Tag Archive | "jake arrieta"

Imperfections and all, Orioles continue doing what they’re not supposed to

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Imperfections and all, Orioles continue doing what they’re not supposed to

Posted on 24 June 2012 by Luke Jones

For much of the afternoon on Sunday, it looked to be a lost weekend for the Orioles.

Scoring only one run in Saturday’s narrow loss and being shut out through the first seven innings in the series finale against the Washington Nationals despite a strong out from Jake Arrieta, Baltimore appeared on the verge of dropping a series in which it held Washington to five runs while continuing an anemic offensive stretch over the last nine games.

But just like we’ve seen on numerous occasions this season, the Orioles snatched victory from the jaws of defeat after Matt Wieters crushed a Sean Burnett fastball into the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. Jim Johnson’s 22nd save gave the Orioles their seventh victory when trailing after seven innings and another improbable win.

Admitting he nearly decided to rest Wieters but deciding against it with Monday’s day off, manager Buck Showalter said it all in describing what was another dramatic finish at Camden Yards. Only he didn’t sound nearly as surprised as anyone else who watched the Orioles go 1-for-33 with runners in scoring position over the last seven games.

“That was fun at the end,” he said unassumingly and with little outward emotion.

The more we watch the Orioles through the first 72 games of the season, the less it seems to make sense. The flaws are apparent in the numbers and with the names Showalter is running out there on a daily basis.

Counting on their offense to help make up for their deficiencies in the starting rotation, the Orioles managed just 17 runs over the last nine games while actually receiving good starting pitching for the most part. Yet, they still found a way to go 4-5 over the stretch.

The lineup struggles to manufacture runs and relies too heavily on the home run — four of their five runs over the three games were scored via the long ball — but how do you really expect the offense to thrive when you see names such as Steve Pearce and Ronny Paulino and Steve Tolleson filling spots in Showalter’s order while Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold have been sidelined by injuries?

Defensively, the Orioles leave plenty to be desired, with players out of position and certain spots such as third base seemingly without an answer. Center fielder Adam Jones knows it better than anyone as he looks to his left and right and sees converted infielders manning those spots on most nights.

The starting rotation has struggled once you get past Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, desperately needing more consistency from Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter. But Sunday was an encouraging sign as Arrieta continued his resurgence after looking like he was on the fast track to Triple-A Norfolk just two weeks ago. He’s now given up just six earned runs in his last three starts covering 20 innings (2.70 earned run average), looking more like the pitcher who dominated in an Opening Day victory than the one looking completely lost earlier this month.

The bullpen has remained the foundation of the Orioles’ success, and it pitched three more scoreless innings on Sunday to keep the club in the game after Arrieta failed to receive any support during his six strong innings of work. Johnson receives the notoriety at the back end, but Showalter trusts his entire bullpen — even Kevin Gregg hasn’t been as bad as fans want to admit — to pitch meaningful innings when the situation calls for any given name.

While certainly better than what we’ve seen in recent years, those parts don’t sound like they add up to a team that’s 10 games above .500 entering the final week of June.

The common phrase used in recent weeks has been the Orioles are “running on fumes” with everyone simply waiting for a swoon to begin, whether it was losing seven of eight right around Memorial Day or a humbling sweep against the New York Mets last week.

But the Orioles are never too high or too low, a dramatic difference from past seasons. Players downplayed the offensive struggles throughout the weekend — almost to the point of sounding cavalier about it — but were businesslike in reacting to Sunday’s dramatic win. Most credit goes to the players’ performance on the field, but Showalter has truly changed the culture after years of everyone in town talking about it needing to change.

“There was a good vibe in our dugout today,” Showalter said. “You could tell how much this game meant to them, and it was frustrating for them because we were so close a few times. It’s setting the table, like in pool, and you just can’t make the shot sometimes.”

Wieters did in the eighth, sending the Orioles to their 41st win of the season. It doesn’t mean the organization is there yet by any means, but it’s easy to forget the club didn’t collect its 41st win of the 2010 season until Aug. 13 — 10 days into the Showalter era. Yes, the standard has been incredibly low for 14 years, but that doesn’t make what the current club is doing any less encouraging.

The Orioles manager is the first to tell you he isn’t a magician. The change and success haven’t come overnight as last year showed us, but it’s time to stop dismissing what they’ve been able to accomplish over the first three months of the season.

Have they been lucky? Maybe, but does it really matter?

It’s a club with obvious flaws that may ultimately prevent it from playing October baseball, but every improbable win and unexplained success now makes it easier to hang around in August and September.

More than anything, it’s exactly how Showalter described Sunday’s game.

It’s been fun.

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Morning Reaction Orioles 10-Game Scorecard (Games 51-60)

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Morning Reaction Orioles 10-Game Scorecard (Games 51-60)

Posted on 12 June 2012 by Luke Jones

During the 2012 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The Morning Reaction will provide the “10-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, rating the club in 10-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next 10 games on the schedule.

To hear the full explanation from Monday morning, click HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 5-5 mark?
Drew: Worse
Luke: Worse

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player
Drew: MVP – Wei-Yin Chen; LVP – Robert Andino
Luke: MVP – Jim Johnson; LVP – Jake Arrieta

3. Biggest surprise
Drew: How badly Jake Arrieta has struggled
Luke: Winning two out of three at Fenway Park

4. Best thing about the 10-game stretch
Drew: The Orioles went 5-5 and are still above .500 despite injuries and the pitching woes.
Luke: Wei-Yin Chen rebounded from recent struggles to pitch a gem in Boston.

5. Ten games from now…
Drew: Brian Roberts will be hitting .300.
Luke: Brian Roberts will be firmly established once again as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter.

6. Record in the next 10 games (three with Pittsburgh, three at Atlanta, three at New York Mets, one with Washington)
Drew: 4-6
Luke: 6-4

7. Stock rising/falling over the next 10 games
Drew: Rising – Wei-Yin Chen; Falling – Mark Reynolds
Luke: Rising – Mark Reynolds; Falling – Steve Pearce

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 51-60
Drew: A
Luke: A-

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a difference a week makes?

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Your Monday Reality Check-What a difference a week makes?

Posted on 11 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

Perhaps you’re not familiar with WNST.net MLB analyst Allen McCallum. Allen was once the Ballpark Reporter at WNST, covering the Baltimore Orioles on a daily basis. He’s remained with us in the years since then, appearing once a week in studio (currently with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) to talk Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles.

Allen is a really good dude, but is decidedly un-American in my book. You see, Allen doesn’t like football. I don’t understand it either, trust me. I have every reason to believe he celebrates the 4th of July and enjoys a good slice of Apple Pie, but he loves baseball and just doesn’t care about our national pastime.

Despite this obvious flaw, I’ve maintained a level of friendship and (as much as is possible for someone who I have to imagine may be a communist) respect for Allen. I don’t dislike him, I just don’t understand how someone like him can exist in this country. You see, football is our beautiful game. It’s a game fathers play in the backyard with sons. Baseball is okay when there aren’t real sports to watch, but is clearly inferior to football in every way.

I’m kidding. Well I’m kidding a LITTLE bit anyway.

The reason my lede is about our resident purveyor of Orange Kool-Aid is because Allen likes to make a point during the course of baseball season that is relevant to both sports. As Birds fans have a tendency to freak out over the results of a couple of games (or one game…or a couple of innings…or a single at-bat), Allen likes to send out a reminder that “this isn’t football. There’s 162 games to be played.”

It hasn’t always been good news in Charm City that the O’s have to play 162 games, but the point he makes is relevant. During Ravens season we tend to overreact to one particular game, but we do that knowing that one game reflects roughly six percent of the season. While a NFL team can certainly recover from a stretch of two or three bad games, a bad streak can quickly spiral into killing a quarter of a football season. At the same time, a bad streak of three or four games during baseball season does not even represent the same six percent of the season that one football game represents.

Let me try to step away from math for a second. A single football game is more significant than a single baseball game. But you already knew that.

Seven days ago (which as I type this would have been June 4), there was reason for great concern amongst Baltimore baseball fans. After getting off to a 27-14 start, the Birds were mired in a streak that saw them drop 10 of 13 games. Sitting at 30-24, the Birds had appeared to already be well into their annual “June swoon” and seemed destined to find themselves on their way to the cellar of the AL East.

But something funny happened in the six games that followed. Instead of continuing their free fall, the Birds stabilized. They won two of three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, then returned home to take two dramatic extra inning contests against the Philadelphia Phillies at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in front of thousands of stunned supporters who had made their way down I-95 from The City of Brotherly Love.

(Continued on Page 2….)

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I answer your questions about Arrieta, McAdoo, French Open, more

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I answer your questions about Arrieta, McAdoo, French Open, more

Posted on 05 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

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With Roberts’ potential return looming, Orioles still seek leadoff solution

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With Roberts’ potential return looming, Orioles still seek leadoff solution

Posted on 29 May 2012 by Luke Jones

After being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Tuesday’s game in Toronto, 22-year-old outfielder Xavier Avery became the latest in a long list of candidates to fall short in stabilizing the Orioles’ leadoff spot over the last two seasons.

Since second baseman Brian Roberts exited a game with concussion-related symptoms on May 16, 2011, the Orioles have been without a bona fide hitter at the top of the order despite trying a number of candidates in the role.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy had a higher degree of success than others last season, but his .295 on-base percentage while batting in the leadoff spot — to go along with a career .320 on-base percentage — didn’t exactly scream top-of-the-order hitter. In fact, Hardy’s power numbers (40 home runs in 176 games with the Orioles) suggest a player better suited to hit in the middle of the order than at the top.

This season, left fielder Nolan Reimold appeared to be an intriguing — but unconventional — choice with his career .338 on-base percentage, but a herniated disc in his neck has sidelined him after a fast start. In his absence, the combination of Endy Chavez, Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty, and Avery has not been able to produce and set the table for the middle of the order.

Avery shows promise for the future, but his extended audition exposed the need for him to improve against off-speed pitches and develop further at Norfolk before he’s ready to assume the leadoff role on a permanent basis.

In 2011, the No. 1 spot in the order accounted for a .240 batting average and a .290 on-base percentage, the worst figures of any spot in the batting order. The numbers have been even worse this season as the top spot in the order has produced an anemic .213 average to go along with a .258 on-base percentage.

While many place too much emphasis on the batting order, the leadoff spot is expected to be occupied by a player with a strong ability to get on base and speed — a combination that has eluded the Orioles.

So, who might manager Buck Showalter turn to?

Ironically, it might be the man the Orioles have been trying to replace for over a year.

Five games into his minor league rehabilitation assignment, Roberts has yet to experience any setbacks while collecting two hits and two walks in 12 plate appearances at Double-A Bowie. Even if his rehab stint goes off without a hitch, it would be ambitious to expect Roberts to return to the form of a career .353 on-base hitter, but the 34-year-old infielder would easily become the most viable option in the top spot if he’s even remotely close to the player he was prior to the injury.

The debate will continue over how Showalter should handle Roberts’ workload and what it means for current second baseman Robert Andino, but the Orioles desperately need more production from the leadoff spot.

And with Roberts’ return looking more realistic every day, he would be as close to the ideal candidate as the Orioles have had since his exit over a year ago.

Starting pitching woes

The news of veteran pitcher Roy Oswalt signing a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers stole some of the thunder of this topic, but it’s become clear the Orioles need better starting pitching if they hope to maintain anything close to the 29-20 pace that’s put them in first place for much of the first two months of the season.

The current 4.31 earned run average from the starting rotation is just above the league average of 4.30, but that number becomes more concerning when you consider starters pitched to a 3.63 ERA in April but have posted a 4.94 mark so far in May.

Left-hander Zach Britton is expected to take the place of the struggling Tommy Hunter, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday with his ERA ballooning to 5.59 after another poor start in Toronto on Monday. However, the in-house options are few and far between after that, making the idea of Oswalt so appealing before he decided to sign with the defending American League champions.

The Orioles have few pieces in their system to warrant anything better than what they already have in making a trade, meaning they will likely have no choice but to depend on the continued success of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen and hope for more consistency from Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz to prevent too much wear and tear on the bullpen.

While the health of Britton’s left shoulder remains the priority over any short-term results, the Orioles can only hope the 24-year-old more closely resembles the pitcher who was 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA in his first 10 starts last season than the one posting a 6.25 mark over his final 18 starts, which included a demotion and a trip to the disabled list with that sore shoulder.

With two days off during the current nine-game road trip, the Orioles will not need a fifth starter again until June 9. Barring any setbacks, Britton should be ready to join the starting rotation by that point in time.

Given Oswalt’s preference to play for a winner, Baltimore was an extreme long-shot, but his veteran presence for one season — without a long-term financial commitment — would have brought some much-needed stability and a veteran presence to the rotation.

Carrying Flaherty becoming burdensome?

Showalter has said how impressed he is with Rule 5 selection Ryan Flaherty on several occasions this season, but you have to wonder if the 25-year-old is becoming too great a burden on the 25-man roster for a first-place team.

Injuries provided the utility player more playing time in the early stages of May, but his .143 batting average (7-for-49) has led to less playing time over the last two weeks. Since going 0-for-4 in Kansas City on May 17, Flaherty has received only one start and four plate appearances while being relegated to the bench.

The idea of a Rule 5 player on a team projected to be in last place sounds like an acceptable situation, but carrying a player like Flaherty when you’re trying to win is a dicey proposition, especially when the Orioles have elected to go with a three-man bench and 13 pitchers at times when the bullpen has been overworked.

In addition to Flaherty, infielder Steve Tolleson doesn’t have a strong hold on his roster spot, so it will be interesting to see what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette decides to do if and when Roberts is ready to be activated on June 12. Regardless of whether Roberts takes Andino’s starting job or not, his addition will take away another roster spot and make you wonder if the Orioles can keep Flaherty around much longer if he isn’t going to produce.

 

 

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Orioles look to Arrieta to play stopper against Jays

Posted on 29 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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Here’s a look at Orioles Memorial Day uni…

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Here’s a look at Orioles Memorial Day uni…

Posted on 26 May 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta’s Twitter account, here’s a look at the camouflage duds the Birds will sport Sunday against the Kansas City Royals in honor of Memorial Day…

What do you think?

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Arrieta to hill for Birds in matinee rubber match Wednesday

Posted on 23 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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I answer your questions about Orioles rotation, Ravens receivers, more

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I answer your questions about Orioles rotation, Ravens receivers, more

Posted on 22 May 2012 by Glenn Clark

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Avery, Arrieta stand out from weekend of Orioles baseball

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Avery, Arrieta stand out from weekend of Orioles baseball

Posted on 21 May 2012 by Glenn Clark

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