Orioles Check Up and Evaluation

It’s been a while since I last posted on here; life has gotten far busier than I had really anticipated for the last month or so, but I should be able to write far more now that I have more time on my hands. Since we are through about the first month or so, I figured I would evaluate the Orioles, who I made predictions for over a month ago. So far, I must eat crow and say that I have been pleasantly surprised with the success of this franchise that I predicted to be a bottom-feeder of the division. Here’s my evaluation:

  • Lineup: Let’s pick up where the Orioles left off last: middle of the league in offense. There were a lot of question marks starting the season: Will Hardy duplicate his numbers? Will Markakis regress? Will Jones/Wieters progress? What will Chris Davis do at first? Is Nolan Reimold an everyday player? How will our new utility acquisitions fit into our offense? So far, the positive answer to most of these questions has stunned most of us. Wieters, and especially Jones, have shown the league that they will be good players for years to come. These guys both look like they’re on their way to breakout seasons that all of us Orioles fans had hoped they would have. Chris Davis has been absolutely phenomenal at first both defensively and offensively. He has really cut down on strikeouts and is really hitting the cover off the ball (.313 avg., .353 OBP with 6 doubles and 4 HRs). I forsaw Davis as a decent player, but right now, he’s really striking fear in opposing pitchers (he was pitched around today in the 9th inning). I don’t think Davis will keep these numbers for the rest of the year, but so far, he does look as though he should be worthy of consideration for being the 1st baseman of the future. Reimold looks like an everyday player barring his recurring injuries (his hammy and his neck concern me; his body may not hold up to the wear and tear of a 162 game season), and has been even better than Davis offensively (.339 avg., .361 OBP with 5 doubles and 5 homeruns-many of which came in the 9th inning). Markakis was red-hot to begin the season, even hitting a rare opposite field home-run in the first week. He went through a slump but he seems to be coming out now. I look for his average to continue to rise, although I don’t think he’ll ever be a huge power guy, he will definitely continue to be a solid starter. Despite his .247 average, he continues to be excellent at getting on base (.330 OBP in itself isn’t excellent, but it’s pretty damn good with a .247 average). Hardy is about the only player on the Orioles not playing as well as one thought he would. I am hoping last year was not an aberration, but can’t help but think he is one of those guys who is very erratic and can’t be counted on year-to-year. He is still solid defensively though; hopefully he will figure it out and prove me wrong, as many players on this team have.
  • Bench Players: The utility acquisitions have fit into the team nice. None of them are really good enough to push to start, but Paulino looks excellent as a backup catcher, Betemit looks decent at 3rd and has come up clutch at times this year (his 3 run home run today comes to mind; maybe I’m being affected by the recency effect, but Betemit has seemed to fit his role nicely). Flaherty was one of the last men to make the roster and although I don’t really think he’s going to win the triple crown anytime soon, he can play a lot of positions and is a much better defensive player than either Betemit or Reynolds at 3rd. I think everyone needs this type of player to keep their team fresh. Chavez has been a disappointment so far; I hope that he can turn it around. I understand it’s hard to build a rhythm only starting sporadically, but he should at least be hitting above the Mendoza line. Overall, I think the offense has performed excellent so far. If Reynolds (who looks like complete crap so far), Hardy and Chavez begin to perform, the offense should be formidable over the space of the season. I’m very glad we didn’t follow my suggestion of signing DeRosa…
  • Starting Rotation- The rotation has pitched well above expectations as well. Arrieta hasn’t looked great, but he’s doing alright and I only expect him to perform better as this season goes along. He certainly looks better than last year. Hunter has looked good thus far, and really should have another win to make him 3-1. He needs to learn how to pitch on the road though, as his performances away have left something to be desired (9.26 ERA, 0.69 ERA at home prior to today). Anyway you slice it though, he looks like he will be a solid number 3 for the season. Hammel has really made me look like a moron, as I called the Guthrie deal one of the worst ever made. Now Guthrie is on the Dl, and Hammel is pitching like Greg Maddux in his prime (3-0, 1.73 ERA so far). While I don’t usually like being wrong, I am ecstatic about it right now. Chen has looked almost equally great, and once again, has made me look like an idiot. Prior to the season, I suggested that signing Edwin Jackson and Paul Maholm would have been much better moves than the Wada/Chen signings. Although I don’t completely concede this yet (Wada is not really holding up his end), Chen has looked like a solid number 2 pitcher for years to come. Let’s hope this continues. Matusz has looked pretty bad, but hopefully his last start is a preview of things to come (6 IP, 2 R, 0 ER). Right now, I see nothing that necessitates immediate change in the rotation, although I think 2 more poor starts for Matusz would probably merit a demotion to the minors for Berken or Eveland, who are pitching pretty well thus far in AAA.
  • Bullpen- The bullpen, typically our biggest weakness has looked excellent. Johnson has yet to give up a run, Strop looks like he has closer potential, O’Day is looking like one of the best MRP in baseball, and Ayala looks like he might be the best reliever in baseball (can’t get much better than 11.0 IP and no runs given up). Our only weakness is still one that I identified from the beginning (I guess even I could see that Kevin Gregg sucked). We really need to find a way to get him off the roster, he’s taking up a spot from someone who actually deserves to be on there (Berken, Eveland or Philips would all be better options). I still think this could be a viable option, we should give it a try.

Final thoughts: We can see that baseball is a very unpredictable game, and so far, this has worked in our favor. Though it is nice to see us competing, May will really be a test. We have to see whether this team is going to really contend or whether they’re just a reincarnation of this team. I think our team is much better than I originally gave us credit for. We look great thus far, hopefully we can keep this up. Just snagging a low playoff spot would do so much for this city and it’s fans. Here’s to hoping I continue eating crow for the rest of the season.

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Tebow Time Isn’t Up Just Yet

After weeks of speculation and dominating the headlines of Sportscenter, the Denver Broncos have finally won the Manning sweepstakes. Despite the love of the fans for every father’s dream son-in-law, it appears as though “Tebow Time” is up in Denver. However, does this mean that Tebow Time is up everywhere? In my opinion, absolutely not.

While some people believe that Tebow lacks the ability to be an NFL quarterback, what they do not realize is that Tebow brings so much more to a franchise that what he leaves on the field. Economically, Tim Tebow is a boon. To a struggling franchise such as the Browns or the Jaguars, Tebow would be very appealing, not just as an on the field presence, but as the ultimate business decision to revitalize and expand fan bases. Will Denver get any biters in a trade for him? Probably not, I think their asking price will be a bit high, and frankly, everyone knows that he’s as good as cut with Manning on the roster. Teams interested will probably wait until he gets cut.

I wanted Manning to go to the Chiefs, as in my opinion, Kansas City would immediately become a Superbowl contender. With Berry, Johnson, and Tamba Hali on D and Bowe, Charles and Manning on O, not to mention Crennel’s defensive expertise combined with Manning’s surgical approach on offense, the team would have been almost a lock for the playoffs. But alas, instead, he is on the Broncos, where he must bear the responsibility of dethroning the Chosen One from his starting spot. However, don’t get too down Skip Bayless and other Tebow followers, he will get a chance elsewhere after he gets traded or gets cut.

 

PC

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What the Problem With Bounties is

Over the past several days, there has been much made about the rewards made for injuring players. Darren Woodson on ESPN this morning made the claim that such agreements have always existed in NFL locker rooms, but that such agreements never rewarded players for actually injuring somebody. Woodson appears to try to marginalize the impact of the bounties, but I think anyone can see the obvious differences between rewards for playing the game correctly, and intentionally trying to injure somebody.

Mike Golic also appears to defend the bounties. How could you possibly reward anyone for injuring somebody? It’s one thing to reward a big play. such as a big hit or an interception. There’s something wrong if people are being rewarded for knocking somebody our the game. If on a good, hard hit, a player is knocked out, I believe the defender should be rewarded. However, why should they be rewarded even more for a knockout? Is it not the same either way as a clean, hard hit that doesn’t knock someone out of the game? The reward for a big hit should be the same, whether or not someone is forced onto the sideline or not as a result. For the record, I believe that Roger Goodell is a cancer on this league, but I also believe at least a fine, if not a suspension should be forced upon Greg Williams. I like a reward system, but not one that rewards injury causing hits.

PC

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Ryan Braun: Cheating is ok Even if You do Get Caught

Today, Ryan Braun’s suspension was overruled due to a “procedural error”.  While many have hailed this decision as evidence that the MLB procedure for drug testing is flawed, I have a very different opinion and find people’s conclusions very disturbing. While there may be flaws in this particular case, people must be careful not to overgeneralize this. Also, the public must recognize that this doesn’t necessarily exonerate him (that goes for you too Aaron Rodgers).

Procedural errors do exist in this particular case.  Whoever was supposed to send his sample to testing facility should have sent his sample on time. However, does this really change the fact at hand here? If the person was trying to taint Ryan Braun’s name and the Brewers run for that season, they kind of missed the boat (the Brewers were already knocked out of the playoffs at this point). I would find it far more suspicious had this news been released during the playoff run.

Also, my concern is that the entire procedure is being attacked for the actions of one moronic person. Yes, they should have sent the sample on time. But does this then mean that this is a regular occurrence? Do people mess up on sending samples every time they are taken? Let’s be realistic here: in all the steroid allegations that have occurred in Major League Baseball, this is really the only story of “procedural error” exonerating the player. I find it hard to believe that this isn’t just a very rare occurrence of somebody dropping the ball. Assuming most of the tests are sent on time, the system seems to be pretty effective to me (remember when people were hitting 50-60 home runs on a yearly basis?)

This is the system that we live in, where technicalities can help to prove innocent a man who may or may not be guilty. Despite the possibility of tampering, I find it just as likely that these were the true results of the test, and that whoever was supposed to send the results made an honest mistake. The fact that the test showed elevated levels of testosterone should still hold weight in this conversation. Until I hear that the guy who tampered with the test come out and admit that he did indeed add extra levels of testosterone, this case will always remain a blurry line that I refuse to take a strong side on this issue one war or another. Mr. Braun, you are not enonerated.

 

PC

 

Information from:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/dailypitch/post/2012/02/ryan-braun-milwaukee-brewers-teammates-react/1#.T0fjgGA2reM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/post/ryan-braun-suspension-is-overturned-and-aaron-rodgers-reacts-but-issues-remain-for-baseball/2012/02/24/gIQA0KCeXR_blog.html

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The Jeremy Lin Story: A Different Perspective

Jeremy Lin has been dominating the Sportscenter highlights lately with his great drives and phenomenal passing. People on Sportscenter continually debate over whether he can keep this up, and make dumb comparisons, like those between him and Tim Tebow.

In this writer’s opinion, enough is enough. I have no problem with the story; it’s a great story and it is refreshing to see such a great guy succeed in a day and age where many athletes are looked upon as dumb thugs without any sense of morals (which by the way, is not my opinion and is far from the truth). Why, when a good guy succeeds, does all the focus have to be on “how long is this going to last?” I feel like people spend most of their time being less impressed by Lin’s play and just act surprised. While I admit I was shocked, at this point, it should be no surprise. We need to just admit he is a good player and talk about what he does well, just as we talk about other players; stop treating him differently. And please quit the Tebow comparisons, it’s so stupid to compare “completion” percentage to “shooting percentage”. Anytime I see this I am forced to turn it off the television; I can’t bear to see such stupidity. Here’s to hoping the media leaves Lin alone and that he can focus on what should be the most important things in his life: his friends, his family, and basketball.

PC

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The Orioles: The “Off” Season

As promised, I will be writing this first post to evaluate the Orioles offseason as I see it. The first move was one that I was not particularly pleased with: the replacement of our GM Andy MacPhail. MacPhail wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t exactly like he has coming into much when he first took the job here in 2007. In his time in Baltimore, MacPhail built up a solid core of good, young players (Markakis, Jones, Wieters). Unfortunately, somebody got impatient with MacPhail and decided that a changing of the guard was necessary.

Frankly, I would usually have no problem with this philosophy. During MacPhail’s tenure, the O’s never won more than 70 games. However, as stated, my problem is not with his exit but with his replacement. Dan Duquette built some great teams in Montreal and in Boston. However, the man has been out of baseball for a long time. Didn’t it occur to the powers that be (whether that be Angelos, or whoever else) that there may be a reason for this? In my opinion, he is not an upgrade over MacPhail. In fact, judging by many of his moves this offseason, he may be a downgrade. While this opinion may render me bias to dislike Duquette, the man definitely could have earned my respect by making quality moves. I’m about to explain where he failed.

Here were the needs of the Orioles heading into the 2011-2012 offseason:

  • Starting pitching- The Oriole’s pitching staff was dead last in E.R.A. last season. It doesn’t matter how much you can score, you WILL NOT compete with a pitching staff that does that.
  • Bullpen- I seriously think I almost had an aneurism every time Kevin Gregg took the mound. Seriously, the guy is awful; at this point, I would cut him loose and eat his contract. At least it would free up a roster spot. Even when we had a lead late in the game, the ‘pen had a tendency to blow it far too often.
  • Utility Players- We needed some depth off of the bench. All the talk of acquiring some big name player for the offense was just dumb. Our offense was middle of the road for the league last year, 14th in run scored, 14th in average, and 19th in OBP. While not amazing, this offense is feasible for a contender; the money would be better spent on the pitching staff. All that was really needed was some more depth on the roster.
  • Reforming the Minor League System- I understand bad luck, but why in the hell does it always seem to be our prospects that fizzle out or fail? My guess is that our scouting department and lower-level coaching staffs just aren’t as good as those for other teams. Changes had to be made at the organizational level.

Now that I have set out our needs, I will evaluate the moves that Duquette made to satisfy those those needs.

  • Starting Pitching Moves: Duquette made the move to acquire Wei-Yin Chen for about 3.5 million a year. He also signed Tsuyoshi Wada for about 4 million a year. Duquette traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel (…ugh), traded for veteran lefty Dana Eveland and also signed Armando Galaragga and Casey Fossum. There is also speculation that perhaps Jim Johnson could move into the rotation.

Evaluation: This is sickening to even think about as it stands. The best moves on here are the signings of Wada and Chen, and they aren’t even proven players. It’s great that the Orioles want to get into the foreign market, but they aren’t even hedging their bets. Galarraga and Fossum, though they don’t really hurt, only provide minor league depth realistically. The Eveland trade was a decent move; he was great in September this past year. However, and I may get chastised for saying this, the Guthrie move may be one of the worst trades I have ever seen. Here’s why: Not only did we give away a guy that has been our best pitcher over the past 4 years, we got Hammel, who at best seems to be a number 5 pitcher, and is already 29 years old. Guthrie’s run support was awful in Baltimore, on the Yankees he probably could have won 17 games; as it is I predict Guthrie to go 15-12 with an ERA around 3.80 in Colorado (once again, I’m going to get chastised for saying things like that). Duquette really got jobbed. If this was the best he could do, he might as well have tried to wait and sell high at the deadline for prospects. Now we really have to hope Matusz, Arrieta, Britton and Hunter can pan out because I highly doubt that any of these moves gave us the ace of the staff that we so desperately need.

What I would have done: I have no problem with the Galaragga and Fossum signings, and the Eveland trade was good for depth. I would have used the money from the Chen and Wada signings to sign Edwin Jackson and Paul Maholm instead. Maholm and Jackson are 29 and 28 respectively, and should be entering the prime of their careers. They seem to have made breakthroughs last year, and it really would not have cost us all that much more. I would also have kept Guthrie. My rotation would have looked something like this: 1. Guthrie, 2. Jackson 3. Maholm 4. Hunter 5. Eveland, with Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, Galaragga and Tillman in AAA, with Fossum in AA. If Eveland were to get knocked around, we could get rid of him and bring one of the kids up to take his spot. Worst come to worst, we would at least probably have some trade chips come the deadline. Instead, Duquette is going to ruin Hunter by putting him in an ace spot. The kid is going to be completely alienated being knocked around in Baltimore this year. Worse yet, I don’t even know what we’re going to do about the other 3 spots beyond him and Chen. Duquette failed MISERABLY in a place where we needed upgrades the most.

  • The Bullpen: We have not yet decided what to do with Johnson, but for now I’ll pencil him in as the closer. We still have Strop, who was very good for us at the end of last year, and Patton, who I think is going to be a pretty good lefty (the second coming of Mike Remlinger). Berken is coming off of a weak 2011, but has shown promise in the past. Simon/Bergeson could end up as either starters or as long men. Wada also projects as a possible long man if he fails to make the rotation. We acquired Lindstrom in the Guthrie, a potential closer, but probably will end up in the set up role, and signed Luis Ayala. We also picked up Darren O’Day off of waivers, and signed Pat Neshek. We signed a number of other players for depth such as Ross Wolf, Denney Reyes, and Francis Beltran, none of whom really project to make an impact at the major league level. And we still have… Kevin… Gregg…

Evaluation: We really didn’t pick up any proven relievers. O’Day had a solid 2010, but was supposedly hurt last year. Who knows if he’s truly recovered; if so, this could be the best signing in for the pen. Lindstrom was good last year but his stats seem rather inconsistent, and as a closer, he wasn’t much better than Gregg. He also cost us our best pitcher; he was hardly worth the cost unless he becomes a closer of George Sherill-esque quality. Ayala was a good signing. Also, and this concern applies to the starting pitchers as well, we have a number of guys who have no options left. I just think that there are too many odd-men out. Duquette did ok in this area, but I think we should pull a trade with one or two of these players, if for no other reason than to just free up some space on the roster.

What I would have done: To save money for my hypothetical signings of Jackson and Maholm, I probably would not have made so many signings in this section. Ayala was solid, I definitely would not change that, but O’Day and Neshek just seem unnecessary. Have a pen of Johnson, Ayala, Strop, Patton, Bergeson, Berken and Simon. The lower level signings are fine for depth in case one of these guys gets injured or plays really awful. And I would honestly eat Gregg’s contract at this point, or trade him for whatever we could get for him, whether it be a fringe prospect or some food products for the stadium. He was a liability last year out there.

  • Utility/Bench Players: Duquette acquired Wilson Betemit, as well as Endy Chavez for the outfield. He also acquired Taylor Teagarden and Matt Antonelli and Ryan Flaherty. Duquette acquired strikeout extraordinaire Jai Davis for cash considerations.

Evaluation: I’m glad Duquette didn’t go out and do something stupid, like sign Prince Fielder to a 9 year deal; we don’t need another one of those types of contracts on the books. I like that he got some insurance at second base in case Roberts isn’t ready to go, though I’m not quite sure what Betemit does for us really. He’s kind of the odd man out in the infield, and I don’t quite know what he has that the other guys can’t already offer. I love the Chavez and Teagarden acquisitions. Duquette did pretty well in satisfying.

What I would have done: I would have pretty much done the same things, other than the Betemit signing. I probably would have signed a good defensive player, like Mark DeRosa, who would have been cheaper and a better fit for our team in terms of defense. I hate to think of how awful the “hot corner” is going to be with Betemit and Reynolds out there on a daily basis.

  • Reforming the Minor League System- Duquette made the move from emphasis on pro scouting to amateur scouting, essentially dissolving the pro scouting system. Duquette also emphasized “use of video and statistical analysis in scouting the majors”.

Evaluation: I like the original thinking, but the jury is still out on whether this move will work or not. I don’t know very much about this side of the sport, so I won’t attempt to be an all-knowing authority on this. I will say though, that I think the whole Moneyball strategy is a load of crap, and I hope Duquette isn’t taking us down that road. I do like the idea of focusing on amateur scouting more, maybe we won’t keep missing on these “can’t miss” guys.

What I would have done: Referred it to someone who knows more than me, as I have little experience in this area.

Conclusion: I think I’ve made myself clear on my opinion of this entire O’s offseason. Last year around this time, I thought MacPhail had done a pretty good job (although he too neglected starting pitching) of assembling what looked to be a competitive team on paper. I respect Andy MacPhail for that. In the words of Flats from Hall Pass, one of the funniest movies in recent memory, “It’s ok to strikeout sometimes guys, but at least take a couple of swings”. Duquette has not taken any swings, and many of the ones he has taken seem to be on pitches way out of the zone. Duquette has made a few solid moves on our less crucial needs and done a decent job fulfilling them, but on our biggest needs, Duquette has really screwed the pooch.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that anyone could make this team into a contender immediately. However, the question at this point is: Are we moving in the right direction? I would say no, we are not progressing, and it will be awhile before we see this team contend. But hey, who am I to say that? As they say, that’s why they play the games. Here’s to what I hope will be good season ladies and gents.

Questions? Comments? Post and I will get back to you when I have time. I appreciate the read, and I hope that you enjoyed it. Trust me, my posts in the future will not be this long…

All information and statistics from: http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=bal

http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/batting/sort/slugAvg/order/true

http://baseball.about.com/od/newsrumors/a/Ranking-The-2011-12-Free-Agent-Third-Basemen.htm

(http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/baltimore-orioles-shake-up-scouting-department-121611).

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Introduction

At last, I can finally express some of my thoughts on sports. After being denied by the greatest evaluators of journalism talent on Earth (the Bleacher Report; probably because my submitted article didn’t start with “The 5 reasons that…”), I’ve decided to “take my talents” to WordPress. While I do not harbor any ill will toward bleacher report (ok, maybe a little), I think that it will be far easier to publish uncensored on this site. I will continually keep coverage of random sports topics, though many of them will pertain to Maryland (hence the name). Anyhow, hello WordPress and to whoever may actually take the time to read these articles, I welcome your input, whether it be positive or negative. My first article will be out shortly and will discuss the Orioles offseason (rather, the lack thereof). I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts.

PC

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