Tag Archive | "Chris Davis"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting the All-Star break an unthinkable 39 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Even with a victory in the final game before the All-Star break that featured contributions from Manny Machado and Adam Jones, the Orioles remain on pace to become the fifth major league team since 1901 to lose 115 games in a season. Infamy continues to chase them.

2. Baltimore hadn’t won on consecutive days at home since its season-best four-game winning streak from May 9-12, and it had also been three weeks since the club won consecutive games. Overshadowed by the frustration and anger of the season is how truly astonishing it’s all been.

3. Chris Tillman being bypassed in favor of a bullpen game Sunday should speak volumes about where he stands with his rehab assignment coming to an end. Not even a Jimmy Yacabonis illness could bring him back to the majors.

4. The question isn’t about whom to fire as much as determining who deserves to stick around for the pending rebuild. How do Buck Showalter and his coaching staff come back from such a historically poor season? What’s the justification for maintaining the status quo? It’s a tough sell.

5. Beyond trades involving pending free agents, a top second-half priority needs to be getting Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini on track. Both are too young and talented to have played like this. The Orioles need these two to be pillars around which to build or at least potential trade chips.

6. After being optioned to the minors for the second time in a month, Chance Sisco needs to be left alone for a while. I have doubts about what we’ve seen from him so far, but making him a regular on the Norfolk shuttle isn’t going to help matters.

7. I certainly wouldn’t give away Mychal Givens and his current 4.28 ERA, but the organization’s reluctance to trade him is too shortsighted. No one should be off the table when you’re facing a multiyear rebuild, especially factoring in the volatility of relievers.

8. In his first 23 games since returning from his benching, Chris Davis has batted .176 with five home runs, a .245 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. That actually represents improvement, too. He sits at minus-2.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

9. The Orioles entered the break last in the majors at minus-87 defensive runs saved, and the cause isn’t players being out of position as Showalter suggested this past week. Players with more speed and better defensive skills are needed rather than a surplus of designated hitters with gloves.

10. An addition to begin changing that narrative would be Cedric Mullins, who entered Monday sporting an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. It’s time to start seeing what the 23-year-old center fielder can do in the majors.

11. Brooks Robinson being hired as a special assistant is a great move, but I can’t stop thinking about how long overdue it is. This is something that should have happened from the moment “Mr. Oriole” left the broadcast booth 25 years ago. Better late than never though.

12. Now, is there any chance John and Lou Angelos can do something about THIS?

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Letting The Warehouse know via #DearOrioles letters that those empty seats are still out here

Posted on 25 June 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

I’VE THOUGHT LONG AND HARD about how I can best shine a light on the significance of the Baltimore Orioles to our city and community in this summer of baseball darkness.

In my hopes of one day becoming a “man of letters” – and in my old-fashioned newspaper columnist way and sans a legitimate press credential that was taken from me 12 years ago after 21 years of covering the baseball team – I’ve decided that the best thing I can do short of delivering a personal message to any of them face to face is write personal notes to all of them. So between now and whenever this mess is dismantled or disintegrates, they’ll all be getting very public and personal letters from me on the way out the door. And for those who are remaining – and most of those are named “Angelos” – I’ll continue to challenge them to answer to the fans, the stakeholders and the community in this tender time in Orioles history.

I’ll ask them all: “What does your future hold? What will your legacy be?”

It’s what John Steadman would do.

You can read them at the hashtag #DearOrioles. I’m hoping folks in the community will write their own #DearOrioles questions, concerns and memos.

This is the 25th summer Peter G. Angelos has owned the Orioles. It is my 27th year of doing sports radio and media in Baltimore. On August 3rd, WNST will celebrate its 20th year serving local sports fans the truth about the teams and the people who create, host and benefit from the games our community has supported with massive tax breaks, stadium erections and credit card insertions.

I was here doing this Baltimore sports media thing long before anyone outside of Bethlehem Steel ever knew the name of Peter G. Angelos – back in the spring and summer of 1993 when he created chaos and somehow usurped control of the franchise away from Bill DeWitt and Larry Lucchino. I wrote about that last summer in The Peter Principles. You can also find the audio read in the Buy A Toyota Audio Vault.

By my count, there have been five summers of relevance under his quarter of a century of involvement. In baseball parlance, that’s batting .200 ­–­ or 50 points higher than the guy they owe $130 million ill-fated dollars to over the next 20 years. By my count, he’s pocketed in excess of $1 billion in profit over the past 15 years, primarily due to a “get out of debt free” deal with Major League Baseball to bring a team to Washington, D.C. and allowing Angelos a spigot to print cable television money via MASN.

Peter G. Angelos and his heirs have been big winners in the Baltimore baseball game. Big with a capital “B” as in billions.

Meanwhile, fans of the Baltimore Orioles and vested community members have consistently been the losers in the baseball game. And the promises that William Donald Schaefer made with Edward Bennett Williams before his death about Camden Yards and a downtown stadium and the emotional and/or economic benefits it would provide for our city and community have all but evaporated.

I’m the guy who did Free The Birds back in September 2006 in an attempt to hold Angelos accountable and publicly discuss the issues surrounding a deserted downtown on game nights. It appears as though I’ve now lived long enough to arrive at holding the next “person of influence” with the Orioles accountable as well.

I pray that the next “caretaker” actually takes care of it because it’s in desperate need of some TLC. There are whispers that the franchise is in jeopardy of leaving Baltimore.

Can you imagine Peter G. Angelos being around to negotiate a long-term lease for Camden Yards and the threats that would come?

I’ve built my life and company and business and personal brand around local sports and the baseball franchise – for better or worse. My childhood love of the Baltimore Orioles is deep and well told. I’ve always loved the team. I live here. I moved downtown in 2003 to attend Orioles games. I wrote about it over 19 chapters of history in 2006 when I did the #FreeTheBirds walkout to shine a light on the horrific ownership and the lack of accountability. I’m no #Nestordamus, but I can say that I very clearly predicted the demise of the brand given the

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Orioles designate Alvarez for assignment, promote infielder Wilkerson

Posted on 19 June 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have shaken up their 25-man roster prior to the start of a three-game set in Washington.

In addition to officially recalling catcher Caleb Joseph from Triple-A Norfolk to replace the demoted Chance Sisco, Baltimore has designated struggling veteran Pedro Alvarez for assignment and selected the contract of infielder Steve Wilkerson from the Tides.

With Mark Trumbo beginning the season on the disabled list, Alvarez had a good opening month, batting .237 with six home runs, 13 runs batted in, and a .933 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, the left-handed slugger had struggled mightily since May 1 with a .115 average and .424 OPS in his last 57 plate appearances.

In 127 plate appearances this season, Alvarez was batting .180 with eight homers, 18 RBIs, and a .698 OPS.

Wilkerson, 26, was batting .290 with three home runs, nine RBIs, and an .862 OPS in 70 plate appearances for Norfolk since returning from a 50-game ban for amphetamine use. The 2014 eighth-round pick is a switch hitter and was very much on the organization’s radar as a potential utility infielder prior to the announcement of his suspension this past offseason.

He batted a combined .305 with eight homers, 45 RBIs, and a .798 OPS between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season and also hit .317 in the Arizona Fall League. Wilkerson has played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots in the minor leagues, but his most extensive action has come at second base.

Batting .273 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .702 OPS for Norfolk since being demoted by the Orioles last month, Joseph was in the starting lineup against the Nationals on Tuesday. According to STATS, he and younger brother Corban Joseph are now the 28th set of brothers to be teammates in the majors since 1980 and just the second set in Orioles history, joining Cal and Billy Ripken.

First baseman Chris Davis was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game as he continues to work on making adjustments in a woeful offensive season in which he’s batted just .150 with a .454 OPS. He has started in just two of Baltimore’s last 10 games and hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit in over a month.

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Orioles continue to sit Davis with “no closed end to it”

Posted on 15 June 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If it weren’t already becoming apparent after Chris Davis sat out four of the previous six games, Orioles manager Buck Showalter delivered the news prior to Friday’s game with Miami.

The veteran first baseman has been benched.

Showalter didn’t use the “b” word, of course, as he explained Davis is being given an extended stretch of time to work on adjustments to try to turn around a historically-disastrous season in which he’s batting .150 with a .454 on-base plus slugging percentage. Both marks rank last in the majors among qualified hitters by a wide margin as the 32-year-old has hit only four home runs and has been worth an appalling minus-2.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Davis hasn’t hit a homer since May 9, posting a .114 average with a .305 OPS, two extra-base hits, five walks, and 43 strikeouts over his last 95 plate appearances.

“Chris is continuing with some things that he’s working on,” Showalter said. “When they come to me and say they think he’s ready to get back in the lineup, we’ll put him back in there. But it’s nothing imminent.”

Asked exactly whom “they” was comprised of, Showalter would not specify. The manager does not expect Davis’ absence to be a long-term situation, but he added there is “no closed end to it.”

There have been no signs of improvement this season as Davis’ numbers have gotten worse each month since April when he batted an anemic .167 with a .513 OPS. It’s gotten so bad that the last-place Orioles promoted infielder and longtime minor leaguer Corban Joseph, the younger brother of Caleb Joseph, to start at first base against the Marlins on Friday.

Davis is only in the third season of a seven-year, $161 million contract and has now produced a slash line of .179/.266/.314 over his last 503 plate appearances dating back to the 2017 All-Star break, making it inappropriate to simply refer to this unprecedented decline as a slump. Davis had previously received a game or two off to use as a reset once or twice, but this current stretch represents the most meaningful public action taken to address what constitutes an organizational crisis.

“I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later. I’d love to get back the Chris Davis that we all know he’s capable of [being],” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been there this year. With kind of a new approach and some new things you’re trying, this is not something that you’re going to do one day in a workout and then it’s all going to pop in one night. If that was the case, it would have happened a long time ago.

“This is something you’ve got to give a little time to and know that when you get into a game and you don’t hit a line drive over the center fielder’s head the first swing you take, you don’t throw everything out. If you’re looking for an instant return on stuff, this game doesn’t allow that.”

What those adjustments or alterations might look like remain to be seen as he hasn’t yet made any dramatic changes to his swing, stance, or positioning in the batter’s box for an extended period of time.

“We need a good Chris Davis. We do,” Showalter said. “He knows that, and that’s what’s frustrating for him. It’s like the chicken and the egg, what comes first confidence-wise?

“I’d love to see Chris get a good week under his belt and watch what happens.”

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Schoop’s struggles creating difficult pivot point for Orioles’ rebuild

Posted on 07 June 2018 by Luke Jones

A year ago, Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was on his way to his first All-Star Game and having the best season of his young career.

His improvement coupled with the first-half struggles of Manny Machado even prompted debate over which infielder would be the better long-term investment relative to their projected prices on the open market. Of course, that was before the Orioles’ September collapse that carried right into 2018 with Baltimore owning the worst record in the majors and needing to face the reality of rebuilding.

Trading Machado and other pending free agents Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach isn’t debatable; it simply must be done. Determining who will make the final call on the returns for these players is another story, of course, with the organization lacking any public semblance of stability at the top.

As for on-field failures, no one has received more blame than Chris Davis, the highest-paid player in the history of the club who’s become arguably the worst everyday player in all of baseball, a sentiment driven by data as much as emotion at this point. But harping about his failures is feeling more and more like wasted breath as the $161 million has been spent, whether he’s allowed to continue languishing at first base for the next four seasons or not. Davis isn’t the only player who’s performed poorly in 2018, but his historic decline has essentially swallowed up any extensive conversation about the struggles of others.

At the top of that secondary list is what has happened to Schoop, who was supposed to represent a pivot point in determining just how extensive this rebuild will be. Dealing Machado and others scheduled to become free agents at the end of 2018 is obvious, but Schoop is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of next year. The fear with the 26-year-old second baseman was repeating the same mistake made with Machado by neither signing him to a long-term extension nor maximizing the return value in a trade. That dilemma has been complicated by Schoop having his worst season since he was a rookie in 2014.

What’s gone wrong?

The discussion begins with the right oblique strain he suffered in Boston in mid-April. He missed more than three weeks of action and it’s the kind of injury that can linger if not treated carefully, but he’s been back for a month and is batting just .232 with five home runs, 15 runs batted in, and a .632 on-base plus slugging percentage on the season. Only Schoop can say whether he’s fully healthy or not, and he’s given no indication that the oblique is still bothering him.

Before going on the disabled list April 14, Schoop was batting .230 with a .610 OPS in 65 plate appearances. It was clearly a rough start in a limited sample, but that came after he had batted .321 with six homers and a 1.081 OPS in 53 Grapefruit League at-bats. Nothing meaningful should be gleaned from spring training numbers, of course, but there certainly wasn’t a red flag to try to take away, either. It’s worth noting Schoop batted just .230 with two long balls and a .590 OPS last September, easily the worst month of 2017 for the man who was worth 5.2 wins above replacement and was voted the club’s most valuable player in his fourth full season in the majors.

His .276 batting average on balls in play in 2018 suggests some bad luck compared to his .319 BABIP over the previous three seasons, but Schoop isn’t hitting the ball as hard as he did in previous seasons. His average exit velocity of 85.2 miles per hour is well below his 87.8 average a year ago and 87.7 career mark from the time Statcast data became available in 2015. According to FanGraphs, Schoop is making hard contact just 22.5 percent of the time compared to 36.1 percent last year and 30.3 percent for his career. He’s also hitting fewer line drives — 14.8 percent compared to 18.5 percent for his career — and his homer-to-fly ball ratio is just 9.8 percent, markedly worse than his 15.4 percent for his career.

Even if the oblique injury has impacted his batted-ball profile, that doesn’t explain the regression of Schoop’s plate discipline. It’s no secret that he came to the majors as a free-swinging hitter and walked just 13 times in his 481 plate appearances (2.7 percent) as a rookie in 2014, but Schoop had gradually improved his walk rate every year until earning a free pass in 5.2 percent of his plate appearances last season. That hardly made him a “patient” hitter compared to the average major league walk rate of 8.5 percent, but the young hitter was more consistently having good at-bats and taking advantage of better pitches to hit than he had in previous years.

Schoop’s walk rate has plummeted to a career-worst 2.3 percent in 2018, swinging more frequently in general and swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than he did last season, according to FanGraphs. Walking just four times in 176 plate appearances would give him the second-worst walk rate in the majors if he currently qualified in the rankings.

Known as one of the better off-speed and breaking-ball hitters on the team entering 2018, Schoop is batting just .143 with no homers against changeups and curveballs after hitting a combined .312 with 12 of his 32 homers against those two offerings last season. As you’d expect based on his overall numbers, he’s struggled against the other pitch types as well.

None of this is to suggest putting Schoop in the same category as Davis and his current struggles are nothing a three-week tear couldn’t remedy, but following a career year with his worst non-rookie campaign is neither helping his trade value nor creating more urgency to lock him up to a long-term deal — even if there were any evidence suggesting those efforts were being made. The optimist would say he might be more inclined to sign a team-friendly deal during a down season, but it’s still difficult imagining Schoop giving a meaningful discount so close to free agency, especially given the Orioles’ current turmoil.

Unlike when Machado was struggling a year ago, Schoop’s overall body of work and career 10.0 WAR isn’t as impressive to justify doing whatever it takes financially to lock him up. In the same way that the Orioles followed Nelson Cruz’s departure by overpaying Davis with a seven-year contract, you don’t want to reach too far to keep Schoop simply because you failed to retain Machado.

To be clear, this dilemma would still be difficult if Schoop were having a season more closely resembling what he did in 2017, but then the options of trading him for a strong return to further jump-start a rebuild or extending him to signal some long-term stability around which to build would be much more appealing. Two months ago, you could have easily made an argument that more than a year’s worth of Schoop would have fetched more in a trade than a two-month rental of Machado, but the play of these close friends has gone in opposite directions in 2018.

And it’s just another source of frustration for an organization staring at a bleak future.

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Ten painful Orioles numbers entering month of June

Posted on 01 June 2018 by Luke Jones

If the Orioles holding a 17-39 record and being 21 1/2 games out of first place didn’t depress you enough, below are 10 painful numbers entering the month of June:

3 – Number of winning months the Orioles have had since June 2016. Sure, the bottom fell out of a fun five-year run last September, but this club has been mediocre to bad for the better part of two years now.

3.73 — Runs scored per game to rank last in the American League. Only Miami has scored fewer per contest than an Orioles offense that was at least once feared despite its inconsistency over the years.

5.45 — Starter ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. It’s better than last season’s 5.70 mark, but fewer runs are being scored across the majors so far in 2018, making this “improvement” even less impressive.

Minus-45 — Baltimore’s defensive runs saved total, which is last in the majors. Yes, 2014 feels like a very long time ago and the metrics match what your eyes are seeing in the field most nights.

93 — AL-high number of walks from the bullpen. The absences of Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have been tough, but not being able to throw strikes has led to a reliever ERA of 4.30, 21st in baseball.

.825 — Opposing on-base plus slugging percentage, highest in the majors. Manny Machado is the only Orioles hitter with a better OPS than what opponents are collectively doing against Baltimore pitchers.

7 — Number of wins in 30 road games. Washington has six road victories in the last week alone.

70 — How many more strikeouts the Orioles have than hits. This is a continuing trend around baseball, but being on pace to strike out 200 more times than your number of base hits is, well, something.

160 — Number of qualified major leaguers with a higher slugging percentage than Chris Davis’ .244, which ranks ahead of only Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun (.179). This is a decline of historic proportions.

0 — Number of meaningful changes or statements from ownership signaling how disastrous this season has been. Is there anybody out there?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Memorial Day checkpoint

Posted on 29 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With one-third of the Orioles’ 2018 season officially in the books after the 6-0 loss to Washington on Monday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles reached the much-discussed Memorial Day checkpoint sitting at 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East. I’d say an extension to Flag Day probably isn’t necessary to determine how this organization needs to proceed.

2. Since plating 17 runs on Mother’s Day, the Baltimore lineup has scored three or fewer in 11 of 13 games. Pitching woes and bad defense haven’t surprised me, but I never expected the offense to be this consistently bad, ranking last in the AL in runs scored per game (3.83).

3. I’m unsure how good the likes of Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and Austin Hays will be in the majors, but watching some of the outfield combinations used by Buck Showalter in recent weeks is tiresome. I suppose a 111-loss pace reflects the amount of dead weight on the current roster.

4. Continuing to bat Chris Davis fifth or sixth is even worse.

5. Alex Cobb turned in his longest start of the season Monday, but he was plagued by a 42-pitch third inning that didn’t feature a single swing and miss. He has the worst swinging-strike percentage among pitchers completing 40 innings. His split-changeup still hasn’t returned since Tommy John surgery.

6. Davis’ performance has helped mask the struggles of Jonathan Schoop, who owns a .667 on-base plus slugging percentage and a walk rate on par with his first two seasons. The oblique strain didn’t help, but this isn’t ideal for someone needing to be re-signed or traded in the near future.

7. Many were pointing to Richard Bleier as a possible candidate to represent the Orioles at the All-Star Game if Manny Machado were to be traded before then. A 5.23 ERA in May and opponents batting .438 against him this month have certainly cooled that possibility.

8. Trey Mancini is batting .203 with a .632 OPS since banging his knee against the brick wall on April 20. He hasn’t used the knee as an excuse, but he’s hitting too many balls on the ground and his defense has taken a substantial step back from last year.

9. Concerns about Andrew Cashner being able to miss bats have been quelled by him averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but his previously-stellar ground-ball rate has plummeted to a career-worst 37.8 percent and he’s allowed 11 homers in 60 1/3 innings. That hasn’t been a good trade-off.

10. How big has the long-ball problem been for the rotation? Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner, and Cobb all rank among the top 30 for worst homer rates in the majors among those completing at least 40 innings. Chris Tillman would also be on that list if he had enough innings.

11. This past weekend marked the six-year anniversary of Adam Jones inking his $85.5 million contract that was a winner for both sides. It represented happier times when a competitive window was just opening and the Orioles had the vision and urgency to lock up a 26-year-old entering his prime.

12. I’m unmoved about in-season firings in what’s already a lost year, but how refreshing would it be for a member of the Angelos family to speak about this being unacceptable, to vow changes, and to lay out some semblance of a vision? Is that really too much to ask?

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Davis problem not getting any better for Orioles

Posted on 21 May 2018 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis isn’t in a slump.

An 0-for-20 skid or even a bad month fits that descriptor, but what the Orioles first baseman is experiencing is much more severe. He’s at a career crossroads, regardless of his well-documented financial security.

Entering Monday, his .166 batting average was the fourth worst in the majors among qualified hitters while his .512 on-base plus slugging percentage ranked ahead of only Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (.401) and Miami rookie center fielder Lewis Brinson (.510). Davis is currently on pace to hit 14 home runs.

Light-hitting outfielder Craig Gentry has a higher slugging percentage while the just-demoted Caleb Joseph sports a higher batting average than the man who signed a seven-year, $161 million contract less than 2 1/2 years ago. The highest-paid player on the club ranks last among its 25 active players at minus-1.0 wins above replacement — Chris Tillman was at minus-1.1 before being placed on the disabled list earlier this month.

But this goes beyond a horrendous start to the 2018 season.

Over his last 1,001 plate appearances dating back to early July of 2016, Davis is batting .203 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging percentage. He hasn’t posted better than a .757 OPS in any single month since May of 2017. Davis hasn’t performed at a level anywhere close to resembling his most productive seasons in a very long time.

This really isn’t about striking out too much — that’s always been the slugger’s weakness — as Davis’ strikeout rate is actually a touch better than a year ago and his contact rate is as high as it’s been since his massive 2013 campaign. That’s not to forgive 60 strikeouts in 166 plate appearances in 2018, but it’s the kind of contact he’s making that’s much more troubling.

Once known for Herculean power that allowed him to lead the majors in home runs twice in a three-year period, Davis’ average exit velocity has declined from 91.9 miles per hour in 2015 to 90.8 in 2016 to 89.9 last season and now down to an alarming 87.3 this season. His 46.1 percent ground-ball rate is a career high while his hard-hit percentage is down almost 10 percent from 2015, according to Statcast. His homer to fly ball ratio of 12.5 percent is nearly half of what it was even a year ago (24.8 percent). A .241 batting average on balls in play reflects bad luck at first glance, but the inability to hit the ball hard and consistent infield shifting aren’t doing that mark any favors.

That contact-to-damage ratio manager Buck Showalter once cited on the regular has all but vanished.

This isn’t just a bad season; it’s the kind of profile making you wonder if Davis is bordering on being completely finished as a productive major league player. A 32-year-old’s bat speed is rarely ever going to be what it was five years ago, but this incredible decline leaves you to at least ask if there’s an underlying physical problem. For what it’s worth, Showalter told reporters in Boston that Davis was “fine physically” before sitting him for Sunday’s game.

Many anticipated at the time of the signing that the last two or three seasons of Davis’ seven-year deal wouldn’t be pretty, but no one could have imagined him being this bad this quickly. The Ryan Howard contract has frequently been cited when discussing what Davis could become over the course of his deal, but the Orioles now would likely sign up in blood for what Philadelphia got from the former National League MVP, who still averaged 24 home runs and a .706 OPS over his final three seasons. That’s still pretty bad, but not the historic liability Davis is shaping up to be.

What can the Orioles do?

As we should have just learned over the length of the Ubaldo Jimenez contract, they’re not cutting Davis anytime soon. If the organization wasn’t willing to part ways with Jimenez at any point over the course of his four-year, $50 million contract, the thought of releasing Davis with more than four years remaining on his record-setting deal isn’t even worth entertaining. Frankly, it would make little sense for a last-place team already hopelessly out of playoff contention to make a rash decision with such dramatic financial ramifications without exploring every possible avenue to try to fix him.

But the Orioles can’t continue to pretend like this is just a slump either. That’s not to say the wheels haven’t already been turning behind the scenes to address Davis’ woes, but there’s no justification to continue to bat him in the middle of the order. If he’s going to be in the lineup on any kind of a consistent basis — also debatable — Davis should hit no higher than eighth or ninth on a given night.

The organization needs to be as aggressive as possible trying to salvage a $161 million investment that is already appearing to be circling the drain. Enlist the help of any hitting guru or sports psychologist that might be able to help. With apologies to hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and his good relationship with the veteran first baseman, it might be time to see if a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas can fare any better.

If necessary, give Davis “the Tillman treatment” with a stint on the disabled list to work in a lower-pressure environment like Sarasota and utilize a minor-league rehab assignment to experiment and tinker with adjustments. If nothing else, a mental break might be beneficial for all parties — including the fans.

You really hope he experiences a breakthrough. I don’t believe for a second this is a result of Davis not caring or putting forth effort after getting his big contract. There are many variables you can point to, ranging from his past suspension for Adderall and treating his ADHD to the pressure of living up to such an enormous contract on a club whose competitive window has already slammed shut. But history also says many strikeout-heavy sluggers don’t age well, the argument that was being made by some while so many others celebrated Davis re-signing with the Orioles.

It’s difficult to say whether he can reverse the trend, especially considering it had already been moving in the wrong direction before this 2018 fall off a cliff.

Just seven years ago, Adam Dunn — a player with a similar profile to Davis — had one of the worst seasons for a previously-accomplished player in major league history with a .159 average, 11 home runs, and a .569 OPS in 496 plate appearances before rebounding to hit 97 home runs over the next three seasons. Dunn was only a year younger than Davis at the time of that disastrous campaign, giving you hope that a meaningful turnaround for the latter is possible.

But that may not happen with Davis. This could just be who he is now, a terrifying proposition for an organization facing dark clouds of uncertainty everywhere you look.

If every avenue is exhausted to try to fix Davis before ultimately concluding it can’t be done, then you simply have to part ways with the sunk cost. The money is spent either way.

But until that time, the Orioles must stop pretending this is only a slump and start showing more urgency — both publicly and behind the scenes — to try to fix their high-priced first baseman.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-1 loss to Philadelphia

Posted on 16 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding their eight-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Baltimore offense came crashing down after scoring 58 runs in its previous seven games, managing just one run and four hits against the Phillies. It was the 22nd game this season in which the Orioles scored three or fewer runs.

2. A 5-3 homestand brought better baseball and sounds fine if you’re a team that hadn’t already buried itself over the first six weeks. That’s simply not moving the meter unless the Orioles magically start playing well on the road, something they haven’t done consistently in four years.

3. Andrew Cashner kept his club in it, but he ran into trouble going through the order a third time. Entering Wednesday, opponents had a .988 on-base plus slugging percentage seeing him a third time in a game. The Phillies continued that by going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk.

4. Cashner continues collecting more strikeouts than expected with six in 5 2/3 innings, but the long ball continues to be a problem as he allowed at least one for the eighth time in nine starts. After allowing just 15 in 166 2/3 innings last year, he’s surrendered 11 in 2018.

5. Nick Pivetta deserves praise after matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and inducing a career-best 23 swinging strikes, but the Phillies starter mentioned in his post-game press conference how he took advantage of the Orioles’ free-swinging ways. The flawed approach is hardly a secret.

6. Adam Jones provided the lone offensive highlight of the day with his seventh homer of the season in the first inning, extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games. The Orioles didn’t have another baserunner until the fifth inning and had only two more until the eighth.

7. No one ever confused him with Manny Machado in the two-base department, but Chris Davis hit only his third double of the year. After hitting 31 in 2015, Davis collected only 21 in 2016 and 15 last year. He’s slugging .281, which is barely higher than Craig Gentry’s .270 mark.

8. Expecting Richard Bleier to sustain a 0.40 ERA was always unrealistic, but the lefty surrendering runs in each of his last two outings is a bummer for an injury-plagued bullpen that hasn’t been very good this season. He couldn’t keep the deficit to one run in the sixth.

9. The Orioles and Phillies saw a combined 13 pitches in the fourth inning. Think players were aware it was a getaway day with plenty of rain in the forecast?

10. Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera singled in the opening frame to reach base in his 42nd consecutive game, the longest streak of any major league hitter since 2016. Just don’t tell the Orioles he’s a former Rule 5 pick.

11. After completing a bullpen session on Wednesday, Darren O’Day could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. With Zach Britton now throwing live batting practice, the Orioles bullpen could be back to full strength in the not-too-distant future.

12. If you needed a reminder of why the Orioles’ future looks grim, Baseball America’s Ben Badler sheds maddening light on the organization’s continued lack of participation in the international market. This puts an unnecessary ceiling on a farm system in need of more talent.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

Posted on 08 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping home with an appalling 8-26 record after a winless trip to the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore needs to play like a 92-win club the rest of the way to finish at .500 and like a 97-win team just to get to 85 wins. Even the obligatory Dumb and Dumber reference rings hollow at this point.

2. If you’re seeking any semblance of a silver lining, there shouldn’t be any danger of the organization having delusions of a chance at the trade deadline as it did in 2015 and 2017. Hovering a few games below .500 in late July and not selling would be worse than this.

3. Firing anyone at this point isn’t saving the season and isn’t going to prompt more fans to come to the ballpark. At the same time, nothing should be off the table when an organization is in this kind of a position and there’s so much blame to pass around.

4. As has been discussed by numerous outlets for months, the Orioles communicating and executing a short-term and long-term direction would mean more than firing or trading any individual. Chris Davis remaining the biggest example of long-term stability speaks volumes.

5. Part of that direction is determining how dramatically to rebuild. Trading pending free agents is easy, but will fetch mostly-underwhelming returns. Dealing Kevin Gausman or even Dylan Bundy would be painful, but they’d fetch more talent. Are the Orioles going to contend again before either hits free agency?

6. The organization should be open to trading Manny Machado at any moment, but I’m not convinced the best offers automatically come now rather than a little later. Teams’ needs and their level of urgency aren’t in a vacuum — even if it would be smart to maximize the rental.

7. Jonathan Schoop returning from the disabled list is a welcome sight. The Orioles would be wise to put on the full press to try to extend him over the next two months. If unsuccessful, trading him at the deadline should be a major priority. They shouldn’t repeat the Machado saga.

8. How to proceed with Adam Jones is complicated on various levels, especially since he has a full no-trade clause. However, he’s not going to have any trade value if he continues to sport a .674 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has two walks in 144 plate appearances.

9. The numbers back up how awful the Orioles defense has been as they entered Tuesday ranked dead last in the majors at minus-28 defensive runs saved. Trey Mancini is at a club-worst minus-10 defensive runs saved while Jones sits at minus-seven.

10. Alex Cobb looking much more like Alex Cobb over his last two starts has been encouraging. As was feared a few weeks ago, however, it already appears too late to make a meaningful difference in 2018.

11. No matter who runs the organization in 2019, persuading the Angelos family to reconsider its long-held position on sitting out the international market is a must if the Orioles ever want to build a strong farm system.

12. Nick Markakis owns a .977 OPS and has struck out 13 times compared to 20 walks in the final season of his deal with Atlanta. The 34-year-old hasn’t been great the entire time, but the Orioles could have used his dependability and .362 on-base percentage over these last few years.

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