Posted on: May 15, 2011 12:09 pm

The Bullpen: What of it?

There's no getting around it: the Orioles bullpen has been terrible this year. Its 4.92 ERA is good for 26th in MLB, and at times it has seemed like every relief pitcher was struggling simultaneously. Only five clubs in MLB have allowed more walks from their bullpen. The .258 BAA is 24th in MLB. I do, however, see reasons for optimism in this area as the season progresses. It may never be turned to the strength many thought it might be, but it could and should be a serviceable unit over the long haul. Why do I feel this way? Well, it might get long and circle back on itself, but I think my reasoning is sound.

It really starts, though, with this: The Orioles bullpen is sixth in MLB in innings pitched. After watching years of this team feature a bullpen with decent arms that starts getting shelled at some point in the season, I have come to realize more and more that, for the most part, to find a good bullpen one should look where the starting pitching is best, and where that starting pitching is lasting the longest. Obviously it's not going to be a 1:1 tradeoff, but at a glance the trend does seem to more or less hold. Why is that? Because for the most part, pitchers are in a bullpen because, compared to other MLB pitchers, they are average to bad. There are, of course, exceptions - but almost all of those are closers or setup men. Middle relief is middle relief because those guys aren't very good. Given a small sample size (fewer innings) they are more likely to have better numbers than if they pitch more often.

After three straight nine-inning starts, the bullpen is going to be rested. I think we are already about to see a localized drop in their ERA and an improved performance. That won't hold up if our next three starters go 3, 5, and 2 1/3 or something, but the last couple of days have been huge for that unit.

On  a second note, I think we, as fans, have overreacted to a couple of bad performances by these guys. If we look at them one at a time, I think we will all take comfort in what we see.

Kevin Gregg has blown two saves in nine tries. That's not ideal, but here is a list of pitchers other than Greggwho have blown two or more saves this year:

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals (4)
Brandon Lyon, Astros (4)
Matt Thornton, White Sox (4)
Fernando Rodney, Angels (3)
Sean Burnett, Nationals (3)
Brandon League, Mariners (3)
Nick Masset, Reds (3)
Tyler Clippard, Nationals (3)
Ryan Webb, Marlins (3)
Craig Kimbrel, Braves (3)
Mariano Rivera, Yankees (2)
Kerry Wood, Cubs (2)
Rafael Betancourt, Rockies (2)
Joe Nathan, Twins (2)
Joaquin Benoit, Tigers (2)
Brian Fuentes, Athletics (2)
Jeremy Affeldt, Giants (2)
Matt Belisle, Rockies (2)
Bobby Jenks, Red Sox (2)
Chris Ray, Mariners (2)
Chris Resop, Pirates (2)
Clay Hensley, Marlins (2)
Matt Capps, Twins (2)
Carlos Marmol, Cubs (2)
Jose Veras, Pirates (2)
Jeff Fulchino, Astros (2)
Joakim Soria, Royals (2)
David Robertson, Yankees (2)
Jordan Walden, Angels (2)
Mike Dunn, Marlins (2)
Luke Gregerson, Padres (2)
John Axford, Brewers (2)
Fernando Abad, Astros (2)
Vinnie Pestano, Indians (2)

That's a list of 35 guys, including Gregg, representing 23 teams. Only seven MLB teams lack a pitcher with two ore more saves, and of those the Rangers, Mets, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks all have three or more pitchers with one blown save. Only the Rays, Phillies, and Dodgers are in such good shape that they have had two or fewer pitchers blow only one save. I think that should give us some perspecive on where Gregg really stands among his peers. He isn't lighting the world on fire, but he's not close to the bottom of the barrel, either. Of the 34 pitchers listed above, 27 of them have worse ERAs for the season than does Kevin Gregg. Most of the damage was done in one bad outing on April 18th against the Twins...since that outing Gregg has pitched ten times and surrendered just one ER. So, we probably owe him a break at this point. Oh, and another tidbit: Gregg does have the lowest ERA among Orioles pitchers.

Koji Uehara is next in the O's bullpen in ERA, with an even 3. I am not so worried about him, to be completely honest. He's still the guy in this bullpen that I have the most confidence in when we hand him the ball. Consider: despite some struggles in late April/early May, his WHIP on the season is 0.93. He has struck out 18 batters while walking only 4. He hasn't walked a batter in May, so he looks to be back to pitching like himself, and all of th damage this month came on one swing. Since that outing, his ERA for the year has dropped by nearly a full run.

Jim Johnson has also struggled at times, pitching to an ERA of 4.05 out of the bullpen. And yet, his WHIP is an even 1.00 and he has a BAA of just .205. He has shown that he can be extremely effective at times while wildl ineffective at others. Well, isn't that what a bullpen pitcher usually is? A guy who isn't consistent enough to start but who can bring it on a given night? He's got some pitches that are simply nasty, and is still a valuable asset out there. He's the kind of guy who will win you some ballgames if used effectively, and one can tell almost right away if he has it based on whether his best pitch is working. I think Showalter is a good enough manager to make that work for us.

Jeremy Accardo is well behind his career numbers for the year. His 4.32 ERA is 0.34 high and his (atrocious) 1.62 WHIP is up by about the same total. Not that a 3.98/1.36 line is what you want to see, but this is a guy who has already appeared in half as many games (13) as in any year since 2007. He's not a guy I can guarantee we'll see a great improvement from...he had two great years, one awful year, and one virtual non-year while with Toronto...and so far, his numbers point to a mediocre but not awful year in Baltimore. BUT I firmly believe that the less we have to use him, the better those numbers will be.

With Jason Berken comes the point at which my thoughts begin to circle back on themselves. I don't think Jason Berken is good. I have always felt this way, and have virtually zero confidence in his abilities. The reason, in this case, that I think the bullpen is going to strengthen soon is that his innings will begin to be shared, and shared with someone better than Josh Rupe. Brian Matusz is about to return, and that return will push either Brad Bergesen (a pitcher coming off of a complete game, four-hit shutout) or Chris Tillman. Tillman is looking more and more like his destiny lies in the 'pen, but I think that could be a decent future. He seems to more often be the victim of a bad inning than sustained suck, and good managing (plus a little luck) can turn that to advantage in a reliever.

Michael Gonzalez, simply put, is just not going to be this bad over a full season. The last time he had a terrible ERA for a year was his first in the majors (2003 with Pittsburgh) when he appeared in just 16 games. Pitchers just don't, after 7 years in the lague, pitch to an ERA more than five runs above their career numbers. I just don't even acknowledge that as something that can happen. In his worst full season, Gonzalez had an ERA of 4.28, and if the 7.94 he's sitting on right now were to hold up it would be more than three and a half runs worse than that year. We just need to give him some time...this is a situation where, yeah, maybe he's not that good any more. However, even so he IS better than the numbers he has at this point in the year, and that wil prove out over the course of 162 games.

Clay Rapada. Well, I don't have a lot of positive things to say here. BUT an ERA of 11.12 is another number that isn't likely to sustain itself at that height. I would expect to see Rapada to continue to struggle, but I also expect him to be phased out with a healthy Brian Matusz.  Similarly, we won't be relying on the awfulness of Chris Jakubauskas or Josh Rupe.

All of this boils down to: Our starters beginning to go deeper into games as they get into midsummer form, the return of Brian Matusz, the cutting of the chaff, and a couple of guys pitching like the pitchers they have been for their careers should minimize the problem that the Orioles bullpen has become in the early part of the season. I don't expect greatness out of this group, but I also am growing increasingly confident that they will be "good enough" through the dog days. Now, if only the bats would wake up...
Posted on: July 6, 2009 7:34 am
Edited on: July 29, 2009 3:59 pm

If you've thrown a pitch for the '09 Orioles

And I don't get lazy and stop halfway though...Then I'm about to have some words of one kind or another for you.  I'm gonna cite your key stats, tell you what I think you're doing right and wrong, and then say what your value to the organization is going forward.  Be warned: I'm only pleased with a few of you. So, without further adeiu, and in order of innings pitched:

Jeremy Guthrie, you've pitched to a 5.20 ERA and a 1.4 WHIP, and that's not something I expected out of the guy who was second to Johan Santana in QS over the two prior seasons coming in.  Your 19 HR allowed scare me.  However, you still find the strike zone more often than not to the tune of a 2-1 K/BB ratio.  You're trying too hard, something that's been thoroughly analyzed by fans at this site.  You try to make every pitch the perfect pitch; consequently when you miss it's a meatball and it lands over the fence.  Other than all the HR, you look like the ace I remember, so I think we need to keep you in the organization for at least a few more years.  Your arm comes cheap compared to similar hurlers, and frankly you're our only veteran.

Brad Bergesen, you're one of four Orioles starters to win his MLB debut this season, and the only pitcher besides Guthrie to throw more than 90 innings so far.  Your 3.53 ERA and 1.16 WHIP means you've been the team's best starter, and you do it without walking people too much.  This organization needs pitchers who can find the strike zone and keep a good head on their shoulders.  You're going deep in games and truly dealing.  Your future is here and it's in the rotation.

Koji Uehara, your 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP look OK on the surface, but the telling stat is when your numbers are split by time through the order.  You're excellent the first time through, below average the second time through, and god-awful the third time through.  They're figuring out your stuff and you're not adjusting.  However, you are stirking out four times the batters you're walking, and those are great numbers to have for a team that has struggled mightily with walks for the better part of a decade.  You belong as an Oriole, but your inability to adjust to hitters and to hold up with a high inning count means you need to be middle relief (when you get healthy).  In that role you could be very effective for a contending team, and so I think the brass needs to recognize this and keep you around.

Mark Hendrickson, The 4.86 ERA you've posted looks pretty bad on the surface.  However, as a reliever (3.20) it's better than 3 runs down from as a starter (6.32).  Once you were moved to the bullpen, you became effective.  Your stuff just isn't that great, but you have a career of moderate success and for a struggling organization that's valuable.  I don't think you have long-term value to the Birds, but for this year and perhaps one or two more your veteran presence and ability to go out and throw multiple innings, including spot-starts if necessary, is nice to have around.

Brian Bass, we're just past the halfway point and you hae a 4.71 ERA and 1.59 WHIP...the fact that you still rank in top 5 on the team in innings (and the secondary fact that it's below 50) tells us something about the state of our pitching.  You did have a couple of effective months, but like most mediocre relievers you are streaky.  Your stuff isn't great, and frankly you're just taking up a roster spot since we have several guys who could pitch to those numbers in long relief.  Unlike some of the other pitchers, you don't make up for your mediocre numbers by throwing strikes.

Rich J. Hill, you have a 7.43 ERA and 1.80 WHIP.  You've walked 31 batters (most on the team) and only struck out 39.  The raw ability we've heard about just doesn't seem to be there.  You don't command any pitch but your fastball, and it doesn't have great life.  You have a curve, but more than half the time you can't get it working.  You're wild, and are really the only truly wild starter left on the roster.  All of that combines to suggest that the Orioles should be done with you.  Perhaps you can get your stuff figured out in another organization.

Danys Baez, despite your 4.5 ERA you have at times been the O's most effective reliever.  After your surgery your fastball has newfound life, but like all pitchers who rely on one pitch you are sometimes vulnerable to good hitters sitting on that pitch.  One of the great moments of the season was when you blew one fastball right by a sick Ryan Howard only to have him jack the next one.  I don't blame you; it sure didn't look like he could catch up to your stuff.  I'm unsure if you have more value to the Orioles via trade or kept on for several years as a mid-to-late reliever.

Adam Eaton, I have little to say.  Your time has come and gone to the tune of an 8+ ERA and 1.83 WHIP.  While you were acquiring these numbers you had all of one successful outing which came when you were saving your job...which only served to convince the organization to keep you one or two starts longer than it should have.

Jason Berken, you had a great first start, winning your debut like so many have for us this season.  However, since your ERA has bloated up to 6.25.  What I see from you is flat stuff that is good enough to foll hitters no more than once a game.  I like the head you've got on your shoulders, because you've shown composure, but I don't think it's a good enough head for you to be crafty enough to get MLB hitters out consistently with what appears to be average stuff.  I think the organization should be patient with you in case I'm wrong, but I doubt there'll be much value in keeping you with the parent club in 2010.

Jim R. Johnson, I don't think the 3.00 ERA and 1.26 WHIP are indicative of how truly effective you have been for the most part...your numbers, like many short relievers, are highly inflated by your limited innings.  Hitters are frequently simplay outmatched by your stuff, and frankly I think it's between you and Chris Ray for the best ability among Orioles relievers (and you've been harnessing it to greater effect).  I, for one, would be most upset if the FO elected to part ways with you.

Matt Albers, while your ERA is close to 4 we're finally starting to see signs that you're the pitcher you were before your injury.  Batters hit about .400 against you in April, while in June that number was down to .250.  I still get the sense from watching you that you haven't pitched enough innings to be quite right again, but I think the O's should hang on to you because it wouldn't surprise me to see the hurler they had in early 2008 re-emerge for good.

I have again run out of time, at about the halfway point of this analysis.  I will again return and complete my evaluation shortly.

EDIT:  Way too late to update this and have the rest of the numbers make any sense.  Oh well, there's half of the pitching staff.

Posted on: May 15, 2009 12:21 pm
Edited on: May 15, 2009 4:46 pm

Breaking Down the Birds: the Base on Balls

This decade, most years the Orioles have been among the leaders in MLB in issuing the base on balls almost every year, it seems.  They've also been below .500 for that whole span.  I thought there was certainly a correlation there.  That the free passes were a major contributor to high ERAs and thus losses.  All of this seemed a natural thing to assume.  It seemed like a walk was scoring and breaking the team's back every night...but th evidence of this year seems to point in the opposite direction.  This year, the Orioles are issuing many fewer walks, and are in fact among the better staffs in that category.  Yet they remain in last place, and in May are already quite a few games below .500.  Do walks really not matter as much as I'd thought, or is there some other variable that I've yet to discover offsetting the improvement in walks?  O's fans, let's investigate.

For one thing, the staff has allowed the second-most home runs in baseball (most in the AL)...but they were doing so last year while also issuing all those walks, so this wouldn't seem to be the variable we're looking for.  They're also leading baseball in BAA, which may be the factor; after all, if the baserunners are getting on they're getting on, regardless of the method.  Still, the Orioles were 28th of 30 teams in THAT category in 2008, and walks are down more than this BAA is up.  It seems there isn't a simple answer.  What is producing this maddening result?  How can more control be leading to a higher team ERA?  Breaking down each pitcher may be the only way to reach the truth of the matter.

Jeremy Guthrie: Guthrie has issued 16 walks in his 46.2 IP, good for about a 3 BB/9.  Not great, to be sure...still, it's much better than the average Baltimore pitcher from last year, who issued 4.35 per 9.  So why has Guthrie's ERA ballooned to 5.21?  Well, Guthrie is among the league leaders in XBH allowed, and has allowed 98 total bases, second only to Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins.  That certainly solves the mystery in his case.  The ace of a pitching staff should not be sniffing the top of those categories.

Koji Uehara: He's walked but 7 batters all year, good for a 1.48/9 IP mark.  Not too shabby.  Only one guy with at least 40 innings (Kevin Slowey) has managed better.  And yet, Koji is saddled with a 4.01 ERA and 2-3 record.  So what's this guy doing wrong?  Well, I know from watching that it seems every time he comes out of the game the 'pen lets his runners score.  His run support isn't great, especially from a lineup averaging pretty good numbers.  He has a pretty smart WHIP of 1.13.  Uehara is the victim of a few homers (6), a bad bullpen, and unfortunate run support.  Part 2 of mystery solved.

Mark Hendrickson:  Here is the easiest of the starters to figure out.  For one thing, He's walking 4.13 per 9, not all that far below the team average last year.  For another, he's given up 42 hits and 7 HR in just 28.1 innings...bringing his WHIP to a staggering 1.94.  Simply put, he isn't throwing like a major league starter.  This is one fifth of the rotation that is no mystery at all.

Adam Eaton:  Eaton actually has a similar problem to that of Hendrickson; up over 4 BB/9, and a higher ERA but lower WHIP.  So actually, make that 2/5 of the rotation that aren't mysteries.  It begins to come clearer what's going on.

Brad Bergesen:  Bergesen is issuing a little more than two and a half free passes per nine.  Pretty good.  So what's HIS problem?  Well, for one thing, he ranks 156th among pitchers with at least 20 innings in BAA, at .348.  .348!!  That's horrendous.  He has an excuse because he's learning, and I'll take a rookie giving up hits and not walking people over the alternative, but one need look no further than that number to solve Beresen's part of the mystery.

Alfredo Simon:  Simon only put together 2 starts before his injury, but he only lasted 6.1 innings total and walked 2 (works out to about 3 per game).  He isn't really worth mentioning, but is here in the interest of completeness.  His OPS against was 1.242...

After a look at the starters, a picture begins to emerge.  3 of the 5 starters are much better than the Orioles' staff was last year in this important category, but the other two are only marginally better.  Still, it is worth noting that all 6 men who have started games for the Birds this season have walked fewer per nine than the O's did collectively last season.  So one would expect improvement in the ERA, but instead we're seeing inflation (overall ERA from 5.13 to 5.44; starters' ERA from 5.51 to 5.62).  When examined closer, though, Guthrie's extra-base hits, Uehara's hard luck, and Bergesen's hits begin to make sense of the mess.

Still, the starters so far are responsible for only 54% of the walks over 60% of the innings...which means both that the bullpen has been doing worse in this area and that the 'pen has been a significant contributor to the team's ERA and losses.  Taking a look at the bullpen numbers, the ERA is up almost a run over last year, and they are walking about 3.8 per 9 in '09.  That's fully 1 less walk per game than the number that unit posted in 2008.  Is the problem here similar to that in the rotation?

Well, collectively the league is hitting .298 off of Baltimore relievers.  That number is up 30 points...but is that alone enough to account for 1 fewer walk per game?  Well, working out the math says that the increased batting average accounts for 11 extra baserunners over the 123.2 innings worked by the 'pen this year.  Over the same span, the decrease in walks has prevented about 14 baserunners...and so the high BAA isn't the whole story.  It seems that in this case, the number worth looking at is the OPS against...which in 2009 is a whopping .860, good for last in baseball.  That number is up a whopping 97 points from last years', more than enough to account for it.

What has all this investigation told us?  Well, perhaps the obvious.  All things being equal, fewer walks means fewer runs means more wins.  It also tells me, though, that I was wrong in assuming that simply coaxing more strikes out of the staff as a whole can cause a ripple effect.  I had always thought "if they'd just stop walking people, the rest will average out."  So far, that simply hasn't happened.  The single largest factor, as evidenced by Guthrie and the bullpen, working against that lower walk total is the staggering number of extra-base hits allowed by the Orioles (151 through 35 games).  As Jim Palmer would likely say "well, there's throwing strikes, and then there's throwing quality strikes."  Despite the ERA evidence from the first month and a half, I think the move to the first half of that statement is one step forward.  Now if they can get personnel who can execute the second part, the Birds will be in business.
Posted on: February 18, 2009 12:24 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2009 12:27 pm

Building a pitching staff in Baltimore

So, entering Spring training the Orioles have two sure answers for their opening day 5-man rotation and a wealth of solid options in the bullpen.  What they have beyond that is an astounding number of question marks, and it's hard to see them being immediately competitive (or even climbing out of last place this season) because of that.  However, it seems to me that Andy MacPhail and the rest of the front office are doing exactly what they need to to get better in the long run.  They have solidified all of the positions on the field and spots in the lineup, right down to the bench and acquired a wealth of young (and not-so-young) arms to experiment with.  Now the Orioles will have a year or two of evaluation, to hone things down to a solid starting staff of the future, and 2 or 3 years from now will be the time to supplement all this great young talent with a big Free Agent signing or three to get them over the hump.  This is all, of course, provided they evaluate the talent they have properly and bring it through the organization at the right pace and with the right mindset.  With some coaching staff adjustments and a trend toward more control, the O's are in a very good position to do that.

Now to the immediate problem:  The Orioles have 27 pitchers on their Spring Training Roster, and 10 more as non-roster invitees.  So how do you hone 37 guys down to a 13 man staff, and 5 starters, in a month?  It is clear that the 13 guys they begin the season with will not be the same 13 they end the season with, as more younger guys will get a shot if they fare well in the minors, but who do they break camp with?  This is my attempt to sort out the madness before any live competition takes place.



I'll start, just like the O's will, with the list of 37 players.

On the Roster

Matt Albers

Danys Baez

Brian Bass

Bradley Bergesen

Jeremy Guthrie

Mark Hendrickson

David Hernandez

Rich Hill

Jim Hoey

Jim Johnson

Radhames Liz

Brian Matusz

Bob McCrory

Kam Mickolio

Jim Miller

Troy Patton

David Pauley

Hayden Penn

Wilfrido Perez

Chris Ray

Dennis Sarfate

George Sherrill

Alfredo Simon

Chorye Spoone

Koji Uehara

Jamie Walker

Chris Waters

Non-Roster Invitees

Jake Arrieta

Alberto Castillo

Scott Chiasson

Fredy Deza

Brad Hennessey

Ryan Keefer

Andy Mitchell

John Parrish

Chris Tillman

Ross Wolf


Wow.  That's quite the list of names.  For non-Orioles fans I'm sure few of them jump out as great options, but there is a TON of upside attached to a number of those names. But who's ready?


Step 1 - The Obvious Stuff

Now it's time to begin whittling down the list.  Some of this process will be easy, but in a way it will make the next couple steps even more difficult.

1A. Locks for the rotation:

Jeremy Guthrie

Koji Uehara (we didn't sign him to pitch in the minors)

1B. Locks for the bullpen:

Danys Baez (I know they've said they'll look at him for a starting role, but after the injury and a career as a reliever, with all the guys the O's have acquired, I'm just not Baeing it).

Jim Johnson (Some have tabbed him as a potential starter, but the way he pitched in his relief role last year tells me that would be a mistake.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)

Chris Ray (I can't wait to see if he's the pitcher he was before he got hurt.)

Dennis Sarfate (I suppose he COULD get upstaged by someone else, but his experience is invaluable)

George Sherrill (Who will be the closer?  Personally, I like Ray in the ninth with Sherril and/or Johnson in the 8th)

Jamie Walker (I could see him being released or traded sometime this year, but with this much experience we'll break camp with him on the parent club)

1C. locks for the team:

Mark Hendrickson (he's a special case and will wind up in either a starting or long-relief role, depending on how the Spring goes.  I'd put Albers here but he may need to rehabilitate in the minors first)


So, that leaves the Orioles with a shorter list of players competing for a short list of spots.  Nine spots on the team seem guaranteed with 4 remaining...either 3 rotation slots and one reliever or two and two, depending on how Hendrickson's value is determined.  It sounds less overwhelming put this way, until one realizes that there are 28 names vying for those 4 spots.  Yikes!



Step 2 - Sorting out the relievers from the starters


Keep in mind that this is based primarily on what they've done so far in their careers...many of the "starters" could end up pitching in relief at some point or vice versa, but I think there's a good chance that a career starter won't break camp in the MLB bullpen or vice versa.


Brian Bass, Bradley Bergesen, David Hernandez, Rich Hill, Radhames Liz, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, David Pauley. Hayden Penn, Chorye Spoone, Chris Waters, Jake Arrieta, Andy Mitchell, Chris Tillman



Matt Albers (because of the injury - he could start later in the season), Jim Hoey, Bob McCrory, Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller, Wilfrido Perez, Alfredo Simon, Alberto Castillo, Scott Chiasson, Fredy Deza, Brad Hennessey, Ryan Keefer, John Parrish, Ross Wolf


So it looks like an even split with 14 guys competing for the last spots in each role.  Time to thin the herd a bit.


Step 3 - Identifying the top candidates to start


3A. Who's (definitely) not ready:

Brian Matusz  He should progress quickly but has virtually no professional innings under his belt.  Not a guy to break camp with.

Troy Patton  Love the kid's upside, but let's see how he pitches in AA or AAA before we promote him.  Injuries like his need time to evaluate.

Chorye Spoone  He's been highly touted within the organization, but he has put up mediocre numbers at the lower levels and we have far too many pitchers with more upside than him for Spoone to realistically have a shot.

Jake Arrieta  Great numbers so far and great potential, but he's only pitched at A Frederick.  Can't wait to see him, but the O's need to avoid rushing him.


3B. Who might not be ready:

Three guys had fantastic numbers at AA Bowie but have not yet pitched above that level.  They are Bradley Bergesen, David Hernandez, and Chris Tillman.  A fourth guy has had some success in a couple seasons at AAA Norfolk (Andy Mitchell) but is a non-roster invitee for a reason.  I personally don't see any of these guys cracking the opening day roster unless they have dazzling Spring numbers.

3C. So, your contenders are:

Brian Bass, Rich Hill, Radhames Liz, David Pauley, Hayden Penn, and Chris Waters.  None of them has great MLB numbers, but all have experience at the big show.  As I've said, any of the four guys under 3B could surpass the field and get a spot, but I consider them long shots who may deserve a chance later in the season.

3D. My favorites and my prediction:

Personally, I think Rich Hill, Chris Waters, and Brian Bass deserve to make the cut...with Bass being the odd man out of Hendrickson is tabbed as a starter.  I think Trembley will select Rich Hill, Hayden Penn, and Mark Hendrickson as his opening-day 5 (in unknown order) but personally I don't see Penn turning his career around in Baltimore and I think Hendrickson would be more valuable in the bullpen.


Step 4 - Identifying the top candidates for the 'pen


4A. Injuries to think of:

My heart tells me to put Matt Albers straght onto the MLB roster because he's a great kid with talent and success at this level.  My brain tells me he needs to start the season in the minors and work his way back from that injury.  Since he elected therapy instead of surgery, he needs to work back slowly.

Jim Hoey is also working his way back from injury, and his MLB numbers are terrible even before that.  Kid needs seasoning and rehab.


4B. Need more time:

Scott Chiasson  He simply hasn't performed well in the NL, and needs to pitch in the minors first.

Fredy Deza  Promising numbers last year but only in 6 games.

Ross Wolf  Same as Chiasson


4C. The other long shots:

As with the starters, the folks listed here would need excellent Springs to make the team.  They are Wilfrido Perez (great at AA with no MLB experience), Alfredo Simon (mediocre and limited MLB numbers), and Ryan Keefer (his ERA wasn't very good in the minors as a reliever).


4D. So your contenders are:

Bob McCrory, Kam Mickolio, Jim Miller, Alberto Castillo, Brad Hennessey, and John Parrish.


4E. My favorites and my prediction:

Personally, I like Brad Hennessey and Mark Hendrickson to take the last two bullpen slots out of camp.  However, as I noted above, I think Trembley will tab Hendrickson as a starter, and probably select John PArrish as his last reliever (along with Hennessey).  A final thought is that Bob McCrory and Kam Mickolio seem to be much better than their lofty ERAs at the MLB level indicate.  Keep in mind that McCrory has had two bad outings, and started with a 108 ERA by allowing 4 runs to TB in .1 innings.  Any time you shave 93 points off of your ERA you're moving in the right direction.  Mickolio had a similar spike in ERA (at 27) but has consistently brought it down since.

Well, I hope you stayed with me through all that blab, O's fans, and I hope you have found them interesting and useful in making sense out of the Spring.  Please comment with any thoughts you may have.  What did I miss?  Who do you like that I didn't tab?  Who do I like that you thinkis terrible?  Please, weigh in.



Posted on: May 17, 2008 12:30 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2008 12:43 pm

The American League

Nobody is running away with any of the divisions in the American league. The Rays hold the best record, and The Mariners hold the worst. The last place teams are the Yankees, Tigers, and MAriners - all teams that a lot of folks thought could win their respective divisions. It looks pretty topsy-turvy, but the thing is no one has gone crazy and no one has been blown out of the water. Everyone is in their division races, and the biggest gap is 8.5 games between the Angels and Mariners. What is going on?

Some of it can be explained by injury. The Mariners lost a lot of games they might not have with Erik Bedard and J.J. Putz on the field. The Yankees offense has struggled without Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. The same can be said of Detroit, without the help of Dontrelle Wilis, Denny Bautista, and Joel Zumaya. So who's going to turn it around and make a playoff run? Conversely, who's going to drop off the radar in a hurry?


I'm figuring that none of the last-place teams will finish in last. Not all of them will storm back to win the division, either. I'll take it division-by division.

The Yankees, if you ask me, will finish third, or second but not the wild-card team. I'll take some flak for this, but it's just what I expect. Last year they started even worse, went through a stretch where they lost 17 of 19 I think it was, and then they turned it on and played out of their minds in the second half. So why can't that happen again? Well, they just aren't quite as good as last year, and the rest of the division is better. The Rays and Orioles are better and the Red Sox are still excellent. The Blue Jays should start winning some more, too. Yes, A-Rod will make a huge difference. Posada probably will too. This team has a lot of veteran stars, and a good amount of young talent, but they're kind of caught in the middle with the old too old and the young too young. Don't get me wrong, the guys who aren't producing now will at some point, but injuries will likely be a factor all year. Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes will be very good, but they are facing the adjustments all young pitchers do and not quite there. Joba Chamberlain is phenomenal, but bullpen or starter he won't carry an entire team. There will be no Roger Clemens at the break to turn things around, either. His injection into the rotation is what got them to the playoffs, if you ask me. Bottom line: They'll turn it around, in that they won't finish in the cellar, but I think they'll take a year off from the postseason. Next year their young talent will be more ready and some of the has-beens will be replaced (Really I mostly mean Jason Giambi).

The Tigers are a team that I'm really on the fence about. On paper they have the offense and the pitching to be darn scary, but they're not performing. The AL Central is a lot better than it sometimes gets credit for, so the competition is stiff. There's a limit to the size of the hole you can dig for yourself when competing with the Indians, Twins, and White Sox and still have a shot to come back. The Royals, while I expect them to finish last, are less pathetic than they have been. This team is going to light up the scoreboard, but I'm less confident they'll be able to right the ship pitching-wise. Justin Verlander may very well be done in terms of the brilliance he's shown in the past. Dontrelle Willis has to come back from a true burnout, and I don't know if in the AL he can do that. Denny Bautista and Joel Zumaya, in my opinion, are OK pitchers but nothing particularly special. That's based not on numbers but on just not being blown away when I've seen them pitch. Like the Yankees, I think third place is where this team will end up. I err more toward 4th than 2nd in the Tigers' case, though. Bottom Line: I don't think this team will undergo a true turn-around, although they'll climb in the standings. Their pitching is too suspect for me to anticipate a playoff run, considering the competition.

The Mariners lack offense but have a pitching staff that sounds nuts. Sort of the inverse Tigers. If you ask me, though, suspect offense and excellent pitching will have a better shot than suspect pitching and excellent offense nearly every time. I still think Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista makes one of the best starting 5 in the American league. They're going to score at least a little just by law of averages. they also play in the easiest division in the AL in which to make a move, partly because there's only 4 teams. All it takes is to overtake Texas and for Oakland to come back down to earth a little (which has already started to happen). I don't think Seattle will overtake the Angels, because they have been performing very well without their two best pitchers and without a real contribution from Vladimir Guerrero thus far, so they should only get better. Bottom Line: I think the Mariners have the best chance of the last place teams to make a playoff run. It won't be easy here, either, but I think they will battle with the Athletics for second place and be in the Wild Card hunt.

Three teams are also far exceeding expectations. In this case, two are in the East and none in the Central.

The Rays have never even sniffed a .500 season, but look poised to grab at least that much in 2008. The pitching has finally caught up with the offense, and they are downright scary. Will they fade back to the bottom of the division by years' end? I don't think so. They did a lot of this pitching without Scott Kazmir, arguably the best of the bunch. That's only "arguable" because James Shields has been outstanding. Matt Garza started poorly, but is settling in. The 4-5 spots, with Jason Hammell, Edwin Jackson, and Andy Sonnanstine is not great but is good enough to hold up the back end with a very solid 1-2-3 in front. The bullpen is quite possibly the most improved bullpen (for a single year) in baseball history. I didn't look up all-time numbers, but they went from worst to among the best, largely because of Troy Percival. The offense isn't going at full capacity, and when it is they'll be even scarier. All of that said, this is a tough division. The Yankees, Blue Jays, and even the Red Sox are underperforming so far (I say even because their record is still pretty good). See below for expectations of the Orioles. Bottom Line: This team is much better than it has ever been. They are still one or two pieces from being a complete team, though. Second place (but not the wild card) seems like a reasonable hope, though that spot may fall to the Yankees. Expect no worse than third, though.

The Orioles
have also surprised, still above .500 in mid-May. This team was picked by many to lose 100 games. From what I've seen so far, that will not happen. A lot of comparisons can be made to the Rays, but the Orioles are farther behind in the process. This is really the first year of their movement. We've heard all about the changing culture, the attitude, and doing the little things. All of that is happening, It's fun to watch, and as a fan I am more optimistic about this process every day. This team, though, doesn't have the talent to do the BIG things to stay where they are, record-wise. step one is going very well, but it'll take steps 2 and 3 before they're redy to contend for a playoff spot. They are not going to fade into the realm of 100 losses though. Daniel Cabrera has arrived. I think 7 straight quality starts is enough for that assertion. He's done some of it without his best stuff, and his walks are down. Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Burres were great finds, and look like they will continue to be above-average pitchers. Garret Olson is ready for the bigs, and is pitching very well. I don't know that Adam Loewen will ever be what was hoped, with his injury, but when he's healthy he may be a factor. The bullpen has also shaved about 1.5 runs from last year's ERA. Jamie Walker looks like he might not be the reliever he used to be, but Chad Bradford coninues to be remarkably consistent. George Sherril and Dennis Sarfate have been better than advertised. Matt Albers and Jim R. Johnson have been outstanding, Johnson looks like he could eventually be a closer, Albers maybe a starter, but for this season they are one of the better middle-relief duos out there. The offense, though, is not going to be good. There's a huge hole at shortstop, Adam Jones isn't ready to put up the big numbers, Nick Markakis isn't protected, Luke Scott is merely above-average, and the infield does not have great production potential. Bottom Line: this team is headed in the right direction, with better than expected pitching and more great arms on the way. With a less than imposing lineup, though, this year is not the Orioles year just yet. I predict a 4th place finish, but the record will be better than last year's mark, possibly within 5 games of .500.

The Athletics are a team that alwasy seems to manage to be relevant. Perhaps I should have a lot of faith in Billy Beane to make moneyball work every year. I just don't think this tem can stay as competitive (and they've already slowed a bit) for a whole year. That rotation has been putting up monster numbers, but I'm just not as confident that these guys can keep it up for a season as I was with the previous Oakland rotations. Their #1 starter, Joe Blanton, has a career ERA over 4, and I don't know that he's going to keep the hot streak up. I think Rich Harden is their best pitcher. He's good, but that statement tells me their rotation isn't all that special. Is Eveland really going to keep up an ERA 2 runs lower than his career? I guess he could, with only 49 games under his belt, but I'm not 100% sold on him yet. You know what, on closer inspection, Justin Duchscherer is a lot better than I've ever given him credit for. Greg Smith, though, is already showing signs that big league hitters are starting to figure him out. I think maybe 2 of 5 of these guys will continue to put up this kind of numbers, and I don't think that will be enough. I won't even break down the offense, but it isn't good. They're good at playing small-ball and manufacturing runs, but this is the American League. That won't keep them this good all year. Bottom Line: This team, like the other two, will still be better than preseason expectations. They might be in the playoff hunt at the end, but the Angels will be too much for them to win the West. I also think the Mariners will improve while the A's settle down, so I think it will be close for 2nd and 3rd place.

Projected Standings

Red Sox
Blue Jays

White Sox


One final note: The central to me could really finish with 2, 3, and 4 in any order. I predict the Indians to win and the Royals to hit the cellar, though.
Posted on: April 8, 2008 7:20 am
Edited on: April 11, 2008 7:22 am

Orioles Organizational Report 2: AA Bowie

OK, I've been sitting on this information for a while because I didn't have a good block of time to sit and type. I present to you the AA Bowie Baysox annotated roster. I know, I know, we all want to see the Keys because that's probably the more exciting team to read about. They're coming. I have most of that one ready too. Remember, the key is as follows: New faces for the rebuild, old faces who are part of the rebuild, new faces to fill holes, and holdovers. Still a lot of gray area players, as well (they get multiple formats). The Baysox may be the least exciting of these previews, because they don't have the exciting players that we know who are just about ready to come up, nor do they have the exciting fresh faces that are a level down. There are definitely some bright spots, though.


Ben Davis This guy has been around all over the place, majors and minors. Not realistically going to contribute to any sort of rebuild.
Zach Dillon He was part of that Frederick championship team, batting .275; ok for the C position. Could get on the radar with repeat success at this level.


Blake Davis Not really a star, but he has an advantage because he plays SS, where the organization is sorely lacking in depth.
Ryan Finan Flirted with greatness (for A-ball) at times with Frederick, contributing 64 RBI and 35 extra-base hits to their title run. Another guy who may benefit from the organization being shallow at his position.
Jeff Nettles He may have been picked up in hopes that he'd finally break out. I remember thinking he looked good years ago, but now I think he's a washout. Could be another Tike Redman type, coming back from independent leagues to moderate success.
Carlos Rojas Not sure what the deal is with him; he's listed as "utility" on AA Roster, which probably says something negative. He has shown improvement each year of his short career, though.
Jonathan Tucker This gentleman is a bit of an enigma. He got promoted to Frederick after a torrid August '06 with Delmarva. Then with Frederick in '07 he batted .160, but walked 62 times and scored 67 runs, which somehow got him bumped to AA.


Kennard Jones Had a decent season for Frederick, and has good speed. Seems to fit the Cory Patterson MO. Been around too long for me to expect too much of him.
Lou Montanez Swung a pretty competent bat between Bowie and Norfolk. A bit of a washout at 8 years in the minors, though.
Nolan Reimold I hope to see him move up soon. He KILLS left handed pitching, slugging .818 against lefties in limited time lat year (oblique). His name has been tossed around a lot the last couple years.
Mike Rodriguez IMHO a longshot to make any kind of move. He's consistently batted in the .270s in his pro career, which is OK, but has showed no improvement really.


Jason Berken He struck out a ton of batters last year, but all it got him was 9-9, 4.53. Not one of the brighter faces in a pitching-heavy organization.
Gerardo Casadiego Could make some appearance at the ML level in the 'pen, has done reasonably well as a reliever. Nothing to write home about, though.
David Hernandez Ditto the Jason Berken Entry. This guy struck out more batters to a higher ERA and worse record.
Ryan Keefer Has some upside as a reliever but was held down by injuries the last two seasons.
Rommie Lewis? Returned from injury to perform very well in 2006, only to have his numbers decline significantly in 2007. Don't know what to make of him.
Julio Manon Despite his limited succes with the Orioles, I like his chances to make it back. 33 SO in 22.1 IP last year...wow!
Kam Mickolio Ahhhh the Erik Bedard trade. 'nuff said.
Jim Miller Sort of lost in the mix of relief pitchers here. Not all bad though.
Felix Romero This team is just full of pitchers who can strike guys out and still not succeed. this one's a reliever.
Chorye Spoone Very highly regarded. He, along with Mickolio and Tillman, are a sort of pitching triumvirate down here. Which one's Pompey?
Chris Tillman I have learned from doing these reports just how amazing that Erik Bedard trade was.
Chris Waters Bit of a minor league washout. 8 seasons without much to show.

Well, this roster doesn't have as much to show for it as Norfolk, but like the whole Orioles organization it's stacked with pitchers. Nolan Reimold is the only position player who I think has a real shot at major league success, but there are some other intrigung guys, and they should make for a decent AA squad. Exacerbating our lack of infield depth are injuries to Paco Figueroa and Michael Garciaparra (out for a week for each vowel in their names?) As said above, I love Mickolio, Tillman, and Spoone all pitching for the same squad. I think this team's brightest spot is relief pitching. I envision Spoone taking that role (just a hunch) eventually, and Mickolio, Manon, and Casadiego are already looking good out of the 'pen.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 5, 2008 11:47 am
Edited on: April 5, 2008 11:53 am

Orioles Organizational Report 1: AAA Norfolk

Hey folks! I'm going to start posting some minor league stuff to my blog, a place all the O's fans on these boards can come to get info on just how the farm is going. I figured since I was going to start following the minors more closely, and since the team sites are all separate, I would consolidate some information in one place. I'm coming into this somewhat blind since I haven't payed much attention to the minors in the past. The info might be a little sketchy to begin, but I'm going to try to get better as I go.

I'm starting by doing annotated rosters. I got the roster info from each team's official site, or minorleaguebaseball.com, and I added a blurb about each player mentioning what I know about them, or could find with a quick search. I also have divided players into four categories: New faces for the rebuild, old faces who are part of the rebuild, new faces to fill holes, and holdovers who are not really meant as part of the long term plan. (See what I did with the key, there?) The situation is fluid between those categories, and some guys can play themselves from one to the other. Some are already straddling two. The categories aren't meant as an evaluation of talent, rather the reasoning I think we had in getting/keeping the player. AAA Norfolk is up first, below:


Chris Heintz This is a guy who's been around we picked up in case Quiroz doesn't perform. Not really part of the rebuild.
Omir Santos Came over from the Yanks organization, where he was held in high regard. He could be second on the
ML depth chart in 2011.


Travis Brown Patient hitter who's spent a lot of time in Frederick, but doesn't really hit for average. I don't think he's an answer.
Mike Costanzo Piece from the Tejada trade and part of the movement. Let's watch this guy closely.
Mike McCoy He's never made it past AA till now, and he hit .259 down there. Also pitched in two games. Defies category.
Alex Cintron Cubs played games for Roberts with him. Signed for now to pressure the young infielders at the ML level.
Oscar Salazar Not part of the solution. Castoff from everywhere who doesn't impress me.
Eider Torres We've all seen this guy; and none of us wanted to.


Sebastien Boucher
Played for team Canada. Visa problems delayed his progression, but I think this gentleman could be a
surprise talent. We got him for John Parrish.
Tike Redman He impressed me last year by overachieving. If he gets through the rebuild as a backup outfielder it would be OK.
Chris Roberson Another young outfielder meant to revitalize that part of the organization.
Adam Stern this guy never met his potential, and IMHO will likely be gone soon.
Luis Terrero Another underachiever. I think he'll get squeezed out because we're actually pretty deep in the outfield.


Jim Johnson A prospect from inside the organization. I think it would be best for him to send him elsewhere, because I just
don't see him emerging past all the other prospects.
Radhames Liz I'll just let everyone make up their own. We know Liz.
Craig Anderson Another young pitcher putting up good minor league numbers. He isn't heralded like many of the others, though.
Jon Leicester I guess he's part of the rebuild in terms of volume of prospects. Injury has kept him down, and I doubt he'll
amount to much in the long run.
Bob McCrory Reliever with tremendous upside. could be a closer if Ray doesn't recover well from surgery.
Lance Cormier Grabbed from the Atlanta organization to compete for that 5th rotation and/or longman spot.
A long-shot to emerge, but still eant as part of our pitching movement.
Roberto Novoa A reliever from the Cubs org. who had a promising 2006 but missed 2007 with injury. Go MacPhail.
Garrett Olson Another kid we know all about.
Hayden Penn Sigh. I hope this kid stays healthy so we can find out how good he actually is.
Esteban Yan Absolute LOL. not sure he'll ever see MLB again, but welcome back geriatric reliever. Can we say Jesse Orosco?
Andy Mitchell A reliever I know next to nothing about. Little help, anyone?

It's worth noting that there are three additional pitchers on the AAA DL: Cory Doyne, Fredy Deza, and Sean Tracey. I've heard alternately good and bad things about all of these guys, and any of them could end up contributing to this deep rebuilding movement. Beyond the obvious (pitching) we don't have a whole lot at the AAA level in terms of the future. We do have three outfielders (Boucher, Redman, and Roberson) who I like but I see them more as potential future bench players (solid bench players, but still not starters). There's also Omir Santos, who I like to eventually back up Weiters. In terms of infielders we really only have Costanzo as far as legitimate prospects go. I think he's the least likely of the ten players from our two big trades to amount to anything.

So, we're certainly deep at both SP and bullpen, have a few bright spots in the outfield, and are sorely lacking in infielders at the AAA level. I guess that's what everyone's been saying, but there it is broken down.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 17, 2008 10:13 am

Orioles best case scenario part 1

Part I: Overall results and standings

I am going to consolidate here my thoughts from a lot of threads on the Orioles board.  I will later break it down by infield, outfield, starters,  'pen, and bench.  I am cautiously optimistic about this rebuilding project, in that I don't think it will necessarily translate to a 100-loss season or two before we get good.

This year, I think best-case scenario the Orioles will go 76-86, or something like that.  10 games under is a reasonable goal for a group of young guys with somewhat limited veteran leadership.  I want to wait to evaluate things piece by piece until we know if Roberts is with us out of training camp, though.  There are several reasons why I think an improvement over last year is possible, and perhaps even likely.

1) The Orioles performed fairly well last year (until the 30-3 drubbing derailed things) for a team as injured as it was.  The thing is, there are a lot of qualifiers in that sentence.  That awful day wasn't so much the thing that set the losing streak in motion; more it was a sign of how tired that team was.  There were 6 starting pitchers (plus one from AAA who was poised to help out) who missed a month or more.  That put pressure on the 'pen to eat a ton of innings and removed the long men from the bullpen equation.  The bullpen itself was also not healthy, especially at the end of the year.  It wasn't just Chris Ray and Danys Baez, either.  They were hurt, and played with injury most of the season, but Williamson went down before the season ever started, Shuey never was able to return from injury, Sendy Rleal was on the DL long enough to get designated for assignment, Todd Williams disappeared from baseball, and the list goes on.  Despite all that before the 30-3 drubbing (which happened in late August, by the way) the Orioles were 3rd in the AL in staff ERA behind Boston and Oakland.

1a) What I mean by the above is that even though Bedard is gone, the rest of last year's pitching staff wasn't as bad as the numbers made it look.  Also, except for Bedard, I truly feel that most of the replacement players are better than those who left.  Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen aren't quite the 1-2 punch that Bedard and either would be, but they're both very capable pitchers.  If this pitching staff says healthy, it should be at worst nearly as good and at best better than last year.

2) The offense may also improve, because some players who should produce had down years last year, and those we lost didn't have good years offensively either.  Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Aubrey Huff, Jay Gibbons, and Melvin Mora ALL had years that were atypical of their career numbers.  I know they're all aging, but most, if not all, of them could easily improve over last year's numbers, especially Hernandez and Huff.  I don't think Gibbons is very good, but he is much better than last year shows.  The offense dealt with a lot of injuries too, and most of the guys who were ailing then are healthy now.  The new young guys will provide an extra spark.  Small ball should improve.  competition will beget some guys to have much better years than they would otherwise.

3) The team should be better defensively as well, because youth movements tend to be accompanied by excellent defense.

4) The Orioles lost over 30 1-run games last year, and hardly won any.  This says to me that even a slight improvement could pick up 10-15 games, and even if they're slightly worse talent-wise it doesn't mean they'll lose more games.  the number of heartbreakers last year was enormous.

There are counterarguments, of course, most notably that I'm comparing last year's team to this years and the personnel has undergone a major series of changes.  Another is that the Rays are improved over last year, while the Sox and Yanks are about the same.  The Orioles picked up a lot of wins over the Rays, and those should be more challenging this time around.  I'm not really saying the Orioles will improve this year in wins-losses, just that they can.  As the title of the thread says, Best Case Scenario.
Category: MLB
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