Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring Training Update

The Orioles are 1-2 after 3 exhibition games, but that doesn't really matter. With the starting lineup pretty much locked and mostly a struggle for the last 2 bench spots, I'm more concerned with the starting rotation.

Brad Hennessey, the guy I bashed in my last post, lasted only 1 1/3 innings starting the O's first game. He left with a minor injury after allowing 2 hits, 2 runs, and 3 walks. He didn't strike anyone out. While it's too early to count anyone out, this should be an indicator to the O's that Hennessey doesn't have what it takes to be a contributor in this organization. He was followed by Chris Waters, who also struggled (1 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 K), David Pauley (only 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 0 K), and Brian Bass (2 IP, 4 H, 2 runs only 1 earned, 2 K). Waters is an aging minor leaguer who struggled with the team last year but still has an outside chance. While he didn't walk anyone, he also only got one guy out. Bass is basically an older version of Hennessey and Waters, and allowed 4 hits in 2 innings.

Danys Baez (my other nemesis) started the second game and was roughed up in his only inning, in which he walked 3, gave up 1 hit, and allowed 2 runs. Hopefully, the O's realize that he's not worth their time or the money they're paying him. Matt Albers did follow up with 2 perfect innings and he added a strikeout. It's good to see him start well after his injury.

Koji Uehara made his highly anticipated debut in the third game, striking out 3, allowing a hit, a walk, and no runs in two innings. Mark Hendrickson didn't fare so well, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) off of 5 hits and a walk over 2 innings. Hayden Penn (shout out to Alexis!) struck out 3 and allowed 2 hits in 2 scoreless innings.

My conservative outlook: Hennessey, Baez, Waters, Bass, and Hendrickson are too hittable and don't have good enough stuff to be major league starters. If they don't improve soon, the O's should move on. Pauley I'm rooting for, but he has to prove that he's different from the 5 I just mentioned. 5 hits in 1/3 of an inning is pretty horrific. Uehara, Albers, and Penn all did well and are establishing themselves early on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Are you serious?

Yeah back on the grind again, I know it's been a little while but it's time again.
Folks askin', Tim when you gonna blog again? I'm like, hold up give me time my man.

Okay, so maybe I'm not Lecrae, but it has been a while and I'm ready to talk about some things that I just don't understand. I read this week that the O's are really interested in Brad Hennessey and Danys Baez as potential starters. Baez is a reliever who was 0-6 with a 6.44 ERA with the O's in 2007. He missed all of last season with an injury. So he is awful and rusty, great combination. Not only that, he wants to be a starting pitcher. Let's look at his career as a starting pitcher. 7 years ago he started 26 games for the Indians, throwing 154 innings (that's about 6 per game), going 9-10 with a 4.44 ERA, walking 75, and striking out 121. Those are Daniel Cabrera-like numbers. But that was when Baez was 25 and throwing the ball 98 mph. Plus he played for the Indians, a good team. I think Baez should have a hard time making the team as a reliever, let alone a starter.

Hennessey is a 29 year old non-roster invite. So if he makes the team, the O's will have to get rid of someone from the 40 man roster, probably someone who is a lot better than Hennessey. But let's be fair and look at his career as a first round draft pick and starting pitcher with the Giants in the last five seasons. He has 44 career starts, but I'm going to use my math skills to show how his career as a starter would look in one season (32 starts): 171 innings (5 1/3 per start, pretty bad), 4.76 ERA (not bad, but in the easier NL), 72 walks (pretty wild), 87 strikeouts (pathetic), and an 8-11 record. He also gives up home runs like it's batting practice. I guess I just don't see what the O's are excited about. He doesn't have great control or great stuff, he is no longer young, he doesnt pitch many innings, and he has never pitched against the AL, not to mention the AL East.

This all leads me to say that I'd rather see Rich Hill, Hayden Penn, David Pauley, Matt Albers, and Radhames Liz fight for the last three rotation spots. Don't even get me started on Matt Hendrickson.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If I was Andy MacPhail...

I would finish up the Brian Roberts extension right now. After that, I would leave the team be. I have to give MacPhail credit, I was angry when he designated Scott Moore for assignment to make room for Ty Wigginton, but no one claimed Moore and the Orioles got him right back. Here's what else I think he should do this year.

Trade Aubrey Huff - Huff had a huge comeback last year, but he's 30 something and in his final year of his contract. If he continues to play well, the O's should trade him for prospects. He's not the long term answer. They have Wigginton who can play every day, and I'm thinking even more of prospects like Brandon Snyder, Billy Rowell, Mike Costanzo, and Scott Moore. They are all 1B/3B types with good power and at least one of them should turn out to be a solid major leaguer. It's time to build for the future.

Trade George Sherrill - This is entirely dependent on Chris Ray's comeback. If Ray can become the closer he was before, the O's don't need Sherrill, who is already in his 30's and not all that great. If he starts out hot again this year, the O's can trade him to a contender and get a few prospects out of him.

Trade for Gavin Floyd and/or Justin Morneau - Floyd is from Baltimore and is a rising pitcher for the White Sox. If they fall out of contention, they may be willing to trade him for prospects, and the O's have plenty of those. They have several elite pitching prospects (Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman) and even more good ones (Patton, Liz, Penn, Albers). Minnesota always trades its players away before they start demanding more money, and Morneau may be in the same situation. He could be the young power hitter that the O's need. He's an upgrade over Huff, still young, and very consistent. Plus he's Canadian, eh?

Trade for Brandon Wood - The Angels have no room for another shortstop. It's just that this SS happened to hit 58 home runs a few years ago between AA and the Olympics in 150 games. He hit 38 last year in the minors. The Angels have never been able to give him enough at bats to really get going. It's possible that the O's could trade Sherrill or Huff straight up for him. They need a 1B to replace Teixeira and bullpen help after losing K-Rod.

You may wonder why I think the O's should trade Sherrill and Huff. I think that they are getting old and don't fit into the O's future. I can't see them being big contributors 2-3 years from now. I also think they are coming off good seasons and there value is high right now. If the O's can continue to make trades like the Tejada and Bedard trades, I say go for it. Sherrill and Huff won't bring as much, but they could bring 2-3 prospects each. I don't think they should trade Mora, because he has been an Oriole so long and adds a lot to the club. Jamie Walker and Danys Baez I would like to trade, but there won't be much interest from other teams. I think that the Orioles have what it takes to compete next season, and if MacPhail can make a few moves like the ones above, he can transform the O's into a contender for years. Imagine this lineup and rotation for the next three years, starting 2010. (This is an optimistic lineup)

2B Brian Roberts .300 AVG, 110 R, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 40 SB
CF Adam Jones .290, 90, 20, 75, 15
RF Nick Markakis .310, 100, 25, 110, 15
1B Justin Morneau .285, 90, 30, 120, 0
C Matt Wieters .290, 75, 25, 90, 0
DH Nolan Reimold .270, 75, 25, 80, 10
3B Billy Rowell .285, 70, 25, 75, 0
SS Brandon Wood .275, 70, 25, 70, 5
LF Felix Pie .270, 75, 5, 45, 40

SP Jeremy Guthrie 17 W, 3.60 ERA, 170 K
SP Gavin Floyd 16, 3.75, 160
SP Rich Hill 14, 3.90, 190
SP Brian Matusz 13, 4.10, 150
SP Chris Tillman 13, 4.20, 140
CL Chris Ray 40 SV, 2.90

I think that looks like a winning team.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fantasy Baseball - The Real Thing

Because the Orioles are so bad, I've really turned to fantasy baseball, or fanbase as my friends and I have renamed it. My draft is only a few weeks away and I decided that I'd spend a little time looking at the Orioles and their values in the fantasy world. I'll rank them in terms of their value, and keep in mind that I'm in an American League only setting with 6 teams. I'll put in parentheses where I would rank them among players at their position.

1. OF Nick Markakis (3) - He is a legitimate 5 tool player, who will get you at least 20 home runs, 10 steals, 90 runs, 90 RBIs, and hit .300. Every year he has gotten better, and I expect the same to be true this year. My prediction - .305 AVG, 25 HR, 100 R, 100 RBI, 15 SB. That's worth a 3rd round pick in an AL-only league.

2. 2B Brian Roberts (3) - He is one of the best second basemen in the AL, and that has a lot of value. Especially when you know he will hit for a high average and get a lot of runs and steals. The only fear is that he could be traded. I'll still predict .295, 10 HR, 105 R, 55 RBI, 40 SB. Consider him around the 5th round.

3. 1B Aubrey Huff (7) - I have a feeling that he will regress some this year, but he is still a good hitter at a position where hitting is the weakest it has been in a long time. I'm going to guess .275, 25 HR, 85 R, 95 RBI, 5 SB. He could go anywhere between the 7th and 9th rounds.

4. SP Jeremy Guthrie (15) - I'm a little worried with his injury last year and him playing in the World Baseball Classic, but worries aside, he is a very good pitcher. And if his bad luck ends, he should finally win some more games. I'm calling 14 wins, with a 3.70 ERA, and 160 strikeouts. He should fall to about the 8th or 9th round.

5. 3B Melvin Mora (7)
- No one really knows what kind of year he will have. He could be the Mora who hits .285 with 25 HR and 90 runs and RBIs, or the one who hits .260 with 10 HR, 65 runs, and 60 RBIs. He'll probably end up going in the 18th-21st round. But he may get passed on entirely.

6. OF Adam Jones (27) - He could break out this year, but there are a lot of good outfielders. Still, he is a worth a look and will be taken in one of the last three rounds (19,20,21). He'll hit .270-290 with 15-20 HRs and 10-15 SBs.

7. OF Luke Scott (26) - He may lose at bats due to Ty Wigginton, but when he's in the lineup he will hit. If he's given the at bats, he'll do what he did last year: .260, 25 HRs, 70 R, 75 RBI. I'm betting he doesn't get drafted, but he could be taken in round 20 or 21 as a backup.

It's too early to talk about Matt Wieters, Rich Hill, George Sherrill, and Chris Ray. We don't know exactly when Wieters will be in the majors, who will be the closer, or if Hill makes the team. But they all have the potential to be impact players.

Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, and Koji Uehara should not be counted on for fantasy production. They aren't bad players, but they won't pack on the stats.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are we heading in the right direction?

I want to ask my readers this question and see what they have to say.

The contracts of Aubrey Huff, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Danys Baez, and Jamie Walker are set to expire after this season. Do the O's look to trade them, do they sign them to new contract extensions, or do they let them go? This is a rebuilding team, right? Do any of these players fit into that plan?

But if they are rebuilding, why did they sign Mark Hendrickson, Ty Wigginton, and Koji Uehara. Why did they trade for Ryan Freel? Are these players really going to help in the long run or will they just block the way for prospects? Wigginton ended Scott Moore's stay with the O's. Freel may have destroyed the hopes of Nolan Reimold and Lou Montanez for a spot on the team. Hendrickson and Uehara may cost Hayden Penn his last shot to stick with the O's.

Do the O's have the young talent they need to compete? They have Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Felix Pie. Jeremy Guthrie, James Johnson, and Chris Ray have a lot of potential as pitchers. They have several top prospects who are a year or two away from the majors (Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz) and other prospects who are in between AAA and the majors (Troy Patton, Radhames Liz, Penn, Reimold, Montanez). Are there any holes?

As an Orioles fan, I am left asking questions about whether the future looks any brighter this year than in any other. The hope is there, but I still wonder at times what the O's are doing. I'm looking for your feedback.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is there any hope?

Sometimes I find myself wondering if it is even worth following the O's. I mean, in all likelihood, they will start out strong, maybe even be in first place by April. Then there will be an injury or two, the young starting pitchers will begin to struggle, and the bullpen will be overused and collapse. Most of you are probably asking the same thing. Well, the truth is that the O's will finish in last place again, unless several of the following things happen:

1. The AL East comes back down to Earth. Last year, Tampa Bay, Boston, New York, and Toronto all had winning records. The Devil Rays made it to the World Series. The Red Sox made it to the AL Championship Series. Unless some of these teams regress at least a little, the O's won't be able to compete with them, even if they did somehow manage to win 81+ games. Probability of happening: 25%

2. Repeat seasons from Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora. Huff and Mora appeared to be declining and nearing the end of their careers until both broke out last year and became RBI machines. They need to again drive in runs from the middle of the lineup. Probability: 30%

3. Run support for Jeremy Guthrie. Last year's ace was 10-12 with a 3.63 ERA. Batters hit .249 against him. On 10 occasions when he gave up 2 runs or less, he did not get the win. That's a third of his starts. The O's scored only 128 runs in his 30 starts. Mike Mussina had a 3.37 ERA. Batters hit . 278 against him. But the Yankees scored 174 in his 34 starts. His record? 20-9. Guthrie should (and needs to) win 15-20 games if he continues to pitch effectively. Probability: 50%

4. Progression of young hitters. Nick Markakis needs to keep improving, as he has in his first three seasons. He needs to hit .300 with 25 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 RBI's. Adam Jones needs to do the same. Felix Pie and Matt Wieters need to have solid first full seasons. All four of these hitters must prove themselves to be capable starters if the O's want to compete. Probability: 60%

5. Starting pitchers that can pitch 6 innings every 5th day. Last year's staff was liable to pitch anywhere from 1-5 innings, apart from Guthrie. That forced the bullpen to pitch way too often and ruined their effectiveness. This is the only reason worth considering Hendrickson for a rotation spot. Probability: 40%

Last year, the O's were 68-94. If they are successful in doing all 5 of these things, they could end up winning 20-30 more games. Probability: 0.9%

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preview: The Outfield

Wow, I'm on fire today. Either that or I have no life. (I'm going to justify myself with the first option) Now let's look at the O's greatest strength, the outfield. The only problem is that they cannot keep them all on the team, which will lead to some tough choices. But you have to like the young combination of Pie, Jones, and Markakis.

Luke Scott - Scott will move to DH this season, although he could also be traded. I prefer the first option. He is streaky, but should build on last year's success.

Adam Jones
- I am excited to see how Jones does this year. I'm going to predict .280, 20 home runs, 80 runs, and 80 RBI's. Add 15 steals and a possible Gold Glove.

Nick Markakis
- I was extremely relieved to see him sign the six year contract. He's the best home grown player we've had since Ripken and we can't watch him go. In this year's improved lineup, he should return to 100 runs and 100 RBI's. Will he make the leap in home runs? My guess is he'll have 25-30, but no more.

Felix Pie
- I don't want to set any expectations on Pie. (no you do not say his name like pie as in the food) Hopefully, he is better at being Corey Patterson than Corey Patterson was.

Ryan Freel
- It's entirely possible that Freel might not make the team, which is a waste. He's a talented player and he can play the infield as well as the outfield. I'm not sure if they should have traded for him, but now that they have, they should make use of him. Maybe that means trading him for pitching.

Lou Montanez
- Montanez was very good last year. He won the Triple A Triple Crown even though he missed the last month because he got called up by the O's. He continued his success in the majors and should ideally be on the team. But there's simply no room for him. I blame that on the front office. Did they really need Freel, Wigginton, and Pie? (The answer is no in case you were wondering)

Nolan Reimold
- Reimold was a top prospect and is still a good one. He is a less athletic version of Nick Markakis. He is ready for the majors but is in the same situation as Montanez.

My Preferred Outfield:
LF Pie
CF Jones
RF Markakis
DH Scott
OF Freel (backup)

The O's Probable Outfield:
LF Pie
CF Jones
RF Markakis
DH Scott
OF Freel (backup)

Hey, they're the same!

Preview: The Infield

The weekend is here! Time for a quick post before I chill. The O's added Cesar Izturis to play short, and are ready to move Aubrey Huff from DH to first base. He will be the only defensive concern this year at any position.

Gregg Zaun - The Orioles signed the veteran catcher to start for the beginning of the year until Matt Wieters is ready and then to become the backup and mentor him. He is good defensively, but below average with a bat.

Matt Wieters - Unless the star prospect pwns Spring Training and the Orioles change their minds, he will have to wait until mid-May to start pwning full time. I feel like they should give him the spot if he earns it, like Markakis did a few years ago. Look how he turned out.

Synonymous Catchers - Gustavo Quiroz, Jose Reyes, Robby Hammock, Chad Moeller, Adam Donachie - If Zaun is below average with a bat, these guys shouldn't be allowed to touch a bat. But one of them will probably be Zaun's backup until Wieters gets called up; then they'll be released. Nice job description. I'm pulling for Quiroz, he's young, has upside, and caught for the O's last year... They'll give it to the old guy, Moeller.

Aubrey Huff - If he can come close to last year and play average defense...the O's still won't win many games. But it won't be his fault.

Brian Roberts - Hopefully he signs a contract extension like Markakis. Otherwise, he will be traded in the next five months. That would be a shame; I mean, he did use steroids once, but he apologized and he loves Jesus. That's good enough for me.

Melvin Mora - This is Mora's last year in Baltimore and for his sake I hope it's a good one. He has been a consistent player for Baltimore the past seven or so seasons. Maybe his kids will become the future O's infield. If he plays poorly, the O's could give Wigginton or a prospect his job.

Cesar Izturis - He will be a good double play combination with Roberts and be an upgrade over last year. Any offense will be a bonus.

Ty Wigginton - I like Wigginton. He's worked hard his whole career, has put up some good numbers, especially against lefties, and can play first, second, and third. But his presence will probably cost someone else, namely Scott Moore, Lou Montanez, or Nolan Reimold. I would have liked to see the O's give one of those young players a chance. They are a rebuilding team. (Aren't they, Andy MacPhail?)

Scott Moore - Moore has good potential. He's a former first round draft pick. He plays first and third, and played shortstop last year in the minors. He needs to hit really well and prove he can master shortstop though, because the O's don't appear to think as highly of him as I do. Keep in mind he has no options left, so this is his last shot to stick with the O's.

Others - Chris Gomez, Donnie Murphy, Oscar Salazar - These guys had a legitimate opportunity before Wigginton was signed. Gomez could make the team if the O's decided they needed him at shortstop. Salazar is unfortunate. He is a good hitter, but 30, and probably won't be used by the O's again. He should catch on with another team.

My Preferred Infield:
C Wieters
1B Huff
2B Roberts
3B Mora
SS Izturis
C Zaun (backup)
IF Wigginton (backup)
IF Moore (backup)

The O's Probable Infield:
C Zaun
1B Huff
2B Roberts
3B Mora
SS Izturis
C Moeller (backup)
IF Wigginton (backup)

Preview: The Bullpen

George Sherrill will be given the chance to return to his All-Star form as closer, and he will be joined in the bullpen by Chris Ray, who returns from injury and James Johnson, who emerged last season as a dominant set up man. The O's are talking about carrying 13 pitchers. We'll see about that.

Danys Baez - After pitching miserably in '07 and missing all of '08, Baez is owed $5.5 million in '09. That may be the only reason he makes the team. But if he can't get people out in spring training, the O's might and would be wise to let him go.

Jamie Walker - Walker is in a similar boat as Baez, but he has the advantage of being left-handed. The O's will give him a little more slack. They will probably not cut both Baez and Walker, as that would be a waste of $10 million. What's a few million between friends?

George Sherrill - The left hander acquired in the Bedard trade was very good in the first half, leading the league at one point with 31 saves. Just don't look at his second half. He will be the closer again this year, although Ray may be used in certain situations and may unseat him if Sherrill is ineffective.

Chris Ray - I'm excited to have "cray" back in business. He is ideally the future closer and I hope to see him regain his '05 and '06 lights out ability.

James Johnson - The former starter was a pleasant surprise last year and is guaranteed a spot in the bullpen. Hopefully he will be able to adjust this year, as batters caught on to his fastball last year. He needs to learn to vary his pitches better.

Dennis Sarfate - Sarfate proved he had the makings of a great reliever, consistently throwing in the upper 90's. He is almost certain to have a spot on the team, but needs to cut down on his walks. He is very comparable to Ray.

Mark Hendrickson - Assuming that he does not win a starting spot, the lefty should be the team's long reliever.

Wilfredo Perez - I had never heard of this guy until a few weeks ago, but insiders say he has a shot of becoming the next Johnson.

Matt Albers - He was very effective in relief last year and will pitch at some point this year. Whether it's as a starter or reliever will be the question.

Radhames Liz - The O's may convert him to a reliever, but I wouldn't expect them to do that this early. They'll give him a chance to win a spot in the rotation, or else have him start in Triple-A. Only if he continues to struggle will they consider him for the bullpen.

Brian Bass - Bass is out of options, but he is in all honesty, not a major league caliber player. If he makes the team, I will be mad.

Others - Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller, Jim Hoey, John Parrish - I liked what I saw last year in Mickolio and Miller last year, but there just aren't enough spots at this point. But when injuries occur or other pitchers are ineffective, they should be the first ones called up, and should still play important roles this year. Hoey missed last season and will need some time in the minors to get back into the groove. Parrish has an outside chance of beating out Walker or Hendrickson as a left-handed option, but I wouldn't bet on it.

My Preffered Bullpen:
LR Hendrickson (long relief)
MR Sarfate (middle relief)
MR Albers
MR Walker
SU Johnson (set up)
SU Ray
CL Sherrill (closer)

The O's Probable Bullpen:
LR Albers
MR Sarfate
MR Walker
MR Baez
MR Perez
SU Johnson
SU Ray
CL Sherrill

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Preview: The Rotation

I'll take a little time between Mere Christianity and The Iliad to address something almost as important: the Orioles starting rotation. Jeremy Guthrie will return as the staff ace, but the picture is cloudy beyond him. Let's look at some of the competitors.

Koji Uehara - The Japanese free agent was given a 2 year, $10 million deal and will therefore find a spot in the rotation, probably in the number 2 or 3 spot. I'm not sure what to expect from him, so I won't say anything else

Mark Hendrickson - The former NBA player is average at best. He is a left hander who can give you 200 innings, but they won't necessarily be good ones. On my team, there is no way he gets in. But who knows what the O's would do. He would make a decent long reliever in the bullpen.

Jeremy Guthrie - Guthrie should continue to improve and hopefully avoid injuries. The past two seasons he has suffered from unimaginably horrific bad run support. (Yes I just said that) That is probably just bad luck and look for him to win 15 games this year.

Matt Albers - He proved he had the stuff last year, mostly as a reliever, and deserves a shot as a starter. But he should and probably will start the season in Triple A after missing the second half of last season due to injury. But he shouldn't stay there long.

Rich Hill - The former Cub has very good stuff and his chances of regaining his control are better than Daniel Cabrera's chances of finding it for the first time. Unless he has a terrible spring, he should earn a spot in the rotation. If he doesn't, he will have to be put on waivers because he has no minor league options left. I guarantee that some other team will claim him if that happens.

Radhames Liz - Liz is scarily similar to Cabrera, and the Orioles have hopefully learned from Cabrera that it is best for young pitchers to learn how to throw strikes before pitching in the major leagues. That being said, he could be a dominant pitcher later in the year, but most likely will resurface in the future.

Troy Patton - Last year's preseason favorite to win the No. 5 spot after being acquired in the Tejada trade, Patton was injured and missed the entire season. Don't expect the O's to rush him back. Don't blame them either.

Hayden Penn - It's a shame that this fine young pitcher has freak accidents every time it looks like he is going to stick with the O's. This time, he is out of options, so if he doesn't make the team, he is probably gone. So unless he gets hit by a runaway cow, the O's should give him a shot at the back end of the rotation. He is older and more mature and could surprise people. If he gets the job, look for 10 wins and a decent rookie season.

Chris Waters - The minor league journeyman was inconsistent last year, but is similar to Brian Burres in that he doesn't have the stuff to be a reliable starter. He will have to prove that he is beyond all doubt better than Penn, Hill, Hendrickson, and company to secure a spot. Don't get your hopes up.

David Pauley - The Orioles traded for him in the offseason, and he too is out of options. I don't know much about him, but the Orioles should give him a fair look and treat him similar to Penn. Because he is out of options, he should be given the nod in a close race over Albers or Liz. But the O's have a tradition of defying all logic.

Others - Danys Baez, James Johnson, Alfredo Simon, Brad Hennessey - Baez is awful enough as a reliever, Johnson should be given a shot, but the O's are set on him as a reliever, and Simon will be lucky if he is not designated for assignment to make room for Ty Wigginton. I don't even know why the O's invited Hennessey to spring training or why I am even mentioning his name.

My Preferred Rotation:
1. Guthrie
2. Uehara
3. Hill
4. Penn
5. Pauley

The O's Probable Rotation:
1. Guthrie
2. Hill
3. Uehara
4. Hendrickson
5. Pauley

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Looking at the Offseason Acquisitions

C Ramon Hernandez traded for IF/OF Ryan Freel and 2 prospects

Hernandez was aging poorly; his arm was not what it used to be and he was extremely slow on the base paths. I once saw him hit a grounder that bounced off the diving shortstop's glove. The shortstop slowly got up from the ground, stumbled over to the ball, picked it up, made an off-balance throw, and still got Hernandez out by at least a step. He was a good player, but overpaid, injury prone, and blocking the path of upcoming star Matt Wieters. Freel has the right type of mentality for a young Orioles team. He hustles and uses his athleticism in every aspect of the game, reminding me a lot of David Newhan. He will be a solid backup and the two prospects add infield depth to the Oriole organization. Justin Turner may be Brian Roberts' eventual replacement.

SS Cesar Izturis signed to a 2 year deal

Last year we watched Luis Hernanez, Brandon Fahey, Freddie Bynum, Alex Cintron, and Juan Castro hit less than .225 with less than 5 home runs. Izturis is no superstar, but he is an excellent defensive player and will provide stability at a position where there was none last year. Even if he hits .260, he will be a huge upgrade. He also has the ability to steal 20-30 bases.

LHP Mark Hendrickson signed to a 1 year deal

Hendrickson is not the type of player to get excited about. He is strictl a consistent innings eater, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen. The Orioles were smart in only signing him to a one year deal. It made sense at the time, but with the additions of other, younger pitchers, Hendrickson has becme a veteran with no future on the the team and no reason to be on it. Unfortunately, he will make the team and keep a more promising player from getting a chance.

RHP Koji Uehara signed to a 2 year deal

It didn't make much sense to me for a rebuilding team to sign a 34-year old who spent part of last season in the Japanese minor leagues and only throws 85 miles per hour. The only potential upside is that he could surprise Major League hitters and also open up Japan as a future O's market.

LHP Garrett Olson and prospect traded for OF Felix Pie

The O's may have given up on Olson too quickly (see John Maine), and it didn't make sense to add another outfielder when they already had Luke Scott, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. But Olson upset the team when he called his '08 season a success a success, even though he finished with an ERA above 6. In all likelihood, he is a 4th or 5th starter at best, and the prospect the O's gaveup was not considered an impact pitcher. Pie was once considered one of the top prospects in the game, but performed poorly in brief stints with the Cubs, who may be giving up on him too early as well. He should give the Orioles one of the best outfields in the AL for many years and allow Scott to move to DH. The O's quickly replaced Olson with other young pitchers, making this deal a good one. Plus a friend and I wrote Garrett Olson a letter. We figured he would be upset that he keeps getting traded, but we believe in him.

RHP Randor Bierd traded for RHP David Pauley

Bierd was a Rule 5 pick who dominated in the bullpen last year until he was messed up by injuries and finished poorly. The Orioles may someday regret letting him go. Pauley has pitched well in the minors and provides the O's with a young option for the back of the rotation. He is similar to Jeremy Guthrie in that he was discarded by the Indians after he failed to live up to expectations. He is also similar in that he has no options left, which means that if he doesn't make the Orioles, he will likely be lost to another team. The O's should give him a shot, but may have trapped themselves with the additions of Hendrickson and Uehara. If he doesn't make the team, they will have wasted a potential set-up man in Bierd.

C Greg Zaun signed to a 1 year deal

Zaun will likely be the starter until Wieters is ready and then will become his backup and mentor. He understands his role and should be a welcome addition.

Player to be Named traded for LHP Rich Hill

Hill had a breakout year in '07, had one out of control season, and was let go by the Cubs. But even last year with his control problems, his ERA was 4.12, which shows his stuff is still very good. If he regains his command, he will be an excellent number 2 or 3 starter and the Orioles will give up a good prospect. If he remains wild and doesn't make the team, the O's will give up a no-name prospect. Either way, this deal was worth it.

INF Ty Wigginton signed to a 2 year deal

Wigginton has hit well the last three seasons and is a good player. He has the ability to hit .280-.290 with 20-25 home runs. But he is 31 years old and the Orioles already have Ryan Freel. The Orioles are now stuck with Wigginton for two years, when they really should have given an opportunity to Scott Moore and Lou Montanez. This move reminds me of the Jay Payton signing a few years ago.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Introducing the Orioles: A History of Losing

The year is 1997. What is significant? It is the last time that the Baltimore Orioles had a winning season. For several years they rode their aging stars, from Cal Ripken to Mike Bordick, B.J. Surhoff, and Brady Anderson, each year coming up short. Other stars like Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Armando Benitez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roberto Alomar left the team when it was apparent that the O's were not heading in the right direction. How did they know? When you have that many All-Stars on one team and you only win 70 some games, something is wrong.

The Orioles turned to a strategy that proved to be equally unsuccessful. They tried spending on big names and proven veterans like Albert Belle, Will Clark, Jeff Conine, Charles Johnson, and Delino DeShields, but they mostly underperformed and were unable to make up for the pitching staff's ineffectiveness.

In 2001, the Orioles attempted to dump their high-priced veterans and bring in a more youthful team to add on to their existing core of Sidney Ponson, Jason Johnson, and Jerry Hairston. Their moves proved largely unsuccessful (this is an understatement), with the only notable additon being Melvin Mora. They gave young players like Chris Richards and Josh Towers a chance to make a name for themselves, but their success was shortlived and the Orioles began a tradition of starting out strong and collapsing midseason. This would become a very long tradition.

Failing to accomplish much, the O's turned to a new ideology, one that made the least sense of all. They filled their roster with overpaid, average veterans like Omar Daal, Deivi Cruz, Ken Singleton, and Marty Cordova. They were a team without a superstar and lacking young talent. Fortunately, several pitchers developed or emerged into definite talents. Sidney Ponson had a breakout season, joined by Jason Johnson, Rodrigo Lopez, Jorge Julio. But they proved to be one year wonders or inconsistent major leaguers. Ponson became famed as the husky Aruban knight with severe drinking problems. Julio was known to walk the bases loaded before getting the save. The O's continued to tease fans with glimpses of talent, but they never convinced anyone that they were close to competing.

The team took an aggressive approach to the 2004 season. They signed stars Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada, and Rafael Palmeiro. Rookies Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard became cornerstones in the rotation and B.J. Ryan proved himself as a dominant reliever and future closer. Melvin Mora established himself at third base, Brian Roberts showed he was a reliable second basemen, and Luis Matos and Jay Gibbons flashed with potential. Somehow, they still couldn't manage to win. They made even more headlines in 2005 by trading for slugger Sammy Sosa and raced to first place early on. They stayed atop the AL East for several months, until the yearly downfall kicked in; this time it was worse than ever. Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for steroid use, days after collecting his 3000th hit. (Kind of awkward going to games the rest of the season and seeing a huge "Congratulations Raffy" sign.) Several Orioles have since been linked to steroids: Palmeiro, Roberts, Tejada, Hairston, Gibbons, and Larry Bigbie. The O's have become living proof that steroids don't work. After Palmeiro's suspension, the Orioles had one of the worst collapses in history. They went from 14 games above .500 to 14 games below and lost B.J. Ryan after the season.

The Orioles have recently turned towards a rebuilding mode. They traded ace Erik Bedard and superstar Miguel Tejada to restock their minor league system. They let go of fading veterans (Ramon Hernandez and awful hitter/clubhouse leader Kevin Millar) and failed projects (Daniel Cabrera). New GM Andy MacPhail seeks to create a team that is competitive in 2010. Despite his efforts to build a winner around Jeremy Guthrie, Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones, experienced O's fans have to wonder, is this going to be enough?