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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
View Result

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie's sliding board at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Game One

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

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

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

 

Game Two

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

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

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

 

Game Three

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

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

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

That’s it for now, Orioles nation!

And Happy Birthday America!

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

Jonathan Schoop smiles during Spring Training 2015.

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

The Orioles Offense is Not Good

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

Schoop Gets All-Star Nod

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

Schoop’s All-Star Nod is Well-Deserved

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

Cody Sedlock Placed on DL with Elbow Flexor Strain

This is my surprised face.

Orioles Want to Buy…but Why Should They?

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

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The Rundown: Kevin Gausman Finally Turns a Corner

Kevin Gausman congratulated by teammates entering the dugout

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

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

Gausman Finally Pitching Well

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

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

 

Update on First Two 2016 Draft Picks

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

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

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

Orioles Trade Two More International Slots

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

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Week in Review: Hanging In There

Buck Showalter looks out from the dugout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Third Star

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

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

 

Second Star

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

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

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

 

First Star

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

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

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

It looks like the ”Gas Man” is back.

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#Staturday: Ubaldo Jimenez Joins Elite O’s Company

Ubaldo JImenez prepares to wind up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb pitches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Game One

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

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

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

Game Two

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

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

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

 

Game Three

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

To wit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in any count where he is ahead:

.348/.350/.487, 4 HR

Yeah, that’s awful! Spot on, Rick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orioles Still Haven’t Seen Much Power from Mark Trumbo

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

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

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

Castillo Suffers Freak Injury

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

Technically, Baseball Really Is More Boring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles pitches on the mound.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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