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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 9-7 win over Houston

Posted on 23 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles salvaging the finale of a three-game set in a 9-7 win over Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was a long time coming, but Zach Britton set a new American League record with his 55th consecutive save conversion and first since April 14. If he is indeed traded before the Orioles return home next Monday, it was a fitting final appearance for him at Camden Yards.

2. A balanced offensive attack was the difference as seven different Orioles collected an RBI. The offensive showing could have been even better if not for grounding into four double plays in the first six innings.

3. Dylan Bundy will continue receiving extra rest when off-days allow it, but he’s now posted a 7.85 ERA over his last seven starts after surrendering a career-high seven runs. He handled quite a workload over the first 2 1/2 months, and you wonder how much fatigue is factoring into his struggles.

4. Houston hitters were able to work their way back from multiple 0-2 counts as Bundy wasn’t able to finish them off. The walk to Alex Bregman preceding Nori Aoki’s game-tying three-run home run in the sixth was particularly frustrating for the young pitcher.

5. Mark Trumbo reminded us why he only plays sparingly in the outfield, but he made up for it with the game-tying home run in the last of the seventh. He was one of three Baltimore hitters to collect their 50th RBI of the season on Sunday.

6. Trey Mancini drove in two runs and improved his average with runners in scoring position to a whopping .431. You keep waiting for him to start looking more like a rookie at the plate, but it hasn’t happened.

7. Jonathan Schoop saw his streak of five straight games with multiple RBIs come to an end, but he’s had at least one in seven consecutive contests. His three-hit afternoon raised his season average to .307.

8. Jose Altuve’s greatness is hardly breaking news, but he collected four hits to finish off a .500 batting average for the series. He sure is something special to watch.

9. A move to the leadoff spot has sparked a recent surge for Adam Jones, who had four hits and passed former teammate Nick Markakis to move into sole possession of sixth place on the Orioles’ all-time hit list. He’s been in the middle of plenty of scoring rallies of late.

10. The sixth inning is a separator in today’s game as teams need starters capable of getting through six innings or an incredibly deep bullpen to survive. The Orioles gave up 11 runs in the sixth frame over this series.

11. Much was made about Dan Duquette’s trade deadline comments Saturday, but remember he was addressing season-ticket holders as players were within earshot. His actions, not his words, are what matter over the next week.

12. Had the Orioles gone 7-3 or better on this homestand to get back to .500, I could maybe understand not selling, but they have no more than six wins in any 10-game stretch since May 9. Winning five of seven isn’t enough to overlook 2 1/2 months of .379 baseball.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 12-1 win over Texas

Posted on 19 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their second straight game in a 12-1 final over the Texas Rangers, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A starter giving up six runs before recording his first out sounds right out of the script of the 2017 Orioles, but Tyson Ross fell victim instead. It was good for Buck Showalter’s struggling club to have a laugher for once with its biggest margin of victory of the season.

2. For someone with more than one three-homer game in his career, Chris Davis setting a new career high with six RBIs in a contest was somewhat surprising. I would have guessed he’d done that at some point over the last five years.

3. Dylan Bundy hadn’t pitched in nearly two weeks, but he settled in nicely after a rocky beginning to record his club-leading 13th quality start of the season. His 13 swinging strikes were the most he’d had since June 14 as his slider induced five of those.

4. Having seen starters squander so many large leads this season, Bundy loading the bases in the second was an unsettling development, but he was able to escape unscathed when Shin-Soo Choo grounded out. The Rangers never threatened again.

5. Bundy finished strong with a 1-2-3 sixth that included his best average fastball velocity of the outing and culminated with a swinging strikeout of Mike Napoli. That was encouraging to see on the night he eclipsed his innings total from last year.

6. With the 24-year-old allowing one run in six frames, the Orioles registered back-to-back quality starts for the first time since June 1 and 2 when Wade Miley and Alec Asher did it against Boston. I realize how ugly the starting pitching has been, but that’s still remarkable.

7. The 12 runs were the most scored by the Orioles in a month. The starting pitching is the easiest — and most deserving — target for criticism, but it’s no secret that the offense has disappointed this season.

8. Seth Smith homered for the second straight night and now has 11 for the season. He’s hitting just .241 since mid-May, but he could be a fringe trade piece for a contending club looking for a left-handed platoon outfielder, especially if his bat stays hot over the next 10 days.

9. Showalter has been conservative in his use of Zach Britton since his return from the disabled list, but he struck out two and registered six swinging strikes in the ninth. He sure looks ready to return to the closer role with contenders eyeing him as a major trade target.

10. Jonathan Schoop drew his 20th walk of the season and is now one shy of his career high set last year in 273 fewer plate appearances in 2017. That improved plate discipline is a major reason for his breakout campaign that landed him in the All-Star Game.

11. Caleb Joseph made his second career appearance at third base in the ninth inning. That kind of novelty is much more enjoyable to watch when on the right side of a blowout.

12. The Rangers would like to fancy themselves as buyers at the deadline, but they sure haven’t looked like it over the last two nights. The 2016 AL West champions are now just a game ahead of the Orioles in the wild-card standings.

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Report: Angelos gives Duquette approval to shop certain Orioles

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are apparently open for business with the non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, owner Peter Angelos has given his approval to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to pursue trades for Baltimore’s top bullpen arms as well as veteran outfielder Seth Smith. That list of relievers includes former All-Star selections Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach.

The Orioles are not entertaining offers for three-time All-Star third baseman Manny Machado or five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones at this time.

Of the aforementioned names now on the trading block, Britton would provide the most value as long as he continues to show no lingering effects from the left forearm strain that cost him more than two months of action. Under club control through next season, the 2016 American League Reliever of the Year winner has allowed two earned runs and six hits in five innings of work since being activated from the disabled list on July 5.

Brach would also figure to bring a good return as he is making just $3.05 million in 2017 and will not hit free agency until after next season. He has done an adequate job filling in for Britton in the closer role this season, collecting a career-high 16 saves in 20 chances.

O’Day’s value would be more questionable as he is only in the second season of a four-year, $31 million contract signed two winters ago. The 34-year-old has dealt with right shoulder issues over the last calendar year and is still owed $9 million in both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

Smith will become a free agent at the end of this season and wouldn’t figure to fetch much more than a marginal piece in a trade. The Orioles would also be looking to move outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and catcher Welington Castillo, who both can become free agents at the end of 2017.

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Lost weekend sweeps away any glimmer of hope for 2017 Orioles

Posted on 17 July 2017 by Luke Jones

You may have talked yourself into there being hope for the Orioles coming out of the All-Star break after they’d defied logic so many times in the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era.

Then came the bucket of ice water to the face that was the weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The reigning World Series champions may have entered Friday only a game ahead of Baltimore, but it was evident that these were two teams moving in opposite directions in 2017 and beyond.

Friday night felt like the final nail in the coffin for the 2017 Orioles, who impressively managed to erase an 8-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning before Brad Brach surrendered the game-winning home run to Addison Russell in the ninth. In a season filled with painful losses, that one was the most deflating as the Orioles were outscored 18-3 the rest of the weekend to fall a season-worst seven games below .500.

Yes, it’s time for the Orioles to start thinking about improving their outlook for the future. It’s no secret that they’re set to fall off a cliff at the end of next season when the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Brach hit free agency, but going 20-39 since May 9 offers similar imagery.

Desperation has been there for a while now as we’ve seen Jonathan Schoop shift to shortstop to make room for journeyman second baseman Johnny Giavotella and Jones move back into the leadoff spot, a role not suited for someone with a .301 on-base percentage no matter what anyone tries to tell you about last year. The mere fact that Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez started the first three games of the second half really says all you need to know about the state of the Orioles and their starting rotation. The four 20-game winners from 1971 aren’t magically walking through that clubhouse door.

The truth is that the Orioles haven’t played like contenders for a long time now despite qualifying for the postseason for the third time in five years last October. Dating back to the beginning of last July, they hold an 84-91 record. An offense once feared around baseball ranks an underwhelming 11th in the American League in runs scored over the last calendar year. Their minus-94 run differential for 2017 is the worst in the American League and indicates that the Orioles have actually been fortunate to be as good as 42-49.

Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the failure of the 2017 club begins and ends with a starting rotation on track to be the worst in club history — the 2008 Orioles currently own the worst starer ERA at 5.51 — and one of the worst in baseball in over 100 years. The Orioles entered Monday with an AL-worst 6.02 starter ERA that’s more than a full run worse than 14th-ranked Chicago and a staggering 1.3 runs worse than last year’s rotation that was already viewed as a major weakness.

The starting rotation has been astonishingly terrible.

Amazingly, Cincinnati owns an even worse starter ERA at 6.04. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds currently sport the seventh-worst starter ERA and the Orioles the 10th-worst in major league history going back to 1913.

Misery loves company, right?

It’s easy to view the Orioles as sellers at this point as FOX Sports insider Ken Rosenthal reported as much on Sunday, but will it happen to the degree that it needs to under owner Peter Angelos? The Orioles do not have to trade their biggest chips in the next two weeks if they don’t find the right deal, but the longer they wait, the more diminished the return will be — at least in theory. Everything should now be on the table, however, making the indication that the Orioles won’t even listen to offers for Machado disconcerting.

But there’s a bigger question that needs to be addressed, one that could shape the club’s outlook for the next decade.

Do the Orioles want to retain Duquette beyond 2018 and does he even want to stay? Allowing a lame-duck executive to begin a rebuilding process would be unwise, so you’d hope there’s some resolution — at least privately — in the coming weeks and months as we move toward the offseason. His successes and shortcomings have been discussed at length in recent years, but it’s certainly fair to question whether Duquette would be the right choice to undertake a rebuilding effort.

If he isn’t going to be around after next season, there’s no sense waiting to find his replacement at such a critical time for the organization. That’s also a potential argument for the Orioles to abstain from dealing their best pieces now and instead wait until a long-term general manager is in place.

Of course, we know how the Orioles typically proceed on matters such as these. It’s rarely conventional and can often be detrimental despite their overall success in recent years.

How they handle Duquette’s status would undoubtedly impact the future of Showalter, who will also see his contract expire at the end of next season.

With most attention shifting away from the ugly results on the field and toward what’s happening behind the scenes, the Orioles are at a crossroads full of uncertainty.

It became painfully obvious over the weekend that contention in 2017 isn’t in the cards.

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Orioles second baseman Schoop doubles, scores run in All-Star debut

Posted on 12 July 2017 by Luke Jones

MIAMI — Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop didn’t wait long to make an impact to help the American League to a 2-1 win in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday night.

After entering the game on defense in the previous half-inning, Schoop picked up the first extra-base hit of the contest with a double down the left-field line in the top of the fifth and scored the game’s first run on a bloop single from Minnesota’s Miguel Sano. The 25-year-old quickly fell behind 0-2 against Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood before fouling off two tough pitches and working the count even.

It was the kind of at-bat that’s become more common for Schoop this season as he’s improved his plate discipline and has led the Orioles in doubles (23) as well as a number of other offensive categories.

“I want to be better every day. I want to be better than I was yesterday,” Schoop said. “I’ve faced [Wood] before, and I know what he’s got. I was just trying to put a good swing on it and hit the ball hard.”

Schoop became the third Oriole to double in an All-Star Game over the last five years, following Adam Jones in 2013 and Manny Machado in 2015. A Miami native, Machado attended the exhibition at Marlins Park and invited Schoop to stay at his home this week.

After watching countless teammates receive invitations to the All-Star Game in his first three major league seasons, Schoop enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.

“It was one of the best moments in my life so far,” Schoop said. “Having fun and playing in front of the crowd. The crowd was good. It was a good display for me.”

The Baltimore second baseman also handled four fielding chances flawlessly, including a quick tag on Colorado’s Nolan Arendo to complete Boston center fielder Mookie Betts’ assist in the bottom of the fourth. Manager Buck Showalter has often spoken about the young fielder’s skill in tagging after being tutored by veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Schoop was replaced in the seventh inning by Robinson Cano, who hit the game-winning home run for the AL in the top of the 10th.

“He hit a ball at the right moment and the right time to get us a win,” said Schoop, who has long admired the Seattle second baseman making his eighth All-Star appearance. “He’s the best for a reason. Not for [just right] now, but for a long time already.”

Former Baltimore reliever Andrew Miller picked up the save for the AL, who has now won five consecutive All-Star Games to even the all-time series with the National League at 43-43-2.

Despite being a low-scoring affair that featured 23 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits, the 88th Midsummer Classic wasn’t without innovation as the FOX telecast included several on-field interviews with players while the action was taking place. The highlight of the night in the novelty department, however, came from ex-Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who brought a cell phone to home plate and had his picture taken with veteran umpire Joe West before flying out in the sixth.

“He told me about it,” said Schoop as he laughed about his former teammate’s plan. “I said, ‘You can’t. I bet you can’t do it.’ Then, he did it. It was nice — fun moment.”

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Schoop turning heads as Orioles’ lone All-Star representative

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Luke Jones

MIAMI — While getting on the American League team bus on Monday, Jonathan Schoop sounded like the young rookie that Nelson Cruz had mentored and remembered so fondly in their brief time together.

“We were joking around and he said, ‘I’m going to follow you around everywhere because I don’t know what to do,” said Cruz, a five-time All-Star selection who has spent the last three seasons in Seattle after playing for the Orioles in 2014. “He’s like a son for me. Age makes a difference. Now he has experience. He learned; he wants to learn. He’s always asking questions to get better.

“He’s finally got everything together.”

The quip signified how far the second baseman has come from playing in the shadow of several high-profile teammates over his first few seasons to being the lone Orioles representative at this year’s All-Star game. And while the exclusion of his teammates is viewed by many as a reflection of how difficult the last two months have been for the struggling Orioles, Schoop isn’t just a token inclusion from a club closer to the cellar than first place.

Tied for the team lead in home runs (18) and leading the Orioles in runs batted in (54), Schoop is on pace to shatter his career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. His 1.9 wins above replacement lead all Orioles players while his .370 weighted on-base average — a stat holding significant prominence in the sabermetric community — is second behind only Houston’s Jose Altuve among qualified AL second basemen in 2017.

Schoop hitting for power isn’t surprising as we’ve watched him get stronger every season, but his improved plate discipline has turned heads and led to more consistency at the plate. His 19 walks in 352 plate appearances remain well below the league average, but he’s just two shy of the 21 he piled up in 647 trips to the dish in 2016.

It’s the product of a more confident and selective approach as he’s swinging at fewer pitches both inside and outside the strike zone.

“I trust myself more and know that I can do it,” Schoop said. “I work every day and trust what the scouting report [says]. You know what [pitchers] are trying to do. You just have to achieve it and make sure you get the right pitch to hit. That’s part of my game that’s grown up a little bit more. I’m more patient and more selective.

“It’s not necessarily the walks, but just patience. Get the pitch to hit. Don’t chase too many pitches. Don’t swing at a pitcher’s pitch. It’s tough. They’re good. They get paid to strike you out and get you out.”

The 25-year-old has plenty of support this week from both family and teammates — former and current. Manny Machado has opened up his home to his close friend and will attend All-Star festivities as Schoop hopes to have a strong showing in honor of the Miami native who didn’t receive an All-Star invitation in a down season.

Schoop is representing more than just the Orioles and his family this week. He is the fourth Curacao native to appear in an All-Star Game, something in which he takes great pride after playing for the Netherlands in each of the last two editions of the World Baseball Classic. This year’s Midsummer Classic is the first with multiple selections hailing from the Dutch Caribbean island as Schoop is joined by Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on the National League side.

“He’s come a long way,” said Jansen, a two-time All-Star selection who played with Schoop’s older brother. “He was always very talented, one of the most talented guys I ever saw play in Curacao growing up. Now he’s put it all together. He’s going to be a superstar. We could have seen this coming.”

Having stepped out from the shadow of Machado and other former Orioles All-Star selections in previous years, Schoop is finally making the baseball world take notice.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 win over Toronto

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their third straight game in a 3-1 final over the Toronto Blue Jays, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles jumped ahead early with Mark Trumbo’s two-run double with two outs in the first, but Adam Jones drawing a walk after falling behind 0-2 was the biggest at-bat of the inning. It was an impressive way to finish an eight-pitch battle with Joe Biagini.

2. Kevin Gausman showed good fastball command low in the strike zone as he pitched 5 1/3 innings to collect his first victory since May 31. You’d like to see him get deeper into the game, but he was able to build on encouraging signs from his last outing.

3. His command was shaky early in the game, but double plays in the first and second innings went a long way in allowing Gausman to settle down. He retired eight in a row after the twin killing in the second.

4. Toronto made some loud contact in the fourth, but Gausman dotted a 3-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone to strike out Josh Donaldson looking. That was one of his best pitches of the night.

5. Despite the Blue Jays featuring seven right-handed bats in their starting lineup, Gausman continued to use his split-changeup as his go-to secondary pitch and didn’t throw a single slider, according to Statcast. That’s an interesting development.

6. Thanks to the off-day, Buck Showalter was able to deploy his bullpen earlier than normal as Gausman was pulled after 99 pitches with a one-out jam in the sixth. That’s the kind of bullpen chain the Orioles have too frequently lacked over Zach Britton’s absence.

7. Mychal Givens was wild in the sixth, but he got Kendrys Morales to expand the zone for a strikeout to leave the bases loaded and then calmed down to toss a perfect seventh. His ability to pitch more than one inning as been huge all season for an undermanned bullpen.

8. The last seven weeks of Orioles baseball haven’t been easy, but watching Jonathan Schoop continue to grow as an offensive force has been fun. His two-out hits in the first and third started both of Baltimore’s scoring rallies on Tuesday.

9. I’ll never grow tired of watching encounters between Darren O’Day and Jose Bautista. The veteran reliever came out on top this time and has looked sharp in three scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list Friday night.

10. Brad Brach allowed a two-out home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the ninth, the first run he’d allowed since May 16. Other than his struggles from late April through early May, he’s done a commendable job filling in for Britton.

11. Hyun Soo Kim drew two walks, but he’s only 7-for-31 without an extra-base hit since the Chris Davis injury more than two weeks ago that led to more playing time for the left fielder. His season on-base plus slugging percentage is just .620.

12. The Orioles were one strike away from pitching a shutout four days after tying the major league record for allowing five or more runs in their 20th consecutive game. Baseball’s funny.

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Which Oriole(s?) should receive 2017 All-Star Game nod?

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles haven’t been in this position in some time.

Having sent no fewer than three representatives to each of the last five All-Star Games, Baltimore has struggled to remain relevant in the American League with a number of past selections either injured or performing below career norms. No, the Orioles haven’t reverted all the way to a time when they once sent journeyman Ty Wigginton as their required All-Star selection in 2010, but identifying a clear-cut candidate to represent the club in Miami on July 11 is a complicated task.

The latest All-Star voting update showed no Orioles even ranking in the top three at their respective positions — Welington Castillo ranks fourth among AL catchers and Manny Machado fifth among AL third basemen — making it clear that no player from Buck Showalter’s club will be elected as a starter. The All-Star voting concludes Thursday with the teams announced on Sunday night.

Below is a look at the Orioles’ most appealing All-Star candidates:

Who will be the Orioles' 2017 All-Star selection?

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2B Jonathan Schoop
The case for: The 25-year-old is on pace to set new career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, doubles, walks, and runs batted in. Entering Tuesday, Schoop ranks fourth in the AL in doubles and also leads the Orioles in hits, homers, RBIs, and total bases.
The case against: The AL is stacked at second base with MVP candidate Jose Altuve as well as former All-Star picks such as Robinson Cano, Starlin Castro, and Dustin Pedroia having reputations working in their favor. Schoops’s defense drops him to third in wins above replacement among AL second basemen.
Outlook: Even a couple weeks ago, I didn’t like Schoop’s chances in such a crowded position group, but Altuve is the only clear choice ahead of him and the Orioles need a rep, giving him a pretty good chance.

OF/1B Trey Mancini
The case for: If it weren’t for Aaron Judge, Mancini would be receiving plenty of Rookie of the Year hype as he leads the Orioles in batting average, OBP, and slugging and ranks in the top seven among AL hitters with at least 220 plate appearances in average, slugging, and on-base plus slugging percentage.
The case against: It’s difficult for most rookies to receive All-Star acclaim and it doesn’t help that Mancini has split time at first base and in the outfield as well as at designated hitter. He ranks just 15th in WAR among AL outfielders and, like Schoop, is competing with a deep talent pool in the outfield.
Outlook: AL manager Terry Francona could view Mancini as a bit of a wild card capable of playing more than one spot, but his chances appear totally dependent on whether Schoop gets the club’s bid.

RP Brad Brach
The case for: Look no further than the closer spot over the years for any so-so club needing an All-Star representative, and Brach ranks a respectable sixth in the AL in saves. He hasn’t come close to duplicating his amazing 2016 first half, but last year’s All-Star nod likely helps keep him on the radar.
The case against: Being 13-for-16 in save opportunities and a 2.43 ERA are numbers that hardly stand out when trying to put together an All-Star bullpen. Brach filling in as Baltimore’s closer may even hurt his case if we continue seeing more of a recent emphasis on taking a dominant setup man or two.
Outlook: Other than a rough patch from late April through mid-May, Brach has been very good with a club-best 0.87 walks and hits per inning pitched and has some history on his side to help his cause.

SP Dylan Bundy
The case for: Being Baltimore’s best starting pitcher is hardly a high bar, but Bundy is tied for second in the AL in quality starts and tied for fifth in innings, a surprising feat for a 24-year-old in his first full season as a starter. According to Baseball Reference, his value of 2.2 WAR leads all Orioles players.
The case against: Bundy’s 5.93 ERA in June has dropped him to 12th in the AL in that category among qualified pitchers. His 4.76 fielding independent pitching mark also reflects his underwhelming strikeout and home run rates compared to many of the top starting pitchers in the league.
Outlook: The right-hander looked like Baltimore’s most promising choice a month ago, but recent struggles and the Orioles’ desire to back off his workload around the break hurt his chances.

3B Manny Machado
The case for: The 24-year-old is a great case study in the debate over whether the All-Star Game should be a true showcase of the game’s brightest stars or a mere reward for having three good months. Machado’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked as he’s played third base better than anyone in the AL.
The case against: Entering Tuesday with a .228 average and a .299 OBP doesn’t help his cause while other third basemen such as Jose Ramirez and Miguel Sano have been far superior at the plate. His OPS ranks ninth among qualified AL third basemen, showing the overall quality of the position offensively.
Outlook: Little about his 2017 profile says he’s deserving, but he’s a Miami native and still celebrated as one of the game’s greatest stars, meaning I wouldn’t rule out his inclusion entirely.

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Orioles pitching staff making history for wrong reasons

Posted on 23 June 2017 by Luke Jones

Frustration turned to astonishment at some point over the last week watching the Orioles try to pitch.

Even the best clubs endure a poor stretch from time to time, but a streak of 19 consecutive games allowing five or more runs is nothing short of historic. It’s the kind of American League record a team never wants to set, but the Baltimore staff has been a special kind of bad over the last three weeks after merely being below average before that.

That reality begs the question of where it ranks among the most infamous periods of futility in franchise history. A 6-13 record over the streak isn’t anything memorable from a historical context, but a 7.33 ERA over that long of a stretch is difficult to fathom. Since starting a surprising 22-10 with a respectable 3.85 ERA, the Orioles have gone just 13-27 while pitching to a horrendous 6.13 ERA.

Those pitching numbers are worse than virtually any other stretch that Orioles fans have tried to forget over the years.

Remember that 14-42 conclusion to 1986 that sent the Orioles to the first last-place finish in club history? The team ERA of 5.05 over that stretch pales in comparison to the current club’s streak.

The historic 0-21 start for the 1988 Orioles was accompanied by a 5.96 ERA. That number is worse than it looks today in what was a lower scoring environment at the time, but it still doesn’t measure up to the current pitching streak on the precipice of a major league record.

The Orioles posted a 5.63 ERA over their unthinkable 4-32 finish to complete the 2002 season. It was an incredible collapse after that young club had reached the .500 mark in late August, but the pitching still wasn’t historically poor.

The only notable period of time that stands out as being worse statistically than the current staff’s run is a 3-18 stretch for the 2007 Orioles that included an absurd 8.95 ERA as well as the previous club record for the most consecutive games (11) allowing five or more runs. That run included the humiliating 30-3 loss to Texas – which does skew the team ERA during that stretch – but removing that outlier still leaves a 7.89 ERA over the other 20 contests.

Even if you give the 2007 Orioles the nod for the most pathetic run of pitching in club history, there’s no denying the current staff being on a very short list of the worst.

“The Streak” has just put it under an unwelcome spotlight for the entire baseball world to see.

Positive signs for Gausman

If you’re looking for any semblance of hope in regards to the starting rotation, Kevin Gausman showed positive signs despite so-so final results in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Cleveland.

The right-hander struck out a season-high nine batters and walked only two, showing improved fastball command and throwing strikes on 66 percent of his pitches. An obvious difference in his performance was the increased use of his split-changeup, which had been his best secondary pitch in the past and has fallen by the wayside too frequently this year. Gausman threw it a season-high 23.2 percent of the time against the Indians, inducing swings and misses on nine of the 26 he threw.

It’s worth noting that the Cleveland order did include six left-handed bats and the split-change plays better against lefties, but Gausman also threw it effectively against right-handers, twice striking out the dangerous Edwin Encarnacion with the pitch. It was a welcome change after seeing the 26-year-old rely too much on his slider this season with such underwhelming results.

Another potentially interesting development from his start came from BrooksBaseball.net. According to the data-collecting site, Gausman threw his sinker more than 54 percent of the time after barely throwing the pitch all season. Statcast data still reported his fastball as a four-seamer, however, and Gausman made no mention of a change in his post-game interview Wednesday. It’s worth noting that his average fastball velocity was down a bit from recent starts, which could also support the possibility of him using a different grip.

Of course, Gausman ran into trouble in a three-run fifth inning as his command wasn’t as sharp and he relied too heavily on his fastball at times despite getting into plenty of favorable counts that called for secondary stuff. But the overall eyeball test showed a better Gausman than we’ve seen throughout 2017.

Now he needs to prove whether that was a turning point or a mere aberration.

Buyers or sellers?

Much has been made about reports of the Orioles’ intentions to be buyers at the trade deadline, but we’re still four or five weeks away from any definitive calls needing to be made.

It’s understandable not to want to concede anything publicly as Baltimore entered Friday just 2 1/2 games out of the second wild card, but even the eternal optimist would have to scoff at the notion of the Orioles being a legitimate contender if there isn’t some substantial on-field improvement sooner than later. And then there’s the issue of what exactly the Orioles have in their system to give up if they want to try to add any pieces to truly move the meter.

Keep in mind there are various degrees of buying or selling that could play out. Even if executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette concludes that contention isn’t in the cards by the time late July rolls around, that doesn’t mean a full-blown fire sale would take place. Moving the likes of Seth Smith, Welington Castillo, Hyun Soo Kim, and Wade Miley in the short term might fetch a complementary piece or two and not necessarily wreck the potential to make another run in 2018, regardless of whether that’s the wisest way to proceed.

However, it’s difficult envisioning the Orioles trading Manny Machado or Zach Britton before ownership at least determines the long-term status of Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, who are both under contract through only next year. At this point, moves of that magnitude feel more like offseason agenda items.

Regardless of how the next few weeks play out on the field, these conversations need to happen before any meaningful roster decisions should be made to shape the present and, more importantly, the future of the organization.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-3 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 23 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding a disappointing 3-4 homestand with a 6-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Streak continued with Baltimore giving up at least five runs for the 19th consecutive game, which is now one shy of the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies’ major league record. If it helps, try to envision the banner being unrolled on the Warehouse to some John Tesh music.

2. The pitching earned the headline, but the offense left a small village of men on base early. When you only manage two runs from a total of 10 baserunners in the first three innings, it’s going to haunt you. The Orioles were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

3. Remember when Wade Miley was pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA because of so many escape acts over the first seven weeks of the season? His ERA has climbed nearly two whole runs over his last six starts.

4. Seth Smith hit his fourth leadoff home run of the season with an impressive opposite-field bomb into the visitors bullpen. Meanwhile, Seattle just moved Yovani Gallardo and his 6.30 ERA to the bullpen. I’d say that trade worked out well.

5. Unfortunately, Miley gave up the lead to the Indians in a matter of three batters to begin the second inning. That’s been an all-too-familiar theme for Orioles starters all season.

6. The third inning was even worse as Miley allowed four straight batters to reach — two via walks — after retiring the first two hitters to begin the frame. His poor command culminated with Austin Jackson’s two-run single that gave Cleveland the lead for good.

7. Miley went to three-ball counts to 10 of the 24 hitters he faced. As bad as that sounds, I honestly would have guessed a higher total than that. He needed 72 pitches just to record his first nine outs.

8. The most maddening at-bat of the night came from Ruben Tejada, who didn’t receive the memo that Indians starter Mike Clevinger was struggling with his command. After Hyun Soo Kim walked to put two men on with one out, Tejada grounded into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch.

9. Manny Machado had a superb night with two walks and two opposite-field hits, one being an RBI double in the ninth. Over the last six games of the homestand, he went 9-for-22 with three homers, three doubles, three walks, and eight runs batted in. He’s now hitting .302 in June.

10. Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host and Orioles fan Pat Sajak tweeted what many of us were thinking watching a game moving at a glacial pace over the first several innings. There was little to enjoy about that viewing experience.

11. Adam Jones received the night off with the Orioles now going on the road to play their next six games on turf against Tampa Bay and Toronto. The veteran center field being more receptive to occasional days off says plenty about how he’s feeling right now.

12. Buck Showalter missed Thursday’s game to welcome his first grandchild into the world. Of course, that prompted some fans to ask how soon young Winston would be ready to pitch for his granddaddy. In all seriousness, I’m glad the Orioles manager was able to be there for the special day.

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