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Friday’s O’s Links: Chris Tillman, Joey Rickard Set to Return

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

The O’s are, as we all know by now, off to one of their hottest starts in team history. They’ll be severely tested over the next seven games though, as they now head off to the northeast corridor for three in the Bronx followed by four at Fenway.

Nobody ever said this AL East stuff was gonna be easy. Hopefully the bats bust out starting tonight. Let’s see what’s up in the Blog O’sphere:

Despite Mixed Results, Tillman Feels Ready to Join O’s

Melewski has the quotes from Chris Tillman following his rehab start for single-A Frederick last night. Steve and Chris both implore us to not pay too much attention to the pitching line, which…wasn’t good. Perhaps good, though, is that Tillman might be able to make his next scheduled start, which would be Tuesday in Boston, against the Red Sox. He says his shoulder isn’t bothering him anymore, so it’s all systems go.

Kevin Gausman’s Very Bad Week

Speaking of Birds pitchers and bad lines, there’s Kevin Gausman. We used to call him “Gas Man” because of his devastating heat, but lately it’s a much more pejorative term – meaning that he sets things on fire. Beyond the Box Score’s Joe Clarkin tries to figure out what the issue is.

Rickard’s Return from DL Shouldn’t Last Long

Joey Rickard is set to come off the DL today, with LHP Paul Fry being sent back down without even throwing a pitch. Brian Reid at Orioles Uncensored goes into all the detail about why Rickard has no spot on this team, at least right now. Amen.

It’s Early, but Adam Jones Looks Like a New Player

Another OU guy, Dillon Atkinson, in his weekly MASN guest column, goes into AJ’s impressive start. We already know all about how Jones is playing deeper in the outfield, and watching his ABs, we can see a bit of improved plate discipline and some hard-hit balls. So is Jones turning back the clock? Or is this just a good start because he is fresh and rested, and as the season wears on, he’ll regress back to the guy we’ve seen steadily declining (not a lot, but noticeably) over the past few seasons? Time will tell.

Orioles Slugger Trumbo Isn’t Hitting the Mark

Mark Trumbo has been straight up awful so far. It continues a trend that started after July or so of last season, though even then it wasn’t quite this bad. Camden Chat’s Nick Cicere looks at some video to try to see where Trumbo’s swing mechanics are off. Hindsight is 20/20 and all, and Mark is bound to pick it up (at least a bit), but doesn’t a Pedro Alvarez/Trey Mancini DH platoon sound nice right about now?

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Thursday Thoughts: On “Stupid Baseball,” Wonderful Wade Miley & More

Wade Miley of the Orioles pitches from the mound.

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. It’s been a very strange and newsworthy week in Birdland. Much of what occurred over the past week since I last wrote in this space would be filed under what I call “dumb baseball.” It’s something I wrote about extensively over at MASNSports.com on Monday in my weekly guest blog. I’ll attempt to put a bow on it here. It hadn’t been announced by Monday, but the four-game suspension handed to Matt Barnes is a joke. Baseball is, as usual, complicit in the nonsense. Of course many will cry “precedent” when it comes for an explanation as to why Barnes didn’t receive a 20-or 30-game suspension.

I don’t care. He and John Farrell should’ve been penalized longer, and the manager didn’t even get the simple slap on the wrist that Barnes saw. This is all over now. Until the next time it happens. Then the conversation will begin once again, and once again, baseball will do nothing about it.

MLB is saying it’s completely fine with players throwing at one another, and even at their heads. That’s what they said by handing down a four-game suspension to Barnes.

That’s what they’ll continue to say going forward.

It’s a sad, but unfortunate reality.

2. I said this on Twitter as a brief, passing mention, but it deserves more attention – Monday’s victory for the Orioles will likely go down as one of their less noticeable but higher-quality wins of the season. When you consider the circumstances and the way the game was won in context, that was a really impressive triumph.

Buck Showalter said during his postgame press conference that he was really impressed with the win, and you could tell it wasn’t just a throwaway comment. With Ubaldo Jimenez struggling and the O’s slogging their way through the game offensively against Chris Archer, it didn’t look pretty. Throw in the poor weather and a team that was coming down off an emotional and exhausting series over the weekend against Boston, and it was a recipe for the O’s to roll over and die. But they didn’t. They instead battled back in the late innings with home runs, like they do, and then waited out a short rain delay to finish the job.

It was a lesson in perseverance and it paid off.

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

3. As bad as Kevin Gausman has been this season (and he’s been bad, we covered that here last week), the offense the O’s have put forth this season may be worse. We all knew coming into the season this team would be relying on the homer, just as it has in years past.

The Birds are averaging 3.95 runs/game so far this season, and that’s with outings of 11 and 12 runs in two of those games, inflating the number a bit. The figure puts them in the bottom third of the league, and while it’s too early to completely panic, it has been a bit concerning.

I’m sure the bats will heat up along with the weather, but does anyone believe they’ll heat up to the tune of 4.58 runs/game like last season?

One of the big factors is the bat many are pointing to as a big hole, Mark Trumbo. After re-signing in the offseason, Trumbo has been a dud so far and is hitless in his last 23 at-bats.

That’s sure to be a significant issue if the trend continues.

4. Speaking of trends continuing, Wade Miley has been surprisingly strong this season. He’s not going to blow you away with his walk totals, as giving up 14 free passes in four starts is not good, at all. But he somehow has maintained a WHIP of 1.00 by giving up just 12 hits in 26 innings. His ERA is a slim 2.08.

This is Wade Miley we are talking about. The same pitcher who is also rocking an 11.08 K/9 rate.

Now, I recognize that it’s just four starts. It’s not even May yet. We are seeing “peak Miley” right now. I get all of that.

But “peak Miley” is pretty good. And it’s been really good to see him as we are getting “valley Gausman.” It gives me a sliver of hope that when (if) Chris Tillman returns and when (if) Gausman returns to something of a decent form, the O’s may have a prayer of a rotation to go with an offense that everyone believes is on its way.

Everyone believes that, right?

5. Much has been made over the last week of the media’s role in baseball. A lot of it came after some reporters called for retaliation following last weekend’s shenanigans between the Red Sox and Orioles. I was no fan of any of it, and thought many of the Boston media should be ashamed of the way they reacted and instigated things following Manny Machado’s slide into Dustin Pedroia.

But not all members of the media are out there pushing buttons and being irked by their jobs.

The perfect example comes in the carnage seen by yesterday’s massive layoffs at ESPN. Along with many of its prominent football, hockey, college and SportsCenter voices, the Worldwide Leader said goodbye to some members of the baseball media as well. Dallas Braden, Doug Glanville and, yes, even Raul Ibanez were among some of the better baseball minds contributing to ESPN’s coverage of the game we all love.

But perhaps standing out above them all in the baseball realm is Jayson Stark, who spent the last 17 years at ESPN.

It’s tough to see any of the great reporters and voices at ESPN lose their jobs, but especially the ones you’ve grown so used to reading and hearing over the years.

Stark is one of those people, and I only hope he quickly lands on his feet, because baseball needs more good members of the media like him.

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Seth Smith Had a Crazy Wednesday

Seth Smith and Adam Jones of the Orioles give each other five.

When Baltimore Oriole Seth Smith saw his name penciled in atop the lineup card on Wednesday afternoon, he probably thought that evening’s game would be reminiscent of so many others in his career. After all, Smith, an 11-year veteran, has played in 1149 major-league baseball games.

Surely this one wouldn’t be remarkable in any particular way, right?

Maybe he’d shag a few fly balls in right field. Perhaps he’d hit a home run – he hadn’t done that very often, to be sure, but with 115 to his name, while he might look back and remember one here or there, it wasn’t too likely that a dinger in some random April game would make much of a lasting impression.

More likely, he’d get on base a few times, as he’d done so often before, as the owner of a .344 career OBP, maybe add a notch or two to his 480+ career runs scored, and his team would win. If he was lucky, maybe that kid playing third base would do something (else) he’d never seen before, or his teammates would put on one of their patented fireworks shows with four or five homers.

All of those things probably seemed much more likely when Smith took the field at 7:05 on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays than what actually transpired.

Smith had a night that he very likely will never forget, and it wasn’t because he hit a grand slam, or got into a brawl, or suffered some kind of gruesome injury. All rare, but again, ALL LESS RARE than what took place.

So what did happen? Let’s recap…

 

Seth’s Very Strange Day

Game Situation: Bottom of the second inning. Orioles lead 1-0. Ryan Flaherty is on first base, having just singled in Hyun-soo Kim to give the Birds the lead. Seth Smith at the plate, with a count of 2-2.

Smith goes down and gets an Alex Cobb offering by his knees, and lines it to centerfield. Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier, always a threat to steal hits on balls hit like this, races toward the sinking liner.

Would this be the memorable moment for Smith? Would he be robbed by a highlight-reel catch?

Nope. Kiermaier pulled up short, allowing the ball to drop.

Just a single, right? Nothing to see here.

Flaherty, however, decided to try to take third base, and that my friends, is where things got wacky.

Ya know what? Let’s just watch the whole thing, with the calls of Joe Angel & Gary Thorne:

 

Yes, that second guy scoring above was…Seth Smith.

Smith, with a ton of hustle and a comedy of Rays errors (including a ball bouncing off Flaherty’s helmet into the outfield), earned himself the rare “Little League Home Run.”

How rare? Well, the last time the Orioles did it…

1966! Boog Powell! Wowsers!

And now, just for kicks and giggles, let’s watch the whole scene again, this time set to Yakety Sax!

There’s no doubt that Smith will always remember the time that, as a 34-year-old (1982 babies stand up!), he was transported back to the sandlots of his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

His weird day wasn’t over yet though!

 

Time to Walk….It Off

Roughly three-and-a-half hours later, this baseball game was still going.

Game situation: Bottom of the 11th inning. Game tied 4-4 after the Orioles have just fought back to tie it up after falling behind 4-3 in the top of the 11th. Flaherty has just walked ahead of Smith to load the bases for the second time in the inning. Tampa has just replaced closer Alex Colome with Danny Farquhar.

Farquhar falls behind Smith 3-0.

On the next pitch…Farquhar still couldn’t fine the zone, and the ball game ended.

https://twitter.com/AviMiIIer/status/857433824577368065

A Little League home run AND a walk-off walk.

Smith must have felt like he was 12 years old again.

And trust me, when you’re 34-years-old, you’ll cherish days like that forever. Here’s to Seth’s wacky day.

 

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Manny Machado Has Little to Show for A Lot of Hard Hit Balls

Manny Machado trots around the bases.

In the ninth inning of last night’s 2-0 loss to Tampa, the Baltimore Orioles were searching for anything to spark their slumbering offense. All they needed was a base runner, and the tying run would be at the plate. While they hadn’t notched any marks in the home run ledger thus far on the night, with the O’s, a dinger is always just a swing away.

With one out, Manny Machado stepped to the plate trying to provide that spark. Facing Rays closer Alex Colome, whom he had historically hit well (5-for-13), Manny crushed a line drive down the third base side. With an exit velocity of 103.0 MPH and a launch angle of 4 degrees, BaseballSavant.com tells us that this smash had a 58% probability of turning into a hit.

Instead, it was right at third baseman Evan Longoria, who made a nice play on a short hop to retire Machado.

No hit, no base runner, no tying run at the plate. Chris Davis would then walk to bring said tying run to the dish, only for Mark Trumbo to – of course – strike out.

But this post isn’t about Davis or Trumbo. It’s about Manny, who has had some dismal results to start his 2017 campaign, and has been the victim of some terrible luck along the way.

First, the bad: Manny is hitting just .188/.288/.362, far below his career marks of .282/.332/.474. He has just ONE multi-hit game all season. If you prefer the advanced numbers, he is sporting a wOBA of .287 and a wRC+ of 82, again a far cry from his usual .357 and .122.

But don’t despair, dear Reader. I’m here to tell you why this Flaherty-ian start of Machado’s is nothing but smoke and mirrors. The real Manny is lurking just beneath the surface, ready to explode in a flurry of MACHADOUBLES and MACHADONGS that’ll make your head spin.

 

Bad Luck Chuck, er…Manny

Manny’s current BABIP (that’s batting average on balls in play) is a stupid .192. That’s over 100 points lower than his career average, which sits at .307. Some regression is certainly due in that regard.

But is the low BABIP a result of weakly-hit balls?

Nope. Machado is hitting the ball as hard as ever. In every week this season, Manny’s average exit velocity has been higher than the league average. In Week 1, he was at 93.0, compared to a league average of 88.2. In Week 2, 91.6 to 87.7. Week 3’s discrepancy was even higher, with Manny at 97.6, 10 MPH over the league average that week of 87.4.

Manny Machado exit velocity chart.

via

In 2016, he was above the league average in exit velocity in 19 of 27 weeks.

Here are his exit velocities by zone in 2016 (left) and 2017 (right):

Manny Macahdo's zone exit velocities.

via

And now, his batting averages in those same zones:

Manny Machado's batting averages per zone.

via

So we can see that in 2017, Machado is actually hitting balls in the middle and lower third of the zones HARDER than he did last year, but that his batting average on those crushed baseballs remains stupidly, incomprehensibly low.

He is seventh in MLB in average exit velocity at 95.5MPH, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera (.268/.369/.464) and Nick Castellanos (.241/.302/.494). Here are the Top 10, and their respective wRC values to date:

wRC+ velocity chart

As far as “Barreled” balls goes (defined by Baseball Savant as “well struck batted balls with an estimated BA/SLG over .500/1.500), Manny has seven so far this year, right on par with Bryce Harper (.400/.523/.800 7 HR) and Miguel Sano (.258/.417/.591 5 HR).

Yes, Manny is hitting baseballs hard in 2017.

Machado’s K% is just a tick above his career rate (18.8% vs. 17.5%), so it isn’t like he’s putting that many fewer balls in play. Though he is walking more than normal – 12.5% of the time compared to 8.6% for his career – this is, of course, a good thing, and his swing metrics reflect a more discerning eye at the plate:

Manny Machado plate discipline chart.

via

Manny is swinging at fewer pitches overall than normal (43.2% compared to 47.2% career) and far fewer pitches outside the zone than normal (24.0% compared to 29.7% career). He is making just slightly less contact inside the zone (84% compared to 88.3% career) and overall (73.5% compared to 80.8% career).

So listen, Birdland. I’m here to tell you that Manny is going to be the least of this team’s worries moving forward. No, he doesn’t “need a day off.” He just needs his luck to even out a bit.

Now, Mark Trumbo, on the other hand…

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Brach’s High Heat, Britton & Rickard Back Soon?

Brad Brach looks in for a sign from the catcher.

It was an incredibly frustrating night in Birdland, as the O’s bats were quieted to the tune of 0 runs on just 2 hits, and the Rays evened the series at 1-1. However, things set up nicely for the good guys to take the series tonight, as Dylan Bundy takes the mound against Alex Cobb. As we outlined in our series preview, Cobb hasn’t been all that great to start 2017. Throw in that Kevin Cash burned just about his entire bullpen last night (he used five relief pitchers and no starters), and I’m feeling good about taking two of three.

We just need those bats to wake up!

Let’s see what’s up in the links.

How Sustainable is Baltimore’s Start?

Baltimore Sports and Life’s Brandon Warne digs into the numbers to try to figure out if the O’s can keep this hot start going, based on what we’ve seen so far. Their walk rate is near the bottom of the pack, as usual/expected, but the pitching has been better than advertised. Once the bats come around for real, they should be able to stay in the thick of things all season again. Here’s to that!

Is Brad Brach’s Elevated Fastball Taking Him to New Heights?

Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has all the GIFs and graphs you could ask for to help explain how Brad Brach‘s high fastball is helping him become the (even more) dominant reliever we see here in 2017.

Red Sox-Orioles Has Makings of Next Big Rivalry

FanRag’s Jonathan Bernhardt wonders if O’s-Sox could be the next big rivalry. Meh. Count me out, for a couple reasons. One, I don’t like “rivalries” in general. I understand how they increase ratings and “interest” from casual fans, etc., but as a die-hard, to me they just add more stress to the already incredibly stressful hobby of sports fandom. That’s part of the reason I despise MLB’s unbalanced schedule (and the NFL schedule, to a lesser extent). Secondly, I don’t want to hear sports yakkers talk about some sort of “silver lining” stemming from all the stupidity we saw in O’s-Boston this past weekend. It was all dumb, and let’s not encourage any of it.

Anyway, that’s just me. Maybe you want this to be more of a rivalry.

Britton Could be Back Sunday, Rickard on Friday

Camden Chat’s Mark Brown has your injury round-up. As for Rickard, the best option would seem to be to activate him and option him to AAA Norfolk, unless Buck wants to get rid of Craig Gentry, which I can’t really see happening. While he shouldn’t be leading off (BUCK!), he’s made some nice defensive plays (and a blunder or two), and is a nice option off the bench late. Optioning Rickard would allow the team to keep both in the organization for now.

How Do you Keep a Five-Man Bench? Fire Up the Norfolk Shuttle & Let it Ride

RE: Rickard/Gentry, Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball has another solution – a five-man bench and six-man rotating bullpen. I wouldn’t have a problem with this idea in one respect, but if it happens, a guy like Gentry needs to become as invisible as Ryan Flaherty has been so far this season, at least as far as the starting lineup goes. Gentry would need to be nothing but a late-inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. This team is having a hard enough time finding ABs for all their outfielders as it is.

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The Rundown: Adam Jones Steady, Gausman’s Start Worrisome

Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles prepares to swing.

The Orioles will attempt to win another series tonight (if the rain holds off) and they will try to do it behind left-hander Wade Miley. The veteran credits former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor for his success to end last year and his strong start to 2017. McGregor told Miley to try easier and I don’t know how that phrase has made a pitcher who has been in the league since 2011 more effective, but that’s where we are with Miley. The 30-year-old owns a career 4.14 ERA so it will be interesting to see how long this good streak will last.

 

Gausman Continues to Struggle

While Miley may be in the midst of one of his better stretches in his career, the pitcher that was supposed to take the next step is currently in the worst stretch of his professional life. Kevin Gausman has been off since opening day and now sports an ugly 7.50 ERA and even worse 17:15 strikeout to walk ratio through his first five starts.

The question is, why? We know Gausman is better than this. His fastball velocity has been around 95 MPH which is in line with what it has always been. Gausman is blaming his mechanics which are making his fastball command inconsistent and has led to the disappointing results.

The other factor is his pitch deployment. Gausman’s best pitch is his split-fingered fastball, yet he has not used that pitch at the rate he has in the past. Gausman really turned the corner in the final two months of 2016 and during that time, he threw the split-fingered fastball less than 15 percent of the time only twice in his final 12 starts according to FanGraphs.com.

Through his first five starts in 2017, Gausman has thrown his split-fingered fastball less than 15 percent already four times. It’s not a coincidence that after the first inning in his latest start, Gausman pitched much better and ended up throwing his splitter 19 percent of time.

Gausman is quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying he hasn’t faced as many lefties, but also he doesn’t throw that pitch a lot in spring training because he doesn’t want to develop any blisters so he scraps it until he builds up rough skin on his fingers. This has led Gausman to not have a great feel for the pitch.

The question becomes, how much longer until Gausman believes he can use that pitch more consistently? Also, will this be an issue in future seasons, and if so, what will Gausman do to counter that so he doesn’t look like a minor league pitcher for the first month of the season?

We don’t have much history to go from, as Gausman dealt with a shoulder injury last year to start the season so he made rehab starts before making it back to the big leagues and he was used as a reliever to begin 2015.

 

Mr. Consistent

As we continue to wait for Manny Machado to start hitting and Mark Trumbo to get out of a slump that has lasted since July of 2016, Adam Jones has been a steady presence once again in the Orioles lineup.

It’s amazing how consistent Jones has been throughout his career and congratulations to him for eclipsing the 1,500 hit mark. I realize it’s only been one month, but could Jones actually be in store for his best season yet? The 31-year-old was special in 2012 and 2013, so at worst, maybe he could come close to those numbers.

The reason I’m encouraged by Jones’ start is because of his patience at the plate. Jones will never confuse anyone with a hitter that will walk 100 times and he will always swing at the low and away slider, but as of now, Jones is at a career-best nine percent walk rate. Jones already has seven walks this season and is on pace for over 60 this year. The centerfielder has never walked 40 times in his career.

Another reason to be optimistic about Jones is his ability to hit the ball to all fields. Again, only one month, but Jones is hitting to right field 38 percent of the time, another career high. The ability to draw a walk and hit to all fields is exactly how to maintain a high batting average and right now, Jones is doing both.

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Listen to the Korean Language Call of Hyun-soo Kim’s HR

Hyun-soo Kim of the Baltimore Orioles homers off Tampa's Chris Archer.

Hyun-soo Kim finally got another start last night, his first since Thursday, and just his second since April 16. He went 1-for-3 with a walk (of course), and helped spark the O’s comeback by becoming the first player this year to homer off Tampa’s Chris Archer.

The homer came with two down in the bottom of the sixth, just when it looked like Archer was about to toss up another goose egg en route to handing the Birds their second straight loss. As happens every time a Korean player homers (or does anything, really), the Korean language broadcast guys lost their minds. Check it out here:

I don’t speak a lick of Korean, but I’m going to attempt to translate anyway…

“Kim gets a hold of one to right center…way back…way back there…you can put it on the boaaaaaarrrrrd, YES! And that, Buck, is why you play this guy!”

These calls are just one of the many things that Showalter robs the world of by not playing Kim more often.

Kim also picked up his first hit of the season off a left-handed pitcher on Sunday against Boston:

Ok, sure, so it was nothing but an infield dribbler with eyes. But need I remind you that that’s how Kim got like his first five or six hits overall in his rookie season? That’s how he starts!

With some more opportunities, he’ll be working lefties for prolonged at-bats and walks, and knocking them around just like he does righties. He just needs the chance to do so.

Unfortunately, things aren’t about to get any easier for Buck as far as the roster crunch goes. Joey Rickard played a rehab game in Delmarva last night, and reports are that he’ll need just one more before he can be activated from the DL. Buck seems to like what Craig Gentry brings to the table, and Seth Smith just keeps hitting at the top of the order as well.

So where does Kim get in?

One option would be to sit the struggling Mark Trumbo for a day or two. Trumbo hasn’t homered since his Opening Day walk-off, and is at just .214/.257/.300 for the season. Kim could DH, while Smith and/or Gentry/Rickard man the outfield corners.

We’ll see what Showalter decides to do. The bet here is that he keeps penciling Trumbo into the lineup every day, because “track record.” But the hope is that Kim starts to see a whole lot more playing time.

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Series Preview: Rays (10-10) @ Orioles (12-5)

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb pitches.

After taking two of three from the visiting Boston Red Sox over the weekend, the Orioles will look to continue their excellent run of form against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second leg of the home stand tonight at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (12-5) couldn’t have dreamed of a better overall start to the 2017 season. Not only do they own an MLB-Best 12-5 record, they’ve also recorded an impressive 6-2 record at home, a 6-3 record away from OPACY, and a stellar 10-4 mark versus the vicious AL East.

Not bad, eh? These Birds are flying at the moment.

The Rays (10-10) have gotten off to a pretty solid start this season backed by the AL’s highest-scoring offense (93 runs scored) and a sparkling 9-4 record at home, but their record stands at a lowly 1-6 away from The Trop. They’ll also be looking to recover from losing two of three at home versus Houston over the weekend, which came right after sweeping Detroit in the previous series.

Will the O’s keep it rolling, or will the visitors pull off a minor upset in the first Orioles-Rays meeting of 2017?

 

Probables

Game One

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 5.51 ERA) will take the mound tonight versus Rays ace Chris Archer (2-0, 3.20 ERA) in the series opener.

Jimenez was magnificent his last time out versus Cincinnati, having allowed just two hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings en route to notching a well-deserved first win of 2017. Jimenez’s pure gem of an outing resulted in his ERA plummeting from 10.38 to 5.51. Here’s to another sparking outling from the O’s veteran.

While he wasn’t at his best versus Detroit, Archer was almost unhittable over his first three starts of the campaign and seems to have rediscovered the form that made him one of the AL’s best from 2013-2015. Archer has allowed just nine runs over his first 25 1/3 innings while racking up 27 K’s in the process. More impressively, just a season after giving up 30 long balls, Archer has allowed zero dingers through his first four starts of April.

Game Two

Wade Miley (1-0, 1.89 ERA) will get the nod against Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 3.07 ERA) on Tuesday.

Miley is coming off one of the finest performances of his career after allowing just a single run on two hits over eight innings to go along with tying a career high with 11 strikeouts versus the Reds last Thursday, and has been nothing short of stellar for the Orioles this season. He’s allowed just four runs on eight hits over his first 19 innings of work, and owns the AL’s sixth-best WHIP (0.84) and fifth-best K/9 (11.37).

Ramirez looked sharp in his first start of the season against the Tigers last Thursday, having allowed just one run on two hits over five innings along with zero walks and five strikeouts en route to his second win of the season. He’s also allowed just nine hits over his first 14 2/3 innings of the season (0.68 WHIP).

Game Three

Dylan Bundy (3-1, 1.37 ERA) will look to continue his dominant run of form versus Alex Cobb (1-2, 4.88 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Bundy has become one of baseball’s breakout star candidates after mowing down everyone through his first four starts of the campaign. He’s allowed one run or fewer in three of his four outings and goes into his fifth start of the season versus Tampa on a 13-inning scoreless streak after shutting out the Jays and ‘Sox over six and seven innings, respectively.

Cobb will be looking to snap out of a rough three-game patch in which he’s posted an 0-2 record and a 5.89 ERA. He’s also given up eight runs on a woeful twenty hits allowed over his last two starts (11 innings).

 

Notes

Manny Machado will kick off the three-game set on a five-game hit streak, and will be looking forward to Monday’s contest as he owns a stellar .313 average with one homer and three RBI against Chris Archer.

Chris Davis (.273, 3 HR, 7 RBI) J.J. Hardy (.348, 0 HR, 3 RBI) and Jonathan Schoop (.313, 2 HR, 2 RBI) have also hit Archer hard in the past. Maybe this will be the game the O’s break out of their slump at the plate.

– Davis has also posted excellent career numbers against Ramirez, going 6-for-19 (.316) at the plate with two homers and six RBI. Schoop, however, cannot say the same as he’s gone just 2-for-15 (.133) with zero homers and zero RBI against Ramirez.

– While Cobb may be struggling for form at the moment, he’s owned the Orioles big guns in the past.  Machado (.067, 1 HR, 2 RBI) has a single home run to show over his 15 at-bats versus Cobb, while Schoop (.111, 0 HR, 0 RBI) and Davis (.125, 0 HR, 0 RBI) are probably not looking forward to facing him, either.

– Orioles pitchers beware: Steven Souza is on absolute fire. He leads the club in batting average (.347), OBP (.424), SLG (.613), RBI (17) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (4).  Corey Dickerson (.314, 7 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI) is also crushing the ball in the early stages. Long story short? These guys know how to mash.

 

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Enjoy the series!

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Baltimre Riles: Where’s the O?

Mark Trumbo of the Orioles holds his bat horizontally and looks dismayed.

The final result of a chaotic series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards over the weekend was that the Orioles won two of three games over the Boston Red Sox and have yet to lose a single series three weeks into the 2017 season. Yet all anybody can talk about is what happened between Manny Machado, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Barnes, and the rest of the actors in that unseemly play.

Therein lies the problem. What we should be talking about, at least in Baltimore, is the play on the field.

Now don’t get me wrong: there is a lot to be happy about in Birdland. When all is said and done, the Orioles still have the best record in the American League at 12-5. Their starting rotation, despite Kevin Gausman‘s early struggles, ranks fourth the AL with a 3.50 ERA–a massive surprise considering the rotation was supposed to be the weak point on this team. But with all the ruckus going on this weekend, it has been easy to overlook the fact that the Orioles simply are not hitting, and thus not scoring.

A week ago Sunday, the Orioles rattled off 11 runs on 15 hits, including four home runs en route to a decisive 11-4 victory over the Happ-less (pun intended) Toronto Blue Jays. Since then, the Orioles have scored just 15 runs on 43 hits while hitting just five home runs in six games, failing to score more than three runs in five of those contests. That’s a 2.5 runs/gm average, and a team batting average of just .219.

Mark Trumbo, the Major’s home run champion in 2016, hasn’t homered since Opening Day and is batting just .227. Manny Machado, a perennial MVP candidate, is batting just .206. Chris Davis, who has averaged 99 RBI in his five seasons in Baltimore, has just four through 17 games.

These are your daily 3-4-5 hitters, ladies and gentlemen.

As a team, the club is batting just .243 and ranks last in walks, 12th in runs, and 11th in OBP while scoring three runs or fewer in 11 of 17 games. This is the type of production (or lack thereof) that saw the Orioles fall out of first place in 2016 and almost miss the playoffs. In fact, the trend of scoring three runs or fewer is a disturbing one.

In 2016, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer 72 times, going 19-53 in those 72 games. That means they went 70-20 in games in which they scored four runs or more. That’s 50 games above .500 if the Orioles simply score four or more runs.

There’s no doubt that the Orioles bats are going to wake up sooner or later. These guys just have too good of a track record. Still, the lack of offense to this point is disheartening and the weakness of this lineup against left-handed pitching is a serious cause for concern (last in the AL at .234 in 2016, 8th at .236 in 2017).

The bottom line is this: the Orioles are never going to be great at getting on base. Their offensive game plan is to bash as many home runs as possible and hope to bludgeon the opposition into submission. Everybody knows that power has many peaks and valleys, and the hope for the Orioles is that when the power hits one of those valleys, the pitching can make up for it, which it has to this point.

Still, much like the lineup has a proven track record, so does the starting rotation, only this track record isn’t nearly as good. There’s a reason the Orioles rotation was so heavily doubted coming into this season.

So what happens if the other shoe drops?

Only time will tell.

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Monday’s O’s Links: Joseph Helping Fuel Miley’s Stellar Start

Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph in his catching crouch.

Tempers flared, baseballs flew at heads, and suspensions are sure to be coming soon. More importantly, the O’s took two of three from the Boston Red Sox over the weekend, pushing their record to a stellar 12-5. Things don’t get any easier though – the next 10 games are all against AL East teams, starting with three at home against Tampa Bay.

Stay Buckled Up, and let’s get to the links.

Britton Says Pedroia Needs to Control his Teammates

Zach Britton had some interesting things to say about this weekend’s drama, per Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball.

Trey Mancini Will Never Be Frank Energa

Trey went deep again this weekend, so Baseball Prospectus’ Bryan Grosnick may need to update this article. Who is Frank Energa you ask? Well, that’s a very interesting piece of obscure baseball history, as Grosnick explains.

In Nod to Orioles & Data, Jones Positioning Himself Deeper

Adam Jones is playing further from home plate this year. We had a link to a story on that in Friday’s links, but today’s goes even deeper (see what I did there?) as Jones explains to the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli how the decision came about. It’s clear that Jones isn’t necessarily happy with the change, but it’s great that he’s willing to swallow his pride for the good of the team.

Free Hyun-soo Kim!

FanGraphs’ Paul Swayden says what I’ve been saying for months, which is that if the Orioles aren’t going to give Hyun-soo Kim a fair shake (AGAIN), then they should just trade him. Some team will find value in a guy who gets on base at a .380 clip. After Kim finally got a hit against a lefty (when given a chance) on Sunday, perhaps he’ll be in the lineup more? I won’t hold my breath.

Wade Miley’s Winning Combo: Great Command and Great Framing

Camden Depot’s Ryan Romano has an outstanding piece on what’s making Wade Miley look like a Dallas Kuechel clone here in 2017, instead of the train wreck he was for much of 2016’s second half. Part of the secret: Caleb Joseph, of course. The former Ubaldo-whisperer is now the Miley-whisperer.

A Few Thoughts on Baseball’s Unwritten Rules

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, weighs in on baseball’s very stupid “unwritten rules” which state that it’s perfectly OK, and even encouraged, for one grown man to intentionally throw a baseball at another grown man over some perceived slight.

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PiR: O’s Take the High Road, Kim Gets a Hit Off a Lefty

Baltimore Orioles OF Hyun-soo Kim swings his bat.

REALITY: Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia kept their cool when the rest of their teams didn’t.

PERCEPTION: I gained a lot of respect for Dustin over the weekend. That statement from him after Sunday’s game says it all, and it should end any more retaliation talk. Pedroia knew Manny didn’t try to hurt him on Friday night. And Pedroia did not like that his pitcher threw at Manny’s head.

How often do you see a player in a team captain role throw a teammate under the bus like that? Matt Barnes and John Farrell both said that the pitch got away from him, and Pedroia said, “That’s not how you do that… It’s definitely a mishandled situation.”

But apparently the Boston clubhouse needs to get together and talk. Orioles pitcher Zach Britton told BaltimoreBaseball.com:

“Dustin, him telling Manny, ‘Hey, that didn’t come from me’ may be even more frustrating. Because he’s the leader of that clubhouse and if he can’t control his own teammates, then there’s a bigger issue over there.”

If it were a flipped situation, and he was planning to hit a batter in retaliation for what a team did to one of his teammates, and he was told not to by a veteran Oriole, he’d listen.

Pedroia knows “how things work” in baseball (as stupid as many “unwritten rules” are), but he did not agree with the way that his team did things. And you can’t say the pitch “slipped.” Then what do you call the three pitches in the 6th inning that were WAY inside… three straight pitches got away in the same spot? Get real.

This says it all:

It seems that everyone inside, and outside, of baseball agrees… it was a cowardly and childish pitch that MLB has to do something about. Barnes needs to be suspended. But not only that, the players need to do something. If throwing at someone is “a part of baseball,” then fine. But as Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick said over and over again during the MASN broadcast… that pitch has to be at the shoulders and below. Throwing at the head could kill someone, or end their career.

The manager and the pitcher should have manned up and said “Look, it was a bad pitch. Yes, I meant to come in on him, but I did not mean to go at his head, and for that I apologize.” But to act like they didn’t even mean to throw at him is ludicrous and their own player called them out on it.

Want to know the difference between Boston’s manager and Baltimore’s?

Baltimore has a manager that talks with his players and the players respect and listen to.

REALITY: Hyun Soo Kim got his first hit off a Left-Handed Pitcher in his career Sunday.

PERCEPTION: It took a 326 at bats to do it (but just 23 against LHP), but Kim finally got the “monkey off his back” when it comes to hitting against a left-handed pitcher. Maybe now Buck will let him play more.

Of the six Orioles to play outfield this season, Kim is 2nd in batting average and 3rd in on-base percentage. So I’m confused on why he is 5th in at bats? The only guy with fewer is on the disabled list.

Kim proved last year to be a fully capable outfielder, while adding a lot to a line-up that needed a guy to just get on base. Kim does that. There is no reason that your everyday outfield can’t be Kim, Jones, and Trumbo, with Trey Mancini at DH. If you want to get Seth Smith in the game, you can, but Kim should be getting more at-bats.

REALITY: The O’s are 14th in baseball in fielding percentage.

PERCEPTION: I cannot remember a time in my life that the Orioles have not been of the top five teams, defensively, in baseball. But early on this year they are struggling. Their 10 errors is 18th in baseball.

As much talk as there about the lack of strong defensive outfielders on the team, the infield has been where the real issue has been on this young season. Now, I’m not expecting that to continue. They will find their rhythm, and I still expect them to be in the top 5 by the end of the season, but it’s certainly been a concern early on.

REALITY: The Orioles have the best record in the American League and are tied for the best record in baseball.

 PERCEPTION: At 12-5, the Orioles have a .706 winning percentage, the same as the Washington Nationals. Man, that could be a fun World Series… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The O’s are 10-4 against the AL East, and are 5-1 in 1-run games. Of all the stats you can look at, those are the two most important. In 2012 of course, they had an unbelievable 29-9 record in 1-run games. And if the Birds keep winning against their division then, they win the AL East… it’s that simple. And their next 10 games are against divisional opponents.

It’s a long season, and the Orioles seem to be similar to last year’s team in this… inconsistent pitching and hitting. Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Dylan Bundy had three great starts and then Kevin Gausman lays another egg. While their pitching did great in giving up just one run during a three-game span, their offense only scored two runs per game. That’s not going to cut it. They are 16th in the league in batting average. Their offense needs to find a spark, because no one believes we can rely on Jimenez and Miley to keep up their production…although our fingers are crossed.

But that bullpen…that bullpen continues to be the best in baseball. They haven’t missed a beat with the best closer in baseball on the DL. Brad Brach has picked up the ball and been just as good. Donnie Hart, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day, and Alec Asher have been very good. Jayson Aquino did a not job Saturday. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter keep making it work with mixing and matching players.

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Wait, the Orioles Can…Pitch?

Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles pitches.

Your Baltimore Orioles currently have the best record in MLB. Yes, I know, it’s only April 23 and we’re only 16 games in, but we’re O’s fans! We get very excited over every little good thing this team does and also get very angry over every little bad thing they do.

The only other times in team history that the O’s have started 12-4 or better were in 1966 and 1997. If you just hopped on the bandwagon after the 2012 season or have lived in an underground bunker & are not familiar with what happened in 1966, head on up to the club level of Camden Yards and take a peek at that beautiful World Series trophy. 1966 was the first year the Orioles won the World Series.

Baltimore’s first-place record has a lot to do with their 23 home runs, which we all expected. However, the biggest contributor has been a surprise: the pitching. And not just our bullpen, but also our starting pitchers. Orioles pitchers have only allowed just three runs over their last 42 innings. Yes, you read that right.

Go on, I’ll take a minute for you to re-read that. Also, per Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli, the Orioles won last night’s game with 29 of 143 pitches at or above 90 MPH. In today’s velocity-obsessed MLB, that’s remarkable.

With Chris Tillman still out on his rehab assignment, our starting pitchers have consisted of Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dylan Bundy & Wade Miley. Also, Alec Asher, who gave us a quality start last weekend against Toronto and Jayson Aquino, who was called up from Norfolk & got his first major league start & win last night. Aquino’s start, which clinched the series against Boston, was the Orioles’ 8th quality start in the last nine games.

Oh, and Trey Mancini hit his 5th home run for the season. In other news, water is wet & the sky is blue. Now, back to the pitching.

Prior to the season, if I were to ask you who our “ace” would be, chances are you would say Gausman, right? Well, in four starts, Gausman has a 1-1 record with a 7.23 ERA in only 18.2 innings pitched. Bundy, on the other hand, has quickly won over our hearts with a 3-1 record & 1.37 ERA in four games. He’s also struck out 20 & only walked four in those 26.1 innings pitched.

But wait, there’s more! Miley is holding it down with a 1.89 ERA & 24 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. Most recently, his outstanding outing against Cincinnati where he nearly went the distance with 8 innings pitched & only allowed two hits, one walk & struck out 11.

And as always, Baltimore’s bullpen continues to be dominant. They have not allowed a run in 8.2 innings & haven’t allowed a hit in the last eight.

The Orioles go for the sweep against the Red Sox today as Gausman gets the start and former Orioles prospect Edwardo Rodriguez gets the start for Boston.

The question is, will we be seeing 2016 Gausman or Ubaldo 2.0 this afternoon?

Movie poster featuring Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez.

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Word on the Street: Machado’s Slide Causes Controversy

Manny Machado slides into Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedrioa at second base.

We had some controversy in last night’s win. Click play or read the transcript below.

The Baltimore Orioles won again on Friday night, 2-0 over the Boston Red Sox behind 7-plus shutout innings from Dylan Bundy and clutch bullpen work by Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Brad Brach.

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about Bundy this morning. Instead, we’re talking about a play involving Manny Machado in the bottom of the eighth inning. Machado – who had homered earlier to give the Birds an insurance run – slid into second base as Dustin Pedroia was reaching out to field a throw, and his cleats made contact with Pedroia’s leg.

Manny appeared to immediately reach out to keep Pedroia from falling, but apparently the damage was already done, as the second baseman had to be removed from the game. What looked like a pretty routine play was suddenly soaked in controversy. Boston pitcher Joe Kelly was seen on camera yelling at Machado. Boston third base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected between innings for complaining about the slide. And manager John Farrell was apparently still barking from the dugout during his team’s at-bats in the top of the ninth.

A couple Boston reporters were – and are still today – weighing in, and overwhelmingly seem to be in favor of Boston engaging in some sort of “retaliation” against Manny this weekend. Retaliation in baseball of course, comes in the form of one grown man throwing a baseball at another grown man intentionally.

Real mature stuff.

Amusingly, if you look at the replies to Tweets on the subject from some of those aforementioned Boston reporters, there is hardly consensus among Red Sox fans on the issue. Many seem to have a much more reasoned reaction to what happened. They think the slide was fine, and that no retaliation is in order.

Some media also reported that the Red Sox players were watching the play in slow-motion after the game.

I suppose we’ll see what those players “discovered” as the series goes on. If Machado wears one in the ribs over the next two games, then we’ll know that the kangaroo court dubbed him guilty. In that case, let’s just hope he doesn’t get injured or charge the mound.

We O’s fans know that Manny has done some…questionable…things in the past. But you can believe that and also think that as far as the slide goes, there’s nothing to see here.

Maybe media members shouldn’t be carrying water for teams on things like this. And maybe those Red Sox players would be better served reviewing tape of those 27 outs they went without scoring a single run.

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Cincinnati Reds “Bandwagon Cam” is Amazing

Reds Bandwagon Cam shows Cubs fans' real allegiances.

The Cincinnati Reds have a new feature at Great American Ballpark that they are breaking out when the Chicago Cubs, and their newfound waves of fans, are in town – The Bandwagon Cam.

Check it out:

This is great. I’ll be honest though – I’m jealous. I wish the Orioles had done this about a decade ago for “Pink Hat Nation” AKA Boston Red Sox fans from Severna Park and Arlington. For that matter, I wish the team across the street, the Baltimore Ravens, would do it when the Pittsburgh Steelers are in town.

I get it – fans like teams who do well, and winners attract more fans. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call people out for bandwagon-hopping.

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#Staturday: On the O’s Great Run of Pitching

Ubaldo Jimenez pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.

Happy Staturday Birdland! It was a really, really weird week of O’s baseball but nonetheless, a great one.

The pitching has caught fire since their three game series in Cincinnati:

The Orioles’ pitching staff has allowed one run over the last 33.1 innings.

In the last two games against the Reds, both relievers and starters put on an absolute clinic:

For two consecutive nights, Orioles’ pitchers have given up only two hits. This is the fifth such streak in Orioles’ history.

You know what great pitching means? The Orioles can actually consistently win low scoring games:

The Orioles have won three consecutive games scoring two runs or fewer. The last time this happened? 1972.

My last stat is a random one, so bear with me. On Wednesday, the Orioles beat the Reds and here’s the (wonky) strikeout count from that night:

Os pitchers threw four strikeouts.

Os batters struck out 16 times.

It was the sixth time in team history that they’ve won while striking out 16 or more times.

It was the first time the Orioles won a game striking out 16 or more times while throwing four or fewer strikeouts.

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Series Preview: Orioles (10-4) vs. Red Sox (10-6)

Side-by-side of Dylan Bundy and Drew Pomeranz of the Orioles and Red Sox, respectively, pitching.

After wrapping up an excellent showing in their first road trip of the season, the Orioles will now fly back to Camden to take on the reigning AL East Champion Boston Red Sox for a three-game set at home.

The Orioles (10-4) come back to Baltimore on a serious high after posting an impressive 6-3 record over their latest nine-game road stretch, while the Red Sox (10-6) will also be feeling pretty good after taking two of three in Toronto earlier this week and seem to have found their stride as we approach the month of May.

Both squads have been impressive in the early stages of 2017. The Orioles’ current 10-4 record is a league-best in terms of winning percentage (71.4%), while the ‘Sox have posted a 6-2 mark over their last eight contests after going 4-4 out of the box.

Will the Orioles remain in first, or will we see an early-season change in the standings?

 

Probables

Dylan Bundy (2-1, 1.86 EERA) will take on Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 5.23 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy has been simply sensational over his first three starts of the season. Not only does the budding star own an outstanding line consisting of a 2-1 record, 1.86 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, he’s recorded 6+ innings pitched in all three outings and allowed one run or less and five hits or less in two of three. Not to mention the fact that he’s posted a superb 3:17 walk-to-strikeout clip over 19 1/3 innings. Whether his sparkling form continues or not is another question, but for now, Bundy isn’t going anywhere.

Pomeranz will be making his second start of the season against the Birds after allowing just a single run on four hits over six innings against them in an 8-1 win on April 11th.

Jayson Aquino will be making his season debut and first career start against Steven Wright (1-1, 8.36 ERA) on Saturday.

The Orioles are high on Aquino, 24, but one must wonder why Alec Asher isn’t getting the nod here. Asher put in an excellent performance during his Orioles debut last week against the Blue Jays and allowed just one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings to go along with one walk and five K’s. Hopefully, he’ll be taking the mound again soon.

Wright will be looking to erase the memory of his last start on April 12th against the O’s in which he allowed eight runs and four dingers over 1 1/3 innings in a 12-5 loss at Fenway. He’s already bounced back actually, having allowed just a single run over six innings en route to picking up his first win of the season against the Rays last week.

Kevin Gausman (1-1, 7.23 ERA) will take the mound against Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 4.76 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday.

Gausman will be looking to recover from a disastrous outing in Cincy which saw his ERA jump from 3.94 to 7.23, but the main concern with Gausman through his first four starts of the campaign is his control. The O’s fireballer has allowed an AL-high 12 walks over his first 18 2/3 innings of the season.

Rodriguez seems to have the same problem early on this year, as he’s allowed seven walks over his first 11 1/3 innings despite notching 15 K’s. The former Orioles top prospect was pretty sharp his last time out versus Pittsburgh and allowed just two runs over 5 1/3 innings while racking up eight K’s.

 

Notes

– Last year, the Orioles went 2-8 versus the Red Sox at Camden Yards….How many games out of first were we again? Let’s hope this trend doesn’t repeat itself.

– Boston’s three hottest hitters, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Mitch Moreland all have crushed the O’s in the past. Betts owns a career .292 average to go with 10 homers and 24 RBI versus Baltimore, while Benintendi owns a .292 average with one homer and six RBI and Moreland has posted a .269 average with seven homers and 21 RBI lifetime against the Birds….Brilliant.

– The same can’t be said for the Orioles two hottest hitters, Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy. Schoop comes into the series with a career .222 average versus Boston, while Hardy clocks in a tick above Schoop at .223.

Mark Trumbo may still be homerless since opening day, but at least he’s gone 7-for-16 with two doubles over his current four-game hit streak. Here’s to a fireworks display from MLB’s reigning home run champion.

– Schoop has been tearing the cover off the ball lately, going 12-for-31 (.387) with six runs, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI over the course of his current eight-game hitting streak.

– Hardy has been almost as hot as of late, going 10-for-28 (.357) with three doubles, one home run and five RBI over his last seven contests.

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Enjoy the series!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Jones Playing Deeper, Gausman Searching for Answers

Adam Jones prepares to defend.

After a very successful 6-3 road trip through Boston, Toronto, and Cincinnati, the Birds return home tonight to start a six-game homestand against Boston and Tampa Bay. They then finish the month in New York, because the MLB schedule remains incredibly stupid.

That aside, let’s see what’s up in today’s links.

The Orioles Need Kevin Gausman to Get on Track, and He Will

Camden Depot’s Nick Cicere tries to assuage our fears about Kevin Gausman. His ERA is, of course, an unseemly 7.23 after he got tagged on Tuesday in Cincinnati. Three of his four starts this season have been shaky. Is a turnaround on the horizon? We all certainly hope so.

Jones Playing Deeper in Centerfield

Adam Jones is playing 17-feet deeper so far this season, much to the delight of my father. Is it helping? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello says that early returns have been favorable.

Why WAR-Based Systems Underestimate Elite Relievers

For the nerd crowd: Camden Depot’s Matt Perez tries to figure out why WAR seems to underestimate MLB’s elite relief pitchers, of which there now seem to be more than ever. Basically, WAR has trouble placing appropriate value on smaller sample sizes, and when relievers are throwing 60-70 innings per year, that becomes an issue.

Caleb Joseph on the Maturation Process

FanGraphs’ David Laurila sat down with Caleb Joseph to talk about how young pitchers and catchers mature in the minors and bigs. Ever want to get inside the head of an MLB catcher? This is the article for you. Very cool stuff.

How the Hell Do the Orioles Keep Winning?

Vice Sports’ Christopher Crawford is one of those guys who just refuses to believe that the Orioles are – and have been – a good team, despite what the win column has been telling him since 2012. It’s amusing to read him try to figure out what the heck is going on with this team that “over-performs” the projections every year. Maybe part of it goes back to that WAR problem Matt Perez talked about earlier. In addition to that…come on man. It ain’t luck…it’s Buck.

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Thursday Thoughts: Ubaldo “The Riddler” Jimenez

Jim Hunter interviews Buck Showalter with words underneath.

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. If you say you’re surprised by Ubaldo Jimenez’s sparkling 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball last night in Cincinnati, I’d guess you haven’t been watching over the last three-plus years. The reason Jimenez is so frustrating is that everyone knows he’s capable of turning in that kind of performance, but he does it so infrequently. Perhaps the above image from MASNSports.com last night, while surely a simple mistake, also has a bit of truth to it.

Jimenez is the ultimate “question mark.” And sure, last night’s four walks weren’t ideal. He didn’t have swing-and-miss type of stuff. Some of the balls hit in the later innings were ripped and required some nice defense. But all in all, Jimenez was good last night. He’s easy to root for and even easier to rip. Just wait until his next start, when the roller coaster ride continues.

2. It’s felt like “opposite day” in Cincinnati so far as Jimenez pitched well and Kevin Gausman continued to do the opposite. The 26-year-old is 1-for-4 in “quality starts” this season, and two of them have been complete duds. I’ll give Gausman a slight pass for Opening Day, though he was clearly not at his best there either. One of the more shocking things Gausman has dealt with this season is his walks. He’s got 12 of them compared to 13 strikeouts. I tend to fully believe that Gausman is carrying some extra “burden” with Chris Tillman out. Perhaps it’s mental, or at least one can hope. Then again, can an ERA north of 7.00 and a WHIP over 2.00 really be all mental? There’s got to be something else going on there.

Listening to Gausman speak after this week’s start in Cincinnati, he seemed to know exactly what was wrong. The way he discussed the outing made me think there was something mechanically that he knows is fixable.

Honestly, if that’s not the case, the Orioles could be in for a world of trouble.

3. Gausman isn’t the only player that’s noticeably struggling right now for the Orioles. Manny Machado’s woes at the plate are still bordering on the “small sample size” territory, but they are at least worth discussing. Machado has just eight hits on the year, and four of them came in the first four games. He’s got just four in the last nine, and is batting just .170. Machado is still showing the ability to draw some walks, but expectations are obviously way higher for Machado.

It’d be nice to see him heat up and help this offense show the pop it is capable of. Machado is the straw that stirs that drink.

4. I know everyone’s excited about Trey Mancini’s start to the season, heck, even his career. It’s totally understandable. Even I enjoy watching his at-bats, believe me. But I also think it’s time we all pump the brakes just a tad on the Trey Train. Let’s just slow it down a bit and let it work around the first curve. Mancini is less than 20 games into his career and is being anointed by some as a savior. I think he’s more than earned his spot on this roster and will likely stay up the whole season, unless there’s a serious roster crunch at some point and a need to move a player out who actually has options.

But Mancini still has a lot to prove. Pitchers will eventually adjust to him, and he’ll have to prove that he can re-adjust to them. Perhaps just as importantly, Mancini has to prove he can play in the field. Obviously, he’s blocked at first base by Chris Davis, so these starts he’s seeing in the corner outfield spots are crucial. He hasn’t been seriously tested in any one game thus far, but it will come. When he is tested, he needs to pass.

5. The Orioles farm system is obviously thin, but there’s one name I’m getting more and more excited about as the days go by. It’s not Chance Sisco or Chris Lee, but Double-A Bowie’s Cedric Mullins officially has my attention. Mullins was named Eastern League Player of the Week recently and has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He’s just 22 years old, and pushing for a potential call-up at season’s end already.

This is a guy who could be in the outfield come next season if things break his way. He’s hitting for some power already as well after making the jump from Delmarva last season. He profiles as the prototypical leadoff hitter who could steal bases and be a nuisance at the top of the order for the Birds, something they are desperately missing.

In a farm system that leaves a lot to be desired, Mullins is a guy I’ve been genuinely excited about thus far.

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Get Your Boom Boom Trey Mancini Shirt Here

Trey Mancini BOOM BOOM t-shirt.

Trey Mancini AKA “Boom Boom” has been off to quite the tear to start 2017. After homering twice in two separate games already this season, he has tied Trevor Story and Dino Restelli for most home runs through a player’s first 12 career MLB games with seven.

Last year, of course, upon being called up, he became the fourth Oriole to hit a home run for his first career hit, after Larry Haney, Nick Markakis, and Jonathan Schoop. He was the 20th major leaguer to homer in each of his first two starts. He was the third player to homer in each of his first three starts.

Boom Boom indeed.

And tonight, he’s leading off! Quite a whirlwind start for the youngster.

Now, thanks to our friends at Breaking T, you can support BOOM BOOM with this awesome new MLBPA-approved shirt:

Trey Mancini Boom Boom Logo.

Click Here to Buy

This isn’t our first rodeo with Breaking T. They’ve brought us some great shirts in the past, including Dealin’ Bundy, Great Britton (down to very limited sizes on those shirts. We’ll talk to them about maybe printing some more) and Manny Mashado (sold out).

Breaking T shirts are high-quality, very comfortable, and look great. Our usual disclaimer goes as follows: if you’re deciding between two sizes, though the 60/40 cotton/poly blend doesn’t shrink much (and feels great), go with the larger of the two.

Get your BOOM BOOM Mancini shirt today! Hurry, before Trey goes…

again.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: All Aboard the Trey Train

Trey Mancini rounds the bases.

Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. On Sunday in Toronto, the O’s were the windshield. Last night in Cincy, they were the bug.

Get ’em tonight.

Will Kevin Gausman’s Slider Lead to Sustained Success?

So far, NOPE! SI.com’s Michael Beller put together this great piece on Gausman, published Monday, outlining his new use of his breaking ball. GIFs, charts, and all the fun stuff we seamheads have come to expect from pitching analysis these days. This article got O’s fans even more excited to watch Kevin pitch this week. Then he goes out and has one of the worst starts of his career on Tuesday night, because of course he did.

Despite Initial Skepticism, OPACY Has Become a Bucket List Destination

Do you remember that there were actually people who didn’t think building Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a good idea, or have you blocked that from memory? PressBox’s Jim Henneman reminds us.

O’s Pitching Staff Bound to be Tested

Our own Andrew Stetka, writing in his weekly MASN guest column, goes through the Birds’ bevy of pitcher acquisitions of late, and talks about how odd they are. Speaking of pitchers…check this out (and turn away from your screen if you have a mouthful of coffee):

Bird’s Eye View Episode 157: The Natural

Jake & Scott talk with Justin McGuire of the Baseball by the Book podcast, heap praise on Trey Mancini (while also preaching caution), and more in this week’s episode. Give a listen.

Trey Day: O’s Need to Make Room

Michael Klopman of Sports on Earth jumps aboard the Trey Train as well. Mancini wasn’t in the starting lineup last night, but with Seth Smith reportedly tweaking a hammy and being possibly headed for the DL, the Orioles ol’ roster crunch may have conveniently solved itself yet again.

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