New Blog to Check Out – The Baltimore Wire

This site – O Say Orioles – was my first baseball blog.

Then I was asked to write for the FanSided Network’s Orioles Blog – BirdsWatcher.com … and I wrote a total of 152 articles there.

Since 11/13/13, I have become the editor for a new Baltimore/Maryland regional sports blog called The Baltimore Wire… at http://www.TheBaltimoreWire.com …. so check it out!

There is going to be great Orioles coverage there … along with Ravens, Terps, and other regional sports on all levels.

I will write more about the Orioles than anything else, and a great young writer named Nate Wardle (along with a couple others) will write frequent baseball pieces as well.

See you there!

 

Random Orioles Thoughts – after the 5-4 Red Sox Loss

I don’t have a major theme, but have a bunch of random thoughts:

-          This was a game the Orioles could have won, though not certainly should have won. As much as anything, they ran themselves out of the game – getting thrown out at second on steals and the mistake by Alexi Casilla in the 9th. You could see him ask the 3rd base coach, “What happened?”  So he did not lose track of the outs, but rather did not pick up the flight of the ball to right field… though it was in for a hit. Simply horrific.

-          Beyond the blown call by Jeff Nelson, his umpiring today was the worst I have seen all year. The strike zone was all over the place.

-          The Orioles too frequently leave too many add-on runs on base early in games – runs that could make a difference later.

-          I have often felt that when Hardy struggles, he is taking his stance too far off the plate and it has him reaching – though he drove a single to right field tonight on a pitch that was in actuality down the middle.

-          It was good to see Matt Wieters get the homer. I’m getting more disappointed in his overall lack of offense. He is without doubt the best defensive catcher in the game, but I’m afraid the question about contract extension is going to be what is the value of the best defensive catcher who is, at the same time, rather average as a batter.

-          Freddy Garcia is at best a temporary solution. It is difficult to win without any sort of fastball. Pray for Chen’s quicker healing.

-          If T.J. McFarland can keep throwing as he has these last two games, it will go a long way for him and for the team.

-          Lackey has to have a sore face after hours of squinting… such an odd looking fellow.

-          This doubles machine named Manny Machado is amazing. It really is unbelievable what this young man is doing.

-          The loss is disappointing today, but what I like about this team is that, even if they are not going to be able to come back in a game, they are going to put runners on at the end and make a go of it. This has always been a mark of great teams – like the Yankees over the years.

Foul Fans at the Firestone Store

So, my car today is at the Firestone store getting new tires. As I begin my wait and sit to write this, the first guy through the door is wearing a Red Sox cap … so of course, I’m all over him about the 13-inning Orioles win last night (being so bold since I actually know the guy).

But the second person through the door has a Cardinals cap, and so I say, “Well here comes another sinner – though not as bad as this first one” … and in a good-natured way, he tells me he is actually an Oakland A’s fan. So now, knowing his boys from the west beat the Yankees last night in 18 innings, I realize I have a new friend (since the enemy of my enemy is my friend – that sort of thinking).

While this is happening, the third guy through the door is wearing a Pirates cap. So I say, “What is going on around here, don’t you people know you are living in Maryland … the home of the Orioles?”  And this fellow (not catching on to the baseball theme) takes off on a political rampage about living in Maryland – one that I heartily agree with – and even though he’s wearing that evil black hat, I realize I actually have made another friend.

The last guy through the door was by all appearances and speech a recent immigrant, and I don’t think he had any idea what everyone else was yucking it up about – but he was smiling at the crazy Americans and diversity on display!

After the bullpen (in the form of Brian Matusz) came into the game in the 7th inning and blew a 4-2 Orioles lead, I was sure that, in the event of a loss, the fan base would be calling for the head of Matusz in the same way they wanted Pedro Strop from the night before. (I have a full article on Strop on the Birds Watcher blog that you may read by clicking HERE.)

As it turned out, the 13-inning affair last night had much the look of the 2012 Orioles – hanging on and hanging on until they somehow squeak out a run to win the game.

And it indeed was a squeaky sort of score – made with a two-out walk to Nick Markakis, a solid single by Adam Jones, and then a “flare” that by good fortune and clean living of Chris Davis fell into left field between defenders. Game over.

A part of my delight along with the win was simply seeing the over-shift burned. I understand why most teams now do this, and surely the statistical analyses will prove it to be advantageous on most occasions. But the old-timer in me hopes that enough hitters break its effectiveness that it goes the way of white cleats and softball style shirts, and that this softball style defense disappears too.

It was good to see a pitcher get his first career win last night, and though it probably should have been Kevin Gausman, it turned out rather to be T.J. McFarland. Though Gausman did not go far enough to have it registered as a quality start, it was a good effort. The Orioles have now had eight good starts in the past 10 games… and they REALLY need another one tonight from Chris Tillman!

The Orioles have moved ahead of the Yankees now into second place. If only we could see a sweep this weekend, it would really tighten up the division. That is likely too much to hope for, since the only sweep this year has been a two-gamer over the Nationals. But this would be a great time for it to happen.

Oh boy… late news… Jake Arrieta is being brought up for bullpen depth. I’m going to go pray now for Chris Tillman to give us at least 8 innings.

Memories of Famous 1966 Over-the-Fence Catches

As so often happens, when I write something bold or negative one day, the opposite thing happens in the next game … but that is baseball!

Yesterday I somewhat chidingly mocked the Angels for their collection of 50-foot long base hits. Well, last night, the Orioles strung together a series of three infield hits with two outs in order to load the bases in the bottom of the 7th inning of a 1-1 game. Nick Markakis then did what seems so often to be so very difficult for Orioles hitters (though fans of other teams likely feel the same), he drilled a clutch hit to drive in what would be the ultimate margin for victory. He did not miss or get lucky at all! The replay shows the perfect swing with his head down on the ball – driven into center field.  (I had to watch the replay later, as I was in an evening board meeting during the game simply watching the graphics on MLB’s Gameday on my computer at the end of the table! Don’t rat me out!)

Again, though there were “fortunate circumstances” in that 7th inning, it made up a bit for the over-the-fence home run thievery of Peter Bourjos. His catch of J.J. Hardy’s shot to center field was among the most impressive one will ever see.

I had one of these Series programs, but my mom threw it away after I moved out!

I had one of these Series programs, but my mom threw it away after I moved out!

It reminded me of two similar catches I saw on 10/9/1966 in the 4th and final game of the World Series at Memorial Stadium. I was age 11, seated in the right field bleachers with a perfect view down the length of the outfield fence. There, Willie Davis of the Dodgers robbed Boog Powell in the 4th inning with a similar over-the-fence catch like last night. Not to be outdone, Paul Blair did the exact same thing to Jim Lefebvre in the 8th inning. What a sight!

The win last night was great, even with Jim Johnson giving up a run in the 9th inning. IMHO – He is still not back to his old self – is better by far than the total meltdown of a few weeks ago. But I do not believe he is yet as sharp as we have most often seen. I expect to see a blown save again here before long… though I don’t mean to be too critical. As Showalter always says, it is a difficult job that Johnson is asked to do. That is true, and I do not long for any other reliever or closer in the game … am simply saying he is not completely “right” at this time.

It would great to get a sweep today. The Orioles have been very good at winning series, but sweeps are extra special. The starting pitchers have quietly put together a series of seven quality starts over the past nine games. If that continues, we will see baseball in October.

A Win – in Spite of Weaver, West, and the Weather

It was a crazy game last night with the rain and the seeming defiance and tenacity of umpire Joe West to play through it. When it became evident that it was already 15-20 minutes too late to call a rain delay appropriately, finally he did. And then, when OPACY was in a condition that sportswriters were tweeting “beyond anything they had ever seen at the ballpark,” West insisted that the game be finished … restarting at 11:00 p.m. rain over Baltimore

The Orioles prevailed 4-3, only giving up one additional run after the 4-2 score in the 6th inning before the delay. Were the Angels to have made a comeback, they would have owed a great deal to the grounds crew at Oriole Park. It is incredible to believe that the field that existed in the 6th inning could be playable again in 2.5 hours – under ANY intervening conditions.

Jared Weaver looked really tough in the beginning of the game. The Birds can be thankful to have gotten to him for 2 runs on the Adam Jones homer, and then two more while conditions were in the ridiculous column. I’m not sure West would have even stopped the game at that point were it not for Nick Markakis literally over-sliding 2nd base by about 6-8 feet! Nick said it was like a “slip-n-slide” experience.

I am amazed that Freddy Garcia held the Angels to only two solo homers. He really does have some nasty movement on his slow junk, but he has no fastball whatsoever to go along with it. This makes for ZERO margin of error. I’m afraid this is unsustainable.

I yesterday wrote a piece on the Birds Watcher blog that compared Chris Davis to Mark Reynolds at this time of the season after 63 or so games. I’ll humbly say that I think it is interesting, and you can read it by clicking HERE.

I am thinking I am going to activate this blog again with shorter posts – quick hit sorts of things with longer pieces still at Birds Watcher on the Fansided Network. So, come on back here over and over.

One-third of the Season is Completed

Yes, indeed, with 54 games in the books, exactly a third of the 2013 season is now history. The Orioles have the exact record that they compiled at this point a year ago – 30-24.  I guess it is not just luck after all!  (insert smiley face)

With a 17-day recent trip to Europe, it has been a challenge to write for the sports network blog, let alone also adding more thoughts here. Just this evening after the great 2-0 win over the Nationals, I wrote a piece on the value of strike one – evidenced in abundance by Freddy Garcia, who pitched ahead of 21 of 27 batters. To see the article, here is the link … http://birdswatcher.com/2013/05/30/orioles-garcia-the-value-of-strike-one/

Over recent years on this blog I have tracked the pitching (starters/relievers) and the offense to account for whom to credit for wins and blame for losses. In the past, many would be surprised to learn that actually the Orioles’ pitching cost them far fewer games than the lack of hitting. However, the opposite has been true this year. It is the stellar offense (tonight notwithstanding) that has carried the team. So here are those stats for the first 54 games:

Point Summary – after 54 games = 30-24

                        Credit             Blame             Differential

Starters            +28.5               -23.5                = (+5.0)

Relievers         +21.0               -23.5                = (-2.5)

Offense           +40.5               -22.0                = (+18.5)

Defense           +00.0               -03.0                = (-3.0)

Total                +90.0               -72.0

The Orioles have not yet completely “arrived,” as this remains a rather young team overall and a work in progress. But the pieces are either all on the stage right now, or waiting just in the wings, for this to be a pretty special show.

A Lot of Luck

This is from Roch Kutatko’s page on MASN:  “According to Elias, the Orioles have won a franchise-record 96 consecutive regular season games when leading after seven innings, dating back to August 2011. It’s the third-longest streak for any club during the expansion era (since 1961). The only longer streaks are 116 by the 1998-99 Yankees and 97 by the 2002-03 Atlanta Braves.”

All I have to say to that is that it sure is an incredible streak of luck to do that. Of course I say that in jest. The entire story that is out there among national baseball pundits that the Orioles are a one-season wonder … full of good luck and fortunate circumstances that cannot be repeated or sustained. To them I just say “shut-up!”

Of course the Birds are not likely to repeat a 29-9 record in one-run games. I’ve written upon this theme before, but, one-run wins are not a tell-all story. It just says that your bullpen is good and your guys like to battle. I am hoping those numbers are NOT repeated this year. I’m hoping that there are so many runs put up by a better offence that there is no need to win an unusual number of one-run games.

Well… anyhow… I’ve been a busy boy lately and have only written one recent article on Manny Machado… found HERE.

The bad news is that I’m going to miss a couple of weeks of games soon while travelling to Europe. The good news is that I will miss seeing the dreaded West Coast trip – especially that terrible ballpark in Oakland.

On another note, Conor Jackson retired today!  There must be a story behind the story there that has not been told yet. I’d frankly rather have him than Pearce.

 

Thankful for a New Season

There is no doubt that Buck Showalter is a great manager – maybe about the very best out there. But if there is any place where I often disagree with him it is in the matter of the batting order. I really don’t get the placement of Manny Machado in the 2nd spot here during the first two games. He is certainly going to be a fine hitter and have a long career, but he does not seem the best option for that spot right now. Not with Nolan Reimold in the lineup.

There is going to need to be a roster change in the next 48 hours to open a spot for Chris Tillman. I’d suggest it be Luis Ayala – and not just because he stunk up the place tonight. That is simply symptomatic of the problem – specifically that he is not able to come into a game with inherited runners. All his good statistics come from starting innings as a reliever – he allowed far too many inherited runners to score even last year. I was surprised to see how many Orioles fans reacted very negatively to the idea of Ayala being shopped around late in spring training. There are better options at this point. Send the short-arm thrower away I say… and today.

But it is good to see the season started. The earth is back on its axis again and spinning properly.

The Orioles were very proud yesterday of putting on a specific shift that had Machado throwing a guy out from right-center field. Tonight, the Rays are using the shift well on defense (after all, they are the essential inventors of it), and they are hitting the ball where the Orioles aren’t. You live by the shift; you die by the shift.

Let me reference you to check out an article I wrote on the nature of the Orioles schedule this year. Both the opening and closing 20% of the season features an unusual number of road games… and hence the middle 60% features an abundance of home contests. The challenge with that is that these will be played in the heat and humidity of Baltimore – could wear down the team for the final push. Although, given the weather of the last month, perhaps we won’t have a summer this year.

Anyhow, HERE is a link to the article about the schedule.  And HERE is a link to another article about Brian Roberts batting 9th in the lineup.

Spring Training 2013

With only about 10 days remaining of Spring Training, it has been as interesting to follow as we all hoped it would be for the Baltimore Orioles.

Among major themes:

Who will be the 5th starter? – It is still very uncertain. Perhaps Jake Arrieta has the best shot right now? And Brian Matusz has been better than I expected, while Jair Jurrjens had a great outing just today. It would appear Zach Britton took a step back, though he would have been my pick a month ago to win this competition. Perhaps a strong outing in his next showing puts him back on the map. Steve Johnson is less likely it seems to me, though he has a huge following among Orioles fans – presumably because of his father.

Will Brian Roberts really be healthy and able to be anything close to his old self? – It sure looks like the answer to this is a “yes.”  Again, I would not have predicted this.

Will Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis be able to return to top form? – The jury is still out on both of these guys. I actually feel better about Reimold. What worries me about Nick is that there is no reason given as to why he has the disc problem in his neck – it is not incident related. So, if nothing caused it, what would a crash into the right field fence do to it??

Will the WBC be disruptive to O’s players participating? – The answer appears that it was universally a positive experience.

Will Chris Davis be adequate at first base? – The answer to this is apparently such a positive that nobody is even worrying much about it anymore.

Overall, it has been a good spring. The team has played well (16-6 as I write this!) and seems to be very deep. There have been a lot of nagging injuries … and actually I’ve written an article on this subject by comparing modern players and injuries to those of an earlier generation. Here is the link:

http://birdswatcher.com/2013/03/15/baltimore-orioles-more-injuries-than-ever/

I also wrote about ranking the starting pitchers here:

http://birdswatcher.com/2013/03/20/ranking-orioles-starting-pitching-in-various-categories/

And then I wrote a sort of crazy thing about what are worries for the team, and what are items to not worry about… is all how you look at it:

http://birdswatcher.com/2013/03/21/2013-orioles-worry-worry-worry-or-dont-worry-be-happy/

I think it is going to be a good year!

One Month To Go!

Here on a freezing and flurrying March 2nd in Maryland, the hope that warms the soul is that it is but a month to go until opening day. I think I can make it… maybe.

The Orioles are playing the Rays in Port Charlotte as I write this. I cannot get the game on any media, though I can sort of follow it on Gameday on mlb.com.  Matusz had a 1-2-3 in the 3nd inning as he came on as the first reliever. He did it on three pitches! May that trend continue! Really – as a reliever. It looks to me to be his sweet spot and that there are equal or likely better choices for starters.

Steve Melewski of MASN sports asked the question today if Matusz was better as a reliever or starter … now you know what I think.

He also asked what is the biggest weakness of the Orioles team. That is difficult to assess. All winter we have wondered about 2B and LF/DH. Assuming that Roberts will be healthy (and he looks great so far) and that McClouth and Reimold can likewise be healthy, those positions look to be covered. I’ve always thought Davis will be sufficient at 1B; we have to have his bat in the lineup. The bullpen is stellar, and the starters look to be deep and better than any recent year. So where is there a weakness?

I answered that it is in the matter of on-base percentage, and thus the difficulty of turning over the lineup. There is a lot of power in this lineup, but Davis, Wieters, Hardy, and to some extent most others in the lineup, all swing through a lot of pitches. But in any event, I do not see how the offense can be anything but much improved – and it needs to be, as my credit/blame stats of recent years prove.

I have been on the road a bit in February and did not write as much for the Fansided network. I do have a piece yesterday on the issue of one-run games. It is a bunch of bunk that because the Orioles cannot possibly repeat those record-breaking stats of last year that they are therefore doomed to mediocrity. Here is the link:

http://birdswatcher.com/2013/03/01/myths-of-one-run-win-statistics/

Ouch! Update – Matusz gives up two homers in his 2nd inning of work!  Gosh. Well, my hopes are not that invested in him anyhow.

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