Tag Archive | "Nick Markakis"

Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

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Handing out Orioles awards at the All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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Standing at 53-43 and sending five representatives to Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, the Orioles had quite the memorable first 3 1/2 months of the season filled with plenty of highs and also some lows.

Before manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles get back to business in Texas on Friday, I’ve composed my list of All-Star break awards. Some are more serious than others, but there was plenty to remember over the first 96 games of the 2013 season.

Most Valuable Player: Chris Davis
Skinny: Manny Machado deserves more consideration here than most will give him if you take his remarkable defense into account, but the Orioles first baseman is on pace to break franchise records for RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits, and total bases as well as surpass the American League home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. Who else could it really be?

Best Starting Pitcher: Miguel Gonzalez
Skinny: Chris Tillman received the All-Star nod, but Gonzalez has been the Orioles’ best starter, especially since posting a 2.88 earned run average in his last 10 starts upon returning from a May stint on the 15-day disabled list. The 29-year-old posted seven straight quality starts heading into the All-Star break and his 3.48 ERA is the best in the starting rotation.

Best Relief Pitcher: Tommy Hunter
Skinny: Darren O’Day earned consideration here, but Hunter’s ability to pitch more than one inning has saved the bullpen numerous times. With Luis Ayala traded early in the season and Pedro Strop unable to bounce back from his late-season struggles from a year ago, the Orioles would have been in major trouble with their bullpen without Hunter’s 2.41 ERA and 52 1/3 innings of work.

Biggest Surprise: Manny Machado
Skinny: With Davis taking aim at the record books, it’s difficult not to give him the nod here, but I would have predicted Davis to be more likely for a breakout season than Machado, who just celebrated his 21st birthday less than two weeks ago. We now see the third baseman as a doubles machine with a shot at the single-season record, but many thought Showalter had gotten too much Florida sun when he put the unproven Machado in the No. 2 lineup spot at the start of the season.

Biggest Disappointment: Jason Hammel
Skinny: The Opening Day starter was counted on to be the de facto ace and has instead looked like the weak link in the current starting rotation. His 5.24 ERA is worse than his career mark, but most of his other numbers align closely with his career statistics prior to his arrival in Baltimore last season.

Most Overrated Performer: Nick Markakis
Skinny: The Orioles right fielder was close to being voted into the All-Star Game, but he is on pace for career lows in batting average and OPS and has become more of a singles hitter in recent years except for his 2012 injury-plagued campaign. Markakis is still a good player, but the clamoring for his inclusion in the Midsummer Classic was more about his popularity and less about his production. Many will argue that catcher Matt Wieters deserves this distinction, but few tried to say he was deserving of All-Star honors with his poor offensive output this season.

Most Underrated Performer: Nate McLouth
Skinny: Even McLouth’s biggest supporters had to wonder if the second-half success he enjoyed last season was a fluke, but the left fielder continues to be a spark plug at the top of the order and on the base paths with a team-leading 24 stolen bases. He doesn’t do anything that blows you away, but McLouth makes a substantial contribution just about every night, whether it shows up in the box score or not.

Most Improved Player: Ryan Flaherty
Skinny: The second baseman hit .133 in his first 102 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and has batted .300 in 94 plate appearances since being recalled at the end of May. The simple fact that many are clamoring for Flaherty to play over veteran Brian Roberts says all you need to know about his improvement since the start of the season.

Biggest Injury: Wei-Yin Chen’s strained right oblique
Skinny: The Taiwanese lefty went down with the injury in mid-May, leaving a major hole in the rotation for nearly two months. Ironically, the long layoff may pay off in the long run for Chen, who tired down the stretch last year and should now feel strong for the remainder of the season after less wear and tear on his pitching arm.

Most Important Win: A 2-1 victory over the Yankees thanks to Adam Jones’ homer off Mariano Rivera on July 7
Skinny: Even Showalter downplayed the significance of the dramatic victory in early July, but the Orioles were on the verge of dropping their third straight one-run game to New York to complete a 1-5 road trip before Jones tagged the greatest closer of all time for his first blown save at Yankee Stadium since 2010.

Most Disappointing Loss: Jim Johnson’s meltdown in Toronto on May 26
Skinny: The Orioles sent Johnson to the mound with a 5-2 lead and needed only three outs to take three of four from the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. A double, two singles, a walk, and a Munenori Kawasaki double later, the closer had blown his fourth save in his last five chances and the Orioles had suffered a stunning 6-5 loss on a Sunday afternoon.

Most Exciting Moment: Chris Dickerson’s walk-off homer against the Tigers on May 31
Skinny: All-Star Game starter Max Scherzer had pitched brilliantly for eight innings before Detroit manager Jim Leyland turned the game over to Jose Valverde with a 5-3 lead in the ninth. Before an electric crowd of over 46,000, the Orioles staged a rally as Markakis hit a homer to lead off the inning and the part-time player Dickerson hammered a three-run blast into the right-center bleachers for one of the most exciting regular-season moments in Camden Yards history.

The Kevin Gregg-Michael Gonzalez Fireman Award: Pedro Strop
Skinny: The Orioles tried to stick with the volatile but talented Strop as long as they could, but you knew time was running short for the 28-year-old on June 29 when Showalter felt the need to warm up O’Day in his bullpen as the struggling reliever was working the ninth inning with an 11-3 lead over the Yankees. Sporting a 7.25 ERA in 29 appearances, Strop was dealt along with Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs a few days later in exchange for starting pitcher Scott Feldman.

The Justin Duchscherer “Yes, He Was an Oriole” Award: Mike Belfiore
Skinny: If you’re asking who Belfiore is, you’re probably not alone as the left-handed reliever has twice been recalled to the 25-man roster this season but hasn’t appeared in a game. Chances are good he’s near the top of the list of players currently on the 40-man roster who could be designated for assignment should the need for a roster spot arise, but Belfiore does have a 3.67 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk this season.

The Jack Cust Baserunning Award: Alexi Casilla’s ninth-inning blunder against the Red Sox
Skinny: Trying to rally against Boston closer Andrew Bailey on June 15, the Orioles sent the speedy Casilla into the game to run for J.J. Hardy at first base with one out. After Ryan Flaherty lined a ball sharply to right fielder Shane Victorino, Casilla was inexplicably standing on third base as he was doubled off first to end the game. The utility infielder said after the game he knew the number of outs and simply misread the ball off Flaherty’s bat, but the play may have gone down as the Orioles’ worst pinch-running debacle since Manny Alexander was picked off upon running for Cal Ripken in a 1996 game that then went into extra innings.

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Nate McLouth

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Replacing Roberts: A Closer Look at the Combination of McLouth/Markakis at the Lead-off Spot

Posted on 06 July 2013 by benheck

It’s no secret that the lead-off man is one of the most important pieces to a baseball lineup, outside of the clean-up hitter. The lead-off man’s job is to get on base as often as possible, putting himself in position to score when the heart of the lineup comes to the plate. It’s also vital that the lead-off man possesses sufficient speed and base-running abilities.

The Baltimore Orioles have had a top-tier lead-off man in second baseman Brian Roberts for eight seasons before the now-35 year old’s career began to unravel due to injury.

Though he’s back in the line-up as designated hitter now, Roberts will never be what he once was for the Orioles. In his prime, Roberts would hit .300, score 100 runs, drive in 50 additional runs while stealing 40-50 bags and post a .370 on-base percentage. The two-time All-Star had a great glove at second to add on to his accomplishments with the cellar-dwelling Orioles in the mid-2000s.

Now that the Orioles are in playoff contention, Brian has struggled to consistently stay on the field and in the lineup. Thanks to a multitude of health issues over the past few seasons––including concussions and back problems––Roberts has played in a combined 123 games since the 2010 season.

Because of his health issues, the Orioles have struggled to find a viable replacement at the top of the batting order. Over the last four seasons, Baltimore has experimented with numerous different lead-off men, including but not limited to: Corey Patterson, Lou Montanez, Felix Pie, Adam Jones, Robert Andino, J.J. Hardy, Matt Angle, Nolan Reimold, Endy Chavez, Xavier Avery, Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth.

It wasn’t until last July 13 that the Orioles finally stuck with one player consistently in Roberts’ absence. Right fielder Nick Markakis, primarily a No. 3 hitter over his eight-year Major League Baseball career. At the top spot in the order for 54 consecutive games from July to the beginning of September, Baltimore posted a 33-21 record with Markakis posting a .335 average and .390 on-base percentage. In 246 plate appearances, Markakis scored 34 runs, drove in 28 more and posted a 20/14 BB-K ratio. Markakis didn’t steal any bases from the lead-off position, but did his job by getting on base and putting Baltimore in position to put runs on the board.

This all came just after returning from his first disabled list stint in his MLB career following surgery to remove part of the hamate bone in his right wrist. Unfortunately Baltimore was forced to switch lead-off batters once again when Markakis was lost for the season with a fractured thumb on September 8.

Manager Buck Showalter turned to another veteran to fill Markakis’ void in the lead-off slot, left fielder Nate McLouth.

Signed to a Minor League deal just a few months prior, McLouth was looking for one last chance at proving he still belongs in the majors. Buck didn’t hesitate to throw McLouth in there at lead-off following Markakis’ second injury, and it didn’t take long for him to get acclimated at the lead-off spot for the playoff-bound O’s. He started 22 of the final 23 games at left field, leading off, as the O’s posted a 15-8 record over that span.

Though his numbers didn’t quite compare to Markakis’ in 2012 as the lead-off man, McLouth’s bat and base-running down the stretch became a vital part in the postseason run. In six postseason games, McLouth hit .321 and stole three bases.

Heading into 2013, Showalter had a big decision to make: Markakis or McLouth? Who should get the coveted spot at the lead-off position? Being one of the most important spots in the line-up, right behind the clean-up spot, the decision could impact the team in the long run.

Instead of making a decision and sticking with it, Showalter has taken a bit of a different stance on the issue: sharing the lead-off spot between the two of them. Through July 5, Markakis has started 22 of his 85 games at lead-off (the rest of the time he hits third in the lineup) with McLouth hitting lead-off in 64 of his 76 games.

Though it’s not a 50/50 split, you’d still think it would be tough to switch up the line-up so often, rather than consistently sticking with one guy over the 162-game season. It could take away from the team chemistry in and around the clubhouse, and possibly effect the play of the two players.

Or so you’d think.

Instead, McLouth has become an even bigger piece to the 48-39 Baltimore squad, putting up a .289/.363/.411 line with a career-high 24 stolen bases. Overall this season, McLouth’s on-base percentage currently sits at .361, which is higher than he’s ever posted over his nine-year career with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Baltimore.

Markakis is in the middle of a heated battle with Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista in the American League All-Star voting. Whether Markakis gets to take a trip to his first-career All-Star game this season or not will not take away from the success he’s had in 2013. After a rough season injury-wise in 2012, Markakis appears to be as healthy as ever over his 85 games. The left-handed 29-year old is hitting .291 with 52 runs and 43 runs batted in. Though his on-base percentage is rather low compared to the rest of his career (.339; his career OBP is .363), he’s elevated his game in the lead-off spot in the line-up.

Over his 22 starts and 102 plate appearances at the No. 1 spot in the Baltimore lineup, Markakis is hitting .351 with 12 runs and a .373 on-base percentage, which is well-above his career OBP. He hasn’t been stealing bases––in fact he hasn’t stolen a single one all season––but that’s the good thing about the lead-off spot: you don’t need to steal bases. Clearly Roberts did over his Baltimore career, including 50 in a single-season, but stolen bases from your lead-off man is just a bonus. What you need from the first batter is the ability to get on-base, run the bases cleanly and score runs.

That’s why McLouth has been such a commodity this season––he gets on-base, runs the bases superbly, including stealing 24 bags, and puts runs across the plate. Though it’s not what Roberts was in his prime, the combination of Markakis and McLouth at the No. 1 spot in the order has been refreshing and very effective for Buck’s Birds.

McLouth provides the walks and the speed on the base paths while Markakis provides Baltimore with the average and runs batted in. It can be a deadly combination, for teams to be forced to face two different lead-off men in the same series, especially given their different strengths.

It may not be quite the same as Roberts’ 2007 season in which he batted in 57, scored 103 runs, hit 42 two-baggers, stole 50 bases all while hitting .290 over his 156 games. But the McLouth/Markakis duo at the lead-off position is working for Baltimore, and has kept them alive in the hunt for the AL East division in 2012 and 2013 thus far.

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Markakis moves into top 3 among AL outfielders in All-Star voting

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Markakis moves into top 3 among AL outfielders in All-Star voting

Posted on 15 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Orioles may be trailing the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but they’re dominating the entire league when it comes to voting for Major League Baseball’s 84th All-Star Game.

The latest voting update has four Orioles players who would find themselves in the startling lineup for the 84th edition of the exhibition as first baseman Chris Davis, outfielder Adam Jones, and shortstop J.J. Hardy are leading the league in voting at their respective positions. Joining them as a projected starter would be eighth-year veteran Nick Markakis, who ranks third among AL outfielders behind Jones and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Markakis has never been selected to an All-Star Game.

Catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado rank second in voting at their respective positions and outfielder Nate McLouth ranks seventh among AL outfielders.

Davis has the second-highest vote total of any AL player behind Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who has a lead of over 1.6 million votes over Machado.

Last year, the Orioles sent three players to the Midsummer Classic (Jones, Wieters, and closer Jim Johnson), marking the first time they’d had multiple selection in an All-Star Game since 2005 when Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora, and B.J. Ryan were all selected to play.

In-stadium voting concludes on June 28, but fans may vote online through July 4. The All-Star teams will be unveiled on July 7 with the game itself scheduled for July 16 at Citi Field.

AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR VOTING
(as of June 15)

FIRST BASE
Chris Davis, Orioles 2,999,094
Prince Fielder, Tigers 1,980,129
Mike Napoli, Red Sox 744,334
Albert Pujols, Angels 693,062
Mitch Moreland, Rangers 645,071

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano, Yankees 2,409,512
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 1,635,674
Ian Kinsler, Rangers 1,123,654
Omar Infante, Tigers 872,142
Jose Altuve, Astros 734,896

SHORTSTOP
J.J. Hardy, Orioles 1,871,010
Elvis Andrus, Rangers 1,358,412
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers 1,322,791
Jed Lowrie, Athletics 1,019,861
Derek Jeter, Yankees 669,698

THIRD BASE
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 3,277,890
Manny Machado, Orioles 1,626,209
Adrian Beltre, Rangers 1,105,706
Evan Longoria, Rays 898,422
Josh Donaldson, J. Athletics 500,773

CATCHER
Joe Mauer, Twins 2,127,175
Matt Wieters, Orioles 1,615,625
A.J. Pierzynski, Rangers 885,137
Carlos Santana, Indians 864,779
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox 748,725

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox 2,488,451
Lance Berkman, Rangers 1,239,521
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 769,322
Mark Reynolds, Indians 745,058
Mark Trumbo, Angels 722,667

OUTFIELD
Adam Jones, Orioles 2,740,505
Mike Trout, Angels 2,710,115
Nick Markakis, Orioles 1,463,392
Torii Hunter, Tigers 1,425,571
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 1,379,251
Nelson Cruz, Rangers 1,310,079
Nate McLouth, Orioles 1,300,158
Alex Gordon, Royals 1,040,685
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 1,004,434
Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics 926,611
Coco Crisp, Athletics 869,153
Josh Hamilton, Angels 726,485
Austin Jackson, Tigers 712,623
Shane Victorino, Red Sox 682,220
Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees 620,734

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Dickerson walk off 5-30-13

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Orioles Season – 1/3 In

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Tom Federline

They are hangin’. They are a team. They have an offense. They have a defense. The “Comeback Kids”. “It’s not over until we say it’s over” or “unless Jim Johnson blows a save”.  Pitching is suspect – but they have arms down on the farm or Duquette will go find someone. It is encouraging. It is fun to follow. It is frustrating. All the makings of another run! Expected this year versus surprised last year.

54 games into the 2012 season, O’s were 31-23. The line-up at that time consisted of: Andino 2B, Chavez LF, Hardy SS, Jones CF, Wieters C, Reynolds 1B, Davis DH, Betemit 3B, Pearce/or whomever in RF (Markakis was out). Pitching was “en fuego”, minus Arietta.
54 games into the 2013 season, O’s were 30 -24. Current line-up: McClouth LF, Machado 3B, Markakis RF, Jones CF, Davis 1B, Wieters C, Hardy SS, Pearce DH, Flaherty 2b. Pitching is still finding it’s way. But give me the 2013 boys anyday. The only position player we are really missing from last year is Andino – 2b is the current weak link (offensively).

What is with the first 5 guys in the batting order around .300 or better? I do not recall that occurring on any Orioles team – ever. Hitting is contagious. Let’s just hope the pitching heats up, when (if) the bats cool off. Chris “the Hulk” Davis, is simply in a serious groove. Machado is living up to the hype – his own and the medias. McClouth leading off, Markakis in the 3-hole, with Hardy and Wieters taking turns getting hot. The offense is a pleasant surprise. Currently, they all appear to be on the same “Wavelength” – Van Morrison.

Now the pitching……….has the blood pressure escalating. We need Chen! Can we get Guthrie back? What is with Jake Arietta? Goodbye and good riddance – Strope Me Strope Me. Don’t come back until you know how to wear your hat and throw strikes. I think Troy Patton was complaining of a sore back also. Why can’t Darren O’Day pitch in every game? Why can’t anyone in the bullpen pitch everyday? “Whoever is hot”, according to Buck-Buck. Which he is not playing out. I am so tired of hearing – “The bullpen needs a rest, they are worn out.” Get out of town sports media and O’s coaching - the bullpen boys get paid to warm-up and throw at tops - 10 pitches a night. Get out there and pitch! Earn your pay! Sometimes the pitching is lights out – majority of the time it appears they are throwing batting practice.

The pitching and/or Wieters getting hurt are the only curve balls that could hurt the O’s chances for October ball. Or if Davis changes testing labs. But the O’s have Brady, so they should have that covered. O’s fever and more Orange Kool-aid is being served around the Baltimore area. Nice to see a predominantly orange hue around the ballpark. Still enjoy 15,000 O’s fans versus a packed house with people on the cell phone or in idle chit-chat.

AL East – Auuuugh! Gonna be a rough one. Anybody but the Red Sux. What happens when the steroid boys come back in Spankme land? It was only a matter of time for the TB pitching to take hold. I think classless Toronto will drop.
Positives: the offense and defense. The comebacks, last Wednesday night vs. the Nats, YKM? Negatives: Jim Johnson collapse -3rd week in May. Overall pitching not holding up. Gary Thorne “in our side”, is still announcing games.
Seize the Moment – O’s fans. The Orioles have a ball team and a manager. The summer of 2013 just got hotter.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Markakis’ bat ban exposes truth about some awareness initiatives

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Markakis’ bat ban exposes truth about some awareness initiatives

Posted on 10 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, Major League Baseball will continue its initiative for breast cancer awareness by providing pink bats for players to use on the holiday for the eighth consecutive year.

The initiative holds special meaning for Nick Markakis with his mother being a breast cancer survivor, but you’re unlikely to see the Orioles right fielder swinging a pink piece of lumber on Sunday.

The reason?

The pink bats made by MaxBat for Markakis and others who own a contract with the maple wood bat company will not be permitted for use by MLB due to an exclusive agreement with Louisville Slugger. The famous wood bat company produces all of the bats distributed by the league to players for Sunday’s games.

On a day meant to raise awareness and celebrate breast cancer survivors around baseball, we will instead witness the latest example of many of these initiatives being as much — or more — about a money grab and protecting sponsors as they are about doing something good. The simple notion that MLB won’t allow pink bats made by other companies for players to use for one day in the season reflects how much more concerned the league is with keeping a sponsor happy rather than allowing players to pay tribute to those fighting the disease.

By no means is the initiative without charity as MLB claims to have raised more than $1 million through auctions of these game-used bats over the last eight years. Pink personalized bats made by Louisville Slugger will also be sold on MLB.com, with $10 from each bat going to Major League Baseball Charities to be apportioned to fight breast cancer. The league says more than $300,000 have been donated from sales of these personalized bats.

But are these dollars representative of a sincere effort to help or little more than a write-off in order to strike a profit behind a veil of charity?

Of course, MLB isn’t alone as the National Football League faced criticism with the revelation that a measly five percent of the profits made from the massive amount of pink gear sold — players and coaches also wear pink throughout the month of October — is donated to the American Cancer Society. According to the league, the rest of the profit is pumped back into its breast cancer awareness program titled A Crucial Catch, but that has drawn scrutiny from those believing the pink merchandise is much more about marketing the league to women than truly trying to make a difference in defeating breast cancer.

Charities and non-profit organizations constantly face questions over how the money they raise from the public is ultimately used, but it’s frustrating to see entities worth billions being stingy when the curtain is pulled back with programs such as these.

It’s understandable for MLB to use its partnership with Louisville Slugger to produce these pink bats as well as the light blue ones used on Father’s Day to raise awareness for prostate cancer, but to prohibit players like Markakis from using pink lumber produced by other companies for use on Sunday reveals the league’s true colors.

And there’s much more green than there is pink.

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. – After receiving plenty of negative reaction on Friday evening, Major League Baseball released the following statement via Twitter:

“All players can use pink bats Sunday with any bat company that makes a modest donation to @KomenForTheCure.”)

 

 

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Minnesota Twins v Baltimore Orioles

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Orioles Are Out of the Gate

Posted on 09 April 2013 by Tom Federline

Or are they out, AT the gate? Nah, just a little bumpy beginning. Adam Jones had a t-shirt made for all his teammates…..”to be continued”. Cool shirt, they need to market that. Can last season be continued? How about if we settle for somewhere around……….just try and keep up the winning atmosphere and add a few new surprises. Last year, was simply that…..last year. A story of the unexpected, renewed baseball in Baltimore and the underdog making good. Well, the Orioles aren’t going to be underdogs this year and they certainly will not be sneaking up on anybody. It’s time to show up, the ground work has been laid, it’s time to build up.

Rough first week, cool, but rough. The “Boys are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy. Joe Angel and Fred Manfra are on the radio, people are wearing orange, it is 80 degrees, there is a spring in our step annnnnd the Orioles are 3 – 4. Augh, welcome to 162 game season. Losing the last 2 at home, then losing at Boston has not helped. I guess it was asking a little to much, for the Orioles to spoil ”the arrogant ones”, home opener on Monday, but it sure was wishful thinking. It was nice to hear Oriole cheers in Fenway. Come on Birds, come on Buck-Buck, settle down and just play baseball.

First week positives: 1. It’s baseball season. 2. It’s finally Spring. 3. Opening Day at Camden Yards.  4. Earl Weaver dedication of “First Pitch.” 5. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, JJ Hardy, Manny Macahado (Man-ny, Man-ny, Man-ny! Get used to that one, gang). 6. Pitching potential. 7. Had opportunities with runners-in-scoring position.  8. First Orioles moment for 2013 DVD – Chris Davis’ Grand Slam and the 130 decibel eruption at Camden Yards!

First week negatives: 1. Gary Thorne ”In our side” voice. 2. “The Shift” – it cost the Birds versus the Twins in the second game. 3. Is it baseball or is it slow pitch softball? 4. Buck-Buck over-managing. 5. Not taking advantage with runners-in-scoring position. 6. Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold out ……again.7. Pitching melt downs (it’s early) 8. 3 wins – 4 loses, reality check.

Injuries – thought Roberts was going to make it through April and was hoping until All-Star break – didn’t happen. Just make him like their 20th coach in the dugout. The number of coaches allowed in baseball is almost getting as ridiculous as it is in football. Nolan Reimold, see you later or start taking steroids again. Your body is and will remain broken down. I am a fan of both, but it looks like the PED’s have taken their toll. There is one injury that cannot happen………..and you all know who it is. Steve Pearce, whoops - no, it would be that guy behind the plate, Weiters. No Weiters = No playoffs.

155 games remaining. The Birds have a chance. I say that every year. But really, for the first time in many a year, the light at the end of the tunnel is a little brighter. Heck , for the first time in many a year, there actually appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Ok Adam Jones, I have the orange Kool-aid out, I have the radio playing with the TV muted, I am ready for the ”To be continued….” saga. The nucleus is tight. They had a taste of winning. There is motivation. There is talent down on the farm. Buckle yourself in – it’s gonna be a wild ride. Let’s GO O’s, Let’s GO O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

Posted on 01 April 2013 by Luke Jones

From the moment catcher Matt Wieters grounded out to end Game 5 of the American League Division Series and the Orioles began setting their sights toward the 2013 season, the same question has been asked over and over.

Will they build upon the surprising success that resulted in their first postseason appearance in 15 years?

Regardless of what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter try to tell you, it wasn’t a successful offseason. The stated goals of acquiring a middle-of-the-order bat and an established starting pitcher were never realized unless you count the minor-league signings of Jair Jurrjens and 36-year-old Freddy Garcia, who will each begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Orioles can’t and won’t compete in the AL East this season. Critics arguing that the Orioles won’t repeat their 29-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 mark in extra-inning affairs overlook the fact that the club was built to excel in late-and-close situations with a stellar bullpen and arguably the best tactician in the game with Showalter in the dugout.

That success rate will be very difficult to repeat, but the Orioles will point to last year’s injuries to Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Jason Hammel, and Brian Roberts and the overall lack of progress by their young starting pitchers last year as evidence that they didn’t need a perfect set of circumstances to win a year ago. Better overall health for the aforementioned group as well as the emergence of just an arm or two from the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman would do wonders in overcoming a more realistic record in games decided by one run.

“I like our guys” has been Showalter’s battle cry since the end of last season, and the Orioles will need to validate that feeling if they’re to break the 90-win mark for the second straight year. It’s difficult not to trust the Baltimore skipper after orchestrating a 24-game improvement from 2011 to 2012.

A core group of position players including Adam Jones, Wieters, Manny Machado, and Markakis as well as top pitching prospects Bundy and Gausman paint a very bright future in Baltimore in the years to come. The ceiling for the 2013 Orioles — and even more so in the next few years — is substantially higher than it’s been in a very long time.

This year’s AL East lacks Yankees and Red Sox teams — or even one of them — that will inevitably run away with the division crown. The parity existing top to bottom has made this race more difficult to forecast than any in recent memory.

Toronto appears to be the best on paper, but will a plethora of new additions mesh quickly or experience growing pains as many revamped teams often do?

Tampa Bay has more than enough starting pitching to offset the departure of James Shields, but will the Rays have enough offense to separate themselves?

The Yankees are old and banged up and the Red Sox are coming off their worst season in 47 years, but both clubs still have enough talent to hang in the division race with enough good fortune.

It’s a division full of ifs, coulds, and maybes everywhere you look, but there aren’t enough answers present to place the Orioles a cut above the rest.

The lineup has quality but not enough depth to overcome an injury or two, whereas the starting rotation has plenty of options but lacks the necessary quality to give you great confidence in the Orioles getting what they’ll need on the mound for 162 games.

Baltimore’s Opening Day order top to bottom is good enough to compete, but there’s little help waiting in the minors if the injury bug strikes virtually any position on the field. The club will depend on the return of Reimold and the continued development of Machado to offset the loss of power hitter Mark Reynolds for a club that finished ninth in the AL in runs score last season.

The starting rotation was in flux most of last season but was able to depend on Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and a revamped Chris Tillman in the second half of the season. You have to wonder if Chen and Gonzalez can duplicate their rookie success with the book now out on how they work and it’s difficult to trust any other young pitchers to simply put it together after the underwhelming results of the past few years. Even Hammel, the de facto ace, doesn’t have a track record you’d like to see in a No. 1 starter. Any combination of hurlers put together by Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair feels too much like a group of third, fourth, and fifth starters.

The late-season arrival of Gausman or Bundy would spark plenty of excitement, but expecting either young pitcher to thrive in the thick of a pennant race is — again — asking a lot.

Lots of promise, but more questions than answers at this point.

A bullpen that competes with Tampa Bay to be the best in the division will again be asked to shoulder an extremely heavy load, but it’s difficult to demand Jim Johnson and his mates to do what they did last year in throwing more innings than all but two bullpends (Minnesota and Kansas City) in the American League. Johnson’s club-record 51 saves sent the 29-year-old to his first All-Star Game, but an underwhelming rate of 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched strongly suggests the sinkerballer is in line to come back to the pack when pitching to contact so frequently as a closer.

The performance of relief pitchers is more difficult to project than any other position, with peaks and valleys consuming most careers like unpredictable investments on Wall Street.

The Orioles don’t have the lineup or starting rotation of the Blue Jays, but Toronto’s bullpen has plenty of uncertainty.

Baltimore’s lineup tops the Rays’ order, but the starting five doesn’t stack up to Tampa Bay’s rotation.

Ironically enough, the Orioles appear to match up well against the traditional heavyweights that beat the rest of the division like a drum for the better part of 15 years, but New York and Boston are no longer the class of the AL East.

The outlook of the division appears murky, with the Orioles having enough going for them to envision them at the top if all goes well but not enough to feel strongly about that possibility.

These questions have answers that are tough to predict as the Orioles aren’t terribly different from the rest of the division in that regard.

It could mean an AL East title or even a last-place finish if most of their questions fetch negative answers this season.

You could even draw the order of finish out of a hat if you’d like, which might be as accurate as any expert trying to look into a crystal ball.

My guess is the Orioles will fall somewhere in the middle, but that doesn’t mean anything as Showalter’s Orioles are used to hearing their critics doubt them.

And they know ifs, coulds, and maybes will only be answered on the diamond.

To view The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction 2013 MLB Predictions, click HERE.

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Markakis out another week with small disc herniation

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Markakis out another week with small disc herniation

Posted on 12 March 2013 by WNST Staff

After undergoing an MRI on Monday, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is suffering from a small disc herniation in his neck and will be sidelined for at least another week.

Manager Buck Showalter revealed the results with reporters in Sarasota on Tuesday morning, but the club remains optimistic that Markakis is not in danger of missing the start of the season. The injury reportedly has a recovery period of one to two weeks and the 29-year-old has already been sidelined for more than a week.

Markakis was seeing a specialist in Baltimore on Tuesday, but the Baltimore manager told reporters the outfielder is feeling better over the last day or two.

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Markakis to undergo MRI on neck Monday

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Markakis to undergo MRI on neck Monday

Posted on 10 March 2013 by Luke Jones

Continuing to deal with neck spasms that have sidelined him for a week, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis will undergo an MRI on Monday.

The 29-year-old was scratched from the lineup on March 3 and hasn’t played in a spring game since March 1 despite downplaying the significance of the spasms. Markakis had told reporters in Sarasota earlier in the week that he’d be able to play if it were the regular season, but the MRI is a precautionary move because the spasms have lingered for so long.

In four spring games, Markakis is 3-for-12 with three singles and one run batted in.

“I’m not going to downplay it; we’ll see,” manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Florida on Saturday. “When you get something that has kind of cropped up twice, information is a good thing. I haven’t been told anything to make me think there’s a sense of urgency with that. I asked Nick about it and he goes, ‘Whatever.’ We’ll see.”

The news of an MRI is concerning with Markakis coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 104 games. After the outfielder underwent abdominal surgery last winter, he missed six weeks with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist in the first half and saw his season come to an end in early September when a CC Sabathia fastball broke Markakis’ left thumb.

It was the first time since his rookie season in 2006 in which Markakis failed to appear in at least 157 games.

In 471 plate appearances in 2012, Markakis hit .298 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI while posting an .834 OPS, his highest mark since the 2008 season.

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Snapshot observations from Orioles’ spring win over Yankees

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Snapshot observations from Orioles’ spring win over Yankees

Posted on 25 February 2013 by Luke Jones

In their first spring meeting with the New York Yankees, the Orioles didn’t exactly face the 1927 Bronx Bombers in a 5-1 win in Sarasota on Monday afternoon.

New York right-hander Vidal Nuno made the start while Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix, Juan Rivera, and Francisco Cervelli were the most recognizable names in the Yankees’ batting order against left-hander Brian Matusz. The Orioles starter pitched two shutout innings to collect the victory while primarily using his fastball against an underwhelming lineup of hitters.

It’s only a snapshot, but here were five thoughts taken away from the Orioles’ first televised spring training contest:

1. You want to knock on wood when you say it — or pinch yourself because you assume you’re dreaming — but healthy versions of Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold at the top of the order would do wonders for this offense. Roberts was the more impressive of the two Monday as he doubled from each side of the plate while hitting in the No. 2 spot in the order behind Reimold. The second baseman is also no longer wearing the double-flapped batting helmet he sported last season, another indication that his concussion-related symptoms might be behind him once and for all. Reimold was 0-for-2 against the Yankees after going 0-for-3 in his spring debut on Sunday, but he continues to build strength and confidence after being declared ready to go at the start of the spring.

Manager Buck Showalter has stated his preference to lower J.J. Hardy in the order after the shortstop was miscast as a top-of-the-lineup hitter in his first two seasons with the Orioles, and Roberts’ .351 career on-base percentage and Reimold’s .338 mark would fit nicely at the top of the lineup as long as you continue to see no health concerns for either player this spring. It would be a welcome change for a lineup that included low on-base percentage options such as Hardy and the departed Robert Andino at the top of the order before Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth moved into those roles out of necessity in the second half of last season.

It feels like a long shot to be able to count on a 35-year-old Roberts — who is trying to bounce back from season-ending hip surgery as well as offseason sports hernia surgery — after three injury-plagued seasons in a row, but the 29-year-old Reimold could still have plenty of good baseball in front of him if he can finally stay on the field.

2. The case of right-hander Tommy Hunter will be one to follow this spring as he is out of options. Hunter allowed two hits and struck out two in a scoreless inning of work on Monday, and it appears the 26-year-old will be eyed as a relief option this spring.

Hunter has made 75 career starts in the big leagues between Texas and Baltimore, but his stuff has never screamed starting pitcher as he’s averaged only 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and has a career 4.77 earned run average. In 12 2/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen last September, Hunter allowed one earned run and struck out 12 and featured fastball velocity in the upper 90s.

This becomes more interesting when considering Hunter would need to clear waivers to be sent to Triple-A Norfolk at the end of the spring. Other fringe starters such as Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Steve Johnson all have at least one option remaining, making it possible that Hunter could be viewed in a more favorable light in starting the season as the long reliever out of the bullpen while at least some of the others could find themselves pitching with the Tides to start the year.

Showalter has said the club won’t make roster decisions based on option years, but it would appear Hunter would have the inside track on a bullpen role if he has a reasonably strong spring. On the other hand, a poor performance from the right-hander would also mean he’s more likely to pass through waivers unclaimed.

3. If you’re looking for this year’s version of Lew Ford or Steve Pearce, keep an eye on Russ Canzler. The 26-year-old is capable of playing first base and the corner outfield spots and hit 61 combined home runs in his last three minor-league seasons split between Double A and Triple A.

It was a crazy offseason for Canzler, who was selected off waivers four different times with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette finally nabbing him from the Yankees on Feb. 5. The right-handed hitter drove in a run with a single in Monday’s 5-1 win and was strongly endorsed by Norfolk manager Ron Johnson prior to the Orioles acquiring him this winter.

It would be an upset to see Canzler break camp as a member of the 25-man roster — he also has two option years remaining — but his .819 on-base plus slugging percentage over nine minor-league seasons is the type of statistic that intrigues Duquette when searching for bargain-basement deals. Canzler was selected in the 30th round of the 2004 draft as an 18-year-old by the Chicago Cubs and spent seven years in that organization before spending a season each with Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

It’s a long shot, of course, that we’ll see Canzler making any tangible contribution to the 2013 Orioles, but no one expected Ford or Pearce to contribute to the Orioles’ first playoff team in 15 years at the start of the season, either.

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