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The Orioles wrapped up a 7-game road trip today and will be back in the comfort of Camden for the next 6. The trip was a split success as the Birds took 3 of 4 from the White Sox in Chicago, but dropped 2 of 3 against the Royals in Kansas City. Jake Arrieta picked up two wins on the trip and Chris Tillman split his two starts. Kevin Gregg looked to get his season headed in the right direction with two saves.

That bats woke up on the trip and fans will hope to see the hit parade continue during the home stand. In 5 of the 7 games the O’s had 8 or more hits. Luke Scott had 3 homers, bringing his season total to 6. Nick Markakis raised his average from .204 to .225. Matt Wieters had 5 RBI in the five games he played in and Robert Andino had 7 hits in his 23 at-bats for a .304 average on the trip.

The Orioles are currently 14-16 and still .5 game up on the Red Sox, which still has to feel good, and only 3.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. Tampa Bay comes to town this weekend, and after the off day on Monday Seattle will be here for three Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. David Price pitched today for the Rays so they won’t face him, which is never a bad thing. At 2.5 games behind Tampa in the division, a series sweep would mean when Seattle comes to town the O’s would be in second place.

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30 Clubs in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

Yesterday, MLB Network’s tour of all 30 major league team spring training sites stopped in Sarasota where they previewed the upcoming season for the O’s. The hour long special was hosted by Paul Serevino, with Lisa Kerney reporting, and Dan Plesac & John Hart as the analysts.

One overwhelming theme was the influence of Buck Showalter. On Showalter, Hart said “There used to be a time when the Oriole Way really meant something. I see that coming back with Showalter.” To anyone who has followed the history of the Orioles, that means something. A team with a tradition rich history has not left fans with much worth remembering for the past decade, but when Showalter took over for Juan Samuel last July things turned around and wins followed. After his arrival the O’s went 34-23, which was the best record among A.L. East clubs over that span.

Both Hart and Plesac were quite complimentary of the key components of the lineup in Roberts, Jones, Markakis, and Wieters. Roberts was labeled as “the key to the lineup”. Hart sees Jones as a 20 homer guy with .300 potential. Hart also spoke of Markakis as the face of the franchise, who should be a consistent .300 hitter.

I was fortunate enough to be at Camden Yards on May 29, 2009 when Matt Wieters made his much anticipated debut. The television stations and radio stations were almost drooling. From the moment it was announced earlier that day, the game (which previously wasn’t announced as being a sellout) sold out. The feel around the stadium was electric. As he walked to the plate for the first time the theme to the movie “The Natural” played over the loud speakers. No pressure at all though, not in the least. When speaking about Wieters Hart cautioned us all to temper our expectations just a bit, atleast for now. He mentioned that his vast offensive potential will be reached, but for now his defense and handling a young pitching staff were his main priorities.

On the pitching staff he had extra praise for Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton. On Arrieta he said, “This is a big, strong, physical kid with pluses all across the board.” When it came to Britton his praise was just as high, “All the things you want to see young pitchers do, this kid does it. At worst, he’s going to be a middle-of-rotation starter and could go as high as number two in a rotation.”

The consensus at the end of the show was that they saw the Orioles as a .500 team this year, which would be a 15 win improvement over last year’s 66-96 record. I would tend to agree as the offense should be much improved and should score enough runs to give the young starters a bit more leeway on the days they don’t have their best stuff. It should be a fun season as the optimism around town is higher than it’s been in a while. I’d be happy with a 15 win increase and I think, inside, most O’s fans would be as well.

For those of you who missed the show, here are links to a few segments via MLB Network.

Nick Markakis discusses the impact of Buck Showalter

Jeremy Guthrie talks about how to make 2011 better than 2010

Matt Wieters’ expectations for this year’s pitching staff

Derrek Lee on his new team

Dead Horse Topics

Over the course of the season, the same issues with the team or certain players go on and on through out the year. I think the issue needs addressing, to realize that I had done several posts on it already. So here’s a few topics I’m swearing off til season’s end. If something big happens with said issue, then I’ll swear it off.

  • Daniel Cabrera is an inconsistent pitcher. I know this. You know this. He’s great one night and the next he’s terrible. Newsflash…he throws a lot balls. He is what he is and I’m not doing the “Maybe he turned the corner” post and next week do the “He stinks” post. No sir, not gonna do it.
  • The O’s need a shortstop. It’s been a revolving door all season and none of them have been any good. Juan Castro hasn’t been awful and he plays good defense. He’s 36 though, so he’s no longterm solution. Brandon Fahey, Luis Hernandez, Eider Torres, Alex Cintron, Freddie Bynum….blah. This is will get dealt with in the offseason and at this point in the season, there’s no reason to get worked up into a lather over it.
  • Besides Jeremy Guthrie, the rotation is pretty bad. Guthrie and Cabrera are the last two men standing from the opening day rotation. Steve Trachsel has ridden off into the good night, Adam Loewen is learning a new trade, Garrett Olson took too many lumps and will toil his craft in the bullpen or Norfolk. So it’s Guthrie, Cabrera, Chris Waters, ____ _______, and _____ _______. The starting pitching is going to give up some runs….a lot some nights because it’s not a major league rotation. A lot of the organizational pitching talent is at AA or A level. MacPhail doesn’t want to rush them as prior adminstrations have so we’re seeing some warm bodies and possibly a few come up who could have some talent (Bergesen or the snakebitten Penn). It’s another lost season is Baltimore, why sake some pitchers future for rushing some kids up for the sake of bringing them up.
  • Do bring up Matt Wieters/Don’t bring Matt Wieters up. For record, I’m in the Don’t Bring up Matt Wieters camp. Bring him to Spring Training next season and he’ll make the team no doubt. This is his first year in professional baseball. It’s a longer season and he’s got stuff to learn. Let him crush it and have a fat year in the minors. He’s fast track anyway… I don’t see the point in rushing him to see him this season.

Wieters still hot

It’s time to check up and see what’s going on with Matt_Wieters.

Since being promoted to Bowie, Wieters has 7 HR, 31 RBI and batting at a .363. The season to date (both Fredrick and Bowie) walks to strikeouts is at a sweet 47 to 45. He’s killing it. I’m still against the September call up for him. He’s destroying the minor leagues, but its still his first season in minor league ball. It’ll probably be his only season in the minors, so why rush him? I’m sure he’ll be the Opening Day catcher next season.

Catching up

A few things to catch up on:

Despite yesterday’s lackluster finale, the O’s took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees. A sweep would have been nice, but this is good enough.

-Daniel Cabrera

If I’m ever on the fence about whether to go out or stay in and watch the game, Daniel Cabrera is a pitcher who lets me know pretty quick as to what my plans should be.

First innings, he gives up 2 runs or strike out the side.

Second Innings, he’ll follow it up with another run or two or he’ll strike out of the side again.

By the top of third, I usually know whether to go or stay. If anything, I thank Daniel Cabrera for him letting me know quick whether he’s going to stink or not.

 

-Jim Johnson

Hey, I was wrong. I thought bringing Johnson up was a bad move. He’s been good in long relief. Saturday he went 3.1 innings of scoreless ball. It looks like he’s staying. But we need another bat on the bench…bye bye Greg Acquino?

-Brian Burres

He’s swell in 4 innings, but once that 5th starts….he’s a big inning waiting to happen. 5.2 innings 5 H 0 R 4 BB and 2 Ks.

-Luis Hernandez is no friend of Daniel Cabrera at the moment. He did the pitcher no favors by his defense on Friday, resulting in a long inning and a run on Cabrera.

Trembley uses the term ‘fielding slump’ for Hernandez’s woes.

“Fielding slump” must be Tremblian for “Cintron will be here quickier if you don’t remember how to field.”

Spencer Fordin once Alex Cintron gets in a groove in Norfolk, he should be up here very soon.

Also in the aforementioned mailbag…

Jake Arrieta is off to go start in Fredrick. 4 starts, 1-0 record, 2.75 ERA, 26 K, 12 BB, 10 H.He likely won’t see Bowie til the end of season, meaning that he isn’t going to be rushed to Baltimore like the pitching prospects of years gone by.

Speaking of rushed pitching prospects, Hayden Penn has pitched 7 innings in his last two starts (1-1 and a 4.88 ERA). Garrett Olson is 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 4 starts. These two should be in the rotation at some point this season. Olson’s getting first look the way’s he’s pitching. Of course, whose spots would they be taking? Steve Trachsel would be an easy guess. Brian Burres would be too. You have to factor in injuries.

My guess for the end of season rotation.

Guthrie

Cabrera

Olson

Albers

Penn

Steve Trachsel will be traded, released, or sold for scrap some time this season. Brian Burres is best suited for long relief and that’ll happen soon enough. I’m betting, not hoping, that Adam Loewen will probably have an injury some point this season. Radhames Liz will be called up to take Albers spot in long relief. I could be right…I could be wrong. That’s the beauty of guessing.

Matt Wieters is killing it. .422 and 4 HR in 15 games. Your starting catcher for your 2009 Baltimore Orioles…Matt Wieters.

-Steve Trachsel didn’t pitch bad Sunday, but he didn’t pitch great either. 6.1 innings 7 hits, 3 runs, 5 Ks, and 3 BB. That’s more than you’d expect actually…

-George Sherrill….ouch. 0.2 innings- 2 hits, 3 R, 2BB, and 2 Ks. His ERA is at 6.23 after now 2 rocky outings in the past week. Its not time to hit panic button on him. He’s a setup guy made into a closer who has 6 saves. If it keeps up who you do plug in? Jamie Walker? He’s a setup guy. Chad Bradford. ditto. Dennis Sarfate? Would be a nice guess, but he’s got to get his control under control. The closer spot isn’t something really to worry about at the moment.

Garbage Homer Follow up-

Had a good solution for the garbage homer from Daniel

Perhaps Corey Patterson and Jay Gibbons just aren’t very good hitters (shocking, I know) so when a team has a huge lead, the opposing pitcher is OK with throwing fastballs in the zone (which these guys can actually hit) and when the game is close, they throw breaking-pitches and paint the corners (which they can’t hit). I don’t think it has anything at all to do with “clutchness” but is rather a general lack of talent. I question whether or not it is actually the case that these players do hit a lot of “meaningless” HR, so I’ll take a look at that sometime soon and post something about it. If you already did that, then I will defer to your conclusions (I assume it’s just your impression of what happens).

Yeah, its just an observation. I didn’t crunch any stats, but it is the lesser players who crank out those homers. Of course, the factors that  you mention definately seem to set up the perfect storm for a garbage homer.

Blowout game=bullpen scrub + junk pitch + lesser player= garbage homer

If I had the time, which I doubt, I’d like to look up who Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson homered off of over the course of their time in Baltimore. I’m sure there’s more washed up relievers, 5th starters, and last bullpen options than aces, closers, and good setup guys…especially Gibbons.

Daniel runs the blog Frost King Baseball.

Not to have a knee jerk reaction here, but Iam Kennedy and Phil Hughes are supposed to be the future of  the Yank’s pitching staff. So far this season, they’re not exactly killing it. They both got killed by the mighty bats of O’s this weekend. Of course, I’m taking into account that its going to take them 10-12 starts to get acclimated to the major leagues. You can’t just throw them in there and on the first day expect an eight inning shutout from them. But let’s say they are what they, you think heads might roll because they could have got Johan Santana?

I was watching ESPN yesterday and surprise, Steve Phillips said something stupid. They were talking about possible landing spots for Frank Thomas and one of the 4 teams he thought was Baltimore. His reasoning was something along the lines “As long as they keep playing the way they are, a bat like Thomas would really help them out.” Frank Thomas is almost 40. We’re rebuilding and trying to shed players the wrong side of 30. What would adding Thomas do for the O’s? He might heat up and hit 20 homers. But that means you have play him everyday at DH, which means you’re giving up a spot in offense that could be used to get a young player playing time, whether it be at DH or moving a Huff/Millar/Mora to DH any given game to have a Scott Moore at 3rd or DHing Luke Scott every now and then. If Thomas isn’t hitting homers, he’s like a boulder on the base paths. That’s certainly not Trembley’s style of ball. It’s not going to happen, but I thought it was a stupid suggestion. If Thomas plays again, my money’s Seattle first. Maybe Tampa or the Twins. I could even see the Rangers. But not the O’s.

 

 

O’s Power Ranking

Here’s something I’m going to give a shot. Every sport on every major sports site has power rankings. Most of them take themselves much too seriously. I’m going to give ups and downs on what’s going on in Birdland.

Rank             Direction             Who?                            Snarky oh so clever comments

1.                      UP                 The bullpen                    Looks better than last year’s jokers

                                                                                     

2.                      UP                 Luke Scott                     Miggi who? 

3.                     UP                 Melvin Mora                   Scott Moore can’t be too happy

4.                   DOWN             Gary Thorne                   It’s Richie Sexson….NOT Richie Sexton

5.                   UP                   Luis Hernandez              Game winner yesterday, 2 hits today.

6.                   DOWN             Adam Loewen                More of the same. Is he the Canadian Cabrera?

7.                   PUSH               Rotation                         Medicore enough not to lose

8.                  DOWN         Jim Hunter MASN Commericals        They annoy me.

9.                  UP                   Matt Wieters                     2 HRs in his debut.

10.                UP                   Brian Roberts                    Playing great to start the season.

11.               DOWN              Peter Angelos                   DUH

 

Wieters hits 2 HRs in Debut

(from the Baltimore Sun)

Matt Wieters had an awesome debut with the Fredick Keys last night. Wieters homered in his first two at bats and went 2-3 with 3 RBIs. I think he’ll be the starting catcher for the O’s next season. If he keeps this up, there’s going to be plenty of folks saying “what’s he’s doing he minors? He should be up here now!” Remember, he’s been a college player and as the article says he’s used to only playing 68 games a season. The minor league season is 140 and the major league season is 162. Being a catcher, he’s not playing every single game. Let’s get him a full season in the minors and get his durability up instead of rushing him up early like we do all of our prospects just to humor ourselves.

A couple of other minor league notes:

Jake Arrieta, a fifth-round pick out of Texas Christian, got the start, allowing a run on two hits and striking out nine in four innings.

Jake Arrieta had a nice start, you’d like to see him go further than 4 innings but its the first start of the year. Give him a few starts and let him get the durability back up. 9 Ks in 4 innings is pretty sweet. He could look nice in the rotation next season, if he keeps this up.

The only sour note involved Billy Rowell, who pulled up while running to first in the first inning and was removed from the game.

It was just a tweak to the ankle, so nothing major. I’m look for him to have a big year so he can be a part of the big club next season.