Posted on 24 July 2014 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 18 July 2014 by Brandon Sacks
While the season is technically more than halfway completed, the All Star Break is generally considered to be the midpoint of the season. Therefore, it is time to look at how the birds have performed during the first half of the season and preview what to expect for the upcoming second half.
The birds currently sit at 52-42, 10 games above .500. They currently sit atop the AL East, four games ahead of the second place Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles are the only team in the division with winning records both at home and away so far this season. The Orioles are just one of two teams with winning records against the AL East, the other being Toronto.
The Orioles strength this season has yet again been the offense. They have the 4th highest batting average and the fifth highest slugging percentage in the league. They have hit the second most home runs in the league, behind only Toronto. It would be a let down if the team does not keep this up, especially since the birds had the most all star starters in the AL.
When their perennial all star catcher, Matt Wieters, ended his season by getting Tommy John surgery, no one knew what would happen at that spot. Caleb Joseph was called up, Steve Clevenger became the starting catcher, and the Orioles traded for Nick Hundley. Caleb Joseph has shined since being called up, catching over 50% of baserunners trying to steal a base. He has certainly filled the shoes of one of the best defensive catchers in the game.
Starting pitching has been a serious problem so far. The club ERA is right in the middle of the league at 15th, but toward the bottom in WHIP and quality starts. The Orioles picked up some big name starters this offseason in Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon. While Yoon has had health issues at the AAA level, Jimenez has been a total disappointment so far. He is averaging 5.4 walks allowed per nine innings pitched and has an ERA of 4.52.
Looking forward, the Orioles must address their starting pitching. The biggest name in the market right now is David Price, but the Rays would probably ask too much for him from someone in their own division. With him off the radar, there isn’t really a clear cut answer on whether or not the birds make a splash before the trade deadline or if they try and improve from within. Jimenez going on the DL was one of the best things that could happen for the rotation. Gausman has been called on to replace him in the rotation, which is huge. Gausman has had an incredible year with the Orioles, being one of the more dominant pitchers the birds have used. Being a fireballer, he has the ability to make people miss if his off speed pitches are accurate. Once Jimenez comes off the DL, he will probably be reassigned to the bullpen if Gausman has been winning.
Since the rotation has more issues than just Jimenez, expect to see Suk-min Yoon in the orange and black before roster expansions come. Since the Orioles would more than likely not use a six man bullpen were they to make it to the playoffs, expect either Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen would be the person sent down. Gonzalez has been inconsistent all year and Chen has been consistent through the fourth inning. Past that, it’s a toss up if we see the Chen that will barely make it five innings or the one that makes it eight.
The Orioles defense has, once again, been stellar. The team leads the league in double plays turned, even with all the injuries throughout the year. Since they have been one of the best defensive teams in the majors for the past couple seasons, it doesn’t seem like there is anything to really worry about. As long as this keeps up, they will remain legitimate contenders to win the division.
Hitting is one thing that the Orioles could improve upon. The birds rely very heavily on home runs, scoring over half of their runs via the long ball. The problem here is that not every park is as hitter friendly as Camden Yards. They need to find a way to score without hitting home runs if they want to win in big ballparks like Comerica, which would be where they would play in the ALDS if the season were over today. When the bats go cold and no one knocks any dingers, the Orioles fail to score more than one or two runs. There needs to be some sort of strategy to score that doesn’t rely on swinging for the fences because it will not always work.
The Orioles have 68 games left in the regular season. Since the birds have played very well against the AL East this year, it would be a shame to see them play sub-.500 baseball for the remainder of the season. Knowing that the Blue Jays will become a legitimate threat once Edwin Encarnacion returns from injury, the Orioles need to build at least a seven game lead in the division before that happens. If they can do this, then it would take a massive meltdown from the Orioles to not win the East.
Based on what we have seen for the season so far, barring any major setbacks, the Orioles will probably end somewhere around a 90-72 record and win the East. They will probably end up drawing the winner in the Central, the Detroit Tigers. Past that, it remains to be seen.
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Posted on 18 July 2014 by WNST Staff
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
The “second half” of the season is set to kick off and currently the Baltimore Orioles are sitting in first place in the AL East. Looking into the final couple months of the season Brett and Barry go out on a limb and give their bold predictions for how the team/players will finish out the 2014 season.
1. Chris Davis will finish the season batting above .250
It has been a really rough season for the Orioles first basemen, as he has struggled adjusting to the new found attention received by opposing pitchers and defensive shifts. He has been hovering around the .200 “mendoza line” since returning from an oblique strain in May. Though we may never see the 2013 Chris Davis ever again, he should be able to bounce back with the extra rest of the All Star break and regain some of that form that terrorized the entire league. If Davis were to get on a hot streak, it is certainly not inconcievable to think he could raise his batting average 40-50 points, while knocking out another 15-20 home runs. In the end, he may finish the season looking like the 2012 version of himself and that could be good enough with a lineup that includes Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez will finish the season with a winning record
Though Ubaldo Jimenez has been a monumental disappointment so far for the Orioles, he has shown flashes of being the front-end starter the Orioles signed in the off season. Getting the extra couple days rest with his 15 Day DL stint, right before the All-Star break, will give him the needed time to regroup mentally and physically. Already known as a second half pitcher, expect to see a much better version of Jimenez in the coming months, where he could finish with 8-2 record, putting him above .500 for the season.
3. The Orioles will trade Steve Lombardozzi and T.J. McFarland to the Phillies for A.J. Burnett
Many people were clamoring for the hometown Burnett before the Jimenez signing this off season and will finally get their wish. Lombardozzi has been mis-utilized by the Orioles and will be better suited in the NL, with opportunities in every game. While bringing in an arm like Burnett, who is on a one-year deal, one of the rotational pitchers will be sent to the bullpen, rendering McFarland expendable. The move would make sense, as Burnett is familiar with the division and can play for a contender, while the Phillies obtain two players that could fill specific roles in their rebuild efforts.
1) David Lough will stick with the Orioles for the duration of the 162 game season.
Since the Orioles have already played 95 games, what’s another 67 with David Lough? The struggles of the former Royal have been well documented, as the term “pinch running specialist” is the most fitting term for Lough’s resume. Something tells me that Buck Showalter will continue to keep Lough on the season, and a gut instinct tells me that he picks up his play in the second half. With a ton of games against the AL West, Lough might see a couple of starts on the road-trip. If he performs well at the plate, he could solidify a spot as a bench player for the long haul.
2) The September call-up that will make an impact on the Orioles’ playoff chances is NOT Dylan Bundy.
Despite his recent struggles at high-A Frederick, there is a very good chance that Bundy sees time in the major leagues come September. With a bullpen that will surely be overworked come mid-August, Bundy will be counted on to eat some innings, work on command of his secondary pitches, and learn the ropes as a reliever at the major league level. However, I do not expect Bundy’s performance to be overwhelmingly positive.
Two players to monitor for a September call-up splash: 1B Christian Walker and IF Steve Lombardozzi. Walker just received a promotion to Norfolk after a very successful stay in Bowie. With the Orioles trading away Brett Wallace, Walker will be the full-time first baseman, and if he continues to hit, could force his way onto the 40 man roster. With Chris Davis’ struggle to hit for average, Walker’s bat could be the biggest surprise of any contending team out there. If Lombardozzi is not traded to the Phillies, the Atholton grad could be a firecracker off of the bench. Switch-hitting abilities, versatility in the infield, and above-average speed could all equate to September playing time for a team that could be in a situation where they can afford to rest everyday starters from time to time.
3) Caleb Joseph’s play will make Matt Wieters a candidate to start the 2015 season as a first basemen.
I know, I know. Chris Davis is under contract for next season, and I just sung the praises of young Christian Walker. But hear me out. Given the workload that Wieters has had behind the plate in his career, and the Tommy John surgery that will keep him on the bench for the rest of the season, the time to think about a position change is now. Caleb Joseph has shown Orioles fans that he can catch at the major league level. His rapport with Kevin Gausman from their days in the minor leagues will be very helpful down the stretch. Chris Davis has not shied away from playing different positions through his tenure with the Orioles. If the Orioles choose not to re-sign Nick Markakis, or lose out to a team that overwhelms their offer, could Davis become the everyday right fielder? Could Wieters and Walker split first base duties, with Wieters serving as a backup catcher to Joseph and DH candidate against left-handed pitching?
Now we’ve got you thinking. You wanted bold, we gave you bold! Enjoy the second half, and enjoy the Brett & Barry Show.
Posted on 16 July 2014 by Peter Dilutis
Fast forward three months. Our Baltimore Orioles have made it to the World Series for the first time since 1983, matching up against the Atlanta Braves. It’s the situation that we all dream about when we’re kids playing catch in the backyard or taking batting practice on the neighborhood fields.
Game 7 of the World Series. Bottom of the 9th inning. Tied game. Bases loaded. Two outs. Full count. The fans are going absolutely bonkers. Baltimore is a ball four, walk, hit or error away from walking off with their first World Series win in 21 years.
And why is it they are in position to walk off with the win?
Because just three months earlier, Pat Neshek entered the All-Star Game, played at Target Field, home of the 44-50 Minnesota Twins, and gave up three runs to the American League, including a sacrifice fly from Jose Altuve, member of the 40-56 Houston Astros.
It has absolutely nothing to do with what team had the better regular season record. Where the seventh game of the World Series is played has nothing to do with either of the teams participating in the series, unless of course members of those respective teams made an impact, positively or negatively, in the All-Star game.
Rather, representatives from all 30 teams, 20 of which will not make the postseason and 22 of which will not make it past the play-in games, determine where that legacy-defining Game 7 is played.
In what alternate universe does that make sense? You’re telling me that a bunch of millionaires in $25,000 suits got together, deliberated in a boardroom and came out with this solution?
Imagine if Luis Gonzalez’ hit over Derek Jeter’s glove in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series would have simply put the Diamondbacks up 3-2 rather than ending the game? What if history was re-written and that Game 7 had actually been played in New York? In 2001, the American League won the All-Star game. Under our current All-Star game rules, that legacy-defining game would have in fact been played at Yankee Stadium. How might that have changed the legacy of Derek Jeter? He could have six rings instead of five. Joe Torre would have another World Series under his belt. Even Mike Mussina could have a ring to display on his mantle had the location of the seventh game been switched to the Big Apple. Crazy stuff.
We’re talking about a game in which AL manager John Farrell admitted that his main objective was not to win, but to get as many players in the game as possible. And let’s be honest – why does John Farrell care who wins the game? His Boston Red Sox are 43-52, 9.5 games behind the Orioles and they’re more concerned with what kind of young haul they can get for Jon Lester at the deadline than what stadium they’re going to be playing in come October. We’re talking about a game in which Adam Wainwright admitted to grooving pitches right down 5th Avenue to leadoff man Derek Jeter in his final “farewell” All-Star Game sendoff. Jeter doubled in his first at bat and later scored. The American League went on to score three runs in the first inning.
Ultimately, they won the game by two runs, 5-3.
Had Adam Wainwright actually tried to pitch to Derek Jeter, the National League very well may have won the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, awarding them home field advantage in the 2014 World Series. Meaning, of course, that in my above scenario, a run would not walk the game off for the Orioles. Instead, the Atlanta Braves, or whoever their opponent would be in our dream scenario, would get one more at bat in the bottom of the inning with a chance to tie or win the game.
Hundreds of years from now, when all of us are dead and gone, the 2014 World Series winner will live in infamy in countless record books and libraries throughout the sports world. Legacies will be defined. Future contracts will be signed. Statues may very well be erected. Hall of Fame candidacy will be voted upon.
And all of that history could be changed in a flash – because of an All-Star Game played in July amongst members of all 30 MLB teams that served more as a spectacle and farewell tour to Derek Jeter than it did as a real game.
The NBA All-Star game is nothing more than a glorified dunk contest. Roger Goodell has threatened to put an end to the NFL Pro Bowl because the players just won’t take it seriously. And as we saw from Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night, major league baseball players don’t REALLY care about winning. Derek Jeter’s 4th inning moment yesterday was always going to more important than the end result of the game. Undoubtedly, more people know about that moment than know the end result of the game. The same thing happened last year at Citi Field when Mariano Rivera was paraded out in the 8th inning as Enter Sandman blasted over the speakers.
The All-Star Game is an entertainment spectacle. It is NOT a competitive game. Not even close.
By placing such a high importance on the result of a glorified exhibition game, Bud Selig and the powers that be within Major League Baseball are putting the integrity of this great game on the line. It may not seem like such a big deal right now. It’s hard to really understand the significance of something, whether we’re talking sports or life in general, until your life and/or interests are directly impacted.
But when you’re favorite baseball team is on the mound in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series, watching the opposing team walking off the field with a one run win in front of the home fans, perhaps you too will question the logic and integrity of the current All-Star Game format.
In the meantime, I guess all of us Orioles fans should be thankful that the American League won, right?
Posted on 11 July 2014 by WNST Staff
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
As the All-Star is steadily approaching, it is time to look back of some of the best and worst for the Orioles first half.
MVP (BK): Undoubtedly, Nelson Cruz. The best free agent signing this off season in all of Major League Baseball is paying off in spades, and it seems as if he refuses to come back to Earth. As of Friday morning, Cruz is tied for the most home runs in the majors, and is in sole possession of the RBI category with a whopping 74 prior to the All-Star Break. Coupled with a .291 batting average, and you have yourself a legitimate MVP candidate that is the main reason that the Orioles are in first place in the American League East.
LVP (BK): There are a couple of worthy candidates, but pinch running specialist David Lough takes this award. Acquired from Kansas City for Danny Valencia, all signs in spring pointed to Lough being the starting left fielder and a capable leadoff hitter that would make fans forget about Nate McClouth. Today, he finds himself buried on the Orioles bench, receiving an occasional start in left field when Cruz and Steve Pearce have sore backs from carrying the offense. At this point in the season, Lough has little to no value to a first-place team. The time has come for the Orioles to designate Lough for assignment, and recall Jemile Weeks or Steve Lombardozzi.
Biggest Surprise (BD): This again has to be Nelson Cruz playing at a career level in Baltimore. When signing the one year deal in the off season, he was obliviously trying to prove the MLB that he could bounce back after his 50 game suspension for PED use last season. No one could have expected this out of Cruz or teams would have been lining up for his services, instead of letting him slip through the cracks until the waning minutes before the season started. He is probably the biggest steal of the off season and in Orioles history, considering he could end up being the league MVP.
Biggest Disappointment (BD): Several players have not lived up to expectations so far this season, but Chris Davis has been the biggest disappointment. After his record-setting 53 home runs for the Orioles in 2013, many expected him to continue to torture opposing pitchers. Though it is not as bad as many are making it out to be, as he does have a good OPS, he is not hitting for any average. His power numbers are also drastically down from last year’s torrid pace.
Best Roster Move (BD): Duh, signing NELSON CRUZ. See MVP and Biggest Surprise
Worst Roster Move (BD): This is a tough one since this team tinkers so much with its MLB roster so regularly. But it has to be the Yo-Yo the organization has played with its top overall prospect and arguably best pitcher on the team in Kevin Gausman. Let the pitcher get comfortable into a MLB routine and hold down a spot within a below-average rotation. Honorable mention goes out to Steve Lombardozzi wasting away in Triple A, after proving he could be a valuable piece with his versatility and a much better hitter than the likes of Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop.
Best Hitter (BK): This is getting redundant; Nelson Cruz…
Best Pitcher (BK): In whatever role he has been asked to fill, Zach Britton has done it at a very high level. When the season started, Britton was good for 4-6 scoreless innings in relief every week. When Tommy Hunter failed to record clean 9th innings and eventually landed on the disabled list, Britton has become a surprisingly good closer, recording 15 of 17 save opportunities with an earned-run average of 1.33. Going into the season, there were legitimate questions of Britton making the team if he did not earn the fifth starter job. Now, I cannot imagine this season without Britton in the backend of the bullpen, using his newfound velocity on his fastball to mystify hitters from both sides of the plate.
Biggest question for the 2nd half (BK): Can they sustain it?
At 50-41, the Orioles could conceivably play .500 baseball the rest of the way and win the American League East division. With the injury bug greatly affecting the Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie) and the Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda), the Orioles are looking better and better each day. This Orioles team still has ways to improve, but in a game of good health and least flaws, the Orioles are in first place in both categories.
Will Ubaldo continue to frustrate Orioles fans with 5 IP, 5 BB outings? Will Kevin Gausman be in this rotation for good? Will Steve Pearce continue to be the hero that Charm City needs? Or will responsibilities fall to Super Manny?
It should be a fun second half, Baltimore. Buckle Up.
Posted on 11 July 2014 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 08 July 2014 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 03 July 2014 by Brandon Sacks
From June 6-8, the Orioles played the Oakland A’s in their first head to head series of the year. On the sixth, Manny Machado had a bit of a meltdown and threw his helmet after an incident where he felt he was tagged too hard. Two days later, he “accidentally” threw his bat at A’s pitcher Fernando Abad. For these two incidents, Manny received a five game suspension from MLB, which was upheld after being appealed.
It seemed like this was going to be the most inopportune time for Machado to be forced out of the lineup, especially with his bat heating up. The Orioles offense was not explosive as fans know it to be in the games leading up to the suspension. He also is one of the best defensive players on the Orioles’ roster. While he has not played to the same quality as when he won the platinum glove award last year, he has still been very dominant at third base this season. When others were playing at third while Machado was coming back from his knee injury, it was evident that the birds missed number 13.
Not so much anymore. Three games into the five game suspension, the Orioles are 3-0, outscoring the Rangers by a combined 21-8. Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty have both played well above average defense at third. The offensive output from the position, while minimal, has included the go-ahead home run by Flaherty last night.
Is the Machado suspension really the worst thing that has happened to the Orioles this season? It seems like this season, more than any, the birds have done really well in the face of adversity, from the Machado injury to the Wieters injury to the suspension and more. No matter what has happened, they have found a way to continue winning, and they have been able to stay in the race for the AL East. As long as the Orioles continue to connect on offense like they have over the past three games, they will be on the verge of becoming the AL East powerhouse that has been mysteriously absent throughout this entire season.
Now if only we could work on our starting pitching…
Posted on 21 June 2014 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 14 June 2014 by WNST Staff
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BK: Another week of Orioles baseball means another set of highs and lows for a team that finds itself fighting for second place in the American League East. The starting pitching has been the team’s bright spot, with Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman combining for just 1 run allowed in 21 innings during the rain-filled series with the Boston Red Sox. Kevin Gausman also had his best week as professional, going 2-0 and out-pitching Sonny Gray and Mark Buehrle against the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively.
Despite the great starting pitching, the week was marred by another poor outing from Ubaldo Jimenez and the antics of 3B Manny Machado during the series with the Athletics. If the Orioles are going to compete for a playoff spot in a very winnable division, the team will need both Jimenez and Machado to regain their 2013 form rather than continuing at the pace that they are on.
The news of Manny Machado’s 5 game suspension (which he has appealed) shocks no one who follows the Orioles. Machado’s helmet-slamming and bat-throwing actions were both immature and inexcusable, providing an already potent Athletics team with more motivating to win a series during a difficult road trip. So Brett, I ask you this: if you were the Orioles, how would you go about handling the Manny Machado incident? Was appealing the suspension the right call?
BD: Barry, knowing this organization, I already knew this would be a PR nightmare; and they didn’t disappoint. First off, having a MASN exclusive interview with him after the incident is simply a joke. We all know who is signing those checks for the TV network and we have seen this many times in the past. Then nobody in the organization has the balls to sit the young man down. The players had to take action, since it was clear nobody else was. Embarrassing.
There was no reason at all he should have played that game on June 7th, after his actions the night before with Oakland A’s 3B Josh Donaldson. Buck should have realized that he was out of control then and benched him on the spot. As a 21 year old, sometimes you need to be knocked down a peg or two, before things really get out of hand…like they did two days later. And by having Chen hit Donaldson that same night, it was just a terrible sign of how this team thinks. “We like OUR guys” does not mean you have to back them even if they were egregiously wrong.
Now after the episode on June 9th, everyone now sees Machado as a spoiled brat and dirty player. The organization should have been proactive in this situation and made a point throughout their dugout. Allowing him to play the night after not only is an embarrassment to the Orioles, but is a sign that Buck Showalter may not be the man for the job. He proved that he does not have the where with all to stand up to a star player and put him in his place.
Now the appeal is just common practice in the MLB, as their is no repercussions for trying, so why not appeal and hope for a lesser sentence. As a legal move it makes a lot of sense. As a personal move, if Machado really wanted to prove his sincerity, he just lets this one slide, accepts his punishment as a man and comes back ready to play in five days.
Now on to some good news for the O’s, as they have seen top prospect at least fulfill his expectations for his past two starts, after being called back up to the big leagues. Thirteen innings, two earned runs and nine strikeouts may be the best two game stretch for any Baltimore pitcher this season (oh by the way the team won both games). If you were the Orioles, what do you do with Kevin Gausman and the starting rotation when Miguel Gonzalez returns from injury? Is a 6-man rotation still a possibility?
BK: I had the privilege of getting a Manny Machado bobblehead (insert joke here) and watching Kevin Gausman in person last Saturday. Prior to the game, I had my doubts about how the evening would play out. Gausman’s first start of the year was against a division leader, with the opponent’s ace taking the mound. Under eerily similar circumstances Gausman rose to the occasion. What made the former LSU product so impressive was the velocity on his fastball (consistently hitting 96-97 mph) and the ability to ramp it up when needed. In the 6th inning, with runners on second and third and one out, Gausman struck out Athletics’ third baseman Josh Donaldson with a phenomenal off-speed pitch, followed by a 99 mph heater to ring up cleanup hitter Brandon Moss that reminded me of Justin Verlander. By getting out of a jam by striking out the heart of the Athletics’ order, Kevin Gausman had arrived.
After another impressive start from Gausman on Thursday against yet another first place team, it is time for him to become a full-time member of the rotation. Of all of the Orioles starting pitchers, Gausman has already drawn three of the most difficult matchups on the season. By challenging him early, the team is preparing Gausman well for tough division games in August and September. With two straight quality starts, sending the 23-year old back to Norfolk or placing him in the bullpen would be misguided.
The idea of a six-man rotation was first brought up when Johan Santana was added to the roster. The idea was short lived, as Santana tore his Achilles during a start at extended spring training, ending his season. Although Buck Showalter has said that he does not want to go to a six-man rotation to sacrifice an arm in the bullpen, the team has the arms to do so. The extra day of rest for starting pitchers would benefit Chen and Gausman the most, while also giving the team more time to work with Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez on their early inning struggles. The Orioles also have four bullpen members who have starting experience (Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz) that are capable of throwing two-plus innings if needed. This would require the team to make Darren O’ Day the closer, or a by committee approach.
The most likely scenario is for Gausman to stay in the rotation, while Miguel Gonzalez moves to the bullpen. Prior to the oblique injury, Gonzalez had put together a string of nice starts in May. The Orioles have a need for a right-handed reliever to work the 6th and 7th innings when starters like Jimenez and Chen produce high pitch counts, and Gonzalez has experience coming out the bullpen. There is room for both pitchers in a six-man rotation, but the Orioles don’t value the risk-reward as much as others.
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