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Your Monday Reality Check: Aw hell, why not?

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Your Monday Reality Check: Aw hell, why not?

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

If I understand the way the math works, the Baltimore Orioles’ magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot currently sits at 48.

I really felt the need to tell you that because for some goofy reason I sat and worked on it Sunday while I was supposed to be watching the Baltimore Ravens practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Congratulations Birds, you’ve successfully gotten me to take attention away from the Ravens and place it on the orange and black. The moment has actually occurred. I’m blown away.

The magic number is 48.

That means that if the total combination of O’s wins combined with losses (individually) from any other team in the Wild Card race reaches 48 before the end of the season the now 15 year playoff draught will officially be over.

It means the Birds will be playing on Friday, October 5 as part of Major League Baseball’s first ever Wild Card play-in games.

I honest to God can’t believe I’ve just typed all of this.

It’s time to cue the music.

I feel like it’s safe to say that I’ve been as reluctant (if not more reluctant) than anyone in town to accept this as an actual, realistic possibility. And if truth me told I would still say “no” if an assailant questioned my belief that the Orioles make the playoffs with a gun pointed to my temple.

It might seem like a four game split with the Kansas City Royals at home would be an odd time for me to suddenly stand and pledge allegiance to the “Why Not?” bandwagon, but…you know…Machado and all.

My original idea for my weekly “Reality Check” column was to write about the realities of 3B Manny Machado’s hot start (6-16, 3HR, 7RBI in four games). I had planned to say “I hate to be the bad guy, but let’s remember that the most likely scenario is that Machado won’t be able to continue this success for the rest of the season or likely even for the rest of August.”

I had intended to say something along the lines of “American League pitchers will likely end up catching up with Machado, who also won’t have the benefit of facing Kansas City Royals pitching every time out.” I was going to add thoughts along the lines of “let’s not forget that even OF Xavier Avery collected 10 hits in his first eight games after getting called up to Baltimore earlier in the season.”

I probably would have mentioned that in the coming week Machado would have to go up against veteran pitchers like Red Sox starters Josh Beckett (albeit a Beckett that has struggled mightily in 2012) and Clay Buchholz as well as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. It’s a bit more legitimate than a group of KC starters that included Will Smith, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen.

I also think I would have mentioned that Machado had not hit .300 in a single month while playing in the Eastern League this season, making a market correction from a very hot start to August seem likely at some point.

That’s what I WAS going to do. But for some reason, it just didn’t stick.

As we’ve repeated ad nauseum during the 2012 Orioles campaign, there is no statistical explanation for why the Birds have won 62 of their first 115 games. Those of us who have been watching understand that the team has benefitted from an incredible bullpen, a number of home runs, great success in close games and expert guidance from AL Manager of the Year candidate Buck Showalter.

That’s why I couldn’t write the Machado column. I didn’t have it in me.

Maybe there IS a chance Machado can continue to make significant contributions as a 20 year old in a lineup that has been seeking an additional spark. The Birds don’t have a full season .300 hitter in their lineup, but they’ve managed to get continued contributions from unexpected places.

Career journeyman INF Omar Quintanilla is batting .328 in just 20 games sense being acquired in a deal with the New York Mets. Veteran (and by “veteran” I mean “washed up”) OF Nate McClouth has eight hits in his first 24 AB’s since being called up from the Norfolk Tides. Even the miserable bat of Mark Reynolds (.211 and just nine home runs in 289 AB’s) provided what proved to be the game winning RBI in Sunday’s win over KC.

I don’t think it can be sustained. I didn’t think it could be sustained two months ago. I was wrong then. Maybe I’m wrong now. I don’t think I’m ever going to understand exactly how all of this has happened this way this season.

So can Manny Machado keep contributing to an Orioles team pushing towards an appearance in the postseason?

What the hell?

Or…why not?

-G

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Tea Party 7-14-12

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Orioles Back to Normal

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Tom Federline

Actually, the Orioles are playing worse than normal. How does 18 -27 sound since May 25th? 1 out of 5 pitchers are left from the Opening Day starting rotation. Reimold on DL, Andino on DL, Hammel on DL, Roberts on DL again – he’s done. They have no offense, they are running the bases as if they were playing sandlot ball and they have committed the most errors in the majors. Now there’s a playoff team for ya! “Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs?” Thank you Jim Mora for one of the best post game speeches of all-time.

They lost their pitching and Markakis during the month of June and have not recovered. June and July are feeling quite different than April and May did. And it stinks. Actually, it’s worse than stinks but I won’t go there because those who know me …….know I would be ranting vehemently for 500 words and I would be banished from blogging in the northern hemisphere ever again. Buck-Buck has lost the team. There is no fire. There is a different atmosphere in the dugout. Earlier in the year, whether they were winning or losing, there was talk, unity and smiles in the dugout. Look in there now – you have seen it before – we have seen it for 15 years – dejection, 2-3 man groups huddled by themselves, numerous trips down the tunnel to the buffet table in the clubhouse.

I was at the Yard this past Saturday evening for the 5-hour 13 inning win. Which should have ended after 3 hours with an 8-1 win. No clutch hitting, lackadaisical base running, errors committed but not charged, ug-ly. There were some positives - throw out at home, clutch home runs, Miquel Socolovich, evidence of persistence. But man, talk about a roller coaster ride. Ended up being fun, because they won. The way they have looked this past month, I sure am glad I got to catch potentially the last glimpse of Orioles Magic this year.

 

I hope I’m wrong. There needs to be a radical change in the Clubhouse and Jim Thome is not the answer. What happened with the “grow the pitching concept”? Evidently the draught hit the Orioles farm team before it hit the countries farmlands. Arietta and Matusz – nice busts. They need more orange kool-aid or more orange-”juice”. Brady Anderson –  they need you now. Isn’t he the “how to take juice and not get caught coach?” Hey Brady – you might as well hit up Reynolds while you’re at it. Good ole Mark Reynolds, 7.5 million dollars worth of ineptitude. To make us all feel a little better – Reynolds makes $20,500 per day to play a game and “stink” at it. That’s $20,500 per day for 365 days. Athletes salaries and the amount of money spent on sports entertainment in this country is horrid. More evidence of just how screwed up our society really is (another blog  – on deck).

The only consistently good thing I have experienced these past two months with the Orioles is…………not as much Gary Thorne “In our Side”! Have you noticed? It has been quite a joy to turn on the tube and hear Jim Hunter’s voice instead of “I should only be doing bowling tournaments – Thorne”. Fred Manfra and Joe Angel are still top dogs and my preferred method of listening/watching a ballgame. It’s tough enough to watch the O’s annual extended losing streaks, but it is impossible to watch with bush league commentary. 

Enough doom and gloom. How about the weather? Yeah, another 100 degree cooker. ”Couldn’t Stand the Weather?” – Stevie Ray Vaughan. How about July 27th? Here’s something to look forward to – BSO plays Led Zep at Pier Six and the Olympics begin. The weather is going to stay hot, the Olympics are going to heat up our spirit and the O’s …………..well they need a heated Buck-Buck butt whoopin’ or they will be finishing below .500 and last…………….again. O’s need help, some back to the basics and alot of luck. Bring on the Summer Olympics.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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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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Improving the Orioles Without Trading

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Improving the Orioles Without Trading

Posted on 12 July 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

The improbable success of the Orioles in the first half of 2012 has the team in a precarious position as they prepare for the back end of the schedule. After 14 years of futility, the playoffs are a possibility and the city is feeling cautious optimism, which is still a far cry from euphoria, but a refreshing change from the gloom and doom that’s defined the club for as long as most can remember. Therein lies the rub.

The O’s success is encouraging enough to lead fans to contemplate the team taking the next step toward contention and adding some talent for the stretch run. The AL East is as up for grabs as it’s been in years, and safe money says that won’t last long. And the O’s while successful so far, haven’t exactly done much to suggest they’ll sustain this success for the long term, or even for the remainder of the season. There are encouraging talents in the minor leagues who could be big parts of a suddenly brighter future, or prospects who could be parlayed into major league talent now, while the iron is hot, in an effort to at least put a bookend on the Orioles’ 14-year playoff drought. The fans are divided (no surprise there), and the O’s won’t be able to please them all.

 

While the addition of talent is encouraging, and certainly good fodder for talk radio, the likelihood that the O’s will stand pat is real. So let’s instead look at some ways that they could be better without adding any players, but by simply putting the talent at hand to better use.

 

The Joe Maddon style of management is in full effect this season in the AL East as a number of teams, either by design or necessity, have taken to shaking up their lineups in an effort to capitalize on hot streaks, stimulate slumping bats, and force their players to compete with each other in a true meritocracy. Here are a few suggestions on how the O’s could improve theirs.

 

First they need to do some self-scouting. The Orioles are not a team that manufactures runs. They don’t bunt, they don’t steal bases, and their offense is driven by homeruns. They don’t have a true leadoff hitter, and based on the aforementioned, they don’t really need one. The Orioles most productive hitter overall also happens to be their most likely to swap a base. The Orioles should be batting Adam Jones leadoff. If Jones is the O’s best bat, the Orioles need to get him to the plate as often as possible, Batting him in the leadoff spot insures it. It also allows the O’s to put their less productive singles hitters at the bottom of the order and hope to have Jones knocking them in, in innings after the first.

 

I put up some numbers the other day, ranking the Orioles production per 100 plate appearances. Some of the numbers were rather interesting, including the fact that Mark Reynolds makes less outs than every Oriole except Jim Thome, and that Adam Jones gets approximately .5 bases per trip to the plate (tops on the team by a lot).

 

Reynolds has been disappointing in the power department this season, but his career numbers suggest that a correction is in order. Having Adam Jones on base in front of him, and a productive bat behind him might get Reynolds more fastballs to hit too. Maybe Reynolds in the 2-hole isn’t as silly as it sounds, at least against lefties.

 

Below are my suggestions for the Orioles best lineups vs. left and right-handers, using only the talent available on the Major League roster, based on their production per 100 plate appearances (listed here) and their triple slash splits vs. those pitchers (listed below).

 

Orioles vs. Lefties

 

CF – Adam Jones (294/322/471)

1B – Mark Reynolds (240/377/380)

C – Matt Wieters (384/444/575)

DH – Chris Davis (316/328/526)

SS – JJ Hardy (298/337/452)

RF – Nick Markakis (231/322/385)

LF – Steve Pearce (310/344/690)

3B – Steve Tolleson (250/325/472)

2B – Robert Andino (227/275/347)

 

Orioles vs. Righties

 

CF – Adam Jones (287/332/555)

RF – Nick Markakis (265/337/476)

1B – Chris Davis (258/311/459)

3B – Wilson Betemit (288/344/497)

DH – Jim Thome (258/361/587) or Mark Reynolds (196/320/385)

C – Matt Wieters (200/287/381)

SS – JJ Hardy (201/239/357)

2B – Robert Andino (233/300/307)

LF – Xavier Avery (257/313/392)

 

 

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Five biggest Orioles disappointments of first half

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Five biggest Orioles disappointments of first half

Posted on 11 July 2012 by Luke Jones

After recognizing the biggest individual surprises of the Orioles’ first half, it’s strange finding a large number of individual disappointments despite the club’s 45-40 start.

Amazingly, the Orioles have managed to find so much success despite their obvious flaws as a number of individuals have failed to meet expectations and others have been injured, leaving major holes and question marks as the club begins the second half on Friday. Even though they currently hold the second wild card position in the American League, the club’s minus-36 run differential (12th in the AL) is indicative of a group due for a substantial market correction in terms of wins and losses.

Many wonder how much longer the Orioles will remain afloat — in terms of staying in the wild card race, at least — after losing 13 of their last 19 game and scoring only 61 runs in their last 22 contests. In addition to their recent offensive struggles, three-fifths of the starting rotation entering the season was recently demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, putting an even greater strain on the Orioles’ dominating bullpen to keep them in games.

Regardless of how optimistic or pessimistic you might be about the Orioles’ chances, the next two weeks of baseball will go a long way in determining how active the club will be at the trade deadline.

Here are my five biggest individual disappointments of the Orioles’ first half:

Not-so-honorable mention: Tommy Hunter, Kevin Gregg, Nolan Reimold’s neck injury, Tsuyoshi Wada’s elbow injury, Brian Roberts’ hip injury

5. Endy Chavez

The 34-year-old wasn’t signed to be a full-time starter, but the Orioles figured they were getting a decent insurance policy for Opening Day left fielder Nolan Reimold when Chavez inked a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Instead, the 170-pound outfielder hasn’t even hit his weight in an injury-plagued, miserable first half.

While Chavez has made two different trips to the disabled list with intercostal and hamstring injuries, his abysmal .162 average in 105 at-bats makes him fortunate to even have a job at this point. Chavez figured to become the default left fielder when Reimold went down with a herniated disc in his neck, but his poor play has created a colossal hole in left field that manager Buck Showalter has attempted to fill with converted infielders (Steve Tolleson and Ryan Flaherty), journeymen veterans (Steve Pearce and Bill Hall), and a raw rookie (Xavier Avery).

Having completed his minor league rehab assignment over the All-Star break, Chavez is expected to rejoin the club on Friday, but his .402 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) must climb immediately for the organization to justify keeping him around much longer. The left-hander has a career .269 average over 11 major league seasons and hit .301 over 256 at-bats in a part-time role with Texas last year, making his horrendous first half even more shocking.

4. J.J. Hardy

Coming off a tremendous year in his first season in Baltimore, the shortstop has dealt with a tender shoulder since spring training and his production at the plate has dropped dramatically in 2012.

Hardy has never been a great hitter for average (.259 in eight seasons), but his .224 mark at the break reflects the horrendous slump he’s endured since late May. In his last 37 games, the 29-year-old is hitting .172 with two home runs and nine runs batted in.

The club’s widespread struggles at the plate and injuries to Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis have limited questions about Hardy remaining in the No. 2 spot in the order, but Showalter will have no choice but to drop Hardy in the order if his .262 on-base percentage doesn’t improve soon. Even if Hardy’s production reflected his career numbers, he’s more suited to hit in the No. 6 or 7 spot to drive in more runs with his above-average power at the shortstop position.

Hardy’s defense is still a major asset for a defensively-challenged club, but the Orioles desperately need him to look more like the hitter he was in 2011 if they’re going to remain in the playoff hunt in the second half.

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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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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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Orioles activate Reynolds, place Pomeranz on 15-day DL

Posted on 28 May 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have reinstated infielder Mark Reynolds from the disabled list and placed right-handed pitcher Stu Pomeranz on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 26, with a left oblique injury.

Reynolds was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 11 with a strained left oblique. He is batting .191/.324/.337 with two home runs and nine RBI in 27 games for the Orioles this season. He has hit safely in five of his last seven games before going on the DL, batting .348/.484/.739 with five extra-base hits in that time.

Pomeranz has pitched to a 3.00 ERA (6.0IP, 2ER) in three appearances for the Orioles. He did not allowed an earned run in 10 appearances this season with Triple-A Norfolk (five games, 10.0IP) and Double-A Bowie (five games, 13.1IP), striking out 35 and walking three.

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Roberts doubles, scores for Baysox in win

Posted on 27 May 2012 by WNST Staff

BOWIE, Md. – The Baysox (21-28) offense scored four early runs and the bullpen protected the lead the rest of the way as Bowie topped Altoona (22-26) 4-2 Sunday afternoon.

For the second game in a row, the Baysox offense did not record many hits, but took advantage of the opportunities they had to get enough runs on the board to win the game. The Baysox bullpen pitched five and one-third innings of one run ball behind an injured Bobby Bundy to hold the lead for the remainder of the game.

“What was great about today is that we got some big hits – some extra-base hits,” said Manager Gary Kendall. “We have gotten beat by teams with extra-base hits early in the season – guys are on and a guy comes up with a double and all of a sudden they are driving runs in. Offensively, there were some guys in the lineup that are not where they normally are, but they are competing out there and I will take those good at-bats and their effort in winning games.”

Three Baltimore Orioles players were in the Baysox lineup again Sunday afternoon on Major League rehab assignments. Brian Roberts started the game at second base and went 1-3 with a double and a run scored. Mark Reynolds played third base and went 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Endy Chavez played left field and went 0-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Altoona again struck first Sunday, this time scoring in the top of the first inning against right-handed starting pitcher Bobby Bundy. Leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman doubled to center field and Tony Sanchez hit a one out double to center field to plate Grossman and give Altoona a 1-0 lead.

The Baysox tied the score in the bottom of the first inning against Altoona starter Matt McSwain. Left fielder Chavez drew a one out walk and advanced to second base on a wild pitch with center fielder LJ Hoes batting. Hoes then hit a two out double to center field to plate Chavez and tie the game 1-1.

“Batting clean-up has been a change – I have been seeing a lot more off-speed stuff, but it’s been nice because [the Orioles rehabbers] are always on base,” Hoes said.” My approach has been to go out there and just try to make good contact with the ball to drive a runner in some way.”

Bowie took the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Designated hitter Buck Britton drew a lead off walk and catcher Allan de San Miguel followed with a one out home run to left field. Roberts doubled to left field and moved to third base when Chavez grounded out. Reynolds then drew a walk and Roberts scored when Hoes reached on a fielder’s choice and throwing error by the shortstop that made the score 4-1.

The Curve got one run back in the top of the fifth inning against left-handed reliever Chris Petrini. Kelson Brown hit a one out single to right field and stole second base with Brock Holt batting. With two outs, Holt singled to center field to plate Brown and make the score 4-2.

Bundy pitched three and two-thirds innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out four batters and walking two in the no decision. He exited the game in the top of the fourth inning with an apparent injury.

Petrini pitched three and one-third innings and allowed one run on four hits while striking out four batters in relief of Bundy. Petrini also earned his third win of the season. Left-handed reliever Pedro Viola pitched one and one-third scoreless innings in relief and allowed one hit while striking out one batter. Closer Greg Burke recorded the final two outs of the ninth inning to earn the save.

McSwain earned the loss for Altoona, pitching seven innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits while striking out five batters and walking three.

RHP Oliver Drake (0-1, 2.25) takes the mound for the Baysox tomorrow as they play the final game in a four game home series against the Altoona Curve. He will be opposed by RHP Phil Irwin (0-2, 5.19).

The Baysox are home through Monday, May 28 for an eight game home stand that concludes on Memorial Day with a game starting at 2:05 p.m. The team then departs to Akron for a three game road trip before returning to Bowie Friday, June 1 for a three game home stand against Reading.

 

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Britton allows 3H, 2BB over 5IP for Bowie in rehab start

Posted on 27 May 2012 by WNST Staff

BOWIE, Md. – With three Baltimore Orioles players in the line-up, the Baysox (20-28) rolled past Altoona (22-25) 9-6 Saturday night to end a four game losing streak against the Curve.

The Baysox offense scored their nine runs on just eight hits, but were able to take advantage of seven walks to get the offense going. In the team’s four run second inning, the offense recorded just two hits, but also drew four walks to get more runners on base.

“We took advantage of some walks to give us a lead,” said Manager Gary Kendall. “We also had one inning where we came through with a base hit and then we got a two-run home run. I thought we ran the bases well and we took advantage of some stolen bases – we will take runs any way they come.”

Baltimore Orioles left-handed starting pitcher Zach Britton made his season debut for the Baysox Saturday evening, pitching five innings and allowing two unearned runs on three hits while striking out six and walking two in the win.

“I think tonight was a successful start,” said Zach. “I got my pitch count up and I definitely threw a lot more breaking balls than I normally would, but I just wanted to get the feel for that. Towards the end I got a little tired, but overall I though it was pretty good.”

Baysox right fielder Buck Britton, the older brother of pitcher Zach Britton, had a strong game in support of his brother Saturday. He went 2-4 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs. This is the third season in a row that the two brothers have had some limited opportunities to play with each other.

“At that time in the game, I felt like we needed a big hit, the count went to 3-2 and I got a fastball over the plate and I put a good swing on it,” Buck said, “Last year every time [Zach] pitched I would hit a home run too. I don’t know what it is – I guess sometimes the Britton’s just get going.”

The Baysox also had two other Orioles players making Major League Rehab Appearances with the Baysox Saturday – third baseman Mark Reynolds and left fielder Endy Chavez. Reynolds finished the game 1-4 with a walk, two strikeouts and a fielding error. Chavez was 1-5 with two runs scored.

For the sixth time this homestand, the Baysox opponent scored first. Saturday night, Altoona struck first with two runs in the top of the second inning. With two outs, Miles Durham drew a walk and then moved to second base when Quincy Latimore reached on a fielding error by Reynolds. Elevys Gonzalez then singled to left field to score Durham and move Latimore to third when he scored on a wild pitch to make the score 2-0.

The Baysox jumped back into the lead in the bottom of the second inning against Altoona starter Nathan Baker. With one out, shortstop Manny Machado was hit by a pitch and catcher Caleb Joseph followed by drawing a walk. Buck singled to right field to load the bases and designated hitter Josh Barfield hit an infield single to score the first run. Chavez grounded into a force out and second baseman Jonathan Schoop followed by drawing a walk to score another run. With Reynolds batting, Baker threw a wild pitch that advanced all the runners and plated Barfield. Reynolds then drew a walk to load the bases and Baker was called for a balk with center fielder LJ Hoes batting to plate Chavez and give the Baysox a 4-2 lead.

Bowie extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning against Altoona reliever Kyle Cofield. Hoes drew a lead off walk and scored from first base on a double to center field by first baseman Robbie Widlansky. With two outs, Buck homered to center field to give the Baysox a 7-2 lead. Jeff Inman replaced Cofield on the mound to finish the inning.

The Curve got back in the game in the top of the sixth inning against left-handed pitcher Jake Pettit. Matt Curry hit a one out single to left field and Durham drew a two out walk. Latimore then hit a three-run home run to left-center field that made the score 7-5.

The Baysox again extended their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Hoes drew a two out walk and stole second base with Widlansky batting. Widlansky then singled to center field to plate Hoes and extend the Baysox lead to 8-5.

Bowie added another insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning against Altoona reliever Vic Black. Chavez hit a lead off single to second base and scored on a Mark Reynolds double to right field after a throwing error by the right fielder to make the score 9-5.

Altoona mounted a last rally in the top of the ninth inning against right-handed reliever Kyler Newby. Elevys Gonzalez hit a one out double, but was then thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple. Robbie Grossman then hit a two out single to center field and scored when Brock Holt doubled to left field to make the score 9-6. Right-handed reliever Greg Burke entered to finish the ninth inning and record the save.

Pettit pitched two innings and allowed three runs on three hits while striking out two batters and walking one. Newby pitched one and two-thirds innings and allowed one run on three hits while striking out four batters.

Baker earned the loss for the Curve, pitching three innings and allowed four runs on three hits while striking out three batters and walking five.

RHP Bobby Bundy (2-7, 5.26) takes the mound for the Baysox tomorrow as they play the third game in a four game home series against the Altoona Curve.

The Baysox are home through Monday, May 28 for an eight game home stand. Baltimore Orioles players Brian Roberts, Mark Reynolds and Endy Chavez will be making Major League Rehab Appearances with the Baysox over the weekend.

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