Tag Archive | "Orioles"

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Machado wins 2015 Gold Glove Award

Posted on 10 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado won the 2015 American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award on Tuesday night.

The 23-year-old won for the second time in his career, edging fellow finalists Adrian Beltre of Texas and Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay. Machado claimed the award as the only player in the majors to play all 162 regular-season games, showing his surgically-repaired knees were healthy with numerous spectacular plays in 2015.

Machado led all AL third basemen in total chances (488), double plays (38), range factor per nine innings (3.09), and range factor per game (3.01), and he finished second in defensive runs saved (14) to only Beltre (18). Though he committed a career-high 21 errors — 19 at the hot corner and two at shortstop — Machado made nine in the first 38 games of the season and just 12 the rest of the way.

In winning his second Gold Glove Award in three years, Machado becomes just the second Orioles third baseman to win multiple times, joining the incomparable Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and his 16 Gold Gloves.

Despite a sizable defensive drop-off in team defense from 2014 to 2015, the Orioles have now won at least one Gold Glove in each of the last five seasons, which is the second-longest streak in club history. Over that time, five different Orioles have won a combined 12 Gold Gloves.

Since the award was created in 1957, 17 different Orioles have claimed a total of 71 Gold Gloves, the most for any AL club and the second most in the majors behind only the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Orioles extend qualifying offers to Wieters, Chen, Davis

Posted on 06 November 2015 by Luke Jones

With free agency officially opening at midnight on Saturday morning, the Orioles face their most critical offseason in recent memory if they plan to remain competitive in 2016 and beyond.

As expected, the club made qualifying offers — one-year, $15.8 million contracts for the 2016 season — to first baseman Chris Davis, starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, and catcher Matt Wieters on Friday afternoon. If any — or all — of the three rejects the offer and signs with another club, the Orioles are then awarded a supplemental first-round pick in the 2016 draft.

A club signing a player who previously rejected a qualifying offer from his original club must then forfeit its first- or second-round pick based on its 2015 record.

The Orioles were always expected to make qualifying offers to Davis and Chen, but there was some doubt as to whether they’d extend one to Wieters. With the 29-year-old catching only 55 games a year removed from Tommy John surgery, some had wondered if the Orioles would refrain in fear of him accepting a hefty one-year salary and impacting the rest of their offseason budget.

However, Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, has been one of the harshest critics of the qualifying offer system, making it unlikely that he would accept one on behalf of his client. Considering Wieters’ heavy workload early in his career and that he’s one of only a handful of major league catchers to have the serious elbow procedure over the years, it will be interesting to see what kind of market exists for the three-time All-Star selection, especially with a club now needing to forfeit a draft draft pick to sign him.

Baltimore has three other free agents — reliever Darren O’Day and outfielders Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce — who did not receive qualifying offers, but the club has expressed interest in re-signing all three.

The Orioles also announced on Friday that they had selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Chris Jones from Triple-A Norfolk. The 27-year-old went 8-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 150 innings last season.

“Chris Jones has compiled two good years at Triple-A since becoming a starter and really improved his control in 2015,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a statement. “By continuing to pitch well in the Dominican Republic this winter, he has earned his spot on the roster.”

This move leaves the Orioles with 36 players on their current 40-man roster.

With a New York state judge throwing out an arbitration decision regarding rights fees owed to the Washington Nationals by Orioles-controlled MASN on Wednesday, many fans hope that means an increase in payroll to re-sign Davis as well and upgrade the starting pitching and outfield situations after Buck Showalter’s club failed to have a winning season for the first time since 2011. However, it remains to be seen if that will have any tangible effect after the Orioles had a payroll just under $119 million on Opening Day, according to Baseball Prospectus.

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Orioles shouldn’t overlook defense entering critical offseason

Posted on 06 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Improving the starting pitching, re-signing Chris Davis, and upgrading corner outfield production top the consensus list of priorities as the Orioles’ offseason needs.

Though maddeningly inconsistent during the 2015 season following the free-agent departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, the Baltimore lineup still produced eight more runs than it did a year ago. A bullpen that didn’t retain postseason standout Andrew Miller finished third in the American League with a 3.21 ERA, only slightly worse than its 3.10 mark in 2014.

But an Orioles starting rotation that finished fifth in the AL with a 3.61 ERA in 2014 was almost a full run worse with a 4.53 mark that ranked 14th out of 15 AL clubs this past season.

That explains much of the Orioles’ drop-off in a nutshell, right?

Not exactly, even if the starting rotation clearly needs to be upgraded this winter.

Below is a look at a mystery team compared to the Orioles in just a few categories with their 2015 AL rankings included in parentheses:

  Mystery team      Orioles
Runs scored       724 (6th)   713 (7th)
Starter ERA   4.34 (12th)   4.53 (14th)
Starter FIP   4.32 (12th)   4.47 (14th)
Quality starts   71 (14th)   72 (11th)
Bullpen ERA   2.72 (1st)   3.21 (3rd)
Bullpen FIP   3.56 (4th)   3.48 (3rd)
Team ERA   3.73 (3rd)   4.05 (8th)
Team FIP   4.04 (6th)   4.11 (10th)

 

Though you’d conclude that the mystery team was better than the Orioles in 2015 — by 14 wins, in fact — the comparison shows two clubs sharing a similar profile in terms of runs scored and a reliance on a strong bullpen to overcome below-average starting pitching. But the smaller gap between these clubs in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) compared to the difference in ERA helps illustrate arguably the biggest difference between the Orioles and the World Series champion Kansas City Royals in 2015.

Defense.

Now, traditional fielding statistics — that don’t take into account factors such as range, arm strength, and an ability to make the more difficult plays — would suggest the Orioles were the best defensive team in the league in 2015 as they committed the fewest errors of any AL club and owned the highest fielding percentage. Meanwhile, the Royals committed 11 more errors and ranked only sixth in fielding percentage.

But a deeper look indicates the Royals were vastly superior to Baltimore in the field, leading the AL with 52 defensive runs saved (numbers constructed by Baseball Info Solutions) while the Orioles finished 11th at minus-9. On their way to its first AL East title in 17 years, Buck Showalter’s club led the league with 50 defensive runs saved a year ago.

This sterling defense in 2014 helped make an average Baltimore starting rotation that owned the 14th-worst FIP (4.18) in the AL one of the league’s best in terms of ERA with a 3.61 mark that ranked fifth. In other words, superb defense helped compensate for starting pitchers who still finished in the bottom third of the AL in strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed.

So, what happened to the defense in 2015?

Using defensive runs saved — only one metric, but viewed by many as a reliable one — below is a position-by-position look at how the Orioles performed in 2014 compared to 2015:

Position    2014    2015    Difference
C    -1    4    +5
1B    15    1    -14
2B    8   -7    -15
3B    6    10    +4
SS    5    -2    -7
LF    7    4    -3
CF    6   -1    -7
RF    5   -8    -13
P   -1   -10    -9

 

According to defensive runs saved, the Orioles improved at only two positions in 2015: catcher and third base. Caleb Joseph starting the majority of the games led to the overall improvement at catcher as he finished second on the club with 12 defensive runs saved in 2015. The overall improvement at the hot corner should come as no surprise with a healthy Manny Machado starting all but six games at third base and leading the club with 13 defensive runs saved overall in 2015.

Based on defensive runs saved, the largest drop-offs occurred at first base, second base, and right field. At first base, the 2015 defense wasn’t atrocious, but it was only average after both Chris Davis and Steve Pearce played superb defense there a year earlier. In 2015, Davis was still better than average (+4), but other options such as Pearce, Ryan Flaherty, and Chris Parmelee were either average or slightly below average at the position. Whether Davis ultimately returns or the Orioles are looking at other options for the position in 2016, they’d clearly prefer a return to 2014 defensive levels at first base.

The dramatic drop-off at second base can mostly be attributed to the long-term knee injury suffered by Jonathan Schoop, who finished with an impressive 10 defensive runs saved as a rookie in 2014. Virtually everyone who played the position this past season — including Schoop (-1) — was either average or below average. Fortunately for the Orioles, it’s reasonable to expect Schoop’s defense to bounce back with a full winter to strengthen his knee, but that will be something worth monitoring early next season.

Of course, right field was manned by the unspectacular but very steady Nick Markakis in 2014, but other options such as Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce also played solid defense in limited opportunities in right. The Orioles’ revolving door at right field in 2015 was nearly as painful in the field as it was at the plate with no one playing good defense including the two-time Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra (minus-7 defensive runs saved) after he was acquired at the trade deadline. The Orioles simply must find a better all-around option in right field than the ones they ran out there in 2015.

Other positions with drop-off can primarily be attributed to starters missing time due to injuries. At shortstop, J.J. Hardy saw his defensive runs saved dip from 10 to four, but the Orioles will only hope the injuries he’s battled the last couple seasons won’t zap his defense as dramatically as his offense.

Despite the Orioles’ overall decrease in center field in 2015, Adam Jones slightly improved in defensive runs saved from a year ago, but his replacements did not play well in the field. Though turning 30 this past year, Jones has a track record of durability that doesn’t make this position much of a concern after a variety of ailments limited him to just 137 games in 2015.

As for defense on the mound, it’s apparent that pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti will need to make improving defense a point of emphasis during spring training. However, it’s worth noting that the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez was the biggest pitching culprit at minus-4 runs saved in 2015 as he is very poor at holding runners on base.

These defensive numbers aren’t to suggest that the Orioles don’t need to improve their starting pitching or go all out to sign Davis or another impact bat or two this winter, but much of their success over the last few seasons can be attributed to exceptional defense, something Showalter’s club did not play in 2015. And given the organization’s track record for not spending big money on free agents, improving the defense at a few positions is probably a more realistic task than overhauling the starting rotation or even re-signing Davis at this point.

Would that alone be enough to make the Orioles a contender?

No, but playing underwhelming defense in 2015 went a long way in exposing a mediocre starting rotation and ultimately leaving the Orioles on the outside looking in for the postseason.

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Machado only Oriole to be named 2015 Gold Glove finalist

Posted on 30 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was named a finalist for a 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove Award on Thursday.

The 23-year-old was the lone Oriole to be named a finalist after the club had claimed three awards in each of the previous three seasons. Machado won the American League Platinum Glove in 2013, an award given to the best overall defensive player in the league.

Adrian Beltre of Texas and Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay are the other two AL finalists at third base. The Gold Glove winners will be announced on Nov. 10.

Though committing a career-high 19 errors at third base — he committed two more at shortstop — Machado remained one of the finest defenders in the AL with 14 defensive runs saved above average and was worth 1.9 defensive wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Those numbers are a drop-off from his 35 defensive runs saved above average and 4.3 defensive WAR in 2013, but they still place him at an elite level.

Beltre committed 17 errors, but his 18 defensive runs saved and 2.3 defensive WAR would appear to give him the edge over Machado from an analytical viewpoint. In contrast, Longoria committed just nine errors in 2015, but his minus-1 runs saved above average and 0.2 defensive WAR reflect him having less range and making less of an overall defensive impact than Beltre or Machado.

As for other Orioles not in consideration at their positions, shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones will have their respective streaks of winning three consecutive Gold Gloves snapped. Both missed time with injuries this season that likely hurt their chances for consideration.

As a club, the Orioles made the fewest number of errors in the AL this year, but they dropped to 11th in defensive runs saved above average with minus-2 after leading the way with 50 a year ago. Baltimore finished eighth in the AL in Baseball Reference’s defensive efficiency mark after finishing third last season.

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Orioles claim right-handed pitcher Worley from Pittsburgh

Posted on 20 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Facing one of their most critical offseasons in recent memory, the Orioles made a minor move Tuesday by claiming right-handed pitcher Vance Worley from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2015, the 28-year-old Worley went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 71 2/3 innings for the Pirates with 15 of his 23 appearances coming in relief. Owning a career 3.79 ERA in parts of six major league seasons, Worley is a depth acquisition who could pitch in relief or possibly compete for the No. 5 starter spot.

His best season came in 2014 when he pitched to a 2.85 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) for the Pirates. Worley also posted a 3.01 ERA in 131 2/3 innings for the Phillies in 2011, but he pitched to a 7.21 ERA in 48 2/3 innings with Minnesota in 2013, his lone season in the American League.

The right-hander has only averaged 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, but his 2.7 walks per nine and 0.8 home runs allowed per nine make him worthy of a look if his financial demands are within reason.

A 2008 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, Worley made $2.45 million this past season and is eligible for arbitration this winter.

To make room for Worley on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Jorge Rondon was designated for assignment.

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Justin McGuire discusses Baltimore Orioles offseason needs

Posted on 19 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Facing many changes, Orioles can only wonder what’s next

Posted on 05 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis hit two home runs, Matt Wieters drove in two runs, and Darren O’Day pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over the New York Yankees on the final day of the 2015 season.

A day earlier, Wei-Yin Chen pitched six solid innings to earn the win.

For their four biggest free agents, the weekend served as a final reminder of just how important they’ve been to the club’s turnaround as the Orioles finished their fourth consecutive non-losing season on Sunday, something they hadn’t done in three decades. Of course, 81 wins in 2015 were disappointing after 96 victories and an American League East title a year ago, but even a .500 standard felt unreachable just five years ago when Buck Showalter first arrived.

Now, it’s considered a failure.

“Every time there’s the first hint of fall in the air, I want people to think about playoff baseball and the World Series,” said Showalter, who managed Sunday’s game after his mother passed away on Saturday. “That’s why we get up in the morning, that’s why you go to spring training, that’s why you do the things we’re going to do between now and next February. We’re not giving in.

“It’s not good enough though. It’s not good enough. [A record of] 81-81 ain’t good enough. We’re trying to win. We want to be the last team standing, the last city standing. Our city deserves that.”

By now, no one should doubt Showalter leading the way in the dugout, but even the most optimistic fans are questioning the future after the Orioles posted the best record in the AL over the last four seasons with a .543 winning percentage. With so many pending free agents and the Orioles’ offseason track record, many doubt whether 81 wins will even be a reasonable goal for the 2016 club without ownership making significant financial commitments.

The general consensus is that the Orioles will survive without Wieters, who still hasn’t proven he can be an everyday catcher again after last year’s Tommy John surgery. For a fraction of the price, Caleb Joseph can provide respectable offense and better defense than Wieters at this stage of his career.

But replacing the other big-ticket free agents is a different story.

Davis just led the majors in home runs for the second time in three years and has clubbed 159 over his four full seasons in Baltimore. It’s the kind of power rarely seen in this pitching-rich era of baseball, but are the Orioles willing to offer a nine-figure contract to even sit down at the negotiating table with agent Scott Boras?

We know what history says until executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and owner Peter Angelos prove us wrong. If not, the Orioles will be allowing a major league home run champion to depart for a second consecutive winter.

Though far from an ace, Chen was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher in 2015 with a career-best 3.34 ERA. The 30-year-old lefty has never pitched 200 innings in a season and will likely command more money than he’s worth as a middle-of-the-rotation starter on the open market, but Baltimore lacks the pitching depth to replace him from within like the best organizations will often do. For a club that finished 14th in the AL in starter ERA and gave up 100 more runs than it did a year ago, replacing Chen will be much more difficult than letting him leave.

And then there’s O’Day, who was claimed off waivers after the 2011 season and has been the backbone of the Orioles’ biggest strength over the last four years. The right-hander just made 68 or more appearances for the fourth consecutive season and lowered his ERA each year. Rarely is it wise to spend significant money on relievers, but the 32-year-old has arguably been the best non-closer relief pitcher in the majors over the last four years. Baltimore has other young relievers such as Brad Brach and Mychal Givens who pitched well in 2015, but weakening the club’s biggest strength would be a dangerous proposition.

The Orioles will also need to make decisions on the likes of Gerardo Parra, Steve Pearce, and Nolan Reimold as they try to fix the corner outfield spots that were a disaster in 2015. Parra disappointed after being acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline while Pearce and Reimold should only be viewed as reserves at most.

Reinforcements in the minors appear few and far between at this point as outfielder Dariel Alvarez and first baseman Christian Walker barely garnered a look in September promotions. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson may eventually settle into bullpen roles, but neither are viable options to pencil into the 2016 starting rotation if the Orioles have visions of contending. Oft-injured pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is out of minor-league options next year, but to expect anything more than a bullpen role for him to begin 2016 would be foolish.

The harsh truth is that the aforementioned decisions all involve players who were already part of a .500 club. The goal is to be better than 81-81, right?

For example, even if the Orioles were to re-sign Davis, O’Day, and Parra, what do they do to improve their starting rotation and the other outfield spot flanking Adam Jones in center?

Improving from .500 in 2016 will also depend on at least a few incumbents bouncing back from underwhelming seasons. Starting pitchers Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez were clear disappointments while the 24-year-old Kevin Gausman didn’t take the step forward you would have liked to see. Given the track records of the previous three seasons for Tillman and Gonzalez and the potential of Gausman, it’s probably reasonable to expect at least two of those three to be better in 2016 than they were this season.

But that still leaves an open rotation spot and doesn’t even consider the enigma that is Ubaldo Jimenez, who has two years remaining on his $50 million contract. To be serious about contending in 2016, the Orioles need to find another starter to at least slot into the top half of the rotation and should probably add another arm to compete for the No. 5 spot at the very least.

Easier said than done.

More improvement from within is always possible as the Orioles hope that shortstop J.J. Hardy can be better at the plate after playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder all season. Even a return to his 2014 production would be welcomed after Hardy was a liability at the plate with a career-worst .564 on-base plus slugging percentage this year.

Can Jonathan Schoop be even better have improving his OPS from .598 as a rookie to .788 this season?

Is there yet another level for the 23-year-old Manny Machado to climb after he already became one of the best players in baseball this year? It’d be unfair to expect that, but he’s certainly a special talent.

Many questions and few answers for the Orioles as they potentially say goodbye to a number of key contributors from the last four years while exploring ways to not only fill those voids but improve from an 81-81 record in 2015. And that’s not even taking into account the concerns surrounding the working relationship of Duquette and Showalter.

No, the Orioles reaching the .500 mark in Sunday’s finale wasn’t the end goal they had in mind.

But you wonder whether they can even reach that plateau next year with such an uncertain offseason ahead.

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Despite vote, Machado was real Most Valuable Oriole in 2015

Posted on 02 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis had an exceptional 2015 campaign for the Orioles.

Leading the majors with 45 home runs and ranking fourth with 112 RBIs entering the weekend, the first baseman would have been the obvious choice as Most Valuable Oriole in most seasons. Despite being named just that by the local media on Friday, Davis wasn’t the club’s most valuable commodity this season.

That distinction belonged to All-Star third baseman Manny Machado.

While Davis may have edged Machado as the club’s best offensive player, the 23-year-old infielder did it all for the Orioles at the plate, in the field, and even on the bases as the biggest positive in an otherwise disappointing season for the 2014 American League East champions.

Machado entered the weekend ranked second on the club with 33 homers and tied for second with 82 RBIs. His .287 batting average and .360 on-base percentage lead the club while Davis has hit .258 with a .355 OBP. In other words, you can make a sound argument that Machado wasn’t terribly far behind the first baseman as Baltimore’s best offensive player.

And considering the Orioles lacked a true leadoff hitter all season, Machado did an admirable job in the top spot in the order, hitting .300 with an .877 on-base plus slugging percentage in 111 games there this season. He’s also the only player in all of baseball to play in each of his team’s games in 2015, an impressive feat after undergoing two serious knee surgeries in the last two years.

But the third baseman’s value goes far beyond his bat when you consider his superb defense — 1.8 defensive wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference — and 20 stolen bases to lead the club. In contrast, Baseball Reference says Davis was worth minus-0.8 wins defensively while the slugger stole only two bases.

There’s no arguing that Davis displayed superior home run power this season, but the difference in RBIs is something that needs to be examined further. Considering he hit leadoff for much of the season and suffered from the woes experienced at the bottom of the lineup, one could argue that Machado’s 82 RBIs are as impressive as Davis’ 112 as the latter remained in the heart of the order all season. Through the first 159 games of the season, Machado received 55 fewer plate appearances with men on base and 32 fewer plate appearances with runners in scoring position than Davis.

According to Baseball Reference, Machado was worth 6.9 wins above replacement while Davis owned a 4.6 WAR.

The voting by local media likely reflects the difference in opinion in the value of RBIs, which remain the Cadillac of old-school baseball statistics but are viewed by modern stat-heads as a reflection of a batter’s opportunities more than his true run-producing ability. If you’re all about home runs and RBIs, Davis was your guy in 2015 and he certainly performed at a high level in what could be his last season with the Orioles.

But if you dig deeper and recognize the value Machado brought to all phases of the game, he was the rightful choice as Most Valuable Oriole this season.

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Bob Nightengale discusses Orioles offseason expectations

Posted on 30 September 2015 by WNST Staff

 

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Tom Gatto talks Baltimore Orioles with season winding down

Posted on 28 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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