Wednesday, June 9, 2010

(16-43) Wow how bad can you be?

Checkin in from Honduras, I can't help but wonder if this O's team is the most pathetic team in history. The "Calvary" (Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta) are all finally in Baltimore, but I thought it would be under better circumstances. The Orioles winning percentage (.271) is only slighltly higher than Cesar Izturis' slugging percentage (.245).

What's pathetic?

1. Garrett Atkins - the "slugging" 1st basemen barely plays anymore, and no wonder. He's batting .214 with 1 HR and a .290 SLG%. I would say release him, but it's not like there's anyone who would do much better in his place. Rhyne Hughes hit .213 in his 47 ABs before being sent back to AAA, where Michael Aubrey is batting .250 and Brandon Snyder .246. Top 3B prospect Josh Bell is hitting .270 but has 54 strikeouts compared to 12 walks. And the most recent callup, Scott Moore has managed to hit just .227 in 22 ABs. Take your pick.

2. Koji Uehara's inability to move without injury. He was effective while he lasted - 6 games, but isn't expected to return (and stick around) any time soon. Add Jim Johnson and Brian Roberts to that list. Mike Gonzalez might come back, but I don't know if we want that. The only two players who are making headway and appear to be desirable are Alfredo Simon and Felix Pie. They sound like angels when you comoare them to...

3. Matt Albers, Alberto Castillo, Corey Patterson, and Lou Montanez. Albers is getting lit up, with a 5.53 ERA and 17 walks to 17 strikeouts. Castillo, who seems to have a daily bus route between Norfolk and Baltimore, started strong, but opponents are batting .356 against him and in his last 10 outings he has surrendered 11 runs in 6 1/3 innings! Patterson also got off to a hot start, but is 4 for his last 30 with 10 strikeouts. Montanez, who somehow managed to remain on the team despite not playing in a single game for 15 days, is batting .148 in 54 ABs and all of his hits are singles.

4. The O's are hitting .245 as a team. Superstars Matt Wieters and Adam Jones are right on par at .246, and Nolan Reimold, who hit .205 before being demoted is now dominating AAA pitching at a .179 clip. Izturis makes a .219 contribution to round things off.

5. Will Ohman, after 25 perfect outings in a setup role, surrendered 7 runs in 3 innings in a failed attempt to be the closer. No worries - that title now belongs to failed starter David Hernandez. Speaking of failed starters, Brad Bergesen will now be seen in the bullpen, where the most dreaded telephone in the world resides.

Hope you're feeling optimistic :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

1/4 of the way through

I haven't been able to post much as I'm not exactly in the country, but I looked in and saw we're about a quarter of the way through. If things continue this is what the O's are on pace for:

1. Their record will be 53-109. My guess is they will just barely avoid 100 losses.

2. Ty Wigginton will hit 49 home runs. I'm going to cut that number in half.

3. Garrett Atkins will finish with 0 home runs and 24 RBIs in 446 ABs. I seriously hope the O's would be smart enough to find someone else to play first base if he keeps that pace up,

4. In 479 ABs, resurging Corey Patterson will have 147 hits, 37 of them home runs, and add 37 more stolen bases. He'll also strike out 111 times. Of all those numbers, I trust the 111 the most. He'll fade some naturally and move down in the lineup when Brian Roberts returns,

5. Will Ohman will retain his perfect ERA while appearing in 85 games. This guy is too good to be true, something's gotta give.

6. Kevin Milwood will pitch 250 innings of 3.64 ERA and be winless with a record of 0-16. I hope the poor guy has some luck, that's all he should need - you know a run or 2 every once in a while.

7. Alfredo Simon will save 36 games, striking out 71 in 71 innings while issuing 50 walks. Those numbers are a little extreme. Let's give him 20-25 saves and shrink those other numbers by 10 each.

8. Luke Scott will go back and forth from hitting .177 with 3 home runs in 24 games to hitting .455 with 6 home runs in 9 games. Absolutely true - which puts him at a .259 average and 37 HRs at the end of the season.

Monday, May 10, 2010

(9-23) After winning first 2, O's split series with Twins

The O's can't seem to put it all together. They either hit or pitch, but rarely both.

In the opener, pitching was enough. All Brad Bergesen needed to win his second straight game was a 2-run homer from Ty Wigginton, number 10 on the year. Other than that, his 6 2/3 scoreless innings and perfect relief from Will Ohman, returned from injury Koji Uehara, and Alfredo Simon's 3rd save carried Bergesen to a 2-0 victory. Wigginton also had a double and Miguel Tejada had 2 hits.

The O's even beat hot starter Francisco Liriano with a 2 hit, 3 RBI performance from Nick Markakis. Julio Lugo, taking over for struggling Adam Jones (who had 2 hits in this game) in the leadoff role, had 3 hits, temporarily raising his average to .244. Cesar Izturis scored 3 runs on 2 hits and Nolan Reimold scored twice on 1 hit. This made it fairly easy for Jeremy Guthrie to earn his 1st win of the season, 7-3.

The night game of the doubleheader ended diffrently. To be exact it was a 6-1 loss. Kevin Millwood (0-4), allowed 3 runs in a quality start of 7 innings, but the O's had just 4 hits, and 1 run off a homer by Luke Scott. The bullpen didn't help, as Mark Hendrickson and Matt Albers gave up another 3 runs in 1 combined inning.

The finale was a surprise 6-0 loss, as Brian Matusz (2-3) lost his 3rd straight start. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings, gave up all 6 runs, and didn't get any help. Matt Wieters had 2 of the O's 6 hits. On the bright side, Jason Berken (1.62), Cla Meredith (2.00), and Alfredo Simon (0.00) kept their ERAs low with 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

In other news, demoted reliever James Johnson has an elbow injury and will miss several weeks. Anyone got any good news? And I don't mean the rumor that Corey Patterson will be called up to replace Lou Montanez.

Friday, May 7, 2010

(7-21) Sweep by Yanks puts O's back in place

After a 3 game win streak, the O's failed to carry through against their rivals in New York.

Matt Wieters' solo home run was the only run in a 4-1, series opening loss. Jeremy Guthrie 7 innings, 6 of them scoreless, but gave up 4 in the 4th and fell to 0-4, his 8th consecutive loss.

The 2nd game was also a 4-1 loss. Brian Matusz dropped to 2-2 as he allowed 3 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings. Garrett Atkins had 3 of the team's 6 hits, and Miguel Tejada had 2.

The bats returned in the finale, but the O's still fell short, 7-5. Ty Wigginton, Nolan Reimold, and Wieters all added home runs, and Julio Lugo led the way with a surprising 3 hits, but David Hernandez had his worst start of the year and extended his league-leading 11 game losing streak. He allowed 6 runs in just 3 2/3 innings.

In other news, Alberto Castillo was sent to AAA to make room for Koji Uehara.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

(7-18) SWEEP!!!!!! (that means they won)

Who called it? Who called it? In case you were wondering, it was not me.

David Hernandez only allowed 2 runs in the first game, but walked 5 and had to be taken out in the middle of the 6th inning. Luckily, Miguel Tejada had 3 RBIs, including 2 late in the game off a solo homer and an extra-inning single that made up for demoted reliever Jim Johnson's blown save. The final score was 5-4. Matt Albers redeemed himself for his first win.

The next game was a little more high scoring. 12-9 to be exact. And Brad Bergesen was the 2nd Oriole starter to get a win! Granted, he gave up 4 runs in 5 innings, but when Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Ty Wigginton (2), and even Luke Scott hit home runs, you don't need much. Alfredo Simon picked up his 2nd save with a scoreless 9th. Btw, Markakis had 5 RBIs!

The sweep was completed with an outstanding performance by Kevin Millwood, who once again pitched well and didn't get the win. Seriously, the guy's 0-3 with a 3.15 ERA. He threw 8 innings and gave up just 2 runs. Wigginton's RBI double put the O's on top in the 10th, leaving the final score at 3-2. And Albers got another win!

Adam Jones, the struggling leadoff batter, was 7 for 14 in the series, with 5 runs scored, an RBI, and gasp...a walk! Markakis was 7 for 12 with 5 runs and 5 RBIs, lifting his average to .312! Tejada was 6 for 11 with 3 runs and RBIs apiece. Wieters was 3 for 10 with 4 RBIs, and Wigginton was 3 for 8 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs. Basically, the batters rocked. Next comes a 2 game series in New York. No problem...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And just in case you were curious...

It's not much better in AAA. Let's take a look at how they're doing down there.

C Adam Donachie - .208 AVG 2 HR 6 RBI
1B Brandon Snyder .213 1 8 (3 errors)
2B Scott Moore .259 2 12 (8 errors)
3B Josh Bell .238 3 10 (6 errors)
SS Robby Andino .221 2 12
LF Jeff Salazar .292 4 13
CF Joey Gathright .217 0 6
RF Corey Patterson .125 0 0
DH Michael Aubrey .197 1 4

SP Jake Arrieta - 2-1, 1.16 ERA, 27 K in 31 IP
SP Chris Tillman - 2-3, 4.05, 21 in 26.2
SP Troy Patton - 1-3, 8.00, 14 in 18
SP Brandon Erbe - 0-4, 8.35, in in 18.1

Not exactly tearing it up apart from Arrieta. There doesn't seem to be much help ready in the minor leagues. The O's better pick it up then.

May predictions

Let's see...what will happen this month?

1. Brad Bergesen will rebound. After returning from the minors, that 12.19 ERA should come down. If he makes 5 starts, I will predict - 30 innings, 12 earned runs, and gasp...2 wins!

2. Kevin Millwood will be the first starter besides Brian Matusz to win a game. The guy has a 3.38 ERA - he'll win one eventually.

3. Nolan Reimold will step it up. With Felix Pie on the DL, the O's need him to. I predict his .193 average will go above .260 and he will hit 5 home runs in May.

4. Alfredo Simon will not be the closer. Neither will Jim Johnson, or anyone whose name has letters in it. There is no capable closer on this roster. Unless Mike Gonzalez miraculously returns to his former glory or all these relievers get their act together overnight, a closer by committee approach, which never works, will be the only option.

5. Dave Trembley will/will not be the manager. The biggest issue is the one I'm avoiding. I have no idea. Time will tell.

Forgetting April

If you can remember, 18 losses ago, I mean 1 month ago, I made several predictions about the month of April:

1. Garrett Atkins will be pitiful. I'm thinking an average around .200-.220 with almost no power. The O's may just stick with him or try Ty Wigginton or Luke Scott at first base, but I predict that Brandon Snyder will get off to a hot start in AAA and be on the verge of promotion by the end of the month.

After accumulating 3 doubles and 3 RBI's in the season's first 3 games, my prediction about Atkins came true. He finished the month hitting .224, 4 doubles, 0 home runs, and a .284 slugging percentage. Snyder is struggling in AAA with a .213 AVG, but 1B Rhyne Hughes, acquired in last year's trade for Gregg Zaun, hit .353 in AAA, earned a promotion, and has split time with Atkins at first base to hit a decent .263 in 19 at bats.

2. Koji Uehara will be on the DL. He will either not have recovered by then or have come back only to reinjure himself.

Correct! While Uehara is expected to make his much-needed return next week, he has been constantly set back in his recovery attempts.

3. Miguel Tejada will not be the cleanup hitter. Look for someone else to emerge, maybe Nolan Reimold or even Adam Jones.

False. Tejada has been the O's best clutch hitter, batting at a .293 clip with 4 home runs and a team high 13 RBIs. He is still the best option at the #4 spot, and Jones is busy leading off for some reason, in the place of injured 2B Brian Roberts.

4. Kam Mickolio will be on the roster. There are too many iffy pitchers on this team for all of them to survive the first month of the season. That list includes Jason Berken, Matt Albers, and Will Ohman.

Mickolio was indeed recalled when the bullpen struggled to hold any lead they got. However, he walked 3 and allowed 3 runs in his 3 appearances before being optioned back to the minors in favor of new surprise closer, Alfredo Simon, who has held opponents to a .222 AVG despite near blowups as well. Berken has been one of the most effective relievers, with a 1.88 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. Ohman, the lefty specialist, has yet to allow a run in his 12 appearances. Albers, after struggling mightily early on, has been scoreless in 3 straight appearances, avoiding a demotion that was instead given to Jim Johnson, of all people. Johnson had blown 3 saves, passing Mike Gonzalez for the honor of team lead. The difference was that batters were batting .349 against Johnson and .232 against Albers, even if their 6+ ERAs were comparable.

5. Matt Wieters will be leading the team in home runs and Brian Matusz in wins.

Wieters has hit well, with a .280 AVG and 8 RBIs, but has only 1 home run. Wigginton deserves that honor with his 6 home runs, 12 RBIs, and .308 AVG. He has been the surprise of April, earning the 2B role. Matusz is in fact the only starting pitcher with a victory. And he has 2! He has shown improvement in every area from last season. His innings per start have improved from 5.6 to 6.1, WHIP from 1.48 to 1.31, AVG against from .292 to .265, K:BB from 2.7 to 2.9, and HRs per 9 innings from 1.2 to 0.6.

The O's finished the month 5-18, 12 games back from the Rays. The season may seem over, but there is room for improvement and they have played better recently. Let's hope the April showers bring May flowers.

Friday, April 30, 2010

(4-18) O's manage 1 vs. Yanks, worst in MLB

Everey team in the major leagues has at least 8 wins - except the Orioles. They have 4.

The 4th win came against the Yankees with Kevin Millwood on the mound. Millwood lasted just 5 1/3 innings, but kept the O's in the game by allowing just 2 runs and leaving with the score at 2-1, thanks to a bases loaded walk by Cesar Izturis. Yes, he does take walks occasionally. The O's had 3 RBI singles in the bottom of the 6th from Rhyne Hughes, Nolan Reimold, and Izturis, who somehow got his 3rd RBI with a single in the 8th. He's not exactly an RBI machine. Alberto Castillo kept his ERA perfect and picked up the win, as Alfredo Simon, called up in place of Kam Mickolio, picked up his first career save. The 2 runs he allowed were unearned because of Izturis' error.

The 2nd game was ugly, as Jeremy Guthrie (0-3) had his first poor start on the season, allowing 7 runs in just under 5 innings. Despite 11 hits, including a home run and 3 hits from Nick Markakis, the O's fell 8-3.

Brian Matusz (2-1) picked up his 1st loss in the finale, pitching decently over 6 innings. He allowed 3 runs on 9 hits and surprisingly had just 2 strikeouts. The O's had only 3 hists and lost 4-0.

In other news, Chris Tillman threw a no hitter for AAA Norfolk on Thursday. Brad Bergesen, who has pitched well, is expected to be recalled to make Saturday's start, and will be joined by Koji Uehara. I don't know who will be sent down. No clue. But the O's did designate lefty reliever Wilfredo Perez for assignment to make room for Simon. Stupid.

Monday, April 26, 2010

(3-16) O's end 10 game losing streak vs. Boston

The O's really make things harder than they need to be don't they?

Jeremy Guthrie started the opener, surrendering 3 runs in 6 innings. A 2 run homer by Adam Jones in the 7th and an RBI groundout by Luke Scott in the 8th were enough to time the game at 3, until reliever Matt Albers and Will Ohman combined to walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th. Jim Johnson was called in to finish the inning off, but walked in the go-ahead run. Albers picked up his 2nd loss, the final score being 4-3.

Brian Matusz picked up 4 more KS but had only a mediocre start, going 6 innings and also allowing 3 runs. Still, thanks to an RBI double by Scott, an RBI single by new callup 1B Rhyne Hughes, and a solo homer by Ty Wigginton, his 6th, the O's managed to stay close. Unfortunately Albers had a 2nd consecutive rough night, giving up 3 runs in just 1/3 of an inning. A 9th inning rally with another home run from Jones and RBI singles from Matt Wieters and Scott were not enough, as the O's fell a run short and lost 7-6. Albers picked up the loss and stands at 0-3. The O's had 15 hits but to no avail. Jones, Nick Markakis, Miguel Tejada, and Wieters each had 2 hits, Scott had 3, and Wigginton had 4. Markakis added 2 walks.

In the series finale, David Hernandez was unable to stretch his shutout performance into the 6th inning, being charged for 3 runs before leaving the game. Markakis and Tejada delivered with an RBI double and 2 run home run to tie things up and James Johnson sent the game into extra innings by throwing a scoreless 9th. Hughes and Wieters drove in another 3 runs with 10th inning singles, putting the O's in a position to win. Johnson returned for the 10th inning and allowed 2 runs before finally putting the team back in the win column.

Wigginton is really roaring, hitting ,327 and slugging .712 with 6 home runs, 10 runs, and 12 RBIs, all team highs. Wieters is batting .324 with 7 RBIs, Tejada, .283 with 9, and Markakis .282 with 9 runs scored. On the other extreme Garrett Atkins is struggling with a .220 average and 5 RBIs. In other news, the O's will need a starter on Saturday and the choice seems to be between Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta. Should be an interesting decision.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

(2-14) More bad news as O's swept by Mariners

Brad Bergesen's start in Game 1 of the series was enough to get him demoted. His 7 runs (4 earned) in 2 2/3 innings put the O's so far behind that Luke Scott's RBI double and Ty Wigginton's 5th home run went unnoticed in the 8-2 loss. Bergesen, who was 0-2 with a 12.19 ERA in 3 starts, will join Chris Tillman in the AAA rotation. Tillman, by the way, is struggling big time. If you remember, I said that sending him down would only mess with him. I'm just saying...

The second game produced only 4 Oriole hits and 1 run on a Nolan Reimold double. David Hernandez allowed 3 runs in 6 1/3 but took the loss, his third on the year. The final score was 3-1.

Kevin Millwood's complete game was not enough to win the finale, and the man with a 3.38 ERA is now 0-3 on the year. Opposing pitcher Felix Hernandez allowed just one run off an RBI single by Matt Wieters. All 9 of the O's hits were singles, led by Nick Markakis with 3. Lou Montanez and Garrett Atkins each had 2.

Left-handed reliever Alberto Castillo replaced Bergesen on the roster and the O's will go with 4 starters for the rest of April. Meanwhile, we saw a lot of lineup changes. Adam Jones and Montanez both took turns in the leadoff spot, while Wigginton has seen time in the 2 hole and everyone from Wieters to Reimold has batted cleanup. What will we see next? I'm just waiting for Kevin Millar to come back from retirement and save the day. Until then...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

(2-11) O's win 1 vs. A's! Hot Pie goes to DL

If you notice, there's been a theme to the last few blog posts. The template is something like the following: Orioles swept (or almost swept) by ___ (fill in the team), lose ___ (enter player's name) injured, put on the DL. But at least the O's ended a 9 game losing streak today, even if they did lose the first 3 games in the series. Ty Wigginton is on a roll by the way.

David Hernandez struggled in every inning of Game 1, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings. On the bright side, he struck out 6 and walked only 1, but he still fell to 0-2. Kam Mickolio allowed a run in his season debut and Adam Jones provided most of the offense, going 3 for 5 with a double, triple, and an RBI. The O's lost 6-2.

Kevin Millwood's ERA stands at 2.89, but his record at 0-2 after 6 innings of 4 runs (3 earned), 0 walks, and 9 strikeouts! Who saw this coming? The O's only runs came off a 2 run homer by Wigginton, although Nick Markakis, who is also heating up, added 2 doubles in the 4-2 loss.

Jeremy Guthrie also lowered his ERA to an impressive 3.15, allowing just 2 runs (1 earned and you can see that some errors are being made) on 6 hits over 6 2/3 innings. He left with the game tied thanks to a 2 run single by Garrett Atkins and the O's pulled ahead with a sac fly by Wigginton, but James Johnson was unable to convert his first save opportunity, giving up 2 runs and losing the game 4-3. Miguel Tejada, who was 3 for 3, left the game with an injury but does not expect to go on the DL...fortunately.

Brian Matusz remained the only Oriole with a win as he picked up his second, ending the losing streak and striking out 8 more in 6 1/3 and allowing 3 runs. Johnson recovered and picked up a 2 inning save, helped by Wigginton's 4 RBIs from a double and HR, and 2 hit performances from Jones, Markakis, and Cesar Izturis.

Felix Pie was placed on the 15 day DL. He had been hitting .400 and will be replaced by Lou Montanez.

Markakis is among the league leaders in doubles with 5 and is 8 for his last 25. Wigginton has 4 home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 23 at bats, in which he has 8 hits. Guthrie is among the league leaders with 20 innings pitched. Matusz leads the AL with 23 strikeouts and Millwood is not far behind with 21. Will Ohman has not allowed a run in 7 appearances.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

(1-8) O's drop 3 to Rays, solve Gonzalez problem by shipping him to DL

Felix Pie is hitting .471 and slugging .765. Matt Wieters is batting .345. Ty Wigginton, Luke Scott, and Miguel Tejada each have 2 home runs and Tejada 7 RBIs. All that being said, the Orioles record now stands at 1-8. Wow.

Jeremy Guthrie fell to 0-2 despite pitching effectively for a second consecutive start with 3 runs and 5 strikeouts in 7 innings. The bullpen allowed 2 more runs in the 8th and 9th and Pie's 1st inning solo shot was the only sign of offense in the 5-1 loss. Pie was 6 for 9 in the series.

Brian Matusz seven scoreless innings were undone by four straight seeing-eye singles in the 8th. The bullpen was unable to hold those runners and they all scored. Matusz did finish with 8 Ks and only 1 walk. Thanks to 2 home runs by Wigginton and a pinch-hit homer by Scott, the O's managed to force extra innings. Matt Albers ultimately picked up the loss, surrendering 3 runs and failing to record an out in the 10th inning as the O's lost 8-6.

The finales was an ugly 9-1 loss as Brad Bergesen survived only 3 innings and gave up 8 runs, 5 earned. Jason Berken did come in and pitch 5 innings of 1-run ball, but a Tejada homer was all the O's had to show.

Mike Gonzalez was officially placed on the DL with shoulder problems and Kam Mickolio was recalled. Mickolio, like he was in Spring Training, has been dominant but extremely wild for Norfolk. The bullpen is really looking like a mess...

Monday, April 12, 2010

(1-5) O's swept by Jays as Roberts goes on DL

The Orioles fell to 1-5 as the result of poor hitting and some late inning collapses.

Brad Bergesen struggled in the home opener, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits in 4 2/3 innings, but Miguel Tejada tied the game with a 2 run homer, his first of the year, and Cesar Izturis' RBI single in the 8th put the O's in a position to win. Unfortunately, Mike Gonzalez blew his second save in the 9th as the O's fell 7-6.

David Hernandez pitched well in the second game, striking out 5 in 6 innings and allowing just 2 runs despite his 4 walks, but it was not enough to overcome the O's complete lack of hitting. They dropped the game 3-0.

The O's got off to a hot start in the series finale with Miguel Tejada getting his team-high 6th RBI on a first inning double. Kevin Millwood threw seven innings with only a home run by Alex Gonzalez before giving up 2 more in the 8th. As a kind of bizarre side story, Nick Markakis picked up his league leading 9th walk, although he is batting just .167. Ultimately, the Jays won easily, 5-2.

Brian Roberts, who suffered an abdominal injury, was placed on the 15 day DL and the O's called up 2B Justin Turner, although Julio Lugo will continue to receive the majority of the starts.

For those of you who are starting to panic, I would ask why you had such high expectations to begin with...but you probably have good reason. The O's are hitting .236 collectively with only 19 runs in 6 games. Their closer has allowed 4 runs in 2 innings, blowing 2 saves and barely surviving his 1 successful save. Their franchise player just went on the DL.

That being said, their starters have a 3.89 ERA, which includes Bergesen's start. Their relievers, minus Gonzalez have a 3.52 ERA. As a team they have committed just 1 error. 3 of their 5 losses have been by 1 run. The Orioles are not a great team, but they are not as bad as their 1-5 record indicates. Given some time they should make their way back around the .500 mark - hopefully by the end of April.

Friday, April 9, 2010

(1-2) O's win last of 3 against Rays to start the season

The O's managed to grind the last game out and get off to a 1-2 start. Matt Wieters went 6 for 12 in the series, including his first home run. Garrett Atkins was 4 for 12 and added 3 RBIs, already surpassing the total I had predicted he would get in all of April.

Kevin Milwood pitched decently in the opener, giving up only 2 runs and striking out 5 but going only 5 innings and allowing 10 base runners. The O's hit well (11 for 37) but stranded a lot of runners and scored only on solo home runs from Adam Jones, Luke Scott, and Wieters. With a 3-2 lead in the 9th, new closer Mike Gonzalez blew his first chance at a save and the O's fell 4-3.

The second game also ended in a 4-3 loss. Jeremy Guthrie got off to a great start and faded some late, ending with 3 runs in 6 1/3 innings, striking out 6. After Cla Meredith allowed a home run in the 8th, the O's almost came back in the 9th, scoring 1 but stranding a runner on 3rd with 2 outs. They managed only 6 hits over the game.

The series finale leaned more in the O's favor, as starter Brian Matusz struck out 7 in 5 innings of 2 run ball. He also allowed just 2 hits, but was a little on the wild side with 5 walks. Still, Nolan Reimold hit his first home run of the season and Atkins added 2 RBI's which were enough for Gonzalez to earn his first save, despite loading the bases in the 9th. The final score was 5-4.

Felix Pie suffered an injury in the first game and sat out the next two. He is day-to-day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April predictions

It's Opening Day for the O's and Kevin Milwood will hopefully put the spring behind him and take on the Rays and James Shields. I have a few predictions to make regarding the first month of the season:

- Garrett Atkins will be pitiful. I'm thinking an average around .200-.220 with almost no power. The O's may just stick with him or try Ty Wigginton or Luke Scott at first base, but I predict that Brandon Snyder will get off to a hot start in AAA and be on the verge of promotion by the end of the month.

-Koji Uehara will be on the DL. He will either not have recovered by then or have come back only to reinjure himself.

-Miguel Tejada will not be the cleanup hitter. Look for someone else to emerge, maybe Nolan Reimold or even Adam Jones.

-Kam Mickolio
will be on the roster. There are too many iffy pitchers on this team for all of them to survive the first month of the season. That list includes Jason Berken, Matt Albers, and Will Ohman.

-Matt Wieters will be leading the team in home runs and Brian Matusz in wins.

Recipe for the AL East in 2010 – by Matt Hoyt, guest writer (and frequent commentator)

Though it’s not much of a surprise at this point, the Orioles will once again struggle to stay afloat in their tough division. The always competitive AL east features an aggressive fight for top, as well as a passive strain to avoid rock bottom. The top tier – of all baseball and not just the AL East – includes the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees. On the flip side, the Blue Jay and Orioles, birds of a feather, will struggle together in a season that may be more difficult than any in the last few years. With half the payroll of the 200 million Yanks and 170 million Sox, the Rays, Jays, and Os have no shot in the “pay-to-play” baseball arena. Instead, all three are testing the field with the “build-to-the-best” model. One of these clubs has succeeded.

1. SWEET: This next season, the talent-rich Rays have a legitimate shot of not only winning the division title, but also getting back into the Big Series come November. With their strong pitching, cost-efficient hitting and fielding, and balance of steals, homeruns, and a high OBP (.343), this is the team to watch. Expect their top four pitchers (Shields, Garza, Niemann, and Price) to succeed in front of a strong defense. Their relief corp should draw from the same flexibility that spelled success in 2008 (even if Soriano isn’t a long-term answer). Their starting lineup hasn’t changed a bit, which spells stability for an all-around great roster. If only the Os could be more like the Rays…

2. SOLID: Hitting improvements coupled with the best talent money can buy means the Yanks will give the Rays a serious challenge. But, that said, money isn’t everything. Pettitte is growing older by the second, Vasquez has already failed in the AL once, Burnett is all over the place at times, and I just don’t know about Hughes. Though their pitching looks like it improved, I’m not sure I’m ready to give the Yanks the benefit of the doubt. The level of talent beneath these starters has shown promise (Alfredo Aceves and Joba), but there’s plenty left to be desired. The infield, on the other hand, may be the best bar none. The beauty of Jeter, Teixeira (I’m jealous), and A-Rod playing at their peak is unmatched. Throw in come-back kid Cano, age-doesn’t matter Posada, and two solid acquisitions in Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson, and there’s oodles of potential. Though injuries could slow them down (as they could any team), watch out.

3. SPOILED: The truth about the confines of cash will hit the Sox particularly hard, as their aging talent and win-at-all costs spending won’t get them far enough. Though there’s some brilliance in their lineup (Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Youkilis offer plenty of bang for their buck), there’s also a lot of wasted space. I just can’t respect the aging wonders like Ortiz, J.D. Drew, and Beltre, who seem to get more mediocre as their careers get artificially extended by past success. Mike Cameron, though old, will probably be a good addition, as will John Lackey. Their pitching will be solid (with the exception of Dice-K), but I’m not sure it will be enough to pass the Yanks or Rays. There’s a lot of promise (and the team clearly wants to win it all now), but I don’t think it will be enough. PS: Victor Martinez can hit, but he really can’t catch. My advice for fantasy owners is to avoid Boston pitchers when he’s behind the plate.

4. SOUR: The Orioles have a young team with plenty of talent (well, at least in the outfield they do…), but some iffy acquisitions and a brutal schedule will keep them grounded. It must be bitter to be in the bottom half of the AL-east, seemingly trapped in the mediocre 3/4/5 spots of the division. Though I’ll leave most of the Oriole commentating to Tim, I have doubts about their additions of Tejada, Atkins, and Millwood. There’s a lot of up-and-coming talent, but their pitching last season was close to the worst of all the major leagues. There’s also a host of problems with their infield, but I’ll leave that for future commentating. If they want to be the next Rays, they’ll need at least two more seasons for everything to fall into place.

5. SUCKS: Last and least, the Blue Jays will struggle to find a flight path under their weak defense and questionable pitching. Without Halladay, there isn’t much worth celebrating for the team. It’s nice to see Marcum back (he has a lot of talent), but don’t expect any pitcher on the team to post a sub-4.00 ERA with the Jay’s miserable outfield defense (Vernon Wells is old and Lind/Snider are slow, and that’s that). I like young guys like Lind and Hill on the roster, but I can’t help but feel their stats are wasted. This team is like the Orioles, but with worst hitting, worst defense, and even more age issues. Ouch.

Though it’s only a slight departure from last year, this season’s AL East offers more-of-the-same for Os fans. Here’s the recipe (and some arbitrary records) that I predict:

1. Tampa Bay Rays (Sweet) – 99 - 63

2. New York Yankees (Solid) – 97 - 65

3. Boston Red Sox (Spoiled) – 92 - 70

4. Baltimore Orioles (Sour) – 74 - 82

5. Toronto Blue Jays (Sucks) – 60 - 102

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The 25 man it is!

Dave Trembley confirmed his starting rotation in the following order (LH denotes left-handed, RH right-handed):

1. RHP Kevin Millwood
2. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
3. LHP Brian Matusz
4. RHP Brad Bergesen
5. RHP David Hernandez - surprisingly beat out Tillman

The bullpen will almost certainly look like this, although technically there are still a few extra relievers left in camp:

6. LHP Mike Gonzalez
7. RHP James Johnson
8. LHP Will Ohman
9. RHP Cla Meredith
10. RHP Matt Albers
11. LHP Mark Hendrickson
12. RHP Jason Berken - likely earned long relief spot

The infield is set, with the utility position set, just unannounced

13. C Matt Wieters
14. C Craig Tatum - won backup role over veteran Moeller
15. 1B Garrett Atkins
16. 2B Brian Roberts
17. 3B Miguel Tejada
18. SS Cesar Izturis
19. 1B/3B Ty Wigginton
20. 2B/SS Robby Andino (replaced by Julio Lugo)

The outfield is final as well

21. LF Felix Pie - rewarded with Opening Day start
22. CF Adam Jones
23. RF Nick Markakis
24. OF Nolan Reimold
25. OF/DH Luke Scott

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tillman is cut...and some other guys

Chris Tillman was officially demoted to Norfolk. He took it well and hopes to quickly work his way back to the big leauges. I still disagree with the decision, but hey, there's nothing I can do about it. David Hernandez will be the fifth starter.

Pitchers Alfredo Simon, Alberto Castillo, and Ross Wolf, catcher Adam Donachie, and outfielder Jeff Salazar were also cut.

Inside word has it that Craig Tatum will be the backup catcher over Chad Moeller. I think Trembley just enjoys confusing people.

The last real decision to make then comes from the bullpen, where one cut remains to be made. The candidates are Matt Albers, Jason Berken, and Kam Mickolio. Hey I can solve this problem, let's throw Hernandez in the pen, send Berken to Triple A as an emergency starter/organizational filler guy, and put Tillman where he belongs. Then let's trade Albers before he gets injured again and give Mickolio a shot. Problem solved. Don't get me started on Ty Wigginton.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some late surprises

Koji Uehara is heading to the DL which means that Matt Albers and Kam Mickolio have to like their chances...except that Mickolio apparently isn't too hot right now according to Trembley, and may be joining Uehara on the DL or spending some time on the DL. That in turn would open up a spot in the bullpen for Jason Berken or David Hernandez, but wait! Hernandez evidently has an inside track on Chris Tillman for the 5th starter spot! Confused? Yeah, tell me about it. Then Trembley mentions that Felix Pie will probably find his way into the Opening Day lineup and Luke Scott seems to be playing first base every day and you start to wonder...

My take: Hernandez has outpitched Tillman and has earned a spot, but why not in the bullpen? And why do we keep making the mistake of sending Mickolio down? Oh well, they must know something that I don't...

Friday, March 26, 2010

More cuts

In addition to Jake Arrieta, the O's have cut pitchers Frank Mata, Josh Perrault, and Dennis Sarfate. Infielders Brandon Snyder, Josh Bell, Michael Aubrey, Rhyne Hughes, and Pedro Florimon were also cut along with outfielder Jonathan Tucker.

Sarfate was my only surprise, but remember that he's not on the 40 man roster. That means the competition between Matt Albers, Kam Mickolio, and David Hernandez should heat up for a right handed spot or two in the bullpen. I expect that we will see Arrieta, Snyder, and Bell, the top 3 prospects at their respective positions, later in the season.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A glance at the position players

20 games into the exhibition season, there are 16 position players remaining fighting for 13 spots. Those 16 have combined to hit for an average of only .236, with 41 runs, 16 home runs, 3 stolen bases, and 47 RBIs in 428 at bats. Hey that sounds like Melvin Mora’s line from last year. Anyways, catchers Michel Hernandez, Caleb Joseph, and Luis Bernardo have already been cut, along with infielders Miguel Abreu and Blake Davis, and outfielder Matt Angle. Catcher Adam Donachie, infielders Michael Aubrey, Brandon Snyder, Scott Moore, Rhyne Hughes, Pedro Florimon, and Josh Bell, and outfielders Josh Tucker and Jeff Salazar are still in camp, but have no real shot at sticking with the club at least for now. Hughes has been impressive with a .333 average and 3 home runs. Let’s look at the remaining 16.

C Matt Wieters (.179 AVG, .286 SLG) – with only 5 hits and 1 home run in 28 at bats, he’s not off to as great a start as last year. It would be good to gain some momentum coming into Opening Day. Chances of making the team: Certain

C Chad Moeller (.375, .813) – he has done surprisingly well with the bat, adding 2 home runs to his high average, but has managed 2 errors in 7 games. Still, he has the veteran experience the O’s are looking for. Likely

C Craig Tatum (.143, .214) – the younger option to back up Wieters has done little in his 14 at bats to get noticed, but hasn’t committed any errors. Unlikely

1B Garrett Atkins (.212, .364) – I know it’s spring, but I hope he picks things up and proves he’s not a deadweight. His 1 RBI off a solo home run in 33 at bats is discouraging. Certain

2B Brian Roberts (-) – Injuries have kept him out all spring but he is hopeful to begin playing next week. Certain (pending ability to play)

3B Miguel Tejada (.121, .182) – both infield additions came with suspicions of being well past their prime. In 33 at bats, he has done nothing to ease those fears with his 1 RBI and 3 errors as he makes the transition to third. Certain

SS Cesar Izturis (.097, .129) – he is a light hitter, but 3 for 31 with 0 runs is not what you want to see. Certain

IF Ty Wigginton (.235, .471) – compared to the rest of the infielders, 8 for 34 seems great, especially with the 2 HRs, 4 runs, and 4 RBIs. Certain

IF Robby Andino (.229, .429) – if you put Andino in Roberts place, which will likely happen if Roberts isn’t ready, the starting infielders have combined to hit .169 with a .281 slugging percentage and only 3 home runs in 160 at bats. He has stolen 2 bases and seems pretty safe. Very likely

IF Justin Turner (.348, .391) – in his 23 at bats, he has hit for a high average and committed no errors, maybe enough to earn a spot, especially if Roberts is injured. Unlikely

OF Nick Markakis (.316, .553) – with 2 home runs and a team-leading 12 hits in 38 at bats, Markakis seems poised to get off to a good start, something that has eluded him in past seasons. Certain

OF Adam Jones (.257, .571) – the center fielder has been average in his 35 at bats. Certain

OF Nolan Reimold (.074, .074) – after failing to get a hit in his first 21 at bats, Reimold needs to cement his starting spot in these last few games, although it’s pretty safe. Certain

OF Luke Scott (.313, .594) – the DH has hit well, with 10 hits and 10 RBIs in 32 at bats, helped by 2 home runs. Certain

OF Felix Pie (.462, 1.077) – slowed but recovered from injury, he has 2 home runs and 6 hits in 13 at bats. Almost certain

OF Lou Montanez (.306, .389) – there doesn’t seem to be room for him, but the O’s have given him 36 at bats this spring, which he has taken advantage of with 11 hits and 3 doubles. Very unlikely

On a side note, pitcher Jake Arrieta was reassigned to the minor league camp as I predicted.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

20 game breakdown: pitchers (very long)

The Orioles have now completed their first 20 exhibition games, with a record at 8-12. Overall, their pitchers have performed reasonably well compiling a 4.20 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP with 132 strikeouts and only 17 home runs allowed in 152 innings. Those numbers exclude the pitchers who have already been cut, Troy Patton, Brandon Erbe, Luis Lebron, Chorye Spoone, Mike Hinckley, Chris George, and Armando Gabino; and the pitchers who don’t have any real hopes of making the team: Alfredo Simon, Ross Wolf, Frank Mata, and Josh Perrault. Let’s take a look at the remaining contestants, pitcher by pitcher.

SP Kevin Millwood (0-2, 12.97 ERA, 3.12 WHIP) – in 3 starts covering 8 1/3 innings, he has given up 21 hits, 12 earned runs, and 3 home runs. Those numbers are not ace material, but manager Dave Trembley is not worried and Milwood gave up only 1 run in 5 innings in his most recent start. Chance of making team: Certain

SP Jeremy Guthrie (0-3, 7.47, 2.17) – in 5 starts, he’s allowed 25 hits, 13 earned runs, 9 walks, and 3 home runs in 15 2/3 innings. This is obviously not what the O’s are looking for, but he rebounded in his last start (2 runs in 5 innings) and is in no danger of losing his spot in the rotation unless the Orioles decided to trade him, which seems a little too early. Certain

SP Brian Matusz (1-1, 2.51, 0.63, pictured at right) – in 4 starts, he has dominated with 18 strikeouts to 2 walks in 14 1/3 innings, allowing only 7 hits. I’m starting to think AL Rookie of the Year… Certain

SP Brad Bergesen (2-0, 6.24, 1.62) – in 3 starts, he has struggled some in his 8 2/3 innings of work. However, he is coming off injury and has not been extremely ineffective, so I expect him to rebound well and return close to last year’s form. Certain

SP Chris Tillman (0-2, 3.75, 1.25) – in 4 games, 3 of them starts, he has performed average. He definitely has not dominated, with only 6 strikeouts in 12 innings, and has walked 5. Still, there’s no reason he shouldn’t hold the number 5 spot over David Hernandez, Jason Berken, and Jake Arrieta. Almost certain

SP/RP Hernandez (0-1, 4.50, 1.40, pictured at right) – in 4 games, 1 a start, he has struck out 14 and walked only 1 in 10 innings. The 3 home runs have hurt him, but he has proven he can be a highly effective reliever, and he even did well in his lone start. I think he may force his way onto the team even though it was thought he would be given innings in Triple A. Maybe

SP/RP Berken (0-1, 4.16, 1.39) – in 5 games, 1 a start, has ran into trouble recently and allowed Hernandez to overshadow him. On the bright side, he hasn’t surrendered a home run in his 8 2/3 innings. Unlikely

SP Arrieta (0-0, 5.40, 2.20) – in 4 relief appearances, he has struck out 9 in 5 innings but has allowed a lot of baserunners and has not been given a start, indicating that the team seems to think he needs more time in the minors. He may be cut soon. Very unlikely

RP Mike Gonzalez (1-0, 3.00, 2.33, 0 SV) – in 3 games since recovering from a lower back injury, he has struck out 3, walked 2, and allowed 5 hits in 3 innings. Hopefully the closer will be at full strength by the time the season starts. Certain

RP James Johnson (0-0, 4.77, 2.12, 0) – in 6 games, he has shown why he was considered a potential closer (7 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings), and why he is no longer (10 hits). Certain

RP Koji Uehara (0-0, 1.69, 0.75, 1) – in 6 games, he has made an effective transition to reliever. Certain

RP Mark Hendrickson (0-0, 2.57, 1.19, 0) – 5 games, has proved his reliability once again. Certain

RP Cla Meredith (0-0, 1.29, 0.57, 0, pictured at right) – in 8 games, he has locked up a spot in the pen with only 4 hits and no walks in 7 innings. Certain

RP Matt Albers (0-0, 2.80, 1.04, 1) – in 8 games he has impressed me with 9 2/3 innings of solid pitching, issuing just 1 walk, 1 home run, and 3 runs in total. He is out of options and has likely earned a spot in the bullpen. Likely

RP Will Ohman (2-0, 0.00, 0.50, 0) – in 7 games, he has made a convincing case that he deserves a spot as lefty specialist, with 9 strikeouts and 1 hit allowed in 6 innings. Likely

RP Kam Mickolio (1-0, 2.40, 1.56, 0) – in 7 games, he has made things scary (7 walks in 8 1/3 innings), but shown why I think he deserves to be on the team (8 strikeouts and 2 runs). The Orioles may choose to send him down one last time. Maybe

RP Alberto Castillo (1-0, 2.46, 1.36, 0) – in 7 games, he has been less dominant than Mickolio, but more consistent with 0 walks, and he is left-handed. I’m just saying. Maybe

RP Dennis Sarfate (0-0, 5.14, 1.29, 0) – in 5 games, he has shown signs of his old self with 6 strikeouts in 7 innings, but he is not on the 40 man roster and has not proved he is more deserving than other candidates. Unlikely

RP Wilfrido Perez (0-0, 0.00, 0.60, 0) – 4 games, he has tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings. I’d like to see him given a chance to pitch, but based on his limited innings, it seems the O’s are leaning in a different direction. Very unlikely

The last two bullpen spots really come down to the lefties, Castillo and Ohman, and the righties, Hernandez, Albers, and Mickolio.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Player notes

Brad Bergesen made his first start after returning from injury, and each of the other four starters have pitched twice with the following results:

Jeremy Guthrie - 4.1 IP, 4 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 1.62 WHIP
Chris Tillman - 4.1 IP, 4 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Brian Matusz - 4 IP, 10 Ks, 6.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Kevin Milwood - 3.1 IP, 2 Ks, 29.73 ERA, 5.41 WHIP

Guthrie and Tillman have been solid. Matusz gave up a costly home run but has dominated with 10 strikeouts in 4 innings! Milwood is the one to be concerned about, allowing 16 hits, 11 runs, and 2 home runs in less than 4 innings. Hopefully he will figure things out.

Koji Uehara has got off to a nice start in his new relief role, allowing only 1 hit and no runs in 3 innings. Will Ohman, competing as a lefty specialist, also has 3 scoreless innings and adding 5 strikeouts. Jason Berken, with 4 scoreless innings, has faired better than his main rival, David Hernandez, who despite 12 astonishing strikeouts and 0 walks in 6 and 2/3 innings, has allowed 3 home runs and has a 7.11 ERA. If Hernandez can learn to avoid the long ball, he will be a dominant reliever.

Moving to the position players, RF Nick Markakis (.429 AVG, .929 SLG, 2 HR in 14 AB), 1B Garrett Atkins (.417 AVG, 2 2B in 12 AB), OF Felix Pie (.333 AVG, .889 SLG in 9 AB), and OF Luke Scott (.364 AVG in 11 AB) have gotten off to solid starts. C Matt Wieters, on the other hand, has managed only 1 hit in his first 11 at bats.

The leading candidate to be Wieter's backup, Chad Moeller, has already committed 2 errors. Brandon Snyder, the 1B of the future, is 0 for 8, while his competitor, Rhyne Hughes has 3 HR in 12 AB and a .333 AVG. Top 3B prospect Josh Bell has 2 home runs, but those are his only 2 hits in 10 at bats and he too has made 2 errors.

Remember not to get too excited about any of these stats, but if you do want to make some early predictions, these might be it.

1. Jake Arrieta won't be taking Tillman's spot in the rotation. He's struck out 4 in 2 innings, but walked 4 and gave up 2 runs. He needs to be flawless to beat out Tillman.
2. The last relief spots will go down to the end of spring. Matt Albers, Alberto Castillo, Kam Mickolio, Wilfrido Perez, Luis Lebron, Berken, and Ohman are all off to great starts.
3. Unless Brian Roberts isn't ready for Opening Day or Ty Wigginton is traded (please!), don't expect any surprise hitters to make the team. Robby Andino is receiving all the at bats early on. Justin Turner and Michael Aubrey don't seem to be in the picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Training Update

The Orioles are 2-6 and playing sloppily, but there are more important things to worry about in Spring Training.

Brad Bergesen (right) finally made his return, allowing 1 run in an inning and a third. He didn't show his normal control, throwing only 17 of 35 pitches for strikes, but the key is that he seems healthy.

Brian Roberts (left), who suffered from a herniated disk and a virus or medical reaction that kept him out longer than expected, is optimistic about his chances of being ready by Opening Day. Andy MacPhail had expressed some concern.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Training Begins!

As pitchers and catchers report, here are the things to be watching:

1. Brad Bergesen's health - his injury last year was considered minor at first, but ended up ending his season. As Matt pointed out, he reinjured himself in an Orioles promotional commercial. We'll have to see how this will affect him, even though he says he will be fine well before Opening Day. That could leave an open slot or at least an opportunity for someone else to slip into the rotation.

2. Jake Arrieta's unexpected chance - we all thought the rotation was cemented together, but evidently Chris Tillman's spot is not guaranteed and Bergesen is uncertain due to his injury. I don't think it makes sense to abandon Tillman, but we'll see how things progress.

3. Building the bullpen - there are a lot of arms fighting for a spot, and even though some may seem like a lock, the competition could cause quite a stir. Someone will be left out. Matt Albers maybe?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Still waiting...

Mark Hendrickson, who was rumored to have signed over a week ago, still hasn't officially been placed on the roster. Assuming he is, that is one less available spot in the bullpen.

In case you were wondering, Dennis Sarfate was the player chosen to be designated for assignment to make room for Miguel Tejada. No one claimed him and he was sent to Triple-A, but will still have a chance to compete for a relief role.

News is slow these days...

UPDATE: Of course, a few hours later and the O's sign Hendrickson, designating reliever Armando Gabino for assignment. They also signed Will Ohman to a minor league contract, who will compete for a spot as a left-handed specialist.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sorry Wiggy, Hello Miggy

Ty Wigginton's chance to earn a starting job disappeared yesterday, when the Orioles signed Miguel Tejada to a 1 year deal worth $6 million. It's somewhat surprising to see them bring back a player with so many mixed experiences when he played for the team from 2004-2007. He can definitely still hit for average, and can drive in runs, but don't expect a lot of HR's. As he makes the transition to 3B, I'm thinking he'll bat around .300 with 10-15 HRs and 75-80 RBIs. He could bat 2nd, 4th, or 5th - maybe even 6th. Cleanup would be a stretch, but he may be the best option.

It looks like this means the end of Michael Aubrey's run at a roster spot as well. In fact he could be the player they choose to designate for assignment to make room for Tejada. They'll have to choose someone, other possibilities being Chorye Spoone, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Craig Tatum, and Lou Montanez.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the progression of prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell, expected to start the year in AAA and finish it as the starting 1B and 3B.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking a chill pill

Since it is only January, I thought I'd settle down a little and address some less intense, more optimistic issues.

Who could turn out to be a pleasant surprise this year?

Jeremy Guthrie - the former 1st round pick and top-notch prospect showed us a few years ago why he was so highly regarded. The past couple of seasons have been rough, to say the least, but moving down in the rotation could help him approach his "golden years."

Koji Uehara - I've already mentioned that Uehara has excellent control (12 walks in 66 IP) and in his first 30 pitches of each game walked only 1 batter last season and held hitters under a .200 average. If he can carry that success to the bullpen, he could be a top-notch setup man

Michael Aubrey - another former top prospect who mainly fell off the radar because he never developed the power expected from a 1st basemen. His defense is apparently excellent, he has proven he can hit for average, and last year he showed that some of that power might arrive. We'll have to see if the Orioles give him a chance.

Felix Pie - the player we all despised last April and May finally showed why he was one of the game's top prospects only a few years ago. His speed and power became evident, and if he can learn to cut his strikeouts, take some walks, and steal some bases, the Orioles might have 4 super solid outfielders.

My bet - Uehara

Who will hit the most home runs this year?

Luke Scott - we know he has power, but it depends on how long his streaks are and how many at bats he gets. It could be anywhere from 15 to 35. Probably somewhere in between.

Nolan Reimold - showed he is a potential slugger, but faced injuries and will have to compete with Pie for time. Still I think 20 is a safe minimum, with the possibility of 25.

Adam Jones - he had a monster first half, but slowed dramatically after the All Star break. I think he's in the same category as Reimold

Nick Markakis - pretty consistent bet to hit 18-23 HRs. I'm thinking he breaks the 25 mark for the first time.

My bet - Reimold, 26

Let's hear your votes

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Messy in the Bullpen

The Orioles' rotation seems pretty set, and the lineup is really only one big bat away from being solid, but the relief situation is looking a little sketchy...

The O's brought in a lefty, Mike Gonzalez, to close games out. He's got great stuff and numbers, but he has an injury history and has never pitched in the AL. That means you need someone ready to step in if he falters. Jim Johnson is a great setup option, but didn't look good at all as a closer last year after the George Sherrill trade. I like Koji Uehara in the bullpen, and maybe he would be able to fill in. He was dominant in the first 3 innings of his starts last year, which means that hitters were confused the first time they faced him but caught on later in the game.

If Kam Mickolio doesn't get a spot, I will be upset. This is a guy who produced every time he was given a chance last year but kept being demoted to make room for someone else. He may be the closer of the future and has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. That should make 4 guys in the 'pen with guaranteed spots, with 3 jobs remaining. This is where it gets ugly.

Cla Meredith was average last year, which basically means he should be good enough to make the Orioles. Assuming that David Hernandez and Jason Berken don't get spots in the rotation, the will also compete for roles in the bullpen. I see a lot of potential for Hernandez, who has traditionally struck out a lot of batters, but I think Berken needs more time in AAA. Then we get to the Chris Ray types, namely Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, players who have succeeded in the past, but seemingly can't recover from injuries. Sarfate has great stuff and both have shown the ability to be effective relievers, but the O's may not have room for both of them.

The next group consists of the unproven young pitchers who deserve a look, but may not really have a chance. Bob McCrory is likely done after showing little in his two brief stints in the majors (16.46 ERA, .415 AVG against in 15 career games) and picking up injury problems. Alberto Castillo is a left-hander who's done well in parts of 2 seasons with the O's (3.32 ERA in 42 games), but is 35 and seems to be benefiting from good luck as batters have done relatively well against him. Wilfredo Perez was a candidate to get a callup last year after dominating AA as a closer, but there's probably not room for him now and he'll probably start in AAA. Jim Miller seems to be a forgotten mystery and I really don't know much about newcomers Armando Gabino and Luis Lebron, although they will be given opportunities to earn a spot and I have heard that Lebron may be the cinderella to come away with the team after holding a sub 2 ERA and striking out 1.5 batters an inning last year in the minors.

Basically, there is good potential for this group, but I think there is a lot of reason for concern. The back end (Gonzalez, Johnson, Uehara, and Mickolio) should hold its own, but if the middle relievers aren't able to overcome injuries and inexperience, it could be an ugly year. Think of a revolving door reliefs core that combines for an ERA between 6 and 7, maybe higher. There's nothing worse than knowing that when your starting pitcher comes out of the game, so does your chance of winning. Maybe we should trade back for Sherrill or even Danys Baez.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lineup 2010

I thought I would use my new econometric skills to predict the optimal Orioles lineup for the upcoming season. Then I just decided to do what I thought looked best.

2B - Brian Roberts - gets on base and then steals some more
CF - Adam Jones - more ideal at #5, needs to strike out less, but currently the best option
RF - Nick Markakis - would be nice to see a little more power, say 25 HRs
LF - Nolan Reimold - probably not ready to bat cleanup, but has the best power potential
DH - Luke Scott - can't forget his hot streaks
1B - Garrett Atkins - need a right hander to even things out, not the cleanup hitter we need
C - Matt Wieters - keep the pressure off for now
3B - Ty Wigginton - maybe he will rebound if he's further down in the order
SS - Cesar Izturis - not enough pop to bat 2nd

Give me your proposed lineups. Maybe you have Michael Aubrey or Felix Pie in there. I could see some people moving Wieters up or Jones down.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm not following the logic...

The Orioles apparently want to add another 1st or 3rd basemen, someone like Carlos Delgado (right), Hank Blalock, or Joe Crede. I don't get it - it's not like any of these players are Albert Pujols or David Wright. In fact, they're not that much better than Ty Wigginton or Michael Aubrey, who are currently the leading in-house candidates to fill the 2nd corner infield spot.

Here's my opinion: Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell are expected to be ready halfway through the season anyways, so there's no need of signing somebody unless they're going to be the long term solution. It appears that once again the O's will be stuck with a bunch of overpriced, average veterans who will be unhappy because there won't be enough at bats to go around.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sneak Peak 2010

If you were wondering why I quit posting at the end of May, it's because I lost hope. That may happen again this year just to warn you - but there is some hope.

The starting rotation looks pretty much set, apart from the order. Kevin Millwood (13-10, 3.67 ERA) should get the call opening day followed by an undetermined sequence of Jeremy Guthrie (10-17, 5.04), Brad Bergesen (7-5, 3.43), Chris Tillman (2-5, 5.40), and Brian Matusz (5-2, 4.63). Matusz is the least experienced, but he's the only lefty and may end up in the middle. Bergesen probably projects as a #4 or 5 based on his stuff, but he was the most successful last year and may be rewarded with a higher spot. Look for Guthrie to rebound some as he moves back in the rotation. Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton are closing in and may get their chance at some point this season.

The bullpen seems solid, but could use one more proven arm. New lefty Mike Gonzalez (5-4, 2.42, 10 SV) should get the closer duty, with Jim Johnson (4-6, 4.11, 10) setting him up. Koji Uehara (2-4, 4.05) could set up or act as a long reliever. Kam Mickolio (0-2, 2.63) should bring some power to the back of the bullpen as well. Cla Meredith (4-2, 3.99) is likely the last reliever with a semi-guaranteed spot. The remaining contestants include Matt Albers (3-6, 5.51)and Dennis Sarfate (0-1, 5.09), who are both on their last life with the organization. Don't forget David Hernandez (4-10, 5.42) and Jason Berken (6-12, 6.54), starters last year that will probably have to settle for relief roles this year. Several lesser known relievers will also fight for one of the final 2-3 spots.

Matt Wieters (.288, 9 HR, 43 RBI) will lead the infield from behind the plate and hopefully build on his rookie season to cement himself as a top-notch catcher. The O's will bring in several catchers to win a spot as his backup. As of right now, Garrett Atkins (.226, 9, 48) will handle first base, although Michael Aubrey (.289, 4, 14) could get the job if the O's decide to move Atkins to third. The ultimate hope is that Brandon Snyder will be ready to take over midseason. Brian Roberts (.283, 16, 79, 30 SB) of course will play second with Cesar Izturis (.256, 2, 30, 12) returning at short. Ty Wigginton (.273, 11, 41) is the only current option to play third, something the O's may change if they determine that Josh Bell will not be ready to step up later in the season. The utility spot will be between Aubrey, Rob Andino (.222, 2, 10), and Justin Turner (.167, 0, 3), although two of those players could potentially make the team.

The Orioles' strong point lies in their outfield. Nolan Reimold (.279, 15, 49), Adam Jones (.277, 19, 70, 10), and Nick Markakis (.293, 18, 101) have all but wrapped up their starting status. Felix Pie (.266, 9, 29) could push Reimold, but will likely serve as a strong 4th outfielder. Luke Scott (.258, 25, 77) will likely be the main DH and play occasionally in the field and it seems that Lou Montanez (.183, 1, 6) is once again out of luck.

Back on Track?

The Orioles supposedly met their needs of an ace, closer, and cleanup hitting corner infielder by trading for Kevin Millwood and signing Mike Gonzalez and Garrett Atkins. That may be three check marks on paper but in reality shows that the O's have few aspirations of competing in 2010. Let's look at those moves quickly:

1. O's trade RP Chris Ray for SP Kevin Millwood and money

In the last year of his contract, the Rangers were willing to pay most of the money he was owed just to get rid of him and get an injury laden reliever. I like Chris Ray and he may end up regaining his form someday, but the Orioles couldn't afford to waste a spot in the bullpen with him before then. You can argue that Millwood had a good year and won't cost the O's much. But he's 35, past his prime, and really a #2 or 3 guy. It's better than throwing Guthrie out there Opening Day, but it's obvious that he's another one year stopgap. Expect him to be mediocre, like 13-15, 4.50 ERA.

2. O's sign RP Mike Gonzalez for 2 years, $11 million

This signing makes the most sense out of the three. You get a George Sherrill type with more heat - 90 Ks in 74 innings and a .204 opponent average in 2009. It lets the O's slide Jim Johnson back into a setup role and puts less pressure on Kam Mickolio, Koji Uehara, and the rest of the bullpen. It's also a multiyear deal. The only concerns are the move to the AL and a history of injuries.

3. O's sign 1B/3B Garrett Atkins for 1 year

Garrett Atkins has slowly gotten worse over the past three seasons. His average went from .301 to .286 to .226. Home runs from 25 to 21 to 9. RBI's from 111 to 99 to 48. Consider this too...he played in Colorado. And even if he did return to his 2007 form, if you look closely those numbers almost match Nick Markakis' numbers that year (.300, 23, 112). Nothing against Nick, but he isn't a cleanup hitter, and neither is Atkins.