1 Texas. An RBI single by Adam Jones in the third and Luke Scott's second bomb of the year tied the game at 3-3, which is where it stayed until the tenth inning. Jones hit a two-run homer and Scott brought in a pair with a double, and George Sherrill closed it out despite making things interesting and giving up a couple of runs. Every O's starter except Izturis got on base again, and the bullpen provided 7.2 scoreless innings between Alfredo Simon leaving in the second and Sherrill entering in the tenth (with Dennis Sarfate doing the big job and pitching 3.1 innings after Simon left). O's win 7-5.

Another chance to sweep a series, and the O's send Mark Hendrickson out to the mound against former Oriole Kris Benson. Chad Moeller fills in for ZAUN! behind the plate. An 11-4 loss would keep their "streak" going, but maybe they'll surprise and take over the best record in the AL for themselves (they're currently tied with Seattle - my what a difference a year and a smart front office make).

Top 1:
  • Brian Roberts works a walk to start the game.
  • Adam Jones, sporting the high socks today, hits a hard line-drive to deep right-field. Nelson Cruz can't come up with the catch, and Jones cruises into second with a double off the outfield wall. That kind of power - to the opposite field no less - is what I expected from Jones last year. Anyone want to swap back for Bedard now?
  • Nick Markakis grounds out on a 3-2, with Roberts coming in to score. 1-0 lead for the Birds, with Jones at third with only one out.
  • Aubrey Huff grounds to second as well. Jones scores to make it 2-0.
  • Ty Wigginton - in there for the still injured (and now DL'ed) Mora- flies out to end the inning.
Bottom 1:
  • Ian Kinsler with a lead-off double to left-field.
  • Kinsler runs, as Michael Young grounds out to short.
  • Josh Hamilton singles to center to cut the O's lead in half.
  • Andruw Jones grounds to third. Wigginton bobbles it and barely gets the out at second, with Roberts' relay to first being off-line.
  • Hank Blalock hits a flyball into short left-center, with Adam Jones charging in to make the catch.
Top 2:
  • 0-2 curveball to Luke Scott gets lined into the right-field corner for a lead-off double.
  • Felix Pie fouls off a bunt attempt - he can't bunt, and apparently he missed the last couple of games which made it clear that 3 or 4 runs probably won't hold up. Pie strikes out swinging on a curveball down under his hands.
  • Chad Moeller flies out to center.
  • Cesar Izturis gets on for the first time in the series, drawing a walk to turn the line-up over.
  • Roberts singles into left-field to load the bases. Jim Palmer - "That's why Brian Roberts will hit .300 just about every year." He's hit .300 once in his career (.314 in 2005). Maybe Palmer should spend a little less time memorizing his own stats.
  • Adam Jones checks his swing on a 3-2, down and away slider to walk in a run.
  • The O's are really making Benson work, and Texas already has teh bullpen warming.
  • Markakis flies out to left on a 3-2 pitch to leave the bases loaded.
Bottom 2:
  • Marlon Byrd with a sharp grounder to third - Wigginton makes a nice back-hand stop and throws to first for the out.
  • Cruz grounds out to third on the first pitch he sees.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia lines one up the middle, but it goes right to Hendrickson's glove for the third out.
Top 3:
  • Huff flies out to short center-field.
  • Wigginton grounds back to the mound.
  • Scott hits a hard grounder up the middle. Elvis Andrus gets a glove on it but the ball bounces away and Luke is safe at first with a single.
  • Pie pops out to end the inning.
Bottom 3:
  • After an Andrus K, Kinsler hits a flyball deep and gone to left-field. It's now 3-2, O's.
  • Izturis muffs a grounder to short for his first error of the year.
  • Hamilton grounds to Huff, who throws to second to get the force but the relay back to first is not in-time.
  • Hamilton steals second, and then Hendrickson walks Andruw Jones.
  • Blalock hits a groundball that goes under Roberts' glove, and the game is tied at 3-3.
  • Byrd doubles down to left-field line to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
  • Cruz walks to load the bases.
  • Salty grounds out to second. The Orioles at Texas seems like a bad situation for all pitchers involved.
Top 4:
  • O's go down in order in the fourth.
Bottom 4:
  • Andrus walks on a 3-2 pitch. Hendrickson looks much worse than he did against the Rays.
  • Kinsler singles to left.
  • Throwing error by Roberts lets the fifth Texas' run come in. 11-4, eh?
  • Hendrickson is able to get Hamilton swinging. The O's could really use some innings from their starter in this game.
  • Andruw Jones gets the intentional walk with first-base open to load them up for Blalock.
  • Hank flies out to medium depth center, with Jones' arm holding the runner at third.
  • Byrd singles to left to make it 6-3. Pie might not have gotten a good read on it, since he waited a while a played the ball on a bounce.
  • Radhames Liz - called up to take the place of the injured Simon - will come in from the pen.
  • First-pitch slider stays in the middle of the plate and Cruz launches it to deep center-field for a grand slam. 10-3, Texas. 11-4, eh?
  • Well, now it's 12-3. I didn't think I'd be done with the game in the bottom of the fourth, but there you go. Assuming the O's lose by the current score, they'd be 6-3 despite being outscored 62 to 53 on the season (they came in at an even 50-50).
O's end up losing 19-6 (yikes!), with Ian Kinsler going 6-6 and hitting for the cycle for Texas. That attempted sac bunt by Pie looks even sillier in retrospect. I guess even 18 wouldn't have been enough in this game, not just 3-4. Brian Bass giving up 2 runs in 2 IP probably had the best night out of the O's pitchers. Hey, at least Adam Jones hit another home run. And it wasn't 30-3. Off-day tomorrow, and then a trip up to Fenway for four games with Boston. Do they win the first two or three? I'm not sure how it works with that kind of series.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

O's-Rays, Eaton's K's Provide Only Surprise

Adam Eaton makes his Orioles debut as the Birds go for the sweep of the Rays, with Matt Albers being sent down to Triple-A to make room on the roster for him. Hopefully this game will turn out better than the last time they had such an opportunity, when they lost 11-2 to the Yankees. And their success on Sundays was limited last year as well (.153 winning %, compared to .420 overall and .474 (77 wins in 162 games) for the other days of the week).

Robert Andino gets his first start of the year at short, and Chad Moeller is filling in for ZAUN! in the day game after a night game. They'll be facing off against right-hander James Shields, who brings good control and one of the best change-ups in baseball to the mound for Tampa Bay.

The O's are coming into the game 4-1, in large part because of the great plate discipline shown by the offense. They easily lead the AL in BB% at 12.9 (the Indians are second at 11.4%) and are second in K% at 16.0 (with the Mariners in first at 13.4%). That means that despite only having hit 4 home runs, the team has a .379 wOBA on the strength of a league-leading .397 OBP. The pitching staff has been successful by not walking hitters (3.2 BB/9 - good for fourth) and using their defense (5.0 K/9 is last).

Top 1:
  • Akinori Iwamura starts the Rays attack with a single through the right side of the infield.
  • Eaton strikes Carl Crawford out on three pitches, getting him to chase a breaking-ball in the dirt. The bounce got away from Moeller though, allowing Iwamura to get to second.
  • Single to center by Evan Longoria, but the runner is held at third with Adam Jones getting to the ball quickly and unloading a strong (if slightly off-line) throw.
  • Longoria runs as Carlos Pena swings through a high 3-1 fastball, and makes it to second without a throw. That take away the traditional double play, but it doesn't matter as Eaton is able to get Pena to chase another heater up in the zone for the K.
  • After getting ahead with some good breaking-balls, Eaton gets Pat Burrell to line out to Markakis in right on a fastball. Prett good first inning for the O's right-hander
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts pops out on a 2-0 fastball.
  • Adam Jones grounds out on a 2-0 fastball.
  • I guess Nick decided to switch things up, because he grounds out on a 0-2 change-up.
Top 2:
  • Nice curveball gets Dioner Navarro swinging. Eaton has solid breaking-stuff, but his fastball is lacking as a complementary pitch.
  • Blooper into left-field falls infront of Pie for a single by Ben Zobrist.
  • Eaton battles back from a 3-0 count to Gabe Gross, but eventually losses him on a walk.
  • Soft liner over the shortstop loads the bases with one out.
  • Eaton muscles up and gets Iwamura looking on a 91 mph fastball.
  • Flyball by Crawford falls fair down the right-field line. That clears the bases, and Crawford goes into third with a triple.
  • Longoria hits a long flyball to right that goes over Nick's glove (he probably should have had it) - the double makes it 4-0.
  • Pena pops out to finally end the inning. Eaton didn't pitch that badly, but that doesn't make his ERA feel any better.
Bottom 2:
  • O's go down in order again.
Top 3:
  • Pat the Bat misses a slider for strike-out number five.
  • Navarro grounds out to second.
  • Zobrist swings and misses at a fastball to end the inning. Six K's for Eaton through three.
Bottom 3:
  • Felix Pie drops a bunt down towards second, with Iwamura charging in and making the play.
  • Moeller pops out.
  • Andino pulls a groundball through the left side for the O's first hit of the day.
  • Roberts pops out to short center-field.
Top 4:
  • Gross walks for the second time.
  • Aubrey Huff makes a nice over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory to retire Bartlett.
  • Iwamura singles through the right side to put runners on the corners. That's the seventh Rays' hit.
  • Another steal of second once again eliminates teh double play chance (not that they were likely to double up Crawford anyway). Single to center, but Jones fakes out the runner and Gross is late in leaving third. Moeller blocks the plate well and trips Gross, who never actually touches home. Moeller is able to chase Gabe down as he tries to get back to the plate. Huge out there, and they keep the score at 4-0.
  • Crawford steals second without a throw, but Eaton is able to get Longoria on a groundout to third.
Bottom 4:
  • Adam Jones leads off with a double to deap left-center.
  • Markakis flies out to deep center, and Jones doesn't react quickly enough to tag up.
  • Huff grounds back to the mound.
  • Mora grounds out to short. Come on guys, at least get on the board.
Top 5:
  • Brian Bass in for Eaton, who K'ed six in his four innings, but also gave up 4 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. Most days eight hits won't fall in when you pitch that well.
  • Bass keeps it going, getting Pena swinging to start the fifth.
  • Burrell draws a walk.
  • Double into right-field by Navarro. With Shields and the Rays bullpen, I'm thinking that anymore runs will likely put the game out of reach.
  • Especailly if the batter comes in to score too. Ben Zobrist with a line-drive home run over the scoreboard in right. 7-0 Tampa Bay.
  • Gross strikes out looking and a fastball running back over the inside corner.
  • Bartlett hits a groundball that Andino fields deep in the hole at short, and beats the throw to first.
  • Double into left-center by Iwamura maes it 8-0.
I watched the rest of the game, but it wasn't really worth commenting on . The O's finally put some runs on the board in the ninth on two singles and three walks, but lost 11-3. Just another Sunday in Birdland.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

O's Shut Out Rays And Take Series

I turned the game on late, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the O's with a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning. Melvin Mora hit a grandslam in the first inning, and Jeremy Guthrie took it from there (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K). With the 6-0 win, the O's move to 4-1 on the season and have won their second straight series. Putting up wins against AL East rivals is something the team needs to do to be competitive.

Some random thoughts:
  • One doesn't really have an appreciation for a quality shortstop until after seeing what the O's threw out there last year. It doesn't even matter that Izturis can't hit.
  • I'm glad that the team signed Gregg Zaun, which is a move I advocated for early in the off-season. And he's getting rave reviews from the broadcast booth for his work behind the plate.
  • Every Orioles but Felix Pie reached base via hit, walk, or HBP. Again. A deep line-up and a plus defense will go a long way towards keeping this team in games.
  • The O's pitchers have actually shown decent control this year, but they have the worst strike-out rate in baseball. I guess they're going all-in on the gloves.
  • It was nice to see Chris Ray pitch without giving up two runs (which he did in each of his previous two appearances). I much prefer it when he strikes out the side, even with the walk (on a 3-2 pitch at the knees that will be called more often than not) and the double (on a flyball blown away from Pie down the left-field line). He really looked fantastic.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Pen Makes It Interesting, But O's Hold On

Mark Hendrickson didn't look very good, but he got the job done. Only giving up the one run and putting the team in position to win was big after the loss to New York. The bullpen gave up a couple of home runs (by JJ and Sherrill, respectively) though Baez looked very impressive again, striking out four in 1.2 perfect innings. He may find himself pitching at the end of games at some point this season. The offense continued their patient approach, drawing four walks against a guy in Sonnastine who walked just 1.7 per nine last year. Amazingly, every Oriole reached base for the second time in four games (and 8 of 9 guys did it in another game). The 5-4 win moves the O's record to 3-1, which ties them for first-place in the AL East pending the finish of Toronto's game.

As an aside, Evan Longoria homored twice and is making that contract the Rays gave him (which was decried by many at the time) look smarter by the day.
Read more ...

Matt Wieters Is So Good He Brings Me Success With No Effort

Spend over a year on the calender and hundreds of hours writing about baseball and the O's using statistics and analytical skills... get a very mild readership and (hopefully) the respect of your fellow bloggers.

Spend an hour or so setting up a site with amusing "facts" about Matt Wieters and get others to contribute to it... get a hundred hits a day and get linked at:
Baseball America (This was in an interview with Wieters, in which he was asked if he had read the site; sadly, he said that he hadn't.)
Beyond The Box Score
MLB Notebook
Baltimore Sports Report
Athletics Nation (in the comments)
Lookout Landing (in the comments)
Sports Radio AM1470 The Fox (who?)
and various forums - both sports related and not.

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
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O's-Rays, 2-1 Lead In The Opening Innings

Coming off a depressing loss at the hands of the Yankees, it's important not to forget that the O's actually took the series - and winning two out of every three games for even a month would be a huge surprise for this team. Another AL East rival, the Tampa Bay Rays, comes to tow fresh off of winning two out of three themselves against Evil Empire II up in Boston. The good news is that the O's start out facing the bottom of the Rays' rotation. The bad news is that the bottom of the Rays' rotation is probably about as good as the top of the O's rotation, and the Birds are countering with Mark Hendrickson (a former Devil Ray).

Top 1:
  • Jason Bartlett, batting lead-off, grounds out to Melvin Mora at third.
  • Carl Crawford doubles down the right-field line. Too bad for the Rays he tried for a triple. The relay from Markakis to Roberts to Mora was near perfect and they get Crawford easily. Nice play, though Mora did get spiked a little during the slide.
  • That move saves a run, as Evan Longoria homers to center-field just over the outstretched glove of a leaping Adam Jones.
  • Carlos Pena pops out, by the Rays have a 1-0 lead.
Bottom 1:
  • Control specialist Andy Sonnastine (3.82 tRA last year) starts for the Rays.
  • Brian Roberts greets him with a single to center.
  • Adam Jones works back from an 0-2 count to get it to 2-2, and then pulls a breaking-ball down the third-base line for a double.
  • Nick Markakis grounds up the middle, but Sonnastine was able to snag it and get the out at first without a run scoring.
  • The Rays are employing a big shift against Huff, with the shortstop Bartlett almost playing in the usual second-base position. That doesn't really help when you walk the batter though. The bases are loaded for Melvin.
  • Mora lines a single up the middle to give the O's a 2-1 lead. It was an 87 mph fastball up in the zone, which isn't going to get a lot of hitters out.
  • They put the shift on against Luke Scott too, and this time it works with the shortstop snagging a line-drive to the right of second-base.
  • Ryan Freel getting his first start of the year. Short flyball to right ends the inning.
Top 2:
  • Pat "The Bat" Burrell grounds up the middle just passed a diving Izturis for a single.
  • Gabe Kapler might not be seeing Hendrickson well, because he swung and missed at a couple of 86-87 mph fastballs up in the zone, including one for strike three.
  • Slower roller by Dioner Navarro to third gets the force at second, but was hit too slowly for the double play.
  • Ben Zobrist up. Back when Zobrist was still a little-known shortstop prospect in the Houston Astros system, I wanted the team to trade for him. I remember he put up pretty good OBP numbers, and wouldn't have taken much to acquire. On a similar note, I've been a big fan of fellow Rays' under-the-radar acquisition Gabe Gross for a while. I really wish Tampa Bay was in another division, so I could cheer for them during the regular season more. Anyway, Zobrist lifts a pop-up into short left-center field. Izturis ranges way out there to make the catch, but right before he makes light contact with a charging Adam Jones the ball pops out. Navarro's lack of foot-speed means he has to stop at third.
  • Akinori Iwaumra walks to load the bases for the top of the order.
  • Hendrickson gets out of it by inducing a bouncer back to the mound off the bat of Bartlett.
Bottom 2:
  • ZAUN! leads off the second with a double into the left-field corner. Crawford dove for it, but came up short (though it would have been a two-bagger either way).
  • I knew Izturis would try to (stupidly) bunt. After bunting one foul, they let Cesar swing away. He hits a line-drive to right, but Zobrist makes a great diving catch and throws to second to double off Zaun. Even the correct move (letting him hit) and a good middle result (line-drive) can end poorly (double play). It's about the process.
  • Roberts walks on four pitches - that's the second free pass allowed by Sonnastine.
  • Curveball down for a swinging strike one; fastball up for a swinging strike two; curveball for a called strike three. Andy carves Jones up to end the inning.
Top 3:
  • High chop by Crawford - luckily it goes to Huff at first who just has to step on the bag for the out. One of those to third might have been an infield hit.
  • Longoria is retired this time on a flyball to right.
  • Carlos Pena lines out to first.
Continuing watching downstairs with my buddy Ian, who's redesigning this blog in the near future. Final thoughts later.
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

O's-Yankees, Put The Broom Back In The Closet

I was very careful not to find out the score of the game before getting to see the replay. I have my broom ready, so hopefully Alfredo Simon was able to continue the solid starting performances put in by Guthrie and Uehara. The Yank's third big free agent pick-up - AJ Burnett - started for the Evil Empire. I remember him shutting down the O's pretty well as a Blue Jay, but this Orioles offense is playing really well.

Melvin Mora has a minor leg injury, so Ty Wigginton saw his first start at third-base. Since it was a day game after a night game, Gregg Zaun got some rest with Chad Moeller filling in behind the plate.

On an unrelated note, this is the 500th post on this blog. I honestly didn't think I'd stick it out this long, but I'm happy I've done so. Hopefully the O's helped me celebrate by winning the game.

Top 1:
  • Simon gets Derek Jeter swinging to start things off. It seemed to be a high change-up that the Cap'n swung through.
  • Alfredo falls behind Damon 3-1, but gets him to flyout to right.
  • Teixeira wasn't boo'ed too badly as he came to the plate. The relative calm didn't help, as he flew out to center. Easy inning for Simon, and he didn't look as bad as I was expecting.
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts works the count full, but flies out to left, with Johnny Damon going into the stands to get it. I guess O's fans only interfere on home runs now.
  • Adam Jones fouls off a few pitches, but can't get to a good down-and-in curveball and heads back to the dugout.
  • Then Burnett uses that hook to get Nick Markakis looking.
Top 2:
  • Simon doesn't look as impressive as Burnett in doing it, but he retires the Yank's in order just the same.
Bottom 2:
  • If Burnett can keep throwing that breaking-ball over for strikes, this may be a long day for the Birds.
  • Aubrey Huff grounds out to second.
  • Ty Wigginton chases a fastball up around his shoulders for strike three.
  • Luke Scott flies out to left.
Top 3:
  • Cody Ransom flies out to left.
  • Brett Gardner becomes the first baserunner of the game with a soft single to right.
  • Gardner steals second as Moeller's throw was high. Doesn't much matter, as Jose Molina draws a walk.
  • Simon throws Jeter three straight breaking-balls, with the last one being tribled out in front of the plate. Alfredo has only one play, and throws Jeter out by a step.
  • Damon grounds to first, with Huff tossing to Simon covering for the out. The Yank's threaten, but Alfredo is able to get out of it.
Bottom 3:
  • Felix Pie takes an outside fastball into left-field for the first O's hit of his career. Pie then steals second, with Molina having a little trouble getting the ball out of his glove. Felix went in standing, and almost over-ran the base.
  • Chad Moeller lines the ball off of Cano's glove at second. It looked like Robby was going to make the lunging catch, so Pie had to wait and was held at third.
  • Cesar Izturis strikes out looking at three pitches. Runners still on the corners for the top of the line-up.
  • Roberts with a line-drive to center gives the O's a 1-0 lead.
  • Adam Jones flies out to deep right, with Moeller tagging up and moving over to third.
  • Roberts takes off, and there's no throw as Molina can't quite handle a curveball in the dirt. Two in scoring position for Markakis.
  • Maybe not. Burnett doesn't really want any part of Nick and walks him on five pitches (how's that for respect, coming from a guy with a 96 mph fastball and an excellent curveball? The one called strike was on a pitch well outside).
  • Huff swings at a 3-1 fastball inside and fouls it off. That would have been ball four, and walked in a run. Then he chases a curveball down and in to leave the bases loaded.
Top 4:
  • The lead lasts not at all, as Mark Teixeira takes the first pitch of the fourth out to dead center.
  • Xavier Nady - batting clean-up for the New York Yankees - flies out to right.
  • Cano walks on five pitches.
  • Nick Swisher with a drive to deep right... Markakis makes the leap but a Yankees fan makes the catch right above Nick's glove. 3-1 Yankees, and Simon's not looking good in this inning.
  • Alfredo strikes Ransom out with an 89 mph fastball on the outside corner.
  • Gardner flies out to center, but New York has their first lead of the series.
Bottom 4:
  • Wigginton flies out to center.
  • Luke Scott one-ups Tex, hitting his own home run into the O's bullpen but a few feet farther.
  • Pie picks up his second hit of the day with a single to left-center. Normally - given how Burnett looked early in the game - I would have written this game off. The way the Birds are swinging the bats though, I still think they end up pulling it out.
  • Pie tries for second and is thrown out fairly easily despite AJ throwing a curve. Felix can run, but he's not a great base-stealer.
  • That looms large, as Moeller drives the next pitch off the wall in right-center for a double. The caught stealing likely cost the O's a run.
  • Izturis grounds out to short to end the inning.
Top 5:
  • Simon gets Molina swinging at a high change-up. Second time he's gotten a K with that pitch, though I don't recommend him continuing to throw it that often.
  • Jeter with a flyball to deep center, but Jones is able to track it down.
  • Damon flies out to Pie in short left-field.
Bottom 5:
  • Roberts flies out to left.
  • Jones works the count to 2-2 after falling behind 0-2, but ends up grounding to third.
  • Markakis strikes out swinging at a curveball in the dirt, though he thought he had fouled it off.
Top 6:
  • Simon still out there to start the sixth.
  • Teixeira works a full count and pulls a single into right-field.
  • Now Alfredo gets taken out, with Brian Bass coming in. He finishes with a line of 5 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K, and 3 runs on two home runs, with the runner on first still being his responsibility. I was expecting worse but hoping for better, though I think the O's will gladly take this kind of game from him against a team like the Yankees.
  • Bass strikes Nady out with a high fastball at 93 mph.
  • Cano singles passed a diving Wigginton at third-base.
  • Swisher singles passed a diving Wigginton at third-base. The guy just doesn't have much range over there. Teixeira comes in to score to make it 4-2, with that fourth run being charges to Simon.
  • Ransom walks to load the bases. This game is coming perilously close to getting away from the O's.
  • Gardner grounds right back to Bass at the mound, but his throw home is off the line. Two runs score to make it 6-2, and everybody's safe. That was a huge mistake - the kind this team can't afford to make if they want to be at all competitive this year.
  • Molina bloops one just over Roberts' head to bring in another run.
  • Bass gets Jeter to ground into a double play. Crooked number there in the sixth.
Bottom 6:
  • Huff flies out to left.
  • Wigginton lines a single to center. The O's need base-runners. And that'll end the day for AJ - he pitched pretty well, considering the way the Birds are hitting.
  • Lefty Phil Coke in to face Scott. First pitch - line-drive ripped foul down the right-field line. Nice slider at the knees gets Luke looking.
  • Down by five they're letting Pie hit against the lefty. Given the remote chance of a come-back, I agree with the decision - have to find out how he handles them sometime. Slider gets him looking to end the inning.
Top 7:
  • Two-out double by Nady and a bomb by Cano to left-center makes it 9-2. I think I'm done with this game.
  • Swisher grounds out to end the inning. Skipping to looking at the boxscore... O's lose, 11-2. Damn. That was a huge let-down.
Simon looked OK enough to be a #3 starter on this team for now. The team's plate discipline went out the window a little bit (1 BB to 12 K), but you can't expect them to walk more than they strike out all season long and Burnett was on his game today. Bass didn't pitch well out of the pen, but a lot of that had to do with poor defense (his own included). Chris Ray gave up a couple more runs in the ninth - good thing they didn't anoint him as the closer right away.

I would have preferred to cover a win in my 500th post, but this is more realistic. May #1,000 come with the O's in first-place.
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O's-Yankees, Finally Someone Who Throws Strikes

Due to softball practice yesterday (go Chiefs!), I missed the first couple of innings of the O’s game, and was a bit too tired to write anything about the rest of it.

For the first time since 1997 – which is the last year the team had a winning record – the Orioles will have a chance to start a season 3-0, after picking up their second win of the year with a 7-5 victory over the Yankees.

Observations about the game:
  • Koji Uehara didn't look all that impressive, but it may be because I'm not used that that kind of pitching. He only threw a couple of breaking balls the entire game, with everything else working off of the fastball - going from straight four-seamers to two-seamers to cutters to change-ups to splitters. Some of them had a lot of movement, though without having a breaking pitch to compare it to it was hard to notice. I imagine that for a hitter it can be somewhat difficult, with the same arm-speed on every pitch resulting in slightly differing break anywhere from 76 to 90 mph. Maybe that'll be enough to keep hitters off-balance his first couple times through the league. Koji was around the plate most of the night, and let his defense help him out (1 BB to Jeter leading off the game, and 5 H in 5 IP). The Yankees’ line-up hasn’t looked to good the last couple of games, but they’re still the Yankees and Koji did hold them to one run.
  • One of the problems with using several relievers in each game is that you’re liable to run into one having an off night. That turned out to be Sarfate, who walked two and gave up a home run that made it necessary to bring George Sherrill in for the ninth.
  • As easy as it is to not like the guy – both for his struggles on the mound and for what they are costing – Danys Baez looked really good. It took him just 20 pitches to get through two perfect innings (with a K – the only one of the night for the Birds), and his fastball showed a lot of life (and velocity – the radar gun, which I assume was 1-2 mph fast, had him touching 95). There’s almost no way he’ll be worth $7 M this year, but Baez could still be an important contributor to the pen.
  • More patience at the plate; the team drew six more walks, with Nick Markakis and even Felix Pie getting a free pass. Wearing down opposing staffs is one of the things that make the Yankees and Red Sox line-ups so effective.
  • Adam Jones only had one hit – a first inning RBI double that I didn’t see – but he still looked good at the plate. And he showed tremendous range in the outfield, running down a flyball in the later innings that looked like a sure-fire double when it left the bat.
  • Markakis is teh awesome, going 3-3 with the aforementioned walk and a home run. It was a bomb too, traveling 420 ft. (he had only two home runs last year that went farther). Maybe Nick decided that instead of walking 100 times this year, he’d just rather hit 35 HR. He also made a diving catch in right-field that the announcers were gushing over, but Adam Jones would have been able to make the play without having to hit the grass. Nick’s a good right-fielder, but it’s more because he has a great arm than because of his range (which is around average).
  • Felix Pie looked pretty bad at the plate. On his one strike-out, he swung at a pitch that started a foot outside, and ended up two feet outside. He is a project, and everyone knew that when the team acquired him.
  • Overall, the O’s line-up was once again impressive and deep, with everyone but Cesar Izturis (who had an RBI) getting on base.
Maybe the team will go wire-to-wire again, like they did back in ’97. I don’t know the results of today’s game yet (I’m about to watch a replay of it) but as of this morning the O’s had first-place all to themselves in the AL East. Read more ...