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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Neglect of International Market is Staggering

head shots of dan duquette with orioles manager

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The Orioles have been a team this season that continually finds new and innovative ways to disappoint. This past week, however, they went back to an old faithful way to disappoint.

https://twitter.com/BaseballAmerica/status/882403795594096644

The lack of attention that the O’s put into the international market is officially staggering. This season alone, the Birds have made a number of trades that shipped away international bonus slots, or “pool money” as it were. According to Baseball America, the O’s were among the teams with the most international pool money to spend at $5.75 million. Yet to this point, there aren’t any known international acquisitions the Orioles have made since the signing period opened up this past Sunday.

The most recent trade came down yesterday, when the O’s acquired 21-year-old Milton Ramos, a shortstop from the Mets. He’s headed to Single-A Delmarva. They’ve previously acquired relievers Jason Wheeler from the Dodgers and Matt Wotherspoon from the Yankees in the same manner. Both pitchers are in Triple-A, and neither carry much potential going forward. They also previously acquired Damien Magnifico, Paul Fry and Alex Katz by giving up international money.

It’s almost as if the Orioles want nothing to do with the international market, a method that has many questioning just what on Earth they are thinking. It’s a well-known fact that the Orioles don’t have much of a farm system. For years now, they’ve only been filling up the sink with one faucet, when there’s another perfectly good faucet that they could turn on.

I’m not saying the quality of the water in the other faucet is any better than the one they are using, but it would at least fill up the sink quicker. Baseball prospects are an incredibly fickle bunch. Some hit, and most don’t. But why aren’t the Orioles buying up as many lottery tickets as they can? Just because not all of them will be winners, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep scratching the tickets.

It’s even more puzzling when you step back and realize that the lone All-Star representative for the Orioles this season will be a player they signed on the international market in 2008, which brings us to our next topic…

2. I wrote at length earlier this week about Jonathan Schoop’s All-Star Game nod over at MASNSports.com. The only real other thing that needs to be said about Schoop is that he’s an important player to watch in the second half of the season. With all the negatives surrounding this team in 2017, ensuring that Schoop’s first half wasn’t only a first half burst is important. If he starts to slump in August or September, it could go a long way into our continuing doom as Orioles fans.

On the other hand, Schoop continuing to emerge and show himself as an All-Star caliber player even beyond this season would go a long way toward making him an Oriole long term. In a season that appears to be going down the tube quickly, that could be a decent consolation prize.

3. It was really nice seeing Zach Britton back on the major league mound last night. His season has quite obviously been a disaster thus far (just ask my fantasy team), but there’s still time for him to rescue the bullpen. Without Britton as the anchor this year, the O’s have fallen to a below average relief unit. They’re 18th in bullpen ERA this season.

Now obviously, the struggles of the bullpen can’t all be placed on Britton’s left arm. There have been struggles at times from Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens and Brad Brach. Not to mention the number of other pitchers who have been tasked with being on the Norfolk shuttle. But there’s no question that Britton’s absence played a role. It seemed to set off a chain reaction when he was injured, and it’s been a boat that has been off course ever since.

What’s even more important than Britton steadying the bullpen is his health. It’s crucial that he pitch the rest of the season without any elbow issues. That’s the only way he’s going to re-up his value to potential trade partners. That’s not to say the Orioles must trade him this offseason, but it would at least give them the leverage and option to do so.

If a re-build is coming, it could start with the closer.

4. The only thing (and I mean only thing) keeping every single Orioles fan from wanting the team to sell, is the fact that they are just a handful of games out of a playoff spot. In fact, the worst team in the American League is the Oakland Athletics, and they are just 7.5 games out of the Wild Card. That may seem like a lot, but in early July it means there’s still time. The AL is a muddled mess this season. Outside of the Astros, no team is absolutely killing it. Houston will coast into the postseason by winning the AL West, probably by at least ten games. Every other team is going to have to work for it.

But the truth of the matter is that because there are so many teams in it, it makes the chances of the Orioles being one of those playing in October even smaller. It’s all fine and dandy to look up and see yourself just three or four games out of that second Wild Card position, but the Orioles aren’t playing remotely close to that well. It’s going to take the Orioles rattling off something like 17 out of 23 wins in order to really make an impression that they can be a winning ballclub.

If they can’t manage to do that, there’s no chance they are separating themselves in this league right now.

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Our 2017 BEVy Categories

BEVY awards 2017

It’s time once again for the All-Star Break, which means that it’s also, for the fifth year running, time for Bird’s Eye View’s BEVy Awards!

Our categories have been the same since 2013 – The Forgotten Man Award and the “Why Are You Breaking My Heart Like This, Just Let Me Love You!” Award.

Our previous winners:

Forgotten Man

2013 – Alex Burnett

2014 – Ramon Ramirez

2015 – Cesar Cabral

2016 – Francisco Pena

“Why Are You Breaking My Heart Like This, Just Let Me Love You!”

2013 – Jim Johnson

2014 – Chris Davis

2015 – Chris Tillman

2016 – Kevin Gausman

We always name this year’s award after the previous winner. With that in mind, your nominees are…

 

Francisco Pena Memorial Forgotten Man Award

Kinda sad that last year’s winner of this award could again be a nominee, given the nature of the honor. We could probably have just renamed this year’s “The Norfolk Shuttle” Award. However, some of those guys are likely to be up and down again very soon, so you’ll remember them just because you’re forced to watch them implode so very many times! Anywho…the nominees!

Edwin Jackson – The savvy veteran who was to stabilize the bullpen at first, and THEN maybe even a rotation spot! HA! Edwin tossed 5.0 innings of “relief,” allowing four runs on 11 hits, with four walks and two dingers thrown in, before being sent to the big DFA in the sky.

Oliver Drake – Ol’ Ollie was allowed to hang around for just 3.1 innings this year, during which he allowed three earned on six hits. He was out of options, which makes him persona non grata in Dan Duquette’s eyes. The former Midshipman with the funky delivery is now in Milwaukee.

David Washington – Washington got the call-up over Pedro Alvarez (for some reason) when Chris Davis hit the DL, and struck out five times in six at-bats before being sent back to Norfolk. And this after he did his best Davis impression! Not fair, man.

Francisco Pena – Frankie has played in five games, memorably hitting the crap out of the ball during that nightmare Mother’s Day weekend series in Kansas City. He was then DFA’d only to clear waivers and be outrighted to Norfolk. Should Welington Castillo be moved this month, Pena would likely split the catching duties with Caleb Joseph for the rest of the season, one would expect.

Which 2017 Oriole are you most likely to forget all about?
Edwin Jackson
Oliver Drake
David Washington
Francisco Pena
View Result

 

The Kevin Gausman “Why Are You Breaking My Heart Like This, Just Let Me Love You!” Award

Manny Machado – Even having Manny listed here already makes him the most heartbreaking nominee in the history of the Heartbreaker award. That he’s the odds-on favorite to win it? Orange soul crushing. It’s July, and Manny is hitting a dismal .215/.284/.420. His wRC+ is just 81 (it was 97 as a rookie in 2012), he seems determined to stick with his “hit everything to the moon” approach, and every time it looks like he might be ready to break out of it, he goes into another extended 0-fer. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing? None of this is making his pricetag drop much.

Kevin Gausman – Though he has turned in consecutive scoreless starts, and has hopefully turned a corner, Gausman was a huge disappointment in the season’s first half. 5-7 with a 5.61 ERA from your opening day starter? Yuck. Go deeper, and it just gets worse: A 4.93 FIP, 5.04 xFIP, 4.16 BB/9, and just 93.0 innings pitched over 18 starts. Can Gausman be our first back-to-back winner? Earning this honor seemed to give him just the kick in the pants he needed to turn it around in the second half last season, so maybe you should #VoteKevin.

J.J. Hardy – The guy who used to elicit a fun call-and-response from Oriole Park PA announcer Ryan Wagner and the fans is but a shell of his former self. .211/.248/.308 and a 43 wRC+, and now an injury that’s kept him out since mid-June, and will continue to do so through at least the All-Star break. Hardy’s swan song in orange and black isn’t shaping up the way anybody would have liked.

Chris Tillman – Hey look, more disappointing starting pitchers! #ThatsSoOs, amirite? Tilly missed the first month, came back and earned a shaky win in his first start, and has been a proverbial dumpster fire ever since. 1-5, 7.90 ERA, 6.25 FIP, 5.63 xFIP, 4.78 BB/9 and just 6.61 K/9. The silver lining? The O’s haven’t extended him yet! Unlike Manny, Tilly is absolutely costing himself $$ every time out.

Which Oriole has broken your heart the most in 2017?
Manny Machado
Kevin Gausman
J.J. Hardy
Chris Tillman
View Result
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Series Preview: Orioles (40-41) @ Brewers (44-40)

Bernie's sliding board at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

After wrapping up their last home stand of the first half with a massive 7-1 win on Sunday versus the Rays, the Orioles will look to hit the break on a high note during their upcoming seven-game, two-legged tour through the great lakes region.

Before ending the first half in Minneapolis, the Orioles first order of business is a three-night stay in Milwaukee against the NL Central-leading Brewers.

The Orioles (40-41) will head into the Cream City currently in fourth place in the division and have seen the gap between them and the first place Red Sox grow to 6.5-games, but they remain just a game and a half out of a wild card spot despite their subpar first half performance. The sailing has been anything but smooth over the past two months, but the Orioles have weathered the storm and their vital signs remain intact as we approach the Mid-Summer Classic.

The Orioles struggles this season have mainly occurred while on the road as they own just a 15-25 record away from Camden Yards, and they’ve gone just 8-19 while on tour since the start of May. However, after going 4-2 during their latest intercontinental road trip at the end of June, it looks as if the Orioles may have broken the curse.

The Brewers (44-40) currently own a two-game lead over the reigning world champion Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, much to the surprise of just about everyone. They’ve done so by not only boasting the NL’s fifth-best offense (4.8 runs per game) and an NL-leading 127 home runs and 70 stolen bases, but they’ve been balanced out by an above average pitching staff. While their 23-23 record at home isn’t exactly glamorous, they’ve started to heat up at Miller Park with a 9-6 record over their last fifteen games in the Brew City.

The upcoming three-game set versus the Brewers will mark the third time that the Orioles have visited Miller Park since 2008. During their last trip to Wisconsin in May 2014, the Brewers took two of three against their inter-league visitors. During inter-league play this season, the Orioles own the upper hand with an 8-3 record while their hosts are 4-3.

Will the Orioles continue their dominance versus the National League, or will the surprise first place hosts continue to turn heads?

Only time will reveal the answer. Let’s look at the starters.

 

Game One

Wade Miley (3-6, 4.54 ERA) will take the mound against Brent Suter (0-1, 4.20 ERA) in the today’s series opener.

Miley wasn’t exactly impressive during his last outing versus Toronto in which he allowed three runs on six hits over five innings, and control remains an issue for the Orioles southpaw. Over his last five starts, Miley has recorded a 1-3 record along with a 9.58 ERA.  However, Miley’s struggles have been magnified on the road. Over eight starts at home, he’s 2-3 with a rock-solid 3.60 ERA. Over eight starts away from Camden Yards, Miley is just 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA.

Suter, 27, will be filling in for the recently injured Chase Anderson. The Chicago native and Harvard alum will be making his first start since allowing three runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings against St. Louis on June 13th. The southpaw got the nod over Paolo Espino and former Orioles prospect Josh Hader, who’s thrown 9 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Brewers since making his MLB debut on June 10th.

 

Game Two

Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 6.48 ERA) will look to shine again versus Jimmy Nelson (6-4, 3.43 ERA) on Independence Day.

Jimenez was incredible versus the Blue Jays during his last outing in which he allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings. The Orioles sporadic hurler has now pitched seven-plus innings while allowing four hits or less and two runs or less in two of his last three starts.

Nelson has been on fire for quite some time now, and he kept it rolling during his last start versus the Reds by allowing just two runs on three hits over seven stellar innings. The 28-year-old Oregon native recorded a stellar 2.28 ERA over five starts in May and then followed up by posting an impressive 2.88 ERA over six starts in June. Over nine starts at Miller Park, Nelson has gone 3-3 with a filthy 2.64 ERA.

 

Game Three

Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.90 ERA) will get the nod versus former Oriole killer Matt Garza (3-4, 4.26 ERA) in the series finale on Tuesday. (Note: The recently promoted Jayson Aquino will get the start if Tillman goes on paternity leave before Tuesday).

Tillman has gone through a real-life nightmare so far during the 2017 campaign. Over his last eight starts, he’s gone 0-5 with a 9.89 ERA. Over his last five outings, he’s gone 0-2 with a 11.25 ERA. To make matters worse for the Orioles struggling veteran, he’s winless on the road this season over four starts and has notched a woeful 12.33 ERA in the process. Hopefully, his last start versus Tampa in which he allowed just two runs on seven hits over five innings will provide the spark going forward.

Garza hasn’t produced the goods as of late, and has won just once over his last eight starts. Over five contests in June, the Brewers veteran recorded a 1-2 record along with a 4.97 ERA. He also owns a mortal 4.71 ERA over seven starts at Miller Park this season. The bad news for the Orioles, however, is that the former Tampa Bay Ray owns an amazing 9-1 record and an impressive 3.11 ERA over thirteen career starts against the Birds.

That’s it for now, Orioles nation!

And Happy Birthday America!

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Monday’s O’s Links: Congrats to Johnny Beisbol!

Jonathan Schoop smiles during Spring Training 2015.

The O’s managed to avoid a sweep with a win Sunday, quite a disappointment to a series that began with them being just a strike away from a comeback win on Friday night, only to see Brad Brach and Darren O’Day blow it. They now head out on a seven-game road trip to finish the first half. Here’s hoping they can continue the road form they showed in Tampa and Toronto in Milwaukee and Minnesota.

The Orioles Offense is Not Good

Nate DeLong of Camden Depot has the ugly stats on the Birds’ very disappointing offense, which was supposed to be a lot better than this. It doesn’t help when your highest-paid player is on the shelf, and your most talented one is barely hitting his weight, of course.

Schoop Gets All-Star Nod

“My head’s started spinning. I’m so happy, excited and I work hard,” Schoop said. “For me, for myself and to make my team better. It means a lot for me and for my family.” Awesome.

Schoop’s All-Star Nod is Well-Deserved

ESR’s Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, has more on Schoop emerging from such a deep pool of AL second basemen, and how the Birds really need to try to lock him up.

Cody Sedlock Placed on DL with Elbow Flexor Strain

This is my surprised face.

Orioles Want to Buy…but Why Should They?

Maybe Kevin Gausman really does turn it around in the second half. Maybe Manny Machado remembers that he’s one of the most talented players on the planet, and starts to hit like it again. Maybe Zach Britton comes back and shows his 2016 form. And maybe Dan Duquette can find some odd piece to plug in and complete the whole package into a World Series contender. But does anybody really see all of those pieces falling into place?

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The Rundown: Kevin Gausman Finally Turns a Corner

Kevin Gausman congratulated by teammates entering the dugout

The Orioles have reached the halfway point of their season with a 40-41 record. The O’s were pretty much a .500 team in the second half of last year after finishing their first 81 games with a 47-34 record. The positive is they can easily go on a run and make the playoffs again, but the negative is for the last 162 games, they have been an average baseball team.

The struggling Wade Miley will look to bounce back with the O’s heading to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers to start the final week of the first half.

Gausman Finally Pitching Well

After struggling for much of the season, Kevin Gausman is finally looking like the pitcher that finished the 2016 campaign strong and entered 2017 with so much promise. I don’t know if it’s because he moved his position on the rubber or if he has more feel for his pitches like his split-fingered fastball, but the results have been encouraging. I don’t accept his reasoning of just getting better as the season progresses. If that is the case, then he needs to change his workouts in the off-season to make sure he’s ready.

I will point out that he has thrown his splitter at least 19 percent of the time in his last four starts with a season high 28.6 percent against the Rays Sunday, when he was lights out. However, like with most pitchers, it’s all about getting ahead of hitters and Gausman threw first pitch strikes 68% of the time against the Rays. If the Orioles are going to be more cautious with Dylan Bundy in the second half, they need Gausman to continue to pitch like he has over his last three starts.

 

Update on First Two 2016 Draft Picks

This is why organizations stock pile arms, as health is always a risk. The O’s 2016 first-round selection Cody Sedlock has been shut down due to a flexor strain in his right forearm. We have been down this path before multiple times over the years with the most recent including Bundy and Hunter Harvey. Obviously, we hope for the best, but we usually know the eventual outcome with injuries like this.

On the flip side, it appears their second-round selection in that same draft has started to pitch like the organization envisioned. Outside of allowing six earned runs in his first start of the season and seven earned runs on May 22, left-hander Keegan Akin has not allowed more than three earned runs in his other starts for the Frederick Keys. This also includes not allowing more than two earned runs in his last six starts with four of those starts being shutouts.

Akin has a 3.51 ERA on the season and during what has been an organization-wide disappointment in pitching, Akin has at least separated himself from the pack.

Orioles Trade Two More International Slots

There really isn’t much more to say about the Orioles philosophy when it comes to international spending as the local and national media has addressed the issue. It makes no sense, especially when I’m reading about the other teams in the American League East being active. I don’t get it, but I hope the strategy works in the long-term. I don’t think it will, but I find it incredibly ironic that their lone All-Star in 2017 is a player they acquired internationally.

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Week in Review: Hanging In There

Buck Showalter looks out from the dugout.

Again, some are quick to forget that we have just hit the half way point of the 2017 campaign. The All-Star break is still a week away, and guess what?

Despite the topsy-turvy roller coaster that the Orioles have been on this season, they remain just a game and a half out of the playoff picture and will head into their last road trip of the first half just a game under .500. Believe it or not, things could be a whole lot worse.

And despite almost getting swept in front of their own fans by the visiting Rays this weekend, they’ve finally broken the curse that has plagued them on the road this season by winning two straight road series after going two months without winning a single one. Small victories add up.

Yes, it is 100% factual that this Orioles squad is flawed. Their starting pitching leaves much to be desired, their strung-out bullpen is showing signs of early-season abuse, and their offense is as bipolar as Gordon Ramsay’s temper.

But despite all of this, they haven’t given in. They are still very much in the fight, and they will continue to be due to what’s beneath that orange cursive “Orioles” lettering on their chest.

You can either go through this season being cynical, or you can pipe down and enjoy the ride. It’s as simple as that.

I suggest you buckle up…Nobody likes a J.J. Redick-esque cry baby after all.

Now, that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s break down the past week of Orioles baseball.

 

Notes

– The starting pitching was in fact amazing this week. They posted a stellar 1.47 ERA over 18 1/3 innings in Toronto and then followed up by notching a solid 3.94 ERA over 16 innings versus the Rays. Add it up, and the Orioles starters finished the week with a sensational 2.62 ERA over 34 1/3 innings.

– If you take away Alec Asher‘s terrible performance on Saturday, the Orioles bullpen has also stepped up as of late. They posted an impressive 2.19 ERA over 12 1/3 innings in Tampa and a miniscule 1.17 ERA in Toronto before this weekend rolled around. Even after struggling at home over the last three nights, the O’s relievers have posted a solid 3.94 ERA over their last nine games and 32 innings of work.

On the flip side, if you take away Sunday’s seven-run showing, the bats have disappeared lately.

– The Orioles hitters managed to hit just .206 in Toronto while scoring a paltry combined total of five runs over three games. They then followed up by hitting just .200 as a unit versus Tampa Bay, but managed to push across fourteen runs along with five homers.

– Over the last six contests, the Orioles sluggers are hitting just .203 as a team and have barely averaged three runs per game (19 total). They’re hitting just .226 with runners in scoring position during that span.

– Over the last thirteen games, the Orioles are batting .238 at the plate with 50 runs (3.8 per game) on fifteen homers. They’re hitting a lowly .210 with runners in scoring position over that stretch.

Lastly, let’s get to the fun part. Onto the ”Three Stars” of the week!

 

Third Star

Jonathan Schoop. After being the only hitter to really do anything in Toronto, Schoop finished the three-game clash in Ontario 4-for-11 with an RBI before following up by launching his 16th home run and recording his team-leading 51st RBI on Saturday versus Tampa. Over his last seventeen games, Schoop is hitting a stellar .306 with five homers and fifteen RBI.

While his week wasn’t as glamorous as his entire season, Schoop gets the third star of the week in honor of his very first All-Star game selection! No one on the team deserves it more than the Orioles star second baseman, and that’s a fact. He’s finally being recognized for his excellence.

 

Second Star

Ubaldo Jimenez. Coming off his career-worst start two weekends ago in Tampa, Jimenez bounced back in resilient and dominating fashion versus the Blue Jays in the series finale on Thursday.

Jimenez spun an absolute gem to the tune of allowing just two hits over eight stellar shutout innings while walking one and striking out eight.

In case anyone was wondering, it was the best start by an Orioles pitcher since Jason Hammel spun a one-hit complete game shutout versus Atlanta in June 2012.

 

First Star

Kevin Gausman. Gausman’s struggles during the 2017 campaign have been well-documented, and with an 0-3 record and an 8.03 ERA through four starts in June going into his bout versus the Jays in Ontario, few expected it to turn around soon, if at all this season.

How did Gausman respond that night? By holding the Jays to just four hits over 5 1/3 shutout innings in his first win since May 31st. Upon returning home, Gausman would then orchestrate a total gem on Sunday versus the Rays by allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings while walking just two and striking out nine.

If you were keeping score at home, Gausman gets the first star of the week after winning both of his starts while allowing just six hits over 12 1/3 shutout innings along with thirteen strikeouts.

It looks like the ”Gas Man” is back.

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#Staturday: Ubaldo Jimenez Joins Elite O’s Company

Ubaldo JImenez prepares to wind up.

Happy Staturday Birdland! It’s been a fun, Jay-defeating, week of baseball. Let’s get to some stats!

This week the Orioles won a three game series against the Blue Jays, continuing a few impressive trends:

After winning on Thursday, the Orioles are 9-3 against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017.

The Orioles are 25-19 against AL East teams in 2017.

Believe or not, Ubaldo Jimenez threw an impressive game on Thursday:

Ubaldo joined Mike Mussina and Erik Bedard as the only Orioles with two or more starts throwing 8 or more strikeouts, 0 earned runs, 2 or fewer hits, and 1 or 0 walks.

Random stats are always fun and that’s how we’ll end this week:

On Wednesday, the Orioles were 81-81 with a -81 run differential over their last 162 games.

For more stats like these, follow @BirdlandStats on Twitter.

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Series Preview: Orioles (39-39) vs. Rays (41-40)

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb pitches.

After banking two huge series wins on the road over the past week, the Orioles will look to continue their recent run of good form in their last home stand before the All-Star break versus Tampa Bay.

This weekend’s three-game clash will feature the third installment of the Orioles-Rays rivalry this season, and will determine whether the Orioles move up to third in the division or remain in fourth place before they head out to Milwaukee.

The Orioles (39-39) enter tonight’s match-up just 4.5-games off the pace of the first place Red Sox and remain only a game and a half out of the playoff picture. After going 4-2 over their latest two-legged road trip, the Orioles have upped their record this month to 12-15 as we head into the final contest of June. They also have notched an impressive 25-18 record versus the division on the year to date and own a stellar 24-14 mark in front of their loyal fans at Camden Yards.

The Rays (41-40) remain in third place in the division and just four games out of first place despite going 2-4 over their last six games. Their recent drop-off in form has resulted in the visitors going below .500 on the month at 12-13, while they have also been hindered by a subpar 15-19 record against the AL East. A 17-22 record away from Tropicana Field hasn’t helped their cause either, and that has been marred by a 4-8 record on the road in the month of June.

Going into the third set of the in-division showdown this year, the Orioles own a 4-2 advantage over their visitors. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Orioles have dominated the Rays to the tune of a 17-8 record overall along with a 9-3 record versus their Floridian rivals at OPACY during that span.

Will the Orioles continue that trend, or will their visitors send them closer to the cellar?

We’re about to find out… Let’s take a look at the starters.

 

Game One

Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA) will take the mound versus Jacob Faria (3-0, 2.10 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

After allowing four runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings during his last start in Tampa, Tillman will be looking for revenge against the same club in his own ballpark. Tillman has yet to get his season on track as he owns an 0-5 record with a 10.99 ERA over his last seven outings. Over his last four starts, Tillman has gone 0-2 with a horrible 13.80 ERA.

Faria allowed three runs on five hits over six innings during his first career start against the Birds last weekend, but still recorded his fourth straight quality start to begin his MLB career. The Rays 23-year-old standout rookie has allowed just six runs over his first 25 2/3 innings of his career while posting an amazing 29:5 K:BB ratio. The Rays seem to have another homegrown stud.

Game Two

Dylan Bundy (8-6, 3.73 ERA) will take the hill against Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 4.00 ERA) on Saturday.

Bundy finally bounced back into form by holding the Rays to just three runs on five hits over seven innings last weekend, and will look to do the same again this weekend. Over five starts this month, Bundy owns a 2-3 record and a 5.93 ERA. This will also mark Bundy’s ninth start at Camden Yards this season, and the Orioles ace owns a 4-3 record and a 3.26 ERA at home on the year.

After allowing four runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Orioles during his last outing, Odorizzi now sports a 5.61 ERA over five starts this month. In six starts on the road this season, he’s posted a 1-1 record and a 4.81 ERA. To make matters even worse for Odorizzi, he’s gone just 3-4 with a 5.26 ERA over fourteen career starts against the Birds.

 

Game Three

Kevin Gausman (4-7, 6.07 ERA) will get the nod in the series finale versus Alex Cobb (6-5, 3.73 ERA).

Gausman turned in an impressive outing during his last start against the Blue Jays by allowing just four hits over 5 1/3 shutout innings. He sported an 0-3 record and an 8.02 ERA over four starts in June prior to that. In nine starts at Camden Yards this season, Gausman has gone 2-3 with a 5.05 ERA.

[Related: Rick Dempsey on Gausman – He Doesn’t Think Things Through Enough]

Cobb was dominant during his last start versus Pittsburgh and allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings. Over his last three starts, Cobb has recorded a stellar 1.66 ERA. To make matters worse for the Orioles, Cobb has posted a 4-1 record along with a sensational 2.00 ERA over nine career outings versus the Birds.

 

That’s it for now, everyone! Enjoy the weekend!!!

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Dempsey on Gausman: He Doesn’t Think Things Through Enough

Kevin Gausman hands the ball to Buck Showalter as he walks off the mound.

Kevin Gausman has been, unequivocally, a disappointment here in 2017. Though he’s shown signs of potentially turning a corner over his last two starts (combined 11.0 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 13 K), his numbers for the season are certainly not what anybody had in mind from the guy who was supposed to take the next step and anchor the rotation in 2017.

To wit:

4-7, 86.0 IP, 117 H, 58 ER, 41 BB, 67 K, 6.07 ERA.

If you prefer the more advanced version, he’s sporting a 5.19 FIP and a 5.20 xFIP, both easily career worsts.

Volumes have been written, by some very smart folks, already this season, trying to figure out what his problem is. We’ve heard all the potential culprits: he’s not using his splitter enough. He’s not locating his fastball. He still doesn’t have an MLB-caliber breaking pitch. He’s just getting unlucky (.369 BABIP!). He doesn’t have a put-away pitch.

Even if ALL of those things were going wrong to various degrees, a 6.07 ERA  for someone with Kevin’s talent is just mind-boggling.

MASN Orioles announcer, 1983 World Series MVP, and everyone’s favorite silly Uncle, Rick Dempsey, has his own thoughts on Gausman’s regression. Speaking on The Glenn Clark Show today, Demper said that he doesn’t love Gausman’s approach, and wishes he would work on his curveball more.

“He’s just not getting himself in a position to be successful,” Rick said,” and it comes from making the same mistakes over and over again, and thinking there’s going to be a new result.”

“Two strikes-no balls, two strikes-one ball, you’ve got a pitcher behind the eight ball. [If you’re a hitter], you’ve got him in the palm of your hand, and somehow…he just can’t find a way to close that out…that’s what really hurts, to see a guy with that much talent not be dominant in those situations.”

Our eyes tell us that Kevin has indeed been very bad when ahead in the count. Let’s see just how bad.

Via Baseball-Reference, Gausman has had 32 AB this year end on the next pitch with the count 0-2. Here are the results:

.313/.313 (no walks, obviously)/.500. 10 H, 14 K, 2 HR.

That’s right, opposing batters are batting .313 against him when the count is 0-2.

He’s had 77 more AB end later in the count, after being up 0-2. Those results:

.347/.364/.520. 4 2B, 3 HR, 2 BB, 26 K

And in any count where he is ahead:

.348/.350/.487, 4 HR

Yeah, that’s awful! Spot on, Rick.

However, Rick doesn’t lay 100% of the blame on Gausman.

“It takes a lot of concentration, maybe on the part of the catcher also, to make suggestions that are going to help this kid get deep in ballgames.”

Rick says that if he were catching, one of those suggestions would be the breaking ball in the dirt.

“He hasn’t tried it one time in the last four years that he’s been getting an opportunity to start. 0-2, he has not thrown that ball in the dirt not one time…why wouldn’t Kevin want to do that?

“He tries to pitch up in the strike zone, and he gets himself in trouble.”

Is Gausman’s breaking ball good enough to get batters to bite, though? Rick doesn’t put much stock in that part of the equation.

“It doesn’t matter!” Rick insisted. “I caught 27 years, 24 years in the big leagues, and there were guys out there who didn’t have good curveballs…I don’t care if it’s a crummy curveball or not, it’s slower than his slider. His slider you can identify a lot quicker than you can the curveball…so if he goes out and practices throwing a slow curveball, whether or not it’s a good one, but that’s a foot or two in front of home plate? You’re gonna get a lot of guys to swing at that pitch. I did it for year after year after year. That’s how you present a third or fourth best pitch.”

Having listened to Gausman in interviews since he was drafted in 2012, I had always been impressed by his mental approach. He seemed like a guy who was genuinely interested in the science of pitching, and I never had any doubt that his curiosity, combined with his immense talent, would result in his becoming a successful big league pitcher.

This year though, we’ve all seen it countless times – he’ll be up 0-2 on a hitter, and he’ll groove one right down the middle. Now, is that what he was trying to do? We’d certainly like to think not, but as they say, once is a fluke, twice is a trend, three times is a habit….so what’s like, I dunno…47 times?

It’s hard to blame any of this on Gausman’s catchers, to my mind (though what the heck do I know about catching, compared to Demper? Admittedly, diddly squat). They aren’t calling for meatballs with two strikes. For instance, ow many times have we seen the catcher try to get Gausman to elevate a two-strike fastball, just for Kevin to leave it middle-middle?

Check out the entire interview here, to hear more from Rick on Gausman, plus his thoughts on Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Manny Machado, and more.

Side note: It sure is crazy what these guys say when they’re not on MASN, isn’t it? Glenn interviewed Mike “Best in the League” Bordick a few weeks back, and he was like a different guy than the cheerleader he is on MASN.

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Friday’s O’s Links: Ubaldo Deals His Rare but Regular Gem

Ubaldo Jimenez sings during the O's 2014 playoff run.

Fresh off a 4-2 road trip – their first winning tour since April – and back at .500, the Birds return home for a quick three-game set against Tampa before finishing the first half on a seven-game road swing through the midwest.

Let’s see what the blog O’sphere is saying.

Ubaldo Shows Why O’s Are Better Off With Him Than Without Him

Ubaldo Jimenez continued his infuriating career in orange and black last night with eight masterful scoreless innings in Toronto, scene of the crime that O’s fans will vilify him for forever. Starts like that pop up every few months, earning him a handful more that are sure to not resemble that one in any shape or form. Or hey, maybe 2016 second-half Ubaldo is here. We can hope.

Orioles Still Haven’t Seen Much Power from Mark Trumbo

There has been a severe lack of TrumBombs this season. What up with that? Camden Chat’s Nick Cicere tries to figure it out.

Orioles Feeling the Weight of J.J. Hardy’s Absence

All due respect to Mr. Dubroff, not sure I agree with him here. Do you find yourself missing Hardy? I certainly don’t, and I can say the same for Chris Davis, which is the real shame. There’s a Zach Britton update in here as well.

Castillo Suffers Freak Injury

Welington hurt his knee coming up the steps for batting practice yesterday, and was scratched. In his absence, Caleb Joseph had a couple hits, knocked in one of the team’s two runs, and called Ubaldo’s gem. Hopefully Welly doesn’t miss much time, but this has an “everything happens for a reason” vibe to it, no?

Technically, Baseball Really Is More Boring

FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan uses the Leverage Index to argue that baseball in 2017 really is more boring than it’s ever been. Games aren’t close these days. Personally, I was hoping to see more blame thrown on the stupid three-outcome trend (strikeout, walk, or home run).

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Floating in Baseball “Purgatory”

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. While the Orioles have showed some signs of life over the last week, there’s still a resounding feeling of nausea around the fanbase. This isn’t a team anyone expects to go on a run where they win 17 of 20 games. Yet, it’s also a team that sits a mere 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East and just 2.5 out of a Wild Card spot. That’s nothing with three full months of baseball left to play.

Perhaps worse than being a really bad team is being the type of team the Orioles are this season. They are a team sitting in purgatory. They are in a very weird middle ground. It’s why there’s even a discussion as to whether they should be “sellers” or “buyers” at the trade deadline. Granted, many more people fall on the “sellers” side of the fence. But it’s going to be awfully tough, if not impossible, for the O’s to wave a white flag in a month and say they are hitting any form of a reset button if they are within five, six, maybe even seven games of a playoff spot.

Knowing the talent that resides on this roster and the way they fight, there’s little chance they are so far out of it that they can think about selling. Even if they are out of it, there appears to be a slight disillusion in the front office that they are better than they’ve played. Maybe there’s some truth to that, maybe there’s not.

Regardless, this waffling between a very good team and a very bad team is not a great place to be. Especially with the way the franchise is set up in the years to come with certain players (cough, Manny Machado) set to come off the books.

Purgatory isn’t a place the Birds want to hang out in for long.

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

2. Perhaps the biggest negative to this season thus far has been the performance of Kevin Gausman, but is there a chance he’s starting to turn a corner? The 26-year-old has still yet to turn in an outing of at least six innings since June 6, when he allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in 6.2 IP. But over his last two outings, things have looked a bit different.

Last week against the hot-hitting Indians, Gausman struck out nine against just two walks over 5.2 IP and gave up three runs. Not even a quality start, but perhaps something to build upon. That strikeout rate, especially, is more what we are accustomed to seeing from Gausman.

Then Tuesday against the Blue Jays, another start of just 5.1 IP, but he gave up only four hits and two walks while allowing no runs. The use of Gausman’s splitter has also jumped a bit over his last few starts. That’s a pitch he needs to be successful. It’s an out pitch, similar to Dylan Bundy’s slider.

If Gausman can be only half as bad in the second half as he’s been awful in the first, the O’s might have a fighting chance with this pitching staff to turn things around.

3. Speaking of the pitching staff, much has been said lately about the job Roger McDowell is doing. Fans are calling for his head, and it even led Buck Showalter to speak out this week. The manager quite predictably backed his coach, despite a pitching staff that has turned in the second-worst ERA in the Majors and the worst batting average against.

Somehow, some of the conversation has turned to praise for the job Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti did while in Baltimore. Last year, the Orioles finished 19th in team ERA in baseball, a full ten spots ahead of where they are right now. But honestly, the pitchers that finished 19th aren’t really any better than the ones that are currently 29th.

It has little to do with the coaching. The pitching staff is virtually unchanged, aside from the departure of Yovani Gallardo and the addition of a few different bullpen arms. The truth is that the Orioles pitching staff simply isn’t good enough. No amount of coaching is going to make it one of the league’s top staffs. Talent is the issue here, not coaching.

That’s not to say McDowell is off the hook. I just don’t think half a season is enough time to realize any kind of influence and whether or not it’s making a difference.

4. This is going to sound silly, but perhaps it’s a telling sign of how the Orioles’ season is going when you look at who the All-Star starters will be this season. Newsflash – none of them will be Orioles. It’ll be the first time since 2012 that the O’s haven’t had a starter in the Midsummer Classic. It might be the first time since 2011 that only one player gets the call to go to the game.

It’s not like any of this year’s candidates are in 2010 Ty Wigginton territory, where they are only going because each team needs a representative. Jonathan Schoop and Welington Castillo would both be worthy representatives based on the season’s they’ve put forward. Even rookie Trey Mancini getting the nod would be completely justifiable.

Frankly, if Manny Machado or Adam Jones got the call on reputation alone, it wouldn’t surprise me either.

But it’s telling that fans and media alike can’t simply pencil in two or three players from this roster that are sure bets to make the team. In the last five years, there have been at least two or three players on each team that everyone knew was heading to the game. That’s not the case this year. The Birds may only get one player, and no one knows who it will be.

To me, that’s a sign that things aren’t going all that well. It’s a sign that no one has stepped up and led this team.

Some have merely helped to keep it afloat through some tough times.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Manny, Stop Trying to Hit Everything 500 Feet!

Manny Machado follows through on his swing.

After beating the Blue Jays 3-1 on Tuesday night, the Orioles are now a sparkling 11 games over .500 combined against the American League East and National League. The bad news is that they’re also a dismal 11 games UNDER .500 combined against the AL Central and West. The worse news is that there’s no scenario whereby they can get to the World Series by going through only AL East teams. Bummer.

Maybe they’ll figure out how to beat those pesky central and west teams between now and October. In the meantime, at least beating up on the AL East is fun.

To the links.

The Orioles are on Life Support and Need a Transplant

If you can get past the strange title, this is a very interesting piece from Jon Shepard of Camden Depot. He lays out four potential futures for the Baltimore Orioles, with Buck Showalter, Dan Duquette, Brady Anderson, and even the Angelos family playing different roles (or none at all) in each. It’s worth reading the comments as well.

What’s Up with Manny Machado?

When I see teams overshift on Manny, it drives me absolutely insane. He’s too good of a hitter for that crap to work against him. However, it IS working, because he’s trying to hit everything 500 feet, and thus is pulling a lot of ground balls. FanGraphs’ Tony Blengino dives (deep!) into the numbers and concludes that the data backs up what our eyes are telling us. Stop trying to pull everything, Manny!

The Orioles Have Been the Worst Team at Drafting This Century

Another example of the data backing up what we O’s fans know implicitly.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 207: Visual Temptations

Jake. Scott. Horrorscopes. Listen!

Free Avocado on your Oriole Dog July 2

Definitely the first time O’s Links has directed you to “PerishableNews.com.” But hey, free avocado!

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-38) @ Blue Jays (36-39)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After winning their first series on the road in over two months this past weekend in Tampa, the Orioles will look to build on that momentum over a three-game set in Ontario’s capital versus the Blue Jays.

While these two teams have usually been battling it out at the top of the standings in recent memory, this clash will instead determine who begins the latter part of the week in the cellar of the AL East.

The Orioles (37-38) will cross the border currently fourth in the division and 4.5-games out of first place after taking two of three in Florida. The road hasn’t been kind to the Orioles this season. They own a dismal 13-24 record away from Camden Yards and a 6-18 record while on tour since the start of May.

The good bit of news is that the Orioles still own a solid 23-17 record versus the AL East and an impressive 7-2 record versus their upcoming hosts this season.

The Blue Jays (36-39) remain in the cellar of the division and 5.5-games out of first place after going 3-4 over their latest seven-game road trip. While the Jays have gone a decent 19-17 at Rogers Centre on the year, they’ve been weighed down by a 12-19 record versus their own division.

Will the Orioles continue to bounce back, or will the Jays leapfrog their visitors and send the O’s into last place?

Only time will tell. Let’s look at the starters.

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (3-7, 6.47 ERA) will get the nod in the series opener versus Joe Biagini (2-6, 4.45 ERA).

Gausman showed signs of life by striking out nine over 5 2/3 innings versus Cleveland, but still allowed three runs on six hits in a losing effort. The Orioles fireballer is now 0-3 with a horrid 9.20 ERA over his last three outings. Gausman has also struggled mightily on the road this season with a 1-4 record and a 9.00 ERA over seven starts away from OPACY on the year. Maybe he’ll get it going against a club that he’s recorded a 3.90 ERA against over ten career starts.

Biagini has been filling in for the currently sidelined Aaron Sanchez lately, but not with much success. After allowing four runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings during his last start against the Rangers, Biagini now owns a 1-3 record along with a 6.10 ERA over four starts this month.  However, he owns a stellar 2.93 ERA over eleven games (four starts) at Rogers Centre to date in 2017. He’ll be making his first career start against the Orioles tonight.

 

Game Two

Wade Miley (3-5, 4.48 ERA) will take the hill against Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.69 ERA) on Wednesday.

After getting tagged again to the tune of four runs on eight hits over five innings during his last outing versus the Tribe, Miley sports a woeful 7.81 ERA over his last six times on the mound. Over his last three contests, the Orioles southpaw has gone 1-2 with a cringe-worthy 10.38 ERA.

Stroman has been impressive at home this season with a rock-solid 3.29 ERA over eight outings, but he will be looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristic run of form over his last two starts. During that span, the former Blue Devil has allowed ten runs and six home runs on thirteen hits over just eleven innings. He had allowed just seven home runs all season long prior to his last two outings.

Game Three

Ubaldo Jimenez (2-3, 7.26 ERA) will anchor the mound versus J.A. Happ (2-4, 3.83 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday.

Jimenez will be looking to hit the erase button on his last start versus Tampa Bay in which he allowed nine runs on seven hits over just 2 1/3 innings. Over five games (two starts) in June, Jimenez is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA. He’s also struggled on the road with a 1-3 record and a 7.28 ERA over nine games (five starts) so far this season.  On a positive note, Jimenez owns a solid 7-5 record and a 4.48 ERA over sixteen career starts against the Jays.

Happ was sorely missed in the Blue Jays rotation earlier this year, but has wasted no time in making his presence felt upon his return to the club. After allowing just a single run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings versus Kansas City during his last start, Happ now owns a 2-1 record and a 3.28 ERA over four starts this month. Over thirteen career starts versus the Birds, Happ has gone 4-5 with a 3.50 ERA.

 

That’s it for now, Orioles nation!

Here’s to a few more notches in the win column!

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Monday’s O’s Links: Stuck in the Middle

Jonathan Schoop rounds the bases.

Well, the Birds managed to stay afloat this weekend, picking up two of three in Tampa against the Rays, and managing to avoid breaking (merely tying) the 1924 Phillies’ record of 20 straight games allowing five or more runs.

Thanks Dylan!

Can they keep winning on the road now that they’ve seemingly remembered that it’s an option? We’ll find out later this week in Toronto, but for now, the Birds get a much-needed day of rest.

Check out these here links to pass the time.

If Orioles Sell, Who Could Actually Be Moved?

With every game the O’s win, this whole “selling”” thing gets even less likely, but that’s not stopping the blog O’sphere from being constantly abuzz about it. In his weekly MASN guest column, our own Andrew Stetka tries to figure out which O’s would have any value in the trade market.

The Orioles Need Jonathan Schoop, and He’s Never Been Better

Schoop = Dope. Like, for real this season. Nick Cicere breaks it down.

The Orioles’ Fall from Grace

If you’d care to read some more about how we ended up talking about “selling” when the team was 22-10 at one point, Beyond the Box Score’s Anthony Rescan can provide some gory details.

Orioles Prospect Stock Report

Off days are the perfect time to take a look down on the farm. Baltimore Sports and Life’s Greg Goldstein lists three O’s prospects whose stock is rising, and three whose stock is falling. Shocker – the fallers include a couple pitchers who we kinda need to succeed.

I Hate This Team!

Have you said that about the O’s this year? Chances are you have. However, that’s not the team this blog, from Camden Depot’s Joe Reisel, is about. He has the “pleasure” of watching the Birds’ AAA affiliate Norfolk Tides on a regular basis, and they’re just as infuriating as the big club.

 

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PiR: Despite Tight Standings, These Birds Aren’t “In It”

Chris Tillman, Orioles pitcher, wipes his brow with his arm.

REALITY: The Baltimore Orioles have only won 32% of their last 40 games.

PERCEPTION: Over the first 33 games of the season, the Birds were 22-11 and had the best record in baseball. Since then, they are 15-27. Which puts them at 37-38, the 15th best record in baseball.

So, what has happened? It’s all about the pitching. Yes, they could do better as a team at the plate, but Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop, and Welington Castillo are all producing. This team’s problems start on the mound.

REALITY: The Orioles pitching staff has the worst ERA in baseball.

PERCEPTION: The Orioles pitching staff has a combined 5.20 ERA this season… that is 30th, dead last in baseball. Only three teams have a team ERA over 5.00.

O’s starters are last in the AL with a 5.79 ERA, which also puts them second to last in MLB.

Baltimore’s bullpen is 19th in baseball and 5th from bottom in the AL, with a 4.38 ERA.

Another telling stat is that the Orioles relievers have pitched the second most innings in baseball (most in the AL), while their starters have pitched the fewest innings in the AL and 3rd least in baseball.

We all know this, but you can’t win games giving up eight runs per game. Think about that for a minute… that’s like little league baseball. Eight runs per game during a 20-game span? It almost seems impossible that an MLB team could pitch that poorly. Pro pitchers should be better than that. Right now, the Orioles don’t have Pro pitchers. They have a bunch of AAA pitchers who are trying, but failing.

16 of the 23 pitchers to take the mound for Baltimore this season have pitched to an over 4.00 ERA. To make matters worse, one of the seven pitchers with a sub-4.00 ERA is on the DL (Zach Britton) and another just came off (Darren O’Day).

You can blame it on the coaches, but we have seen these pitchers each pitch better, which tells me it’s not the coaching, it’s the players not living up to their potential. They just need to simply pitch better.

REALITY: The O’s are 22nd in baseball in runs scored.

PERCEPTION: I know that I said the issues with this team were on the mound, and they are, but there is enough blame to go around. They are only 22nd in baseball in runs scored. And that stat just boggles the mind. 10 times this team has had the bases loaded and no outs, and they have not produced even one hit. That is simply pathetic.

REALITY: Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette said “we are still contenders.”

PERCEPTION: The O’s are 4.0 games back in the American League East, and only 2.5 games out of the American League Wild Card.

For as quickly as they have fallen, it is possible to get it back just as quickly. I understand what DD told FanRag about being a contender. He said, “They have all played to a much higher level” and I think we all agree with that. But which team will we see for the long haul? The 22-11, best record in baseball, team? Or the 14-27, allowing 5+ runs for 20 consecutive games, team? If they come out after the All-Star break and go 20-10, they are right back in this thing, but even with Britton, O’Day, and J.J. Hardy expected back, I don’t see it fixing the issues this team is having.

I love this team and continue to watch nearly every game, but this is not a little slump. This is just flat-out bad baseball. The kind of baseball that we saw for 14 consecutive years in Baltimore. I think that may be why fans are so angry during this 40-game stretch. We have been very lucky to watch some great baseball since 2012, and a team that has produced the most wins in the AL since then.

But the way this team is playing right now reminds us of a place that O’s fans hoped to never see again.

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Week in Review: Still in the Hunt

Trey Mancini of the Orioles leans forward in sunglasses.

Well folks, another week has come and gone in Birdland and one thing remains the same.

Despite all the gut-wrenching lows that the Orioles have gone through as of late, they remain in the heat of the playoff race as we head into the final week of June.

If you listened to half of the world, you’d find it hard to believe that the Orioles are just four games out of first place in the AL East and only 2.5-games out of the wild card.

But here we are, and after snapping into form with back-to-back wins in Tampa, the Orioles should be heading across the Northern border to Toronto buzzing with confidence.

After all, they DID just win as many games on the road over the last two days than they had over the previous seven weeks.

The key now is to build upon their best showing on the road in months. That my friends, is easier said than done.

But here we are. Just a game under .500 and still very much alive. Instead of wondering when the wheels will completely fall off, just enjoy the ride. There’s still 87 games left on the schedule.

Fasten your seat belts, everyone. This ride has yet to even reach its halfway point.

Before we get too carried away, let’s break down the past week of Orioles baseball.

 

Notes

– Finally, fireworks! After being silenced by the Indians’ stellar pitching staff, Orioles sluggers responded in a big way in Tampa by finishing the series with a .299 average as a unit while scoring 21 runs (seven per game) on six home runs.

– The Orioles hitters have been holding up their end of the bargain as of late. Over their last 14 games, they have compiled a .290 batting average while scoring 76 runs (5.4 runs per game) on 23 home runs.

– On a larger scale, the Orioles offense has been more potent than one would expect. Over the last 25 contests, the Orioles are hitting .269 as a unit while scoring five runs per game (125 total) along with an impressive total of 42 home runs.

As good as the offense has been, the pitching staff remains a giant question mark going forward.

– The Orioles starting rotation posted a bloated 8.53 ERA versus Cleveland before following up with a horrid 10.54 ERA versus the Rays. Over the last seventeen games, O’s starters have notched a horrid 9.76 ERA over just 79 1/3 innings.

– The rotation owns a dreadful 7.97 ERA over their last 27 games and 132 innings.

– On a positive note, the Orioles bullpen looks to have put their struggles behind them after finishing the three-game set in Tampa with a stellar 2.19 ERA over 12 1/3 innings. They now have recorded a solid 3.68 ERA over their last seven games and 29 1/3 innings of work.

– In contrast, the bullpen owns a subpar 5.43 ERA over the last seventeen ballgames and a 5.07 ERA over the past 24 games.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go to the three stars of the week.

 

Third Star

Dylan Bundy. Bundy gets the third star of the week for not only coming away with his best start in a month at The Trop, in which he held the Rays to just three runs on five hits over seven solid innings to go along with eight strikeouts, but because he managed to keep the Orioles from breaking the 1924 Phillies 93-year-old record of allowing five runs or more in twenty straight games. It’s bad enough to tie that god awful of a “record.”

 

Second Star

Jonathan Schoop. After finishing the four-game clash versus Cleveland 5-for-15 at the dish with a homer and three RBI, the Orioles star second baseman followed up by going 4-for-11 with another home run and four RBI in Tampa. Over his last 28 contests, Schoop is now hitting a remarkable .333 (35-for-105) with nine doubles, ten home runs and 29 RBI.

And somehow……he won’t be an All-Star this season (unless he is added as a reserve). Truly ridiculous.

 

First Star

Trey Mancini. The Orioles star rookie stayed hot versus the Indians by going 5-for-14 at the plate before exploding in Tampa and finishing the three-game set 5-for-11 with a pair of jacks and a straight flush of RBI’s. Mancini will now head to Toronto on a current six-game hitting streak during which he’s gone 10-for-22 (.454) with the two homers and five RBI.

But that only scratches the surface of Mancini’s excellence this season. Over his last 27 games, “Boom Boom” owns a sensational .365 average (35-for-96) with seven home runs and twenty RBI. Even more outstanding, the Notre Dame alum is batting a ridiculous .431 (25-for-58) over his last sixteen contests to go along with five homers and thirteen RBI.

This guy is simply lighting up the world at the moment.

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Series Preview: Orioles (35-37) @ Rays (39-36)

Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

After dropping three of four to the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards, the Orioles will look to avoid falling into sole last place in the division over a three-game set in Tampa.

The O’s kick off a six-game road trip starting this weekend at “The Trop.” For the Orioles, a lengthy stint on tour is just about the worst thing that they could have asked for due to their well-documented struggles away from the Yard this season.

After the Orioles (35-37) wrap up their weekend stay in Tampa, they’ll take a long-distance flight across the Northern border to take on the Blue Jays before returning home to host the Rays. After that brief home stand, the Orioles will hit the road yet again for a two-legged tour consisting of a three-game set in Milwaukee and a four-game stint in the Twin Cities before finally hitting the All-Star Break.

If you’re counting, that’s a stretch consisting of thirteen road games in a sixteen-game span before hitting the break.

That’s not exactly ideal when you’ve got two wins on the road over the last seven weeks. Since topping the Red Sox at Fenway on May 4th, the Orioles have gone just 2-16 while on tour since and own a dismal 11-23 record on the road thus far on the year.

The Rays (39-36) on the other hand, will be feeling pretty good due to racking up four wins out of their last five after stumbling through the first half of June. As a result, the third-place Rays find themselves just 2.5-games off the pace of the joint-division leading Yankees and Red Sox as they prepare to host the Orioles. Tampa boasts an impressive 23-16 mark at the Trop thus far on the year.

The other bit of bad news is that the Orioles struggling pitching staff will have to take on the fourth-highest scoring (4.8 runs per game) and the second-most powerful (115 HR) offense in the American League this weekend. The record might be theirs come Sunday.

But enough of that. If you’re looking for some positivity, it’s that the Orioles have owned the Rays to the tune of a 37-23 record since the start of the 2014 campaign.

On that note, let’s take a look at the starters.

 

Game One

Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 6.25 ERA) will take on Rays ace Chris Archer (5-4, 3.75 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

In his first start since May 22nd, Jimenez was absolutely dominant versus St. Louis, allowing just two runs on four hits over seven sparkling innings. The win was Jimenez’s first since April 19th. Believe it or not, the Orioles are 6-3 when Jimenez starts the game on the mound. Over nine career starts versus Tampa Bay, the Orioles sporadic veteran owns a rock-solid 5-2 record and 3.47 ERA.

Archer may have just snapped a three-week winless skid after holding the Tigers to two runs on six hits over six innings during his last start, but he’s been nothing short of spectacular this season. He’s allowed three runs or fewer in ten of his fifteen starts on the year, while he’s also recorded ten-plus strikeouts in five of his last nine outings. He’s bringing it right now.

 

Game Two

Dylan Bundy (7-6, 3.72 ERA) will take the hill versus red-hot rookie Jacob Faria (3-0, 1.37 ERA) on Saturday.

After getting tagged to the sound of six runs on six hits over just 4 1/3 innings versus Cleveland during his last start, Bundy has won just twice in his last eight attempts. Over four starts in the month of June, Bundy has gone 1-3 with a 6.64 ERA and owns a 7.63 ERA over his last three outings.

Faria on the other hand, has gotten off to an almost flawless start to his major league career. The 23-year-old has won each of his first three career starts while allowing just one run over six-plus innings in each of them.  He’s also recorded 22 strikeouts to just four walks over his first 19 2/3 major league innings without allowing a single home run. Here’s hoping that the Orioles can bring him down to earth a little bit.

 

Game Three

Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA) will get the nod against Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.78 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

After allowing five runs on eight hits over just four innings during his last start versus the Tribe, Tillman remains winless since his season debut on May 7th. The struggling veteran will try to forget about his 16.03 ERA over his last three starts, and the fact that he’s 0-5 with a 11.47 ERA over his last six outings. Can Tillman finally get his season on track at the Trop?

Odorizzi took a tough luck no-decision after allowing three runs on five hits over seven innings during his last start versus the Reds, but he’ll feel confident nonetheless going into his next start. After posting a stellar 2.78 ERA over six starts in May, he’s posted a subpar 5.31 ERA over four starts thus far in the month of June. The Rays standout hurler also owns a rock-solid 3.22 ERA over seven starts at home on the year.

With last place looming, the Orioles must recover from their letdown against the Tribe quickly.

On the bright side, they remain in the thick of the wild card chase. This season is far from over, but the clock is ticking. Consistency remains vital going forward.

Can the Orioles right the ship, or will they get knocked into the cellar?

It’s anyone’s guess, really. Let’s hope for the former.

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Dan Duquette Seems to Have No Plans to Sell or Rebuild

two men flexing arms one wearing cape and mask

With the Orioles continuing to wallow in mediocrity (or worse), falling to 35-37 from their season high-water mark of 22-10 (that’s 13-27 over their last 40 games), many fans and pundits have started to seriously consider the prospect of the team being sellers at the trade deadline, and starting at least a re-tooling for 2018, if not a full-scale rebuild for 2019 and beyond.

Throw in the contract status of such key pieces as Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and even Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, and it’s clear that some hard decisions may have to be made very soon in Birdland.

However, one guy who apparently has no interest in considering making said hard decisions is Duqutte himself.

As reported by FanRag’s Jon Heyman:

“We have a number of players who are capable of playing better and contributing more to the 2017 team than they have to date,” GM Dan Duquette said, listing Tillman, Gausman, Jimenez, Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Mark Trumbo, Seth Smith and Manny Machado among the players who have a strong track record but haven’t played up to that level yet. “How do I know this?” Duquette continued. “Because it is in the book. They have all played to a much higher level than they have played at so far this season. We are still contenders and we look forward to these players contributing to the club.”

Maybe Dan is right. Perhaps the team won’t keep playing like a 53-win team, as they have been over the last month-plus. After all, they’re only 5.0 games out of first place, and 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Crazier things have certainly happened. And while their pitching is obviously very bad, there’s no way it’s THIS bad, right? Kevin Gausman will likely rebound at least a bit, as will Chris Tillman. Britton will come off the disabled list eventually, and the same can be said for Darren O’Day and Chris Davis.

But consider this: even if the Birds pull out of their current tailspin and play their remaining 90 games like – and I’m admittedly being overly optimistic here – a 90-win team (a 0.556 winning percentage), that only gets them to 85-77. And think of what would need to happen for this squad to play like a 90-win team: Gausman and Tillman would have to GREATLY improve. Dylan Bundy would need to bounce back and pitch like he did in April and May. O’Day, Britton, Davis, and even J.J. Hardy would likely need to get healthy, remain that way, and perform as they did over the past several seasons.

And of course, guys like Jones, Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, and Welington Castillo would have to play at roughly the levels they have to date this season.

That’s a lot of puzzle pieces that need to fall in place, and 85 wins is hardly a lock for anything more than the second wild card spot, at best. If just a couple of those best-case scenarios fail to materialize, it’s hard to see this team even approaching the 85-win mark as currently constructed.

But hey, maybe Dan’s optimism will pay off. Or maybe he’s just sandbagging and declining to tip his hand; it’s only June, after all. If he was telling reporters that, “well, we’re cooked! Everybody is on the block,” there would very likely be a revolt among roughly half the team’s fans, attendance would plummet, and only the die-hards would be ready to settle in for what would surely be a bumpy rebuild.

Not to mention, how would that go over with players, the Angelos family, and Buck?

In the end, while I think Duquette’s words to Heyman are absolutely overly optimistic, I can’t really blame him for putting on a happy face in public, while admitting that I have no idea if that’s how he really feels.

Only time will tell.

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Friday’s O’s Links: MLB Record, Here We Come!

A fake 19 banner at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on the Warehouse.

The O’s were 10-2 against Cleveland in 2015-16, but the Tribe got some revenge this week. On top of taking three of four, they helped the Birds continue their now AL-record streak of allowing five-plus runs in 19 consecutive games. They can tie the all-time MLB record tonight (held by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies) in Tampa.

Mark Viviano tried to bring some levity to the depressing situation:

Hey, if we can’t laugh, we’ll probably cry.

To the links on this dreary Friday.

Orioles Pitching Futility Puts Them on Brink of a Dubious Record

If you masochists care to read more about that.

Maybe the Projections Were Right About the Orioles

Yeah, yeah. Or maybe the “Projectors” just got lucky, howbohdah?!

Orioles Offense Being Asked to Perform a Difficult Task

I mean, if the pitchers can allow 5+ runs in 19 straight, why can’t the bats put up 6+ in 19 straight? Seems only fair, right? Carry your weight, offense!

It’s Time for the Orioles to Rebuild

Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs says it’s time for a Baltimore rebuild. While I don’t disagree in theory, here’s the problem: rebuilding is HARD. Look what’s happening in Philly (where, coincidentally, the rebuild is being led by the man to whom many O’s fans give the lion’s share of the credit for the recent success in Baltimore, Andy MacPhail.) Anyway, Sawchik talks a lot about trading Manny Machado as part of this rebuild – not only that, but trading him to Boston or the Yankees – that’s not happening, friend.

Real or Not: Orioles Should Trade Manny Machado

Are we having fun yet?!

 

I wish you a fond weekend, Birdland. Here’s to ending this stupid streak tonight, and winning some baseball games. The good news is that there are a bunch of games against the AL East coming up – the Birds are good against them! The bad is that these games are on the road – the O’s are terrible there!

Something’s gotta give. I’m afraid we all know what it’ll be.

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The *New* Oriole Way: Good Enough is Good Enough

Buck Showalter holds a bat in Spring Training.

It’s a bit mind-blowing that not long ago the Orioles sat atop the AL East with one of the best records in baseball. Now they sit one game below .500 sporting a pedestrian (35-36) record, tied for last place.

If you stop and think about it, you have to wonder how they were ever 10 games over .500. Chris Davis struggled until he swung-and-missed himself onto the DL. If not for the Boston Red Sox Manny Machado might be near the Mendoza line. “Ace” Chris Tillman was on the shelf. All starting pitching stinks save for Dylan Bundy – and now he’s struggling – and the closer has been MIA nearly the entire season.

Manager Buck Showalter must have majored in “Smoke & Mirrors” and the duct tape he’s used to hold the team together could be a Best Seller on Amazon. But that duct tape is now dry-rotting after being exposed to the harsh elements of a very flawed roster.

The bullpen was once a team strength. Now most are frequent passengers on the Baltimore-to-Norfolk express. They are worn down and beaten by a starting pitching staff that regularly throws 100+ pitches by the fifth inning. Consequently, what was once a strength is now a liability.

The season appears lost and now the organization is forced to make a choice. Are they buyers or are they sellers as the MLB trade deadline approaches?

The optimists among you will sound the buyers’ trumpet. Find a starting pitcher. Get a reliever with a live arm like they did back in 2014 when Andrew Miller was acquired. Maybe even add a bat – a table setter who can help the club manufacture some runs when they confront challenging pitching. After all the team is just 5.0 games out of first place and 2.0 games out of the wild card race and we’re not even at the All-Star break.

But what do the Orioles buy with?

Who do they have on their roster or in the farm system that other teams might view as worth trading for?

Baseball America ranks the Orioles organizational strength at 27th among the league’s 30 teams. In 2016, they were also ranked 27th and in 2015, 28th. In other words, the Orioles have no bargaining power! They have no leverage!

And obviously, based on the above rankings, they have a pretty crappy farm system too.

GM Dan Duquette’s kingdom either drafts very poorly, lacks the ability to develop young players, or both. In what other business can you be as consistently as bad as the Orioles farm hands and not be held accountable?

Many who defend the Orioles will say, “Well at least it isn’t as bad as all those losing seasons” or, “You know since 2012 the Orioles have the best regular season record in the majors.”

Those are the consolations of losers – champions of participation trophies!

Sure, the O’s under Showalter can hang around for a while. They have the big bats that can knock the ball out of the park during the summer months in a sandbox of a stadium? They can flirt with playoff baseball for a bit, but they’ll ultimately fail in the postseason when the pitching is better and the ball doesn’t carry as far given the cooler, heavier air of October.

That’s the time pitching and small ball take over. The Orioles have neither.

So instead of buying the Orioles should be selling. They should be selling major league talent for prospects that someone else is developing. They should be willing to punt on 2017 with the hope that 2018 and beyond can get better.

And while they’re busy selling, they need to take a hard look at how they identify and groom young talent. The system is off – way off. The “Orioles Way” is lost. Instead of ponying up $161 million for Chris Davis, maybe they ought to invest in the best scouts and developmental personnel in the land. Then, maybe they would have recognized Trey Mancini’s talent and convinced Duquette and Emperor Peter to back off on the Davis contract, one that will be an organizational albatross for years.

Some will say that the Orioles can’t overreact to a bad streak like that which they are experiencing. But even without the bad streak, the team isn’t equipped to be successful in the postseason. They are like the Cincinnati Bengals of MLB.

And maybe that’s all the Angelos family needs to stay happy. Maybe they only need to be close enough to interest the fans and interest companies willing to spend advertising dollars. That cash cow called MASN keeps the family’s financial vessel afloat.

Just good enough to be playoff contenders, just might be good enough for Pete, John and Lou. But is that good enough for you? Should it be good enough for the players?

Five games out of first place is the least of the Orioles problems.

The real problems reside in the warehouse.

And it’s been that way for a long time.

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