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Word on the Street: Bad Pitching and an Empty Farm in Birdland

Buck Showalter stands with his hands on his hips.

The O’s have hit a rough patch, and it all starts with the starting pitching. Press play or read below for more.

With the Orioles mired in a seven-game losing streak, perhaps it’s time to look at why the season is seemingly falling apart.

It can all be traced back to the starting pitching. The Orioles don’t spend the necessary money on top line starting pitching, so they have to depend on their farm system. You can look at the rotation and see products of the farm system such as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and even though he was acquired in a trade, we’ll include Chris Tillman because he was a teenager when that trade transpired.

Here’s the catch-22: The Orioles have been a good baseball team, and when you’re a good team, you make trades at the deadline to improve your team to make a championship push. The problem is, you have to trade good players to get good players, players such as Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, and Ariel Miranda.

Unfortunately, those trades didn’t culminate in a World Series, and now the farm system is depleted and the Orioles championship drought is ongoing. You also have to look at that, because the team has been good, they have been picking later in the draft, therefore their picks are less and less likely to become everyday, quality big leaguers.

Add to that the fact that the team in 2014 forfeited their first- and second-round draft picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, and then forfeited their first-round pick in 2016 to sign Yovani Gallardo, and it’s easy to see why they don’t have a stocked farm system.

The unfortunate thing is that none of the signings were worth the picks. Ubaldo has been terrible, and Gallardo, who was terrible, is no longer with the team. Cruz could have been worth it had he propelled the team to the World Series, but they got swept in the ALCS and now he is with Seattle.

So now we have the Orioles as they currently stand: free-falling in the division with a rotation that has thrown the second-least amount of innings in the American League.

Dylan Bundy has been great, but Gausman and Tillman have been mediocre at best, leading to a patchwork rotation that is blowing leads and over-working a bullpen, all of which has a trickle down effect on an offense that feels like no lead is safe, causing the team to push and ultimately fail.

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Series Preview: Orioles (25-23) vs. Yankees (29-18)

Adam Jones of the Orioles slides into home plate as the Yankees catcher takes the throw.

After going winless against the Twins and Astros last week, the Orioles will have to find to find a way to dig themselves out of their current rut in a timely manner as the first place New York Yankees head into town.

The Orioles (25-23) now trail the Yankees by 4.5-games in the standings due to their current seven-game nosedive and have won just three out of their last sixteen contests.  First place might slip even further away if they can’t find a way to get out of the quicksand.

The Orioles have recorded an impressive 15-7 mark at home this season, but they have also lost four in a row at Camden Yards. They’ll need more than home field advantage to end their ongoing free-fall.

The Yankees (29-18) have taken advantage of the Orioles recent struggles and now own a cushion between their first-place status and the rest of the pack as we head into the final week of May. After exploding out of the gates in April with a 15-8 record, the Yankees have stayed the course with an impressive 14-10 mark during May and have won five of their last seven contests.

The surging Yankees present yet another tough task for the stumbling Orioles. The Yanks pitching staff owns the second-best WHIP (1.21) and BAA (.231) in the AL while also boasting the fourth-lowest ERA (3.79).

The Orioles will also have their hands full in keeping this dangerous Yankees lineup quiet. They’re tied for third in the AL in homers (71), rank third in batting average (.264), rank second in OBP (.343) and lead the AL in scoring (254 runs- 5.4 runs per game).

This will mark the third Orioles-Yankees clash of the season, with the season series currently split at 3-3. Who will come out ahead over the upcoming three-game set?

Will the O’s recent misery come to an end, or will the Yankees twist the knife a little bit? So many questions surround the Orioles at the moment, and only time will reveal the answers.

Let’s take a look at the starters:

 

Game One

Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92 ERA) will take the mound versus Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA) in Monday’s Memorial Day matinee.

Bundy recorded a stellar outing during his last start, allowing just two runs on six hits over seven innings against the Twins, but was dealt a tough-luck loss in the 2-0 pitcher’s duel by Ervin Santana. The Orioles young ace has now allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his eleven starts on the year. He’s also been absolutely sensational at Camden Yards this season, going 3-1 with a sparkling 2.16 ERA over five starts.

Montgomery was impressive during his last start against Kansas City and allowed just a single run on two hits over 6 2/3 innings. That effort lowered his ERA for the month of May to 4.44 over four outings. The Yankees promising rookie has allowed three runs or fewer in six of his first eight major league starts.

 

Game Two

Chris Tillman (1-1, 4.43 ERA) will take on Luis Severino (3-2, 3.11 ERA) in Tuesday’s match-up.

After allowing four runs on nine hits over five innings in his last outing versus the Twins, Tillman has posted a subpar 5.37 ERA over his last three starts. Tillman will be making his fifth start of the season and his fourth start at home. The two-time All-Star has notched a 1-1 record and a 3.94 ERA at home on the year.

Severino  dominated the Royals to the tune of four hits over eight shutout innings en route to his third win of the season during his last start. The Yankees should be thrilled with the 23-year-old’s development this season, as he’s now allowed one run or fewer in four of his last six starts. More impressively, Severino has been a road warrior this season and has posted a stellar 2.05 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and .202 BAA in four starts away from Yankee Stadium despite being winless (0-1).

 

Game Three

Kevin Gausman (2-4, 6.17 ERA) will get the nod against Masahiro Tanaka (5-4, 5.86 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Gausman has started to turn his season around as of late. After notching a 2.84 ERA over his last two outings, the Orioles flamethrower now owns a decent 1-2 record and 4.50 ERA over five starts this month. Over thirteen career starts versus New York, Gausman has slayed the Yankees to the tune of a 6-3 record and a stellar 2.59 ERA.

Prior to racking up 13 K’s in 7 1/3 innings and allowing one run on five hits during his tough-luck loss against the Athletics in his last start, Tanaka had hit an all-time low. The  usually sturdy ace was rocked by the magnitude of allowing fourteen runs on sixteen hits over just 4 2/3 innings combined over his previous two starts (27.03 ERA). As a result of his nightmare turned into reality, Tanaka owns a 7.82 ERA over five starts this month.

 

Notes

-Bring your glove to the park this weekend. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is tied for the MLB lead in homers (16), ranks fifth in the AL in batting average (.321) and is tied for fifth in the AL in RBI (34).

– Yankees star second baseman Starlin Castro is ranked fourth in the AL in batting average (.325) to go along with ten doubles, seven homers and 28 RBI. Matt Holliday (.264, 9 HR, 30 RBI) and Brett Gardner (.267, 9 HR, 22 RBI) are also in good form for the visitors.

– The Orioles have had mixed results against Severino. Chris Davis (1-for-10), Adam Jones (1-for-8), and Jonathan Schoop (2-for-9) have all struggled against him, while Seth Smith (2-for-5), Mark Trumbo (4-for-8, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Manny Machado (4-for-11, 3 HR, 5 RBI) have done well. Severino owns a 1-1 record and a 4.74 ERA over four career starts versus Baltimore.

– Tanaka owns a stellar 2.74 ERA over six career starts against the Orioles and despite going just 1-1 during that span, he’s silenced the Orioles big guns in the past. Davis (3-for-15), Machado (4-for-17), Schoop (3-for-17), J.J. Hardy (2-for-11), Jones (4-for-15) and Smith (3-for-12) are a combined 19-87 (.218) against Tanaka.

-Over the first six games versus the Yankees this season, the Orioles are scoring six runs per game (36 total) and are hitting a respectable .262 as a unit. The bad news is that their team ERA versus the Yankees this season stands at a dismal 7.32 to date.

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

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Week in Review: Nightmare on Eutaw Street

Alec Asher gets the ball back as an Astro rounds the bases.

Well, that escalated quickly.

And not in a good way. In fact, only the late Wes Craven could have scripted something as brutal and savagely gutting as the past week of Orioles baseball.

Let’s do a quick timeline of events to demonstrate how quickly things have gone south for the Birds. On May 9th, the Orioles reclaimed first place and the best record in baseball (22-10) with a 5-4 comeback win over the Nationals.

Just eight days ago on May 20th, the Orioles again retook sole possession of first place after topping Detroit 7-5 on a late Welington Castillo home run.

And now, the Orioles are entering the final week of May on a dismal seven-game losing streak, their record is barely above .500 at 25-23, and they have dropped thirteen of their last sixteen ballgames.

Instead of nipping at the Yankees’ heels for first place, they are playing catch-up with the Red Sox for second place and are now currently trying to fend off the surging fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays to avoid slipping further down the table. The last place Blue Jays are just three games off the pace of the Orioles, and they just saw a five-game win streak come to a halt on Sunday.

If we’re talking NASDAQ slang here…the Orioles have gone bearish at the worst possible time. Everyone else in the division is as bullish as it gets at the moment.

It’s only fitting that their next seven games are against New York and Boston. While I still think it is far too early to abandon ship, make no mistake about it; this Orioles squad needs to recover from their week in hell and rebound in a hurry, or their season might be singing a different tune down the stretch.

I think that song might be titled ”Golfing In October”.

Let’s go to the notes:

– After getting double-swept versus the Twins and the Astros, the Orioles’ current seven-game losing streak is their longest since July 2011. I was eighteen years old and had just graduated high school.

– After getting swept out of Houston, the Orioles now own a dreadful 2-11 record away from Camden Yards in May and are now 4-13 over their last seventeen games away from OPACY.

– The Orioles bats have evaporated right in front of our eyes over the past six games. They hit a dismal .202 combined against Minnesota and Houston, scored just sixteen runs (2.6 per game) and hit just .205 (8-for-39) with runners in scoring position.

– I guess it’s true when they say hitting is contagious. But in this case, it’s a bad thing. The entire Orioles line-up has gone cold it seems. Over the past week (5/22-5/28), Manny Machado has gone 4-for-23, Chris Davis has gone just 2-for-22, Mark Trumbo is just 4-for-21, Seth Smith is a woeful 2-for-20, Castillo isn’t much better at 3-for-20 and Trey Mancini is 2-for-13. And to top it off, Captain Adam Jones is banged up. Lovely.

– What happened to the starters? After a promising month of April, Orioles starters have been absolutely dreadful this month. After getting lit up all week, the Orioles starters have recorded a 7.28 ERA over the past six losses and own a disheartening 6.20 ERA over the last fifteen games.

– There’s a silver lining! If you’re feeling the need for a positive, it’s that the Orioles bullpen has been in stellar form as of late. They’ve posted a very impressive 2.80 ERA as a unit over the last eleven games under very negative circumstances.

– Houston, you are our problem. Since the beginning of last season, the Astros have owned the Orioles to the tune of a 9-1 record. Here’s to hoping that we don’t meet in the postseason. Ever.

Let’s go to the stars of the week…

None! For the first time this season, we aren’t giving out any “Star of the Week” awards here at ESR. Sure, J.J. Hardy has gone 7-for-17 with a homer and two RBI over his last six, and Jonathan Schoop is hitting .333 (7-for-21) with two homers and four RBI during that same span, but when you drop every single game of the week it goes for naught.

Here’s to hoping we can give out some stars at the end of next week!

And here’s to hoping that the good vibes will return to Birdland before too much time passes, or it’s going to be a long summer…

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#Staturday: Jones Sets OPACY HR Record

Adam Jones follows through on his swing.

Woof. What a miserable week of Orioles’ baseball. Nevertheless, we keep the stats coming!

On Monday, Adam Jones hit his 125th career homer at Camden Yards which put him atop the home run leaderboard:

Most home runs at Camden Yards:

  • Adam Jones – 125

Thus far in 2017, Mark Trumbo has six homers all with something in common:

All of Mark Trumbo’s home runs in 2017 (6) have come with two outs.

Fact: Chris Davis hits a lot of home runs. Another fact: he also strikes out a lot:

Games with four or more strikeouts by an Orioles’ batter, since 2011:

Chris Davis – 15

Everyone else combined – 15

That’s all I have this week, Birdland. For more stats like these, follow @BirdlandStats on Twitter.

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Friday’s O’s Links: Happy Trails, Hammerin’ Hank

batter at orioles baseball game holding bat waiting for ball

After a day off (and what feels like two, since Wednesday’s game was an afternoon tilt), the O’s will look to get back on track against the last team you want to see on the schedule when you’re trying to do that…fun.

Let’s just get right to the links today.

Step-Up Time: Kevin Gausman Edition

Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer on Kevin Gausman being not-that-much-worse than Ubaldo. Oof. The O’s could really use this game tonight – Dallas Keuchel has a 0.94 ERA at home, and he’s starting on Saturday, while Sunday’s starter, Lance McCullers, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 24 innings. We won’t bring up Gausman’s road stats…

O’s Choice of Jimenez Over Santana Proves to be a Glaring Mistake

Back before the 2014 season, the O’s had their choice of Ubaldo or Ervin Santana.

Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind…

Chris Davis Needs to Swing Smarter

We’re doubling up on the Depot today, because after I tipped my cap to him in my “Chris Davis Needs to Swing More” piece the other day, Matt Perez went ahead and updated his take on the situation. He got a bit crazy with the data!

Four Orioles Players Exceeding Expectations

The O’s have found some gems this season. Unfortunately, some of the guys they count on to live up to high expectations (looking at you, Manny…and Kevin) haven’t pulled their weight, resulting in the most recent skid. Britt gives you the bright side of things.

Orioles Release Henry Urrutia

Best of luck to Hammerin’ Hank. We’ll always have that walk-off HR against Oakland.

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Series Preview: Orioles (25-20) @ Astros (32-16)

Dallas Keuchel of the Astros yells.

After getting drubbed and swept in their own ballpark by the Twins, the Orioles will look to bounce back in a hurry on the road as they prepare to take on the flying Houston Astros.

We were feeling really good after taking care of business versus Toronto. A lot can change in the span of five days.

But the same rule applies to both ends of the spectrum. A few wins on the road against the best team in the majors would do wonders for the Orioles’ psychological swagger.

It won’t be easy by any means, but that’s why they play the games.

The Orioles (25-20) are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak and have hit a somber 3-10 snag in the road since visiting our nation’s capital. The road hasn’t been kind to the Orioles at all this month as they head into Houston with a 2-8 record away from Camden Yards thus far in May.

The Astros (32-16) have been smashing the league all season long, and if the early goings are any indication, they should be a team to watch out for in October. After lighting it up in April with a 16-9 record, they’ve already matched that thus far in May (16-7) and still have six games left to play until June rolls around. A twenty-win month is within reach for the hosts.

Houston’s sensational start to the season has been fueled by winning on both sides of the spectrum. They own the AL’s second-best offense (4.94 runs per game), are tied for second in the AL in homers (68) and rank third in batting average (.266). Their dangerous offense, however, is outdone by their stellar pitching staff. The Astros lead the AL in team ERA (3.51), strikeouts (469), WHIP (1.20), and BAA (.228) and rank second in team OBP against (.301).

The O’s will also be looking for some payback at Minute Maid Park this weekend after going just 1-6 versus the Astros last season. They’ve gone just 4-10 against Houston since the start of the 2015 campaign.

Let’s take a look at the starters:

 

Game One

Kevin Gausman (2-3, 6.65 ERA) will take on Joe Musgrove (3-4, 5.63 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Gausman recorded just his third quality start of the season after allowing two runs on ten hits over six innings against the Blue Jays, but the winning effort lowered his ERA this month to 5.19 over four starts. Gausman, however, will be looking to get it together on the road. He’s gone 1-2 with a dreadful 9.47 ERA, .357 BAA and 2.10 WHIP over five starts away from OPACY this season.

Musgrove hasn’t been much better for the Astros this season. He’s gone 1-4 with a woeful 6.44 ERA over six starts at home on the year, and he’s posted an ugly 6.75 ERA over four starts thus far in May.

 

Game Two

Wade Miley (1-2, 2.59 ERA) will get the nod against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel (7-0, 1.84 ERA) on Saturday.

Miley was excellent during his last start against the Blue Jays and went seven superb innings without allowing an earned run. Due to his efforts in the tough-luck loss, Miley lowered his ERA in May to 3.06 over four starts, and now boasts a career-low 2.59 ERA on the year as we head into the weekend.

Keuchel missed just one start due to a pinched nerve and will be back to face the Birds. Keuchel has been practically unhittable at home this season, going 3-0 with a sparkling 0.94 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and .156 BAA over four starts at Minute Maid Park. Prior to picking up a minor knock, Keuchel was in the middle of a scintillating run of form during which he allowed one run or fewer in six of nine starts.

 

Game Three

The question lingers: will Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 7.17 ERA) make his next scheduled start versus Lance McCullers (5-1, 2.43 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday?

While Jimenez has recorded a 6.86 ERA over three starts this month, maybe Buck should give him one more shot. Jimenez owns an impressive 4-1 record and 2.86 ERA over eleven career starts versus Houston.

The O’s will have to bring their ”A game” if they want to get anything going against McCullers at the moment. He’s recorded twenty-two straight scoreless innings and twenty-four straight innings without allowing an earned run. As a result of his stellar streak, McCullers owns a perfect 3-0 record and a miniscule 0.59 ERA over five starts this month. To make matters worse for the Orioles, he owns a clean 3-0 record and a superb 1.74 ERA over five starts at home on the year.

 

Notes

– In his only career start against the Orioles last August, the O’s tagged Musgrove to the tune of eight runs on eleven hits over 5 1/3 innings while clubbing three homers and six extra-base hits. J.J. Hardy (3-for-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI) led the way, while Hyun-soo Kim (3-for-3, 1 3B, 1 RBI), Jonathan Schoop (2-for-3) and Mark Trumbo (1-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI) also did some damage. Since they have to face Keuchel and McCullers over the weekend, let’s hope for more of the same on Friday.

– Over five career starts against the Birds, Keuchel has gone 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .228 BAA. However, Trumbo (6-for-15, 3 HR, 7 RBI) has owned Keuchel in the past, while Adam Jones (4-for-16), Manny Machado (5-for-15), Schoop (4-for-13, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and Welington Castillo (4-for-10) have all had some success against the ‘Stros ace.

– The same can’t be said against Lance McCullers. He’s owned the Orioles both times he’s faced them, going 2-0 with a stellar 1.29 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and .104 BAA. Trumbo (3-for-6, 1 HR, 4 RBI) has hit him hard and Jones (2-for-6) has held his own against him, but that’s about it. Seth Smith (0-for-9), Chris Davis (0-for-7), Machado (0-for-4) and Schoop (0-for-2) are a combined 0-for-22 against Houston’s other ace.

– The Orioles pitching staff will have the tough task of shutting down the Astros potent line-up. Jose Altuve (.298, 7 HR, 22 RBI) and Carlos Correa (.288, 7 HR, 26 RBI) are leading the way as always, while they are joined by a star-studded supporting cast that includes Brian McCann (.269, 6 HR, 25 RBI), Josh Reddick (.281, 6 HR, 20 RBI), George Springer (.231, 9 HR, 24 RBI) and breakout slugger Marwin Gonzalez (.282, 11 HR, 28 RBI).

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

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Bottle Stoppers are the O’s Latest Must-Have Giveaway

Orioles bottle stoppers.

While the O’s have been scuffling on the field as of late, their giveaway game, on the other hand, has been shooting up the power rankings.

Saturday’s Maryland flag-themed jersey giveaway was even better than expected, with quality sewn-on stitching.

That’s a damn good looking jersey.

One item on the promotional giveaway schedule that fans weren’t quite sure about was “Orioles bottle stoppers,” scheduled for July 22. Today, the O’s released a photo of these things, and they look downright incredible:

Orioles bottle stoppers.

Yes, that’s Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, and Chris Davis on top of corks that you can use to plug your open wine bottles (July 22 today is, of course, National Wine Day).

All fans 21 and over get  not just one of these on July 22, but the FULL SET!

Get your tickets, ASAP. They’re not going to last long. Some folks tried to wait on the Maryland flag jerseys last week, and were dismayed when everything was sold out and standing-room only tickets were going for $50+ on StubHub.

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Thursday Thoughts: Last Call for Ubaldo Jimenez?

Ubaldo JImenez prepares to wind up.

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 preeminent talking point surrounding the Orioles this week is Ubaldo Jimenez, and what exactly the team plans to do with him. It’s obvious that Buck Showalter is ready to make a move.

What that move is, remains to be seen.

Jimenez is due for his next start on Sunday, but that might not happen. There’s a good chance Showalter tries to throw Jayson Aquino or Alec Asher into the role, and shift Jimenez to the bullpen. There’s a large contingent of fans who simply want to see the O’s cut their losses with Jimenez and send him packing.

In years past, the argument against that was what it would cost the club. Being in the last year of his contract, the cost is already sunk into Jimenez and the Orioles wouldn’t be losing as much. This would be all fine and good if Dan Duquette had gone out this offseason and actually found better options. Maybe Aquino and Asher can be that, but I have little to no confidence in it happening.

Instead, the team has signed and traded for a number of AAAA pitchers who aren’t sure rotation bets. This is what makes cutting ties with Jimenez so risky. He’s only going to give you a good outing once out of every five or six turns in the rotation.

Can the O’s rely on someone else giving them a better chance every fifth day? If so, then cut ties.

But no one (and that includes you, me and Duquette) can guarantee that’s the case.

2. Chris Davis has been another hot topic of conversation, and unfortunately it’s not for the massive amount of power he puts behind the ball when he connects. Instead, it’s for the lack of swinging he’s been doing.

Davis has struck out looking 31 times this season, which is staggering. It’s so staggering because the person in second place in that category (San Diego’s Ryan Schimpf) has struck out just 22 times looking. That’s a large gap.

It’s frustrating to see Davis swing through pitches and miss, but at least he’s trying to make contact. Since 2013, Davis has K’d looking an astonishing 269 times. Second place in that category goes to Justin Upton, who has just 206. Baseball God Mike Trout happens to be third with 201.

Davis seems to be at his best when he’s keeping his head down on the ball and driving it the opposite way. But he can’t do that if he doesn’t swing the bat. Lately it’s been on his shoulder far too often.

Plate discipline is one thing, but what he’s doing is something totally different.

3. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Manny Machado this season. He started out the season very poorly, seemed to get a bit of a spark right around when the Red Sox decided to throw baseballs at him, and has gone back to playing fairly poorly.

No one expects him to hit .300, but he’s nowhere close to that this season. The only saving grace is that Machado’s walk rate is much higher than in previous seasons. Despite hitting just .218, his OBP is up at .309 due to an 11.3% BB rate. He’s never even cracked 10% in his career.

Machado’s line-drive percentage is also down, though his BABIP is also super low. He’s basically an enigma at this point, and it’s easy to think he’ll eventually turn things around offensively. But it’s also entirely possible for him to have a down season, similar to what happened to Bryce Harper last year. Even with a strong on-base percentage of .373, Harper hit just .243 with 24 home runs. That followed his NL MVP campaign of 2015 when he hit .330 with 42 round trippers.

What is somewhat bothersome about Machado’s recent play is an apparent lack of interest. He’s been called out plenty on social media and by others for it recently. All of this is going to spark more talk about how he won’t re-sign here and should be traded.

I just want to see him play well for however long he wears an Orioles uniform.

4. I was somewhat surprised to see Michael Bourn depart the Orioles quietly yesterday. I got the vibe that the O’s really wanted to see if they could fit him into the picture with the big league club. The broken finger in spring training simply derailed his chances. Bourn was a small contributor late last season, and possesses the tools to help out, even at the age of 34.

The issue of course, is that there are too many corner outfielders in Baltimore. Unless there was another injury to Joey Rickard or Hyun-soo Kim falling off the Earth (as if he hasn’t already), there wasn’t going to be room for Bourn. Back in 2011 and 2012, I remember Bourn being a player I really wanted the O’s to focus on in their search for outfielders. At the time, he was impressing for the Braves. Instead, he went on to Cleveland and broke my heart.

There’s always a chance he latches on to another team, but it could also very well be the end of the road for him.

5. I can’t help but think that the Orioles really started this downward trend they’ve been on during that Yankees series in New York during the last weekend of April. It felt like a turning point at the time, and it’s only reaffirmed when I glance back at what’s happened since. The O’s have had a six-game winning streak that included a sweep of the White Sox mixed in there, but they’ve gone 10-12 since the end of that series.

You remember, that’s the one where the Birds blew a 9-1 lead and lost 14-11 in ten innings on Friday night. Then on Saturday they came out and allowed Ubaldo Jimenez to get his face beat in to the tune of a 12-4 loss. Sunday looked like more disaster as the Orioles coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth but went on to win 7-4 in 11 innings.

That series seemed to drag a lot out of the team, and it also seemed to change them a bit. There’s obviously still a lot of time left, but it’s going to take some kind of spark to get them going again.

Playing sub-.500 ball the rest of the way isn’t going to get it done.

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The Hitter vs. The Slugger II – Hyun-soo Kim vs. Trey Mancini

Trey Mancini and Hyun-Soo Kim square off.

It’s happening again.

Three years after watching Delmon Young win a spot on the roster for the Orioles and get consistent playing time over Steve Pearce, with the team almost losing Pearce to waivers when Buck Showalter inexplicably wouldn’t play him and wanted his roster spot for a pitcher, you would have thought Buck and the Orioles would have learned their lesson. Pearce of course went on to have a career year and was a big part of the Orioles winning the 2014 American League East Division title.

However, once again Orioles fans find themselves watching a battle that should have never been and the slugger currently winning in spite of the hitter being the better fit for the Orioles overall. Of course I am talking about first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini (“The Slugger”) getting consistent playing time in left field over the incumbent, career outfielder Hyun-soo Kim (“The Hitter).

 

The Hitter vs. the Slugger II

The plan at the beginning of the offseason was to expand Kim’s role as after all he demonstrated he could be an everyday MLB player in 2016, with an OBP of .382 (best on the team and 18th best in MLB overall for hitters with 300 plate appearances or more). Kim also exercised the best plate discipline on the team with an O-Swing% of only 23.1%.  Showalter even said that Kim would get an opportunity against left-handed pitchers in Spring Training to see if he could be more of a full time player.

As we all know, Showalter didn’t let Kim see much left-handed pitching in Spring Training, always making the same lame excuses. Kim, to his credit, made him look completely foolish again, performing well against lefties that he did face in Spring Training (4-for-9) and continuing to hit them in the regular season in another extremely limited opportunity.

An unexpected development emerged though: not only was Buck going to continue to platoon Kim against lefties, but he was also going to give his playing time away against righties to Trey Mancini. Mancini could supposedly hit lefties but was unproven against righties. The only problem was that besides removing Kim’s on-base ability and patient approach from the lineup, his replacement, Mancini, fit the profile of many Orioles hitters – a free swinger with power who hardly took a walk or got on base.

He’s basically the second coming of Mark Trumbo (minus the large contract).

Now Mancini made it easy at first to bench Kim because he hit seven home runs with 20 RBI in the first 17 games he started. Since then, he only has two extra-base hits against righties with his second extra-base hit in the recent series with the Twins.

In that series, Mancini was 2-for-11 (.182) against right-handed pitchers, with his second hit of the series only coming in his final plate appearance of the final game.

Meanwhile, Kim had one plate appearance against a righty in the 2nd game in the bottom of the 9th inning and only after the Orioles were losing by eight runs. He singled and later scored. Now, imagine if he had played the whole series instead of Mancini.

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. But maybe it would have. Especially in the final two games, when the Birds really could have used Kim’s patient approach to help drive up the pitch count of Twins starters, who were cruising easily through the O’s free-swinging lineup.

 

Trey the Latest to be Over-Exposed

Buck Showalter has a very bad habit of overexposing players that belong in a platoon. He did it with Nate McLouth and Alejandro De Aza with left-handed pitchers, and with Delmon Young and Joey Rickard with right-handed pitchers. The end result is that the player that starts out hot quickly cools off and the Orioles lose opportunities to win games they normally would have a good chance to win.  Given his recent play against righties, Mancini is now the next in line to be overexposed – at Kim’s and the team’s expense.

Trey Mancini follows through on a swing.

The Orioles are 11-4 in games that Kim has started this season and 14-16 in games that he hasn’t. That should be enough to tell you the impact that Kim has on the lineup, but his defense has also been better than Mancini’s, with a +1 DRS in left field in 116 innings compared to the 0 DRS rating (likely to go down after the Twins series) that Mancini has in 120 innings.

Once again in the final game of the Twins series this was on display. Mancini had multiple defensive miscues, one costing the team a run, and he later made his first official error of the season. For all the negative scouting reports about his defense, especially his arm and his range, Kim has never made an error in MLB and makes all the routine plays he needs to make.

That’s probably because he’s played left field for most of his professional career. Of the two, he is the best choice defensively that the Orioles have to play left field because he likely won’t hurt you on those routine plays – unlike Mancini, who is trying to learn the position.

 

Back to a Platoon – Please!

Kim and Mancini having two different skill sets and two different plate approaches also should also result in them occupying different slots in the lineup. When he plays, Kim should be leading off or batting 2nd because of his contact and on-base ability. He and Seth Smith would form a formidable duo, tiring out starters before they reached the Orioles’ most dangerous hitters to drive them in.

But Buck has batted Adam Jones, one of the worst free-swingers on the team, 2nd instead, with Kim hitting in the 7th or 8th spot. When Kim gets on base, he has to wait for the bottom of the lineup to drive him in, and that’s usually less likely to happen.

So not only is Kim not playing enough, when he does play, Buck is batting him in a spot that doesn’t take advantage of his skill set. It would make sense to bat Mancini lower because of his free-swinging nature, but Buck puts Kim there too.

Showalter hasn’t been afraid to stack right handed hitters in the bottom of his lineup after Chris Davis when Kim doesn’t play, so it makes no sense that he wouldn’t be able to bat Smith and Kim back-to-back at the top of the lineup to maximize the damage capability of the Orioles’ power bats.

As a result of this poor lineup construction and playing time choices, the Orioles unsurprisingly sit 11th in the American League in OBP and 9th in runs scored.

If the Orioles want to improve those rankings and their defense in left field, all they need to do is play their hitter instead of their slugger against right-handed pitching.

They have plenty of the latter and not enough of the former.

By continuing to bench Kim, hit him low in the lineup when he does play, and overexpose Mancini to right-handed pitching, Buck Showalter continues to fail to give his team the best chance to win.

Just like in 2014, the hitter has to beat out the slugger once again.

The Orioles’ 2017 season could depend on it.

all photos: GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

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Are the Baltimore Orioles Playoff Bound?

Oriole Park at Camden Yards press box view.

The Baltimore Orioles shouldn’t be 25-17 after 42 games, but they’ve managed to transcend mediocre metrics and precarious scenarios to start the 2017 season with a bang. One of their latest adventures – a wild, 13-11, thirteen-inning thriller in Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers – showed the Orioles ability to gut out wins in unorthodox ways. When key contributors heal from injury, and return to expected form, Baltimore’s knack for clutch play could become an intangible strength that separates them from the rest of the AL East.

Before the regular season began, Orioles betting odds were approximately 25-1 to win the World Series. The strong start to the regular season has changed those numbers to roughly 20-1. Considering the challenges faced by competitors in the American League, Baltimore appears to have an opportunity to break out and have a great regular season. With an inside track for a post-season appearance, the Orioles have a decent chance to make some noise come October.

Slow Starting Sluggers Will Rise

The Orioles were close last year, finishing with an 89-73 record, good enough for a wild card spot against their bitter rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays. They were only four games behind the Boston Red Sox for top spot in the AL East. During the final stretch of the season, the team needed only a few more wins to catch up – instead, the post-season ended early on an Edwin Encarnacion walk-off homer in the 11th.

Throughout the 2016 regular season, the Orioles relied mostly on the long ball for run production, preferring to bludgeon their opponents into submission instead of winning through progressing batters. Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo combined for 122 home runs, seven players hit 17 or more dingers, and the Orioles finished first in homers in the MLB by a sizeable margin.

These crushers have gotten off to a bit of a slow start this year, hovering around the middle of the pack offensively as the quarter mark of the season approaches, including a dip in hits, runs scored, and home runs.

In particular, young superstar Manny Machado appears sluggish instead of a looking like a dangerous slugger. His batting average has stagnated around .220, far below his career average of .281 – still, he finds himself tops in RBIs on the team, leading the Orioles in dingers with ten, just a handful off American League leaders.

Manny Machado throws while falling forward.

Contributions from solid starts by Mancini and Schoop have eased the pain somewhat, giving Machado, Trumbo and Davis a chance to re-establish their swings. These Orioles batters will likely return to their bruising form, which could create one of the most dangerous lineups in the majors.

Starters Progressing To The Next Level

One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2017 season thus far would be the starting pitching of Dylan Bundy. This youngster has offered a series of sterling outings, embodying the improved performance of the rotation as a whole. The starters have propped up the Orioles as the offense grinds into gear, and the bullpen faces tough injuries.

Compared to 2016, which featured an Orioles starting staff with inflated ERAs, the overall quality of starts has improved, lessening the impact of injuries and slow starts. Chris Tillman has returned without skipping a beat, and Bundy appears to have the opportunity to become a consistent presence in the American League.

This type of one-two punch could establish a rhythm that makes it easier to stabilize the entire pitching staff. Injuries and uncertainty in the bullpen will eventually settle over the upcoming week. If starters continue to perform at an improved rate, the Orioles could finally have the type of pitching that gives them a shot at a lengthy run in the post-season.

Bullpen Will Welcome Back An All-Star

The bullpen of the Baltimore Orioles has been subjected to significant levels of stress during the early part of the season, forced to pitch way too many extra innings on a regular basis. In a bit of a twist on the usual story, Orioles starters haven’t been the main reason for losses. Relievers have coughed up leads in mind-boggling fashion too often, forcing manager Buck Showalter to go deeper in the pen than expected.

Deputy closer Brad Brach has struggled to lock things down, giving up untimely homers and clutch hits which have allowed rivals to climb back into games. Darren O’Day has been dealing with shoulder issues, limiting his innings and effectiveness. Even worse, all-star closer Zach Britton will be out for another month or so, which leaves the bullpen unbalanced.

Zach Britton pitches on the Camden Yards mound.

The good news is that the starters appear to be eating more innings than in years previous, which will help reduce the stress somewhat. Tillman returning to form will relieve the bullpen of extra innings. In 2016, Britton and Brach set ‘em up and knocked them down consistently, with Zach closing a perfect 47 of 47 outings. The Orioles had only 14 blown saves in 2016, but already have eight far this season.

Sometimes Winning Is Intangible

So far, Baltimore has managed to mitigate a tough start to the season, mostly through a better-than-expected opening quarter by the starters. The bullpen, considering the numerous injuries and assignment changes, can’t be blamed for the unstable start to the season. You can’t expect consistency in a revolving door scenario.

The bats will turn around, barring a rash of injuries. Machado and Davis should trend up towards their MVP potential, and the batting lineup as a whole will rarely want for power. If anything, the fact that the team has created so many wins despite poor analytics could bode well in the long run.

Certainly – the bullpen and the heart of the order must improve to take advantage of good fortune, otherwise the numbers will catch up. But the prospect of hitters and relievers returning to form while the starting rotation improves should elicit excitement for the organization. Ultimately, it was always going to be the starting pitching that was the limiting reagent for the Orioles, and a strong first quarter of the season could signal a breakthrough for the club in 2017.

submitted by Kent Tukeli

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Blown Leads Testing O’s Mental Fortitude

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

Winning games at the Major-League level is no easy task. The run of consistency Buck Showalter‘s Orioles have managed to put together over the past five-plus seasons is nothing to sneeze at. Even this year, when it feels like the team is a bit of a train wreck, a glance at the standings reveals the O’s to be just 1.5-games out of first place, and in possession of the American League’s third-best record.

However, though the Orioles have lost just 18 of their first 43 games, the manner in which some of their recent losses have unfolded could severely test the mental fortitude of this group of players.

Building a lead early on, only to see it quickly evaporate thanks to yet another pitching meltdown, has quickly become an all-too-regular occurrence.

To wit:

The frustration was evident on the faces of the players in Monday night’s loss. The Birds’ bats came out and smacked Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson around to the tune of six runs on eight hits in building a 6-2 lead.

Then, Ubaldo Jimenez happened. The Twins struck for four in the top of the fifth, the second time in just eight days an Orioles starter had been staked to a 5-0 lead and was unable to even get through the fifth inning to qualify for the win.

To say that it was deflating would be an understatement – not just for the fans, but for the players. Immediately upon losing the lead, the Orioles offense went into hiding. A team that had looked so energized and locked in just an inning ago was now flailing at everything and looked to just be ready to pack it in and try again tomorrow.

In the fifth, Gibson struck out the side on 14 pitches.

Tyler Wilson, who had replaced Jimenez in the fifth, was even more of a disaster than Ubie, allowing the Twins to take a commanding 11-6 lead in the sixth, before being replaced by Stefan Crichton. Who, of course, allowed an inherited runner to cross, the Twinkies’ 12th of the evening.

Again, the Birds offered nothing up in the way of a comeback themselves. They scored just a single run the rest of the night, capping off a 14-7 laugher of a loss that had started off so promisingly.

I absolutely agree with Jon here. How could the guys not be absolutely deflated after watching yet another large lead so quickly go the way of the Dodo?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that they’re not trying. Adam Jones, for instance, was still going all out to make plays like this in the seventh inning:

I’m just saying that this crap has got to be getting very old, very fast for the guys who produce the runs and the seemingly-comfortable leads. The Orioles have shown plenty of resilience already this season, like when they turned around and won eight of 11 following their April 28th loss in New York, a game in which they held a 9-1 lead in the sixth inning.

But it’s a lot to ask for them to keep picking themselves up off the mat time and time again. Prior to last night’s loss, the O’s had played in 12 straight games that were decided by one or two runs. They didn’t win a single nine-inning ball game between May 8 at home against Washington (a game that ended with the Nationals having the tying run on third) and this past Saturday, May 20 (there were two extra-inning wins in there). The last time they won a game in a non-save situation was Thursday, May 4 against the Boston Red Sox.

Those are high-stress games, no matter which side of the ledger you come out on.

Losing a 5-0 and 6-2 lead only to get blown out in the end? That’s an infuriating way to go down.

Buck’s face at the end of this GIF says it all:

Not only do we frazzled fans need an easy, coasting win or two, but so do the players. Perhaps tonight will be the night.

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Chris Davis Needs to Get the Bat Off His Shoulder

Chris Davis watches a pitch go by.

Chris Davis had a nice little week for himself last week. In the span of just five games, he raised his 2017 slash line from .239/.348/.389 to .269/.382/.531. That also brought his season wRC+ from 102 to 146 (for you non-nerds: he went from being 2% better than the average MLB hitter to 46% better).

(h/t Ryan Romano)

Davis didn’t do much over the weekend against Toronto though, and as of the start of tonight’s game against Minnesota, he’s at .248/.358/.483, good for a 126 wRC+.

He’s been the usual frustrating Davis all year, looking completely lost for long stretches followed by stretches where everything he hits seems to fly out of the ballpark. Of course, the latter case has really only popped up once so far. Knowing Davis though, the next such streak is right around the corner.

I’m not calling him “Crush” anymore, because I think it’s pretty obvious to anybody who watches this team on a regular basis that the guy who earned that nickname, the 2013 version of Davis, isn’t coming back. At least not for more than a handful of games at a time.

And that’s OK. Davis plays a stellar first base, and we all know that when he heats up, he’ll be a blast to watch until he goes cold again.

But what’s not really OK, at least with large portions of Birdland, is the WAY in which Davis gets himself into these awful funks at the dish. He goes down with little-to-no resistance, watching strike three after strike three call before turning and heading back to the dugout.

Back in March, Camden Depot’s Joe Wantz dug into the numbers and concluded that Davis, unlike some other O’s hitters who we won’t bring up right now, would actually be better served by swinging the bat MORE often.

Here’s Wantz:

In years when Davis takes fewer called third strikes, he is at worst an above average hitter and at best one of the game’s elites. In years where he takes a higher number of called third strikes, however, he is below average to slightly above.

Now, this may be sample size noise and there are likely other factors that contribute to Davis’ offensive inconsistency, but it seems fairly clear that the less aggressive Davis is the less successful he is offensively. A strikeout is an out regardless, but a called third strike is probably the least productive out simply because there is no possibility of anything good happening. In Davis’ case, it’s doubly unproductive because he hits the ball extremely hard. He consistently ranks in the upper echelon of hard hit balls and obviously produces massive power when he connects.

It seems odd to say that a player should be less selective, and even more so when that player is on the Baltimore Orioles. In Davis’ case, however, taking fewer pitches and being more aggressive at the plate certainly seems to correlate with better offensive production.  So, I’d suggest something I never thought I’d have to to suggest to an Oriole: swing the bat!

So, is Davis swinging more in 2017? I don’t think I need to tell you that the answer is a resounding NOPE.

Going into Monday night’s game, Davis is swinging at just 42.1% of pitches, which would be a new career low. His career number right now sits at 49.1. Here are his year-by-year numbers:

2012: 54.2%
2013: 50.2%
2014: 46.9%
2015: 47.5%
2016: 42.8%

As noted above, he’s at 42.1% this year.

In addition to the above, Wantz also noted that Davis staring at a ridiculous amount of strike threes isn’t just something we perceive – it’s backed up by the numbers:

What is interesting, however, is how he strikes out. Davis has, by far, the most called third strikes in baseball since 2012 with 279, and had 79 called third strikes in 2016, which is also the most by far for any player in any season since 2009.

So, how’s that going so far in 2017?

Well…

called strike three table

source

Not great! Not only is Davis well on his way to leading the league in this dubious category again, but he’s also on pace to shatter his own awful record of 79 from a season ago. At this pace, Davis will strike out looking an incredible 115 times this year.

As Josh Sadlock put it on Twitter, by the end of his contract, he’ll be swinging once a game.

When he does swing, he is making slightly less contact (65.9%) than his career average (67.7%) and quite a bit less than in 2013 (69%), but just a tick better than last year (65.7%).  The point remains, I think – he should let it fly more often.

In the past, I’ve driven myself crazy wishing that Davis would change…something…when he goes into his extended slumps. His batting stance, perhaps the size of the bat that he uses, something about his approach…

But no changes ever seem to come, at least not any that are visible to the naked eye. He’s certainly not Cal Ripken up there changing his stance every month.

Anyway, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Davis just isn’t a guy who is going to do a whole lot of tinkering. He knows what’s worked for him in the past, and that’s what he’s riding (or whiffing) with.

I don’t think I’m asking for too much, though, with the simple request to get the damn bat off his shoulder a bit more often. If he looked into the numbers, he’d see that it’s an approach that has certainly served him well in the past.

Swing away, Big Fella. Swing away.

(Note – another writer on Camden Depot, Matt Perez, reached the opposite conclusion. Worth the read as well, if you’re so inclined.)

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Monday’s O’s Links: No Choice But to Stick with Hardy

Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy bats.

The O’s got back to their winning ways over the weekend, thanks in large part to Welington Castillo’s heroics. It’s great that Beef has been such a pleasant offensive surprise, but we really need some of the other guys to start chipping in a bit more. The surprise first-place Twins are in town now, so things certainly don’t get any easier.

To the links.

Baltimorons Annual Nickname Show

Woo hoo! Sam and Alan finally released their always highly anticipated nickname show. Now that these guys don’t do a weekly show any more, the ol adage about absence making the heart grow fonder comes to mind. Listen in for all of this year’s unofficial official O’s nicknames.

O’s May Need to Ride Out Hardy’s Struggles

There’s no sugar-coating it: J.J. Hardy has been B-A-D. However, as our Andrew Stetka notes over in his weekly MASN guest column, there really aren’t any good options to replace him.

(Note: Andrew – I love ya, but you’re messing up your horse racing metaphors here. The “quarter pole” is actually the 3/4 mark of a race. I know, I know…everyone does this. Still drives me a bit nuts.)

Orioles Pitchers Have Mastered the Clutch Pop-Up

Camden Depot’s Ryan Romano found another instance of the Orioles being crazy outliers in a data set. This time, it’s in the difference between the pop-ups their pitchers induce with the bases empty as opposed to those they induce with men on. Interesting stuff, though I’m not really sure what it all means.

Reviewing the 2012 Orioles Draft Class, Five Years Later

Camden Chat’s Mark Brown takes on the very unenviable task of reviewing the top of the O’s 2012 amateur draft. It’s Kevin Gausman and a whole lotta nuthin’, and right now Gausman doesn’t even look like much.

Brach Leans on Support System to Straighten Out Problems

After quite a rough patch a week-plus ago, Brad Brach seems to be back on track. He talks about how support from his coaches helped him right the ship, via Roch Kubatko.

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Series Preview: Orioles (25-17) vs. Twins (22-18)

Side-by-side shots of Dylan Bundy and Ervin Santana pitching.

After rebounding and taking two of three from the Blue Jays to kick off their six-game homestand, the Orioles will now host the first-place Minnesota Twins during a three-game set before heading out to Houston.

The Orioles (25-17) remain a sliver out of first place in the AL East as we head into the final week of May, despite being on a current 3-7 skid over their last ten games.

However, the Orioles have a prime chance to retake the drivers’ seat in the division from the Yankees over the next few weeks. Boasting a sparkling MLB-best 15-4 record at home, the Orioles are set to play twelve of their next fifteen games in the friendly confines of Camden Yards.

The Twins (22-18) continue to lead the way in the AL Central, much to the surprise of just about everyone. They’ve continued their steady campaign by posting a 10-7 mark thus far in May, and have really impressed on the road this season with a 11-5 record away from Target Field.

The Twins have been dealt a cruel hand by Mother Nature this season. After a few rainouts in a short span of time, they have had to play two doubleheaders over the last five days.

That’s just brutal.

Two seasons ago, the Twins owned the Orioles en route to going 7-0 against the Birds. Last year, the Orioles returned the favor by going 5-1 versus Minnesota. How will this year’s narrative go?

We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s take a look at the starters:

 

Game One

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 6.52 ERA) will take the mound against Kyle Gibson (0-4, 8.20 ERA) in the series opener tonight.

Jimenez will be looking to bounce back from his last start versus Detroit in which he allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings. That outing pushed his ERA back up from 6.15 to 6.52. On the bright side, Jimenez has dominated the Twins in the past. He’s gone 5-3 with a stellar 2.49 ERA over ten career starts versus Minnesota.

Freshly off the bus from AAA Rochester, Gibson will be hoping to bounce back from a nightmare start to his 2017 season. He recorded an 8.20 ERA over his first six starts of the season before getting demoted. On a heavier note, after looking like a future star during the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Twins, Gibson’s stock has plummeted since. The former first round pick may be in need of a change of scenery.

 

Game Two

Dylan Bundy (5-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the hill versus Twins ace Ervin Santana (6-2, 2.07 ERA) on Tuesday.

After recording eight straight quality starts to begin the season, Bundy was tagged for six runs on eight hits over six innings in his last start versus the Tigers. He had allowed just seven runs over three starts in May before last Thursday’s contest.

Santana may have come back down to earth after notching a perfect 4-0 record and a stellar 0.77 ERA and 0.65 WHIP during the month of April, but he still owns a solid 3.81 ERA over four starts thus far in May. He has been sensational for the Twins this season. He’s allowed one or fewer runs in each of his first six starts this season, and has recorded four outings this season in which he’s went six-plus innings and allowed zero runs.

 

Game Three

Chris Tillman (1-0, 3.52 ERA) will get the nod versus the Twins star phenom Jose Berrios (2-0, 0.59 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday.

Tillman looked solid again during his last outing versus the Blue Jays, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings. The Orioles are 2-1 with Tillman on the mound since his return, and it could not have come at a better time.

After posting a woeful 8.02 ERA over 14 starts as a rookie last season, Berrios has been ruthless over his first two starts this season. He’s allowed just a single run on four hits over 15 1/3 innings this year while racking up 15 K’s in the process. The sky seems to be the limit for the Twins 22-year-old rising star, and we can now see why he is dubbed “La Maquina” or “The Machine.” He’s that good.

Let’s go to the Notebook.

 

Notes

– The Orioles sluggers don’t have the best of track records against ESantana. Chris Davis has three homers and four RBI against the Twins ace, but has gone just 5-for-32 (.179). Adam Jones has gone 5-for-22 (.227), while Seth Smith is just 4-for-20 (.200) versus Santana. Jonathan Schoop (.235, 2 HR, 4 RBI) has had some success, as has Mark Trumbo (3-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI).

– The Orioles big guns hit Berrios hard when they faced him last season. Chris Davis (1-for-3), Mark Trumbo (1-for-3), Adam Jones (1-for-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI) and Manny Machado (2-for-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI) combined to go 5-for-11 with two home runs and two RBI against the Twins future ace.

– Davis (4-for-11, 1 HR, 1 RBI) and J.J. Hardy (5-for-12, 1 HR, 4 RBI) have owned Kyle Gibson in the past. Schoop (3-for-10) and Machado (3-for-11) have also posted solid track records against the Twins struggling veteran.

– Tillman will be looking for a win in the worst way on Wednesday. He has gone 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA over seven career starts versus Minnesota. The Twins are the only club in baseball that he’s winless against in three starts or more.

– Watch out for Twins star slugger Miguel Sano. He’s hitting a stellar .304 on the year, is currently tied for sixth in the AL in homers (10) and is tied for second in the AL in RBI (34).

– Mauer watch: Future Hall-of-Famer Joe Mauer will be visiting Camden Yards this week. If you don’t love watching him play the game, you don’t love baseball. If you were wondering, Mauer has drilled the Orioles over 69 career games against them, hitting a stellar .341 with seventeen doubles, seven homers, 40 RBI and .403 OBP.

 

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

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O’s First Quarter Report Card – Part 2: Pitching

Dylan Bundy pitches.

Now that we’ve covered the position players, let’s jump right in and take a look at how the members of the Orioles pitching staff have shaped up this season.

 

Starters

Dylan BundyThe undisputed staff ace this season; the Orioles would be in a world of hurt without him. He leads the rotation in wins (5), quality starts (8), innings pitched (57.2), and WHIP (1.12) and is second in  ERA (2.97).

Grade: A+

Kevin GausmanAfter dominating the league during the second half of last season, Gausman has fallen way off since and his 6.65 ERA is nearly 2.50 points higher than his career 4.24 ERA. His WHIP (1.86) is also over fifty points higher than his career 1.33 WHIP.

Grade: E

Chris TillmanThe return of Tillman was a welcome sight, as his presence as a lynchpin in the Orioles rotation was beginning to be sorely missed. The O’s All-Star is still working his way back to top form, but he’s been steady nonetheless since his return to the squad.

Grade: C+

Ubaldo JimenezHe’s spun a gem or two, and he’s been tagged in every start in between. The Orioles need more from their sporadic veteran.

Grade: D

Wade MileyHe lit it up in April, but has been inconsistent since. Still, the southpaw leads the Orioles rotation in ERA (2.59) and in K’s (49) while ranking second in innings pitched (48.2).

Grade: C+

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GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Bullpen

Zach BrittonWhen he recorded a rocky five saves to begin the season, people started to worry, and for good reason. The O’s star closer could be on the shelf until late June with a forearm injury.

Grade: B

Brad Brach Brach stepped up big in April by recording a 1.93 ERA and four saves over 13 appearances, but has struggled with the big job since. He’s posted a dreadful 6.75 ERA over nine outings thus far in May, but is still tied for fifth in the AL in saves (9).

Grade: B-

Mychal GivensLike Brach, Givens was stellar in April (11 games, 1.29 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) but has struggled mightily since. The Orioles fireballer owns a 6.75 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP over ten contests thus far in May.

Grade: B-

Darren O’Day – O’Day struggled to rediscover his form after a lost 2016 season and posted a 6.10 ERA over eleven appearances in April, but seems to have found his stride as of late. O’Day boasts a 1.29 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a 12.9 K/9 over seven contests so far this month.

Grade: C+

Donnie HartWhile his recent implosion (9.00 ERA in May) resulted in a trip back down to Norfolk, he posted 7 2/3 scoreless innings while racking up twelve strikeouts in April. You haven’t seen the last of Hart.

Grade: D+

Alec AsherAnother excellent addition by Dan Duquette. Asher has been phenomenal for the Orioles this season, and has the potential to be an absolute steal if he can build on his impressive start. His 2.33 ERA through 27 innings is the lowest on the team.

Grade: B+

Richard Bleier Owns a decent 4.32 ERA through his first 8.1 innings this season. Seems to be settling nicely as the O’s lefty/long reliever.

Grade: C-

Stefan CrichtonThe Orioles 2013 23rd-round pick has recorded a 7.20 ERA through his first four career outings, but seems to have upside. He posted a 1.56 ERA for AAA Norfolk this season before receiving his call-up.

Grade: D

Miguel CastroAcquired from the Rockies in April, the Orioles love the 22-year-old’s upside. He threw two scoreless outings for the Orioles before riding the bus back down to Norfolk.

Grade: C

Tyler WilsonWilson remains on the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle, but whether he will get a shot to stick with the club or not is cloudy at best. He has posted a 2-1 record and a 4.91 ERA over six games (one start) for the Birds this season.

Grade: D+

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O’s First Quarter Report Card – Part 1: Offense

Manny Machado follows through on his swing.

So now that we’ve recapped the first quarter of the season, let’s do a quick rundown of the squad sheet and see how the lads have shaped up this season.

For our pitching grades, CLICK HERE.

And to make it fun, we’re going to do this report on each player in two sentences or less.

So without interruption, let’s take a look at the sluggers first:

Welington Castillo

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Catchers

Welington Castillo Left with the unenviable task of replacing Matt Wieters, the veteran has proven to be a stellar acquisition by Dan Duquette. He leads the team in batting average (.348) and ranks second on the team in OBP (.375) to go along with four homers and 16 RBI.

Grade: A

Caleb Joseph Coming off a nightmare 2016 season, Joseph caught fire when called upon to step in for the injured Castillo. He’s hitting .277 with four doubles, one homer and seven RBI so far in May.

 

Grade: B-

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

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Infielders

Chris Davis After struggling in April (.238, 3 HR, 5 RBI), Davis has started to heat up in May (.262 AVG, 6 HR, 12 RBI, .383 OBP). Davis now ranks second on the team in home runs (9) and doubles (7), while also ranking third on the team in OBP (.358).

Grade: B

Jonathan Schoop The O’s star second baseman practically carried the team offensively in April (.288, 5 HR, 16 RBI) and despite cooling down so far in May (.242, 7 2B, 0 HR, 2 RBI), Schoop still leads the team in doubles (12), ranks fifth in homers (5) and is tied for third on the team in RBI (18).

Grade: B

J.J. Hardy Aside from his defensive excellence and his ability to get a hit when it matters, Hardy has had a rough go of things this season and his batting average (.194) is sixty-three points below his career average.

Grade: C

Manny Machado  The Orioles superstar has been grinding through an off-key stretch all season long and despite hitting sixty-nine points below his career average at .221 on the year, he leads the team in homers (10) and RBI (24).

Grade: B

Ryan FlahertyHe doesn’t see the field much these days, but when he does, he still provides solid but unspectacular defense and a wet-noodle bat (.233/.324/.267).

Grade: D+

Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles prepares to swing.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

Outfielders

Adam Jones After carrying the torch through April (.309, 4 HR, 11 RBI), Jones has cooled off so far in May (.237, 3 HR, 7 RBI). A recent hot streak seems to have snapped him back into form though, and his .276 batting average is good for fourth-best on the squad. Jones is also tied for third on the team in homers (7) and in RBI’s (18).

Grade: B+

Seth Smith Another excellent addition to the squad by Dan Duquette. The veteran provides the Orioles with a true leadoff hitter while also providing much-needed security in the outfield. As a result of posting a stellar .362 average along with two homers, six RBI and a .426 OBP this month, Smith now leads the team with a .388 OBP and ranks second in batting average (.303).

Grade: B

Trey Mancini The Orioles’ breakout star so far in 2017, Mancini has made quite a case as a core piece of the future here in Birdland. Mancini is hitting a sparkling .388 thus far in May with two homers and ten RBI. As a result, Mancini now ranks third on the team in batting average (.300) and is also tied for third on the team in homers (7) and second on the team in RBI (22).

Grade: A+

Joey Rickard  Rickard has done well with limited opportunities. He seems to provide a spark to the team in any way he can.

Grade: C

Hyun-soo Kim – Kim remains glued to the bench for reasons unknown. At this point, he’s probably viewed and valued more as a trade chip.

Grade: Incomplete

Mark Trumbo crosses home plate as his teammates douse him in water to celebrate.

Designated Hitters

Mark Trumbo After stumbling through April (.202, 2 HR, 11 RBI), Trumbo has sprung to life in May with a .350 average, three doubles, four homers, and eleven RBI. The O’s reigning home run champ is now tied for second on the team in RBI (22) while ranking fourth in homers (6). His .270 average is also good for fifth-best on the team.

Grade: B

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O’s First Quarter Notebook: So Far, So Good

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

In the blink of an eye it seems, we are officially past the quarter mark of the 2017 season. And man, to say it’s been a pretty wild ride so far would be an understatement.

But all’s well that ends well, right? With a 25-17 record to date, the Orioles are hot on the heels of the first-place Yankees and if they replicate what they’ve done through the first forty-two games, you’re looking at another playoff berth. And you know how much this Orioles squad loves to prove the talking heads wrong when they’re written off year after year before a real game is even played.

For a team that was picked to finish third in the division, they’ve silenced the critics with an impressive 17-10 record against the AL East.

While the Orioles have cooled down in May with a 10-9 record, they opened the season with a bang by notching a stellar 15-8 mark in April and still own the league’s best home record at 15-4. They’ve also shown a knack for coming up clutch in big situations with a 7-1 record in extra innings.

Consistency remains crucial for the Orioles going forward, as they’ve racked up three winning streaks of four games or more, but they’ve also hit a rough patch in late April and are currently on a 3-7 skid over their last ten. A 2-8 road record thus far in May is another worrying point.

The bats are warming up as the season rolls into late Spring, and after coming to life in recent weeks, the Orioles own the sixth-best offense in the AL (4.7 runs per game), the fourth-highest batting average (.258), and are tied for third in the AL in home runs (61).

On the flip side, the pitching has seen a drop off in form recently, and currently ranks in or near the bottom third in almost every major statistical category in the American League. They’re ranked dead last in the AL in WHIP (1.46), BAA (.263), and OBP (.345).

But hey, you can look into the stats all day long and at the end of the day, all that matters are the win and loss columns. In that regard, the Orioles have compiled a very impressive first quarter this season, and this is still a team that’s not totally firing on all cylinders. If it clicks, watch out.

My advice Birdland?

Don’t worry, be happy!

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Week in Review: Home Sweet Home

sunset view of oriole park at camden yards

Fresh off a disheartening tour through the Midwest in which the O’s were just a game away from being double-swept, the Orioles needed to bounce back in a big way in front of their hometown fans this weekend.

And they did not disappoint. They took care of business and got back on the winning track.

While a sweep against the visiting Blue Jays would have been sweet, we’ll take two out of three just the same. When you’re down on your luck like the Orioles were recently, you’ll take any swing in the right direction.

So it goes beyond a three-game set really. Just like that, a few good results have the good vibes restored in Birdland, and that could resonate for weeks to come.

The Orioles also have a chance to add to their sparkling MLB-best 15-4 record at Camden Yards this week versus the Twins, while first place remains just a half a game away.

Buckle up, and let the good times roll (hopefully).

Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the past week of O’s baseball:

– The bats stay hot: The Orioles have been absolutely raking since the turn of May, and the past week has been more of the same. The Orioles are hitting .285 as a team while scoring 35 runs (5.8 per game) on 13 homers over the last six games. They’re also hitting a stellar .372 with runners in scoring position during that span.

– A sign of a turnaround? After posting a woeful 8.43 ERA as a unit in Detroit, the Orioles starting trio consisting of Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman and Wade Miley turned in a fine performance versus Toronto and ended the series with a combined 2.37 ERA. Hopefully, this is just the start of a good trend.

– Ditto: The O’s bullpen has also picked its game up recently after a rough start to the month of May and now owns a stellar 1.28 ERA over the last five contests. Orioles relievers allowed just two runs over nine innings against the Blue Jays while racking up twelve K’s.

– Home kings: After reeling off eight straight wins at home before losing on Sunday, the Orioles 15-4 home record is the best in the league. And for those that like to dream, that puts the Orioles on pace for an insane 64-17 record at Camden Yards this season.

– Payback: For what it’s worth, the Orioles are now 7-2 on the year versus Toronto. I guess it’s payback?

Now, let’s go to our three stars of the week:

 

Third Star

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GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Chris Davis. While he did cool down versus Toronto, you can’t knock Davis off this list after all the noise that he made in the Motor City. Crush went 5-for-12 in Detroit with five runs, two doubles, three homers and six RBI, and is still hitting .275 with ten runs, five homers and nine RBI over his last ten games.

 

Second Star

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GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Mark Trumbo. After going 5-for-15 in Motown with four runs, two doubles, a homer and a pair of RBI, Trumbo did not skip a beat upon returning home to Camden Yards and burned the Blue Jays by going 8-for-13 with five runs, one home run and three RBI. The O’s star slugger is now hitting an incredible .377 with fourteen runs, four homers and ten RBI over his last sixteen games.

 

First Star

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Who else but Beef?!?!?! Fresh off the disabled list, Welington Castillo wasted no time re-introducing himself in Detroit by finishing the series 6-for-10 with two runs and three RBI. Then, Castillo followed up by clubbing two homers, one a walk-off, versus the Blue Jays on Friday and finished the series 4-for-12 with three homers and seven RBI. The Orioles red-hot backstop is hitting a sparkling .400 with nine runs, four homers and thirteen RBI over his last ten games.

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Word on the Street: Castillo a Pleasant Surprise; Can Gausman Get on Track?

Welington Castillo of the Orioles runs the bases.

While Welington Castillo has been a pleasant surprise, the O’s need more from Kevin Gausman. Press play or read below for more.

After a 1-6 road trip that saw the Orioles lose every game by one run, all the team needed was return to Camden Yards to get back to their winning ways. The O’s are now 14-3 at home this season after Welington Castillo’s game winning home run in the bottom of the 10th against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

Speaking of Castillo, the catcher is now hitting .365 which easily leads the team. Castillo has always had the reputation of being a solid offensive hitter, but the start he has had this year has been better than expected. Even his defense has been strong which was considered a weakness for the 30-year-old throughout his career.

The O’s will look to continue to good vibes at home on Saturday when Kevin Gausman takes the mound. Gausman has struggled all season long and after a dominating performance against the Nationals, the right-hander reverted back to his old ways in his next start against the Royals.

His early season struggles could be blamed on not using his splitter enough and failing to get ahead of hitters, but that wasn’t the case against the Royals. It’s back to square one with the 26-year-old. The good news, like the team itself, Gausman is better at home as he sports a career 3.25 ERA at Camden Yards.

The bottom line is the O’s have to figure out why Gausman is struggling and fix him. Not only for this year as the team competes for a division title, but in future years when the rotation will most likely lose Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley after this season.

Hopefully, that begins tonight.

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#Staturday: Castillo’s Great Week Puts Him Among O’s Best

Welington Castillo of the Orioles follows through on his swing.

Happy Staturday Birdland! It was a long road trip and as we saw on Friday, there’s no place like home. To the stats!

On Friday, Welington Castillo launched a walk-off homer in extra innings extending his three-hit streak to four games:

Welington Castillo is the first catcher since 1974 and third catcher since 1913 to go on a four-game three-hit streak.

Welington joins Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, and Don Buford as the only Orioles with three hits in four consecutive games.

Earlier this week, Chris Davis hit two extra-inning home runs and joined an impressive list:

Most extra-inning home runs in Orioles’ history:

  1. Eddie Murray – 9
  2. Brooks Robinson – 7
  3. Chris Davis – 6
    Adam Jones – 6
    Frank Robinson – 6
    Rafael Palmeiro – 6

Thursday was Brooks Robinson’s 80th birthday. Turns out, he was a pretty good hitter on his birthday:

Brooks Robinson recorded 20 career birthday hits. This is the most in Orioles’ history and tied for ninth most in MLB history.

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

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