Monday, April 01, 2013

To Your Health

The talking heads have predicted the O's to finish everywhere in the AL East this season.  I agree.  With all of them.  This could be the most competitive race the AL East has seen since the division's dominant years in the late 70's and early 80's.

The Yankees have been weakened by free agency and injury and do not open the season as a solid favorite.  The Bombers still have solid pitching (best in the division last season) and, if they get healthy, will be in the hunt.

The Rays bring what they've brought each of the last 5 seasons.  Solid pitching and a suspect offense.  That's been enough for a winning record in each of the last 5 seasons, 90+ wins in 4 of those seasons, 3 post-season appearances and 2 division titles.  The Rays are in the hunt.

The Blue Jays re-tooled their roster in impressive fashion during the off-season and look formidable.  However, Cito Gaston is not the manager.  John Gibbons may be able to direct the Jays to the top, but he's no Cito Gaston.

The Red Sox may or may not rebound from a dismal 2012 campaign. John Farrell takes over the reins in Boston with significant challenges.  His last two seasons as manager of the Jays demonstrated that he's no Cito Gaston either.

The Orioles will put a better team on the field this season than they did last season.  In 2012, the O's fashioned 93 wins primarily with home run hitting (2nd in the AL) and a tireless bullpen that refused to allow runs (3rd in AL in IP, 3rd in ERA) in close games (29-9 in 1 run games).  This team will not win 90+ games the same way they did it last season.  However, a 90+ win campaign is not out of the question either.

The O's bullpen led all of MLB in IP through July of 2012.  The starting rotation picked up its' share of the load in August and September to finish with an average of 5.8 Innings pitched per start. If Hamel, Chen, Arrietta, Gonzalez and Tillman can carry their share of the load, the bullpen can be as good as it was last season.

However, improved starting pitching and a staunch bullpen will not be enough to produce a +20 in 1 run games.  I agree with those who claim the 29-9 record in 1 run games was good fortune sustained.  That particular +20 will have to be made up by scoring more runs (and thus having fewer 1 run games).

The O's open with CF Adam Jones (32 HR), C Matt Wieters (23 HR) and 1B Chris Davis (33 HR) in the middle of the lineup.  While there is no good reason to expect 88 HR from this trio again, there is also no good reason to declare they cannot deliver it.  There is every reason to expect SS J.J. Hardy and RF Nick Markakis to have the kinds of seasons they've had their whole careers and good reason to expect  3B Manny Machado, LF Nate McClouth and 2B Brian Roberts to produce more than last seasons every day players of Mark Reynolds, Endy Chavez and Robert Andino.

Sustained health is the key to the fortunes of every team in the AL East.  Health, improved starting pitching and a more diverse offense are the keys to the O's fortunes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Optimism, Meet Reality

The Baltimore Orioles have been a pleasant surprise this season, fashioning a 35-26 record through 61 games and standing in 2nd place in the AL East, 1 game behind the division leading Yankees.

How have they managed this?

The O's offense is 10th in the AL in hitting but 6th in runs scored thanks to 3rd in HR.  O's pitching is 6th in the AL.  O's defense has committed more errors than any team in MLB.  I credit Sparky for pointing out to me that, despite the mistake-prone defense, the O's retire 70% of batters who put the ball in play, which is the league average.

So, it would appear that slightly above average pitching, average defense and above average home run hitting will keep you in the hunt in the AL East.

Can the O's keep it going?

The offense is performing at a sustainable level.  They finished 4th in the AL in HR in 2011, so 3rd now is not a big surprise.  Nothing else they've done looks like over-achievement to me.  They just got Brian Roberts back in the lineup for game 61.  He went 3-4 with an RBI.  If he remains healthy, the offense is considerably improved.

The defense is under performing.  MLB leading error total is an embarrassment.  I realize that someone has to lead MLB in errors, but if you want to compete in the AL East, it has to be someone else.  Again, Roberts return improves the defense, not only at 2nd base but should improve at 3rd as well. If he remains healthy.

The pitching is the big bugaboo.  The Orioles bullpen is the best in MLB.  Orioles starters are 11th in the AL.  The bullpen is full of good arms and every man in the pen is pitching well in a clearly defined role.  The bullpen may be able to sustain this performance if it's kept fresh and rested.

A fresh and rested bullpen is the problem.  O's starters are, once again, failing to carry the load, although not nearly as badly as past seasons.  Innings pitched/start for the O's rotation in April was 6.04 (good). 5.80 (ok for a short time) in May and 5.5 (bullpen scorching) so far in June.

Alas, the Orioles starting pitching is not good enough to hang.  Once that bullpen is burned up, the O's will sink like a stone in the standings.  Chen and Hammel are carrying the load.  Maybe they'll continue to do so.  Matusz, Arrieta and Hunter are not.  Those 3 are young, maybe they'll pick it up.  Maybe Zach Britton gets healthy and in a groove and steps back into the rotation. Maybe Jamie Moyer can join  the rotation and teach these youngsters how to last.  Maybe....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who am I?

Since the start of 2010, I've gone 25-12 with a 2.79 ERA (143 ERA+) and 1.16 WHIP. Over my last 31 starts, I'm 13-5 with a 2.03 ERA (194 ERA+) and 1.06 WHIP.

Last year, I made seven starts in which I went at least 7 innings and gave up 3 or fewer runs (2 or fewer in five of them) and got either a loss or no decision.

I am:

(Hold to mirror) Oteuc ynnhoJ.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jason Kipnis is what he was

Last year, Cleveland's Jason Kipnis got 150 PAs. He posted an .841 OPS and 132 OPS+. He scored 24 runs and had 7 HR, 19 RBI and 5 SB. He had 11 BB. His BABIP was .313.

This year, Kipnis has 152 PAs. He has an .838 OPS and 135 OPS+. He has 22 runs, 6 HR, 22 RBI and 6 SB. He has 13 BB. His BABIP is .305.

His WAR was 1.2 last year. It is 1.1 this year.

One area of improvement: He has reduced his strikeouts from 34 to 24.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A's for production

Brandon Inge is batting only .222, with a .293 OBP, in his nine games for Oakland, but the A's are getting some bang for their buck.

Inge has five extra-base knocks, including two grand slams, in his 41 plate appearances. He has 13 RBI, thanks to three 4-RBI games.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Max Scherzer makes me crazy

Chances are, Max Scherzer is either going to be really good, or really bad, whenever he takes the mound.

Looking at his Game Scores for this year, he has gone: 15 (really, really bad), 60 (really good), 48 (mediocre), 31 (really bad), 35 (really bad), 74 (really, really good).

Last year was much the same. He had an 81, two other starts above 70 and eight more at 60 or better. He also had six others of 55 to 59. So that's 17 of 33 starts in the really good to really, really good range.

He also had a 12 and two 13s. He had a 29 and three starts between 31 and 34. He also had four between 40 and 44. So that's 11 in the really bad to really, really bad range.

Justin Verlander last year -- realizing this is not a fair comparison -- had only six starts below 53, with his worst being 32.

David Price had only two starts worse than 37, with a low of 22. Jon Lester had six lower than 44, with only one lower than 25 (a 12). Mark Buehrle, who I don't think anyone would suggest has Scherzer's stuff, had seven below 43, with a low of 12.

Scherzer is maddening because when you watch him throw those really good games, you cannot understand why he has so much trouble in other ones. I thought he would harness this stuff and become an ace, but it might never happen.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Beastie Boys of summer

I'm not a Mets fan, but kudos to the Metropolitans for tonight's idea to honor Adam Yauch, better known as MCA, with all Beastie Boys walk-up music. Yauch passed away earlier today. Here is the lineup, from Anthony DiComo's MLB blog.