Tag Archive | "Jason Hammel"

Hammel to undergo knee surgery, hopes to return in 3-4 weeks

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Hammel to undergo knee surgery, hopes to return in 3-4 weeks

Posted on 15 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Already admitting Saturday he was leaning toward having surgery on his sore right knee, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel confirmed Sunday he would undergo a procedure to remove a piece of loose cartilage.

The right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the loose cartilage that’s bothered him all season moved into the joint while delivering a pitch in the fourth inning of Friday’s loss to the Detroit Tigers. Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Steve Johnson was recalled to take Hammel’s place on the 25-man roster prior to Sunday’s game.

“We’re going to go the surgery route,” said Hammel, who hopes to return in three to four weeks. “Obviously, it’s not what I want to do, but it’s what needs to be done. I can’t keep pitching on a bad leg and start doing things with my arm and hurting stuff there.”

Hammel is 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts this season and has emerged as the club’s best starting pitcher after he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in the Jeremy Guthrie trade shortly before the start of spring training.

While the 29-year-old hopes to return within a month, the Orioles want to be cautious in estimating when he’ll return to the mound. Manager Buck Showalter said Saturday that the surgery would likely allow Hammel to return by early September.

“It depends on who you talk to,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m not going to throw a blanket over [Hammel's estimate of three to four weeks], a wet blanket. You can’t really tell until once you get in there and see if exactly what you thinks there is there.”

The surgery will be performed by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday.

With Hammel now on the disabled list, the Orioles are down to just one starter from their Opening Day rotation. Though Showalter would love to see his top starter return as soon as possible, he’ll prepare for more pessimistic scenarios and will hope to be surprised along the way.

“I think it’s smart for me personally to plan that way,” Showalter said. “If you get your birthday present early, [great]. I’d rather look at the worst case. I think I’ll have a better feel for it when Dr. Wilckens gets out of there and sees what he found.”

NOTES: Showalter confirmed Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Zach Britton will make the start in Minnesota on Tuesday. Wednesday’s starter remains in question, but Showalter ruled out left-hander Brian Matusz, who will pitch for Norfolk on Sunday. Right-hander Tommy Hunter would be pitching on regular rest on Wednesday and has emerged as the leading candidate to start in Hammel’s place against the Twins. If Johnson is not used in long relief in the series finale against Detroit, he could also be a candidate to start in Minnesota.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Hammel and Showalter HERE.

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Hammel leaning toward knee surgery to have loose cartilage removed

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Hammel leaning toward knee surgery to have loose cartilage removed

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After undergoing an MRI that revealed the loose cartilage in his right knee has moved to a more uncomfortable place, Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel appears to be leaning toward having surgery.

No decision will be made until Sunday, but all signs point to the 29-year-old being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Hammel could elect to rest the knee in hopes that the loose cartilage will move away from the joint, which is causing him more pain than where the cartilage rested before. The MRI did not reveal any new structural damage from what he’s already been dealing with throughout the season.

“At this point, it’s kind of like a thing where you’re done dealing with it,” Hammel said. “I don’t know yet.”

Manager Buck Showalter estimated a surgical procedure would leave Hammel with a projected return in early September. His loss will further decimate a starting rotation that’s seen three of its Opening Day members sent to Triple-A Norfolk in the last two weeks.

Hammel said the knee had felt much better in recent weeks, especially after coming back from the All-Star break for a team workout on Thursday. However, he felt the cartilage move delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch in the top of the fourth inning of Friday night’s loss.

“It’s got to be soon because I don’t want to miss too much time,” Hammel said. “It’s a pretty simple procedure to go in there — it’d just be a regular scope. I could let it rest and I’d miss a little bit of time that way, but I think it’d be better to kind of just get it taken care of.”

With Hammel likely going to the disabled list on Sunday, the Orioles could elect to call up another bullpen arm after the entire bullpen sans Luis Ayala — who pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday — worked in the 13-inning win over the Tigers on Saturday night.

The right-hander has been the club’s best starter in his first season in Baltimore, going 8-6 with a 3.54 earned run average in 18 starts. Hammel was one of five finalists for the American League’s “Final Vote” spot for the 2012 All-Star Game.

The latest development with Hammel will force the Orioles to continue making roster moves as Chris Tillman is scheduled to be recalled to pitch in Minnesota on Monday. The club will also need starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday, with Zach Britton and Brian Matuz the likely candidates for those assignments.

“We’re going to have to make room for Tillman on Monday,” Showalter said. “The options are dwindling because [Jason] Berken pitched for [Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday].”

Reliever Steve Johnson is on the 40-man roster and hasn’t pitched since July 8, making him a strong candidate to be recalled temporarily to take Hammel’s spot on Sunday and give the Orioles an extra arm in the bullpen.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Jason Hammel about his right knee injury right here.

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Hardy

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Orioles Outlook – Cloudy with a Chance of Brilliance

Posted on 14 July 2012 by hopebirchfield

Everyone held high hopes that that the Orioles would emerge from the All-Star Break with a rejuvenated fire and show the city of Baltimore some Orioles Magic. On Friday night’s game against the Tigers, Orioles’ fans watched as the pitching struggled and the offense woes continued. It became painstakingly evident that the All-Star Break was not the cure all to the pervasive problems that have recently been plaguing the team. In front of over 35,000 people who made the trek to Camden Yards, the Orioles fell 7-2 against the Detroit Tigers. Markakis was back in the lineup however, much to the relief of fans, and provided a ground rule double that brought the crowd to their feet.  Overall, the Orioles’ offense was held to six hits on two runs. Per their usual troubles, the Orioles were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The true tragedy though was not the lack of offense or the fact that people cannot even remember what it looks like when J.J. Hardy actually hits the ball but rather Jason Hammel. The starting ace pitcher was forced to leave the game in the 4th after hurting his right knee. The long-term ramifications of this could be catastrophic if he is out for the season or even an extended period of time.

With Hammel’s probable DL injury, the Orioles’ starting rotation only has one pitcher from the opening day rotation, Chen. The others (Matusz, Hunter and Arrieta) are in Norfolk and though they are all performing well down there, they have also proven that they lack the consistency required of a major league pitcher.

So what are the Orioles going to do? Are they going to stand the course and clinch a Wild Card berth possibly?

The answer is “I don’t know.” Looking ahead, the Orioles have a lot of trials and tribulations to become a playoff contending team again. In the weeks leading up to the All-Star Break, nothing was going right for the Orioles. Pitching was sub par with the starters giving up run after run, then only going into the 3rd or 4th inning. The team made errors, costly ones that in some cases may have cost the game. The offense was not capitalizing on RISP when they did actually hit the ball. Those problems still remain.

Looking ahead, the Orioles have 76 games left in the regular reason with 3 series each against the Red Sox (maybe Chris Davis can pitch this one?), the Yankees and four against the Rays. There is a stretch where the Orioles get to face teams that have losing records (Twins, Mariners, Royals) but as Orioles’ fans know, losing records do not matter if a team cannot even score a run. If the current trend continues, the Orioles will not make the playoffs and will finish below .500 again.

What needs to be done?

The Orioles need to hit the ball and score runs. This is a fundamental of baseball that the Orioles are having trouble grasping. Some of our reliable stars like Hardy, Wieters and Thome, to name a few, are struggling offensively. No Oriole currently in the lineup has a batting average at .300 or better. If Hardy does not do something soon, he runs the risk of approaching the Mendoza line (where Reynolds and Thome are sitting). Slumps are difficult because there is really nothing anyone can do to expedite their duration. It is a waiting game to an extent but if players cannot perform and cannot remedy it, drastic matters need to be taken. Most people scoff when I say that maybe Hardy needs to be sent to Norfolk but my reasoning is solid. He has lost his confidence and that is apparent with every chop swing he takes. His batting average is .221 and falling. Really, how much longer can we hold out?

With a pitching rotating that has been shaky at best in the recent months, stabilization and consistency are necessary. If Hammel is out, the rest of the pitching staff needs to step up to fill those big shoes. Chen is a solid starter as he has proven throughout this year. Chris Tillman will probably make his way into the rotation. With his dominance against the Seattle Mariners, Orioles’ fans and management surely reevaluated their historical disappointment in Chris Tillman. His mechanics have improved greatly and his fastball shocked everybody when it registered 97 mph in late innings. If he can remain consistent, stay in command and continue to be unfazed by base runners, Tillman is back in the majors for some time. Zach Britton will also get the call up as he has been wheeling and dealing in Norfolk. His numbers have dramatically improved although he still has command issues despite his recent success at the Tides. Gonzales is also an option for the rotation as he provided an exceptional win and performance against the Angels. If nothing else, Gonzales has proven that he can start a game and go deep into the game (7 innings on 1 ER). The Orioles still need one more person to fill the rotation and with the trade deadline looming, it becomes less and less likely that the Orioles are making a move for someone like Greinke. The bottom line is that the pitching ideals are present in our farm systems and they simply need to be cultivated.

If we had a magic 8 ball to ask the fate of the Orioles on September 1st, what would it reveal?  

By September 1st, the Orioles will have a good idea as to whether they are going to the playoffs or going home to cry over ice cream and beer. The hopeful enthusiast in me likes to believe that this year football and baseball will both be relevant in September but the realist in me has substantial doubts. There is a lot of work to be done throughout the club to remain in contention.

September 1st is also an exciting time for minor league players to get their first taste of professional play. For those of you that do not understand, on September 1st players on the 40-man roster are eligible to play at the professional level. That means that perhaps Bundy, Oliver Drake and Steve Johnson will get their chance to shine. September is really a good time to see how development has occurred and how minor leaguers can conform to the rigorous nature of the major leagues.

Regardless of whether the Orioles make it to the playoffs or whether fans get their first glimpse at Bundy on the mound at Camden Yards, it will be an interesting September.

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Unconventional turns ugly for Orioles’ second-half start

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Unconventional turns ugly for Orioles’ second-half start

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Friday night looked like a good opportunity for the Orioles to get back on track to begin the second half of their season.

Staff ace Jason Hammel was taking the hill against Detroit’s Doug Fister, who entered the night having surrendered 18 earned runs in his last 14 1/3 innings of work for the Tigers.

Right fielder Nick Markakis was returning to the lineup for the first time since late May, assuming the leadoff spot for the first time in his big-league career in an effort to boost the club’s abysmal .246 on-base percentage in the top spot this season. Regaining one of its best hitters looked like the perfect tonic for an offense that scored only 61 runs in its final 22 games before the All-Star break.

His return moved Chris Davis to left field for the first time in the major leagues, giving the club its optimal offense as the roster is presently constructed.

It looked unconventional, but maybe that was exactly what the Orioles needed to climb out of a 6-13 rut and start the second half on a high note.

Instead, the recent stretch turned even uglier with the sight of Hammel walking off the field with a right knee injury in the top of the fourth inning. The 29-year-old has dealt with soreness in that same knee for much of the season, but concern was apparent following the game in the quietest clubhouse reporters had witnessed all season.

“It took a little air out of the game,” said manager Buck Showalter while trying to remain optimistic. “One of our better pitchers had to leave early on. We had gotten back into it at 2-1 and it looked like he was going to settle in and keep us in the game.”

The Orioles (45-41) lost 7-2 to fall to just four games above the .500 mark for the first time since April 27, but a Saturday MRI on Hammel’s right knee will tell far more about the club’s second-half fate than a series-opening loss to the Tigers. Already having demoted three-fifths of the starting rotation to Triple-A Norfolk prior to the break, losing Hammel for an extended period would be a crippling blow to a club already desperate to add quality starting pitching.

Offensively, Baltimore looked as anemic as it did in the final month of the first half, making Fister look like an ace over seven innings in which he allowed three hits and struck out eight. No player exemplifies the Orioles’ struggles at the plate more than shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is now hitless in his last 23 at-bats and 18-for-130 (a .129 average) since June 6.

But Hardy is just one of many failing to get the job done at the plate.

“You want to start off [the second half] with some momentum,” Davis said. “Being at home, these are games we have to win. If we want to be serious about being a playoff team, we’ve got to win games at home, especially when we have our ace on the mound. Obviously, he left early on, but we’ve got to do a better job scoring runs.”

While Showalter waits for his offense to show signs of life — hopefully in a hurry — the Orioles will be on pins and needles waiting to hear Hammel’s fate. The pitcher did not have swelling in the knee after exiting and said through a team official he didn’t hear a pop or sound suggesting a tear when he injured himself delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch.

The Orioles are still saying the right things about refraining from panic, but human nature suggests it’s an impossibility at this point.

“Because of the way [Hammel's] performed, I don’t want to throw dirt over him right now,” Showalter said. “We’re hoping that we hear something good. Our trainers and medical people have done a great job, along with Hamm. I see all the work he does between starts to keep it under control, and I’ll trust him. We’ll make a good decision, probably in the next day or so.”

Hearing Showalter speak of the air coming out of the game after Hammel’s injury and following it up with a metaphor about not wanting to throw dirt on a coffin tells you the struggles and frustration are even weighing on his mind at this point. His expressed optimism wasn’t very convincing and understandably so.

Are the Orioles now circling the drain with the potential loss of their best starting pitcher on top of the rotation struggles they were already experiencing?

Maybe not, but it’s sure feeling that way.

The Orioles need to reverse their fortunes in a hurry, but you wonder how they can if faced with a potential loss as crushing as this.

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Hammel leaves Friday’s start early with knee injury

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Making the first start of the second half for the Orioles on Friday, Jason Hammel left the game in the top of the fourth inning with a right knee injury.

Hammel appeared to land awkwardly after delivering a 1-2 pitch to Brennan Boesch. After throwing a couple practice pitches and being examined by the training staff and manager Buck Showalter, Hammel walked gingerly to the dugout and was replaced by reliever Luis Ayala. He will be evaluated further on Saturday, the club announced.

The right-hander has dealt with right knee soreness for most of the season despite being the Orioles’ best starting pitcher. He entered the night with an 8-5 record and a 3.47 earned run average.

According to Hammel’s brother Bill, the 29-year-old felt as though something popped in his right knee but was not experiencing much swelling in the later innings of the game. The pitcher will undergo an MRI tomorrow.

Hammel and Saturday’s starter Wei-Yin Chen are the only current members of the starting rotation left from the beginning of the season after Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before the All-Star break.

Given the Orioles’ starting pitching woes for much of the season, Friday’s development could be a disastrous blow to the club’s wild-card hopes should Hammel miss significant time with the injury.

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jim johnson

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Five Question for the Orioles: Start of The Second Half Edition

Posted on 13 July 2012 by Big Chee

1.)    Who will carry this pitching staff through the dog days of summer?

Jason Hammel has undoubtedly been the best pitcher in the Orioles rotation in 2012. He leads the Orioles in wins at 8, ERA at 3.47, and strikeouts with 101. However, he has struggled in his last three starts, losing all three. And while a 3.47 ERA is not too shabby, not even a month ago on June 22nd, Hammel was sporting a 2.61 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has been the team’s second best starter, with a 7-5 record and 3.93 ERA. However, just like Hammel, Chen has cooled off as we enter the second half of the season.  He has not won a decision since June 17th and he gave up a career high 3 HRs in his last start against lowly Seattle.

Hammel and Chen are both in their 20s and would benefit greatly from a veteran presence like a Ryan Dempster from Chicago. Even a James Shields of Tampa Bay, who is 30, has big game experience from pitching in the World Series and multiple playoff games. Baltimore would greatly benefit from having guys who have been in postseason contention battles leading their staff. Dempster is coming off the DL and James Shields has a sub-4 ERA throughout his career. Both names will be mentioned heavily come the trade deadline, and Baltimore should definitely be hitting the phones to see what they want.

2.)    Can Mark Reynolds be an effective hitter in this Orioles lineup?

The definition of effective for Mark Reynolds in comparison to other Major League hitters is much different. One can never expect that Reynolds will be a guy who gets on base, he has never hit above .280 in his entire career. Nor can one expect Mark to chill with the strikeouts either. Reynolds led the American League last year with 196 K’s, and that was only his 4th highest total of his career! And don’t even get started on Mark Reynolds and his horrific attempt at fielding. He led the majors in 2011 with 31 errors last year.

Mark Reynolds is an effective hitter when he is hitting home runs. In 2011, he was fourth in the majors with 37 HRs. Despite all of his faults, when he was on, he was not a guy you wanted to face if you were an opposing pitcher. If you follow Earl Weaver’s Three Keys to Winning Baseball: Pitching, Defense, and Three Run Homers, you know for sure Reynolds did not fall into the first two categories. But with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Reynolds is that power hitter that you want at the plate. That is, of course, when he is not mired in a 3 for 25 slump like he was during interleague play.

3.)    Will Brian Roberts have any effect on the Orioles chances of making a postseason run?

Love the Orioles or not, you have to feel for Brian Roberts. I get that he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report back in 2007, and admitted to taking a shot of steroids in 2003. The key is that he admitted he this occasion, unlike a certain pitcher from the Yankees who claims he never did while he was throwing 100 mph at 45 years old. Anyway , Roberts has played in just 115 games since the beginning of the 2010 season, and has missed almost 13 months while recovering from multiple concussions. He returned to the Orioles on June 12th, but was back on the DL not even a month later with a torn right hip muscle.

Now, the longtime leadoff 2B for the Orioles is weighing whether or not he should have surgery on the hip or rehab it on its. On one hand it would be great to see Roberts try and get back with the Orioles sooner than two months, if only to help them out defensively as they lead the MLB with 75 errors. On the other hand, if the Orioles are buyers at the deadline and find themselves in contention come September, how great would it be to have his leadership back in the clubhouse as the O’s make a playoff push?

4.)    Speaking of all this poor fielding, who can the O’s acquire now to help?

Did I mention Baltimore was dead last in fielding in Major League Baseball? If one could point a finger at the glaring hole in the infield for this problem, look no further than 3B. Not one of these guys has above average ability to play the hot corner: Robert Andino, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit or Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles are in a tie with Anaheim for the Wildcard, and pitching should not be the only area where the Orioles upgrade to make a legitimate run.

Two names come to mind that can immediately help Baltimore at 3B, without having to include Bundy, Machado or much else from the farm system. The first is Placido Polanco from the Philadelphia Phillies. A 36 year old playing for the last place, 13 games below .500 Phillies should come at a bargain for Baltimore. Polanco has won three gold gloves in the past five years, and has yet to make an error in 30 games at 3B with Philadelphia. His lifetime fielding percentages at 1B and 3B are the best in major league history. No, that is not a typo.

If Philadelphia decides they do not want to shop Polanco, the second team the Orioles  should call is San Diego to inquire about Chase Headley’s services. Headley is 28, eight years younger than Polanco, and possesses more ability to hit for power at this point of his career. Headley is an average defensive 3B, and unfortunately suffers from Mark Reynolds strikeout syndrome (He has twice in his career made more than 600 plate appearances, and in each of those seasons, he has struck out over 130 times). However, with San Diego not being competitive in 2012 and Headley heading into arbitration, his services would come at a bargain and he would at least push the guys who are already here in Baltimore.

5.)    Can the Bullpen perform as well as it did in the first half of the season?

This may be one of the biggest questions the Orioles face heading into the back half of 2012, if only because it has been the most reliable department of their team throughout the first half. The Orioles lead the American League with a 2.75 ERA as well as hold the best record out of the pen with a 17-6 mark. All Star Jim Johnson has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball, converting 26 of 27 save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop, and Darren O’Day all have sub-3 ERAs and have been very efficient in setting up Johnson before the 9th inning.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown and the Orioles own a daunting task to match their outstanding performance post-All Star break. If history is any indicator for Jim Johnson, than the chances of this bullpen holding up are not very strong. His ERA is 3.98 post All Star break, compared to 2.56 before the break in his career. In addition, it has been 22 years since an AL bullpen statistically threw as well as the Orioles have over a full season. Oakland had a combined 2.35 mark in 1990. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will be closely monitoring the bullpen to keep those guys fresh and productive down the stretch. Let’s see how they hold up.

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Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

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Five biggest Orioles surprises of first half

Posted on 10 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping into the All-Star break after losing 13 of their last 19 games and failing to score a run in their last 22 innings, it’s becoming difficult to celebrate a remarkable start for a club from which so little was expected.

Although nearly everyone predicted Baltimore would suffer through its 15th straight losing season, the Orioles weren’t below the .500 mark at any point during the first half and haven’t dropped lower than third in the American League East, where they have just one finish higher than fourth place — third in 2004 — since 1997.

Sunday’s loss in Anaheim dropped them to a season-high seven games behind first place, but the Orioles spent 53 days in first over the course of the first half of the season. When you consider the Orioles spent a total of 37 days in first place in the previous five seasons combined — none of those outside the month of April — you’ll forgive fans for taking enjoyment despite the club’s struggles over the last few weeks.

Much focus has shifted to the biggest disappointments of the first half (I’ll cover those later this week) with the Orioles falling back to earth recently, but there have been plenty of individual surprises through the first 85 games of the season.

Here are my top five individual surprises of the Orioles’ first half:

Honorable mention: Brian Roberts’ return from concussion-related symptoms, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day

5. Troy Patton

The left-hander entered spring training out of options and knowing his future in Baltimore was in doubt before pitching 10 1/3 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play to make the 25-man roster. Patton began the season as the only southpaw in the bullpen and has earned manager Buck Showalter’s trust in using him in late-inning situations.

Patton has a 3.46 earned run average to go along with a 1.00 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 39 innings this season. Left-handed hitters have batted just .194 against him while right-handers aren’t much better at .233.

His versatility as a former starter has allowed Showalter to use him in longer stretches occasionally — he has five appearances of two innings or more — but Patton has made regular appearances in the seventh and eight innings of close games as a key contributor for the American League’s best bullpen (2.75 ERA).

4. Adam Jones

The All-Star center fielder got off to the best start of his career and looked like a league MVP candidate through the first two months of the season, hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 34 runs batted in over the first 51 games of the season. The fast start not only led Jones to be named to his second All-Star team but prompted the club to sign him to a six-year, $85.5 million contract in late May to keep him in Baltimore through the 2018 season.

While Jones has cooled considerably in June and July — he’s hitting .252 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last 34 games — while battling two sore wrists, the center fielder’s willingness to commit to the Orioles for the long haul was a major win for an organization trying to escape the shadow of 14 straight losing seasons. The 26-year-old has also established himself as a leader in the clubhouse and a favorite of Showalter.

He is the clear choice for the team MVP for the first half of the season, and the Orioles will need Jones to get hot again to help jump-start an offense that’s struggled mightily over the last month. His .289 average, 20 home runs, and 44 RBIs lead the club.

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Big Trade Looming?

Posted on 07 July 2012 by Erich Hawbaker

The All-Star break is upon us. And, if the season ended today, the Orioles would be headed to the playoffs. Thursday’s disaster with the Angels notwithstanding, the Orioles have reached halftime without completely faceplanting as most of us expected they would. The bullpen has been the most pleasant surprise, with an ERA still close to the best in baseball. The offense (long balls in particular) has also been a big reason for the success, with Adam Jones on pace for 40 homeruns and several others flirting with 30.

However, just like last year, the most glaring weakness has been the defense. Unfortunately, the O’s also lead the league in errors, which has cost them at least three or four winnable games already this season. The other coin flip has been the starting pitching, which lately seems to always be either stellar or awful on any given night. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are aces more often than not, but the other three rotation spots have been consistently shaky with occasional flashes of brilliance.

The Orioles have already made a splash in the trade market this year by acquiring DH Jim Thome from the struggling Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers. For awhile now, I’d been wondering if they were really serious about being buyers this year like Dan Duquette said, and if, to that end, they would be looking to pick up another legitimate starting pitcher. Today when I checked my fantasy team (the Mercersburg Rebels, currently in 1st place), the news feed told me that the Orioles are trying to make a trade with the Brewers for RHP Zack Greinke. It also mentioned that the O’s have two highly-touted prospects in Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado that might be part of such a deal.

For the last few years, I’ve always made it a point to have Greinke on my fantasy team. He routinely goes deep into games, puts up lots of strikeouts, and has a very good ERA and WHIP. He won the 2009 AL Cy Young with the Royals, no easy feat when one considers that they’ve been about as bad as the Orioles over the last decade. This year, his record is 9-2, while his team is currently under .500 by five games.

So, all indications are that he would be an excellent pickup if the Orioles can pull this off. However, I would not part with Bundy or Machado to make it happen. Since Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder, they’re in need of a firstbaseman. Perhaps Mark Reynolds could be part of this trade? True, he’s not crushing the ball like he was last year, but Miller Park is definitely hitter-friendly. And now that the Orioles have Chris Davis, there isn’t a tremendous need for Reynolds here anymore. It would also make a big dent in that error rate.

Another thing to consider here is that the era of Brian Roberts is, regrettably, over. He’s given us some tremendous years, but unfortunately the Orioles simply cannot depend on him as an everyday player anymore. Therefore, letting go of Manny Machado would be unwise, because he will be coming of age right about the time when Roberts is officially finished. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why trading Dylan Bundy would be a bad move, unless of course the Brewers are offering significantly more than just Greinke.

I have to admit, it’s a VERY nice thought that the Orioles’ rotation could eventually consist of Hammel, Chen, Greinke, Britton, and whoever gets their act together. That, coupled with Jones, Wieters, Davis, Markakis, Hardy, and our current bullpen would almost have to be a serious contender.

However, I must reiterate that even if this becomes reality, we are not yet free of Peter The Terrible, and I still remain unconvinced that the Orioles have truly turned the corner as long as he remains in the warehouse.

What do you think? Should the Orioles trade for Greinke? Is there someone else out there you’d like to see them pursue? Comments are always welcome.

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Playoffs?!

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Playoffs?!

Posted on 05 July 2012 by ryanhiken

The Orioles are currently 44-37 at the halfway mark of the season.  They are on pace for their best season in 15 years.  However, this isn’t the best start to a season they have had in the last 15 years.  In 2005, the Orioles were 47-40 at the all-star break.  The Orioles have one more series before the all star break.  They begin a four game series with the Los Angeles Angels tonight in Los Angeles.  The Orioles are currently a half game back of the Angels for the first wild card spot in the American League.  This year, Major League Baseball will be adding a 5th playoff team.  The first wildcard team will be hosting a one game playoff with the 5th place team.  This series would be a preview of the one game playoff if the season were to end today.

This is about the time of year when most Oriole fans begin to write them off.  This is the mentality that the average Orioles fan has.  This is unfortunate, because this years team is different from the others.  This team has legitimate star players in Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  The pitching staff isn’t perfect, but they have a legitimate starter in Jason Hammel and an all-star closing pitcher in Jim Johnson.  This is a formula for success, along with the leadership of Buck Showalter, the Oriole’s veteran manager.

This upcoming series will tell us a lot about this current Oriole team.  A couple of games ago the Orioles were struggling, but they went into Seattle and won 2 out of 3 games.  They probably should have swept the series, but unfortunate errors cost them the game Monday night.  The Angels began the season slow with a 7-14 record.  Since then, the Angels are 38-22 and have been one of the best teams in baseball.  The Orioles have been excellent this year, but have a combined record of 5-12 against the American League elite of NY Yankees, Texas Rangers and LA Angels.

I believe the Orioles are good, but I don’t believe they are elite.  Many people have been asking me if I think they will make the playoffs.  I think they will, because I think they haven’t played their best baseball yet.  They have been very successful against their competition outside of the elite teams.  I don’t believe they are going to surpass the Yankees and take the division, but I believe they will make the playoffs.  Therefore, I expect the Orioles to play in the inaugural one game wildcard playoff.  I think this would be incredible, especially if the Orioles could host the game.  The Orioles haven’t played a meaningful game in  Baltimore since 1997, I think its about time.  Fans need to get on the bandwagon now, before its too late.  Believe in this team, don’t write them off and go out to the games and support the team.

Come September, when the Orioles are hosting the first ever one game wildcard playoff, its going to be the hardest ticket in town to get in the last 15 years.  The Orioles need to win at least two games in this series to guarantee their best winning percentage before the all-star break since the 1997 season, when they lost in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians.  If the Orioles can manage to do this, I think it says a lot about them as a team.  If they get swept I think that will also say a lot about them.  That is why I believe this series is so important.

It is important to head into the all-star break with momentum, now is a great time to do so, and make a statement to the rest of the league.  The Orioles are a good team, they will remain competitive for the rest of the season and they are not to be messed with.  The Orioles have the 2nd best winning percentage in the MLB in one run games with a record of 15-6.  The Orioles are also one of two teams to have a winning record and a negative run differential.  This just goes to show, the Orioles are a tough, gritty and nasty baseball team.  I wish the Orioles the best of luck this weekend in Los Angeles, watch the games, root for your home team and let the chips fall where they may.  I know there is a lot of baseball left to be played, but I think we will know where the Orioles stand come Monday.

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All Star Final Vote: Who gets Mine?

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All Star Final Vote: Who gets Mine?

Posted on 04 July 2012 by James Finn

The Final Vote.  The last chance to select a deserving player to the 2012 All-Star Game.  5 players selected from each league, and the fans vote for who is most deserving (but really, who’s most popular and/or who plays in the larger market).  Voting can be done online, or via text message (which is fantastic if you have unlimited texting).  Locally, Jason Hammel is in the running for one of these spots, but likely blew his chances with a poor outing on Tuesday.  About 45 minutes down 95, Rookie Wunderkind Bryce Harper is up for one of these spots on the NL roster.

Allow me to break down who I’m voting for in each league.  I’ll begin with the NL, as the majority of readers here won’t be fans of my AL choice. (Spoiler Alert: It’s not Jason Hammel.)

National League: Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks)

My choice was made a bit easier when Chipper Jones was promoted to the All-Star team after Matt Kemp’s injury will force him to be a spectator.  Aaron,. as of this posting, is last in NL voting, but I feel is getting overlooked.  He’s become the only player since 1931 to hit for the cycle twice in the same season.  He executed this feet over a 2 week span.  In the month of June, Hill batted .370, with 13 multi-hit games, and a .700 slugging percentage.  Not bad for a #2 hitter.  His diamondbacks finished the month 16-10, helping pull his club over a .500 record at months end (although, they have dropped 4 straight).  He might not be the sexy pick Bryce Harper is (he’ll have plenty of opportunities), or the eventual winner (David Freese became a star in last years Fall classic), but ultimately, has my support.

 

American League: Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox)

Ok.  Hear me out, Baltimore.  No this isn’t a reaction to Hammel’s 12 Earned runs over his last 2 starts.  This is simply a reaction to how well Peavy has performed this season.  His 6-5 record doesn’t jump off the page as a must have on the All-Star roster, but, Wins and Losses does not a pitcher make.  In 16 starts this season, Peavy has delivered a quality start (at least 6 innings, with no more than 3 earned runs) 13 times, with 3 complete games.  His ERA 2.96, 101 K’s and 0.99 WHIP are among the league leaders.  Peavy has been the victim of Run Support.  In the 5 games he’s lost this season, the White Sox have managed to score a mere 2 runs (which is peculiar, as the Sox are the 4th highest scoring team in the AL).  Peavy could easily (and should be) a 10 game winner.  He, however, is overshadowed by his own teammate,  Chris Sale, who has near identical stats, but has found runn support.  An All-star selection for Peavy would solidify a great comeback story for a pitcher who has hit rock-average since his 2007 Cy-Young season.  Yu Darvish, ill win this spot, as he has the entire far east clicking and texting for him.

Why not Jason Hammel?

This decision is not going to make me popular, so be it.  I LOVE Jason Hammel.  It’s so much more than a crush.  Hear me out.

It’s not his stats.  I can compare what he’s done, and how he, with the help of Wei-Yin Chen, have been the model of consistency to an Orioles starting rotation.  What he’s done is the ultimate “I’ll Show them” after being packaged out of Colorado.  I’m proud of what Hammel has done this season.  Perhaps when he is ultimately left off the roster, it puts a chip back on his shoulder.  Mentally, he can mow down batters in every MLB city, saying to himself “This is for not voting me in”.  Hammel’s value is that he’s underrated.  An All-star selection messes with that mantra a bit.  Additionally, he’s only 29.  He’s not exactly Chipper Jones, jockeying for one more day in the sun.  If Hammel has truly evolved into the pitcher he’s shown he can be, this won’t be the only time he’s in the conversation for the All-Star game.  Finally, the Birds are well represented in Kansas City.  By Hammel not being selected, he’ll be good and ready to take the bump the first game after the break.

And honestly, If by some unlikely twist of fate, Hammel makes the cut, I’ll be the happiest man in all of Birdland.

Please send all your hate in the comments below.

@JamesTFinn on Twitter.

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