Posted on 21 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 14 June 2014 by Brett Dickinson
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.
Posted on 12 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks
Last night, the Orioles finished up their series against the Boston Red Sox on national television. Wei-Yin Chen pitched seven innings of shutout baseball on the way to a 6-0 victory over the Sox. The entire country got to watch the pitchers shut down the defending champions for the second time in three days. The Orioles allowed one run in the series and, had the birds been able to hit during the second game, could have easily swept the Sox.
After this past game, the question rises about how often the birds play on national television. It seems like every time the Orioles make an appearance on ESPN or FOX that they are playing either the Red Sox or the Yankees, which is slightly ridiculous. The Orioles are scheduled to make 12 national appearances over the course of the 2014 season, five of which will not be against Boston or New York. Three of these five games will be against the division opponent Rays, who were expected to be much better than they are showing to be. In other words, the Orioles will appear nationally in two games they do not play divisional foes. Only the FOX corporation (once against Oakland on FOX, once against St. Louis on Fox Sports 1.
It seems like the national media, especially ESPN, does not respect the Orioles as much as they should. It’s nice to see the birds once again playing in the national spotlight, but it would be nice to see them playing games outside the AL East. Over the past two years, the Orioles have a winning record against Boston and have played very well against New York. If this is the case, then why do the Orioles continue to play these two teams almost exclusively? It doesn’t make sense at all.
Over the past two and a half seasons, the birds have worked to throw away all memories of the terrible play that lasted over a decade. The birds have done their jobs, so why is the national media not responding by giving them playing time to the rest of the country? The Orioles finally have made appearances on ESPN, even hosting games in the national spotlight, but this little reintroduction is not enough. The national media does not respect the Orioles. That seems like the only logical explanation. Why else would the Orioles play the majority of their nationally televised games within their division?
The Orioles have proven time and time again that they are able to play outside of their own division and do it well. While the respect seems to be returning slowly, it isn’t coming back fast enough. It’s a shame to see this, especially from a team that just allowed one run over an entire series against the defending World Series champions.
Posted on 07 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 04 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks
The third of June was the day that was probably circled on the calendar of Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz. This was the day that he finally returned to his former team, the Texas Rangers, to play for his new team. Many wondered if the Rangers fans would give him a warm welcome back or if they would boo him.
That question was answered in the first inning, as Cruz was batting third in the lineup. When he walked up to the plate for his first appearance of the night, the fans all applauded. After the game, Cruz told reporters that it felt good that everyone was happy to see him.
They probably weren’t happy to see that he has not changed at all. Cruz drove in his league leading 21st home run in the top of the 8th inning to put the Orioles out of reach. His 3-run homer was part of a six run inning that led to the Orioles’ eventual 8-3 victory in the series opener against the Rangers. Even though Cruz went 1-4 at the plate, his three run bomb made the game quite the homecoming for Cruz.
Let’s hope that his run production continues. The birds will need two more high scoring performances if they want to keep beating the Rangers in Texas.
Posted on 31 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
The Orioles have finally gotten a bit of good news to the club. Amid a four game losing streak and some borderline atrocious play, there is finally something to smile about. Matt Wieters, who has been on the DL since May 11, has finally picked up a baseball again. He had his first throwing session down in Houston before the second game of the series against the Astros.
As you’ll probably remember, Wieters has had a problem with his throwing elbow, which led to some speculation about his ulnar collateral ligament and whether he would need Tommy John surgery to repair it. There was word that he was receiving platelet rich plasma injections, which is what many pitchers receive in order to avoid the surgery.
It sounds like good news to have Wieters back to throwing. He estimated that he threw about 25 pitches during the session and felt fine, which bodes well for his future. It looks like he will be able to avoid Tommy John surgery, and he probably will be back to the Orioles sooner rather than later.
Right now, the birds could use anything to gain some momentum. Since the second game against the Brewers, their bats have gone cold, putting up only five runs in the next three games. Both of Wieters’ replacements, Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph, have limited experience in the orange and black, but neither have done incredibly well at the plate. Hundley is batting .214/.313/.214 in 16 plate appearances and Joseph is batting .040/.172/.040 in 30 plate appearances. As a comparison, before being placed on the DL, Wieters was batting .308/.339/.500 in 112 plate appearances. In other words, the Orioles are missing a solid bat in the lineup right now.
Hopefully, the return of Wieters will be exactly what the Orioles need to finally return to the offensive powerhouse that they should be. Barring any future injuries, the Orioles would finally have the entire starting lineup together for the first time all year, which could be just what they need to push back to the top of the AL East.
Posted on 24 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
It was fairly well known that the Orioles were in the market for another catcher. It was pretty much expected that this catcher was going to replace Caleb Joseph in the depth chart. Most people believed that this new catcher would be backing up Steve Clevenger. However, this was not exactly the case.
Before the third game in the series against the Indians, the birds announced a trade with the San Diego Padres. In exchange for Troy Patton, the Orioles received catcher Nick Hundley and cash considerations. That’s right. The Orioles just traded for a starting catcher.
Troy Patton served a 25 game suspension at the beginning of the season for testing positive for amphetamines. Since coming off his suspension, he made 9 appearances in the orange and black. He allowed four walks and picked up five strikeouts while only pitching 6.2 innings to an ERA of 8.10 and a WHIP of 1.950.
In exchange for Patton, the Orioles picked up Nick Hundley. In his seven years with the Padres, he has caught 27.7% of runners trying to steal a base, which is around the league average. As a comparison, Wieters has caught 32.5% of runners in his seven years with the Orioles. Hundley has only committed five more errors than Wieters during that span.
Here is the problem. Wieters is scheduled to come off the 15-day DL on May 26, but does not look like he is ready to come off immediately. That would be fine, but the Orioles already had two catchers on their roster. If they had signed another catcher to simply replace Joseph, that would have just been seen as a simple transaction. The issue is that the birds traded for a starter in the last year of his contract. This might signal that there is a serious problem with Wieters’ elbow that could keep him out of the game much longer.
Wieters has been resting his elbow for the past two weeks in order to try and avoid surgery. A few days ago, Wieters received a platelet rich plasma injection, which is normally given to pitchers that are trying to avoid Tommy John surgery. Putting these two parts together, Wieters could very well be heading to getting the surgery, which would end his season. If he were to get this surgery, it would be a huge loss for the Orioles. Wieters has hit over 20 home runs in each of the past three seasons. The birds will lose a serious power threat if he ends up getting season ending surgery.
While the Orioles will once again have a starting catcher behind the plate, it seems like there are some more serious problems at hand. Hopefully this trade is just to unload a pitcher that could not do his job rather than to pick up someone for damage control.
Posted on 24 May 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 23 May 2014 by Brett Dickinson
The week in Orioles baseball has been a memorable one, for better and for worse. After last week’s difficult 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals in which Adam Jones and Chris Davis stranded the tying run at third, questions surrounded manager Buck Showalter’s stubbornness with his everyday lineup. With Manny Machado playing every day and batting second, the Orioles most consistent hitter, Nelson Cruz, has now been moved down to the fifth spot.
After a week in which the Orioles have actually put runs on the board with Showalter’s “stubborn” lineup, the team has won just once. Cruz continues to impress, while it appears that Jones has settled in to the three hole with 8 hits in his last 4 games. Which begs the question: Should the Orioles make major changes to their lineup?
FOR By: Brett Dickinson
Though the Orioles had a decent week at the plate, that does not change the long-term reality for some “stars” in this current lineup. At the top, Nick Markasis has been steady getting on base as needed with some many run producers batting behind him. Manny Machado has struggled through his first several weeks, coming off a serious knee injury and missing out on the entire off season. It may be hindering the team now, but getting the young superstar comfortable is much more important for this team’s success later on. Hopes are he can start to turn things around and be the same type of player that filled the two hole for the Orioles last season.
But the heart of the lineup is where I see Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter really struggling with his inner demons. He is consistently not putting his best hitters in the best situations to succeed at their highest level. Nelson Cruz is certainly an extremely early MVP candidate, yet is left batting in the fifth spot. Showalter has been loyal to a fault in his tenure with the organization; clearly evident with his handling of Jim Johnson and the closer role last season. The same can be said with the team’s highest paid player (and supposed team leader) center fielder Adam Jones.
When everyone watching the game knows the scouting report on a player (including my own wife, who knows baseball, but doesn’t follow it as intently as most fans), then there is a problem. Just the other night Adam Jones came to the plate; her exact quote as a slider was thrown to the outside corner, into the dirt:
“I’m surprised he didn’t swing at that one…”
Jones plate discipline this season has been down right despicable. Yet he still bats third in a lineup that has struggled to consistently score runs all season. Buck needs to stop worrying about hurting his feelings and tell the young man he is moving down a couple spots. It should not matter that he is the “face of the franchise;” if that were true, he should do what’s best for the team without hesitation. Ideally, Chris Davis should move into his slot, because though he does not have the massive power numbers of 2013, he is getting on base at an alarmingly high rate, taking an massive amount of walks in the process.
This would lead to Nelson Cruz batting cleanup, where he has the potential to come to the plate with runners on base each and every time. Doesn’t that seem like the smart decision for a guy that among the tops in the entire MLB in home runs and RBI? Moving the free swinging Jones down to the fifth spot should not hurt his approach either, because he really doesn’t have one at this point. Whether he bats third, fifth or ninth, he is going to swing and swing a lot.
Time to stop being loyal to a player’s past performance and looking at his current contributions Buck!
AGAINST By: Barry Kamen
In the month of May, it is very easy to overreact to things that happen during the course of an entire baseball season. Sure, no Oriole fan likes to see the middle of the order fall flat in a close game. But every fan LOVES it when 3 Orange Crushes leave PNC Park. There are ebbs and flows to every season. The goal of the Orioles in May is consistency, ensuring that the peaks and the valleys are not drastically far away from each other.
One way to ensure is consistency is with the lineup. The criticism surrounding Adam Jones is largely unwarranted. The free-swinger is what he is; a .280 hitter with above-average home run and RBI numbers for his position. Jones doesn’t walk, and he is going to strike out more than he should. Fan frustration should not be with Jones, but with the injuries that have plagued the team all season. With Manny Machado’s bat starting to come around after joining the team at the beginning of May, the entire lineup has produced as a result. Assuming no other injuries occur, the Orioles have one of the best 1-5 lineups in all of Major League Baseball. Not only is the top and middle of the order talented, but there are very few mysteries associated with each player. The biggest question mark could very well be Chris Davis, as he works to ensure that last year’s production was not a fluke.
Rather than tinker with the lineup, depth becomes the next issue for Showalter to deal with. David Lough has played himself out of the lineup, and the end might be nearing for the former Royal. With Delmon Young and Steve Pearce in the fold, there is very little reason to keep Lough. It will not be long before Steve Lombardozzi returns to the majors, and could make a significant impact at the bottom of the order. Until then, tread water in May, and prepare for the high tide in September.