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Thoughts on the Hiring of Mike Elias

Mike Elias

The Orioles have a new leader in place of their front office, following a harrowing six weeks that left fans in limbo. Mike Elias has been hired as the team’s Executive Vice President and General Manager. He will take over all of the team’s baseball operations, and according to the club, has “full autonomy” to build a staff and make the decisions.

This is where you insert the “shocked face” GIF.

Let’s first take a step back and think about what the last month-plus has been like for Orioles supporters. The team just completed its worst season in history, going 47-115 and finishing 61 games behind the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in the AL East. Popular manager Buck Showalter and front office leader Dan Duquette were both relieved of their duties, or more accurately, did not have their expiring contracts renewed. All of this followed a tumultuous summer in which the team traded key players like Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach. It was the start of a rebuild, without actually starting any of the rebuilding. As they say, sometimes the foundation is so bad, you must tear down the whole house and start again. That’s what the Orioles are doing. Elias is now the new man in charge of rebuilding the house.

[Related: Knee-Jerk Reactions to Mike Elias Hiring]

Not only was the 2018 season extremely distressing for O’s fans, but more specifically, these last few months have been a drag. Not knowing the future of the club will bring angst to any fanbase, but it’s especially been true for the Orioles because of uncertainty even higher up than the front office. What was perhaps even more bizarre about this search for new front office leadership was that there were no updates or even hints about what was going on during the process. The sons of owner Peter Angelos, John and Lou, were in charge of conducting the search. There were no leaks through the media until the news was broken by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale earlier this week. It was all handled in a pretty professional and quiet way, though not a timely one. Strangely, it was done in the way you are supposed to do it. That’s not something that can be said often about the Orioles.

On to Elias, and the hire itself.

[Related: Mike Elias Will Lead Orioles into Future]

I’m not going to sit here and pretend to tell you I know enough about the 35-year-old former Astros assistant GM to give you any informed analysis. I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce his last name until earlier this week, and my guess is that many reading this didn’t either. Everything I’ve read about him gives me hope that this is a positive first step in the right direction for the organization. The fact that, according to Nightengale, they are making Elias the highest-paid first-year GM in baseball history, also speaks to a new mindset for the organization.

It’s something that also goes higher up a food chain than people would think. There were many rumors this past summer that with the Angelos sons taking more of a prominent role in the operations of the team, that the family was gearing up to sell the franchise. I think we can pretty confidently put those rumors to bed. Giving such a large sum of money to a new GM is not only a very “non-Oriole” move, but it’s also not the type of move someone would make if they were preparing to sell.

Elias comes from an organization that won the World Series last year on the strength of many players he had a hand in acquiring, mostly through the draft. Players like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman have blossomed in the time he spent there. He was also around for first-round busts like Mark Appel and Brady Aiken. You take the good with the bad. No one is saying the Orioles are going to do things in the same way the Astros did it, but there’s a decent blueprint there. It includes a lot of losing, which the Orioles have already gotten a head start on.

I’m confident that this was a good hire. I’m confident in the process and how they’ve gone about everything since the end of the season. In fact, I’m starting to see signs that I can be confident in the Angelos sons taking more of a role in the organization. This goes back to some decisions prior to the 2018 season, such as the “Kids Cheer Free” program and new pricing initiatives for concessions at Camden Yards. There will be a ton of skepticism from the most cynical supporters of the Orioles, and I get that. But right now, it seems the O’s have seen rock bottom and are at least looking up and thinking about climbing out of it.

The first decision for Elias will be who to hire to replace Showalter as manager. Frankly, I don’t think the hiring of a manager is a big decision. Some may see it as a big deal, but I wouldn’t imagine the manager hired for 2019 is the same manager the Orioles will have when they are competitive once again. Hiring a young manager is in play and hiring an experienced manager is still in play. Frankly, either of them will be taking marching orders from Elias in this setup.

There’s been rumors about former NASA engineer Sig Mejdal joining Elias in Baltimore. Mejdal has been with the Astros since 2012, and like Elias, previously worked for the Cardinals in analytics. Hiring Mejdal would be a smart move as a replacement for Sarah Gelles, who departed the Orioles earlier this month after eight seasons with the club and three years running their analytics department. The average fan would be shocked to learn the Orioles had an analytics department, let alone that it was run by someone who was with the team for eight seasons. Ironically, Gelles left for a job with the Astros, shortly after it was announced that Mejdal was leaving Houston.

Fans can take a deep breath after this hire. But it’s important to realize that bringing in Elias does not shorten any kind of timeline you might have had in your mind for when the O’s will be competitive once again. That should still stand at around four years at a minimum. The organizational depth is still depleted. The Birds still have a bad farm system and haven’t had good scouting practices in place for years. But the hope is that Elias can at least start to change that. The hope is that bringing in someone who has been there before, that is, in an organization that has built from the bottom, can help do it again by using the same tactics in a different location.

The hill to climb is a large one, especially when you reside in the American League East. The Red Sox are the defending champs, the Yankees are loaded, the Rays have a Cy Young award winner to go with youth and scrappiness, and the Blue Jays have a loaded farm system with big league talent on the way. There is nothing easy about where the Orioles are and where they are trying to get.

But when you take a step back and look at the macro, rather than the micro, November 16, 2018 is a good day to be an Orioles supporter. By doing that, you can start to see the outline of what might be a functional organization doing things to move in the right direction. I realize that the bar has been set extremely low, especially after 115 losses. But this is where we are. The Orioles have been a disappointment, even in the aftermath of a five-year stretch that saw them reach the postseason three times.

That era is now over. The “dark ages” were overtaken by the Duquette-Showalter era. Now that era is morphing into the Elias era. He’s been put in charge of rebuilding the house, that needed to be torn down. The foundation wasn’t strong enough. Houses can take a while to build, but Elias is the now the new contractor in charge of putting it all back together.

As long as we believe he has the right tools and permission to use them, I’d say there’s reason for some optimism in Birdland.

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Mike Elias Will Lead Orioles into Future

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore

It took over two weeks following the World Series for the Orioles to find the right person to head their organization moving forward, but the patience may have paid off. Mike Elias, age 35, is a young, analytically driven executive with playing and scouting experience.

Elias was in part responsible for drafting the likes of Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. He has quite the job ahead of him taking over for an Orioles team that won only 47 games this past season, with no international player pipeline, and an understaffed analytics department who just lost the department head in Sarah Gelles.

But is he the right man to do it? His history suggests so.

The Houston Astros were coming off a 56-106 season in 2011 when they hired a 28-year old Elias as a scout and within eight months, named him director of scouting. Elias then had a hand in drafting first-round picks Carlos Correa (18.3 Career WAR), Lance McCullers, Alex Bregman (12.7 Career WAR), Kyle Tucker, and Forrest Whitley. Elias wasn’t without his draft blemishes though, drafting Brady Aiken and Mark Appel 1st overall, neither of whom ever saw Major League action.

Maybe having the 1st overall pick in the 2019 Draft attracted Elias to the job. More likely though was the presumed promise ownership has made to him to be hands off in the decision making. Ownership meddling has perhaps been the biggest turnoff to potential Orioles job candidates in the past. It has hindered this club’s ability to stay with the pack, make necessary trades, or even develop young talent.

I suspect another reason for the move now is that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was just granted an extension to remain GM for the next five years and Elias knew he would not be promoted anytime soon.

Elias may just be the perfect candidate for the job, but it does seem odd to see the Orioles making such an intuitive decision. I kid I kid, because it is refreshing to see the Angelos sons recognizing the organization’s most glaring pain point.

Without a formidable analytics staff in this day and age, coupled with the 5th smallest market in the bigs, the Orioles need to have the cream of the crop leading their organization. Now that they hopefully have that in place, they can focus on the future and pave a clear path, tailor the organization to be analytically-focused, draft well, and put more of an emphasis on OPS and wRC+ as opposed to home runs, and be less centered on the desire of ownership and more centered on data-driven decision making.

As Orioles fans we should be cautiously optimistic, but the Angelos sons so far – from the July trade deadline on – have done what they said they were going to do.

Another layer to this are the reports that Sig Mejdal will be joining the Orioles from the Astros. If true, this means an immediate boost to the analytics department. As mentioned earlier, the Orioles’ analytical department is drastically understaffed and Mejdal was basically the sabermetric wizard for the ‘Stros. As a former NASA Engineer, we know he probably has an IQ rivaling Jeopardy’s Ken Jennings.

The Orioles will slowly start to staff their analytics office, the coaching staff, and their minor league staffs, but this is a hell of a good start to a rebuild in which Orioles fans had little to no faith a month ago.

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Knee-Jerk Reactions: O’s Set to Hire Mike Elias

Mike Elias and and an Astros player.

According to multiple reports, the Orioles are set to hire former Houston Astros Assistant GM Mike Elias to be not just the GM, but the top decision-maker of the organization.

It would be great for it to be made official, of course…

As our friend John Darcey, fantasy writer over at our football site, RSR, reminds us though…

So yeah, let’s go with that.

Assuming this thing really goes down, ESR staff react to the news here…

Derek Arnold

If you’d told O’s fans six months ago that they’d have to endure the worst season in franchise history but that we’d be rewarded with the number one overall pick AND a part of the Houston Astros’ top brass, I think many of us would have taken that deal.

If you’re starting a rebuild, who better to have on board than someone who was with the Astros from 2012, when they lost 107 games, through a World Series Championship in 2017 and another ALCS appearance this year.

Elias, a graduate of Fairfax’s Thomas Jefferson High School and Yale, is extremely well-regarded in baseball circles. If he really does have carte blanche to overhaul The Warehouse, Orioles fans have every reason to be excited. Of course, that will remain to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine him taking the job if he had any reservations that the Angelos brothers (or Brady Anderson) would be looking over his shoulder constantly.

The cherry on top? He is bringing Sig Mejdal with him. Who is he? Oh, just a former NASA engineer who had a huge hand in the St. Louis Cardinals’ late-aughts success before becoming Houston’s Director of Decision Sciences in 2012.

It’ll be painful for a few more years, sure. But it was darkest before the dawn in Baltimore, and the sun is rising, damn bright, and damn orange.

Phil Backert

The Orioles had a lot of boxes to check when hiring Dan Duquette’s replacement. The organization needed a person who had a history of scouting including internationally along with player development and someone with experience in a successful organization.

Elias checks all of those, and if the rumor is true that he will bring in one of the top analytics experts in the sport in Sig Mejdal, than this is an absolute home run.

There will still be a lot of growing pains, but it appears the organization is set up to start building a winner again.

Matt Pyne

I absolutely love the hire of Mike Elias as the new head of the Orioles organization. This guy has a proven scouting résumé to accompany some major draft success. He’s partly responsible for bringing in both Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. He also helped to completely turn around the Houston franchise.

The Orioles will need that expertise if they hope to compete in a stacked AL East, where, aside from the big spenders of the division, the Blue Jays and Rays have excellent farm systems.

The Orioles seem to have a clear path moving forward, which is something we Orioles fans will need to take some time getting used to.

Jonathan French

The Baltimore Orioles finally broke the silence of their offseason with a bold hire. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting them to hire a top executive to head baseball operations that is younger than I am, but they followed the trend of successful front offices and landed one of the up and coming names with Mike Elias. Given that he grew up in Northern Virginia, I’m guessing he was an Orioles fan in his youth so I would hope he has a personal motivation to want to improve the team beyond just the fact he wants to take full advantage of the opportunity to rebuild a MLB franchise with such a storied history.

Elias’ scouting background is well known, and it would likely further cement the Orioles taking Bobby Witt Jr. at the top of the 2019 MLB Draft given his pedigree. The topic of course then turns to who Elias would hire and who he would retain in the Warehouse. It’s already been reported by ESPN’s Keith Law that former NASA engineer turned MLB analytic guru Sig Medjal will be joining Elias in Baltimore and will help build the Orioles into an analytical powerhouse. Dan Duquette always wanted to do more with analytics but Buck Showalter and other Orioles executives weren’t on the same page. Now with Showalter gone and John and Lou Angelos stepping into their father’s role, it would seem it is time for a new day in Baltimore.

The question remains though – will loyal and controversial Angelos lieutenants like Brian Graham and especially Brady Anderson remain in the organization or will Elias decide and be able to remove them from power and potentially out of the organization completely? Gary Rajsich, who has been the best scouting director in the Angelos era of ownership, also may be replaced in spite of his success. As for manager, someone with an analytical mindset will certainly be hired which will be a breath of fresh air from Showalter, who would infamously bat Adam Jones high in the order against left-handed pitching in spite of his reverse splits. Those fans who visit Fangraphs daily (such as myself) will no longer be venting on Twitter and Facebook – or at least they’ll hopefully be doing it less.

Hiring Mike Elias as the top executive for baseball operations is just the first phase of the Orioles offseason and the rebuild, but with all that he brings, it certainly is an exciting and hopeful start after a season that Orioles fans will always want to forget.

Paul Valle

With the hiring of Mike Elias, Orioles fans should be jumping up and down like it’s Christmas morning. Elias, 36 and a Yale graduate, has experience in scouting, analytics, and drafting, and helped build successful franchises in St. Louis and Houston before taking the biggest promotion of his career with Baltimore.

He is just what the Orioles need: a young, savvy baseball mind with no ties to the organization that will help bring a once proud franchise back to prominence. This also means he will likely hire a manager with no previous ties to Baltimore (sorry, Mike Bordick), and should bring along former NASA engineer Sig Mejdal, who was with him in both St. Louis and Houston. Both of these men will give the Orioles a huge boost in the analytics department, an area that was severely lacking (to say the least) during prior regimes.

The impact on the international market may be unquantifiable. The Orioles have never been big players in the international arena, often times trading away their slot money for middling minor leaguers. That was never more evident than last month when the Orioles missed out on top prospects Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa, Jr., and Sandy Gaston despite having more international bonus slot money than any other team in baseball. Those days should be rapidly disappearing in the rearview after this hire.

Perhaps most important to Orioles fans is that, from all reports, Elias should have complete autonomy within the organization. That means he’ll be the top guy with no interference from ownership. If that is indeed the case, the light at the end of the tunnel could be bigger and brighter than any of us could have imagined back at the trade deadline. The experience is there.

Now we just have to wait for it to come to fruition in Baltimore.

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Will the Orioles Draft Bobby Witt Jr. First Overall?

Bobby Witt Jr. prepares to swing.

For just the second time in franchise history, the Baltimore Orioles hold the first overall pick ahead of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. The Orioles laboured to a 47-115 record in 2018, crawling past the Detroit Tigers’ 43 regular season wins from 2003. Baltimore snapped a six-year run of selecting in the top five back in 2013 but the Orioles have unfortunately slipped back down the MLB pecking order.

The three-time World Series winners have reached the playoffs five times since their most recent success in baseball’s showpiece series and punters will be wary of backing the Orioles with that poor record in mind. Early reports are suggesting that Bobby Witt Jr could be the man to head to Baltimore with the top pick in the latest MLB draft – but it is still early and it would be foolish to make too many concrete predictions regarding Baltimore’s pick.

Baltimore selected Ben McDonald from Louisiana State University with the first overall pick back in 1989 and he was a fan favorite during his six-year stint with the Orioles. If you get that top pick right, the reward is spectacular. Taking a high-risk, high-reward approach to the choice is the correct way to go more often than not. And Baltimore have, for the most part, got their picks right in recent times…

Five of Baltimore’s six top-five picks from 2007 to 2012 turned out to be successful with the Orioles franchise. Manny Machado, the third overall pick in 2010, was a huge hit during his six-year tenure with Baltimore. If the number one pick turns out to be as vital to the Orioles as Machado was, Baltimore fans will be happy enough. Keeping him with the team may be difficult though.

Backing the Orioles to emerge victorious after such a difficult 2018 season would be foolish to say the least. Baltimore fans won’t be expecting too much ahead of the 2019 campaign but there’s no harm dreaming of a fourth World Series success. MLB odds on bet365 show the Orioles at 250/1 to prevail and it could be a long and gradual process back to the top of the sport. This isn’t going to happen overnight.

Witt Jr has been described by some as the best prospect in the 2019 draft pool. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com claimed that he has five-tool potential with a real ability to perform at shortstop for the long term – he could be a roaring success at Baltimore. His father, Bobby Witt Sr., was a pitcher for 16 years on the big stage and he could be destined to follow in those footsteps as he looks to enjoy a long and successful career.

The Baltimore Orioles can only get better from here and Bobby Witt Jr. would offer a huge boost ahead of the 2019 campaign. It could all change for the Orioles in the offseason as they look to rebuild and restructure. Give it three to five years and a World Series berth could be a realistic objective if everything goes to plan.

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How Do the O’s Approach the Offseason and 2019?

maryland orioles player holding metal bar on shoulder

It was a dismal season from the Baltimore Orioles, with the only real solace being that they met the record of the appalling 2003 Detroit Tigers of 43-108 with games in hand. Regardless of the record, the baseball played by the Orioles over the course of the 2018 season was on par, if not worse than that of the ’03 Tigers.

Thankfully, in the MLB, there are rewards for enduring a season of hardship, which comes in the form of getting the first overall pick in the amateur draft. It’s evident that the club is going to be making changes, seeing as they traded away almost all veteran pieces of value at the trade deadline, but whether those changes will result in a rebuild from the top down or are merely moves to make the Orioles more sellable is yet to be seen. What we do know is that a completely new-look Baltimore is on the way for 2019.

Orioles players to keep an eye on

D.J. Stewart in the batter's box.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Assuming that the trades at the deadline were to make way for a youth revolt in Baltimore, Orioles fans should hope to see some of their most hyped prospects make their way into the MLB team. Two names that came up earlier this season were D.J. Stewart and Austin Hays, who were cited as preferred players to have on the field than the claimed 28-year-old John Andreoli. But, luckily for Orioles fans needing a taste of hope for what’s to come, Stewart made his way up to put in some decent innings.

While many don’t rate the top Orioles prospects in their top-100 rankings, there are some good young players ready to break into the team. The farm system certainly improved at the trade deadline, with Yusniel Diaz coming in from the Manny Machado trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Third baseman Ryan Mountcastle comes in as another Baltimore’s top prospect and is expected to join Diaz in arriving in the 2019 season.

As explained by CBS Sports, these two and Hays – who suffered from injuries this season – as well as some others, should be breaking through next season, so there will be plenty of fresh faces preparing to rectify this awful campaign.

There may even be more trades on the way, with Mychal Givens, Mark Trumbo, Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and Jonathan Villar possibly on the block. Cobb will most likely be shipped off next season or in the following campaign as the organization waits for him to bounce back and improve his worth.

 

Climbing will be tough for Baltimore


ESPN Stats & Info, via Twitter

Unfortunately, a team can’t simply be filled with the organization’s top prospects; there need to be some experienced heads and roster fillers in the locker room. This isn’t just to fill the team and add some level of competitiveness; it’s also to make sure that there are mentors and leaders to help the next star Orioles adjust to the major leagues on and off of the field.

The Baltimore Orioles could stick to the personnel that they have and build in prospects around them or, as expected, they’ll trade for as much value as they can get and then pump some veterans into the team. Keeping Adam Jones would be a wise decision as he can be the guide that the young players need while demonstrating the proper way to play baseball. But, it may be hard to convince others to come on worthy wages.

Baltimore is in a bad situation right now. The Orioles’ prospects don’t break into FanGraph’s top 131 and are said to have the ranked 17 farm system by Baseball America, per Sportsnet. To make matters worse, they’re in what is likely the toughest division in the MLB for the next decade or so.

Right now, the Boston Red Sox are laying waste to all who lay in their path while the New York Yankees aren’t far behind. Then there’s the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays who boast a top-rated farm system and the young, upcoming Tampa Bay Rays. As of September 19, the Red Sox were favorites at 6/4 to win the World Series with Betway (they now lead the Fall Classic 2-0, of course) while the Yankees were just behind at 11/2. But it’s not just for this season; the Red Sox and Yankees will be at the top of the American League East for quite some time.

The only way for the Orioles to find better fortunes is to embrace a full, top-down rebuild in which valuable veterans continue to be traded and the club experiences some major realignments throughout the organization. More needs to be invested in scouting and analysis while the focus needs to change in the front office – likely by getting new staff members into the club.

In such a tough division, the team has time to change their direction and rebuild everything and try to make their way back up at a time when perhaps one or two of the divisional tyrants begins to slip. But, to do this, they’ll need to find and entrust the organization to someone new and capable of such a huge rebuild.

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The Warehouse Podcast Episode 27: The End of the Road

warehouse-pod-logo
The dumpster fire that was the 2018 season of the Baltimore Orioles is over, thankfully. It is a time for change in Charm City. Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are out of a job. Peter Angelos seems to have officially handed the reigns of the club over to his sons. But most importantly, today we are adding a new member to the Eutaw Street Report family.
Do you find your morning commute dull? Does your work day drag on without something interesting to listen to? Are the local sports radio guys not talking enough baseball for your liking? Do you hate rhetorical questions? Well, then our latest addition may be just what you need.
May we introduce you to…The Warehouse Podcast!
The Warehouse Podcast is your weekly, one-hour dose of Orioles news. The show is hosted by three friends, Tyler, Marcus and Jesse, who love the O’s. These three grew up in an era where the team’s best players were Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Nick Markakis. They were born in the long winter of Baltimore baseball and maintained a weekly show through the worst season in club history. That’s dedication.
Check them out every week to get opinions, discussions and a few chuckles about this sorry team that we all love so much. Episodes will be posted here on ESR, but you can also subscribe or listen to the podcast on iTunes/Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherPodbeanTuneIn and a few other places as well. If you are into social media, The Warehouse can be found on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube. Wherever you go, give them a five-star review or a “Like”. It helps out a ton! If you have comments or questions and would like to be featured on the show, reach out to TheWarehousePod@gmail.com.

Links:

Orioles GM candidates
http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bs-sp-orioles-gm-candidates-20181004-story.html

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/phillies-rumors-manny-machado-bryce-harper-free-agency-andy-macphail.html

Orioles manager candidates
http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bs-sp-orioles-possible-next-managers-20181003-story.html

Orioles interested in the Mesa brothers and Sandy Gaston
https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/east-notes-red-sox-wright-marlins-orioles.html

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/international-notes-signings-mesas-gaston-os-marlins-dodgers-gutierrez.html

Could Cal Ripken rekindle a relationship with the O’s?
https://theathletic.com/568863/2018/10/04/after-years-of-speculation-this-is-finally-the-right-time-and-right-fit-for-cal-ripken-jr-to-rejoin-the-orioles/

Tyler’s post at Camden Chat about Mike Bordick as manager
https://www.camdenchat.com/2018/10/6/17944648/orioles-news-manager-search-rumors-prospects-scouting-reports-2018

Connect:

Website: https://medium.com/the-warehouse-podcast
Email: thewarehousepod@gmail.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheWarehousePod 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thewarehousepod/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWarehousePod
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQCLpHQDrP2BeS9MoAS6zFw
Camden Depot: http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/

Tyler’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/_tyyoung
Tyler’s Instagram: https://instagram.com/_tyyoung

Jesse’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Juggernaut8678
Jesse’s Instagram: https://instagram.com/juggernaut8678

Marcus’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Warehousepod28
Marcus’ Instagram:  https://instagram.com/smoothlife28

Subscribe to us on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and TuneIn

Music: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men

Thanks for listening!

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Buck Showalter Won’t be Back in Birdland

The Orioles, as is their wont, were in seemingly no hurry to start making actual decisions about their future this offseason. Having wrapped up the worst campaign in team history on Sunday, we heard nothing but crickets from The Warehouse as other teams, such as the Angels, Rangers, and Twins, got on with the dirty business of making staff changes.

That finally came to an end today, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Buck Showalter will not be back with the Orioles, in any capacity, in 2019. The usual beat writers like Roch and Eddie (bye, Eddie!) have since confirmed the news.

While not surprising, this news is of course hitting O’s fans pretty hard. Buck had a huge hand in bringing the Baltimore Orioles organization back from the dead. He was unquestionably the team’s best manager since the legendary Hall of Famer Earl Weaver. Unfortunately, though he entered 2018 53 games above .500 in orange and black, he will end up at 669-684 thanks to this year’s disastrous results on the diamond.

Non-Oriole fans will look at that overall record and think back to the still-running joke about Zach Britton not pitching in the 2016 Wild Card game and dismiss Buck, completely underestimating the impact he had on this city, organization, and team.

That said, you can’t win 47 games and expect to keep your job. That’s just the way things work. Did the Orioles have a roster full of AAAA guys over the last couple months? Sure they did. But they also had a legitimate roster of MLB players in April, May, and June, and they were still horrendous. If I’m going to give Buck credit for much of the good years (which I am!), then he has to also shoulder some blame for this season’s flaming dumpster fire.

I’ll have some more to say about this in the coming days, as, I expect, will a few other ESR bloggers. We need some time to collect our thoughts.

For now, we’ll go with this: So long, Buck. Thanks for everything. We liked our guy.

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Thursday Thoughts: Limping to the Finish Line

Adam Jones catches and blows a bubble.

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. Welcome back to Thursday Thoughts. I’ve been limping to the end of this abysmal season just like the baseball team in Baltimore. If you hadn’t noticed, we took a few weeks off here at Thursday Thoughts, and for good reason. What’s the reason? In short – there was nothing to say. It’s hard to have any thoughts on this baseball team that is doing absolutely nothing to speak of.

There are four games left, and then the fun really begins. I’ve been watching less baseball than I was earlier in the season, but I’m still watching. I know that’s probably not the case for many readers here. Football season has started, kids are back in school, and life gets in the way of watching a team lose 110+ games.

Watching the Orioles in this state is likely to induce harsh flashbacks of the early 2000’s. It’s not pretty. It’s also going to be like that for a while going forward.

Get used to it.

2. While you aren’t watching baseball this weekend, it’s likely that both Buck Showalter and Adam Jones will be making their final appearances for the Orioles. It’s happening at Camden Yards, and I encourage anyone who can go down and show their appreciation to do so.

I wrote about this earlier this week in my last guest piece for MASN Sports. I definitely don’t think Showalter is coming back to this team, especially following reports last week that the O’s will move on from the manager. I also think it’s pretty unlikely that Jones is back, unless we get to February and the market is just not there for him. In that case, he may come back in a limited role, but I’d doubt it.

I was especially filled with pride in Jones earlier this week when he spoke from the heart with reporters after yet another loss. He called out the media for trying to make a story out of him playing left field. I don’t blame the media for trying to come up with something to write about it. It’s their job. But I also loved the fact that Jones just spoke honestly with them and didn’t care about creating a soundbite.

More than anything, that’s probably what I’ll miss about Jones after his Orioles career is over. It’s his honesty and “realness” that gets me every time.

3. When it comes to replacing Showalter in the dugout, if that’s something the Orioles are going to do, I’d expect it to happen sometime in the next six weeks or so after the season ends. There will be plenty of candidates, but probably none that excite you to the point of wanting to save up for playoff tickets anytime soon.

Buck Showalter holds a bat in Spring Training.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Among the familiar names rumored to either have interest in the job or be candidates are Mike Bordick and Billy Ripken. In my eyes, both would just be placeholders for a young team that needs someone filling out the lineup card each day. There are also going to be many others with managerial experience such as Joe Girardi that are rumored to be candidates. John Gibbons was also just relieved of his duties in Toronto. Mike Matheny and Brad Ausmus no longer have gigs either.

As for Showalter, it’ll be interesting to see if this is his last stop, or if he has one more in him. I could see him latching on to another gig if it’s the right fit. Perhaps if the Phillies are unsatisfied with the job Gabe Kapler has done, Showalter could take the reigns and maybe even reunite with Manny Machado in Philadelphia next season.

Everything would point to Showalter retiring, but I wouldn’t close the book on him just yet.

4. If you haven’t read the piece published earlier this week by Sports Illustrated on the struggles of Chris Davis, I encourage you to do so. It’s well-written and extremely poignant.

I find it very hard to have sympathy for Davis, but I do have empathy for him. The 32-year-old is getting paid a lot of money to do a job. As anyone can see, he’s not doing the job well enough.

The Orioles are obviously in a lose-lose situation with him. But perhaps the biggest issue here is that no one is really addressing the root of the problem, and that’s because no one really knows what the root of the problem is. Davis isn’t different physically than he was a few years ago. Is he different mentally? Is there some kind of block happening that’s equivalent to the “yips?” I’m not sure. I’m not a doctor. But I do think there has to be some kind of conversation about mental health, which is something that as a global community is not addressed enough.

These are after all, humans, that play baseball. They aren’t robots or machines that go out and produce numbers. The game of baseball is a physical challenge, but it is also a mental one. Getting your body right is one thing, but getting your mind right to play 162 games over the course of six months is not easy either.

I don’t know what the future holds for Davis, but I think I’m in the majority when I say I hope he figures it out.

Not just for the Orioles’ sake, but for his own.

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O’s Call Up 2015 First-Rounder D.J. Stewart

D.J. Stewart in the batter's box.

Greeting again, Birdland. It’s been nothing but a whole lotta sadness, losing, and bad, bad baseball since we last talked. My writers are all seemingly too depressed to even analyze anything these days, as my email inbox for ESR stories has been as quiet as Chris Davis’ bat.

Hey, I can’t particularly blame them. The Birds have shown zero signs of life lately, and the great majority of the “kids” getting playing time these days are either not kids at all or are kids but are performing quite poorly.

The Birds are 41-102, and now have a chokehold on the 2019 #1 draft pick, especially after being swept by Kansas City a couple weekends back. They’re now seven games worse than K.C. in the standings. Since sweeping the Blue Jays for their first and only three-game sweep of 2018, the Orioles have lost eight of nine.

Beat writers are tweeting encouraging things like this:

In short, everything is awful, and every time we think maybe – just maybe – we’ve hit rock bottom, the floor gives way, revealing yet another sub-basement.

There’s no reason for hope. Nothing about which to get excited. Basically, if you’re tuning in these days, it’s to watch Cedric Mullins…and that’s about it.

Perhaps the Birds have just given us downtrodden lot another reason to turn on the games though. They finally called up a guy who may actually be a real prospect, though the shine has slightly dulled from the apple after reemerging a year ago.

2015 first-round pick D.J. Stewart is joining the team today. Per Roch Kubatko, Stewart, in addition to making his MLB debut, will earn the honor of being the 55th player used by the Orioles in 2018, a new franchise single-season record.

Congrats, Demetrius!

Stewart, 24 (25 in November), hit .278/.378/.481 with 21 HR and 79 RBI 126 games for Bowie in 2017. He was at .235/.329/.387 with 12 HR and 55 RBI in 116 games for Norfolk this year.

Will D.J. make it any more likely the Orioles are able to crack 50 wins (find the odds here)? Will he be a part of the next good Orioles team? I’m not personally optimistic, but I’m certainly more interested to tune in tonight than I was a couple hours ago. Good luck, Mr. Stewart, and welcome to The Show.

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Is This a Rebuild or Sell Off?

cartoon of sad orioles bird face

As the 2018 season mercifully nears its end, I have started to play a little game.

What game you ask?

Allow me to bring in Petyr Baelish to explain:

I was ecstatic as the Orioles began to make their much needed moves, trading valuable pieces in Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach.

It was a vital first step to start the arduous rebuild process for a team in need of not only organizational depth, but one in need of increased talent at virtually every position with the big league club as well.

What if, however, the entire “rebuild” is a ruse, and nothing more than a salary dump disguised as a rebuild?

What if, this process has been started to put the current ownership group in a position to sell?

What would this look like?

Let’s play a game:

 

Saving Money vs. Talent Acquisition

If the Orioles were more interested in decreasing long term financial commitments instead of a true rebuild, they would refuse to chip in any cash in the trades they made, and instead, accept less value in return. The trades made to date have seen all the teams receiving players from the Orioles absorb 100% of the remaining contracts.

After seeing what the Rays acquired in return for Chris Archer, could the Orioles have gotten more talent for Gausman? Maybe, but we will never know. But what didn’t help was also tossing in Darren O’Day and the $13M remaining on his contract. What would the Braves want with a guy on the 60-day DL as they are in the middle of a playoff push?

Sure they’ll have him next year, but that move screams salary dump and it cost them vital organizational talent in the name of cutting payroll, as did not picking up some of the money on the other players they dealt. To me, a true rebuild would maximize the talent on the returns, not the cash saved on the MLB roster.

 

International Bonus Money

Some may say, “Sure they may have not gotten impressive returns on the trades, but look at all that international money they acquired!” On the surface, this seems true. The moves the O’s made provided them with more than double the pool money to the next closest team, and put them in a strong position to sign Victor Victor Mesa.

BUT, what if they don’t sign him? What if, they only spend a small portion of the available funds (because they were late to the international signing party), and the rest goes to waste as the pool money follows a “use it or lose it structure.”

If this scenario plays out, it only further dampens the work they’ve done toward a rebuild and raises more questions about the organizations intentions.

 

Who is the Architect?

Who is conducting this rebuild? On what planet would an organization let someone dictate the future of their club that would no longer be an employee at seasons end? Is that the case with Dan Duquette? What about Buck Showalter? What role, if any, does Brady Anderson play in all of this? Maybe the inner circle of the organization knows the answers to these questions, but is it possible that they don’t?

Is it possible they don’t care because the long term objective is to sell?

 

Invest the Savings?

With arbitration awaiting Schoop and Gausman, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact dollar amount of money saved for the Orioles, but a conservative estimate is $60M came off the books. Throughout the start of this process, we have heard how payroll would be cut to accommodate increased spending in the areas of scouting and analytics. In a months’ time, the Orioles slashed $60 million. Were they spending any money before on scouting? As payroll presumable continually goes down over the next couple of years, is the plan to invest $100M in off the field activities? Color me skeptical.

In isolation, none of these items means anything. The O’s could be dumping payroll to invest in scouting and analytics, they could have a concrete plan in place for who is the architect of this rebuild and they could be on the verge of signing VVM.

Put everything together however, and at the very least it should have eyebrows raised.

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Series Preview: Orioles (40-94) @ Royals (42-91)

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

After recording their first three-game sweep of 2018 against the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be looking to bank a few more tallies in the win column during their upcoming three-game set in Kansas City.

The Orioles (40-94) can also match a season-high four-game win streak with a win in tonight’s series opener. The last time they managed to do so was with two straight wins against the Royals and the Rays at Camden Yards from May 9th-12th.

The Royals (42-91) will be feeling good after taking two of three against the division-leading Indians and notching a two-game sweep of the Tigers over the past week. They’re 4-1 over the first five games of their current eight-game home stand and own a solid 11-10 record at Kauffman Stadium during the second half of the season.

Andrew Cashner (4-12, 4.79 ERA) will take on Brad Keller (6-5, 3.33 ERA) Friday in the opener.

Cashner turned in a solid outing during his last start against the Yankees, but took the loss after allowing three runs on nine hits over seven innings. Over his last four contests, the Orioles righty has posted a 1-2 record and a stout 3.66 ERA through 27 innings of work. He’s also posted four quality starts over his last six attempts.

Keller took the no-decision after allowing two runs over five innings against Cleveland in his last outing, but will be looking for another strong performance against the Orioles. Through five starts in August, the Royals rookie has notched a 2-1 record and an impressive 3.07 ERA over 29 1/3 innings pitched.

Dylan Bundy (7-13, 5.37 ERA) will go up against Heath Fillmyer (2-1, 4.24 ERA) in Thursday’s contest.

Bundy took the loss after allowing four runs over five innings during his latest start against the Yankees, and will try to snap out of his current dip in form against the Royals. Bundy has gone 0-4 with a 9.24 ERA through five starts in August and is 1-6 with an 8.87 ERA over his last nine starts.

Fillmyer earned his second win of the season after holding Cleveland to a single run on three hits over six innings during his last start, and will be aiming for a second straight against the Orioles. Over his last four starts, Fillmyer has gone 2-0 with a 4.71 ERA and he hasn’t lost a start in seven straight contests.

David Hess (3-8, 5.08 ERA) will match-up against Jorge Lopez (0-4, 4.86 ERA) in Friday’s series finale.

Hess put forth yet another strong display by holding the Blue Jays to just four hits over six scoreless innings en route to his third win of the season, and will be aiming for a fifth straight strong performance in Kansas City. Over his last four starts, the Orioles in-form rookie has notched a 1-2 record and a sensational 2.19 ERA through 24 2/3 innings.

Lopez took his third straight loss after allowing five runs over four innings against Cleveland, and will be trying to notch his first win as a Royal in the finale. The 25-year-old was a top prospect in the Brewers system before headlining the trade for Mike Moustakas back in July. Over three starts with Kansas City, the rookie right-hander has gone 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to continuing the streak!

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-94) vs. Blue Jays (60-70)

Kendrys Morales of the Blue Jays.

After getting swept against the Yankees over the weekend, the Orioles will now aim to salvage a positive note at home before embarking on a nine-game road trip.

Need a reason to watch? Jays’ slugger Kendrys Morales has now homered in seven straight games, a streak that started against the Orioles last week (because of course it did), and can tie the MLB record (shared by Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, and Dale Long) tonight. Unfortunately for Kendrys, Dylan Dinger Bundy pitched last night, but other O’s hurlers haven’t exactly kept the ball in the yard either. We may well see MLB history over the next couple games.

The Orioles (37-94) will also be looking to snap a season-high eight-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener. Their current skid has resulted in a 5-19 record in the month of August and a dismal 2-15 mark over their last seventeen games.

The Blue Jays (60-70) will come into town feeling good after taking two of three from the Phillies and going 5-1 over their latest home stand before hitting the road. They’ll also look to improve upon their season record of 12-1 record against the Orioles as they head into their fifth head-to-head clash of 2018.
David Hess (2-8, 5.50 ERA) will go up against Sam Gaviglio (3-6, 4.94 ERA) in tonight’s match-up.

Hess took a tough loss in Toronto after allowing just one run on three hits over seven sparkling innings in his last start, but will be looking for a fourth straight quality start against the same squad. In his last three contests, the Orioles rookie owns an impressive 2.89 ERA over 18 2/3 innings.

Gaviglio will be looking to shut the Orioles down again after holding them to two runs over seven innings during his last start in Toronto. The Blue Jays righty snapped a fifteen-game winless streak in that contest and picked up his first win since May 25th against the Phillies.

The Orioles have yet to name a starter to take on Thomas Pannone (1-0, 1.59 ERA) in Tuesday’s clash.

Pannone will be looking for a repeat performance against the Orioles after silencing them to the tune of a single hit over seven scoreless innings during his last start at the Rogers Centre. The rookie southpaw notched his first career major league start and win in that match-up and owns a stout 1.59 ERA over his first 11 1/3 innings of work in the show.

Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.00 ERA) will match-up against Ryan Borucki (3-3, 4.12 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Cobb turned in yet another impressive outing during his last start against the Yankees and finished the game having allowed just two earned runs over six innings. The Orioles’ in-form righty now owns a 2-1 record and a superb 1.80 ERA over 35 innings through five starts this month. Over his last eight contests,

Cobb has gone 2-4 with a sparkling 2.24 ERA over 52 1/3 innings.

Borucki notched his third win of the season after holding the Phillies to just two runs over 6 1/3 innings during his last start, and will be looking for more of the same against the Orioles. The Blue Jays rookie southpaw has been fairly impressive this season and has notched seven quality starts in eleven attempts.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to snapping the skid.

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-90) vs. Yankees (79-47)

Zach Britton pitches in Yankees pinstripes.

After getting swept in Toronto, the Orioles will now return home and take on the Yankees for a four-game set over the weekend.

The Orioles (37-90) are coming off of a 1-5 road trip and will try to snap a four-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener. They’ll also look to use an upcoming seven-game home stand to improve upon their 5-15 record in the month of August.

The Yankees (79-47) are missing a few key players at the moment, but still hold a four-game lead over Oakland for the top wild card spot in the American League. However, the injury-hit Yankees squad will have a hard time catching the Red Sox as they find themselves 9.5-games behind the division leaders.

Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.09 ERA) will take on CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.32 ERA) in tonight’s match-up.

Cobb dominated en route to a complete-game win over the Indians and went the distance having allowed just two runs on five hits. The Orioles’ in-form veteran hurler now owns a 2-4 record and an outstanding 2.14 ERA over his last seven starts. Over four starts this month, Cobb has gone 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA over 29 innings of work.

Sabathia took home his seventh win of the season after holding the Rangers to a single hit over six shutout innings versus the Rangers in his last start, and will look to do the same against the Orioles. The Yankees veteran righty has posted a 1-0 record and a 1.84 ERA over three starts in August.

The Orioles and Yankees will go-head-to-head in a double-header on Saturday, and neither squad has determined their rotation order as of yet. What we do know is that Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA) and JA Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) will take the mound in one of Saturday’s clashes.

Cashner took the loss after allowing six runs on seven hits over five innings during his last start in Toronto, and will look to bounce back against New York. He’s allowed two runs or less in six of his last nine contests and has recorded a 3.60 ERA over 19 innings during his last three starts combined.

Happ earned his fourth straight win after allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings against Toronto, and will be aiming to make it five in a row in Baltimore. Since being traded to the Bronx, the former Jays All-Star has gone 4-0 with a sublime 2.22 ERA over four starts.

Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) will go up against Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Bundy was tagged by the Blue Jays during his last start and allowed seven runs on ten hits over just four innings. He’ll be looking to snap a nightmare-ish run of form in which he’s posted a 1-4 record and an 8.67 ERA over his last seven starts. Over four starts in August, he’s gone 0-3 with a 9.74 ERA.

Severino may have picked up his 16th win of the season after allowing two runs over five innings against Toronto during his last outing, but has been struggling as of late for the Bombers. The Yankees’ All-Star ace has gone 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA over his last eight contests.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing streak.

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Thursday Thoughts: Bundy, Andreoli, & 2019 Schedule

Dylan Bundy jogs in Spring Training.

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. (Today we have a Billy Ripken version) – A.S.

Before we get going with this week’s Thoughts, I want to do a real quick shameless plug. I spoke with Justin McGuire of the Locked On Orioles podcast yesterday about a piece I wrote earlier this week over at MASNSports.com. We discussed the O’s offensive philosophy heading into the rebuild as well as Chris Davis and what exactly to do with him. Listen to it here.

1. I don’t think anyone would’ve come into this season expecting Dylan Bundy to be barreling toward September with an ERA of 5.31, but everything is awful and now here we are.

Bundy has been especially abysmal in August, posting an ERA of 9.74 along with seven homers in 20.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .387 off him in August. It’s just all bad.

When the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman last month, I was a little puzzled as to why Bundy wasn’t also exiting. I don’t think the O’s would’ve dealt Gausman (who has pitched to an ERA of 2.00 in his first 27 innings in Atlanta, so, yeah) if they expected his value to increase come this winter. The same should’ve gone for Bundy, who is obviously seeing his stock fall, and not just fall, but plummet. Bundy has just one more year of team control than Gausman, but at this point, none of that matters.

[Related: What’s Wrong with Dylan Bundy?]

It was supposed to be these two guys leading the charge in this rotation for years to come. Now one of them is gone, and the other is showing no signs of being a competent big league pitcher, much less front-line starter.

2. Many were up in arms the other day when the Orioles claimed 28-year-old outfielder John Andreoli and it took him just a few days to get on the roster. Why are the Orioles wasting their time on a veteran journeyman rather than calling up one of their outfield prospects? There were a lot of people angered by this, in a season that I’ll remind you, does not matter.

I get it, on the surface. The Orioles have once again gone “dumpster diving” for a player, claiming him off waivers and immediately sticking him in the lineup. But there’s also no real benefit to bringing up a top prospect like D.J. Stewart or Austin Hays at this point, either. The Orioles can trot out Andreoli for now and see if he’s capable of being the 25th man on the roster next year. I’m sure we will see more prospects come up once rosters expand in September.

There’s also something to be said for not exposing young players to this type of dreadful atmosphere around the team.

Regardless, I’m not going to be the guy complaining about who is on the roster right now.

3. There’s been fans trashing roster construction over the past week, but there’s also been fans still choosing to trash Adam Jones over the past month. That’s something I won’t really stand for. Fans are still on this wacky bit where they are mad at Jones for exercising his rights to veto a trade at the deadline. I don’t really understand why fans believe that it’s Jones’ job to help the club from within the front office as well as on the field.

He signed up to a long-term extension when things were bad in Baltimore, and he helped make them good again. He’s done everything asked of him on the field and everything he didn’t have to do off of it. Jones is looking out for himself in his career, and for his family. I see nothing wrong with that. I only see fans complaining about it.

It’s silly and it needs to stop.

4. The Orioles got word on their 2019 schedule yesterday, and personally, I like it. I see opportunities to travel to a few west coast cities I haven’t seen baseball games in. There’s potential for me to head to Denver for a weekend series in May against the Rockies as well as a trip for a weekend series in June in Seattle.

Selfishly, the Orioles will also make a return to Arizona, where I reside. That happens in late July. The last time the O’s were in Arizona, it was ugly. Three straight games, three straight walk-off losses. I was at each game, and each one hurt a little more. This was in mid-August of 2013, and it probably sent Jim Johnson packing. The O’s ended up missing the postseason that year, despite managing an 85-77 record.

What I noticed about next year’s schedule, is that it includes two west coast swings, which is not uncommon. The first is in June, with three in Oakland followed by four in Seattle. The second is the late July trip that starts in Arizona, then heads to Anaheim to face the Angels for four followed by two games in San Diego. But the O’s trip to Colorado is sandwiched between two home series against the Yankees and Tigers.

So the O’s will play on Thursday, head to the Mountain Time Zone for three against the Rockies during the weekend, and then be back at Camden Yards for a game on Monday. That’s a tough scheduling break.

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Cobb & Bundy Heading in Opposite Directions

Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy.

As we search for things to potentially keep us engaged in this 2018 Orioles debacle, we’re pretty much reduced to hoping to “win” the race for the number one draft pick, yes, but shouldn’t we also have some positive and/or interesting things to watch on a nightly basis NOW, as the team plays out the string?

There’s Cedric Mullins, who could very well be this team’s centerfielder of the future. There’s Renato Nunez, making a surprise case that he could be a cog in the rebuild. There could very soon be more call-ups from Norfolk and/or Bowie, like Austin Hays, D.J. Stewart, or others.

And what there should be, what we’d hoped to be able to count on, was that at least we can watch Dylan Bundy deal every fifth day.

Yeah, not so much.

Bundy has been abysmal over his last dozen or so starts, and things don’t appear to be likely to improve any time soon. On Wednesday in Toronto, he gave up seven runs for the third consecutive start.

Is that bad?

It’s more than a little distressing. Let’s try to see if we can figure anything out (because Dylan sure can’t, HEYO!)

Let’s first look at Dylan’s ERA by month in 2018:

April – 3.68

May – 6.12*

June – 1.98

July – 8.38

August – 9.74

May included the ridiculous clunker against the Kansas City Royals, when Bundy faced just seven batters, allowing five hits, two walks, and four home runs, for seven earned runs in 0.0 IP. We can give him a mulligan for that one – in that case, his May ERA drops to 4.18. Not great, but certainly more in line with April and June.

Since tossing eight scoreless against Boston on June 11, Bundy has just three quality starts in ten tries. In that same span, he’s allowed five or more runs six times, including seven in each of his last three starts. After that June 11 game, his season ERA stood at a very respectable 3.66. It’s now 5.31.

So what the heck is going on?

Perusing the data on BrooksBaseball.net and BaseballSavant.com, there are some potential indications, but nothing really jumps off the page. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The first thing I noticed was Bundy’s horizontal release point. Here it is by month in 2018.

Dylan Bundy horizontal release point.

Based on this, one would assume Bundy has moved on the rubber. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Here’s Dylan back on Mother’s Day:

Dylan Bundy pitches against the Rays.

And here’s Dylan last week against the Mets:

Dylan Bundy pitches against the Mets.

He certainly appears to be pitching from the first base side of the rubber in both instances.

So if he is standing in the same spot, why is his horizontal release point changing? Could a look at his vertical release point give us any further insight?

Dylan Bundy vertical release point.

If anything, Bundy appears to be coming more over the top, as opposed to letting his arm leak out to the side, which we’d expect could be accounting for the change in horizontal release point.

I’m no doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I’ll offer one other potential explanation (I welcome yours as well):

Remember, Bundy injured his ankle running the bases in Atlanta in June. Since coming back from that, he’s turned in only two quality starts in eight tries. Perhaps his ankle is still bothering him, and it’s affected his push-off or his landing (I don’t know which ankle it was that he hurt – fill me in if you do).

I admit, I’m fishing for answers here (as I’m sure he and the coaches are). If you’ve any alternative theory for the change in horizontal release point, I’m all ears.

What about his velocity? Well…

Dylan Bundy velocity chart.

Anything jump out to you? The fastball dipped under 92 in July, but has creeped back above here in August. The change-up looks the same as it did in his very good April-May-June, as does the slider. The curveball has fluctuated a bit and is at a season-low in August.

Movement (vertical)?

Dylan Bundy movement chart.

Now we may be getting somewhere. His slider and curve have stopped moving. The slider is dropping a half-inch or so less, while the curve has lost nearly two inches of movement since April (and half an inch since May).

How often is he using said pitches? Here are his pitch percentages:

Dylan Bundy pitch usage chart.

So Bundy is using his four-seamer, curve, and slider less (much less for the first two) than he was earlier in the year, and has made up for it with a lot more two-seamers and a couple more change-ups. He’s throwing over 20% two-seamers in August, up from 5% in May. Curious.

I also looked at some spin rates on BaseballSavant.com. I expected to find a significant dip to point at and say A-HA!, but I did not. I went through the trouble of doing this though, so you’re gonna look at this graph!

Dylan Bundy spin rate.

The spin rates on his four-seamer and slider were actually the lowest during his best month. So scratch that theory.

Maybe it really is just a location thing?

Here’s June for those three pitches:

Dylan Bundy heat map.

And here’s August:

Dylan Bundy heat map.

It certainly looks like Bundy was doing a better job keeping his pitches out of the middle of the plate in June, compared to this month. Just look at all the red toward and just outside of the edges of the zone in the first heat map, compared to the second, where pretty much all of the red is IN the zone.

So, that’s my investigation of nerd data on Dylan. To conclude: His pitch selection has changed markedly, and his horizontal release point is oddly floating, despite his appearing to still be pitching from the first-base side of the rubber. His spin rates don’t appear to be a concern, but his breaking pitches aren’t breaking nearly as much as they were, and his command is suffering as a result of…something.

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, it’s worth checking out this piece from friend of ESR Matt Kremnitzer. He wrote it back at the end of July, before things went even further off the rails for Bundy, but it’s still instructive.

Bundy insists he is healthy. Let’s hope, for our sakes and his, that he isn’t being totally honest in that assessment. I think it’s far past time to either shut him down for the season, or to at least start giving him 5-6 days off between starts (after all, that’s helped him in the past) to see if he can regain some effectiveness in this lost season’s final month. At this point, the only thing running him out there every fifth day guarantees is that the opposing team will score at least seven runs that day.

So that’s Dylan.

Let’s end on a bit of a positive note, shall we?

Alex Cobb is good again! Cobb’s ERA by month:

April – 13.11

May – 4.67

June – 6.67

July – 4.34

August – 1.55

What’s been so different for Cobb in August, when he’s allowed just five ER on 23 hits in 29.0 IP, with 19 strikeouts, five walks, and just three HR allowed over four starts?

Well, for one thing..

“The Thing,” of course, is Cobb’s split/change. He’s using it more…

Alex Cobb THING usage chart.

It’s breaking more…

Alex Cobb THING break chart.

And it’s getting a lot more whiffs!

Alex Cobb THING whiff chart.

All great news. Hopefully it’s sustainable. This version of Cobb has plenty of value to the organization, whether they decide to keep him around or try to move him before his contract is up.

That’s our story of two Orioles pitchers, whose seasons have taken very different trajectories. One of them has gone from must-see TV to cringe-worthy, while the other has done the complete opposite.

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The Rundown: Gausman Shines, Bundy Flops, Harvey Hurt

Gas Man Gausman graphic.

The playoff race should be exciting in Major League Baseball over the final weeks of the season, but in Birdland, we’re focused on the first overall pick in next year’s draft. The Royals are trying their best to finish with the worst record in baseball, but the Orioles’ schedule in September is much more difficult which should give them the edge to winning the number one pick in June.

 

Harvey Shut Down Again 

In order to speed up a rebuild, a lot has to go right. Injuries, especially to key prospects, can derail any plans that you have. The Orioles thought they were finally over the injury hump with pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, but a fluke injury in which the right-hander dislocated his shoulder has now turned into elbow problems once again. Harvey has been shut down for the foreseeable future. Buck Showalter noted how they thought if everything went as planned, Harvey would be pitching with the big league team now.

Instead of Harvey getting a taste of the majors that would hopefully allow him to hit the ground running in 2019 like centerfielder Cedric Mullins, it appears we are still far away from seeing the 23-year-old in an Orioles uniform.

 

Gausman is a Stud, Bundy is a Dud

Even though it was predictable, it doesn’t make it any easier seeing Kevin Gausman dominate for the Atlanta Braves. The righty hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his four starts which includes completing eight innings in two of those starts.

We have seen Gausman have these type of stretches for the Orioles so this isn’t a complete Jake Arrieta situation. The biggest issue with Gausman has always been consistency and when he does struggle, it gets ugly quick. It remains to be seen if this is just another good stretch for the 27-year-old or if it’s the start of becoming the pitcher we all thought he would be when in Baltimore.

Regardless, it’s frustrating and annoying.

Meanwhile, Gausman’s former teammate Dylan Bundy has completely forgotten how to pitch. Bundy has now allowed seven earned runs in three straight starts and has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his last eight starts. The ERA is now 5.31 which is unacceptable. I hope we find out Bundy has been hiding some kind of injury because this dramatic of a decline from someone with his pedigree and track record should get a lot of people fired.

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-87) @ Blue Jays (55-69)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After dropping two of three in Cleveland, the Orioles will look to end their road trip on a high note during their upcoming three-game set in Toronto.

The Orioles (37-87) come into Toronto with a 4-7 record on the road and a 5-12 record overall in the month of August. While it may not be a lot to write home about, the Orioles’ form on the road has improved since going 0-10 away from Camden Yards last month.

The Blue Jays (55-69) will look to bounce back after getting swept in the Bronx over the weekend, but they haven’t been in the best of form as of late. They’ve won just three of their last ten and have gone 9-17 since sweeping the Orioles in the first series of the second half back in July.

Andrew Cashner (4-10, 4.71 ERA) will take on Marco Estrada (6-9, 4.87 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Cashner picked up his fourth win of the season after allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings against the Mets during his last start, and will be looking to continue his outstanding run of form in Toronto. Cashner has recorded eight quality starts in his last twelve contests and has allowed two earned runs or less in six of his last eight outings. Over his last two starts, he’s allowed just three earned runs over an impressive 14-inning stretch.

Estrada earned his sixth win of the season after allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Royals during his last time out, but hasn’t been at his best this season. He’s posted a 2-3 record and a 5.35 ERA over his last seven contests.

Dylan Bundy (7-11, 4.99 ERA) will match-up against Sam Gaviglio (2-6, 5.13 ERA) in Tuesday’s clash.

Bundy was tagged for seven runs on eleven hits over just 5 1/3 innings during his last start against the Mets, and will be aiming to end his struggles and bounce back into vintage form against the Jays. Over his last seven starts, Bundy has gone 1-4 with a 8.33 ERA. He’s also posted just three quality starts over his last nine attempts.

Gaviglio took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings against Kansas City, and will be hoping to finally end up in the win column against the Orioles. Gaviglio has now gone fifteen straight starts without a win and has recorded just three quality starts during that span. Over his last seven contests, he’s gone 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA.

David Hess (2-7, 5.95 ERA) will go up against Thomas Pannone (0-0, 4.15 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Hess held a dangerous Indians squad to just two runs on five hits over six innings during his last start, but took a tough loss in the end. The Orioles rookie has now turned in two straight solid starts and owns an 3.86 ERA over 11 2/3 innings during that span. Prior to that, he had recorded five consecutive starts with having allowed five runs or more. He’ll be looking to leave that in the past and build on his current momentum.

Pannone will be making his first career big league start against the Orioles after impressing out of the bullpen recently. Having just made his debut on August 10th, the 24-year-old Rhode Island native will be looking to impress the Jays staff in order to keep a spot in the rotation going forward. The southpaw went 30-18 with a 3.38 ERA over 85 career starts in the minors before recieving the call-up to the majors.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to coming home with a few in the win column.

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Alex Cobb Turns the Corner – Now What?

Alex Cobb of the Orioles pitches.

Coming off arguably his best start since 2013, Alex Cobb appears to have turned the corner. Over his last six starts, Cobb holds a 2.02 ERA. During that span he has lowered his ERA from 6.41 to 5.09. Overall, it’s not what the Orioles expected heading into a four-year, $57 million deal. However, Cobb could provide the Orioles value, and here I’ll explore their options with regard to his future.

 

1. Trade Cobb this August

Now, this is probably the unlikeliest of options, because he won’t bring much value in return, the Orioles would be selling very low on an established veteran starter, and he’d have to waive his full no-trade clause (hey, what veteran wouldn’t want to get out of Baltimore if they could right now though, right?)

I suggested a week or so ago that they should consider trading him, mainly because he would almost certainly pass through waivers and teams get desperate for starting pitching heading into the playoffs. I’ve rethought this, realizing that they may get a decent piece or two in return, but they shouldn’t sell low again like I feel they did in the Kevin Gausman deal.

I could see teams like the Brewers or Yankees having interest (the O’s trade deadline trading partners, coincidentally), but how much would they give up for a starter with a high contract sporting a 5+ ERA?

The answer is probably disappointing for Orioles fans. If Cobb passes through waivers, the front office should at least listen, but considering Cobb hasn’t put together a fully consistent season, it’s unlikely for teams to bite. To me, a Cobb August trade could resemble the JA Happ trade of this year. Happ was a 1.1 WAR player with Toronto but is a pending free agent. Cobb is a 0.7 WAR player with the Orioles, but has three years and $42 million left on his deal. Yes teams value control, but $43 million left on a deal for an aging pitcher is probably about as desirable as trading for a pending free agent.

In that deal, the Blue Jays received Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Drury has only had one positive WAR season since his rookie season in 2015 and McKinney has always been regarded as a good prospect, but has now been traded three times since being drafted five years ago. Drury does have promise, but injuries have kept him from ever being on the field consistently. McKinney could provide value as a power outfield bat, but all of his attributes are fairly average, and no tool stands out more than the next. If the Orioles seriously consider trading Cobb by the end of the month, this is the type of package I’d think they could expect in return.

Worth it? Probably not, at this point. Let’s cross that one off.

 

2. Trade Cobb in the Next Year or Two

Now we’re talking.

This is probably the likeliest of scenarios. It’s doubtful Cobb pitches on the next Orioles playoff team. He theoretically could in 2021, but that would be the last year of his contract. If Cobb were able to bounce back next year, he could drastically improve his stock. The O’s don’t have too many tradeable pieces left after parting with six veteran players last month, so Cobb could help to infuse more talent into the system. If he’s performing up to his standards and the Orioles get a bit further into his contract to shed more money, teams would be more apt to acquire the starter.

 

3. Keep Cobb through Length of Contract

Now, this may not make sense on the surface, but Cobb staying for four years could provide tons of value to the future Orioles. Regardless, the Orioles will need pitching next season – and thereafter – to not only provide innings, but also to allow pitching prospects to further develop so as not to be rushed. You’ve gotta run SOMEONE out there on the mound every night, and I don’t think having Cobb (or Andrew Cashner, for that matter) in the rotation next year would be counterproductive to their rebuild at all.

Cobb could give the Orioles quality pitching over the next few years and allow the youngsters to learn from him. Pitching coaches have to do their jobs, but in between starts, Cobb could act as a mentor. As I previously mentioned, it is doubtful Cobb would pitch on the next winning O’s squad, but if the Birds are back in contention in 2021, they could conceivably be relying on him down the stretch as a staple in the rotation.

With the recently abysmal Ubaldo Jimenez contract fresh on Orioles fans minds, having Cobb provide 3.5 out of 4 years of quality performance would give the fans some confidence in the front office making judgment calls for future free agent pitchers.

Like I said, I still think the likeliest of scenarios is that they trade him at some point over the next two years or so, because the Orioles seem intent on reducing MLB payroll. However, if they were somehow able to shed the Chris Davis deal in the next few years, Cobb may both fit in the budget and make sense timeline-wise, giving the Orioles pitching prospects the proper amount of time they need to develop.

Let’s hope what we’re seeing now is a sign of things to come. The Cobb contract still has the potential to be a very valuable one for the franchise.

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Series Preview: Orioles (36-85) @ Indians (69-51)

progressive field in cleveland

After splitting their two-game series with the Mets, the Orioles hit the road and take on the first-place Indians for three games before heading to Toronto.

The Orioles (36-85) come into Cleveland with a 4-10 record so far in the month of August, but their struggles away from Camden Yards have been a glaring problem all season long. Since July 1, the Orioles have gone just 3-15 on the road.

The surging Indians (69-51) will kick off the series on a five-game win streak after sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati earlier this week. They’ve now built a massive 12-game lead over Minnesota in the race for the AL Central title and own an outstanding 11-3 record so far this month. They’ve also been one of the hottest teams in the majors with a 17-8 record since the end of the All-Star Break.

David Hess (2-6, 6.25 ERA) will take on Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Hess turned in a decent performance during his last start against the Rays, but took the no-decision after allowing three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. After bursting onto the scene earlier this season, Hess has struggled with an 0-4 record and a 9.79 ERA over his last six starts.

Carrasco picked up his 14th win of the season after shutting down the White Sox to the tune of just three hits over seven shutout innings and will be looking to stay in sparkling form against the Orioles. Over his last seven starts, the righty has posted a 5-1 record and a sublime 1.59 ERA while notching 52 strikeouts over 39 2/3 innings during that span.

Alex Cobb (3-15, 5.31 ERA) will go up against Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.75 ERA) in Saturday’s match-up.

Cobb took another tough loss in his last start after holding the Red Sox to a single earned run over seven stellar innings, but will look to keep his excellent run of form going against the Tribe. He’s now 1-1 with an outstanding 1.35 ERA over his three starts this month and over his last six contests.

Cobb has posted a superb 2.17 ERA over 37 1/3 innings of work.

Plutko will be getting the nod for the first time since allowing three runs on six hits over four innings against Cincinnati on July 11. After picking up a win in each of his first three starts of the season back in May, Plutko has posted a 5.40 ERA over 23 1/3 innings in his six appearances since.

Yefry Ramirez (1-4, 5.40 ERA) is in line to face Mike Clevinger (8-7, 3.38 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale, but the Orioles have yet to confirm and it is still listed as TBD.

If given the nod, Ramirez will look to pick up where he left off after allowing just two runs over five innings against the Red Sox. Like Hess, Ramirez has struggled a bit as of late after bursting onto the scene earlier this year and has gone 1-1 with an 8.64 ERA over his last four starts.

Clevinger picked up his eighth win of the season after holding the Reds to two runs over five innings, and will be looking to keep the ball rolling against the Orioles. After an off-key July, Clevinger has returned to his vintage form and owns a 3.00 ERA through 18 innings in three starts this month. Over his last five starts, he’s gone 1-2 with a 3.03 ERA over 29 2/3 innings.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to going road tripping!

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O’s Promote Cedric Mullins, DFA Danny Valencia

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.

The move that many Orioles fans have been pining for for at least a month here in this lost season was finally made a reality today, as the Orioles announced that they have promoted Cedric Mullins from AAA Norfolk.

Mullins, the Birds’ 13th-round pick in 2015,  burst onto the O’s prospect scene in 2016 in Delmarva, hitting .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 30 stolen bases, and 14 home runs in 124 games. He followed that up with a .265/.319/.460 line in Bowie last year. He hit 19 doubles, a triple, and 13 homers for Bowie, but was limited to just 76 games due to a couple hamstring injuries.

This year, he was hitting .313/.362/.512 in 49 games for Bowie before being promoted to AAA Norfolk. For the Tides, he was putting up a .267/.332/.425 line with 17 doubles, three triples, and five homers in 59 games, many in notorious pitcher’s paradise Harbor Park. Combined in 2018 between the two levels, he’s at .288/.366/.465 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs, and 21 stolen bases in 22 attempts.

He’s immediately being slotted into centerfield, which Adam Jones must have agreed to. AJ had his typical interesting tweets about the situation.

We know that it’s not easy to get a decent reading on advanced fielding metrics with a small sample size, so it’s doubtful we’ll learn too much about Mullins’ defensive abilities from that avenue for six-seven weeks of baseball, but it’ll at least be fun to see what our eyes tell us. And Jones moving to right field is obviously a gigantic step up from the likes of Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia.

Valencia, by the way, was designated for assignment in the corresponding move. Danny had an OPS+ of exactly 100 this season, which makes him perfectly average. He mashed lefties in his typical fashion, putting up an .873 OPS with six homers in 129 AB compared to .610 and three dingers off righties in 146 at bats.

Congrats to Cedric Mullins – let’s see what ya got, kid!

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