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Rain Will Impact Weekend Series vs. Twins

distant view from stadium seats of camden yards at night

Tonight’s game is likely to be a rainout, as showers and thunderstorms will become likely this afternoon and evening. The weather should improve significantly tomorrow with some sun and dry conditions but it could be a bit on the breezy side. Easter Sunday is likely to be more cloudy and I can’t rule out a shower, but the Orioles should be able to get the game in.

Follow Christopher Bressi Weather Forecast Page for more information and daily forecasts. www.facebook.com/BressiWeather

Weather images used from: Business vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

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The Payoff Pitch – Davis Gets a Hit w/Glenn Clark

Chris Davis holds his bat.

In this week’s episode of The Payoff Pitch, Glenn Clark of PressBox and GlennClarkRadio.com was kind enough to join me for the show. We talk about Chris Davis making history (then maybe breaking out of it?), some baby Birds pitching well down on the farm, Trey Mancini’s future, the excitement of having the number one overall pick, trusting the process, and plenty more!

This was a fun show, so we really hope you tune in and let us know what you think. Tweet your comments to me @PaulValleIII or to @ThePayoffPitch1.

Thanks for listening/watching!

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Trey Has Been The Man-Cini

Trey Mancini gets ready to field.

The mention of Trey Mancini sets off a bit of a firestorm among O’s fans. There are those who view him as a cornerstone piece of the team, a player “to build around,” who will be a star on the next good Orioles team, one that’s ostensibly four-five years in the future. These are the same folks who were furious that the team traded Jonathan Schoop last summer, for the most part.

Then there are those who view Mancini as a nice piece, but certainly not a centerpiece…more of a complementary player. These fans see Trey as a guy who – especially at his current level of production – contending teams would be drooling over either this July or next winter, due to the three years of team control Mancini still has remaining after 2019.

That argument will certainly not be settled here today. Instead, we’re just going to give more ammo to both camps to bolster their respective arguments.

Let’s look at where Mancini ranks among AL* hitters at the moment:

So what’s Trey changed since his disappointing 2018 campaign?

For one thing, he looks to be staying on the outside pitches more, taking them the other way with authority. Of his first six home runs in 2019, five have been hit to center or right field.

Mancini’s heat maps reflect this.

Here’s last year:

Let’s focus on that upper outside corner of the strike zone. You can see that, in 2018, Trey was swinging at 47% and 53% of the pitches that approached that upper corner, and then just 29% and 42% if the pitcher was able to paint the outer black at his numbers.

This next chart will show his slugging percentage on all pitches he saw last year. Again, look at those four up top and outside.

0.060, 0.020, 0.094, and 0.040.

Not great!

So how about here so far in 2019? First, swing percentages:

66% (up from 47%), 71% (up from 53%), 41% (up from 29%), and 38% (down from 42%, the only dip we see out there). He also looks like he is setting his sights up a bit on that outside corner. In 2018, those outermost bottom three boxes read 51%, 51%, 39%. This year: 26%, 30%, 42% (let that one go, Trey!)

Now, slugging again:

Man, look at all that red up at the top right.

0.060 went to 0.781.

0.094 exploded to 1.286.

0.020 went to 0.250.

0.40 shot up to 0.345.

Keeping his eyes up and out has also helped Mancini increase his launch angle. In 2018, Mancini posted a ground ball percentage of 54.6, a career high. This year, that’s back down to 45.5%, which would be a career best for a full season (it was 40% during his five game cup of coffee in 2016).

Of course, as I’ve been writing this, Mancini has gone 0-for-4 in Tampa, likely putting an end to his five-game hitting streak. Through he hasn’t homered in a week, he had a double in four straight games until Tuesday night.

The bet here is that Mancini continues his All-Star caliber start as spring rolls on. If that happens, the volume of the conversation surrounding his status within the rebuild will only continue to crank up towards 11.

 

Spray charts & GB% c/o FanGraphs

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Chris Davis Got a Hit…Now Get a Shirt!

Chris Davis, newly-crowned owner of The Worst Slump in Baseball History trophy, finally broke out of it on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

Not only did Davis single to knock in two runs in his first AB in the Birds’ 9-5 win. He picked up THREE hits in the game, including a double, and four RBI.

Way to break out of it, Chris! He’d run into some terrible luck during the hitless streak, and all of baseball was relieved, in their own way, to see him finally have a couple fall in.

If we’re honest with ourselves in Birdland, we know that the “big” moments will be few and far between over the next few seasons. So, in the meantime, we celebrate the small moments. Fortunately, our friends over at BreakingT are all about celebrating moments, both big and small, so of course they put together a shirt for the occasion.

Get yours right here.

Heck, MASN even put together this montage to “celebrate” Davis’ hit.

Embrace the small moments, O’s fans. It’ll make what’s sure to be a long season a bit more enjoyable.

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The Orioles Defense is a Pleasure to Watch

Hanser Alberto makes a diving stop.

In the process of blogging about Chris Davis‘ record-setting futility this morning, I found myself complaining that it was the only subject of discussion surrounding the O’s among national outlets. In writing that, I also realized it was the only headline on ESR this morning as well.

I need to remedy that. So, let’s talk about this O’s defense!

The Birds have turned 16 double plays, tied for most in the majors with the Atlanta Braves. We’ve witnessed some great infield wizardly over recent seasons, with the steady consistency of J.J. Hardy, the dazzling elegance of Manny Machado, and then Jonathan Schoop, who perhaps had a stronger arm than even Machado and could turn a double play on a dime, playing up the middle.

Not many expected much out of this 2019 group, but so far, they’ve done their predecessors proud. Jonathan Villar has proven capable at both shortstop and second base, Rule V pick Richie Martin has been mostly smooth (though he’s had a couple hiccups), and Hanser Alberto has been surprisingly efficient whether at second base or third. Rio Ruiz gets to most every ball that Machado would have at third, but his throws leave a bit to be desired.

On Monday night, Alberto made several diving stops (though a throwing error marred his evening slightly). Villar came out of nowhere to turn what looked like a sure single up the middle into a fielder’s choice at second base.

Until last night, the Birds were the only team in baseball to have not allowed a single stolen base. Currently, they’re tied with the Cleveland Indians at one apiece.

Maybe it’s just the eye test, and in a few weeks, the advanced statistics will tell us that our eyes have been lying and that the Birds defense is just average, or worse.

Whatever. As much as we respect those analytics around here, all I know is that this Birds defense has been a pleasure to watch so far.

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Chris Davis Now Owns the Worst Slump Ever Record

Chris Davis upset

The Orioles racked up 15 hits in Monday’s 12-4 win over the Oakland Athletics, which also broke a four-game losing skid.

Sadly, a different streak continued, as none of those 15 hits came off the bat of Chris Davis.

Davis, of course, entered the game on an 0-for-44 streak dating back to last season. The all-time leader in at-bats (by a non-pitcher) without a hit was Eugenio Velez, who went 0-for-46 over the 2010-11 seasons. Davis needed a hit in one of his first three at-bats to avoid making history.

Oakland starter Marco Estrada seemed like just the guy against whom to avoid history for Davis. While he was only 6-for-36 lifetime against the former Blue Jay, those at-bats came, for the most part, as the old Chris Davis, not as this new, shell of a former slugger.

This Chris Davis can’t get around on anything over say, 94. Estrada rarely tops 90. It seemed like the best matchup Davis could’ve hoped for.

In his first AB, Davis laced a 92.4 MPH line drive to right (his sixth-hardest hit ball of the year, per Joe Trezza). It was, of course, directly at the right fielder.

In his second AB, and now 0-for-45, Davis hit what looked to be the streak-breaker. A soft line drive to left field, that surely looked to be ready to die in front of the left fielder. There’s only one guy on that entire side of the field…this has to fall!

Nope. It hung up, and the left fielder grabbed it fairly easily.

0-for-46. History tied.

With the chance to break the record, Davis faced Oakland reliever Yusmeiro Petit, another soft-tosser. Chris got an 89 MPH change-up, and whacked it. The ball left his lumber at 103.5 MPH with an 18-degree launch angle (again per Trezza), the type of ball that Statcast says has an expected batting average of .580.

So there was a 58-percent chance this ball was going to fall, and at least save Davis from owning the World’s Worst Slump record all by himself.

Nope. Again, the left fielder was there.

0-for-47.

Congratulations, Chris Davis. You’re the worst!

It was a cruel thing to watch, honestly. Davis looked like a hitter, at least for those three at-bats, who had a clue, who could still hang at the MLB level. Yet, with history on the line, Lady Luck did nothing but sneer at him. For their part, the small (like, smallest ever when fans were actually allowed in) crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards supported Davis, cheering him and encouraging him, rather than booing and jeering as the crowds over the weekend did.

Davis got another AB in the 8th, after his teammates batted around in front of him. Facing Fernando Rodney, Davis, for the first time all night, looked like the guy we’ve seen for the past two-plus seasons. He watched two balls go right down the middle, then swung at a change-up in the dirt for strike three.

Oddly enough, in his last nine AB before breaking the record, Davis *only* struck out twice.

Any of those seven could have been the duck fart that saved Chris from dubious history. Alas, not one baseball found green grass off his bat.

At this point, we just sit back and wonder how long the streak will continue.

In case you’re wondering, the record for all plate appearances by a non-pitcher without a hit is 57. Davis is at 56. So…something to watch tonight, as well.

There are a ton of positives to talk about with this team right now. The defense is a joy to watch. The speed on the bases is something we’ve not seen in years, if ever (THREE triples last night!). Trey Mancini is straight up raking. The Birds are .500 after 10 games, and after the schedule-makers put the Yankees on there six times in those first ten, not many fans or observers would have predicted that.

Yet the headlines on MLB.com, ESPN.com, and other national sites (and, apparently, here on ESR – sorry, will fix!) will all just be about Chris Davis, not about the plucky Orioles defying expectations.

Here’s to this streak ending quickly, now that the history books have been rewritten.

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Rain Could Delay Start of O’s-A’s

view of outfield during orioles game with clusters of clouds overhead

Doesn’t look like we have to worry about any postponements this week, however.

The best weather for the four-game set with Oakland will be Wednesday and Thursday with sunny skies both days.

Thursday is an early “get away day” game at 12:35pm so hopefully that nice weather will bring out some fans!

The game that will have the highest chance of a potential ran shower will be tonight, but it doesn’t look like it will be enough to postpone the game. At most, a delayed start if a shower/thunderstorm is around at first pitch, but we could very well be dry as well.

Tuesday looks mostly dry but with more clouds potentially around.

In the end, all four games should be played.

Follow Christopher Bressi Weather Forecast Page for more information and daily forecasts.

Weather images used from: Business vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

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O’s Early 2019 Advanced Analytics Leaders

Trey Mancini gets ready to field.

A Quantitative Analysis of the 2019 Baltimore Orioles…so far

Alright baseball nerds, time to do a bit of a deep dive into the 2019 Birds as they begin to integrate data and information or ‘analytics’ into their play.

2019 marks a new era in Baltimore, accompanied by a new regime. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a book signing and Q&A with Astroball’s Ben Reiter along with Orioles Assistant GM and Head of Analytics Sig Mejdal on Friday, learning some valuable lessons.

First, analytical data doesn’t tell the whole story, but can vastly improve a ball club – for instance, showing spray chart tendencies and even telling a pitcher which pitches to throw depending on the count, and helping refine a hurler’s release point. The Houston Astros were on the cutting edge of this technology leading up to their 2017 World Series Championship (famously predicted by Reiter in a 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated).

Now, the Orioles have Sig and with him the knowledge of how to build an organization from the ground up into a champion.

Why doesn’t analytical data tell the whole story? Well, it was Mejdal himself who advised against the Astros trading for aging starter Justin Verlander and also Sig, who allowed J.D. Martinez to walk through the doors in Houston and become the superstar that he is today.

Here’s the good news: Analytics evolve and data models improve. Chemistry or ‘Chem WAR’ (Chemistry Wins Above Replacement) was mentioned in Astroball and may now be a part of the data assessment process. Mejdal is a certifiable genius in baseball circles, having previously worked for NASA and Lockheed Martin, before finding his true passion in baseball. He hopes to build up the analytics staff in due time, and as he mentioned during the Q&A, the Orioles have no shortage in the pool of candidates (with well over 500 applicants).

We know that the 2019 Orioles will be probably be pretty bad, and that’s okay. The Astros went by the moniker ‘Disastros’ for much of the beginning of the decade until their impromptu success in 2015, making the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

I see many valuable pieces on this Oriole team and ones that could either be flipped for future value, or players who could potentially play a role on the next playoff team.

To the data!

 

Spin Rate

Spin rate refers to how many rotations a ball would make if rotating for a full minute. This can often reveal effective velocity coupled with horizontal or vertical movement.

So which pitchers lead the Birds in spin rate?

Dylan Bundy pitching.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Fastball: Dylan Bundy, 2595 RPM

Yes, this may be surprising, because Dylan Bundy doesn’t throw particularly hard compared to even a few years ago. In fact, he ranks in only the 33rd percentile in terms of fastball velocity.

However, Bundy holds the O’s best fastball spin rate this season at 2595 RPM. This ranks his fastball spin rate in the 86th percentile in baseball. In his 1st start, Bundy produced some of the weakest contact we’ve seen this season. Small sample size yes, but Bundy made strides in his first start of 2019. Though he lasted just 3.2 innings in his season debut, Bundy recorded seven strikeouts. Walks were his big issue with a whopping five.

I look for Bundy to embrace analytics this year, because he still has good stuff and will get plenty of whiffs if he can locate his pitches. To put this into perspective, if Bundy were to average this spin rate for a full season, it would rank him 7th among all pitchers in baseball in 2018.

Clearly, thus far into the season, Bundy has been throwing far too many pitches per inning to be effective and will need to correct that immediately.

Slider: Miguel Castro, 3167 RPM

Miguel Castro pitches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Miguel Castro has electrifying stuff, but doesn’t have dominant statistics. This is what gives me hope for him. The talent is there, the coaching staff just needs to harness and unleash it. Castro’s best slider this year came in at 3167 RPM’s. To put this into perspective, if Castro were to average this all season long, he would’ve ranked 2nd best in all of baseball in 2018. Castro’s fastball spin is just fairly average even if it does touch 98 mph and gets hit hard…his pitches were ‘barreled’ up 19 times last year, which ranks him in the 10th percentile of hardest hit pitchers.

To me, this suggests that Castro should be throwing his secondary pitches more than his fastball, an idea contrary to popular thought if his fastball velocity is considered elite. This way, Castro could get hitters off balance and fire a fastball past them later in the count when they’re least expecting it. Castro has been near disastrous so far, as it remains to be seen if he can actually sustain any amount of success.

Castro is actually most similar to Jimmy Yacabonis, whose slider and 2-seam movement is among the best in baseball. Fangraphs recently broke this down in depth. The Orioles have something in Castro and Yacabonis because of their pure stuff, but pitch sequencing will be key to their success.

 

xwOBA

xwOBA stands for Expected Weighted On Base Average. This stat takes into account exit velocity and launch angle and removes defense from the equation, allowing analysts to focus on the individual’s performance only.

Pitcher: David Hess, .217 xwOBA

David Hess pitches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

We all watched as 2nd year pitcher David Hess was twirling a gem the other night where he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning before getting pulled by manager Brandon Hyde due to his pitch count. Hess has a different look this year. Yes, the beard is a noticeable difference, but he is pitching up in the zone with more purpose than before.

He is also using what is called ‘effective velocity.’ This term refers to the pitcher’s ability to influence a hitter’s bat-path to achieve a perceived velocity. For instance, with Hess pitching up in the zone, a hitter may have a harder time reaching the pitch to make contact. Hess is also throwing harder, touching 96 in his last start, while sitting 93-95 mph.

In his second start, Hess was far less effective. The Yankees touched him up for four runs over five frames as he allowed three home runs. All that being said, Hess’ expected wOBA is .217, which would’ve ranked 6th in all of Major League Baseball last year.

It’s doubtful Hess would achieve an xwOBA that stellar, but he is clearly adapting and sequencing his pitches in a way to ensure success early on.

Hitter: Trey Mancini, .424 xwOBA

Trey Mancini watches the ball after making contact.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Trey Mancini is off to a torrid start this year, compiling an absurd 1.081 OPS. He seems to be on a mission this year, after last year’s disappointing follow up to a Top 3 Rookie of the Year finish. Mancini will be key in this rebuild, providing incalculable leadership and guidance. But, he will also need to produce to solidify his spot with the club. He will either be traded for future assets or remain through the rebuild and be a bona fide star as a veteran on a young team.

Mancini’s current xwOBA ranks 19th in MLB, good for the top of the 3rd Tier of performance. His xSLG or weighted slugging percentage ranks in the Top 10. Notice his short and compact swing, generating lift that will make him a formidable power hitter this year.

 

Exit Velocity

Exit velocity refers to the speed the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after impact.

Hitter: Renato Nunez, 96.9 mph

Renato Nunez swings.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Renato Nunez is an interesting case, because he was a waiver claim by Dan Duquette in the previous regime and Elias & Co. don’t have any ties to him. Still, he made the club and has settled into a role. We already knew Renato could swing the bat, but his defense was always the question. His defense will remain a question, but if he produces with the wood, it makes him an attractive piece come July.

Nunez’s current average exit velocity of 96.9 mph ranks 4th in all the MLB and he has a higher max exit velocity than Cody Bellinger, the league’s current home run leader. Renato ranks in the 97th percentile in both exit velocity and hard hit %.

The hope is, that with power, comes some patience at the plate too. Analytical data could reveal to Nunez his hot and cold zones along with which pitches on which he’s most effective.

Pitcher: Mychal Givens, 82.6 mph

Mychal Givens on the mound looking in.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Givens ranks among the 30 best weak contact pitchers, partly due to his arm angle and fastball spin rate. Bundy barely edged out Givens’ spin rate, as the two’s best fastballs were 2595 RPM and 2518 RPM, respectively. 2018 saw Givens’ worst strikeout year since his rookie campaign in 2015 at 9.2 K/9. Mychal can get away with striking out fewer hitters as long as they are only producing weak contact. The idea behind Mike Elias bringing in players like Rio Ruiz and Richie Martin was to shore up the Orioles’ infield defense for pitchers who lack a strong strikeout rate. Givens’ peripherals look good so far as he has been used in some high-leverage situations.

Hyde wants to be cautious though, because his workload could be heavy early on if the rest of the O’s pen struggles.

 

Obviously, this is the smallest of samples sizes, but the purpose of this article is to illustrate that talent exists on the roster. I’ve brought up six unique players that I think already possess the talent, but with analytical data can further improve to reach their full potential. Ryan Pressly was a middling reliever before embracing information that would eventually lead to him to the top in fastball spin rate leaderboards.

I plan on writing a follow up article later in the year, once more data is collected and Orioles players have a chance to digest the data and put it into practice.

All statistics above courtesy of BaseballSavant.com.

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Thursday Thoughts: Expectations, No-Hit Bids, & The Davis Problem

Chris Davis in the batter's box.

1. There’s no question that the Orioles’ hot start is exciting. Even after coming into the season expecting the worst from this team, there’s always a desire to watch a winning baseball team. Who knows how long the O’s will keep up their winning ways, but when you anticipate a lot of losses coming in, you learn to appreciate victories even more.

I’ve written a lot about expectations over the last handful of seasons. This season’s are obviously the lowest they’ve been in perhaps seven or eight years. It’s important to remember where our context comes from when measuring progress and victories. In a micro sense, winning is great. In a macro world, it can be great as long as the big picture isn’t lost.

I’m somehow convinced already that with Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal at the helm, things won’t get lost.

2. The first “controversy” in the managerial stint of Brandon Hyde happened earlier this week with the whole David Hess no-hit bid situation. As I’m sure everyone knows by now, Hyde removed Hess from Monday’s game in Toronto after 6.1 innings and 82 pitches, in the middle of a no-hitter. It was easy to forget at that point that Hess had thrown 42 pitches in relief on Opening Day in New York as well. It created quite the stir on social media, with fans calling for Hyde to be fired (which is obviously ridiculous).

Hess said all the right things after the game and said he understood the hook. Hyde said he was looking out for the long-term health of Hess. In this day and age, it’s always nice to hear a manager wanting to look out for the longevity of a player rather than the alternative.

But it’s also important to note that baseball’s modern mindset of being uber-careful with pitch counts and workload does cut into part of what makes the game fun. I was vocally in favor of Hyde’s move the other night, but I certainly see why some fans were upset with it. Not to the extent of wanting the manager fired less than a week into his tenure, but I see the disappointment at least. In the long run, Hess was never going to finish the no-hitter the other night, and it was made to look worse when Pedro Araujo came in and gave it up immediately. The Orioles had to hang on for dear life to even win that game.

In my mind, this was all a micro-moment that leads into a macro-outlook, and that’s fine by me.

3. One of the unexpected bright spots of the early part of this season, aside from the wins of course, has been Dwight Smith Jr. in left field. Smith was an unknown to many when he was acquired in March from the Blue Jays, but has all of a sudden received a starter’s role and the coveted second spot in the order.

He’s a former first-round pick that didn’t break through with Toronto. But at 26, he can still provide something to an Orioles club that is rebuilding. He can be an important stopgap player that eventually turns into one of the more veteran players down the road when this whole thing hopefully turns around.

Those types of players will be important. Whether or not he sticks as a top of the order hitter is irrelevant. These are the types of buy-low opportunities Dan Duquette used to be praised for.

I’m interested to see how it shakes out for him.

4. The Orioles still have an obvious Chris Davis problem on their hands, and I’d imagine it will stay on their hands for many more months. Davis isn’t hitting, he’s not getting on base, and he’s not producing up to the $23-million he’s being paid. He’s hitless in his last ten games dating back to last season, which includes 20 strikeouts.

It’s been such an incredible slide down the hill from Davis’ 2013 season, when he hit .286 with 53 home runs and finished third in the AL MVP vote. The one thing Orioles fans can take solace in is that this new regime isn’t the one that gave Davis a big contract. They have no attachment to him, just like they have no real attachment to any other player on this roster. There has to be a firm belief that they will do something about him when it becomes necessary.

Whether that’s designating him for assignment or just letting him set on the bench, who knows? But the other thing that’s important to remember is that the Orioles aren’t really expecting to win this season. They don’t need Davis to be any good, and certainly aren’t expecting that either. They can sit back and play it out without any real pressure. That’s kind of what this season is.

Any wins, like the ones the O’s have already recorded, are tasty icing on a cake that was already burnt by another chef.

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The Payoff Pitch – Home O’pener Edition w/Jeremy Conn

Fans streaming in the Eutaw Street gate on Opening Day.

For the home opener edition of The Payoff Pitch, I was fortunate enough to be joined in studio by Jeremy Conn of 105.7 the Fan here in Baltimore.

“Jerry Love” and I talked about the Orioles’ hot start, pulling a guy pitching a no-hitter, the Birds’ use of an “opener,” trusting the process, and plenty more.

Listen here!

Thanks for listening/watching!

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Weather Looks Warm & Dry for O’pening Series

collage of group pictures from baltimore orioles opening day

The weather actually looks quite similar for all three games of the New York Yankees series. The home opener will feature times of sun and clouds with temps in the low 60s during the game. Saturday appears to be set up for similar weather but with it being a night game, temps will drop into the 50s once the sun sets.

Sunday looks to be the warmest of the three, but we need to keep an eye on a storm system to our west. If it speeds up, it could affect the last half of the game but at the moment it looks like we should be able to get the game in just fine with increasing clouds during the game.

Follow Christopher Bressi Weather Forecast Page for more information and daily forecasts. www.facebook.com/BressiWeather

Weather images used from: Business vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

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Ain’t the Beer Cold? Get your Shirt Now!

Legendary Baltimore Orioles and Colts broadcaster Chuck Thompson made this phrase famous in Charm City over 50 years ago, and even now, over a decade after his passing, Birdland still knows exactly what it means.

Ain’t the beer cold?

Now, thanks to our friends at Breaking T, you can let everyone know you enjoy cold beer and Orioles wins wherever you go.

Get yours here!

We’ve partnered with Breaking T plenty of times before, with shirts like Dealin’ Bundy, Adam Bomb, Straight Outta Camden, and more.

These shirts are extremely soft and comfortable, but just FYI, they run a little small, so order a size larger than you’d usually wear (I’m a large, but I always get XL shirts from BreakingT).

Here’s to a lot more cold beer in our future, Birdland.

Get your Ain’t the Beer Cold shirt here!

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Hyde Pulls David Hess in 7th Inning with No-Hitter Going

David Hess, Brandon Hyde, and O's players meet on the mound.

In just his fourth game as manager, new O’s skipper Brandon Hyde faced a huge decision – about as big of one as could be imagined during the first week of the season.

Starter David Hess was cruising to the tune of 6 1/3 IP, one (very questionable) walk, and a career high eight strikeouts.

He was cutting through the Toronto Blue Jays’ revamped lineup (one that, to my eye, isn’t any better right now on paper than the O’s lineup that seems to be the constant butt of jokes from national media types, but I digress) like a hot knife through butter. It took Hess just 28 pitches to get through the first three innings, and was showing a noticeable velocity bump compared to the pitcher we saw make a 19 (yes, really) starts in 2018.

During Sunday’s Birdland Radio, on The Payoff Pitch I talked about the “secret sauce” the Houston Astros seem to have found with pitchers, and hoped Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal & Co. would bring that to Baltimore. Here’s an early isolated data point that says “maybe they did!”

After six no-hit frames, O’s fans started to allow the unthinkable to creep into our minds.

A no-hitter…man, wouldn’t that be awesome? In a season where everyone expects the team to loss 100-plus games again, what could be cooler than a one-game shining moment like that to which we could point?

The Orioles’ last no-no came waaaaay back in 1991, when four pitchers combined to blank the Oakland A’s in the hit column, while they’ve of course been on the wrong side of several in the same span. The Birds’ last no-hitter by a single pitcher? You have to go back to 1969, when Jim Palmer did it.

Ridiculous, right?

So forgive us for dreaming.

Complicating matters, of course, was that Hess not only isn’t ready to throw 100-plus pitches (most hurlers aren’t in early April), but that he also pitched last Thursday in New York out of the bullpen, a 42-pitch outing.

When Hyde left the dugout and approached the mound in the seventh, while many understood what was about to happen, our orange hearts dropped. Even Hess was a little surprised.

To his credit, Hyde knew what he had to do, and didn’t hesitate. As hard as it was to pull the young pitcher, as easy as it would have been to let him keep going, the new skipper did what (in his mind) needed to be done.

While many O’s fans understood the decision, it was still a bitter pill to swallow for a good bit of Birdland.

As for Hess, after the game he seemed to appreciate his manager sticking to his guns, even in a tough situation.

Fortunately, the Birds were able to hang on to win – barely – 6-5, as the stream of relievers who came in after Hess were less than inspiring. Pedro Araujo walked the first batter he faced in relief of Hess, then gave up a two-run homer to the next. Mike Wright also gave up a dinger and two runs. In the ninth, Richard Bleier gave up a run on two hits, and fanned the 27th Blue Jay to be retired on the night with the tying run standing just 90 feet away.

Shockingly, the Birds are 3-1 on the young season. They’ve won three consecutive games, something the 2018 squad didn’t accomplish until early May. They’ve won three straight on the road, something the 2018 team NEVER did.

It would have been awesome to see Hess get the chance to toss a no-no. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Here’s to the young man’s improvements being real and sustainable, and to him getting another chance in the near future.

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The Payoff Pitch on Birdland Radio

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to join Paul Valle, host of the D&L Tinting Payoff Pitch, for the third installment of Birdland Radio.

Birdland Radio, for those not familiar, is the brainchild of Josh Sroka of Section 336. It’s 12+ hours of Orioles podcasts on or around the start of the season. Like I said, this is the third time he’s done it, and the third time ESR has participated.

Listen to our hour here:

Yesterday, Paul and I got into a bunch of O’s topics, including:

  • The ways the new-look O’s will try to win games
  • Mike Elias’ plans over the next few months
  • Current Orioles most & least likely to be stars on the next good O’s team
  • Joe Angel’s sudden retirement
  • And more!

Thanks for listening, as always.

 

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Forecast for O’pening Day Improves

sun setting over camden yards

Great News! The coastal storm that has been mentioned will stay far enough off the coast and move quickly enough to not effect the weather for opening day! We should be in between storm systems allowing for times of sun and clouds with temps in the upper 50s to low 60s.

Thursday April 4

Times of clouds and sun

First pitch temp: 60F

GFS Model outlook for Orioles Home Opener

Images from GFS model showing rain to our northwest but dry for the Baltimore region. Temperatures should range from the mid 50s to low 60s throughout the area on Thursday afternoon. Times of sun and clouds will be present. Not too bad for early April, Go O’s!

Follow Christopher Bressi Weather Forecast Page for more information and daily forecasts.

Weather images used from: Business vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com and model images from www.tropicaltidbits.com

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Orioles Will Not (GASP!) Go 0-162

Richie Martin high fives Brandon Hyde and his O's teammates as he enters the dugout.

Much to the surprise of seemingly everyone who follows or covers baseball, the 2019 Baltimore Orioles will NOT be going 0-162.

Perhaps even more shockingly, they won’t even be going 0-18 against the mighty Yankees of New York.

Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, let’s talk a little about how these scrappy Birds shocked the sports world and managed to come out ahead in a nine-inning contest of hardball.

Before we get into that though, let’s check out the post-game festivities in the Birds’ clubhouse:

https://twitter.com/Orioles/status/1112113671533150208

Let’s all give thanks that Mark Trumbo isn’t with the team, or no such fun would have been allowed, you can be damn sure of that.

So how’d we get there?

In just the second game of the season, we saw that these Orioles aren’t the Birds of years past. Could you imagine Buck Showalter utilizing an “opener?” That’s just what Brandon Hyde did, running Nate Karns out to the mound to start the game, with the hopes that he’d be able to get through not five or six, but two or three innings.

Things began butt-clenchingly, as Karns walked three straight batters following a first-pitch flyout by Brett “Megamind” Gardner. He wiggled out of that bases-loaded jam by inducing a 1-2-3 double play from Miguel Andjuar. It wouldn’t be the last rally Andjuar would kill on the day.

Karns settled down in the second, and Jimmy Yacabonis replaced him following two scoreless innings. A successful open!

Jimmy went another three frames, allowing just a single run on three hits and two walks, with two strikeouts. Yacabonis looks like he could be a legitimate weapon from the bullpen – for the Orioles or for another squad who might want to pony up some prospects for him in a couple months.

In the sixth inning, the Orioles grabbed their first lead of the 2019 season, and they did it in what, for them, was quite the unconventional way (at least pre-2019). It wasn’t with a dong (or even several one-run dongs). In fact, the Orioles are completely homer-less in two games, the first time they’ve done that to begin a season since 2001 (h/t @oriolesfactoids).

No, they did it like this:

  • Single
  • Single
  • Lineout to CF, with a CATCHER tagging to go from 2nd to 3rd (!!!!!)
  • Single
  • Double steal (!!!) with a throwing error

Miguel Castro then came on to protect the 2-1 lead, and did just that, tossing two scoreless innings of his own.

The Birds added another run in the seventh off Chad Green, courtesy of a Rio Ruiz double and a Jesus Sucre single.

With a 3-1 lead headed to the bottom of the eighth, Hyde pulled another Showalter no-no: he brought in his “closer” Mychal Givens to start the frame. Now, Hyde may have planned on Givens staying in for a six-out save (and, after he struck out three of the four Yankees he faced, Givens would have earned the chance), but the Birds weren’t done with their scoring.

The O’s added two insurance runs in the ninth, utilizing the following sequence:

  • Reach on error
  • Flyout
  • Single
  • Double

With a now 5-1 lead, Hyde was certainly not going to stick with Givens, instead letting Richard Bleier come in with a four-run cushion and the chance to close things out.

It did…not go well!

Bleier was up the zone consistently, and New York was scorching him. Exit velocities for the batters Dick faced, via baseball savant:

Tulowitzki (B.S. Yankee Stadium home run): 98.2 MPH

LeMahieu (double): 107 MPH

Gardner (lineout): 105.2 MPH

Judge (single): 98.2 MPH

Hyde – and Birdland – had seen enough. New York had closed the gap to 5-2, had runners on first and second with just one out, and Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, and Andujar loomed.

So, naturally, Hyde turned to…MIKE WRIGHT?!

“Bold move cotton, let’s see how this works out dot gif”

Mike “Hothead” Wright…in a save situation. With runners on. In Yankee Stadium.

We O’s fans braced for the inevitable, yet somehow, Wright instead pulled off the unfathomable.

He struck out Stanton (Yankee fans will tell you this is completely predictable).

He gave up ONLY a single to Voit, making the game 5-3.

Then, representing the winning run, Andjuar again came up small, striking out as well.

Color me shocked! Good on you, Mike Wright.

And good on the Birds, defying all the odds by winning…a game! On the road! Against the Yankees!

Orioles Magic, baby!

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Reasons for O’s Fans to be Optimistic in 2019

view of brick building directly behind camden yards with scoreboard

The Baltimore Orioles are heading into an important season in franchise history, even if they aren’t expecting to become competitive in the American League East right away. The team is undergoing an overhaul to where they are hoping that they can get back to the top of the American League in the near future, meaning that the most important thing for the Baltimore Orioles is finding out exactly what they have going forward.

As is expected when going through a rebuild like the one that the Orioles are currently on, the current roster is filled with young players. All-Star third baseman Manny Machado was sent away last season so the team could move on, for example, meaning that the team has plenty of places for young talent to prove itself. And that is what this season is about for the players: proving themselves.

When rebuilding, the philosophy is generally to reduce payroll and find out which younger and less expensive players can be a legitimate part of a future championship team. From there, the players who show that they can be useful on a contender in the team’s future plans, as the team will attempt to lure more high-profile talent to surround the exciting youth.

Of course, that plan doesn’t translate to wins in the season to come, as the Orioles are projected to be at or near the bottom of Major League Baseball. World Series MLB odds at bet365 have the Orioles with the worst championship odds in the league at +60000. And while that doesn’t sound like a cause for optimism, there is a reason to be optimistic for Orioles fans.

One of the biggest reasons for optimism for the Orioles in the 2019 season is their commitment to the rebuilding effort. Among the main takeaways from spring training was the fact that the team isn’t planning on letting anything get in the way of their attempts to build this roster and team up the right way, rather than getting impatient and overspending to bring in someone that they think can fix the squad overnight.

Additionally, a reason to be optimistic about this season is the fact that the Orioles are going to have a new look to them. Watching Machado was exciting, of course, but seeing an entire group of new players and a new manager in Brandon Hyde means that if nothing else that the Orioles will be a different team this year. And when the team has struggled the way it has in previous seasons, it couldn’t possibly hurt to see something new.

Playing in arguably the best division in baseball, the Orioles are going to have some growing pains as they go through their rebuild. Any team that has close to 40 games against the Yankees and Red Sox on their schedule is due to take some lumps, after all. But the Orioles seem poised to stay the course and figure out what they can do to create a winner on the field in the not too distant future, and that is cause for optimism to be certain.

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Orioles Home Opener Forecast – 1 Week Out

collage of group pictures from baltimore orioles opening day

The forecast for the Orioles “Away Opener” against the Yankees has worked out well, as first pitch today was around 50F with partly cloudy skies.

Now let’s take a closer look at the Orioles’ home opener. The home opener weather will depend on a coastal storm that will develop and track north early next week. This will provide rain early in the week. In order for O’pening Day to be a nice day, we need this to move well off the coast by Thursday.

Thursday April 4

Times of clouds and sun

First pitch temp: 55 degrees Farenheit

GFS Model outlook for Orioles Home Opener

Images from GFS model showing dry conditions but a storm close enough to provide clouds and cooler temps. Much warmer air is just to our west, but if this storm can pull out faster, then sun and 60’s is more likely. Unfortunately, if it is slower, we could be dealing with more clouds, and perhaps showers with cooler temps. We should have a better idea by Monday.

Follow Christopher Bressi Weather Forecast Page for more information and daily forecasts.

Weather images used from: Business vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com and model images from www.tropicaltidbits.com.

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2019 MLB Preview & Predictions

Carlos Correa and George Spinger celebrate.

I wasn’t going to do my MLB predictions piece this year, but after writing my AL East preview and predictions, the juices were flowing and I figured, what the hell? So here it is, my MLB predictions, 2019 edition.

 

American League

East

New York Yankees (100-62)

The best lineup in baseball. The best bullpen in baseball. A solid rotation. The Yankees have turned baseball games into five-inning affairs in 2019. Good luck to everybody else.

Boston Red Sox (98-64)

A good rotation and a great lineup will give way to a mediocre bullpen, unseating the defending World Champs from their AL East throne in the process.

Tampa Bay Rays (85-77)

Three-to-four starters, an opener, and a stout bullpen is the key to success for Tampa Bay in 2019. In the AL East, it won’t matter.

Toronto Blue Jays (69-93)

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette should debut sometime this year. Until then, not much to watch in Toronto.

Baltimore Orioles (60-102)

When you’re at rock bottom, the only way to go is up. I mean, they can’t lose 115 games again, can they? This is the worst team in baseball.

Central

Cleveland Indians (92-70)

Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are nursing injuries and probably won’t start the year on Opening Day. Still, the rotation is the best in the division and should be able to stave off a re-loaded Twins ballclub.

Minnesota Twins (89-73)

Byron Buxton is on the comeback trail, and new additions Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and C.J. Cron will help pace the offense. New manager Rocco Baldelli could lead this team back to prominence.

Chicago White Sox (74-88)

Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada need to finally take that next step, and Tim Anderson needs to earn that contract he signed a couple of years ago. Eloy Jimenez will debut on Opening Day and challenge for Rookie of the Year honors.

Detroit Tigers (72-90)

Nick Castellanos can flat-out hit, and Miguel Cabrera is still Miguel Cabrera. Nick Goodrum is a star in the making. The injury to Michael Fulmer is devastating as the rest of the rotation, save for Tyson Ross, is garbage.

Kansas City Royals (65-97)

Adalberto Mondesi is primed to take that next big step towards stardom, and Ryan O’Hearn could infuse some power into the lineup. Alex Gordon is old, but between he, Billy Hamilton, and Jorge Soler, not many balls will find the outfield grass. This team has very little in proven starting pitching.

West

Houston Astros (99-63)

Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole make up arguably the best starting duo in the majors. The lineup, when healthy, can hit with anyone, and should be firing on all cylinders come May.

Los Angeles Angels (86-76)

The offense will be formidable, but the rotation is filled with fours and fives, and the bullpen is just okay. I don’t believe the A’s are as good as 2018 suggested and the Mariners unloaded some good players, so I expect the Angels to leap-frog into second.

Seattle Mariners (82-80)

The rotation could be stronger than many expect, and a lineup anchored by Mitch Haniger, who is catapulting towards super-stardom, will score some runs. But it’s the Mariners, so something will inevitably go wrong.

Oakland Athletics (76-86)

This team will hit a lot of home runs, but with Sean Manaea out until after the All-Star break, they have no rotational help and the bullpen, while strong, will be taxed before too long.

Texas Rangers (70-92)

If the year was 2015, the Rangers would have the best rotation in the division. Unfortunately, it’s 2019 and the rotation is filled with a bunch of has-beens, though Lance Lynn is a bounce-back candidate. The lineup is very boom-or-bust, and a lot would need to go right for the Rangers to be prominent this season.

Postseason

WC: Red Sox d. Twins

ALDS: Yankees d. Red Sox

ALDS: Astros d. Indians

ALCS: Astros d. Yankees 

Awards

MVP: Mike Trout

Cy Young: Chris Sale

Rookie of the Year: Eloy Jimenez

Manager of the Year: Rocco Baldelli

Comeback Player of the Year: Byron Buxton

 

National League

East

Philadelphia Phillies (92-70)

A team that faded down the stretch added Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, and David Robertson. The problem is, after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, who is going to pitch for them? The offense, however, will be good enough to take the division

Atlanta Braves (91-71)

The reigning division champs added Josh Donaldson to a young and talented roster. The rotation is young and talented. Honestly, with these top two teams, flip a coin.

Washington Nationals (88-74)

Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg are joined by Patrick Corbin to form a staunch rotation, though after them it’s a crapshoot. The offense will miss Bryce Harper, but the clubhouse won’t. The Nationals are known underachievers, and I expect more of the same in 2019.

New York Mets (86-76)

Anchored by Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergard, the pitching is fantastic. The offense is reloaded with Robinson Cano, and Michael Conforto is an All-Star caliber player. It’s unfortunate for the Mets that they play in this division. Also, Yoenis Cespedes will go down as the worst contract in franchise history as he is injured for the third consecutive year after signing that monster contract.

Florida Marlins (60-102)

The Marlins will battle it out with the Orioles for the worst record in baseball. Seriously, after trading Realmuto, they have nobody worth mentioning (that includes you, Starlin Castro).

Central

St. Louis Cardinals (95-67)

A healthy Adam Wainwright is their fifth starter. Let that sink in. The rotation is filthy, and there is incredible talent up and down the lineup. Paul Goldschmidt will finally be front and center where he belongs, and the Cards will finally be back where they belong, in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Chicago Cubs (92-70)

Kris Bryant will return to MVP form and a solid rotation featuring a healthy Yu Darvish will keep the Cubs in the thick of things all season long.

Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)

So many things went right for the Brewers in 2018 that it’s hard to imagine that happening again. They’ll be good because they’re a good baseball team. Unfortunately, they’re just not as good as the Cubs and Cardinals.

Pittsburgh Pirates (82-80)

Chris Archer is the most overrated pitcher in baseball, but pitching in the National League will keep him prominent. The pitching is good, the hitting is average with below average power.

Cincinnati Reds (74-88)

Yasiel Puig is a good player, but not good enough to bring the Reds back from futility. Joey Votto, even at 35, is one of the purest hitters in the game, and Eugenio Suarez is a stud. Losing Scooter Gennett for the first 2-3 months hurts big time. Plus, the Reds have no pitching.

West

Colorado Rockies (93-69)

Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Daniel Murphy. This team can mash, and their pitching is finally starting to turn the corner. If Jon Gray can get back to his 2017 form, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Los Angeles Dodgers (90-72)

Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are hurt, and Corey Seager is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Max Muncy has one-year-wonder written all over his face. The Dodgers will be good, but their run of division titles, and postseason appearances, will end at six.

San Diego Padres (83-79)

Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Wil Myers, and Eric Hosmer will help the Padres take the first step back towards contention. They don’t have the pitching yet, but Chris Paddack is the first of seven top-100 prospect pitchers to crack the rotation. The Padres are coming, folks. Just not in 2019.

Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83)

They lost Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, and A.J. Pollock. Adam Jones is good but not great, while David Peralta and Jake Lamb should be strong in the heart of the order. Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray will hold down the rotation, but the D-Backs were cut this offseason and the bleeding will last all year.

San Francisco Giants (64-98)

Buster Posey and Evan Longoria got old fast. This is a team that should be rebuilding. Look for them to trade Bumgarner, Longoria, and anybody else having a halfway decent year at the deadline. Except for Posey. He’s a lifer in this organization.

Postseason

WC: Braves d. Cubs

NLDS: Cardinals d. Braves

NLDS: Rockies d. Phillies

NLCS: Cardinals d. Rockies

WS: Astros d. Cardinals

Awards

MVP: Nolan Arenado

Cy Young: Max Scherzer

Rookie of the Year: Fernando Tatis, Jr.

Manager of the Year: Mike Matheny

Comeback Player of the Year: Tie: Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish

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