Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

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Looking at Davis’ 2016 season, outfield defense, Orioles catching

Posted on 10 February 2017 by Luke Jones

When discussing the “three true outcomes” in hitting, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is one of the most extreme examples you’ll ever find.

Having struck out, walked, or homered in more than half of his plate appearances over the last two seasons, Davis can be frustrating to watch despite having good value, evident by the peaks and valleys of his performance over the last five years. His 2016 season wasn’t his finest but it was markedly better than his nightmare 2014 campaign that ended with a 25-game suspension for taking unapproved Adderall.

Looking beyond his unimpressive .221 batting average last season, Davis still clubbed 38 home runs and posted a strong .332 on-base percentage with a .792 on-base plus slugging percentage. It wasn’t the season he or the Orioles had in mind after agreeing to a seven-year, $161 million contract last winter, but Davis was still worth 3.0 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

It also wasn’t a secret that Davis was playing with a sore left hand for much of the season, and the 30-year-old clarified last month that he suffered a dislocated left thumb in late April. Missing just five games all season, the first baseman played through discomfort, citing his defensive contributions as a reason for not wanting to miss extensive time to rest the thumb.

“I was hoping there was no lasting effect, and it feels good,” said Davis at FanFest last month. “I really didn’t realize how much of an impact it was having on my swing until I took some cuts this offseason. It’s nice to have two hands to hit with again.”

Of course, determining how much a bad thumb might have impacted Davis’ performance isn’t easy, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize a hitter’s top hand is probably important. So, was there anything dramatically different about the slugger’s peripherals compared to previous years?

His 32.9 percent strikeout rate was just below his career-worst mark of 33.0 percent in 2014, but he still struck out 31.0 percent of the time in his strong 2015 season. His 65.7 percent contact rate was also a career low compared to his 67.6 percent career mark, but Davis struggling a bit more to make contact isn’t exactly news.

He posted a career-high 13.2 percent walk rate, continuing his streak of improving in that department every year since arriving in Baltimore in 2011. Still, a 0.7 percent increase from 2015 hardly raises eyebrows.

Where we start to see notable change was a dramatic decline in Davis’ pull and line-drive rates. After hitting the ball to right field well over 50 percent of the time the previous two seasons, Davis pulled the ball just 41.7 percent of the time last year. And just 19.8 percent of the balls he put in play were line drives, down from his 22.9 percentage for his career.

Davis’ plate discipline also changed substantially as he swung at just 42.7 percent of pitches, easily a career low compared to his 49.4 percent career mark. Seventy-nine of his 219 strikeouts were on called strike threes, which shattered his previous single-season high of 56.

In other words, these numbers reflect a hitter struggling to turn on pitches and more reluctant than normal to swing the bat. Sure, it could be the start of a decline for a power hitter suddenly trying to overcompensate by attempting to draw more walks, but those numbers would also reflect a batter dealing with a hand issue and possibly trying to pick his spots to swing the bat with authority.

Maybe the truth falls somewhere in the middle — we are talking about a streaky performer anyway — but the batted-ball data and noticeable change in aggressiveness support the idea that something in 2016 was out of whack beyond Davis merely getting a year older.

Outfield defense

Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, center fielder Adam Jones drew some criticism for his comments about Baltimore’s outfield defense, but he wasn’t wrong.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette stated last October that improving the club’s outfield defense was a top priority, but the addition of the 34-year-old Seth Smith — who is at least a better right fielder than Mark Trumbo — hardly quells concerns. The Orioles outfield finished last in the major leagues at minus-52 defensive runs saved in 2016.

With Jones now 31 and dealing with an array of nagging injuries over the last two seasons, the Orioles should really be making life easier for him in the outfield while pondering his long-term viability in center. Though never as good of a center fielder as Jones, Andrew McCutchen, 30, recently agreed to move to right field for Pittsburgh, a move made easier by the presence of Gold Glove teammate Starling Marte.

Instead, Jones is working harder than ever to cover up for too many plodders in the outfield.

A chance for Chance

With projected starter Welington Castillo playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and backup Francisco Pena being designated for assignment on Friday, catching prospect Chance Sisco could reap the benefits of more extensive action this spring.

Manager Buck Showalter probably isn’t thrilled about Castillo being away from the club instead of getting better acquainted with pitchers in his first spring with the Orioles, but Sisco is considered the catcher of the future and would surely benefit from more opportunities in the Grapefruit League. Duquette has openly discussed the possibility of Sisco being ready to contribute in the majors at some point during the 2017 season.

A good spring would seemingly expedite that process.

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Orioles reach agreement with Gausman to avoid hearing

Posted on 05 February 2017 by Luke Jones

Just days away from their second arbitration hearing of the month, the Orioles have instead reached an agreement with starting pitcher Kevin Gausman on a one-year contract.

Reported first by FOX Sports, the sides agreed to a $3.45 million salary plus incentives based on the number of starts he’ll make this season. In his first year of arbitration as a player with “Super Two” status, the 26-year-old right-hander was seeking $3.55 million while the Orioles countered at $3.15 million when the sides exchanged figures last month.

Reliever Brad Brach is Baltimore’s final unsigned arbitration-eligible player. Backup catcher Caleb Joseph lost his arbitration case last week as the organization won its ninth consecutive hearing dating back to 1996.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette reiterated the club’s intent to go to hearings with all three of its unsigned arbitration-eligible players last month, but the Orioles were wise to avoid the process with Gausman, who was their best starter in the second half of 2016. Finishing with a career-high 179 2/3 innings, the 2012 first-round pick pitched to a superb 2.83 ERA over his final 12 starts spanning 76 1/3 frames.

Gausman turned in the finest start of his career on Sept. 14, pitching eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory over Boston at Fenway Park. Despite an underwhelming 9-12 record due to poor run support, the right-hander finished his first full season as a starter with a 3.61 ERA and struck out 8.7 batters and walked 2.4 per nine innings.

Under club control through the 2020 season, Gausman is considered a critical component of the Orioles’ efforts to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.

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Orioles, Trumbo agree to three-year, $37.5 million deal

Posted on 19 January 2017 by Luke Jones

For the second offseason in a row, the Orioles will re-sign baseball’s reigning home run champ.

Baltimore and slugger Mark Trumbo agreed on a three-year deal that was completed after he passed a physical on Friday. The total contract is worth around $37 million with some money deferred, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan.

The deal comes just a few days after the one-year anniversary of the Orioles agreeing to a seven-year, $161 million contract with Chris Davis, the 2015 home run champ. Of course, this negotiation involved far less money than last year’s with the Baltimore first baseman, but it played out in a similar fashion with highs and lows in the midst of a lukewarm market that included no other serious bidders for either slugger’s services.

Having already been traded three times in a two-year period, Trumbo made it clear near the end of the 2016 season that he hoped to stay in Baltimore where he felt comfortable playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and fit in well with the rest of the clubhouse. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had recently expressed a preference to receive a compensatory pick for Trumbo’s potential departure, but the sides remained a fit with spring training less than a month away.

“We are happy that we were able to bring Mark Trumbo back to the Orioles,” Duquette said in a statement on Friday. “We like his presence in our lineup and professional work ethic along with the elite power he brings to our ballpark.”

Acquired from Seattle in exchange for backup catcher Steve Clevenger last offseason, Trumbo had a career year in Baltimore by hitting 47 home runs to go along with a .256 average, 108 runs batted in, and an .850 on-base plus slugging percentage. A sensational first half that included a .288 batting average and 28 home runs in 87 games earned Trumbo his second trip to the All-Star Game, and he accounted for the only Orioles scoring with a two-run shot in the American League wild-card game loss to Toronto.

Despite that success and a cheaper-than-expected price, Trumbo’s re-signing does not come without risk after he struggled mightily in the second half with a .214 average and a .284 on-base percentage over his final 292 plate appearances. The right-handed batter also finished with a putrid .173 average and .608 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2016.

The 31-year-old was also worth minus-11 defensive runs saved in the outfield, zapping much of his offensive value and bringing his wins above replacement to an ordinary 1.6.

Having acquired veteran Seth Smith from the Mariners earlier this month, the Orioles would be wise to play him in right field with Trumbo serving as their designated hitter as much as possible. However, Smith struggles mightily against left-handed pitching, which could open the door for Trumbo to play right field against southpaw starters.

With Thursday’s pending agreement, the Orioles are now projected to have a payroll north of $160 million on Opening Day, which would be a franchise record.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts counting down to spring training

Posted on 18 January 2017 by Luke Jones

With Orioles pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota for spring training in less than a month, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. There are valid reasons for the Orioles not to re-sign Mark Trumbo, but nothing about Dan Duquette’s history in Baltimore makes me believe he truly values a compensatory draft pick for the departure of the slugger.

2. Entering Wednesday, Baltimore’s 2017 estimated payroll of $157.9 million ranked eighth in the majors, according to Baseball Reference. I question how wisely the Orioles are budgeting for their roster more than the amount they’re spending these days.

3. Zach Britton is worth every penny of the $11.4 million he’ll be paid in 2017, but I still believe it was organizational malpractice not to pursue a trade this offseason with the lucrative market we saw for closers. A club with other needs and a shrinking window missed an opportunity.

4. Former Orioles prospect Josh Hader is MLB.com’s top left-handed pitching prospect, which will make fans groan in light of their current system. It’s easy to call the Bud Norris trade a failure given his disastrous 2015, but his 2014 season and playoff win against Detroit make it easier to stomach.

5. It’s difficult to believe the 25th anniversary of the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards will arrive this April, and Stadium Journey again recognized it as the top stadium experience in North America. Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium also ranked 14th and topped all NFL facilities on the list.

6. My fondness for Camden Yards aside, the Orioles donning jersey patches and using special baseballs all season for the 25th anniversary after making such a big deal out of the ballpark’s 20th feels excessive.

7. I like the acquisition of Seth Smith and believe he will be a solid addition to the lineup, but the Orioles’ potential reliance on multiple platoons is going to be problematic in this era of extreme bullpen use. Finding another bat who can hit left-handed pitching is a must.

8. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since Scott Boras represents him, but I’m surprised that Matt Wieters hasn’t found a new home yet. The Orioles were still wise to sign Welington Castillo on the cheap and not endure the waiting game for a catcher turning 31 in May.

9. The retrospectives to Wieters’ time with the Orioles only reminded me that Chris Hoiles is one of the most underrated players in club history. Per Baseball Reference, Hoiles was worth 23.4 wins above replacement in 894 career games while Wieters is at 16.3 in 882 games.

10. I’m interested to see what lingering effect Brad Brach’s arbitration case could have as the 2016 All-Star selection reportedly filed at $3.05 million while the Orioles offered $2.525 million. The right-hander took his second-half struggles hard and undoubtedly would be reminded of those in a February hearing.

11. The Orioles defense led the American League with 50 defensive runs saved in 2014 and followed that with minus-9 in 2015 and minus-29 last year. The outfield ranked last in the AL in 2016 at minus-52. Smith and Castillo alone aren’t fixing such a steep overall defensive decline.

12. Adam Jones is coming off a rough year, but he’s a solid bet to bounce back despite entering his age-31 season. His .280 batting average on balls in play was a career low and suggests tough luck while his walk rate, strikeout rate, and average exit velocity improved from 2015.

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Orioles swap Gallardo for Seattle outfielder Seth Smith

Posted on 06 January 2017 by Luke Jones

With a crowded collection of ho-hum options for the back of the rotation and a need for a corner outfielder, the Orioles addressed both issues on Friday.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette traded veteran starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo and cash considerations to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith. The swap will reportedly save the Orioles around $4 million for the 2017 season while upgrading the roster, making it a good trade on paper.

Smith, 34, immediately becomes the favorite to start in right field and batted .249 with 16 home runs, 63 RBIs, and a .342 on-base percentage in 2016. He holds a career .344 OBP, a skill the Orioles clearly have been lacking in recent seasons.

He also wore out Baltimore pitching in 2016, going 10-for-28 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He is signed through the 2017 season and will make $7 million. He spent the last two seasons with the Mariners after previous stops in San Diego, Oakland, and Colorado.

“Seth Smith brings veteran leadership, experience, and an accomplished bat to the Orioles,” Duquette said in a statement. “We look forward to him contributing to the 2017 club.”

The left-handed hitter does not come without flaws, however, as he owns a career .594 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefty pitchers, making it clear that he needs to be matched with a platoon right-handed bat. Smith was worth minus-seven defensive runs saved in the Mariners outfield this past season, but he fared much better in right field than in left.

His addition would not prohibit the Orioles from still re-signing 2016 home run champion Mark Trumbo to serve as the full-time designated hitter.

The trade closes the book on Gallardo, who will go down as one of the worst signings of the Duquette era. After concerns rose about his right shoulder last February, Gallardo signed a two-year, $22 million contract that also required the Orioles to forfeit their 2016 first-round pick. The deal included a club option for the 2018 season worth $13 million with a $2 million buyout.

The 30-year-old right-hander spent two months on the disabled list and posted a 6-8 record with a 5.42 ERA. He walked a career-high 4.7 batters per nine innings and finished with a career-worst 1.59 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 118 innings, his lowest total since 2008.

His departure leaves a projected 2017 Opening Day rotation of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Of course, this wouldn’t the first time the Orioles have felt good about a trade with the Mariners in recent years. They acquired Trumbo in exchange for backup catcher Steve Clevenger last winter and famously plucked Tillman and future All-Star center fielder Adam Jones from Seattle as the biggest pieces in the famous Erik Bedard trade nine years ago.

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Orioles thoughts on Wieters decision, Britton snub, Showalter as finalist

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles gambled by extending a qualifying offer to catcher Matt Wieters last offseason and ultimately chose not to do it again.

Yes, they were able to keep the 30-year-old for another season when he accepted, but the $15.8 million price tag wasn’t cheap and likely altered the rest of their offseason plans. Wieters earned his fourth trip to the All-Star Game in 2016, but his .243 average and .711 on-base plus slugging percentage were his lowest marks since 2013. In fact, his league-adjusted OPS (OPS+) of 87 was the worst of his career and he was worth a decent but unspectacular 1.7 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

Those are numbers unlikely to improve — or to be maintained — as he gets older.

It’s easy to point to Caleb Joseph’s abysmal 2016 campaign as validation for keeping Wieters last year, but there’s no telling how the backup might have fared had the latter moved on. Joseph had been acceptable at the plate with regular playing time in the previous two seasons, and the Orioles would have added another veteran catcher to the mix anyway.

We also don’t know what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette might have done with an extra $15.8 million at his disposal last winter. As just one example, would the Orioles have been able to sweeten their multi-year offer to outfielder Dexter Fowler — the kind of player they needed at the top of the order in 2016 — to make him change his mind about returning to Chicago?

A year later, arguments for extending Wieters a $17.2 million qualifying offer with thoughts of fetching a compensatory draft pick were certainly valid. Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, the veteran backstop quelled concerns about his right elbow by playing in 124 games and throwing out 35 percent of runners attempting to steal, making him more appealing to potential suitors than he would have been last year. There’s also the reality of Wieters being the top catcher on the open market after Wilson Ramos suffered a torn ACL in September.

Observers have pointed to recent deals awarded to Russell Martin (five years, $82 million) and Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) as benchmarks for Wieters even though Martin is a superior defensive catcher with similar offensive production and McCann was substantially better as a hitter at the time of his signing.

But a qualifying offer would have also depressed Wieters’ value to other teams, who would have then been required to forfeit their first-round pick to sign him. Would that reality coupled with an underwhelming season at the plate have prompted Wieters and super agent Scott Boras to take another great one-year payout from the Orioles with thoughts of being in decent free-agent position again next year?

It’s hard to say, but you can understand the Orioles’ trepidation.

Replacing Wieters will hardly be a slam dunk, but the Orioles proved in 2014 that his presence isn’t the be-all and end-all of their success as they won 96 games despite him missing most of the season and Joseph and journeyman Nick Hundley handling the catching duties. Manager Buck Showalter and teammates have long praised Wieters’ leadership and ability to handle a pitching staff, but there’s also his below-average pitch-framing numbers, his struggles blocking pitches, and sometimes-questionable pitch-calling to consider.

Wieters does offer intangibles that are difficult to quantify, but the perception of him has always been better than the actual player who never met the unreasonable expectations laid out before he even debuted in the majors.

It will be interesting to see how an over-30 catcher already with 7,000 major league innings behind the plate will be valued in the open market without a qualifying offer attached to him.

A draft pick would have been great had Wieters rejected the qualifying offer, but the possibility of having to pay him $17.2 million was too risky with other needs to address and significant raises owed to younger players in arbitration.

He may have been the right player, but it wasn’t the right price.

Britton “snubbed”

I was surprised when All-Star closer Zach Britton wasn’t named a finalist for the 2016 American League Cy Young Award.

Considering the amount of discussion surrounding his candidacy over the last few months, I assumed he would sneak into the top three in the voting conducted at the end of the regular season. However, the Baseball Writers Association of America correctly concluded that very good starting pitchers are still far more valuable than an exceptional closer over the course of a 162-game season.

There’s no disputing that Britton had a historic season with a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings while going 47-for-47 in save opportunities, but the lefty also tossed less than one-third of the innings recorded by Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, or Justin Verlander and only 16 of Britton’s 47 saves came in one-run victories, meaning he was working with some margin for error in roughly two-thirds of those save chances.

That’s not intended to diminish what Britton did, but the context is necessary. A better argument probably could have been made with a bigger workload, but the 28-year-old pitched more than one inning just seven times.

None of the aforementioned AL Cy Young finalists posted an ERA below 3.00, but there’s a reason why virtually all relief pitchers are former starters. It’s far more difficult to succeed going through a lineup multiple times in an outing, and that should still be recognized despite no AL starter standing out with a truly great season in 2016.

Britton absolutely earned the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award and warranted far more consideration for the Cy Young than any relief pitcher in recent years. It would have been great to see him as a finalist, but I can’t go as far as saying it’s a travesty, either.

Showalter as a finalist

It’s unfortunate that Showalter being named a finalist for the AL Manager of the Year now looks like a punchline after his decision not to use Britton in the wild-card game cost the Orioles a better chance of advancing.

A club almost universally picked to finish in fourth or fifth place in the AL East this season qualified for the playoffs for the third time in the last five years, a reflection of the exceptional work Showalter has done since arriving in Baltimore in 2010. You can still consider Showalter to be an excellent manager while also believing he made a terrible move that he’ll likely hear about for the rest of his career.

Great doesn’t mean perfect as the Orioles and their fans painfully learned that night.

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Orioles announce plans for 2017 FanFest on Jan. 28

Posted on 28 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The 2016 World Series isn’t over, but the Orioles have announced the date for their annual FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center.

After the unusual timing of holding the event in mid-December last year and long before first baseman Chris Davis was re-signed to a seven-year, $161 million contract, the Orioles have moved FanFest back to later in the offseason on Jan. 28, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. As always, it will feature autograph sessions with current and former players as well as question-and-answer forums with management and players, clinics, exhibits, and games for kids.

Access for season-ticket holders begins at 10 a.m.

An event designed to celebrate baseball and drive ticket sales for the new season, the Orioles will have interesting decisions to make between now and then with a group of free agents headlined by 2016 All-Star selections Matt Wieters and Mark Trumbo. In 2017, Baltimore will be attempting to qualify for the postseason for the fourth time in the last six seasons.

Tickets are not yet on sale, but more information will be released at Orioles.com/FanFest as the event approaches.

 

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Hey Orioles: Those empty seats mean that Baltimore is just not that into you…

Posted on 13 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

As the first – and only – local sports journalist to poke the bear and pull down the pants of the emperor, it’s now my turn to chime in on the biggest local sports story this month that’s returning to Camden Yards for the next 11 days.

Ok, the most important question in the land of pleasant living at this time of the year is always about the Baltimore Ravens. Facts are facts. They’re 1-0 and headed to Cleveland to (presumably) be 2-0 by Sunday night.

But the very obvious other “water cooler buzz” around our kingdom is about why Camden Yards is so empty in September with the Orioles facing arch-rivals in the middle of a very winnable pennant race in Baltimore?

TOMORROW I’LL GIVE MY “TOP 10 REASONS BALTIMORE SPORTS FANS DON’T GO TO ORIOLES GAMES ANYMORE”

Two weeks ago, during the “homestand of empty” vs. the Blue Jays and Yankees, I was in Europe reading some laugh-out-loud reports from local “journalists” either on the payroll of Peter G. Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles or any of the MASN-based or CBS-owned arms of business partnerships that permeate the local media. Those organizations are strongly discouraged from critical thinking and free $peech so it’s up to places like WNST to get to the truth. Unlike their employees who are intimidated or “compensated” in the Angelos food chain, we get to say what we think here.

The employees of any of the above entities are not allowed to tell the truth. Angelos confirmed this to me years ago.

So, when you write pieces like the one longtime Washington journalist Thom Loverro inked two weeks ago in The Washington Times – in local sports writer vernacular, “a take down” – you get your press credentials revoked. And amongst those who do follow the Orioles and bow at the shrine of the orange cartoon bird, you get called a hack, a traitor or a guy with an axe to grind.

But, of course, no one at MASN or 105.7 The Fan or The Baltimore Sun or PressBox is ever called a shill – even though the dignity of the whole Orioles operation under Angelos is veiled by the fact that no one ever answers a question about anything. Other than playing baseball games when they’ve locked the doors and told the fans to NOT come, we don’t hear from the Angelos clan.

Loverro and his track record as a reporter speaks for itself. So does mine.

On December 13th, I’ll celebrate 25 years of doing sports radio in Baltimore. In 20 of those years, the Orioles haven’t just been an “also ran” – they’ve been a “never ran at all.” The reasons have all been well- …

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Out-of-sync Orioles in danger of falling out of AL East race

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

You couldn’t help but cringe at the pitching matchups as the Orioles returned home to begin a critical three-game set with Toronto on Monday.

Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Yovani Gallardo going up against the Blue Jays’ three best starters? Even the most optimistic of Baltimore fans feared it could get ugly at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Instead, the embattled trio turned in three quality starts against the second-highest scoring offense in the American League. And the Orioles still lost two of three to the division leader to fall four games back in the AL East.

The term “must-win” is one of the most overused descriptors in sports, but that series win was one that Buck Showalter’s club surely wanted to have, especially playing at home where the Orioles have looked quite mortal over the last few weeks. It’s just been that kind of a second half as Baltimore fell into a tie with Detroit for the final wild card spot on Wednesday.

Trying to hold on, but seemingly losing their grip bit by bit as the summer transitions into fall. Out of sync and trying to avoid falling out of a tough division race in which Toronto and Boston aren’t going anywhere. A wild-card spot that appeared likely now looks in doubt with the likes of Detroit, Houston, and Kansas City surging.

The pitching remains the biggest concern — even two of the top three bullpen arms surrendered runs in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss — but an offense that thrived in the first half has been among the worst in the league since the All-Star break. Sure, the Orioles still hit home runs — they tied the major league record for long balls in August with 55 after hitting a record 56 in June — but they’ve all but stopped doing anything else offensively.

Remember how Baltimore ranked third in the AL with a .333 on-base percentage in the first half? Those more disciplined at-bats and the willingness to draw a few more walks have evaporated with the Orioles ranking last in the AL with a .293 OBP in the 46 games since then. They rank 12th in runs scored since the break despite continuing to lead the league in home runs, illustrating how much more dependent on long balls they’ve become to score runs as the season has progressed.

We knew all along that the Orioles lineup was constructed to win with the home run, but the all-or-nothing outcomes are as extreme as ever. Consider Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, who have combined to hit 22 home runs and bat .180 in 305 at-bats since the break. They haven’t been alone in the second-half struggles, but you just aren’t going to consistently score runs with that kind of production from your No. 4 and No. 5 hitters.

Because the offense produced at such a high level over the first half of the season, it’s still reasonable to think — at least hope? — a prolonged hot streak could be right around the corner.

But then we come back to the pitching, which ranks 13th among 15 AL clubs. Other than the first few weeks after the All-Star break when the rotation performed at a respectable level — and the offense failed to capitalize — you just can’t trust this starting pitching, especially with Chris Tillman unlikely to return before the middle of September. The bullpen continues to wilt without Darren O’Day, who is just now working out the final remnants of discomfort in his right shoulder.

The Orioles will say they were encouraged by the way Miley, Jimenez, and Gallardo pitched against the Blue Jays this week, but that kind of success feels more like an aberration than a breakthrough for the final month.

Despite exceeding expectations for most of the season, this club just isn’t firing on all cylinders and hasn’t been for quite some time. When the rotation does offer a stretch of decent outings, the offense fails to do its job. When the bats are lively, the pitching struggles to even be competitive. Or, neither phase performs well and it gets downright ugly.

On Wednesday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette added Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn, veterans who can help the abysmal outfield defense late in games and add some speed off the bench. Maybe these spare parts will help spark a struggling club, but the Orioles simply look like a team struggling to keep their heads above water these days.

The losing spells have been more frequent while the good times have been fleeting. In the first four months of the season, the Orioles had three seven-game winning streaks, two five-game winning streaks, and a four-game winning streak. In August, they won as many as three in a row just once while dropping three straight on three separate occasions.

Going just 21-25 since the All-Star break, the Orioles have been trying to hold on, but they’ll need to do more than that in September to secure their third trip to the postseason in the last five years.

You should never count out the Orioles under Showalter with so much baseball left to play, but an increasingly one-dimensional offense, a poor starting rotation, and a bullpen short on trustworthy arms aren’t inspiring confidence in the final month of the season.

It’s just not looking good.

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Orioles add outfield depth by claiming veteran Stubbs

Posted on 31 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Trying to improve their depth and defense in the outfield, the Orioles claimed veteran outfielder Drew Stubbs off waivers from the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

With Adam Jones recently sidelined with a left hamstring injury, Baltimore has been short in the outfield and primarily using corner outfielder Nolan Reimold in center. Jones is expected to return to the lineup by the weekend, but the Orioles envision the 31-year-old Stubbs filling a void as a late-inning defensive replacement and reserve outfielder that hasn’t really been filled since Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard suffered a thumb injury in late July.

In 67 plate appearances with the Atlanta Braves and the Rangers this season, Stubbs is hitting .259 with three home runs, six RBIs, and a .757 on-base plus slugging percentage. He is a career .244 hitter with a .710 OPS over eight major league seasons.

Capable of playing all three outfield spots, Stubbs has mostly played in center during his career, giving the Orioles a backup for Jones in the final month of the season. The right-handed hitter has struggled to hold down a steady job over the last two seasons, but he hit 15 home runs in a season as recently as 2014 and reached double digits in stolen bases every year from 2009-2014, which provides manager Buck Showalter with a little speed off the bench.

To make room on their 40-man roster, the Orioles designated newly-acquired left-handed relief pitcher Kyle Lobstein for assignment with the hope that he clears waivers and remains in the organization. Baltimore acquired the 27-year-old Lobstein from Pittsburgh in exchange for minor-league lefty Zach Phillips earlier in the day.

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