Four years ago Andy McPhail joined the Orioles and announced his master plan to rebuild the Orioles organization. The idea was to develop pitching in the minors and then sign free agents to round out the rest of the squad. The term, “grow the arms and buy the bats” was often heard. It seemed like the perfect plan. A few trades landed the Orioles a few top notch arms. 2011 was going to be the year they competed for a playoff spot.
The only problem is…….. we actually believed that load of crap McPhail was dishing out.
The hype for a breakout season was all over town after the Orioles swept Tampa Bay on opening weekend and started he season 6-1. People were talking playoffs, 90+ wins, and finally turning the corner after 13 straight sub-500 seasons. Brian Matusz started the season on the DL, but Zach Britton was called up and filled the void nicely.
Things were finally looking good for the guys in orange and black, but after that 6-1 start the Orioles lost 8 in a row and found themselves looking up from the bottom of the AL East, again. A few winning streaks later found them sitting at 30-31 on June 10th, the closest they’d been to the magical .500 mark in June since 2006 when they were neck and neck with the Red Sox at the All Star break. Since June 10th it’s been a comedy of errors. They’ve fallen behind early, blown leads, and stopped hitting with runners on base. 30 days later, on July 10 at the All Start break, they are 16 games under .500 at 36-52 and 18 games out of 1st place. They have become an embarrassment as of late. And it’s sad, real sad. No doubt that disappointment will show in the stands when they come off the break and face Cleveland. The Red Sox and Angels follow the Indians to OPACY before the Orioles finish the month on the road in Toronto and New York. The Red Sox series is thankfully during the week so you may not see 40,000 Sox fans in the stands per night during that series.
There’s absolutely no viable excuse for the way the team has performed since June 10. Perhaps if Brian Roberts had not gotten hurt, perhaps if Luke Scott repeated his success of 2010, perhaps if Brian Matusz hadn’t lost the velocity on his fastball, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. In other words, excuses. Why this team is as bad as they’ve been the last month is a total mystery.
Over the last 30 games the team leader in average is Nick Markakis, who’s batting 402. Mark Reynolds had 10 HRs but struck out 35 times. Vlad Guerrero has continued to be a huge disappointment and Brian Roberts is MIA on the DL. I think there’s more to his injury than the team is telling.
Here’s how I grade them at the All Star break:
J.J. Hardy – B+ has been solid in leadoff spot batting 291 with 8. HR in the last 30 games and has only made 2 errors.
Markakis – B+ A slow start is all but forgotten as Nick has hit 402 in his last 30 games, raising his season average to a team leading .292. His power numbers are down, which probably kept him off the All Star team. His slow start doesn’t warrant an A. Let’s see how he does over the next month.
Jones – B He has 13 HR and has played well in center field. He has to remain consistent and produce.
Guerrero – D The Orioles got what they deserved when they signed this guy. An aging veteran who has done nothing to help this team. Why he’s still batting cleanup is another mystery. He has walked 11 times though, another mystery. As a guy who was paid 8 million dollars to perform, Vlad needs to give $7,999,999.00 back.
Lee – C+ He’s starting to hit as of late and he is still a solid defensive 1st baseman which earned him the +. He’s obviously better than anyone else they’ve had there in the last few seasons.
Wieters – B+ He is near the top of the league in batting with RISP and is #1 throwing out base stealers and has no passed balls charged against him, which is why he was named as the lone All Star. He is still a work in progress and has played a lot more so far this season than last season. We can only hope he doesn’t wear down from playing too much.
Reynolds – C He IS what they signed in the off season, a guy who hits HRs (20) and strikes out a lot (96 in 87 games) He could be the first player in history to hit 40 HRs and have 40 errors. He has 20 thus far. In most grades, C means satisfactory.
Luke Scott – F He turned into a selfish player this season trying to play with a torn labrum. It affected his numbers as well as needed playing time for Felix Pie. Had Guerrero been producing as DH this would be a moot point, but they needed Scott to be 100% healthy. Why they kept running him out there was another mystery. At one point he had 6 HRs and 19 RBI…when he landed on the DL he had 9 HR and 22 RBI to go along with a dismal .223 average. Sounds like the Orioles team MVP curse reared it’s ugly head on #30. I still think he had value as trade bait after last season. He’s eligible for arbitration after this season.
Nolan Reimold – C Lack of playing time has affected his numbers but there’s no one else on the team that hustles more. With increased playing time his numbers will improve. He has 1/2 as many HRs and RBI as Scott in about 2/3 less ABs.
Felix Pie – D D for dumb base running mistakes. D for low average. D for 0 HR and only 5 RBI. Even though he’s played in 67 of the 88 games, his lack of consistent playing time hasn’t done him any justice, but Pie hasn’t actually made any strides to push anyone out of the lineup with his performance at the plate and on the basepaths.
Andino – C- Why he is playing 80-90% of the time is another mystery. They called up Ryan Adams to fill in at 2nd, yet he only got to play in 9 games. Blake Davis was called up and other than a disastrous 1st game when he made a critical error to cost the Orioles a win, he’s proven he can play, batting .259 with 5RBI less than Andino in only 11 games. Andino is a utility player, NOT an everyday type player. Davis should be playing 5 of 7 games instead. Davis is the future after Brian Roberts steps aside, Andino is just a warm body who can play multiple positions if need be.
Guthrie – D The guy can’t win baseball games in a Baltimore uniform. His career record as an Oriole is 41-60. Guthrie, for as many innings as he seems to pitch every year, has only 4 CG and 0 SHO in his career. Head case Sidney Ponson has had a better career at 73-85 to go along with 28 CG and 4 SHO as an Oriole.
Britton – C After a 5-1 start, he is now 6-7 and only 1-5 in his last 10 starts with a 5.68 ERA. He wasn’t expected to be in the rotation at the beginning of the season and after getting shelled by the Red Sox this past weekend, he finds himself down Route 3 in Bowie, not necessarily performance related, but mainly due to service time in the majors which will prolong his wait to become a free agent. A sneaky move by McPhail, I’d say. Britton is young and still needs to learn how to pitch at the major league level. He’s a work in progress and hopefully he can right himself when he returns to the roster later this month (so they claim.)
Arietta – C How this guy has 9 wins is definitely smoke and mirrors. Arietta started the season 4-1 and was one of the first pitchers to win 9 games. He’s currently 9-7 but sporting a 4.90 ERA and averages a fraction over 5 innings per start. In his last 10 he’s 5-5 with a 5.54 ERA losing 3 of his last 4 decisions. When he’s on his game, he’s very good, but when he struggles, he’s terrible. In those 5 losses he’s lasted 22 innings and only pitched into the 7th inning once. Arietta ia another work in progress, having only started 36 games in his career. I seriously doubt he finishes the season with 15 wins.
Matusz – D He started the season on the DL and came back with a strong performance in his first 2 starts allowing only 3 earned runs in 11 innings. Since then he’s been a disaster allowing 22 earned runs in 4 straight losses. They claim he lost some velocity on his fastball, which topped off at around 88-89mph. The team sent him back to AAA Norfolk after he got shelled by St Louis on June 30. Hopefully he can find his fastball again, or we’ve seen the last of #17 for 2011.
Gregg – C He was signed as the closer, but had a few questionable outings that left him on shaky ground early in the season. He hasn’t exactly been lights out but has converted 15 of 19 save opportunities. He still allows too many base runners and needs to improve on his 1.49 WHIP. Call him the Don Stanhouse of 2011. Gregg’s latest antics against the Red Sox David Ortiz this weekend will no doubt find him suspended for a few games.
Koji – A+ Koji has been superb out of the bullpen so far this season, with a 1-1 record, 2.03 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 40 innings pitched. The Orioles are getting their money’s worth out of the “fragile one” in 2011.
Jim Johnson – A- Johnson has shared time with Koji as the setup man out of the pen. He has a 5-2 record, 2.75ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He struggles at times but seems to get the job done more often than not.
Gonzalez – D- The less said about this guy the better. He is mostly used in mop-up duty. On a positive note, he has lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 5.46 in his last 10 appearances and actually picked up a win on June 24 vs Cincinnati.
Berken – C- He was almost untouchable early in the season but had a few rough outings and found himself back in AAA for a few weeks. He has pitched fairly well since his return to the majors allowing only 4 earned runs on 8 hits in his last 10 appearances lowering his ERA almost 2 runs per game in that period.
Others – D Ups and downs for the rest of the bullpen. From Viola to Simon, Bergesen to Jakubauskas…..they all stink.
Buck Showalter – D For taking over last season and finishing 34-23 was huge lift for the fans. Under Showalter the Orioles won as many games in the final 1/3 of the season as they did in the first 2/3 under Trembley and Samuel. You could say they couldn’t have gotten any worse and had nowhere to go but up. The team quit on Trembley and that was not going to happen under Buck…….. until this season. At 30-31 a month ago, there was hope the resurgence would continue and the team would finish above .500 for the first time since 1997. It appears a long shot now as the Orioles need to finish 45-29, hardly an easy feat considering the team has lost 9 of it’s last 10 and 21 of 27 since June 10. The young arms have failed, the bats have holes in them and the Orioles are going nowhere in a hurry. Buck might decide this isn’t really the place to be if it keeps up.
Andy McPhail – F- I am not sure how this highly touted GM ever got the moniker of being a team rebuilding expert, but some people around here seem to think McPhail walks on water and will give him a pass. I’d like to give him a pass….. out of town. McPhail hasn’t proven a thing to me and his plan isn’t working out. He has made some highly questionable moves and hasn’t done anything noticeable in developing any position players in the minors. Right now, there are no, that’s ZERO, position players ready to step into any position on this team. That’s been proven at 2nd base with the callups of Ryan Adams and Blake Davis, yet who is playing 2nd 95% of the time? Robert Andino. Brandon Snyder is supposed to be the team’s 1st baseman of the future, yet he was recalled when Derrek Lee went on the DL, and who Ended up playing 1st most of the time? Luke Scott, with cameo performances by Mark Reynolds and Nick Markakis.
This is the team McPhail built. He took chances on aging veterans Lee and Guerrero. He signed a guy who’s strikeouts are higher than his batting average. He even signed a scrapheap pitcher that has been on the DL since spring training. Remember Justin Duchsherer? Now he’s playing games with Zach Britton, so he can shave time off his major league service time. These are not the moves a competent GM makes to rebuild a baseball team that has been desperate to return to the top of its division.
McPhail supposedly was lauded for the work he did in Minnesota and Chicago. Minnesota last won a World Series in 1991 but after that season, the Twins didn’t even sniff the playoffs for 11 years. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since Teddy Roosevelt was President and have been in the playoffs only 6 times in the last 65 years, with those 6 trips all coming after 1983 (oddly the last year the Orioles won a World Series)
This Orioles team has some very talented players, but little or no chemistry.
How much longer did you say we are supposed to be patient, Andy? I can’t speak for other Oriole fans, but frankly, my patience with you and your “plan” is running very, very thin. Sorry, but no more passes for you, Mr McPhail.