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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Machado nostalgia tour in full effect as Orioles trade talks heat up

Posted on 09 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It felt different this time as Manny Machado and the Orioles returned home 41 games below .500 on the heels of an 0-6 road trip.

Monday was one of numerous instances going back a couple of years that the four-time All-Star infielder was asked to discuss his future — or lack thereof — in Baltimore, but the finality is rapidly setting in as he began what could be his final homestand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the trade deadline just three weeks away. The 2018 season was all but mathematically over for the Orioles in late April, but the Machado nostalgia tour is now in full effect as trade discussions have turned from exploratory to intense in recent days.

The “when” may have replaced the “if” months ago, but the time is here to start saying the goodbyes.

Perhaps it was the presence of the New York Yankees — the club many believe to be the favorite to land Machado in free agency — to begin a four-game series, but the sight of Machado still wearing an Orioles uniform is now bordering on surreal with the end so close. He delivered one of his patented doubles in the first game of the twin bill and partook in his usual clowning with Jonathan Schoop between innings, but all focus is now on what the organization might fetch from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Arizona, or even the Yankees in a trade while the games themselves — losses more than 70 percent of the time — are inconsequential and the 2018 Orioles are on pace to be one of the worst clubs in major league history.

Machado is sounding more and more like part of the Orioles’ past with the only chapter left to be written being what prospects the front office gets in return to try to improve a bleak future. As each day passes, the Orioles and their fans simply hold their breath that he doesn’t get hurt before a deal is finalized.

His final notable act as an Oriole will be serving as the starting American League shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game if he isn’t traded before then. He described the news as “bittersweet” in the context of the club’s historic struggles and his anticipated departure.

“We’ve gone through some good times and some bad times, and it’s just made us better and brought us closer together,” said Machado as he reflected on his seven seasons with the Orioles. “This organization means a lot, and I’ll never be ungrateful for the opportunity and everything they’ve given to me.”

Hearing such nostalgia from a talent who just celebrated his 26th birthday stings, even if the prospects coming back in a deal prove to be fruitful. The current feeling of resignation shouldn’t forgive how poorly the Orioles handled this situation, beginning with not being more aggressive to try to extend Machado years ago and continuing with the decline of his once-massive trade value when it became apparent two winters ago that a long-term contract wasn’t going to happen.

One of the most talented players in club history getting so close to free agency is bad enough when you’re a contender, but allowing Machado to play his final two seasons in Baltimore on last-place clubs speaks to the organization’s lack of vision. That’s a bigger problem moving forward than the departure of any given player, and there’s no way to spin that truth until the Angelos family reveals some semblance of a long-term plan as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter continue to work on expiring contracts.

The Orioles know what they need to do as the losses pile up in embarrassing fashion. Perhaps they’ll find a better-than-anticipated return for Machado, but being in this position with such a generational talent makes for a sobering trade deadline.

“I’d very much like to be adding, and we feel like, potentially, we will add really well [for the future],” Showalter said. “Either way, you’re just adding for a different purpose and subtracting for a different purpose. I think there’s a great opportunity here in a lot of ways.”

Great is hardly the word to describe it, but the Orioles now have no other choice.

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Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

Posted on 18 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Hours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.

It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.

“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”

Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.

To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.

Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.

His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.

The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.

What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?

The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.

Odds & ends

In an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.

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

Posted on 07 June 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

What’s gone wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Memorial Day checkpoint

Posted on 29 May 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following doubleheader split with Tampa Bay

Posted on 12 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles splitting their twin bill with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore saw its four-game winning streak snapped in the nightcap, but this week has been a decent diversion from how poor the 2018 season has been. Even if the Orioles had won the second game, they still would have been on pace to lose 110 games. Instead, it’s 114.

2. The story of the day was David Hess, who shook off an early three-run homer to win his major league debut and register a quality start over six innings, equaling the total number from Chris Tillman and Mike Wright in their combined nine starts this season. He deserves another start.

3. Hess used all four of his pitches effectively and recorded five of his seven swinging strikes on his slider. Scouts have said he lacks a dominant pitch, but many believe the right-hander is a legitimate major league pitcher, either as a starter or a reliever.

4. Pitching on short rest wasn’t ideal, but Hess had the benefit of being promoted to work in a starting role. Hopping on the Norfolk train as a long reliever isn’t easy when youngsters are typically rewarded for pitching well by immediately being optioned right back to the minors.

5. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches in the third inning of the first game, the Orioles’ first back-to-back homers of the season. Machado had homered in three straight games before the nightcap while Schoop clubbed two homers on Saturday. Fun to watch.

6. Schoop’s second home run was the 92nd of his career, tying him with Brian Roberts for the most homers by a second baseman in Orioles history. This is your latest reminder that he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.

7. Watching Hess followed by Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens to close out the victory was a reminder that the cupboard isn’t entirely bare for the Orioles despite a very unsettling future. It’s easy envisioning Scott and Givens leading the back end of the bullpen in the coming years.

8. Who didn’t expect catcher Chance Sisco’s first major league stolen base to be a swipe of home? Seth Smith had Baltimore’s last steal of home prior to Saturday. A pair of speed demons right there.

9. With Buck Showalter wanting to avoid using Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro and having used Givens and Scott in Game 1, the lack of bullpen depth was painfully exposed as Jimmy Yacabonis, Pedro Araujo, and Mike Wright combined to allow six runs, seven walks, and a hit batter. Yuck.

10. Saturday was underwhelming for Alex Cobb, who allowed three earned runs, two homers, and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. In fairness, he had retired seven straight and was settling in at just 69 pitches before a lengthy rain delay brought his night to a premature end.

11. The Rule 5 pick Araujo has been scored upon in five straight outings, walking three and plunking another while recording two outs Saturday. I’ve stated my disdain for the Rule 5 draft obsession repeatedly, but you might as well keep him when you’re already 16 games below .500 in mid-May.

12. An offense that plated 26 runs in the previous three games had one hit through five innings of the nightcap and failed to take advantage of runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth, managing only one more run and leaving the tying run on third.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 11-6 win over Kansas City

Posted on 11 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning just their third series of the season in an 11-6 win over Kansas City, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles won two straight for the first time in over a month and the second time all season. The 11 runs scored marked a season high as they went 6-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It took six weeks, but Baltimore finally cracked double-digit wins. It hasn’t been fun.

2. The victory doesn’t mask the hard truth about Chris Tillman, who failed to get out of the second inning for the second straight start and owns a 10.46 season ERA. Whether he simply can’t do it physically anymore or the organization has no idea how to “fix” him, it’s over.

3. Tillman has now allowed four earned runs or more in 17 of his 26 starts since the start of last season. You can’t keep pointing to outliers like his seven shutout innings against Detroit last month while ignoring an 8.79 ERA in 114 2/3 innings over the last calendar year.

4. I have no idea whether the likes of David Hess or Tim Melville will succeed at the next level, but their numbers at Triple-A Norfolk warrant an opportunity. With this club already out of contention in mid-May, there’s no point continuing to go down this road with Tillman.

5. If it’s not someone from Norfolk, Miguel Castro stated his case for a starting opportunity with 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals, lowering his season ERA to 3.55. He threw 65 pitches and could slide into Tillman’s turn in the rotation if you want to take that route.

6. Trey Mancini hit his fourth homer of 2018 and tied career highs with three hits and three runs. He’s had a tough time at the plate since hurting his knee last month, so it was encouraging to see him break out with two extra-base hits to the opposite field.

7. Adam Jones is now 9-for-21 with two homers since moving into the No. 2 spot in the order during the West Coast trip. The veteran center fielder is still hitting just .258, but you much prefer seeing him in the second spot over Jace Peterson or Craig Gentry.

8. Both Mancini and Jones being a triple away from becoming the fifth Oriole to hit for the cycle made me wonder what Felix Pie is up to these days. He batted .286 in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this past offseason.

9. Manny Machado continues to rake as he clubbed his 10th long ball of the season and reached base three other times. He’s now batting .350 with a .439 on-base percentage. He continues to do his part in keeping his trade value as high as possible.

10. Jonathan Schoop dropped a throw at second on a potential double play for the second straight night in the second inning, but the Royals inexplicably dropped a sacrifice bunt right after that. Giving a struggling starting pitcher an out in that situation was baffling.

11. Tanner Scott was terrific over two innings, striking out four and getting eight swinging strikes on 31 pitches. He averaged 97.1 miles per hour on his fastball with a very good slider. The Orioles need a fresh bullpen arm, but he deserves to stay in Baltimore for the time being.

12. Darren O’Day said he hyperextended his elbow when someone accidentally collided with him as he stretched in the bullpen. The injury isn’t considered serious, but it reiterates how bizarre this season has been in addition to being terrible. It’s his fourth trip to the disabled list in three seasons.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

Posted on 08 May 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orioles-Rays game postponed, rescheduled as part of May 12 doubleheader

Posted on 24 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Having lost nine of their last 10 and currently dealing with injuries in their infield, the Orioles probably weren’t disappointed to see Mother Nature give them a break.

A forecast of steady rain throughout the evening postponed the opener of a three-game series with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The game will be rescheduled as part of a single-admission doubleheader with the Rays beginning at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

With infielder Tim Beckham expected to be placed on the 10-day disabled list after injuring his groin in Monday’s loss to Cleveland, the Orioles were able to delay making a roster move. Newly-acquired infielder Jace Peterson was traveling to Baltimore Tuesday after being claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees and is expected to take Beckham’s roster spot on Wednesday.

Batting just .179 and struggling to adjust to his new position at third base, Beckham underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday afternoon. The Orioles were already dealing with the absence of All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is just beginning baseball activities after sustaining a right oblique strain on April 13.

Before the postponement, Trey Mancini had been penciled into Tuesday’s lineup as the left fielder and leadoff hitter. He missed two games over the weekend after slamming his knee into the wall down the left-field line on Friday night, but he was able to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Monday’s game.

Below is information about Tuesday’s postponement and the May 12 doubleheader:

Tickets and parking for Tuesday’s postponed game will not be automatically honored for the May 12 doubleheader. Fans must exchange the value of their tickets and parking from the Tuesday, April 24 game at the Oriole Park Box Office towards any remaining home game this season, including the May 12 doubleheader, based on availability.

Fans who purchased tickets on StubHub for the Tuesday, April 24 game will need to contact StubHub regarding their policy for postponed events.

Fans holding tickets for the originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. game on Saturday, May 12 should use those tickets for both games of the doubleheader.

All ballpark gates will open at 2:00 p.m., and parking lots will open at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on MASN2 and on the Orioles Radio Network, including flagship station 105.7 The Fan.

Ticket exchanges can be performed at the Oriole Park Box Office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by May 31, 2018 to:

Baltimore Orioles
Attention: April 24 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 loss to Boston

Posted on 15 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their third straight defeat in a 3-1 final against the Boston Red Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles led 1-0 three batters into the game and didn’t score again as the bottom six lineup spots were 0-for-20 with one walk and 12 strikeouts. No one expects 10 runs per game with the tough schedule and cold weather they’ve endured in April, but this is ridiculous.

2. Sixteen games into the season, three regulars against right-handed starters — Manny Machado, Trey Mancini, and Pedro Alvarez — have swung the bat well. Two part-timers — Chance Sisco and Craig Gentry — have been OK. The overall performance of everyone else has ranged from poor to below-replacement level.

3. In the four games in which Dylan Bundy has started, he’s posted a 1.40 ERA while the Orioles have scored a total of seven runs. To channel Gisele Bundchen, he can’t pitch the ball and hit the ball. If only he were Shohei Ohtani.

4. Bundy recorded five of his six strikeouts on his slider and has now gotten a swing and miss on 35.3 percent of his sliders this season. That’s up from 24.4 percent last year. Impressive.

5. It’s tough to pitch when you have to get five outs in the sixth inning of a tie game. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to cut payroll by 10 percent without bothering to acquire a real utility infielder. Danny Valencia’s career minus-36 defensive runs saved aren’t a secret.

6. Until this season, the infield had done a good job masking the Orioles’ overall defensive decline since 2014 when they led the American League in defensive runs saved. Baltimore entered Sunday 12th in the AL in DRS and has finished 11th or 12th every season since its division title campaign.

7. I’ve been a Caleb Joseph guy, but he really needs to start hitting. His defense is his strength, but a .286 on-base plus slugging percentage is unacceptable with Sisco behind him. He needs to produce in the neighborhood of what he offered last year (.700 OPS) or 2015 (.693).

8. Richard Bleier pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings isn’t shocking, but registering two strikeouts is rare after having only three in his first 9 2/3 innings of 2018 and striking out only 3.7 per nine frames last season. The lefty sinkerballer is a fascinating contrast to the strikeout-heavy relievers of today.

9. Even before Monday’s postponement, the Orioles were listing Chris Tillman’s turn in the rotation as TBD for the Detroit series. I expect him to receive a few more opportunities, but that’s still pretty telling. Then again, an 8.28 ERA since the start of last year says it all.

10. Jonathan Schoop expressed hope Sunday that he’d only be on the disabled list for the minimum 10 days before returning. I admire his desire, but oblique injuries can linger all season if not handled carefully. I expect the training staff to protect the All-Star second baseman from himself if necessary.

11. Alex Cobb had an awful debut, but overreaction has been silly. There’s much over which to be concerned, but declaring someone who signed less than four weeks ago a bust is a bit much. That said, Baltimore is already running out of time for Cobb to get up to speed.

12. We’re only 10 percent of the way through the schedule, but Sunday was only the third of 11 losses in which the margin of defeat was three runs or fewer, reflecting the struggle to even be all that competitive. It’s going to start getting late very early if this continues.

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