Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Orioles.Scout.com

Posted by Mike on July 27, 2006

The time has come and I am now officially under contract by FoxSport’s Scout.com network.  I’ve spent the past week taking in games at various minor league affilliates, collecting some prospect photos and talking to various members of the organization.  I hope you’ll take the time to check out the stories, interviews and rankings to come in the near future.  You can also enjoy Scout’s free O’s message board (with almost 2000 members) and premium message board (that is soon to be chock full of insider information). 

Scout.com combines FoxSports’ access and reputation with a talented group of team-specific writers.  It is the only network of its kind and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.  It’s a daunting workload, to be sure, but I have every intention (and will be given every opportunity) to build the best website of its kind. 

I’m extremely pleased with the rapid growth of Orioles Think Tank and I’ve enjoyed my status as an informed outsider.  I’ve learned a great deal from the people that comment here and especially the ones that have taken the time to send me emails.  I’m going to miss this informal format, but I think blogging has taught me a lot of things that I can bring with me to an established media outlet.  And I certainly look forward to the new challenges and responsibilities that come with much more access to the organization.  I can only hope that you’ll tag along for the ride.

OriolesThinkTank.Wordpress.com will continue to stand as an archive of sorts.  You can get to the new site by using any of the following URLs:

http://www.OriolesThinkTank.com

http://www.InsideTheWarehouse.com

http://www.Orioles.Scout.com

In addition, the site is accessible from the frontpage at http://www.FoxSports.com

**(NOTE:  As of Friday, August 4th, the site is up and running.)**

Have any ideas about how I can build the best site possible?  Any features you’d love to see?  How about just a question you’d like to see answered by a player or coach?  Feel free to email me at Mike@OriolesThinkTank.com or Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com

Posted in Orioles | 8 Comments »

Grading Perlozzo

Posted by Mike on July 19, 2006

I try to stay away from seeming like I’m too big of a critic of Sam Perlozzo because, frankly, his job is not that important.  Unlike in football or basketball, baseball managers have very little effect on their team’s fortunes.

It’s been said before but the most important job for a manager is simply to control the clubhouse and command the respect of the team.  With superstars refusing to run out groundballs and such, it can be argued that Perlozzo is not at the head of the class, but I’d be reluctant to argue the opposite as well.  Sammy P. also did the birds a great service by bringing in, arguably, the best pitching coach in the history of baseball– his pal Leo Mazzone.  This is undoubtedly a strong positive, even if Mazzone magic hasn’t appeared as quickly as many had hoped.

Despite his positive attributes and despite the fact that such a thing is often inconsequential, I would argue that Sam Perlozzo is among the worst managers in baseball at optimizing his offensive attack. 

Why, you ask? 

Let’s see, there’s the decision to play Brandon Fahey in LF and bat him 2nd in the lineup.  Admittedly, Perlozzo had few attractive alternatives, but Fahey’s value is completely dependant on his above-average defense at shortstop.  On a team like the Orioles, where Ironmen shortstops reign supreme, Fahey should find it tough to crack the 40 man roster.  Instead, Perlozzo treats him like Carl Crawford. 

There’s also the matter of the Orioles leading the league in sacrifice bunts, a practice so rarely useful that I would advise Peter Angelos to institute a moratorium.  Take, for instance, last night’s game:

As you can see, Markakis walked to lead off the 9th inning.  Brian Roberts barely waited until he got to first to square around for the sacrifice to get Markakis to second base.  Predictably, Huston Street retired Brandon Fahey and Melvin mora and Markakis ended up stranded on 3B. 

The reason I included this WPA graph (hat tip to Fangraphs) is to demonstrate exactly how bad of an idea it was to have Brian Roberts sacrifice bunt.  You can see for yourself how the O’s chances of winning diminished by about 5%– and that’s after a successful sacrifice bunt.  Imagine if he failed.  And this is all without mentioning that Brian Roberts is one of the O’s best hitters.

Finally, Perlozzo could earn a few points with me if he would think a little more outside the box in terms of bullpen usage.  He has used Chris Ray for a few multi-inning save situations and, once again, he doesn’t have much to work with, so this isn’t as uninspiring as his offensive non-strategy.  Nevertheless, yesterday’s game provides another example of how the pen could be better deployed. 

Eddy Rodriguez pitched 2.1 innings after the rain delay mercifully ended the newest chapter of the Russ ortiz experiment.  Thanks to his own throwing error, Rodriguez ended up giving up 2 runs, 0 earned.  But I certainly wouldn’t argue that he wasn’t in a bit of a mess even before the error.  Anyway, his leverage index for the game came in at 1.44, much higher than any other O’s pitcher yesterday.  Had Perlozzo the gumption to recognize it was a critical situation and that Rodriguez was struggling (4 BB), perhaps it would’ve made sense to make a move to Britton or Hawkins earlier (See?  I stayed away from arguing that ray should be pitching in the 3rd inning.  Such self restraint). 

Ultimately, I see Perlozzo as a decidedly unskilled decision-maker.  I mean, can you imagine getting paid six figures to make a handful of decisions a day and consistently being this self-defeating?  Nevertheless, based on the merits of his access to Mazzone and the minimal impact of in-game decisions in general, I’ll give Perlozzo a grade C and pray that someone hands him a copy of this book

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

Snippets

Posted by Mike on July 17, 2006

  • Cabrera, Rleal Optioned; Loewen, Rodriguez Recalled

I have to admit, it never occurred to me that Daniel Cabrera might get sent to Ottawa.  But Adam Loewen has shown that he has little to learn in the minors, even if the results have yet to be there in the majors.  Plus, recalling him will have no substantive effect on his service clock, since he’s up for good next year anyway.  And Cabrera has regressed quite a bit this year.  Rich Lederer wrote a blurb on this topic that prety much sums up how a lot of people feel about Cabrera’s performance this year.   He’s still a big part of what this rotation could be, but there is no masking how disappointing his season has been.  Finally, I have to admit that I am impressed that the organzation followed through with their decision  Whether or not you deem the move necessary or not, it is encouraging to see an Orioles administration with the fortitude to make potentially unpopular decisions because they believe them to be correct.

As for Rleal getting sent down, it’s about time.  He’s a flyball pitcher who walks a lot of batters and doesn’t miss bats.  I’ll admit being a staunch spporter of his in the past but, lets face it, I was wrong.  Eddy Rodriguez, on the other hand, has been lights out in Ottawa this season.  He’s striking out over a man an inning, has a newfound respect for the strike zone, and has yet to allow a home run in over 36 frames.  He’s held righties to a .307 OPS and has excelled in close and late situations.  He finally appears poised to shed his perennial project label.

  • Jim Bowden the Genius

I’m sure you’ve read about how Wayne Krivsky is an idiot and how Jim Bowden actually ripped someone else off for a change, so I won’t bore you with any self-evident analysis.  But my friend text messaged me the other day with Why don’t we have Austin Kearns? and it got me thinking.  Kearns’ value had never been lower than after last season.  He was jerked around from the minors to the majors and back again and ended up posting career lows across the board.  Yet, statheads looked at his excessively low batting average, consistent batted ball data and sustained secondary hitting skills and remained united in their optimistic outlook for his future.  Thus far this season, he’s justified that faith and what happens?  He gets traded for some middle relievers, a good relief prospect, and one present and one future utility player.  Oh, and he was only part of a package that included the 26 year old reigning silver slugger at shortstop and a 23 year old pitcher that took about a week to reach the majors.  Quite simply, a lot of things would have to go wrong for the Nats to not get the best of this deal now and later.

I’m not trying to insinuate that the O’s are any more guilty of any other non-Bowden team, but Kearns would be a pretty tasty fit on a club so devoid of OBP as this generation of birds.  And if seemingly all it would have taken was some combination of LaTroy Hawkins and/or Kurt Birkins… then doesn’t it make you whince just a little bit that someone else beat them to the punch?

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 12 Comments »

Mid-Year Non-Recap

Posted by Mike on July 12, 2006

I’m sure you’ve read your share of mid-season team recaps or mid-season grades type articles, so I’ll try not to be redundant.  What I hope to show here is a very visual, if a bit cursory, argument of how the Orioles should proceed from now until July 31st (the non-waiver trading deadline). 

OK, so a little explanation is in order… the basic premise of this chart is to map out who the O’s have targeted to play each position for the next three seasons.  Obviously, the further out you get, the less uncertain the forecasting becomes.  But, this should provide an adequate visual demonstration of my argument.

I did not address bench players and I left the bullpen’s assembly, beyond the many names jumbled together, to one’s own imagination.  You should also note that my chart has been assembled while wearing some pretty heavily tinted orange colored glasses.  I highlighted a few of the areas where plans are, shall we say, tenuous, but you might as well add almost every pitching slot to that group as well.  For instance, by no means do I believe that Penn, Loewen, Cabrera, Olson, and Bedard will all be effective major league starters and pitching for the Orioles in 2009.  But that is the plan as of now, July 2006.  When financial restrictions, injuries, ineffectiveness, et al become realities, then the plan gets adjusted.  At no time, however, is it excusable to have a gap on this chart that is not actively trying to be resolved.  Take, for instance, the Ryan Shealy rumors.  That would fill in a few gaps, but it would also open another one up, say, where Hayden Penn’s name used to be. 

My intention is not to propose any specific trades or target any specific players but,  with the trading deadline fast approaching, the Orioles have at least six guys on their active roster that are not at all in their plans for next year.  If you accept the argument that competing in 2007 is not realistic, then there are even more guys to add to that list who aren’t in their plans for 2008.  As many of them as possible should be moved.

The O’s have to accept the fact that Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, LaTroy Hawkins, Javy Lopez, Rodrigo Lopez, etc. are all going to get paid the full amount of their contracts.  If other teams refuse to take on payroll in a deal for any combination of them that would send back a player that might fill in any of the gaps, isn’t it in the best interest of future O’s teams to eat the salary?  And shouldn’t that be the focus for a team in its 9th consecutive losing season? 

Addendum:

To clarify my chart-

C, SS, and 3B are all covered through 2009 by existing contracts.

1B and at least one of the OF/DH slots are completely open after this year.  Also, I belive that Gibbons, considering injuries and defensive prowess, is mostly a DH for the life of his contract.

Patterson can be an unrestricted free agent after next season but, if he continues to be effective, there is no reason he shouldn’t be resigned if possible.  There is no one in the minor league system currently who profiles as an everyday CF.

Ditto for 2B and Brian Roberts. 

We all hope the best for Markakis and Reimold.  Let’s leave it at that for now. 

My projected starters list speaks for itself.  Cabrera will be eligible for arbitration after next season and under O’s control for three more years.  Bedard is under control for three more years. 

Chris Ray and Chris Britton could form a decent 1-2 punch for years to come.  Projecting a relief core through 2009 beyond them is a tough business, but should be addressed on a year to year basis. 

As for Miguel Tejada: Aside from the fact that he is rapidly gaining his share of detractors in Baltimore (even outside of this little realm of fandom), his defensive Rate2 has deteriorated from 113 to 103 to 100 the past three seasons.  He might be able to stick at short through 2009 but he won’t be especially good.  Of course, that hasn’t affected Derek Jeter, but I digress.  Beyond that, he is playing in his age 30 season and I find it unlikely that he will ever surpass his current value.  If the Orioles decide that they can compete no earlier than 2008 or 2009 (which is the correct conclusion, with or without Tejada,  I might add), it makes sense to deal him for other players that will be ready to contribute by then.  If we wait until 2008, his naturally declining production could make his contract the type the O’s wish they could move instead of the current company line that he is a guy we could build around.  Basically, the O’s need to have a target year in mind and aim for everything coming together in that season.  If that year is 2007, then keep Miguel.  If it’s 2009, I’m not convinced he will still be the championship caliber player that he is today and he should be traded at his peak value.

I know this entry is filled with many topics and that none of them get too far in-depth, but perhaps I can expound on a point or two based on your feedback.

P.S. Check out Ted Cook’s new O’s blog, Cookin’ With Gas

Posted in Orioles | 7 Comments »

One Week Without the Internet

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2006

A week without internet has given me much time for introspection and if I’ve come to any conclusions, none are greater than this:

I hate Millenium Cable. 

They are roughly the Internet Service Provider equivalent of a pitching rotation so bereft of talent that it could employ the likes of Russ Ortiz.  OK, I exaggerate, but they do stink at their job.  And I’m realizing that perhaps the thing I’m looking most forward to in my impending move downtown is reliable internet access.  It’s certainly not waking up to find whatever vagrant that Silent Joe met in a bar the previous night using my Frankie Avalon beach towel or eating my Fruity Pebbles. 

Anyway, the downtime has left us with much to catch up on, so let’s get to the bullet points:

  • Majewski Not Looking So Hot

I was just thinking about how it had been a while since I got a report on Val Majewski when John Kazlo (of Minor League Watch) shot me an email (that I accessed at work):

I watched Ottawa and Richmond last night….Val Majewski looks like he is on a rehab program.  He worked with the trainers for about a hour before the game when the pitchers were on the field and the position players were in the clubhouse.  I watched his swing and it is very weak…..not as good as his swing last fall in AZ. 

He followed it up with this email two days later:

I went back on Monday night and Val played first….did a pretty good job of it I believe, although he did bobble a short hopper in front of him.  He did connect with some pitches and hit them on the left side of the field and CF.  His swing did look smoother on Monday than it did Sunday….but still stiff and slow!

Thanks for the update John, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.

  • Tejada Trade Update

I caught this snippet from an article in the new Baltimore Examiner:

“That’s the goal. We’re not shopping him. I think you’re not doing your job if you don’t listen to potential deals for all players. I don’t think the general public probably has an idea of how frequently we talk about everybody in the game, everbody’s star player,” Flanagan said. “Again, it just shows you their value. It’s a constant weighing of players’ worth to see what the market will give you.”

For those of us in the Trade Tejada camp, it’s encouraging that Flanagan is keeping his options open.  There are very few sluggers on the market as the trading deadline nears and Tejada would be the most coveted of them all.  The Orioles are not going to contend this year.  They are probably not going to contend in 2007 either.  There’s just too many holes on this roster.  So let’s try to fill a few of them with talented youngsters that might contribute to a contending team in 2008.  Frankly, I’m more than a little tired of Tejada’s unwillingness to hustle in any way, shape or form.  A carmudgeon might even worry about the sticky scenarios that Jason Grimsley’s deposition could unearth.  Luckily, I am not a carmudgeon. 

Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to see Brandon Fahey play a position where he actually has some value?

  • Matos DFA’d

The O’s have essentially cut bait on the one time promising young center fielder.  I was listening to Anita Marks on ESPN 1300 the other day and she mentioned that a player on the O’s had remarked to her about how much fatter Matos is than he used to be.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise many of you, since Matos is well known for his lackadaisical approach.  And I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get motivated to play for a franchise that has done little but lose ever since you’ve known it, but for a seven figure salary, I’d give it a shot.

This move will allow for Luis Terrero to get another shot.  Terrero is probably best known for his 0-17 performance in the bigs thus far, but I assure you that he was raking in Ottawa (.321/.373/.594 in 187 AB’s).  The one time prospect is still only 26 and I am genuinely impressed with this free talent find.  If it works out, it’ll sort of be like Flanagan’s Corey Patterson Lite move and it’s possible that he has carved out a little niche.  Most O’s fans would settle for a capable 4th outfielder and, in this case, I’m optimistic.

  • Aberdeen Ironbirds A-Doings

As promised, I did go to the Aberdeen game last Sunday and I paid special attention to two fellas.  The first was Chris Vinyard, the O’s 2005 38th round draft and follow.  This boy can rake.  I didn’t see enough of him at first to effectively determine if he is as, ahem, stiff in the field as some reports, but he worked deep into counts and hit the ball hard.  Through 65 AB’s, he is now hitting .431/.486/.692.

Pedro Beato also made his first professional appearance coming on in relief to pitch a perfect 9th inning with two K’s.  After a second appearance this week, his line sits at:

2.0 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 0 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA

Unfortunately, I missed seeing him pitch.  I left after the second rain delay when the opposing manager tried to stop the grounds crew from putting out the tarp.  I did, however, get a great picture of Beato swinging a bat in his pre-game warm-up. 

- Brandon Snyder started as the DH and did not look confident at the plate.  He swung big and missed on a breaking ball in one at bat and generally did not hit with any authority.  He’s now hitting .259/.281/.333 in his first 54 AB’s with the Ironbirds.

- Miguel Abreu, the O’s 2005 28th round pick, started at 3B instead of his usual 2B to make room for Todd Davison.  The move paid off as Davison made an incredible diving play to his left and Abreu used the opportunity to show off his surprisingly good arm.  It was pretty clear that Abreu wasn’t used to 3B, however, as he seemed to back up on his heels when the ball was hit hard to him.  No errors, though.

  • Radhames Liz Buzz Index

Liz had a pretty nice article written about him by Chris Kline over at Baseball America.  It covers a lot of ground, but this is one part I found very interesting:

Liz moved to San Pedro de Macoris to live with one of his older brothers when he turned 18, and he started taking the game seriously once he got to the big city. He worked with a group of other players for a year and a half with a part-time scout who had connections with several organizations, including Orioles director of Latin American scouting Carlos Bernhardt. “It’s not like college or high school players here in the United States,” he says. “I needed to learn more about the game because I didn’t really know what baseball was until I was 16, and then later on Carlos heard about me and signed me.”

Prospects are found in all sorts of places.  The O’s were lucky to get in early on this one. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 8 Comments »

Chris Vinyard Buzz Index

Posted by Mike on July 1, 2006

If you’re like me and you set Yahoo! as your browser’s homepage, you’ve probably noticed a feature they have known as Buzz Index, or some such play on the word Buzz.  It’s basically a measure on what people are entering into their search engine most frequently.  You might see the Fab Five up there one day (editor’s note: frequent commenter Nate looks just like the blonde one) or Paris Hilton the next. 

Luckily, WordPress allows me to see how a few dozen people use search engines to stumble upon OTT every day.  I’ve gotten everything from ‘Rachel Phelps cardboard cutout’ to ‘Windy City Heat DVD’ to, and I’m not making this up, ‘Peter Angelos naked’.  Lately, though, Chris Vinyard’s name has been cropping up in search boxes at an alarming frequency (not to mention in a few reader emails), so I figured this was as good of a time as any to catch you up on him and a few other of his short season cronies. 

The 20 year old Vinyard was drafted as a catcher with the 1143rd pick in the 38th round of the 2005 draft.  Originally planned as a draft and follow pick, he put up some daunting offensive numbers at Chandler-Gilbert JuCo.  He was confined to first base and will continue there as an Aberdeen Ironbird.  I have yet to see him in person, but all reports are that he is a liability just about anywhere in the field.  At bat, however, is a different proposition entirely.  He’s reported to have plus offensive skills across the board, including easy power to all fields, and has put it to use in his first 32 professional at bats (.406/.486/.750).  I’ll be attending Sunday’s game, with Patrick over at Pinstripes Plus and some pretty handy press credentials, and I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the O’s new buzz machine. 

Here are a few other notable draftees and some very early returns on their short-season jaunts:

Aberdeen Ironbirds

Brandon Snyder, C (2005 draft, 1st Rd.): .250/.282/.333

Daniel Figueroa, OF (2005, 43): .205/.279/.231

Jedidiah Stephens, SS (2006, 8 ): .129/.129/.290

Paul Winterling, OF (2005, Undrafted FA): .000/.231/.000 (*McDonogh/Hopkins grad*)

Michael Pierce, C (2006, 28): 0 for 1

Miguel Abreu, 2B (2005, 28): .296/.296/.444

Ryan Stadanlick, RHP (2005, 10): 2 ip, 3 K, 1 BB, 9.00 ERA

Tag Horner, LHP (2005, 41): 3.7 ip, 2 K, 3 BB, 2.18 ERA

Josh Tamba, RHP (2006, 7): 8.3 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA

Bluefield Orioles

Kieron Pope, OF (2005, 4): .421/.500/.684

Bobby Henson, SS (2006, 5): .273/.467/.364

Paul Chmiel, 1B (2005, 22): .000/.235/.000

Brian Bent, C (2005, 44): 0 for 1

Justin Johnson, C (2006, 16): .273/.385/.455

Aubrey Miller, RHP (2006, 23): 2.7, 1 K, 2 BB, 3.38 ERA

Joshua Faiola, RHP (2006, 24): 1.1 ip, 3 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA

Zachary Jevne, RHP (2006, 27): 7.0 ip, 10 K, 3 BB, 5.14 ERA

Be sure to take these stats with a heaping grain of salt, Aberdeen has played 9 games and Bluefield just 6.  So don’t get worked up about Abreu’s apparent lack of plate discipline and the like.  Also keep in mind that, in the case of pitchers, the demonstrated ability to miss bats at this level is a much better predictor of future success than ERA.  Nevertheless, it’s good to see the early returns on late draft picks like Jevne and Faiola, even if their success is tempered by the fact that they are both college products. 

I think the most encouraging signs from these early numbers is the hot start of Kieron Pope.  He was drafted as a raw high school kid with a major league body and he lived up to that billing with a tough showing at Bluefield last year (including 62 K’s in 41 G’s).  He’ll be confined to left field, but a good offensive start is certainly better than a bad one.

Further Minor League Notes

Thursday night was the best night of pitching the O’s farm system has seen in a long time.  While Lopez-to-Lopez had a decent but unspectacular showing against Ryan Madson and the Phillies, every stop from Delmarva to Ottawa saw performances good enough to transcend my Notable Performances widget in the upper-right hand corner.

Adam Loewen (AAA): 7 ip, 7 K, 2 BB, 2H, 0 R

A couple more performances like that and Russ Ortiz’s imminent implosion won;t be so hard to take

Garrett Olson (AA): 6 ip, 4 K, 1 BB, 6 H, 2R

A solid follow-up to his less than inspiring AA debut

Luis Ramirez (HiA): 6 ip, 7 K, 1 BB, 3 H, 2 R

So what if he can’t throw much harder than I can?  He has done nothing but miss bats as a pro

Brandon Erbe (LoA): 5.0 ip, 7 K, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 R

At just 18 years old, he is proving too great a match for his older competition

One Last Note(…s)

Tonight’s pitching matchup was every bit as interesting as I had anticipated.  On one side, there was a young fireballer who, thanks to some prospect-rushing tendencies of his parent club, has seen limited success  to go with his seemingly unlimited potential.  On the other side was a young pitcher who has seen nothing but success but, thanks to availability of minor league batted ball data, had received limited hype.  True to their reputations, Cabrera struck out 7 while expending 102 pitches to get through just 5 innings.  Chuck James, on the other hand, succeeded in recording a quality start, despite giving up 2 home runs and an unsettling 2-11 groundout:flyout ratio.

Also, Nick Markakis has officially joined in on the full-scale effort to make me look like an idiot.  He was 3 for 3 with a walk.  I find it very interesting that his recent success has come at a time when the O’s are facing an inordinate amount of young hurlers, though I’m not sure what, if anything, to make of it yet.  Any theories?

Finally, OTT is entering a transition phase.  Soon, I will be joining the ultra-cool Scout.com network.  It’s been a blast typing away about whatever is on my mind these past several months and an even bigger thrill to see that some folks out there are listening.  Scout.com, however, will afford me a ton of great opportunities even as it confines my content to the world of prospectdom (hence the empty Top Prospects page).  As a part of the vast FoxSports network, I’ll get unparalled access to all of the different minor league clubs, players, coaches and lots of other cool goodies.  Plus, I’ll actually be getting paid for the countless hours I study, think, and write about baseball.  Unfortunately, this will soon mean an end to OTT as we know it, but be assured that the new site is going to be much much better.  Dave Sanford, of Royals Corner, had a great post concerning his recent departure for Scout.com and I doubt I could sum up my thoughts any better. 

The transition isn’t exactly imminent and I will continue posting here for the time being, but I arbitrarily decided that today was the day to share the good news.

Posted in Orioles | 8 Comments »

Notes

Posted by Mike on June 28, 2006

  • Devil Rays Continuing Owning Ned Colletti

This is how an organization is supposed to run.  You acquire the pieces of the puzzle missing for a future contending team by trading away any current pieces that will not.  In this case, the Devil Rays swapped a backup-level catcher who was going to be somewhere else next year anyway and a pitcher who may never again approach his current value for a 22 year old potential everyday player and a pitcher who, despite struggling a ton, still has the upside of an innings-eating #4 type. 

I don’t mean to make this sound overly simplistic, but isn’t eating Javy Lopez’s contract and getting something for him better than the alternative?  The money is already spent, folks, and Javy’s presence does nothing to alter the O’s 4th place destiny for 2006.  Ditto Rodrigo.  Ditto Hawkins. 

  • Tejada Trade Talk

Lots of Tejada rumors flying.  Everyone seems to be interested- the Cubs, Tigers, Angels, Phillies, ad infinitum- and it’s fun to dream on what the O’s might get in return.  Personally, I’d love for the O’s to use this opportunity to infuse the farm system with some top talent.  But they won’t.  They just signed an injury-prone 34 year old through 2009.  Believe me when I say that they believe they can be competitive in the very near future.  If I were running an opposing ballclub, I would be lining up a league-average first baseman or outfielder, a solid starter, and a good prospect.  The O’s just might bite.

  • Bedard Fights Back

On June 2nd, I wrote a piece that included a blurd called “Time to Worry About Bedard?”.  Since then, he’s posted the following line across 5 starts:

32.0 ip, 24 H, 8 R, 1 HR, 37 K, 9 BB, 2.25 ERA

Although it took him 110 (72 strikes) pitches to get through 7 innings in game 1 of today’s double-header, it’s tough to argue with the end result. 

Looks like I have 24 more “Time to Worry About ____?” articles to write.

  • Beato In Aberdeen 

Pedro Beato, the O’s supplemental first round pick, is in Aberdeen working with coaches.  He hasn’t been added to the roster yet, but he should make his first professional start sometime around next weekend.  I’ll be there and I’ll make sure to bring back lots of pictures and other goodies.

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

‘Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone?’

Posted by Mike on June 26, 2006

About a week ago, I received a copy of Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? from Sports Publishing.  They've asked me to do my first book review on OTT and I am more than happy to oblige.

Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? is written by long-time area sports journalist John Seidel.  The jacket of the book informs me that he has written for the Sun, MLB.com, NFL.com, ESPN The Magazine and a bunch of other places.  I will readily admit that this isn't the sort of Orioles commentary you will typically find me endorsing:  Seidel utilizes W-L records and ERA instead of WXRL and PERA.  He focuses on personalities and back-stories where I have a tendency to put statistical confirmation of production above all else.  And maybe that's exactly why I liked this book; during a period when it's almost too easy to disparage the organization, Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone?was a much needed reminder of the rich history of the Orioles.

Seidel sections of the book into chapters named after the player's name he is writing about, most of which end up around 5 or 6 pages long.  The basic premise is that Seidel has selected three dozen players (plus umpire attendant extraordinaire Ernie Tyler) and tracked them to see what they've done with their lives since leaving the organization.  Some of the most interesting sections, to me anyways, came from some of the players that have since found roles within the organization.  For instance, Scott McGregor offered some insight into some of his pitching philosophies:

"I think the biggest surprise that I probably found after being out for 14 years was the same things I talked about with [Mike] Flanagan and Jim Palmer is what they're still talking about today," McGregor said.  "The game itself on the field doesn't change.  Kids are quicker, the thing I don't like is they rush them too quickly nowadays."

McGregor said he's seen a lot of things haven't changed.  He said the way pitchers are worked remains the same.  But things have changed in other ways as situational pitching has become the norm rather than the exception.

"You've got a lot more starters who don't have to go nine innings," McGregor said.  "If you've got guys out there who are qualified, they're making too much money nowadays not to use them."

Change "not to use" to "to abuse" and McGregor and I are on the same page.

You'll find some nice interviews and insight about the lives of other Oriole greats like Brooks, Cal and Flanny, but Seidel really gets creative with some of his subject choices. 

For instance, remember Dave Criscione?  Me neither.  He was a catcher in AAA Rochester who got his one and only cup-of-coffee with the 1977 Orioles.  During his brief 9 AB tenure, he hit .333/.333/.667 with a game-winning home run against the Brewers that vaulted the O's into 1st place.  Oh, and he became a father for the first time.

Seidel also manages to slip in this blurb referencing my personal favorite icon:

Interestingly, Criscione heard later that the Orioles planned to send him back after that game, but manager Earl Weaver told general manager Hank Peters something to the effect of the following, "You tell him.  He just hit a home run that won the ballgame and put us in first place."

Criscione… stayed with the team on a long road trip and went back down around August 10.

Nowadays, you can find Criscione working as a supervisor of quality control for an ink company in Dunkirk, New York.  He also coached Fredonia State's baseball team from 1980-2002.  Through it all, he has always held onto his memories with the Orioles. 

He also wrote the Orioles a very nice email thanking them after writing an article on him in a game program.  In addition. he asked if he could get a new hat, because his old one was fading out.  The team was more than happy to help him.

"There was no better place to play than Baltimore," Criscione said.

Click here to check out Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? by John Seidel. 

Posted in Orioles | 2 Comments »

Russ Ortiz Signed

Posted by Mike on June 25, 2006

The Orioles have just signed free agent pitcher Russ Ortiz.  This strikes me as sort of the organizational equivalent of Todd Williams trying to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera.  Sure, they;ve got the right idea, but you need to execute better. 

Ortiz was offered a fat contract (4 years/$33 million) by the Diamondbacks as a member of the infamous free agent pitching class of 2004.  After being outpaced by Jose Lima  and finishing 2005 as the 5th worst pitcher in baseball, Ortiz has walked 22 batters in 22.7 innings en route to a 7.54 ERA.  Oh, and his groundball rate has deteriorated to the point where he now has distinct flyball tendencies.

Even after posting a superficially low 4.13 ERA in 200+ innings with the Braves in 2004, the warning signs were all there.  He walked too many batters, didn't strike out enough and, even at his best, only had a league-average groundball rate.  His only outstanding ability was to throw 200+ innings. 

In short, he's become Sidney Ponson without the groundballs. 

Russ Ortiz can not and will not help this team.  Despite the fact that he is immediately plugged into the rotation, he is the worst pitcher on a decidedly mediocre staff.  The silver lining is that he will only make the prorated league minimum and the Orioles have no sentimental attachments to him.  The over/under on his release sits at 3.5 starts (or as soon as Penn is healthy and throwing well).  Get your bets in now. 

I should also note that this signing does do the very valuable service of getting Adam Loewen to Ottawa.  Despite his glimpses of potential, Loewen was not ready for the major leagues.  Since the O's recognize that the rest of this season is Loewen's final chance to get ready for the major leagues, they did the unthinkable and sent a prospect to AAA.  I expect he'll be successful, if not dominant, and see some more action with the parent club in September. 

My point is just that Ortiz's goose is cooked.  They might as well use this as an opportunity to see what guys on the Ottawa staff can be useful in future seasons.  Winston Abreu can not be worse than Russ Ortiz.  Brian Burres can not be worse than Russ Ortiz.  [Insert name of mid-to-late 20's O's farmhand] can not be worse than Russ Ortiz. 

Brace yourselves, this isn't going to be pretty. 

Posted in Orioles | 40 Comments »

Around the Organization

Posted by Mike on June 21, 2006

  • Garrett Olson Promoted

Garrett Olson received a much deserved promotion to AA Bowie yesterday, while Matt Bruback was sent down to HiA Frederick to make roster room.  I recently saw Bruback start against the Trenton Thunder and he shut them down through 7 innings.  His stats are mixed: 43.0 ip, 49 K, 8 BB, 3 HR, but with 53 H's allowed.  He's started and relieved this year, works in the 88-90 mph range (as a righty), and is 27 years old; so it'll take quite a bit for him to wear off his organizational soldier tag.

Back to Olson; some might be curious as to why he got promoted and not Radhames Liz. For starters, Liz was named to the Carolina League all-star game (along with Nolan Reimold and Paco Figueroa), so any promotion would wait until after he partakes in that. Secondly, Liz has dimmed slightly in recent starts, including giving up 4 runs on 4 BB's and 5 H's in his start last night.  At the same time, Olson has come on very strong: to the point that their ERA's now both start with 2.7_.  Finally, and probably most importantly, you can not overlook the fact that Olson has an astonishing groundball to flyball ratio.  I feel comfortable in saying that I have probably underestimated him in the past (and I never exactly bashed the guy).

As an aside, there are few things cooler than the availability of minor league batted ball data.  It's the reason someone like Chuck James failed to make off-season top 100 prospect lists and why the Adam Loewen bandwagon has gained momentum in stathead circles.

  • Brandon Snyder Demoted

After the draft, each mlb club fields a pair of short-season teams.  For the Orioles, these include the Rookie-level Bluefield Orioles, where all high school and some college draftees head, and the Aberdeen Ironbirds, where many college draftees and some returning players head.  The Delmarva Shorebirds are the Orioles LoA affiliate and are thought of as one peg higher than Aberdeen. 

With Brandon Snyder's struggles in Delmarva so far this year, the Orioles have decided to give him a fresh start with Aberdeen.  I'm actually a big fan of the move.  First off, I can only imagine to mental hurdle that has been cleared for Snyder by his stats being reset.  It's also apparent that he was a bit over his head in Delmarva.  Hopefully, he'll be able to regain some confidence and take the Shorebirds by storm in 2007.  Thus far in the young Aberdeen season, he's hitting .500. 

  • The Wade Townsend Fiasco

I don't know why I have to point to a past failing of the organization in order to point out something positive, but check this out.  I think I have trust issues.

  • Conine on the move?

This article has an interesting snippet:

Conine's biggest problem has been a lack of production. He took a .236 average and .314 on-base percentage into Tuesday's game. His name has been brought up in trade rumors with the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.

Lack of production, eh?  That's his biggest problem?  Well thank you very much, Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  How exactly do fans outside of south Florida get their baseball insight?

Anyways, Conine and Millar have both been mentioned as possible replacements for the injured Albert Pujols.  In completely unrelated news, Juan C. Rodriguez has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Joe Sheehan.

  • Trading Deadline Nears

Here's an article by the Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.  It's a nice, if optimistic, overview of the O's situation as the trading deadline nears.

Here are some snippets of interest:

Though the Orioles say they will be both buyers and sellers, they vow not to be renters. They will not make a trade to bring back a player in the last year of his contract unless they have assurances that the player will sign a long-term deal with them.

Some of the biggest names expected to be available, including Washington outfielder Alfonso Soriano, Oakland pitcher Barry Zito and Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Lee, are all free agents after this season.

Sounds like a good idea to me.  Although, the only player I'd be willing to give up valuable prospects for is Barry Zito.  Zito has unfairly earned a reputation as being somewhat of a disappointment after his 2002 CYA, but that's mostly from people that don't understand how and why ERA fluctuates.  Any player that can routinely give you 200+ innings of above-average pitching is a frontline guy in my book (which will turn into a coffee table and have the standard condescending subtitle).

Florida pitcher Dontrelle Willis and Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford are among the biggest names not facing impending free agency who could be available, and the Orioles, whose biggest need is a top-of-the-rotation starter, would be interested in either.

Bill James once said that a pitcher's strikeout rate is more indicative of the mileage left on his arm than anything else.  Combine Willis' league average K rate with his awkward mechanics and you have one very popular pitcher that I have serious reservations about. As for Crawford: he's fun to watch play and beats any option for LF that the O's currently have, but he is, and will continue to be, among the more overrated players in baseball.  Besides, there is absolutely no chance of that deal getting done. 

Available for a price

Jeff Conine: If his offense improves, versatility and playoff pedigree will attract interest from winning teams. Would likely draw mid-level prospects in return.Luis Matos: Tenure with Orioles could be drawing to an end. As of now, Orioles haven't gotten many calls on out fielder, but that could change with injuries.

Bruce Chen: Free agent next year has attracted some attention despite struggles. Every body wants pitching, but Orioles aren't going to just give him away.

And then…

Biggest trade chips

LaTroy Hawkins: Orioles not looking to move him, but free-agent status next year and league-wide bullpen con cerns certainly create a market.Rodrigo Lopez: Has won 14 games or more in three of past four seasons. There won't be that many pitchers on market with better resumes.

Javy Lopez: The Orioles' biggest trade chip, Lopez brings power and catching depth. He is also due $8.5 million, a price that has already scared teams away.

I would have written this next to Javy Lopez: Lopez brings memories of 2003 and 2004, but not much else.  At this point, he is a below-average DH who is grossly overpaid.  If he ends up catching for you, plan A has gone seriously awry.

Sure, he might fetch a pair of C+ prospects if the O's eat his contract, but that is not going to happen.  Not during this regime. 

Rodrigo should bring a better return if he continues to pitch well.  But if trading him is the difference between Loewen getting some development time in the minors or getting smacked around prematurely in the majors, I'd hold onto him.  Ideally, they'd get something of value for him while plugging some sort of journeyman into the 5th slot in the rotation.  For all intents and purposes, 70 wins are just as good as 75 wins, folks.  Especially when it means a player like Loewen gets the development time he deserves.  After all, he might one day make a difference in the fortunes of this franchise.  It's just not going to be this year.

Hawkins might actually turn out to be the most valuable trading chip of all.  He has a good track record and has done enough this year to, at least, avoid tarnishing his reputation.  Plus, he's affordable.  The O's would be well served to see the big picture on this one and appropriately weaken what is already an underwhelming bullpen. 

  • Minor League A-doings

Here's a nice game report from John Kazlo, of Minor League Watch.  Check it out.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 7 Comments »

 
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