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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-2 win over Twins

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 32nd game of the 2016 season.

1st Mark Trumbo continues to be one of the best offensive performers in the American League and clubbed two more home runs and drove in three of Baltimore’s first five runs. His second-inning homer traveled 427 feet, and he has hit five long balls traveling at least 425 feet this season, according to ESPN. The right-handed slugger became the first in the majors with three multi-homer games in 2016. You keep waiting for Trumbo to cool off, but he instead keeps hitting baseballs a long way.

2ndChris Davis followed his three-hit night in the opener with a four-hit, four-RBI performance that included a two-run homer and two doubles to elevate his average to .242 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .858. With Manny Machado and Trumbo continuing to pace the offense, Davis heating up could spell trouble for the Orioles’ opponents — Detroit and Seattle — on the upcoming homestand.

3rd — Adam Jones followed his clutch Tuesday night with four hits, which included a two-run shot on a hanging slider from Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler in the top of the ninth. The center fielder raised his average to .238 after it had dipped below .200 just a couple days ago. It’s looking more and more like the All-Star center fielder has finally found his swing after a rough start to 2016.

Home —  Tyler Wilson worked seven solid innings and pitched effectively after being staked to a comfortable lead. Plenty of balls were hit in the air against the right-hander in a big ballpark, but none of the six grounders he induced were bigger than the 6-4-3 double play from Eduardo Nunez, who had represented the potential tying run with one out in the fifth. … The Orioles improved to a season-best eight games above .500, which also eclipses their high-water mark from 2015. … With Davis and Trumbo each hitting bombs in the fourth, Baltimore has now hit back-to-back homers in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. … The traditional heart of the order (Jones, Davis, and Trumbo) combined to go 10-for-15 with four home runs and nine RBIs. … The Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill against Detroit’s Mike Pelfrey to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Minnesota

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 31st game of the 2016 season.

1stAdam Jones has had a difficult start to 2016, but he turned in his best game of the season and did it in a way that will quell concerns about whether he’s over the rib injury suffered in the opening week. First, he ended a 3-for-27 slump by clobbering a 443-foot home run on a hanging curve from Twins starter Jose Berrios in the fifth to extended the Orioles’ advantage to 3-1. Then, he was able to get on top of a high 95 mph fastball from Kevin Jepsen in the top of the ninth to line the game-winning two-run single to left. It’s only one game and Jones will need to build on it with his average still sitting at just .210, but those two feats leave reason to believe he is getting healthy. And if he’s right physically, Jones is bound to heat up sooner rather than later.

2ndManny Machado went 3-for-3 and hit his club-leading 10th homer of the season to give the Orioles the lead in the top of the fifth. The ultimate sign of respect came in the ninth when Jepsen pitched around the red-hot Machado to face Jones, who was able to make the Twins reliever pay. Machado reached base all five times he went to the plate and now sports a .365 average to go along with a .424 on-base percentage. He continues to be the biggest reason why the Orioles are off to a 19-12 start.

3rdKevin Gausman threw a hanging breaking ball that Trevor Plouffe knocked out of the park for the game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but the 25-year-old was otherwise good on Tuesday. He struck out a season-high nine batters over his six innings and showed the ability to reach back for fastballs touching 97 and 98 mph when he needed to. His 111 pitches were two shy of his career high, but he he was still carrying excellent velocity late in the outing, a good sign with his right shoulder.

HomeJoey Rickard made the Orioles’ two-out rally in the ninth possible as he was behind 1-2 to Jepsen and worked the count full before lining a double off the base of the left-field wall. He eventually scored the go-ahead run on Jones’ single. … Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton combined for three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. O’Day earned the win while Britton picked up his eighth save of the season. … Chris Davis collected three hits to raise his season average to .217 while Matt Wieters had an RBI single and another hit to elevate his average to .227. … Jonathan Schoop’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday afternoon while veteran Phil Hughes will start for Minnesota.

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Seven surprising Orioles stats to ponder 30 games into 2016

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Below are seven surprising Orioles statistics to ponder through the first 30 games of the 2016 season:

1. Orioles starting pitching has allowed the fewest home runs in the American League.

The starter ERA (4.35) ranks seventh in the AL, but the rotation has been good enough through the first 30 games of action in large part due to allowing only 14 homers in 165 2/3 innings. Chris Tillman has been particularly exceptional in this department with one long ball allowed in 38 1/3 innings.

2. Small ball has reached a new low with just four stolen bases and zero sacrifice bunts.

The Orioles ranking last in the AL in steals isn’t remotely surprising after finishing there in each of the previous two seasons, but they’re on pace to steal only 21 bases, eight shy of the AL record low set by the Washington Senators in 1957. Twenty-seven players in the majors have more steals than Baltimore.

3. The Orioles remain second in the AL in on-base percentage.

More than a month into the season, the Baltimore lineup continues to walk at a higher clip (8.5 percent of plate appearances) than last year (7.0 percent) and held a .330 OBP entering Monday. The Orioles are also seeing 3.94 pitches per plate appearance compared to 3.81 a year ago.

4. Adam Jones is sporting a career-high walk rate.

Lost in the center fielder’s difficult start to 2016 has been a 7.7 percent walk rate, which would easily be the highest mark of his career. Whether it’s a concerted effort to walk more or an effect of the rib injury he dealt with early in the season, you have to wonder if more patience is really what’s best for Jones.

5. Joey Rickard has been worth minus-six defensive runs saved and minus-0.7 defensive wins above replacement.

The rookie entered Monday with a solid .328 OBP, but his defense hasn’t been as good as advertised as he hasn’t taken efficient routes and double-clutches on too many throws. He’ll improve with experience, but the metrics, at least, suggest Rickard has been as big of a defensive liability as Mark Trumbo.

6. Chris Tillman is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

The right-hander struck out five in two innings in his rain-shortened Opening Day start, but he continues to exceed his career 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings by a wide margin in 2016. An improved slider is a major reason why he’s struck out 25 batters over his last three starts covering 20 innings.

7. Matt Wieters’ .292 batting average on balls in play is higher than his .289 career BABIP.

Wieters isn’t the only Orioles regular struggling, but his higher BABIP suggests he hasn’t experienced nearly as much bad fortune as Jones (.240) or Chris Davis (.226) so far. The catcher is also striking out a whopping 28.2 percent of the time after posting a career-worst strikeout rate (23.8 percent) last year.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-2 win over Oakland

Posted on 08 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-2 win over the Oakland Athletics to salvage a doubleheader split on Saturday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 29th game of the 2016 season.

1st Ubaldo Jimenez turned in the Orioles’ second eight-inning start in three games after they hadn’t received one in their first 26 contests of the 2016 season. The right-hander not only held the Athletics to two runs, but he was able to save the bullpen, which is always a concern in the days following a twin bill. Jimenez credited the effectiveness of his two-seam fastball and splitter, but the biggest key may have issuing only one free pass after he had walked at least three in his last four starts. Jimenez only had one perfect inning, but he finished his outing on a high note by striking out the side in the eighth.

2ndChris Davis snapped an 0-for-16 slump by slugging a long two-run shot into the right-center bleachers to open up a 4-0 lead for the Orioles that they wouldn’t relinquish. The blast ended a seven-game homerless streak, his longest drought of the season. Davis is hitting only .206, but sometimes all it takes is one bomb to get the streaky first baseman going at the plate. He is now one home run shy of becoming the third player to hit 100 career homers at Camden Yards, joining Rafael Palmeiro and Adam Jones.

3rdAdam Jones is only hitting .200, but his RBI single in the third gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead and he scored on Davis’ homer. There’s no sugarcoating how much the All-Star center fielder has struggled over the first month of the season as he raised his season average with a 1-for-4 performance.

HomeZach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to collect his seventh save of the season. He struck out Josh Phegley to end the game. … Jonathan Schoop extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the third in his career of 10 or more contests. … Manny Machado has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and now has 22 extra-base hits in 29 games. … Hyun Soo Kim singled and drove in a run with a grounder and has now hit safely in seven of his nine games played this season. … Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick went an impressive 7-for-9 over both games of the doubleheader. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill in search of a series win on Sunday afternoon while the Athletics counter with right-hander Kendall Graveman.

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Like weather, Orioles waiting for rest of lineup to heat up

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Perhaps the Orioles offense is waiting for the weather to feel more like Baltimore in early May and less like Seattle as it has during the current homestand and for much of the season.

The overall numbers look mostly great as they rank sixth in the AL in runs, fifth in hits, third in home runs, third in batting average, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging percentage, but that reflects how much an MVP-like performance from Manny Machado and a white-hot start from Mark Trumbo have carried the Orioles through the first month of the season. Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop have had their moments — as did J.J. Hardy before his unfortunate injury — but virtually all hitters not named Machado or Trumbo are failing to pull their weight.

Manager Buck Showalter can’t rely on those two to do it all year while the rest of the order struggles to get going.

“That’s kind of been the way things have been going for us lately,” said Davis, whose on-base plus slugging percentage dipped to .795 on Wednesday. “We’ve had a few games where we’ve been able to score some runs early and capitalize on those opportunities, but for the most part, we’re not getting the job done when we have runners in scoring position.

“The biggest thing to remember is to stay the course. We’re playing really good ball defensively. I think we’re throwing the ball well and keeping ourselves in the game. We all know the bats are going to heat up when the weather [stops] raining and [being] cold and it warms up a little bit.”

Joey Rickard was the feel-good story of the spring, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify his .304 on-base percentage remaining in the lineup every day, let alone in the leadoff spot. Despite much praise for his defense this spring, the 24-year-old has also struggled in the outfield at minus-seven defensive runs saved, creating more reason to see less of him and more of Nolan Reimold or even Hyun Soo Kim.

Burying Rickard on the bench would be premature, but lowering him in the lineup might be appropriate, even if Machado is the only viable alternative to lead off and you’d rather keep him in the No. 2 spot.

The catching tandem of Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph have combined to hit .217 with one home run and a .577 OPS. A $15.8 million salary for Wieters wasn’t going to suddenly transform him into the type of hitter many hoped he would be at the start of his career, but his .588 OPS is sub-replacement level and dramatically below his career .740 mark and Joseph (.485) has been even worse.

Pedro Alvarez has warmed up recently, but the former Pittsburgh Pirate still hasn’t shown enough to justify the Orioles spending $5.75 million on him this spring.

However, the biggest early-season concern is veteran center fielder Adam Jones, who is batting .205 with just one homer. He’s grounded into more double plays (seven) than he has extra-base hits (five) through his first 87 plate appearances.

Of course, Jones is a famously streaky hitter and has gone through extended dry spells before, but these struggles coming off the rib injury that cost him a week early in the season make you wonder if he’s truly healthy — or at least healthy enough to be himself. The 30-year-old would never use an injury as an excuse, but the Orioles need Jones to be his usual strong presence in the middle of the order.

His 75.4 percent contact rate is perfectly in line with his career average, but he’s hitting more ground balls (57.4 percent of balls put in play compared to 47.9 percent in his career) and fewer line drives (9.8 percent to 18.4 percent for his career), suggesting that he could be struggling to elevate the ball with authority. However, FanGraphs has tracked 33.9 percent of his balls in play being hard contact, which is in line with his 31.8 percent career average. His average exit velocity of 92.4 miles per hour is also better than last year’s 88.9 mph, creating more hope that Jones is just in an early-season funk.

“He’s not the only one, but we know there are some good things ahead,” said Showalter after Wednesday’s 7-0 loss in which Jones went 0-for-3 and the Orioles went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. “Like good hitters with good track records and things that he’s done for us, some [opponent] will pay. He’s a little frustrated by it, but I know Adam. We’ve seen it a lot where he’s gone through some periods like a lot of good hitters do and he’ll get it going.

“He’ll get it going.”

Showalter hopes that several members of his lineup heat up sooner than later — along with the weather.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 7-0 loss to Yankees

Posted on 05 May 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 7-0 defeat to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 26th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The late Prince’s “1999” was played at one point between innings of Wednesday’s game at Camden Yards, but Yankees starter CC Sabathia pitched like it was 2009 with seven shutout innings. Watching Sabathia at this point is not unlike what we saw from Peyton Manning at the end of his career as the burly lefty struggles to reach the high 80s with his fastball after once being a power pitcher. However, he got vintage results to halt his club’s six-game losing streak by inducing nine grounders and striking out six over the course of the evening. Sabathia moved the ball around and out of the zone effectively — Orioles hitters obliged in expanding the zone — and ended his evening with 14 swinging strikes.

2nd — Though he tossed five scoreless innings to begin the night, the third time through the order proved to be the death knell for Tyler Wilson’s outing. The right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks through the first five frames, but Jacoby Ellsbury reached base for a third time with one out in the sixth and Wilson never really recovered from there as five of the next six Yankees hitters reached base, including Starlin Castro on a throwing error by Wilson that brought Mark Teixeira home with the third run of the inning. Two earned runs in six innings was a perfectly acceptable outing if he’d received even modest run support, but Wilson must find more success the third time through the order if he wants to stick in the rotation in the long run.

3rd — Sabathia deserves plenty of credit, but the Orioles left eight men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position over the course of the night. The New York starter didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning, showing that Baltimore had its chances to give Wilson a lead long before he ran into trouble in the sixth. Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and Mark Trumbo each grounded into double plays while Manny Machado and Chris Davis each went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. In comparison to Yankee hitters going 3-for-5 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in their third plate appearances against Wilson, the Orioles went 0-for-7 with a walk in their third looks at the veteran Sabathia.

Home — After pitching a scoreless seventh, T.J. McFarland didn’t retire a batter in the eighth and allowed three runs, putting the game out of reach. … Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout to drop his season average to .205. … The Orioles were shut out for the second time this season. … Machado doubled twice to elevate his average to .355. … Kevin Gausman takes the hill seeking a series win on Thursday while New York will turn to Masahiro Tanaka.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 3-1 win over Tampa Bay

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 20th game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman was terrific as he turned in his deepest outing of the year with 6 2/3 shutout innings and struck out nine to match his career high. The right-hander only allowed four baserunners as Rays hitters consistently struggled to make contact with eight of his nine strikeouts coming on swings. The biggest moment of his night came in the fourth inning when he struck out Chris Dickerson on a 95 mph fastball with runners on second and third and one out and then got Desmond Jennings to fly out to retire the side. Tillman hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher in his career, but his velocity is up so far this season and it was good to see him reach back for a little extra against Dickerson in such a big spot. He also effectively used his slider and curveball to miss bats as the night progressed. If not for the fact that he had a rested bullpen, manager Buck Showalter could have gone a little deeper with Tillman, who struck out four of the last six batters he faced and threw 101 pitches.

2ndJoey Rickard brought a sigh of relief to the Orioles dugout when he smacked a three-run shot into the left-field seats off Matt Moore with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. The Orioles had scored only one run in their previous 30 innings before the Rule 5 pick hit his second home run of the season. It would prove to be all the Orioles would need and the rest of the lineup took that literally as Tampa Ray retired 13 in a row after Rickard’s blast. The clutch hit snapped a 2-for-22 slump for the young outfielder.

3rdBrad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning despite a two-out walk and has now allowed only one run in his 13 1/3 innings to begin the 2016 season. The right-hander entered Wednesday holding left-handed hitters to a .158 average before retiring all three lefties he faced in the inning. That’s as good as any lefty specialist many clubs would typically use in such a situation.

Home — In addition to making a sliding catch in the third inning, Nolan Reimold worked a four-pitch walk with two outs and nobody on in the fifth to begin the rally that culminated with Rickard’s home run. … Pitching for the first time since April 21, Darren O’Day retired Steven Souza Jr. for the final out of the seventh and has yet to be scored upon through his first nine appearances of 2016. … Adam Jones went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .196 on the season. … Chris Davis was also hitless, but he was robbed of an extra-base hit in the fourth when Souza made a tremendous diving catch on the warning track in right-center. … Beginning a stretch of 17 of their next 20 games at home on Thursday night, the Orioles will send Tyler Wilson to the hill to open a four-game set against lefty John Danks and the Chicago White Sox.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 18th game of the 2016 season.

1st — It was only a matter of time before Rays ace Chris Archer bounced back from a horrendous start to his season, but the Orioles were shut out for the first time all season and extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings. And it’s a shame because they received a more-than-acceptable performance with only two runs allowed by Orioles pitching. Entering the night with a 7.32 ERA, Archer did a superb job commanding his changeup and slider to complement his mid-90s fastball, but the Orioles managed just five hits and didn’t have a single batter reach against the Rays bullpen. The lone offensive highlights of the night were provided by Pedro Alvarez, who collected two doubles as he tries to bounce back from a horrendous start. No other Baltimore hitter reached second base, however.

2nd — Kevin Gausman deserved a better fate, but his struggles after failing to get the call on a 3-2 slider to Steven Souza proved to be the difference in the fifth. The Orioles had to be pleased with what they saw from the 25-year-old in his season debut following a stint on the disabled list, but the terrific breaking ball he displayed over the first four innings vanished after the walk to Souza and he worked into too many deep counts and struggled to put hitters away the rest of the inning. The pitch he’d ultimately like to have back was the 3-2 fastball catching too much of the plate that Rays catcher Curt Casali lined down the left-field line to plate Souza for the first run of the game. The 32-pitch fifth brought a premature end to his outing and he probably ran out of a gas trying to keep up with a terrific pitcher on the opposing side, but Gausman removed much doubt about the health of his right shoulder by using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and a sharp breaking ball to strike out seven in five innings. He just didn’t get any help from his offense.

3rd — In his second appearance since coming off the DL, Brian Matusz walked the two left-handed hitters he faced and loaded the bases in the sixth. If the lefty specialist isn’t going to get lefty bats out, his place in the bullpen becomes tenuous at best as he doesn’t offer as much length as other pitchers. Yes, it was Vance Worley who clipped Casali’s jersey with a pitch to force in the second Tampa Bay run, but Matusz was the one who created the mess that led to a 2-0 deficit.

Home — The Orioles didn’t have many opportunities, but Jonathan Schoop, Joey Rickard, and Manny Machado combined to go 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. … Chris Davis was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … Despite hitting Casali to force in a run, Worley pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Baltimore to save the rest of the bullpen. … Adam Jones grimaced after swinging at the second strike in his final at-bat and was captured by MASN cameras talking to trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after he grounded out in the ninth inning. … Ubaldo Jimenez goes to the hill on Tuesday night and will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

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Orioles thoughts on Gallardo, Bundy, Kim, more

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

When veteran pitcher Yovani Gallardo left Friday’s game after two innings with right shoulder and bicep tendinitis, you wonder if some small part of the Orioles organization breathed a soft sigh of relief.

No one is taking satisfaction in the 30-year-old being injured, of course, but anyone who’s watched Gallardo pitch so far has observed a significant drop in velocity from even last season, leaving one to wonder if he was healthy. If he had been 100 percent over these first four starts, you’re left with a pitcher who simply can’t get the job done with a fastball sitting in the mid-80s and the lowest ground-ball rate of his 10-year career.

It’s certainly disappointing that Gallardo is already on the shelf after the Orioles forfeited the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft and $22 million over the next two years to sign him, but the pitcher we’ve seen so far isn’t a better option than the likes of Mike Wright, Vance Worley, or Tyler Wilson. In other words, his trip to the 15-day disabled list isn’t a dramatic on-field loss if what he’s done so far is all he’s capable of at this point in his career.

This doesn’t mean that a cortisone shot and a couple weeks of rest will magically transform Gallardo into the pitcher he was three or four years ago, either, but you hope he has a little more left in the tank than what he’s shown and this time away could help him recapture that. If not, it’s fair to ask why the Orioles were still willing to sign Gallardo when their rigorous physical brought red flags about the state of his right shoulder and prompted a restructured deal of two seasons instead of three.

That wouldn’t make them correct about Gallardo as much as they would look desperate to have signed damaged goods because they waited all offseason to address a rotation that finished 14th in the AL in ERA in 2015 and lost its most consistent starter over the last four years in Wei-Yin Chen.

Bundy a starter?

It’s encouraging to see Dylan Bundy healthy and contributing out of the Orioles bullpen with a 2.57 ERA through the first three weeks of 2016, but the discussion of him being a starter later this season is premature.

In addition to his lack of starting experience above Double-A Bowie, Bundy hasn’t shown the ability to miss bats so far with opposing hitters sporting an 89.8 percent contact rate, the highest of any Orioles pitcher in 2016. The 23-year-old has one strikeout in seven innings of work with a fastball averaging just over 93 miles per hour in short stints out of the bullpen when pitchers typically cut it loose.

If he’s only hitting 93 or 94 mph when asked to only throw 20 or 30 pitches, how would that translate as a starter being expected to go six or seven innings?

Of course, this is a small sample size and it’s reasonable to think Bundy’s velocity will increase the further away he gets from his 2013 Tommy John surgery and his shoulder issues from a year ago, but little of what we’ve seen so far from him in 2016 screams starter candidate.

For now, the Orioles and their fans should just be thankful that he’s healthy and contributing in relief, and they’ll see how he progresses from there.

Kim deserving of more chances

It isn’t difficult to see where South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim stands within the organization after starting just three times in the Orioles’ first 17 games, but he’s gone 5-for-10 with two walks in those limited opportunities.

Meanwhile, primary designated hitter Pedro Alvarez is off to a miserable 4-for-37 start. To be fair, Alvarez has a track record of bringing 30-homer potential to a major league lineup, but the Orioles invested $7 million in Kim over two years compared to a one-year, $5.75 million deal for the former Pittsburgh Pirate. This isn’t to suggest that Kim should be given an everyday DH role over Alvarez, but he’s done enough with his rare chances to warrant more frequent shots here and there.

If you don’t think he can play, release him or give him a few more chances to prove that he just can’t cut it in the majors. When he has received time, however, Kim has far from embarrassed himself.

Davis showing more patience

Chris Davis entered Monday with a .230 batting average, but he’s hit six home runs and his walk rate has gone through the roof in the early going.

The 30-year-old slugger has walked in just under 20 percent of his plate appearances, up from 12.5 percent last season. He’s also swinging at just 21.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone compared to 31.0 percent last year, another reflection of improved patience at the plate.

To this point, he’s striking out a little less frequently, walking a great deal more, and homering at a similar rate (7.9 percent of plate appearances) to what we saw in 2013 (7.9 percent) and 2015 (7.0 percent). It’s still very early, but the Orioles will gladly take that spike in on-base percentage and not care nearly as much about his batting average.

Brach the pitching MVP so far

Zach Britton and Darren O’Day understandably receive most of the attention in the bullpen, but Brad Brach has been the Orioles’ most valuable pitching piece so far this season.

Tied with T.J. McFarland for the club lead with 11 1/3 relief innings, Brach has pitched to a 0.79 ERA and is averaging 10.3 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings. Right-handed hitters are just 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts against him while lefty bats are 3-for-17, making him a good matchup for Buck Showalter against any hitter.

His mid-90s fastball and slider make him very difficult against right-handed bats and the downward movement on his changeup makes him that rare right-handed middle reliever who can be extremely effective against lefty hitters. Considering the issues the Orioles have had with starters getting into the sixth inning, Brach’s effectiveness and durability are key to bridging the gap to O’Day and Britton late in games.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-3 win over Toronto

Posted on 21 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 13th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 13 games with his RBI double in the first inning, but his most impressive at-bats came late in the game when it was clear that Toronto pitching wanted no part of the All-Star third baseman. Coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position in both the eighth and the 10th, Machado saw a total of one strike while patiently taking walks to continue the innings. A couple years ago, he might have expanded the zone to try to be the hero in those situations, but he instead drew his free passes on Wednesday night. It was the kind of maturity at the plate that sometimes makes you forget that Machado is just 23 years old. His 2-for-3 night raised his average to .407 on the season.

2ndJoey Rickard collected three hits, scored the first run of the game, and threw out Ryan Goins at the plate to end the top of the sixth inning and protect a one-run lead at the time. Two of the three hits were of the infield variety, but the Rule 5 pick continues to show good speed to put pressure on infielders when he hits the ball on the ground. Though he’s only drawn two walks to this point in the season, Rickard saw a total of 30 pitches in his five plate appearances on Wednesday, which is exactly what you want to see from a leadoff hitter. He leads all major league rookies with 18 hits this season.

3rdAdam Jones offered the Orioles’ defensive play of the year so far as he laid out in a head-first dive in shallow right-center to catch a sinking liner off the bat of Jose Baustista in the top of the seventh. The play temporarily saved a run as Michael Saunders inexplicably failed to tag up and score, but the Blue Jays left fielder came around to touch home plate on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out double. That said, Jones taking away a hit from Bautista might have been the difference between a tie game and Toronto going ahead on Encarnacion’s extra-base hit if Bautista had been on base.

Home — The bullpen wasn’t flawless but allowed only one run in five innings of work, and Zach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the order to headline the group’s effort. … Jonathan Schoop made fine defensive plays to end the ninth and 10th innings, the latter being a 4-6-3 double play to strand a runner in scoring position. … Baltimore has pitched to a 2.11 ERA in seven games at Camden Yards so far this season. … According to STATS, Wednesday marked the first walk-off win in Orioles history coming on a passed ball. … The Orioles send Chris Tillman to the mound in search of a series win on Thursday while the Blue Jays will go with Marco Estrada.

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