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Week(end) in Review: Mid-July Massacre

A Cubs player watches the ball sail at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

If there were still any of you out there who were as optimistic about our chances of turning it around in the second half as I was, you’re probably pretty bummed on this dreary Monday morning.

Bummed doesn’t begin to do it justice. More along the lines of gutted, hopeless and heartbroken. The feeling is like when you catch your girlfriend cheating on you with your best friend three days in a row while “Black” by Pearl Jam, “Where did you sleep last night” by Nirvana and “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains are stuck in a constant loop on the radio afterwards.

John Carpenter couldn’t have scripted something so savage and brutal. Maybe the late Wes Craven could have, but that’s a debate for another day.

In the meantime, we just had to sit through the “Nightmare on Eutaw Street: Part II” and wonder if the Orioles can ever snap back into the swing of things.

Maybe…Maybe not… Who knows.

All I know is that anything, and I mean anything, will be better than what transpired this weekend.

As a result of being beaten, battered, bruised and broken by the reigning champs, the Orioles are now nine games behind the first place Red Sox in the chase for the division title and have fallen 5.5-games behind the Rays for the second wild card spot in the AL.

We also know that the 2012-2016 Orioles could still show up at some point and make things interesting, but the window is slamming shut in a hurry. The Orioles are stuck in quicksand and despite their efforts, their ship is sinking fast.

To make matters worse, the vicious cycle of losing that they’re caught in and can’t get out of looks to be forcing the Orioles’ hand into selling at the deadline. While a total overhaul may not be necessary, you can’t ignore that the fact that this squad needs to be revamped and the farm system needs to be restocked.

While we knew that they weren’t a star-studded cast of pitchers, few would have expected the starting rotation to let the team down as much as they have this season. Even fewer would have predicted such a roller coaster season from our high-powered offense. More than one thing has gone wrong during the current campaign.

All eyes on 2018 and beyond I guess, because 2017 just hasn’t played out the way that we all had hoped. We’re one more long losing streak away from counting it as a lost season, and that’s a tough pill to swallow considering the direction of the franchise was at stake coming into the season.

All we can do at this point is hope for better times ahead. And maybe ask for a starting rotation for Christmas this Winter.

Just remember to enjoy the ride, folks. Better times will follow.

And don’t lose your faith in this team. They won’t stay down for fourteen years this time around.

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Orioles Having Some Sort of Game of Thrones Night/Package (Update)

Winter is Here

The Orioles’ season is going nowhere fast, and we’re all just waiting to see if they’ll start selling off players here in the next few days. Losing (badly) and trading some of your best players is a sure-fire way to end up with a whole lotta empty seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Fortunately, it looks like the fine folks in the Birds’ marketing department are hitting dingers, even if some of Baltimore’s other employees aren’t:

They say that more info is coming soon. For now all we know is this:

1. “Winter is Here” night is August 22

2. Somebody at MLB Advanced Media deserves a raise for this video

3. There is a ticket package involved

Hey, if your team isn’t very entertaining, why not glom onto one of the most hyped-up programs in all of the entertainment world? I give the O’s big ups for this promotion. I already have tickets for August 22, of course, so maybe I’ll be moving them back a night.

There isn’t much info here now, but check out Orioles.com/GameofThrones periodically for more.

Our friends over at Bird’s Eye View have done a Game of Thrones Orioles post in the past, and it’s worth your time to go look at their creative works.

Update 7/20: They’ve released some more details, and this got interesting quickly:

The Game of Thrones® ticket package includes an exclusive bullpen pregame party, plus each fan will receive a limited Adam Jones: The Watcher on the Wall t-shirt and a chance to sit on the Iron Throne. Tickets are $65 for left field lower box and $45 for left field upper box.

You can sit on the darn Iron Throne! They have a picture of it and everything:

AND, you get this sweet Adam Jones shirt:

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O’s Should Re-Tool for 2018, Not Rebuild

Brady Anderson and Dan Duquette talk with a microphone.

The Baltimore Orioles are 42-49, which is good for 4th place in the American League East, and 5 games out of a wild card birth. Since 2012, the O’s have been a very competitive team, especially in what many consider the toughest division in baseball. They have spent a significant amount of time in first place over the last couple of years which is why their fall since May this season has been so hard for fans to handle.

The tough season this team is having is not a “rough stretch,” as they went through last year a couple of times. This is a team that just isn’t that good. For the last few years, the Birds have made a move for a marginal starting pitcher at the trade deadline and hoped that it would put them over the top. This year, a move like that will do nothing. It’s time for General Manager Dan Duquette to decide where this team is truly headed.

For a team that had the best record in the American League from 2012-2016 (and the first month of 2017), the O’s have not been that far off. During that stretch, they were able to make the playoffs three times, which included one AL East Division Title. However, the Orioles have a lot of big name players whose contracts end after next season… Manny Machado, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Welington Castillo (if he picks up his player option after this year).

The Birds cannot afford to re-sign all those players. So, should Baltimore do a Miami Marlins-style “fire sale” and get rid of all veterans players to bring in a bunch of quality minor leaguers that will help this team in the years to come? Or do they make a few moves that will definitely hurt the team this season, but could help them re-tool and give it one more shot in 2018 before a full rebuild in 2019?

No fan base wants to go through a full re-build. That can takes years, and Baltimore fans already went through 14 years of a “rebuild” to get to where they have been the last five years. I am hoping for a re-tool this month (and off-season).

According to Ken Rosenthal, Duquette is telling teams that two of these three are available: Britton, Brad Brach, and Darren O’Day. If that’s the case, then I would move O’Day for sure, and then I would move whoever I could get more for between Britton and Brach. The other becomes the closer next year, with Mychal Givens as a set-up man.

Rosenthal’s article also said that Seth Smith is available. That’s fine. Trey Mancini will do just find in right field for years to come.

I would like to see what the O’s could get for Castillo. Caleb Joseph has proven to be a top defensive catcher and offensively, the more playing time he gets the better he has become. Plus, with Chance Sisco and Francisco Pena in the minors, the Orioles have enough depth in that position.

The Orioles still have an offensive core that makes them competitive next year, if they improve their pitching. I’d like to see any moves this month made with the vision of going for a divisional title in 2018. But if next season starts off like this season has, then at this time next year, you could have to look at trading away Manny Machado. You can try to sign Machado long term this offseason, but there is no way that you allow him to reach free agency. If he does, you lose him for nothing.

Adam Jones is another player that is up for debate. Some say that you trade him this month. If you are rebuilding for the future, then yes. But I am retooling for next year and I want Jones on that team. If things go wrong next year then you can try to trade him away before he hits free agency.

The biggest question is Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Will he allow the Duquette to trade away these players? If so, trading away Brach, O’Day, Castillo, and Smith might help as a first step for retooling the Orioles for a run in 2018.

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Series Preview: Orioles (42-46) vs. Cubs (43-45)

cubs pitcher winded back before throwing pitch

After (hopefully) recharging their batteries over the last four days, the Orioles will look to come out of the break swinging this weekend versus the reigning World Champion Chicago Cubs.

While the All-Star Break was fun, it’s time to get down to business. The Orioles might not have to climb Mount Everest to get back in the fight, but they’re certainly down on the score cards. The time for error has come and gone, and it’ll take a total team effort to get to the promise land. However, their current situation isn’t necessarily uncharted waters for this squad.

These Orioles are capable. They’ve been counted out and written off before, and they’ve proven doubters wrong on more than one occasion. They’ll need to do so again down the stretch.

The Orioles (42-46) will roll into the second half of the season 7.5-games behind Boston for first place in the division, but just four games out of the wild card picture. They’ll also kick off the latter part of the season with a massive ten-game home stand, which will more than likely provide the direction of their approach to the trade deadline. If they can go on a winning tear, they might try to buy or at least stand pat. If they fall further off the pace in the chase for the playoffs, you may see some bags being packed. To say this is the biggest ten-game stretch of the season to date would be an understatement.

The Cubs (43-45) have already proven themselves to be buyers as they look to claw their way back into a playoff spot. The reigning champions would at least like a chance to defend their crown, but it won’t be easy for them after going through a rough first half. They’re 5.5-games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central, but they’ll have to rely on a strong second half and a drop-off in form from the red-hot Brewers to have a real shot at reaching the postseason. They already trail the Colorado Rockies by 7.5-games for the second wild card spot in the NL.

You never want to rule out the team that won the title during the last campaign, but they definitely have their work cut out for them, just like the Orioles.

This weekend will mark the Cubbies’ first trip to Camden Yards since their first-ever trip to Baltimore back in 2003. They had a pretty good team back then, too. The last time that these two squads faced each other, the Cubs swept the Orioles over a three-game set at Wrigley in 2014.

How will the story line play out this time around? We’re about to find out. Let’s take a look at the starters.

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA) will take the mound versus Mike Montgomery (1-6, 3.75 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Before allowing five runs on nine hits over four innings during his last start versus the Twins, Gausman had recorded back-to-back shutout starts versus Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Orioles will need a huge second half from Gausman in order to have any hope for a playoff run. Despite struggling for most of the first half, the Orioles flamethrower has notched an impressive 3.27 ERA over his last four outings. Here’s to more of the same going forward.

Montgomery will be making his first career start versus the Orioles after getting tagged to the tune of giving up seven runs on six hits over just 2 1/3 innings his last time out versus the Brewers. Over his last four contests, the southpaw has recorded an 0-3 record and an 8.00 ERA.

 

Game Two

Wade Miley (4-7, 4.97 ERA) will get the nod versus former Oriole and Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta (8-7. 4.35 ERA) on Saturday.

Miley finally turned in a decent outing during his last start of the first half by allowing just a single run on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings versus the Twins. Like Gausman, the Orioles will need more of the same from their southpaw as he’s posted a 9.64 ERA over his last seven outings and a 7.87 ERA over his last nine. The promising part is that he’s gone 4-1 with a solid 3.46 ERA over six career starts versus the Cubs.

Arrieta allowed three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings during his last outing against the Pirates after throwing seven shutout innings against the Reds during his previous start. While Arrieta labored through an off-key first half, he has shown signs of returning to his Cy Young-caliber self as he’s gone seven innings while allowing one run or fewer in two of his last four starts. When he faced his former club for the first time at Wrigley in 2014, he allowed just a single run on four singles over seven dominant innings in a winning effort.

 

Game Three

Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 6.67 ERA) will take the hill against the newly acquired Jose Quintana (4-8, 4.49 ERA in the AL) in the series finale on Sunday.

Jimenez struggled in Minnesota during his last start, allowing four runs on four hits over five innings, but still recorded his third win in five attempts. During that span, he’s posted a 6.59 ERA. Over his last three contests, Jimenez has gone 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Over five career starts versus the Cubs, he’s gone 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA.

Quintana, who was just acquired from the South Side of Chicago, will make his Cubs debut against the Orioles. He went 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA with the White Sox during the first half of the season. During his final outing with the ChiSox, he allowed three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies while racking up ten strikeouts. Over six career starts versus Baltimore, the southpaw has gone 1-4 with a 4.29 ERA.

 

Finally, baseball is back!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Dodgers Want Zach Britton, Will Angelos Sell?

side profile of orioles player britton holding glove by face before pitch

The worst four days of the summer are FINALLY over, as baseball returns to the Yard tonight. The O’s kick off the second half by hosting the World Champion Cubs, who are scuffling in 2017. It’ll be fun to see those guys come to town though, especially Saturday’s starter, Jake Arrieta.

Hopefully the O’s aren’t very accommodating guests as they begin a crucial 10-game homestand.

To the links!

5th Annual BEVy Awards

Woo hoo! Jake & Scott’s annual awards show celebrates year five. The perfect way to review the first half and get ready for the dog days of summer. This year’s version features another wonderful musical number from Jake, and a characteristically cringe-worthy one from Scott (hey, I’d be right there with ya, SM).

Can the Orioles Sway Owner Angelos?

Jon Heyman reports that if the O’s front office wants to sell this July, they’ll have to convince ol’ Petey that it’s the right move. I didn’t realize this, but it’s exactly right, and it’s probably the biggest culprit in the team’s 14-year run of futility from 1998-2011: Pete has NEVER sold in season.

If the Dodgers Want Zach Britton, Who Should the O’s Want?

If Pete can be convinced, the Birds will have plenty of suitors for Zach Britton, among others. Word is that the Dodgers are very interested. So which of their prospects should the O’s want in return? Camden Chat’s Brice Freeman investigates.

Should the Orioles Trade for Maikel Franco?

Matt Perez of Camden Chat takes the other angle, assuming that the O’s will be buyers. In that case, should Philly shortstop Maikel Franco be on their radar? Ugh.

NY Supreme Court Renders Split Decision in MASN Case

But the O’s can appeal. If there’s one thing Angelos loves more than buyin’, it’s litigatin’. Back to court!

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O’s First-Half Report Card: Pitchers

Now that we’ve graded out the hitters on the squad, let’s hand out the grades for the Orioles pitching staff.

Grading out the hitters was pretty fun. This will be….less fun? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Let’s rip the band-aid off and get to it!

Dylan Bundy looks in for a sign.

Dylan Bundy

Bundy hit the 2017 season with hurricane force and ended the month of April with a 3-1 record and a sparkling 1.65 ERA over five starts. He followed up by posting a solid 3-2 record and a 3.92 ERA over six starts in May, but has seen his season go south in a hurry since. He recorded a 5.93 ERA over five starts in June and owns an 11.00 ERA through his first two starts in July. After starting out the year going 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA, he finished the first half with an 8-8 record along with a 4.33 ERA over eighteen starts and 108 innings. Here’s to the All-Star break providing the spark for the return of ”Dealin’ Bundy”.

Grade: B-

Kevin Gausman delivers the pitch.

Kevin Gausman

Gausman got off to a nightmare start to the campaign after notching a 7.50 ERA through six starts in April, but then looked like he was on the mend after going 2-2 with a 4.30 ERA over six starts in May. However, his season took a sharp turn south again with a 6.41 ERA over five starts in June. He’s 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA through two starts in July. On the year, the Orioles opening day starter owns a 5-7 record and a 5.85 ERA over nineteen starts and 97 innings.

Grade: E

Ubaldo JImenez prepares to wind up.

Ubaldo Jimenez

”Forrest Gump” is at it again in 2017.  However, other than a couple of gems, he’s been pretty hard to watch. Over eighteen games and thirteen starts, Jimenez has gone 4-4 with a 6.67 ERA over 83 2/3 innings.

Grade: E

Wade Miley of the Orioles pitches from the mound.

Wade Miley

Miley was phenomenal to begin the season and finished the month of April with a stellar 2.32 ERA over five starts. What has transpired since has been nothing short of a disaster, highlighted by a 7.48 ERA over six starts in June and a 9.82 ERA over two starts this month. On the year, Miley owns a 4-7 record and a 4.97 ERA over eighteen starts and 88 2/3 innings.

Grade: E

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

Chris Tillman

The Orioles’ “Ace” over the past five seasons might want to shut it down this year. Over eleven starts since returning to the team in May, Tillman has gone 1-5 with a 7.90 ERA, a 2.14 WHIP and a .362 BAA over 49 innings of work. He posted a 9.69 ERA over six starts in June.

Grade: F

Zach Britton throws in spring training.

Zach Britton

The Orioles’ star closer missed two full months with a forearm injury. However, he did go 5-for-5 in save situations back in April before being shut down and his presence alone seems to have provided a boost to the team. He owns a 2.25 ERA over eleven appearances on the year.

Grade: B

Brad Brach looks in for a sign from the catcher.

Brad Brach

Brach posted a stellar 1.93 ERA over 13 games in April, and even after struggling at first with the task of filling the shoes of Britton (5.40 ERA over eleven games in May), Brach has been on fire since. He snapped back into form with a 1.46 ERA over 12 contests in June and has recorded two scoreless outings so far in July. On the year, he owns a stellar 2.58 ERA over 38 1/3 innings and has gone 15-for-19 in save situations. He also boasts a stellar 0.86 WHIP and a .167 BAA.

Grade: B+

Mychal Givens

Givens hit the ground running with a 1.29 ERA over eleven contests before stumbling as the lead set-up guy in May (4.73 ERA over thirteen games). Like Brach, Givens wasted no time in bouncing back into top form with a microscopic 0.71 ERA over ten appearances in June. On the year, Givens owns a sparkling 2.25 ERA over 44 innings along with an impressive 1.02 WHIP and a .206 BAA. Boasting a 6-0 record is just a bonus.

Grade: B+

Richard Bleier

Few would have expected Bleier to have such a positive impact on the bullpen, but he’s done just that. After being called up in May, Bleier posted a 2.84 ERA over nine contests that month before notching a miniscule 0.75 ERA over twelve games in June. He’s racked up four scoreless outings so far in July as well. On the year, he boasts a remarkable 1.48 ERA over 30 1/3 innings.

Grade: B

Darren O'Day pitches.

Darren O’Day

After a horror story of a season in 2016, O’Day struggled for form in April before returning to his vintage self with a stellar 1.64 ERA over eleven contests in May. A shoulder injury in June almost derailed his comeback season, but he looks to be fine after recording four scoreless outings so far this month. O’Day owns a solid 3.86 ERA over 30 1/3 innings this season along with an impressive 1.09 WHIP and a .179 BAA.

Grade: C+

Donnie Hart

Hart was immaculate in April with a 0.00 ERA over twelve contests, but was sent back down to Norfolk after recording a 7.36 ERA over eight games in May. However, after returning to the team in June, he looks to have his confidence back and has notched four scoreless outings since. On the year, the southpaw owns a 2.96 ERA over 24 1/3 innings.

Grade: C+

 

Miguel Castro

Castro looks to be becoming a staple in the Orioles bullpen, and owns an impressive 2.25 ERA over five contests so far this month. On the year, he has notched a solid 3.31 ERA over 16 1/3 innings.

Grade: C

Baltimore-Norfolk Shuttle

Yeahh……..this isn’t really working out. Hopefully, the guys listed above will prove to be the end of this experiment.

Grade: E

That’s a wrap for our Mid-Season grades!

Again, let us know how your grades stack up! The pitching staff grades should be pretty unanimous, but hey, we want to know anyway!

Enjoy the rest of the break, everyone!

All O’s photos: Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Photo

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Will Add…Something, but Not Much

dan duquette speaking at orioles press conference

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. We’ve almost made it through the most dreadful two days on the baseball calendar. No offense to the Triple-A All-Star Game, but it doesn’t do much for me. At least there was the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game on Monday and Tuesday to keep us busy. Between yesterday and today, there’s nothing but waiting for a baseball fan. The second “half” of the season gets underway tomorrow, and for the Orioles, there will be a few tense weeks.

It’s obvious that the first half didn’t go as planned, but there are certainly positives to take from it. They are things like the seasons being had by Jonathan Schoop or Trey Mancini that the Birds hope can continue going forward. But there’s no question that in order to be in contention come September, the team is going to have to improve in some way.

Based on comments from Dan Duquette, he expects that to be by the level of play from the current members of the roster. The biggest question that still needs to be answered in the next few weeks is how exactly that roster may change.

2. When it comes to the Orioles and the trade deadline, I truly have no idea. I don’t think anyone really has an idea. I don’t think Duquette really has an idea. This whole notion of the O’s being “buyers” at the deadline is a smokescreen in my mind. They want fans to believe they are buyers, but truthfully they don’t have anything to make purchases (trades) with. This is a depleted farm system that carries virtually no value to a team looking to deal.

There also aren’t going to be too many teams looking to be sellers. The American League is so incredibly close that everyone can think they are a buyer. My best guess is that the O’s add a reliever. Not a good reliever, just some sort of reliever. Not a well-known player or a pitcher that can have a major impact. Just an arm. Just like they’ve done over the last few months in adding mediocre players to a fairly mediocre roster.

That’s about all I’d expect, and I’d expect they’ll spin that into being buyers.

Don’t expect the O’s to start shipping away players. That kind of thing hasn’t happened in a long time in Baltimore.

3. One thing the Orioles do have to look forward to as the second half of the season gets underway is the return of Chris Davis. It’d be nice to have the highest-paid player on the team start performing like it.

There’s been some chatter since we saw Schoop shift over to shortstop last week that there could be more movement along the infield upon Davis’ return. Ideas that include Davis playing third base with Manny Machado at shortstop have been tossed out there. I can’t imagine Buck Showalter would want to mix things up like that and take Davis off first base. This would allow Trey Mancini to play first base as opposed to the outfield and leaves the DH role for Mark Trumbo.

Davis’ defense at first base is very valuable, however, so I don’t think the O’s go down that route unless they get desperate to churn the lineup.

4. Former Baltimore Sun writer and current Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal revealed yesterday that his writing will no longer be featured on Fox’s website. In fact, Fox’s website will have no writing content, as it’s gone completely to videos. It’s another step in an alarming direction for Fox Sports and sports media in general. I know there are a lot of Orioles fans who don’t care for Rosenthal, but he’s one of the game’s best writers and voices. He’s been pushed aside with other great writing talents like Jayson Stark, who was recently let go from ESPN.

While Rosenthal’s reporting work can still be seen on Fox telecasts, his writing will not. Instead, Rosenthal has been forced to put his articles on Facebook until he finds another medium to publish his stories.

That’s a shame for the entire baseball writing industry.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Schoop Represents O’s in Miami

Jonathan Schoop Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz at the All-Star Game.

Jonathan Schoop doubled and scored the game’s first run last night at the All-Star Game in Miami. If Yadier Molina hadn’t homered to tie the game (and Robinson Cano subsequently homered to win it), Johnny may well have been in line for the ASG MVP Award. Ah well. Get ’em next time.

We’ve got two more days to kill without O’s baseball. Here’s some reading to help.

When Boredom Outweighs Mediocrity

Now here’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile: Michael Olesker. Baltimoreans will remember Michael from his days as a commentator on the WJZ evening news. He’s now writing for JMore, a web publication dedicated to the lives of Baltimore’s Jewish community. Mike says that the O’s are boring to watch, which is true in a sense, but with MLB itself moving more and more toward a land of three true outcomes, it’s not just a Baltimore problem.

What Having the Best Record Over 5 Years Earns You

Of teams who have the best record in a league over a five-year span (as the O’s did from 2012-16), most win or at least appear in a World Series, writes Camden Depot’s Patrick Dougherty. While it is certainly disappointing that those O’s teams never made it that far (still hate you, Royals), I don’t agree with Pat that the accomplishment means little or nothing without a ring.

Looking for Signs of Improvement

Camden Chat’s Alex Conway goes spelunking for any potential signs of improvement from the team, or reasons for O’s fans to have optimism for the second half. He mostly comes back with nothing but guano.

Myriad O’s Thoughts

Dan Connolly on Bobby Dickerson getting emotional about Jonathan Schoop’s All-Star nod, Schoop’s night in Miami, and a very interesting note on Hideo Nomo’s no-nos.

MLB Network’s Robert FLores: O’s Need to Rebuild

Don’t hold your breath, Bobby.

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O’s First-Half Report Card: Position Players

Mark Trumbo of the Orioles follows through on a swing.

Now that we’ve graded out the main four components of the team, it’s time to hand out the report cards for each cog in the Orioles machine.

We’ll jump right into it and start out with the positional players. For a lot of them, the numbers as a whole don’t look so bad. However, consistency has evaded almost everyone on this list, so that factor played a part in the grading process. If they can just hit top form and stay there, a lot of C’s and C+’s could easily turn into B’s, and so forth.

And that folks, will be a crucial factor going forward as the Orioles look to force their way back into the playoff picture. Anyway, let’s get this party started!

Welington Castillo of the Orioles in his catcher's crouch behind home plate.

C Welington Castillo

Castillo has endured a topsy-turvy first season in Birdland. Despite battling the injury bug in the early goings this season, he still managed to get through the first two months of the season hitting .317 with four homers and 17 RBI. After returning to the team in early June, he’s struggled to replicate his early season success and has hit just .161 since. He’s batting .258 with six doubles, eight home runs, 25 RBI and a .298 OBP at the break.

Grade: C

Caleb Joseph swings.

C Caleb Joseph

Despite playing second fiddle to Castillo, Joseph has shrugged off a nightmare 2016 season by capitalizing on every opportunity that comes his way. After batting .277 with six doubles, one homer and eight RBI in May, he’s been on absolute fire and owns a sparkling .333 batting average with three doubles, one homer and seven RBI since June 1st. On the year, the fan favorite is hitting .286 with ten doubles, three homers and seventeen RBI.

Grade: C+

Chris Davis of the Orioles rounds the bases.

1B Chris Davis

Sidelined since June 12th with a strained oblique, Davis was on pace for a third straight season with 200+ strikeouts and was batting just .226. His saving grace was hitting 14 homers and racking up 26 RBI, which still rank tied for third and fifth on the team, respectively. His stellar defensive play at first has also been sorely missed.

Grade: D+

Trey Mancini of the Orioles leans forward in sunglasses.

1B Trey Mancini

Highlighted by a sensational .342 with two homers and twelve RBI in May, which he followed up by hitting .340 with seven homers and 19 RBI in of June, Mancini has been undoubtedly the runner-up to Jonathan Schoop for team MVP this season. He leads the team with a .312 batting average and a .354 OBP, ranks fourth in doubles (15), and is tied for third on the team in home runs (14) and RBI (44).

Grade: A

Jonathan Schoop rounds the bases.

2B Jonathan Schoop

The Orioles’ undisputed MVP through the first half of 2017, Schoop has been on fire all season long. He hit .288 with five homers and fifteen RBI in April, hit ten doubles in the month of May alone, and then exploded in June to the tune of hitting .327 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBI. The O’s lone All-Star representative ranks second on the team in average (.295), runs (49) and OBP (.347), is tied with Manny Machado for the team lead in homers (18) and leads the team in doubles (23) and RBI (54).

Grade: A+

Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy prepares to play defense.

SS J.J. Hardy

Hardy was enduring a nightmare season before going down with a fractured wrist in late June. On the year, Hardy owns a .211 average with eleven doubles, three homers, 21 RBI and a dismal .248 OBP. He’s still solid at shortstop, though his range has notably diminished.

Grade: E

Manny Machado follows through on his swing.

3B Manny Machado

Machado has battled through an off-key season in 2017. He hit just .224 in April, bottomed out with a .191 batting average in May, and ended the month of June with a .242 average. However, the Orioles star third baseman was hitting a stellar .333 with three homers and nine RBI in July before hitting the break, so hopefully we’ll see more of the vintage Machado in the second half. Despite hitting just .230 and recording a lowly .296 OBP in the first half, he still ranks second on the team in doubles (17) and RBI (47) and is tied for the team lead in homers (18).

Grade: C+

Mark Trumbo finishes his swing.

DH Mark Trumbo

After stumbling out of the blocks with a .202 average in April, Trumbo quickly snapped into form with a stellar .324 average along with five homers and fifteen RBI in May, but has been through a ton of up-and-downs since. Still, Trumbo ended the first half of the season ranked first on the team in runs (54), third in doubles (16) and tied for third in home runs (14) and RBI (44).

Grade: C+

Adam Jones sunglasses.

CF Adam Jones

Jones started out the year on a tear and finished the month of April with a .309 average, four homers and 11 RBI, but has been on a roller coaster of form since. Despite this, the captain finished the first half ranked fourth on the team in average (.267) and RBI (40), third in runs (42) and second in home runs (15).

Grade: C+

RF Seth Smith

Forced into the lead-off role, Smith has gone through an awkward debut season in Baltimore. He ended the first half ranked third on the team in OBP (.329) despite only ranking sixth in batting average (.259). He also ranks fifth on the team in doubles (12) and fourth in home runs (9), making it possibly the first time that a leadoff hitter ranks higher on the team in homers than he does in average. Only in Baltimore…

Grade: C

Hyun-soo Kim of the Orioles runs the bases.

LF Hyun Soo Kim

Poor guy. Not only is he a regular on the bench, but he’s going through a case of the sophomore blues when he does get opportunities. On the year, Kim is hitting just .229 with one home run, nine RBI and a .301 OBP.

Grade: E

Joey Rickard watches the baseball after hitting it.

OF Joey Rickard

Despite his .291 OBP, Rickard was impressive for the most part when given opportunities in the first half. On the year, Rickard is hitting .260 with ten doubles, three homers, twelve RBI and a team-leading five stolen bases. His speed also makes him a valuable asset in the outfield.

Grade: C

That’s a wrap on part one! Later on, we’ll hand out the grades on the Orioles pitchinOg staff. This should be fun….

Let us know how your own grades stack up to ours!

All photos: Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Photo

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Orioles First-Half Report Card

Buck Showalter scowls from the dugout.

After winning the final two games of the first half in Minnesota, the Orioles have hit the break at 42-46 and 7.5-games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. After starting out the season with an MLB-best 22-10 record, things have not gone exactly as planned and the Orioles have taken their fair share of bumps and bruises along the way.

However, the Orioles are just four games out of the playoff picture…and there are still 74 games left to play. Even if you doubt that the Orioles can sustain a legitimate playoff push, you have to admit that there is more than plenty of time to turn things around. Nothing is impossible with this squad, and they’d love to prove the naysayers wrong. Again.

But before we spark the debate on the fate of the 2017 Orioles, let’s take a look back and grade the Orioles first as a unit, and then individually, before they get the ball rolling again versus the Cubbies on Friday.

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Offense

One of baseball’s most feared offenses in 2016, the “Birdland Power Company” hasn’t been able to keep the power on at all times this season and finished the first half ranked 11th in the AL in scoring (4.45 runs per game). While their 123 home runs rank sixth in the AL and a decent .254 batting average is tied for eighth, the positives stop there.

For as many times that their free-swinging, all-or-nothing approach has hit the jackpot, there have been just as many busts. As a result, they rank 14th in the AL in OBP (.308) and walks (220), 11th in OPS (.734), and fourth in K’s (779).

Also, despite having plenty of athleticism and speed on the team, their 18 stolen bases rank dead last in the AL.

Grade: C+

Manny Machado throws while falling forward.

Defense

After ranking as the AL’s fourth-best defensive team in 2016, the third-best in 2014, and the very best in 2013 and 2015, the Orioles finished the first half of 2017 ranked seventh with a .984 fielding percentage and are on pace to finish outside of the top five for the first time since 2012.

Grade: C

 

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Bullpen

Like the defense, the Orioles relievers haven’t hit their normal excellence this season. After ranking as the third-best bullpen in the AL in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and the very best in 2016, the O’s bullpen finished the first half of 2017 ranked eighth with a 4.11 ERA. Throwing a league-high 326 innings so far coupled with the absence of star closer Zach Britton hasn’t helped things. It still doesn’t take away the fact that they own the third-worst BAA (.264), the fourth-worst OBP (.335) and the fifth-worst WHIP (1.39) in the American League while allowing the second-most home runs (47).

Grade: C

 

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Starters

Well folks, we saved the worst for last. Outside of Dylan Bundy‘s early-season heroics and an occasional flash from Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez, the starting pitching has been absolutely dreadful during the current campaign.

The Orioles starting rotation ranks 13th in the American League in wins (25) and third in losses (36). That only begins to scratch the surface. They rank dead last in the AL in WHIP (1.61), OBP (.364), BAA (.290), innings pitched (456 2/3) and ERA (5.75) along with recording the second-fewest amount of quality starts (32).

Long story short, it’s been a horror show.

Grade: F

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Monday’s O’s Links: An Infuriating First “Half” Comes to a Close

Buck Showalter stands with his hands on his hips.

Well Birdland, we made it. It was a long, arduous, and infuriating few months of baseball, but we’re at the All-Star break and hey! We have back-to-back wins to keep us cozy in our memories for the next four days.

Let’s check out the good, the bad, and the ugly from the O’s blog-O-verse.

Jonathan Schoop Emerging from Under the Radar

Eduardo Encina of The Baltimore Sun with an awesome feature on the Birds’ lone All-Star.

Thinking About 2018 and 2019

BSL’s Chris Stoner asks a ton of questions about the Orioles of the near future. Plenty to chew on over the all-star break for fans and front office alike, for sure.

Orioles “Yet to Decide” on Trade Deadline Approach

Included in Mark Brown of Camden Chat’s discussion of Ken Rosenthal’s report over the weekend is the tidbit that Peter Angelos is “philosophically opposed to selling.” Good times! I’m philosophically opposed to my team’s owner continually meddling in baseball operations. If Dan & Buck (and Brady, I guess) decide that selling is the best move (it probably is), than they should have free reign to do it as they see fit.

He Hasn’t Done Nothing

Adam Brett Walker, that is. So that’s…encouraging?

Cisco Shines in Futures Game

For the second straight year, Chance had himself a day at the Futures Game. As for Tanner Scott…well, he did what he does: threw hard.

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Week in Review: Staying Alive

Adam Jones rounds the bases after a HR in Minnesota.

After going through the whole business week without a win, the Orioles finally snapped out of their losing slumber by picking up two huge wins and a series split in Minneapolis over the weekend before hitting the All-Star Break.

On the other hand, it kind of sucks to have to park the bus for the next four days just as the Orioles were starting to break on through to the other side.

That’s how it goes sometimes, and while I’m sure the coaches and players will enjoy their time off before kicking off a busy second half, it’s a bittersweet feeling to have to touch back down right after taking flight again.

The Orioles will resume their season 7.5-games off the pace of the first place Red Sox, but they remain just four games out of the wild card picture. Contrary to popular belief, the Orioles are still alive.

We’ll just have to hope that they can pick up right where they left off this past weekend.

That shouldn’t be a problem. The Orioles will kick off the second half of the season with a ten-game home stand, and we all know how much they love playing in front of the sea of orange. If they can come out of the break with the guns blazing and go on a tear, they’ll be right back in the thick of the chase for October baseball.

Crazier things do (and will) happen. Just don’t stop believing.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s quickly go over the final week of the first half and highlight what the Orioles need to do in order to force their way back into the playoff picture.

– After a few stellar pitching performances at the end of June, Orioles starters fell back into their frustrating ways to begin the month and finished the first week of July with an 8.81 ERA over 31 2/3 innings. Over the last fifteen, thirty and forty games respectively, they’ve posted combined ERA’s of 5.59 over 77 1/3 innings, a 7.86 ERA over 145 1/3 innings and a 7.18 ERA over their last 198 innings. Long story short, these types of performances must improve in order to maintain a playoff push through the second half.

– Maybe they should take notes from the bullpen. The O’s relievers ended the first half in sparkling form after notching a 1.88 ERA over 14 1/3 innings in Minnesota and a stellar 1.71 ERA over their first 26 1/3 innings of work in July. Over the last sixteen games, they’ve finally returned to their iron-clad ways and have recorded an impressive 2.93 ERA over their last 58 1/3 innings of work. Here’s to this feel-good trend continuing after the festivities in South Beach come to a halt.

– Lastly, despite hitting just .209 as a unit while scoring just 22 runs over their previous nine games (2.4 per game) before landing in the Twin Cities, the Orioles hitters put on a vintage “Birdland Power Company” performance over the last four games of the first half and finished the series versus the Twins with a stellar .304 batting average as a unit while driving in 26 runs (6.5 per game) along with eight homers. It’s a shame that they have to put their charged-up bats on ice, but here’s to hoping that they remain charged up and ready to go against the reigning (and stumbling) champion Chicago Cubs on Friday. They’ll need their bats to lead the way if they have any hope of playing meaningful baseball in September.

Now, let’s go to the ”Three Stars” of the week! Drumroll, please……….

 

Third Star

Trey Mancini. Seriously, will the Orioles rookie sensation ever cool down? After finishing the first half by going 6-for-17 (.353) with an RBI versus the Twins, “Boom Boom” ended the first half on fire and will look to extend a current seven-game hitting streak when the season resumes against the Cubs. During that span, Mancini has gone a ridiculous 11-for-29 (.379) with three runs, three doubles and an RBI.

Mancini concluded his phenomenal first half with a sparkling .312 batting average, fifteen doubles, fourteen home runs, 44 RBI and a .354 OBP. The sky is the limit for this Orioles slugger.

 

Second Star

Mark Trumbo. Probably the most irritated guy on the team to see the season put on hold, Trumbo was really starting to kick it into high gear before the All-Star Break rolled around.

Still, an in-form Trumbo will look to extend his current eight-game hitting streak when the All-Star Break concludes on Friday. During that stretch, Trumbo has gone 8-for-29 (.276) at the plate with five runs, two doubles, three home runs and five RBI.

 

First Star

Manny Machado. Okay…I lied. Machado is probably the most frustrated guy in the clubhouse to have to park the super-charged bat he showed off in Minneapolis. He finished the series versus the Twins having gone a staggering 9-for-19 (.474) at the plate, a clip which raised his season average from .215 to .230.

Still, the on-fire Machado will kick off the second half on a current six-game hitting tear. During his current streak, Machado has gone a remarkable 11-for-27 (.407) at the dish with four runs, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI.

Here’s to Machado keeping this up and leading the way during the second half.

That’s it, Orioles nation! While we’ve certainly been through our ups and downs (a lot of downs lately), we made it through a rocky first half with our vital signs still intact. I wouldn’t rule out a resurgent second half, either, so buckle up! It’s going to be a wild ride.

Enjoy the All-Star Break festivities, everyone!

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#Staturday: BOOM BOOM!

Trey Mancini of the Orioles leans forward in sunglasses.

Happy Staturday Birdland! While it’s been a miserable week of baseball, there are always a few interesting stats to check out. So let’s get to them!

We’ll start out with a few Trey Mancini stats. He’s been a really bright spot in a lackluster season.

Highest batting average with RISP in MLB (min 200 total PA):

1. Paul Goldschmidt – .427
2. Trey Mancini – .412
3. Eduardo Nunez – .407

At .404, Trey Mancini has the highest batting average with RISP in the American League and second highest in all of MLB.

Most home runs with RISP in MLB:

Trey Mancini – 8
Aaron Judge – 8
Cody Bellinger – 8

Yeah, I’d say Trey Mancini is good at hitting with runners on. We’ll finish off this week with a staple: Manny stats.

(And don’t miss our super-sized version of Manny stats for his birthday!)

Last night was Manny Machado’s 9th career 4-hit game, tying him with Melvin Mora, Brady Anderson, and a few others for 17th most in Orioles’ history.

Two of Manny’s four hits were long balls, making it his 11th career multi-homer performance. That’s second most by an Oriole before age 26. His 25th birthday was Thursday.

That’ll do it for this week! For more stats like these, follow @BirdlandStats on Twitter!

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Friday’s O’s Links: The Bad, the Awful, & the Ugly

Buck Showalter gets the ball from Mychal Givens as Givens walks off the mound.

Another loss in a new and annoying way (the Twins scored in ONE inning last night), another four-game losing skid, and now a season-high five games under .500. I have some more good news…

Nope, don’t avert your eyes. Look at that. Accept where we are. And notice that the Orioles have both scored the fewest and allowed the most runs in the AL since May 9.

No illusions here. Things are ugly. Hopefully the front office can see it as clearly as we can.

In the meantime, to the links:

The Orioles and Blowouts

The Orioles have been blown out (lost by 5+ runs) 35% of the time since June 1. Fun!

Bird’s Eye View Episode 208: How to Root for a Bad Team

Not long ago at all, Jake & Scott did an episode called “How to Root for a Good Team.” Let’s look back at those days fondly, as we accept our new reality, which is the same as our old reality.

With Chance Sisco in the Wings, Orioles Could Deal Welington Castillo

Having Chance waiting is nice, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor here. Deal Beef because you might be able to get something for him. Heck, Francisco Pena is “waiting in the wings” to help in the second half.

Manny Machado on Preparing for a Series

“I don’t really think ahead. I think it’s the same way for most of the guys in this clubhouse — you have to stay in the moment.” I think I found the problem, you guys. (I kid, I kid)

Pat Connaughton Remains Focused on Basketball

Even if the O’s 2014 fourth-round pick switches to baseball now, he’ll already be that far behind in his development. On the other hand, maybe being as far away from the O’s pitching development team for as long as possible is just what the kid needs.

Did you know that, just TWO NIGHTS AGO, Parker Bridwell pitched six scoreless innings in Minnesota against the Twins.

That’s the Tragic of Orioles Baseball!

Ugh…have a good weekend, Birdland. Maybe the team will win a game or two.

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Series Preview: Orioles (40-44) @ Twins (43-41)

Manny Machado signals to Adam Jones after his game-winning hit.

After getting battered and bruised in Milwaukee over the last three days, the Orioles will look to hit the erase button and try to pick up some much-needed momentum over the next four days in Minneapolis before the All-Star Break.

The toughest thing to swallow is the fact that the Orioles looked to be on the mend at the end of June, only to see their hard work undone in a matter of three soul-crushing days.

As a result, the Orioles (40-44) will head into the Twin Cities at a season-high four games below .500, a season-high 8.5-games off the pace of the first-place Red Sox, and a season-high four games out of the wild card picture. To say it’s time to take a look good, hard look in the mirror would be an understatement.

After dropping four of their first five games in the month of July, the Orioles have now gone 13-20 since the start of June and a dismal 18-34 since May 9th. Their struggles away from Camden Yards have been glaring with a 15-28 record on the road this season, and they’ve gone just 8-22 while on tour since the beginning of May. To make matters worse, the O’s can’t seem to hang with the big dogs this season and have notched a 20-31 clip against teams over .500 during the 2017 campaign.

Just when you thought things were starting to look up again…

The Twins (43-41) are set to host the Orioles currently placed third in the AL Central and just 1.5-games off the pace of the division-leading Cleveland Indians. They’re just a game behind the Royals for the second wild card spot. However, their struggles have occurred right in front of their own fans at Target Field as they own a dreadful 18-26 record at home. To add to their misery in Minneapolis, they have notched just a 6-12 mark at home since May 28th. Something tells me Under Armour won’t be calling them for a sponsorship deal.

The Orioles and Twins have been exchanging vendettas over recent years. After the Twins swept the Orioles during the 2015 season series by a score of 7-0, the O’s responded by going 5-1 versus their upcoming hosts during the 2016 season. The Twins executed their revenge by sweeping the Orioles during the first meeting between the two clubs at Camden Yards back in May.

How will the narrative play out during this Mid-Summer clash in the Twin Cities? For the Orioles sake, hopefully not another sweep. They can’t afford it with the division slipping out of sight. Alas, only time will tell. Let’s go to the starters:

Game One

Dylan Bundy (8-7, 4.02 ERA) will take the mound versus Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.44 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

After giving up five runs on seven hits over just four innings during his last outing versus the Rays, Bundy will be looking to get his season back on track versus the Twins. He’s posted an 8.22 ERA over his last three starts, which has seen his ERA rise from a stout 3.05 to 4.02. Over his last six starts, he’s gone 2-4 with a 6.61 ERA. Before that stretch, he had posted a 6-3 record and a stellar 2.89 ERA. Will we see the return of ”Dealin’ Bundy” sooner rather than later?

Berrios is coming off his worst start of the season after allowing five runs on nine hits over five innings against the Royals. Still, the Twins 23-year-old phenom is having an impressive first full season in the bigs. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in six of his ten starts on the year, while he’s gone six-plus innings in eight of his ten starts. In four starts at Target Field, “La Maquina” has recorded a 3-1 record along with a 2.51 ERA.

 

Game Two

Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.61 ERA) will get the nod versus Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 ERA) on Friday.

Gausman has been on fire as of late. After dominating the Rays to the tune of just two hits over seven shutout innings, Gausman has now conceded just six hits over 12 1/3 consecutive shutout innings while racking up thirteen strikeouts. He also owns a stellar 1.50 ERA over his last three starts and eighteen innings of work. However, Gausman has gone 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA over four career starts versus the Twins, the most times he’s faced a single club without notching a win.

After allowing four runs on four hits over just 3 1/3 innings against the Royals, Santiago remains in a rut. He’s posted an 0-3 record with a 12.38 ERA over his last three outings. The good news for the southpaw is the fact that he’s never lost to the Orioles, going 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA over seven career games (four starts). He owns a 3-3 record and a 4.54 ERA over seven starts at Target Field this season.

 

Game Three

The Orioles are listing the starter for Saturday’s match-up against Adalberto Mejia (4-3, 4.32 ERA) as TBD.  Wade Miley (3-7, 5.20 ERA) is the projected starter, but the Orioles may choose to keep the struggling southpaw on the shelf until after the All-Star Break.

After getting burned with seven runs on seven hits over just 1 2/3 innings versus the Brewers in his last start, Miley has gone just 1-4 with a 11.69 ERA over his last six outings.  Over his last eight starts, he has posted a 2-5 record along with an 8.91 ERA. He allowed five runs over four innings against the Twins in his only career start against them last season with the Mariners.

Mejia has been turning up the heat lately, and after holding the Angels to just three runs over seven solid innings in a winning effort, he’s gone 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his last three outings. However, the Dominican southpaw has struggled at home this season and owns a 2-2 record along with a 5.66 ERA over seven starts at Target Field.

 

Game Four

Ubaldo Jimenez (3-4, 6.64 ERA) is slated to take on Kyle Gibson (5-6, 5.82 ERA) in the series and first-half finale on Sunday.

Although Jimenez was magnificent during his eight-inning shutout of the Blue Jays, he crashed back down to earth by allowing five runs on six hits along with three homers over just five innings during his last outing in Milwaukee. Since returning to the rotation, Jimenez has gone 2-2 with a 6.45 ERA over four starts. Two of them have been gems, and two of them have been disasters…In other words, it’s been a vintage run of form for the Orioles sporadic veteran.

Gibson held the Angels in check by allowing just two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings during his last start, and has gone 1-1 with a solid 3.18 ERA over his last three contests. However, like Santiago, Gibson’s woes this season have occurred right at home. In eight starts at Target Field this season, the former first round pick has gone 2-4 with a 6.37 ERA.

That’s it for now, Orioles fans! Hopefully, we’ll see the O’s right the ship before they hit the break…

Enjoy the series!

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Happy Birthday Manny! Machado’s Impressive Pre-25 Numbers

Manny Machado in front of sign at spring training 2015.

It’s Manny Machado’s 25th birthday. We’ve been blessed to watch him as both a human vacuum and a crushing machine. Here are some of Manny’s most impressive stats up to now.

First, let’s take a look at how he ranks against the young Orioles before him:

Racked up by Manny before turning 25 (with Orioles rank):

766 hits (1st)

159 doubles (1st)

121 home runs (2nd)

288 extra-base hits (1st)

352 RBIs (4th)

391 runs (2nd)

206 walks (5th)

1304 total bases (1st)

216 multi-hit games (1st)

10 multi-HR games (2nd)

687 games played (1st)

Manny Machado trots around the bases.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Machado is the only Oriole to record 100+ home runs, 150+ doubles, and 200+ walks, and 30+ stolen bases before turning 25.

Relative to all players in Major League Baseball, Manny has also racked up some impressive numbers at third base (all stats since 1913):

Manny is only the 6th third baseman to record 260 extra-base hits before age 25.

Manny Machado swings.

Donten Photography

Manny has racked up 109 home runs while playing third base – the 3rd most by any player at the hot corner before age 25.

Machado is one of fourteen third baseman that has recorded 3 home runs in a game before turning 25.

Manny Machado swings in the on-deck circle.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Manny’s 159 doubles and 288 extra-base hits are 17th most and 27th most, respectively, in Major League history by a player younger than 25 years old.

It’s safe to say, Manny Machado is one of the most talented players the franchise has ever seen. However long he’s here, let’s just enjoy it.

machado wearing headset at press conference

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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
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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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