Tag Archive | "koji uehara"

Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

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Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.

Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.

The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.

Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.

Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.

But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.

His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.

The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.

It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.

In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.

Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.

While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.

When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.

After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.

Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.

Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.

For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.

Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.

You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.

Whatever it takes to win.

Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.

And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.

 

 

 

 

 

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Now it’s time to say good bye..

Posted on 07 September 2011 by Keith Melchior

to one of the Orioles fam il eee…. B R I A N M….A T U S Zeeeeee.  (Sung to the tune of the Mickey Mouse club closing song)

Sad but true…

Brian Matusz, one of those fabled young arms that was going to lead the Orioles to the promised land in the 2010-2020 era, needs to be sent packing. Plain and simple. Thanks, but no thanks, clean out your locker, pack your bags,  and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.  Your time here is done, kid. We can’t afford to throw you out there every 5th day and watch you get lit up like a roman candle on the 4th of July.  Go fix yourself and if you can hook up with another team, best of luck to you.

The numbers speak for themselves. The pitcher, who led the charge of Buck Showalter’s 34-23 finish to 2010 and gave the team and fans so much promise to finally get over the top in 2011,  got himself hurt in spring training and lost it, all of it. He had 1 decent outing when he returned against a weak hitting Oakland A’s team. If you can call 5 1/3 innings, with 95 pitches decent. It seems like none of the Oriole starters can get into the 7th inning on a consistent basis, so 5 1/3 on this team is a quality start. Since then, Matusz has gone something like 0-8 with an ERA close to the cost of a beer at M&T Bank Stadium.

But he’s not the only one who needs a change of scenery….

Vladimir Guerrero -  Had the Orioles gotten him 8 years ago, they may have been able to make a few playoff runs. But that was when Vlad was a feared hitter and RBI machine. Now, he’s at the very end of his career and just hanging on for a paycheck. His lack of production proves it.

Jeremy Guthrie  – Yeah, the guy pitches his ass off. Yeah, he’s been on bad teams. Yeah, he’s not a true #1 starter.  BUT he  cannot win baseball games in Baltimore.  Jim Palmer was saying last night Guthrie will probably get to the 200 inning plateau within 4 more starts. That’s great Jim, but he is not even going to win 10 games this season.  So, he eats up innings, so did Russ Ortiz      (Ortiz probably ate BETWEEN innings)  but Guthrie’s not a winner. Don’t pass around that BS about lack of run support. He’s hurt this team early and often on numerous occasions and has given up an average of 29 HR per season. In 2011 he’s won 1 game a month. For the 2nd time in 3 years, he leads the league is losses (17 in 2009, 17 thus far in 2011)  He’s 32 years old has a career record of 44-65.  He has averaged barely 9 wins per season over his 5 years in Baltimore. He’s NOT going to get better.   Thanks, but no thanks.  Time to go.  Catch on to another team and win 20 games and a Cy Young award.  Best wishes.

Mark Reynolds -   This guy is the classic Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde type player.  Reynolds as a 3rd baseman STINKS.  He has an .897 fielding % to go along with his 26 errors and is the worst for 3rd basemen in team history. He is so bad at 3rd base he makes Craig Worthington, Rick Schu,  and Wayne Gross look like they were reincarnations of Brooks Robinson.  Now, Reynolds the 1st baseman is totally refreshing with no errors in 26 games and has made quite a few spectacular plays. The team really needs to make a decision on whether Reynolds is going to be their future 1st baseman. He is a major liability at 3rd. His HR production doesn’t offset the multi-strikeout games and the cast iron in his glove. First base or bust.

Luke Scott – a selfish baseball player if I ever saw one. Scott is nothing but a streaky hitter which means he is inconsistent at best. He felt the curse of being the Oriole MVP in 2010 by having issues with the  labrum in his right arm/shoulder area. He stupidly tried to play through the pain and shame on the organization for even allowing it.  His lack of production hurt a team fighting for mediocrity. It came at a time where they really needed to win baseball games to help build the confidence of their young pitching staff. Losing became  contagious and  Scott ends up on the DL.  Luke Scott is a liability in left field anyway, and was taking at-bats away from guys like Felix Pie (who never got it going, then was sent packing)  and Nolan Reimold (who has produced more with less chances) Scott should have been traded after last year’s success when he had value. Now they are stuck with him. Unless he is going to be the full time DH, there isn’t a spot for him on the team.

Kevin Gregg – Closers are a dime a dozen. Just ask Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara. They both did it and look what happened to them. If you pitch well and are any good , you might get traded to a team that can use your talents for a playoff run. If you aren’t any good, you become the Orioles’ closer.

Brian Roberts – The Orioles dumped Jerry Hairston Jr because he was “injury prone”  Brian Roberts happened to be the guy who replaced Hairston. Look what has happened to Roberts over the last 2 seasons… You’d like to see him return next season and repeat his 2008/2009 seasons. But wasn’t that about the time he admitted taking a PHD? Hmmmm…I think it’s time to start grooming a new 2nd baseman and quickly.

Andy MacPhail -  It was reported that MacPhail wouldn’t be returning as the Orioles GM or whatever lame title they gave him. I was not a MacPhail fan before and he surely hasn’t done anything with this club to make me a fan now.  Why people gave him a pass is beyond me. He was the GM in Minnesota from 1985-1994 and the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and again 1991 under his watch. He joined the Cubs as CEO/President in 1995 and was with them until 2006. He also served as the GM from 2000-2002.  The Cubs did nothing under MacPhail the  GM, but they did win the division in 2003 after he returned to his full time duties as President and CEO.   With MacPhail in control, his teams went to the playoffs a total of 4 times in 21 years with 2 World Series titles.  So, please  help me understand why this guy is supposed to walk on water?  He came to Baltimore with his BS rebuilding plan in 2007 and here it is 4 1/2 seasons later and the organization has gotten progressively worse averaging about 94 losses the last 5 seasons.   Whether his hands have been tied by the owner or not,  I say good riddance.

Last but not least…..

Two other guys who need to be sent packing as well;

Joe Angel and Fred Manfra – These two have to be the worst team of announcers in any sport, period.  Angel constantly using his phony accent trying to pronounce a Latin player’s name as well as his ending statement “the Orioles are in the ____ column” and Manfra saying a player’s name over and over and over and over and over again during a single at-bat makes for a pretty BAD radio broadcast. Angel has always been a Jon Miller wannabe. Manfra is a “I wish I was.”  These two have had to endure the stretch of losing seasons and it shows in their play by play. Their shtick is as old and crusty as they are and it’s time for them to retire. As much as I love the Orioles, I really hate listening to them on the radio while in the car.  It’s just plain bad.

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July Heat to Much for Orioles

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Tom Federline

Record breaking heat wave in Baltimore during the month of July. Hottest July ever for the state of Maryland. The Orioles at 7 – 19 for the month, were far from hot. They were never even warm. They were……….. the Orioles of old. They were…………the Orioles of the past 13 years. They… are currently 43-63, which means they would have to go 38-18 the rest of the way, a .679 winning clip. That ain’t happenin’. They….. let the July heat melt away any chances of a .500 season. So, as it has been for the majority of the past 25 years – here we go again Orioles – “I Melt With You” – (Modern English). The dilemma here is, that “I have seen a difference – but it is NOT getting better all the time.”

The O’shave kept to their modus operandi. Just when you think it cannot get any worse…………it does.I turned on the ballgame Saturday night, to see them losing 16 -1, in the third inning! Thank you Yankees for that 17 -3 butt whoopin’. Television cameras zoom in on Buck-Buck and there he is just shaking his head. At least he wasn’t smiling. Guess what Buck-Buck – the Oriole faithful are shaking our heads also. Heck, the Pirates are even making a run. Yes, another one of those sour teams from Pittsburgh. Now it’s getting down right embarrassing.

Wasn’t happy seeing Koji go. He was one of the few bright spots in that bullpen. Potentially good trade though, time will tell and maybe we’ll see “Koji with K” back in a birds uniform next year. Yeah right. The Derek Lee deal leads me to believe there is a “Fix on” somewhere. First – he goes to Pittsburgh (bad enough). Second – the Orioles get a Single -A first baseman? Say what? Lee wasn’t having the year we anticipated, but trade him for a kid who is going to play in Frederick? On top of that, the O’s acquired a kid (starting), who plays first base from the Rangers in the Koji deal. Not buying it Andy MayPhail. What ya got cookin’?

The positives during the heat wave: 1. JJ Hardy signed to a 3 year deal – now there’s a blessing. 2. Nick (Future Hall of famer) is back to his all-star status. 3. Buck-Bucks pitching coach and 3B coach were fired and demoted. Ok, that is not what was reported……….but come on….. 4. JJ Hardy signed to a 3 year deal. 5. Nick  Markakis…… 6. Anybody have anything else?

Will not dwell on the negative – but here’s another beauty on what is ”wrong” with professional sports. Remember a cat named Justin Duchscherer – was going to be part of the pitching rebuild. Well the Orioles cut him and paid him his $700,000 guaranteed salary. He never pitched in a game. He has been rehabbing his hip in Sarasota, Florida. Just makes the anticipation for work tomorrow that much juicier, doesn’t it?

I like the heat. I love the summer. I look forward to an O’s game come dusk. I enjoy sitting on my deck on a hot summer night with a glass of iced tea, a spray can of “Off” and Joe Angel/Fred Manfra on the radio. I did not enjoy July. The 98 degrees, the 3 HHH’s still prevalent at 7:30 pm and the Orioles already trailing in most games. Positives – my house is cleaner, got caught up on the “to do’ list and was able watch a few movies I had never seen. Something tells me July would have felt a whole lot cooler if the O’s were winning.

Seven wins, nineteen losses - ouch. It’s August – my favorite month of the year – usually the hotter of the two summer months. Can the Orioles get hot and save face? I still have orange Kool-Aid in the pantry. Stay cool. Come on O’s, they need 24 wins to top last year. If things get real bad, you can always go pay $100 for a preseason game ticket and support the 9 billion dollar greed monger babies of the NFL. It just keeps getting better.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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New Orioles P Tommy Hunter on new team: “I see good things coming”

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New Orioles P Tommy Hunter on new team: “I see good things coming”

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

New Orioles pitcher Tommy Hunter-who was one of two pieces in the trade last week that sent setup man Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers-despite making his debut last night in Baltimore’s 8-2 victory over the Royals, may know more about his teammates than what you might think.

Tommy Hunter

One of the biggest surprises was able to dish to WNST when he joined Glenn Clark on “The Afternoon Drive” on Monday before joining the club in KC?

Despite his former Texas Rangers teammate Vladimir Guerrero struggling at the plate this year , Hunter will be the first to tell you that it’s still to the team’s benefit to keep Guerrero around…

Because of his mother’s cooking.

“I don’t know if the city of Baltimore knows about that,” Hunter told Clark about the Guerrero family. “I know Vlady and Vlady’s mom very well, and she’s probably the best cook in the world. I’m so excited for that right now.”

But, obviously Hunter wasn’t traded at the deadline to partake in Mrs. Guerrero’s cooking. Hunter-a supplemental compensatory pick in the 2007 MLB Draft by the Rangers-was brought to Baltimore to solidify a struggling Orioles pitching staff.

Hunter, 25, came out of the bullpen in Tuesday’s victory over the Royals, earning a hold in his Orioles debut despite allowing a run on two hits.

He figures to be in the bullpen for the Orioles with the hope that a transition to eventual starting pitcher will take place.

Hunter-in his four-year career has appeared in 53 games and started 44 of them. He holds a 23-13 mark with a 4.36 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP.

His best season came in 2010, when he 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games and 128 innings of work. He started out 8-0 on the year and didn’t lose his first game until the last day of July.

It’s something he hopes he can return to in the near future.

“I would like to consider myself a starter,” Hunter told Clark. “It’s something I came up doing. The relieving role isn’t my favorite, but it’s something if I’ve got to do it, I’m going to do it.”

“I’m not going to say no to pitching in the big leagues.”

All the success he had in Texas certainly made the news that he’d been traded to Baltimore as quite the shock, he admitted, but he understands the business.

“It pretty much caught me by surprise,” Hunter said. “I had no idea, but I see good things coming and it is what it is. It’s part of the business, and I’m a Baltimore Oriole. Let’s roll.”

Hunter said the hardest part was saying goodbye to all his friends and teammates in Texas over the weekend, and cleaning out his locker took hours he said on Monday in the clubhouse before he joined the team in Kansas City.

“It’s emotional, but it’s more for the people you came up with, the relationships you built,” Hunter said.

But at the same time, Hunter said he’s familiar with several of the guys in the Orioles clubhouse and organization-guys like Jake Arrieta, Clay Rapada, Jake Fox and Guerrero-and had some interactions with Buck Showalter coming out of college at Alabama.

“I went to high school with Jake Fox, so me and him go way back actually,” Hunter said. “He goes back to my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I played on the 2006 National Team with Jake Arrieta.”

“The thing is, we get to Baltimore and start a new family,” Hunter said.

Hunter was of course referring to the other piece of the Uehara trade-first baseman and still teammate Chris Davis, who also homered Tuesday versus KC.

Hunter had nothing but good things to say about Davis, and even though the baseball gurus see Hunter as the centerpiece of the trade, he will tell you otherwise.

“He’s super-talented,” Hunter said. “He’s an unbelievable first baseman, and as you can see from his stats this year in Triple A, he was just destroying [the ball].”

Hunter said that he will be a sight to see at the plate.

“He’s a very fun player to watch, and if he’s gonna get his at-bats…you guys are gonna have fun watching him,” he stated.

Overall, he knows both he and Davis are now part of the solution when it comes to fixing the losing culture in Baltimore, and he’s ready to tackle it.

“It’s a young core,” Hunter said. “It’s a young group in Baltimore and it just got a little younger but we’re gonna have fun…that’s the cool thing about it.”

“We’re gonna enjoy what we do, and we’re going to put together a run here shortly. The longer we play together, the more camaraderie and more team-oriented, we will become. If they can keep the young core together, we can grow together and it’s going to turn into something special.”

WNST thanks Tommy Hunter for joining Glenn Clark! Be sure to check out the conversation at the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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The Turning Point and the War on Errorism

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Erich Hawbaker

It’s really a miracle that I’m not bald by now. Being an Orioles fan in the Angelos era could drive the Pope to drink, and so many nights in the last 13 years after watching them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I’ve absolutely wanted to tear my hair out. I guess I never thought about it until recently, but a pattern has emerged in the last few seasons. Has anyone else noticed this? Lately, there always seems to be this Achilles Heel, which makes you say: “the Orioles would be a decent team if it weren’t for (fill in the blank).” One year, it’s the starting pitching. Then it’s the crappy offense. Then it’s always losing on Sundays. And in 2011, it’s been the errors. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Orioles would be a .500 team right now but for all the miscues on the field.

With Buck Showalter’s reputation for running a tight ship, I’m really shocked that this has become the latest reason for the Orioles’ ineptitude. As I’m sure you know, a good portion of the extra outs donated to the other team have come courtesy of Mark Reynolds. Are 40 homeruns worth a .200 batting average, about 40 errors, and at least 150 strikeouts? I’m really not sure, and I’d welcome your take on it. What I am sure of is that this entire team needs to play better defense. As Buck says in that MASN propaganda commercial, you can play against anybody if you play smart. He’s right about that, but the words have not translated into action. This must be the primary focus of the second half.

We are now at the halfway point of the season, and right on schedule the Birds are shifting from “still kind of in it” to “let’s start thinking about next year”. Since we know that yet another October will come and go without any baseball in Baltimore, the next big thing to think about is entering this year’s trade market as sellers. So what do the O’s have to offer and what do they need?

The first bargaining chip that comes to my mind is Jeremy Guthrie. My heart absolutely aches for that man. We all know that he’s far better than his 3-10 record, and that he may well be the unluckiest pitcher in all of baseball. Everyone praises him as a guy who works hard, takes lots of extra practice, and really puts forth the effort to be the best he can be. He gives up a few too many homeruns, but on a team that gave him consistent run support (and particularly one that has a pitcher-friendly ballpark) he could be an ace. I’d really hate to see him go but it might be best for all concerned.

Then there’s Koji Uehara. In the reverse situation of Jeremy Guthrie, he was brought in to be a starter and then found his niche in the bullpen. And this year, he has been lights-out as the setup man. I, for one, think he should be the closer instead of Kevin Gregg as he is far less erratic and gets most of his outs via strikeout. While his value might be high, I would be reluctant to part with him because he, Gregg, and Jim Johnson have been the only relievers we can rely on. Koji could very easily be the closer one day, and it would not be wise to gut an already shallow bullpen with a young rotation that is likely to need them for lots of innings. Unless the offer is simply too good to refuse, keep Uehara here.

And finally we come to JJ Hardy. Of all the offseason acquisitions, he has by far been the best. He’s got a good glove, and has really shined in the leadoff spot in the absence of Brian Roberts. There’s no doubt that losing Roberts is the other big reason for this year’s lack of improvement, and at his age, one has to wonder how much longer he can be counted on as the everyday leadoff man. Hardy’s current contract ends at the end of this year, and hot-hitting middle infielders are always in demand at trade time. Presumably, Hardy will only be needed here until Manny Machado assumes the position as our SS (unless they decide to move him to 2B to replace Roberts). Certainly they should shop him, but I’d lean toward hanging onto him and getting him extended before the season ends if no good offers come. Hardy seems to be a very good fit for Baltimore (unlike so many of the imports of late), and he’s young enough to be productive for several more years.

So here we are again, only halfway thru the season and already looking ahead to the next in hopes that it might be better than this one. I’ve been hearing this chatter lately about the Orioles going after Prince Fielder in the offseason. That’s a topic for another day, but I would advise you not to be too optimistic about it. Andy has yet to actually “buy a bat”, at least one that isn’t about 5 years past his prime. Besides cutting down the errors, the other thing the Orioles must do is end this bad habit of signing old guys who have had great careers and are just looking for somewhere to retire. When they brought in Vlad, I had a bad feeling that he’d go the way of Joe Carter, Albert Belle, Will Clark, and Sammy Sosa. Damn it, I hate being right all the time…

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Morning Reaction Orioles Midseason Report Card

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Morning Reaction Orioles Midseason Report Card

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Baltimore Orioles are now two games into the second half of the 2011 season. On Wednesday’s edition of “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, Drew Forrester and I gave our grades for Orioles players during the first half of the season.

CATCHERS:

wieters

Matt Wieters-Glenn Clark B+, Drew Forrester B
Jake Fox-Glenn D, Drew D
Craig Tatum-Glenn C-, Drew B

INFIELDERS:

hardy

Derrek Lee-Glenn D+, Drew D
Brian Roberts-Glenn D, Drew D
JJ Hardy-Glenn A-, Drew A
Mark Reynolds-Glenn B-, Drew C-
Robert Andino-Glenn C+, Drew C
Blake Davis-Glenn C, Drew B-
Cesar Izturis-Glenn D, Drew D
Ryan Adams-Glenn C, Drew D
Brandon Snyder-Glenn C-, Drew C-

OUTFIELDERS/DESIGNATED HITTERS:

vlad

Luke Scott-Glenn D, Drew D
Adam Jones-Glenn B-, Drew B+
Nick Markakis-Glenn B-, Drew C-
Nolan Reimold-Glenn C+, Drew C-
Felix Pie-Glenn F, Drew D-
Vladimir Guerrero-Glenn D+, Drew D+

STARTING PITCHERS:

britton

Jeremy Guthrie-Glenn C+, Drew C+
Jake Arrieta-Glenn B-, Drew C
Zach Britton-Glenn B, Drew B
Brian Matusz-Glenn D, Drew F
Chris Tillman-Glenn D, Drew D
Brad Bergesen-Glenn D+, Drew C-
Chris Jakubauskas-Glenn C-, Drew D

RELIEF PITCHERS:

kgregg

Koji Uehara-Glenn B, Drew B+
Jim Johnson-Glenn B+, Drew B-
Pedro Viola-Glenn C, Drew C
Kevin Gregg-Glenn C-, Drew C+
Alfredo Simon-Glenn C-, Drew C-
Jeremy Accardo-Glenn D, Drew D
Mike Gonzalez-Glenn D, Drew D
Josh Rupe-Glenn D, Drew D
Jason Berken-Glenn C, Drew C-
Clay Rapada-Glenn D-, Drew B-
Troy Patton-Glenn D, Drew F

MANAGER:

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Buck Showalter-Glenn C-, Drew B+

If you missed the breakdown of our midseason grades on Wednesday’s edition of “The Morning Reaction”, hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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I thought Buck Showalter didn’t care about the save rule?

Posted on 17 June 2011 by Peter Dilutis

“Believe me, I know the save rule and, quite frankly, it doesn’t carry much weight with me. I like the win rule a little better.”

Buck Showalter spoke those words following the Orioles’ August 3, 2010 win over the Angels. Buck let Mike Gonzalez pitch the final 1.2 innings of that game in a save situation even though he was not the closer.

At the time, it was so refreshing to hear that from Buck. It seemed that Buck would do his own thinking rather than simply push buttons at the end of games when making bullpen decisions. Buck appeared to be an outside the box, free thinker, and for a guy like me who despises set ideas and lazy-thinking managers, I was excited to have him in Baltimore.

When the Orioles signed Kevin Gregg prior to the 2011 season, I was a bit puzzled. A big reason why the Orioles had so much success under Buck in the second half of 2010 was because Koji Uehara was made the closer. He would go on to convert 13 of 15 save chances, and Koji finished 2010 with a 2.43 ERA, .81 WHIP, and 55 K’s in 44 innings while issuing only 5 walks all season.

I understood that Koji was a huge injury risk, and was unlikely to make it through 2011 without making at least one trip to the disabled list. However, if both pitchers are healthy, there is no doubt that Koji Uehara is the better pitcher. To me, that means Koji should pitch in the most critical, highest leverage situations.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t always mean the 9th inning. If the Orioles are playing against Boston with Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz due up in the 8th inning, then I would likely summon Koji to get through the 8th, and if he could not go another inning, I would then go to Gregg in the 9th for the save.

I said the same thing when the Orioles flip-flopped B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio in 2005. So often, it would be a close game in the 7th or 8th, only to see Julio blow the game open in the most crucial situations all because Lee Mazzilli was saving his closer, B.J. Ryan, for the 9th.

Back to Kevin Gregg…This guy has racked up the saves throughout his career, but other than that, he has been the definition of an average to slightly above average reliever. He has a career ERA of 3.99 and WHIP of 1.34, compared to Koji’s career 3.33 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (which is inflated from when he was a starter in 2009).

Yes, including 2011, Gregg has saved 133 games the past five seasons, but he has also blown 30 save opportunities over that same time period, which translates to an approximate 77% success rate. Those aren’t very good numbers for a closer, and they clearly aren’t good enough numbers to make him the clear choice in the 9th over Koji.

One thing I will concede is that if both Koji and Gregg are going to pitch in a close game, it doesn’t make that big of a difference what inning they pitch in. If Gregg is going to suck on any given night, he is likely going to suck whether he pitches the 8th or 9th inning.

However, when both of them are available in the 9th inning of a save situation, there is no reason why Buck Showalter should choose Kevin Gregg over Koji Uehara.

He did last Saturday against Tampa Bay when the Orioles were one inning away from taking the series against the Rays, while also getting back to the treasured .500 mark. They were both available, and Buck chose Gregg, even with his dreadful WHIP and walk numbers thus far in 2011. Gregg blew the game, and the loss started a four game slide for the O’s.

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

Posted on 25 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As evidence continues to mount that the 2011 Orioles may not be quite who we hoped that they would be, as fans we can at least take solace in the fact that we’ve been down this road before, all too often in fact these days. And for as bad as things in Birdland seem to be these days, we don’t have to look back too far to realize that things could be much worse for this team. In fact it’s arguable that as things stand today, 20 games into the 2011 campaign, not only could things be worse for these Orioles, but they should be worse…arguably much worse.

Consider first that no matter how anxious any or all of us may have been to buy in to the perception that this team would be much improved, you still had to squint a bit to see these O’s as legitimate contenders. The expectation was more likely a run at .500 (which typically means wildcard contention through July) and respectability while playing some entertaining baseball in the process…for a change.

 

Even for the most pie-eyed of optimists the April schedule must’ve looked daunting. The first month of the season charged this team with facing the big 3 in their own division (2 series with NY, 1 with BOS and 1 with TB) along with the defending AL champion Rangers, and the 3 teams (CWS, MIN & DET) that look to be fighting it out for the central (and perhaps the wildcard) when the dust settles on this season. The Indians looked to be the O’s only April reprieve, and we all saw how that turned out too.

 

At 8-12 the Orioles should be counting themselves as fortunate. Couple the daunting April schedule with the statistics that the team has managed to produce, the injuries and illnesses that they’ve been forced to deal with and suddenly 8-12 (3-4 in the division) looks nothing short of miraculous.

 

-         Brian Roberts currently leads the team in HRs (3) and RBI (15)

-         Adam Jones is batting .229 and is still one of the team’s most productive bats

-         Luke Scott (who will carry the team at stretches) is hitting .214 with 4 RBI

-         Derrek Lee is hitting a Garrett Atkins-like .211 with 2 RBI

-         Nick Markakis is not seeing many pitches and is batting .209

-         Mark Reynolds is hitting .179 and striking out nearly 1 in every 3 at bats

-         Robert Andino leads the team in batting average

 

If all of the above persist, it’s fair to say the Orioles will be playing much closer to their record from last year than the 8-12 they’ve played to so far.

 

-         Jeremy Guthrie has already had to be skipped a turn in the rotation due to illness

-         JJ Hardy has been out and seemingly took all of the team’s momentum with him

-         Brian Matusz has yet to make a start

-         They can’t find at bats for Jake Fox

-         No one is trying to win the job in left field.

-         Their most credible closer is dealing with a murder wrap and is currently in extended spring training

-         The back end of the bullpen is a mess

-         Koji’s durability still can’t be counted on in an important role

-         The only suspect April opponent (CLE) swept the O’s

 

All things considered it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team producing those stats to be closer to 4-16 like the O’s were last year after 20 games than the 8-12 that they are currently.

 

Most of the issues laid out above have a way of correcting themselves over the course of 162 games; others may require more creativity in solving. It stands to reason though that as the level of competition goes down and the numbers go up, these Orioles could still be a scary proposition at some point. If they’ve managed to stay near afloat through this tough first 3 weeks of the season, they’re bound to be scary as the hits begin to fall.

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

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Several ‘O’-bservations from Monday’s 5-1 victory over Tigers

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

Well, the weather could have not nicer on an Opening Day in Baltimore. 80+ degrees and the Orioles fans were out in support of their first place team.

A day like Monday certainly proves that God is a baseball fan.

And the first-place Orioles did their part in their home-opener defeating the Tigers 5-1, as starter Jake Arrieta continued the trend of quality starts by Orioles pitchers, as the fourth-starter in the rotation scattered six hits in six innings of work while only allowing one run to pass home plate.

Jake Arrieta

He struck out three and only walked two Tigers.

The Orioles offense also did its part in the bottom of the fifth against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, whose only mistake was giving up a three-run bomb to Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts after shortstop JJ Hardy doubled and left fielder Felix Pie walked.

Roberts has both of Baltimore’s home runs this year.

Jason Berken came in to relieve  Arrieta, and continued his fantastic start to the season as he struck out another three batters in his two innings of work.

In his two games to start the season, Jason Berken has six strikeouts in three innings pitched.

The Orioles are now 4-0 and still sit atop first-place in the AL East.

The last time the Orioles finished with that unblemished record was 1997, when Davey Johnson’s team reached the ALCS to lose to the Cleveland Indians in six games.

If the Orioles were to take two of three from the Tigers on Wednesday with Brad Bergesen taking the hill for a sick Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles’ 5-0 start would be the best since 1970, when the team won the World Series.

And like I’ve said, it may be early-especially with the defending AL Champs-the Texas Rangers-coming in over the weekend, but it’s better than being 0-4 that’s for sure.

Some ‘O’-bservations from the team so far four games into the season:

1. Starting Pitching

Jake Arrieta kept up with the pace that Jeremy Guthrie, and rookie pitchers Chris Tillman and Zach Britton set over the weekend in Tampa, as he earned yet another quality start for the Orioles starting rotation.

In 26 innings so far in this early season, the Orioles’ four starters have an ERA of 0.69.

As a whole, the pitching staff has an ERA of 1.00 allowing four runs in as many victories. They have struck out 30 opposing batters, which is tied for third in the majors.

We’ve seen before in recent years young pitching staffs who had to go through some growing pains before taking the next step, and the Orioles young staff ( Guthrie-31, Tillman-22, Britton-23, Arrieta-25, along with Matusz-24, Bergesen-25) could be in a position to take the next step.

And don’t forget. Both starters Justin Duchscherer (hip) and Brian Matusz (back) are on the DL and should pose intriguing questions to manager Buck Showalter when they return.

A problem I would like him to have by the way.

2. Bullpen

There could be concerns toward the back end of the bullpen after closer Kevin Gregg faced five hitters in the top of the ninth Saturday in the Orioles 3-1 victory.

In the same game, lefty Michael Gonzalez-who struggled last year as the Orioles closer-had similar issues with his control as he only lasted a third of an inning and walked two.

A big concern considering as of now “Gonzo” is the only lefty in the bullpen-one making 6 million dollars.

But, on the bright side, Jason Berken appears to have made the right decision to rehab his labrum injury in the off-season as opposed to have surgery.

He and late-inning specialist Koji Uehara-also re-signed in the off-season-have combined for 4 2/3 innings of work, seven strikeouts, while only allowing one hit.

Koji Uehara

If Gregg and Gonzalez continue to struggle, could these two be the guys to lock down the eighth and ninth innings? Uehara closed games for Showalter last year, and Berken has always thrived in his one-inning-of-work appearances.

3. The Outfield

I saw this “proposal” in the baseball preview of Sports Illustrated, and at first I disagreed with Ben Reiter, who wrote the AL East preview for SI.

His “proposal” was along the lines of leaving the outfield of Pie in left, Jones in center, and Markakis in right the way it is to make sure the defensive range in the outfield remains at a peak variable.

Felix Pie

Clearly, Felix Pie doesn’t offer the pop at the plate Luke Scott or Vladimir Guerrero would should they be in the lineup, but his range so far has been an asset to this Oriole pitching staff. Reiter’s proposal dealt with leaving Pie out in left on a regular basis and having a “streaky” Luke Scott-who clearly doesn’t have the speed and range Pie possesses-and an aging Vladimir Guerrero split time at DH.

Pie had a huge outfield assist in Saturday’s game pitched by Tillman, gunning down B.J. Upton at the plate to keep the game tied at 0-0.

And Markakis saved the game later with his up-against-the wall catch to end the game.

At short glance, the defensive outfield could be an asset to this team and young pitchers. It could be in their best interest to take a hit at the plate (pun intended) while making sure opposing hits don’t drop in front of Luke Scott.

4. Home-grown hitters on fire

The Orioles three first-round picks in their lineup (2B Brian Roberts, RF Nick Markakis, and C Matt Wieters) right now are hitting .294, .429, and .385 respectively.

Roberts has both of the team’s home runs, and Markakis appears to be very comfortable in the two-hole in front of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, where all he needs to worry about is getting on base.

Both he and Wieters recorded their first doubles Monday against the Tigers, and if you’ll notice with Wieters, there is a small change in his batting stance from a year ago.

Last year, Wieters stood straight up the batters box, and now it appears as if he has a small bend in his knees, which not only will help a tall 6’5” catcher shrink the strike zone, but hopefully will get his lower legs more involved in his swing-hopefully bringing that power Baltimore fans have waited for.

5. Free-agent thumpers-are not

Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee meanwhile have not been able to provide that huge spark in the three-hole and cleanup spots in the lineup. Neither of them have an extra base hit, an RBI to their credit, and the two’s batting average is .214 for Lee and .125 for Guerrero.

But, I wouldn’t expect their hitting struggles to continue though. It may only take a week for them to return to their true form.There are still 158 games to play gentleman.

Lee even got a stole base Monday. At least that’s something.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

(photos courtesy Rob Carr-Getty Images)

WNST-We Never Stop Talking!

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Monday 3-Pointer: 68 Not So Great, O’s Ailing Early & Harbaugh vs. Newsome – The Blame Game

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Monday 3-Pointer: 68 Not So Great, O’s Ailing Early & Harbaugh vs. Newsome – The Blame Game

Posted on 14 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Monday 3-Pointer

 

#1 – How Great is 68?

 

The inaugural 68-team NCAA tournament field was unveiled on Sunday night, and the early results seem to indicate that the additional 4 at-large berths added to the bubble controversy instead of quelling it. With the inclusions of VCU (who I lobbied for here last week) and UAB, the committee seemed to put some level of importance on insuring that the mid-major conferences saw some benefit from the additional 4 spots.

 

Making a case for any of the snubbed teams (Virginia Tech, Boston College, Harvard, Colorado, St. Mary’s or Alabama) is easy against either VCU or UAB, but much tougher against the next level of at-large inclusions. It seems the 4 (technically 3) additional spots in the field only added to the controversy. In football I’d argue that the controversy adds to the interest, but basketball doesn’t need any interest enhancers. College basketball has a built-in interest enhancer called the bracket pool. By putting play-in games on the 11 and 12 lines they may have screwed those up a bit too.

 

If the desired result was an outcry to see the field expanded to 96-teams…we’ll see. If the desired result was to reassure the good folks at the BCS that they’re doing okay…mission accomplished. While the BCS has far more critics than the NCAA tournament, the argument to emulate an NCAA style bracket or an add-1 National Championship formula is seemingly the biggest gripe against them, the controversy currently surrounding the 69th through 75th seeds in basketball surely at least illustrates that you can never add enough teams to make everyone happy. And in some cases, like this year perhaps, adding more teams seemed to make even more people unhappy. At least the BCS has a formula; no matter how tricky it is, determined by a computer. College basketball still goes about picking its playoff teams like beauty contestants arbitrarily based on what individual judges like.

 

 

 

#2 – O’s’ Ailing Early

 

The Orioles are still over two weeks away from the season opener and already injuries have become a concern. Free agent first baseman, and perceived middle of the lineup fixture Derrek Lee has yet to do anything resembling baseball since arriving on a 1-year flyer, Koji Uehara is looking more and more like the pitcher that O’s fans were frustrated with through the first 90% of his time in Baltimore and less and less like the encouraging final 10% or so that he showed at the end of last season. Justin Duscherer has made several unsuccessful attempts at pitching comfortably and isn’t looking likely for the season’s opener, and of course there’s Brian Roberts.

 

With Roberts more than seemingly any other player, the fan base seems polarized. As the longest tenured member of the squad, familiarity has led to contempt from some and staunch loyalty from others as it relates to Roberts as a member of the team. Additionally, Roberts (often rumored to be the object of Angelos’ affections) has reportedly been at the center of a number of squashed trade requests, giving those with a proverbial axe to grind all of the ammunition they need to call he and the O’s to task for what appears to be a career now quickly on its downside.

 

For all of the accolades that were showered on Buck Showalter after his arrival last season, it’s the return of Roberts at the top of the order that many look to as the biggest catalyst for the O’s late season turnaround. Replacing him at second base is one thing, but replacing him as the leadoff hitter quite another. If and when Roberts is healthy enough to be counted on though, you have to begin to wonder if the O’s would be better served employing him elsewhere in the lineup.

 

Clearly you’d still want him batting early in the order, he’s a disciplined hitter, adept at taking pitches and working counts, and he puts together loads of productive at bats, that part you don’t want to compromise. When it comes to the other things that you count on your leadoff hitter to do though (particularly running and stealing bases) those may not be things that you can’t consistently ask Roberts to do if you hope to have him around much longer.

 

Roberts’ propensity for stealing bases has clearly decreased in recent seasons, but at what cost to the team? Clearly he’ll be productive wherever you employ him, but could the O’s be more effective overall with a better threat to steal in the leadoff spot, to compel fastballs and keep pitchers off balance for the guys that follow him? Would Roberts be better or at least more available to the team if he could save his body a little more too? The O’s and their second baseman are locked into one another for the foreseeable future. How well both perform going forward will likely unify the schools of thought on Roberts in one way or the other. For now, it’s safe to say that most O’s fans are feeling Roberts’ pain in the neck themselves to some degree.

 

 

 

#3 – Harbaugh vs. Ozzie: The Blame Game

 

We are three years in to the Harbaugh experience here in Baltimore, and most I think are still reserving judgment. The body of work that he’s managed to put together in 3 short seasons is tough to argue with. The degree of credit/blame that he deserves for the successes and failures of the Ravens is what’s debatable at this point.

 

As fans grow weary of one side of the ball or the other they begin to look for scapegoats. If the head coach is perceived to be an expert on the side of the ball that has fans frustrated then he will be taken to task. If the problem is perceived to be on the other side of the ball, it’s the coordinator who’s taken to task by fans and media. In Harbaugh’s case, no one seems to identify him with one side of the ball or the other, so by default criticism has consistently befallen his coordinators. How long will Harbaugh enjoy this level of detachment? If you believe what you’ve read this off-season, that luxury may have run out. Harbaugh may have ended it for himself.

 

Some fans point to the draft record of Ozzie Newsome, and blame the Ravens problems on a front office that may have lost its impeccable touch. Surely the team has had their share of draft day successes in recent seasons, but with those have come more failures than the Ravens have been typically used to.

 

The big question that I have is how much of the teams (perceived) recent draft woes fall at the feet of the head coach too? While the historical track record of the Ravens is full of first round players who saw their talents through to fruition, the real keys to the teams success is the minds of many came from the multitude of late round and undrafted players who came in and over time grew into the system. The Harbaugh era so far has been most lacking from the standpoint of developing those fringe players into contributors, low paid contributors who provide salary cap relief while filling valuable roles. Without those, success in the NFL is tough.

 

Whether the blame for the Ravens’ recent deficiencies in those areas falls more on Harbaugh or Newsome is anyone’s guess. It’s safe to say though that despite his prolific track record so far, his legend can’t match that of Newsome. If blame has to be cast, we know upon whom it will most likely fall, and developing players this year will be especially tough with the work stoppage. Add that to the laundry list of issues that we as fans still seem to have with Harbaugh, who by all relative means is achieving an historical amount of success despite his perceived shortcomings.

 

 

 

Here’s Where I’m Playing Right Now:

 

Tournament Bracket Challenge at ESPN…up to 10 entries. Join my group.

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