Thursday, April 30, 2009

Behind the offensive numbers

A quick look at some stats as April nears completion.

There are 13 MLB players with BABIPs above .400, which is quite high and an indication they could see their stats drop off over time. Of that group, 10 have line drive percentages of 25% or better, so it would appear most of those guys are coming by their .400+ BABIP legitimately. The more line drives, the more likely hits.

One guy on that list in the most danger would seem to be Bobby Abreu, who is batting .363 with 0 HR and 12 RBI (and 8 SB). Abreu has a .420 BABIP and 17% LD, which makes me think he's swatted a few groundballs with eyes. He's the only .400+ BABIP below 20% LD. Also, his drop in slugging might be a concern.

Adrian Gonzalez has 9 HR so far this year, but his 42% homer/flyball ratio is nuts. Last year, his HR/F was 23%, which was a career high.

Andy LaRoche has been stinging the ball to a 27% LD clip but is batting only .254 because his BABIP is .291. Looks like Andy's had some bad luck. Curtis Granderson, too. Grandy has been slapping liners 25% of the time and is batting .241 with a .222 BABIP. He's been popping up more, which could be a factor. Alex Rios is batting .237 (.282 BABIP) despite 24% LD. Rios also has a ridiculously low 3.6% HR/F rate. Kelly Johnson is hitting .203 (.204 BABIP) with 18% LD, so he might be a bounce-back guy, too.

Other guys with BABIPs below .250 with 20%+ LD are: Ty Wigginton, Khalil Greene, David DeJesus, Emmanuel Burriss, Jason Varitek, Cesar Izturis, Mike Aviles, and Austin Kearns.

From a fantasy standpoint, it's worth keeping an eye on these guys.

Central time

Detroit meets Cleveland for a three-game set this weekend. The Tigers need to jump on Carl Pavano (0-3, 9.50 ERA) in the opener and put two losses to the Yankees behind them. The Tigs are tied for first in the AL Central, thanks in large part to beating up on the Texas Rangers. Otherwise, Detroit is looking like a hover-around-.500 type. Given the makeup of the Central, this is not necessarily bad. But the Tigs need to take care of business in the Central, particularly because they might struggle against the East.

To be 11-10 when Justin Verlander has an ERA north of 6, Magglio Ordonez took the better part of April to get his first extra-base hit, Placido Polanco has an OBP south of .300 (career .349), Marcus Thames has spent more time on the DL than at the plate, and Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya have yet to appear, can give one reason to believe the glass is half full.

Or it might just be an indication the glass is leaking.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's like Willie Randolph never left

Prior to about 4 PM today, I was not too worried about the Mets. Yes, they've gotten off to a slow start. But David Wright isn't going to strike out in a third of his at bats for the whole season. Oliver Perez is going to get his ERA under nine at some point. Getting a bunch of runners on base will eventually lead to a lot of runs being scored. But now I'm wondering if any of that matters given that the team's manager is clearly out of his mind.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the bullpen having stolen another win from Johan Santana, the Met offense didn't give up. They loaded the bases. Sure, it took two walks and a hit by pitch, but they loaded the bases. With two outs, loaded bases and a one-run deficit, Ramon Castro was scheduled to bat. Castro had two hits in the game already and a career's worth of evidence that he is a decent hitter. Still, Jerry Manuel decided to pinch hit for Castro. Did he bring in the team leader in home runs, Carlos Delgado, to face Matt Lindstrom and his 100 MPH fastball? Or maybe the owner of a .433 OBP on the season, Luis Castillo? No, he had Omir Santos, who had been out in the bullpen warming up pitchers all day, run down to the dugout to hit for Castro.

Omir Santos has had a hot week. That hot week has included zero walks and a .280 OBP, but still. He's had a few hits and a grand slam. He's looked good. He's also spent eight years in the minor leagues, amassing a career OPS of .651. Omir Santos is not a great hitter. He is not better Ramon Castro. He is not the kind of guy who's likely to spend the whole day squatting in the bullpen and then come in and rope a game-winning single against a flamethrower like Lindstrom.

The idea to choose lesser players over Castro isn't a new one for the Mets and it didn't start with Jerry Manuel. But pinch hitting for him with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with another catcher on a day when he already has two hits is among the most baffling instances this side of Paul Lo Duca's entire 2007 season. Manuel's explanation is that Santos's "shorter swing" would give him a better shot against the hard-throwing Lindstrom. Yeah, I guess Castro's never had any success against any other hard throwers.

Now, a 9-12 record isn't the end of the world. And all of this could be forgotten if the Mets win two or three games in Philadelphia this weekend. But in the early going, Jerry Manuel's ability to determine who his best players are and allocate playing time accordingly is not inspiring a lot of confidence.

News and notes

Justin Verlander had his best outing of the season the other night against the Yanks. Hopefully, it wasn't a mirage. The Detroit Tigers Weblog had this interesting article about his struggles prior to Monday night.

Detroit's starters have thrown 16 straight scoreless innings heading into tonight's game against NY. Over the last 12 games, the starters have a 3.07 ERA.

Brandon Inge has reached base in all 20 games this year. It's the longest streak by a Tiger to open the year since 2005 when Inge reached in 21 consecutive. Given Inge's struggles at the plate, that's rather odd.

Josh Anderson has been a pleasant surprise at the dish. He's batting .351/.400/.486 with nine runs, six RBI, and six SB as Detroit's top part-timer. Unfortunately, he had a rough go of it last night in the field. His misplaying of a soft liner in the seventh inning helped open the floodgates to a 10-run NY outburst.

Last night's game was the first time in history that an AL game tied 0-0 in the seventh inning or later was broken up by a 10-run inning. It happened once, in 1919, in the NL.

Edwin Jackson threw 117 pitches in 6 innings last night, and Robinson Cano was a big reason why. Cano was a foulball-producing machine. Over two ABs, he made Jackson throw 22 pitches.

The Tigers are 9-1 when leading after six innings. They are 2-8 when trailing or tied after six innings.

Detroit's batting order from 1-5 has been almost written in stone. With only two exceptions, it's been Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Guillen. From there, it's most often been Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge, Brandon Inge, and Adam Everett. Yep, Inge is the person with the most appearances in both the 7 and 8 spots. Otherwise, Laird, Anderson and Ramon Santiago have seen time there.

Rick Porcello pitches tonight for the Tigs. When he made his major league debut on April 9 at Toronto, he faced Ricky Romero, who also was in his big league debut. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time since the draft began in 1965 that two first-round picks faced each other in their MLB debuts.

Dontrelle Willis will start for Triple-A Toledo on Friday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One down, eight to go

Tigers disappointing ace Justin Verlander meets Yankees disappointing ace C.C. Sabathia tonight as Detroit begins a 3-game set vs. NY. It's the Tigs' only series against a non-AL Central team for a while.

On one of the other Tigers' blogs, there is a writer who breaks down the season into 9 "innings." That means each 18-game stretch is an "inning." Therefore, the Tigers are 10-8 after the first inning of the season --- and all alone in first place. I don't know that it has any value to break down the season in such fashion, but it's kind of neat thinking of the season as nine innings (which I think was the sole idea behind it).

Detroit was 6-12 last year after 18 games.

Last year the Tigers were batting .262/.343/.404 for .747 OPS. This season, Detroit is .276/.349/.432 for .781. Last year, the Tigers had 138 LOB; this year 120. Last year they had 15 HR; this year 21. Last year they averaged 4.1 runs per game; this year 5.7. The AL average for OPS is .773 and R/G is 5.1.

As for the pitching, the Tigers are allowing 4.7 runs per game compared to 6.2 last year. Their ERA is 4.39 compared to 5.70. They have 2 SHO compared to zero. They have a K/BB ratio of 2.09 compared to 1.14. And that's with Verlander pitching poorly and Jeremy Bonderman on the DL.

O's Week Three

The O's went 3-4 on the week.  Highlights of the week were Brad Bergeson's victory over the White Sox in his Major League debut,  Adam Eaton's victory over same and the continued bashing at the top of the order.

Bergesen went 5 2/3 IP allowing 1 Earned Run in a 10-3 victory and Eaton pitched 7 1/3 IP allowing 2 Earned Runs in a 6-2 win.  Koji Uehara also had an excellent start (6 2/3 IP,  2 Earned Runs) this week but the bullpen was unable to make it stand up.

Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are hitting  .372, .348 and .389 respectively at the top of the order.  The rest of the batting order cooled this week.

Through 3 weeks, Orioles pitching has walked fewer batters than all but 3 AL teams.

Lowlights were the blown save by George Sherrill on Saturday and the defense.  

Accept the blown save and move on, as no closer can be expected to succeed in every opportunity.  It remains disappointing because Uehara had such a good start and the blown save turned out to be the difference between a winning and losing Week 3.  

The defense continued its' sloppy play.  In the AL, only Seattle has committed more errors than Baltimore.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Do run run

The expanded stats on baseball-reference.com are incredible. I was looking at baserunning stats for AL teams. Toronto leads the league in runs per game. The Jays also lead in the number of times they've had runners score from second on a single, 19 of 29 with the other 10 baserunners stopping at third. The Yankees are fourth in runs per game, but have only scored 8 of 17 times from second on a single. But the Yanks have scored from first on a double 9 of 16 times. Texas ranks second in runs per game, but is doing it mostly with the long ball. The Rangers have 35 HR, which is 6 more than No. 2 Toronto and 14 better than the league average. They also have been successful on 18 of 20 stolen base attempts. Better minds than mine could make something of all this data.

Left is alright

The left side of the Tigers' infield was supposed to be slick with the glove and sloppy with the stick. Instead, 3B Brandon Inge leads the Tigs with a 1.098 OPS. He's got 6 HR and 15 RBI batting at the bottom of the order. SS Adam Everett's OPS is .772 and his OPS+ is 99. Everett has never posted an OPS+ better than 80 in his career. Oddly, he's made 3 errors this season and his fielding percentage of .930 is well below his .976. Of course, fielding percentage is misleading and not all errors are created equally.

Detroit is 9-8 entering today. The Tigers are 6th in the AL with a team OPS of .794 and are fourth in runs per game. While Inge has been a surprise, it's also been a surprise Magglio Ordonez didn't pick up his first extra base hit (a homer) until last night. I guess things do sort of even out.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Going to Kansas City

Detroit motors into KC for a 3-game set. No break in the opener; the Tigs face Zach Greinke, who has a 34-inning scoreless streak dating back to last season. That's a franchise record, breaking Kevin Appier's mark of 33 set in 1993. Greinke is coming off a shutout in Texas, the Royals first shutout in Texas since Bud Black in 1985.

Rick Porcello goes for Detroit.

Since the start of the 2006 season, Detroit leads all visitors with 180 runs at Kauffman Stadium. The Tigers are 20-7 in KC during that span.

KC is tied with Seattle for the AL lead with 3 shutouts this season. What is even more strange --- the Pirates lead the NL with 4.

The Tigers face AL Central teams in 16 of their next 19 games. The only non-Central team in the mix is the Yankees. It's early, but I'm saying to win the AL Central this year, you've got to beat the AL Central. So this could be, if nothing else, a barometer.

Detroit recalled Joel Zumaya from Triple-A Toledo. In 4 IP for the Mud Hens, over 3 games, he allowed zero runs, two hits, and struck out 5.

Sweet on Eaton


Rare occurrences:

Adam Eaton receiving a standing ovation from hometown fans (excluding the one he got as he walked through the airport exiting Philadelphia).

Pitching lines like: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Eaton did not surrender a run during his time on the mound last night for Baltimore; he left with runners on the corners that later scored.

In fairness to Eaton, I felt he got a bit of a bad rap in Philly. Most of the trouble came from his contract; he was a No. 5 starter, but they paid him like an ace. That's not Eaton's fault.

And last year, Eaton had five starts in which he pitched seven innings (or into the seventh inning) and gave up 3 ER or fewer. He was 1-3 in those outings and the Phils went 1-4. It's also interesting to note that Eaton threw 12 games to Chris Coste and 9 to Carlos Ruiz last year. His OPS allowed was .981 with Coste behind the plate and .743 with Ruiz as the backstop.

Anyway, the last time Eaton threw into the eighth inning and was charged with fewer than 3 ER was May 15, 2007. The last time he did it with as many as 9 K and 0 BB was --- never.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Double digits

As a follow up to the previous post, here are the 2008 records of AL teams when giving up 10 or more runs:

Angels 3-10
Athletics 0-13
Blue Jays 0-2
Indians 0-12
Mariners 0-14
Orioles 1-20
Rangers 4-22
Rays 0-5
Red Sox 1-13
Royals 1-12
Tigers 1-18
Twins 0-14
White Sox 0-11
Yankees 1-13

So the Tigers were bad. The two teams that jump out are the Blue Jays, for the lack of such games, and the Rangers, for the many (and the number of wins).

Overall, counting both the NL and AL, teams in 2008 had a win percentage of .638 when scoring 5 runs, .707 when scoring 6, .804 when scoring 7, .846 when scoring 8, etc. They had a win percentage of .480 when scoring 4, .364 when 3, .202 when 2, and .083 when 1.

Boom, boom, boom, boom

There was a lot of talk about Detroit needing to win slugfests, and being capable of winning slugfests, with its potent lineup. Last night, the Tigers finally did. They beat LA 12-10, marking the first time this year they won a game in which their opponent scored more than 4 runs. Overall, the Tigs are 1-5 when their foes put up 5 runs or better.

According to Tigers.com, not since 1999 had Tigers pitching given up double-digit earned runs in a nine-inning game and still won.

Last year, Detroit gave up double digits 19 times. I don't know what other teams did, but gosh that sounds awfully high. The Tigers were 1-18 in those games (with the win coming in extra innings). They were 19-49 when giving up 5 to 9 runs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

News and notes

The Detroit Free Press pointed out that after last night's 4-3 loss in LA, the Tigers are 1-2 in games decided in the seventh inning or later --- and Brandon Lyon has the decision in each.

Marcus Thames was placed on the 15-day DL because of a muscle injury suffered during batting practice on Tuesday. Ryan Raburn was called up to take his spot.

GM Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News that the Tigs have no intentions of trading Miguel Cabrera, as speculated by ESPN talking heads. Dombrowski said the rumor was "absurd" and he was "upset" by the speculation. He added, "There's nothing that can happen this year that would make us think about trading Miguel Cabrera."

Not much talk about when Jeremy Bonderman might return to the rotation. I don't view this silence as a positive.

Dontrelle Willis gave up 2 ER on 8 H in 7 IP for Class-A Lakeland. He walked zero, which is a good sign. He threw 58 of his 75 pitches for strikes.

Detroit's batting this year: .279/.359/.432 (.792 OPS) with 72 R, 50 BB, 83 K, 98 LOB.
Detroit's batting last year: .251/.329/.368 (.697 OPS) with 44 R, 48 BB, 77 K, 97 LOB.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

News and notes

Detroit won two games in Seattle without hitting a homer. Last year, the Tigers won only 13 games in which they failed to go yard. That was the second-lowest total in the AL.

Magglio Ordonez is looking for his first extra base hit, and the Tigers visit to the LA Angels might be the remedy. Ordonez has a .630 slg percentage in 43 games at Angel Stadium, the third highest mark among active players.

Since the start of 2007, the Tigers have averaged 6.08 runs per game against the AL West. It is the best in the AL.

Detroit has produced at least 8 hits in each of its first 12 games this season. It is the club's longest such streak since 1954.

Over the last 10 games, a span of 27.2 innings, the Tigers' bullpen has posted a 1.95 ERA and held foes to a .172 batting average.

Armando Galarraga pitches for the Tigs tonight. Since joining Detroit's rotation last year, Galarraga has limited opponents to 7.55 hits per game and a .224 batting average. Those numbers rank fourth and third, respectively, in the AL.

The Tigers (7-5) are 2-3 when scoring 4 runs or less, 1-1 when scoring 5 runs, and 4-1 when scoring 6 or more runs. They have scored no fewer than 2 runs in any game. Now, to flip it, Detroit is 7-0 when allowing 4 or fewer runs, which makes it 0-5 when allowing 5 or more. The staff has given up 2 or fewer runs five times.

Detroit has already posted two shutouts this season -- equaling its total from 2008.

The Angels were swept in Minnesota over the weekend and are struggling in the wake of Nick Adenhart's death. "That tragedy knocked us down," Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter told the Orange County (Ca.) Register last week. "You can tell guys are trying to find it. You can feel the energy is kind of low in the clubhouse right now."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twenty? Twenty?

Twenty-year-old Rick Porcello became the fourth-youngest Detroit starter since 1954 to earn a win when yesterday he beat Seattle, 8-2. Those younger were Bob Miller, Denny McLain and Bruce Robbins. Miller ended up 6-8 in a five-year career while McLain had one great season, two very good seasons and six below average seasons (based on ERA+) before bowing out of the game prior to the age of 29. Robbins ended up 7-5 in two seasons.

That's not a great track record.

I'll find solace in Hal Newhouser, who won nine games at the age of 19 and went on to a Hall of Fame career.

Dan Petry is an in-between case. He joined the Tigers at 20 and went 93-64 with a 3.49 ERA (ERA+ 116) over his first seven seasons. He was 32-40 with a 4.85 ERA (ERA+ 84) his last six seasons. Moving away from the Tigs, how about Dwight Gooden? As a 20-year-old he put up one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher. For his first six seasons, he was 100-39 with a 2.64 ERA (ERA+ 132). The next 10 years, he was 94-73 with a 4.24 ERA (ERA+ 99).

C.C. Sabathia got his first win at 20 and has yet to see a dropoff. He is one of the rare players I could find to be successful, but I did a very limited search on baseball-reference.com. Pedro Martinez made his debut at 20 (only 2 games) and has survived nicely. We still have to wait and see with Felix Hernandez.

Maybe the most sustained goodness belonged to Bert Blyleven.

Oh, there's Rick Ankiel ...

O's Week 2

The O's went 2-4 in Week 2 taking 2 of 3 from Texas and losing 3 straight to Boston, all on the road.

The offense continued to bash while in Texas but immediately cooled once reaching Boston.  No big surprise there, however, Adam Jones left Sunday's game in the 2nd inning with right (ugh) hamstring soreness.   Melvin Mora is on the DL already with a hamstring problem.  

The starters were awful in Week 2, completing only 25 2/3 innings of the 51 pitched and logging a 9.81 ERA.  Alfredo Simon went on the DL after completing 1 1/3 innings in his start at Texas.  Brad Bergesen (1-1, 2.45 ERA at Norfolk) is expected to take Simons' start on Tuesday.  At least there is that to look forward to.

The bullpen showed signs of rounding into form while posting a 5.68 ERA in 25 1/3 innings.   10 runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 3 against Texas was the only sore spot for the week.

The defense was shabby and currently ranks 10th in the AL.

So, game 4 in Boston today and then back home to face the White Sox and Rangers.

A weakened batting order, poor starting pitching and a shaky defense does not bode well for Week 3.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the road again

Detroit plays in Seattle tonight. Here are some notes from the Tigers' Web site:

Miguel Cabrera is the third Tiger since 1955 to collect at least 17 hits and 12 RBI in the team's first nine games. The others were Chris Shelton in 2006 and Al Kaline in 1955.

Justin Verlander will start tonight against Seattle (Felix Hernandez). Verlander is 6-1 with a 2.91 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners. This will be Verlander's 100th career start for Detroit.

Curtis Granderson is 8-for-15 in his career vs. Felix Hernandez with a double and a homer. He's also struck out 6 times.

Dontrelle Willis is scheduled to pitch a rehab game for Single-A Lakeland on Tuesday. Joel Zumaya is slated to pitch for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To the nines

This should've been the 10-game mark for the Tigers and their first day off, but a rainout Tuesday makes this the 9-game mark as Detroit heads to the West Coast. A few thoughts. First, it was important for the Tigs to beat down the White Sox yesterday and split what became a two-game series. Detroit needs to take care of business within the AL Central, especially considering how tough it will be to take games in the East.

Last year, the Tigers were 1-8 at this point. They averaged 3.1 runs per game and had an OPS of .702 with 56 Ks in 352 PAs. As for the pitching, they gave up 6.4 runs per game. They allowed 47 walks and 7 HRs while striking out 54 in 81 innings.

This year, the Tigers are 5-4. They averaged 6.2 runs per game and had an OPS of .844 with 52 strikeouts in 355 PAs. As for the pitching, they gave up 4.8 runs per game. They allowed 29 walks and 15 HR while striking out 67 in 78.2 innings. So even while giving up twice the homers, they're much better off thanks to significantly reduced walks and increased strikeouts. (Note: Reducing walks was the primary charge of new pitching coach Rick Knapp.)

Four teams are averaging better than 6 runs per game in the AL this year -- Baltimore, Detroit, Toronto and Texas -- and those teams make up the top 4 in OBP.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baltimore

Not seen since 1973, the O's unveil the new (old) road uniforms last night in Texas.




Monday, April 13, 2009

Reflections

I cannot remember another day in which two baseball legends passed away, such as today with Phillies announcer Harry Kalas and ex-Tiger Mark Fidrych. Maybe it's just hit me harder because of my connections to both.

For as long as I've followed baseball, Kalas was the voice of the Phillies. It's hard to imagine not hearing his magnificent voice during future games. One of my favorite memories came during the radio postgame show of a game from either 1989 or 1990 (I can't recall, but it's not important). Von Hayes had hit a game-winner dinger in the bottom of the ninth and was being interviewed by Kalas following the game. During the interview, Kalas' home-run call was replayed. Hayes just chuckled and said with genuine admiration, "Harry, you sure can call 'em."

I don't know why, but that interview has always stuck with me. Kalas was no doubt "the soundtrack" to our baseball lives in the Philly area.

Then came the news about Fidrych. I was just a Little Leaguer when "The Bird" took baseball by storm. I remember his Monday night game against the Yankees, after which the fans refused to leave Tiger Stadium until he came out. Fidrych was overwhelmed and emotional, and not afraid to show it. And he never stopped being that kid and he never lost his humility. I'm fortunate to have that game on DVD and it's a game I'll always treasure.

Fidrych was the Rookie of the Year in 1976 and finished second to Jim Palmer in the Cy Young Award voting. With no disrespect to Palmer, an argument can be made it should've been Fidrych's award. The Bird was 19-9 on a team that finished 13 games below .500 and he was the only Detroit starter with a winning record. His ERA+ of 158 led the AL, as did his 24 complete games and 2.34 ERA. Palmer was 22-13 on a team that was 13 games above .500 and featured another 20-game winner in Wayne Garland. Five Baltimore starters had winning records.

It is hard to think of a player who only appeared in such limited action (only 58 games over 5 injury-plagued seasons) being so revered and beloved to this very day. Even at the height of his popularity he wore blue jeans, drove a beat-up old pickup truck, and claimed he had three dishes: a plate, a knife, and a fork.

This story, which I've noted before, from director Peter Farrelly that appeared in Sports Illustrated a few years ago tells you all you need to know about Fidrych, the man:

We offered him a role in Me, Myself and Irene. He drives a truck and lives on a farm in Massachusetts. He said, "Great, I'd love to, when is it?" I said, "It's this Wednesday." He said, "I can't do it. I have a delivery to make." I said, "Mark, is there any way to get somebody else to do the delivery so you can do the movie?" He said, "Pete, I've been making this delivery for the past 18 years every Wednesday. They count on me to be there every Wednesday. I'm not going to miss a day because I'm in a movie." I hung up thinking: That's one cool dude.

Fidrych and Kalas. Two cool dudes. Gone, but never to be forgotten.

A sad goodbye

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Harry Kalas, the Phillies' Hall of Fame announcer, died at 1:20 p.m. today, the Phillies announced.

Mr. Kalas collapsed in the press box at Nationals Stadium in Washington at about 12:30 and was rushed to George Washington University Medial Center.

The cause of the death was not announced. Today's game against the Nationals will be played, but the team will not visit the White House tomorrow.

"We lost Harry today," David Montgomery, the team president, said. "We lost our voice."

Mr. Kalas, who was found unconsious, missed most of spring training after undergoing undisclosed surgery in Feburary. That surgery was unrelated to the detached retina that sidelined him for part of last season.

Mr. Kalas, who turned 73 on March 26, has broadcast Phillies games since 1971. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award. He is entering the final season of a 3-year contract that he signed in December 2006.

Anchors aweigh

With all the adventures on the high seas of late, it is interesting to note that one player -- and only one -- in MLB history is listed as being born at sea. It was Ed Porray, who pitched for Buffalo in 1914. (Oh, why couldn't it have been the Pirates?).

Porray appeared in three games (the 95th anniversary of his debut is Friday) and went 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA.

Baseball-reference.com lists Porray's birthplace as "A ship on Atlantic Ocean."

News and notes

Highlights from the Tigers' press notes:

Yesterday marked the first time since July 2, 1993 that Detroit won a game after trailing at least 4-0 in the eighth inning or later.

The last time the Tigers won their first 3 home games was also 1993.

Detroit's relievers have retired 24 consecutive batters going back to the ninth inning of Friday's game against Texas.

Brandon Inge will play game No. 1,000 today with Detroit. He is the 14th active player to reach 1,000 games with just one team. Inge's homer yesterday was No. 100 in his career.

Since 2005, Inge leads all AL third basemen in assists and is second in total chances. (Which seems remarkable considering he saw so little action at 3B last year.)

Magglio Ordonez's .322 BA since the start of 2005 is the best in the AL. Placido Polanco is third, with a .320 mark.

Detroit had four winning streaks last year of four games or more, but no win streak longer than six.

O's Week 1

The O's bashed their way thru Week 1 taking 2 of 3 from both the Yankees and the Rays to complete the opening homestand at 4-2. 

The O's hit .289 and scored 6.5 runs/game.  Kudos to hitting coach Terry Crowley for having the lumber ready for Opening Day.

O's pitching had a 5.67 ERA for the week.  The starting pitching performed surprisingly well, posting a 3.73 ERA.  The bullpen was alternately great and awful in posting an 8.34 ERA.  Danys Baez and Jamie Walker were untouched.  George Sherril, Dennis Sarfate, Matt Albers and Jim Johnson pitched so-so.  Chris Ray struggled and Brian Bass was outright awful.  

To the pitching staff's credit, only the Kansas City Royals issued fewer walks in Week 1 than O's pitching. 

It's off to Texas and then Boston in Week 2.  Hopefully, the bullpen rounds into form and it remains too early for hitters to expose the O's starting pitching weakness.  That and continued hot bats will make for another fun week to be an O's fan. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Top spot

Detroit is alone in first place in the AL Central. The last time the Tigers were in first place was August 16, 2007.

Big W

Brandon Inge started Detroit's rally with a homer and capped it with a two-run single as the Tigers scored 6 times in the 8th inning of a 6-4 victory over Texas. Brandon Lyon tossed two perfect innings and Fernando Rodney got another save. The Tigs' bullpen has not allowed a baserunner in its last 7 innings of work.

It is way too early to get too excited, but Inge's new stance/approach at the plate, which produced five homers in the exhibition season, seems to be helping. Plus, he's got five walks and only two strikeouts. He's batting .304/.448/.870 after one week. He's scored seven runs and driven in seven runs. As great as his slugging is, he still trails Miguel Cabrera (.960).

Detroit is 4-3 this year, compared to 0-7 last season. Now, the White Sox come to town. The Tigs were 6-12 vs. Chicago last year. You have to go back to 2004 to find a year in which the Tigs won the season series (11-8). Since then, Detroit is 25-49 vs. CHW. I would think winning a series from their nemesis could be helpful.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Extra, extra

Since the start of the 2007 season, Curtis Granderson has collected more extra-base hits than all but one player in the American League. Granderson entered today with 65 doubles, 36 triples and 47 HR during that span.

The only player to exceed Granderson's 148 extras is Alex Rodriguez (with 153).

Nearly perfect

Aside from errors by Brandon Inge and Adam Everett -- who were supposed to improve the Tigers' defense -- Detroit got just about everything it wanted today in a 4-3 win over Texas. Justin Verlander gave up only 2 hits over five innings and the bullpen fired four innings of hitless relief. Nate Robertson got the victory while Fernando Rodney struck out the side in the ninth for the save. Everett atoned for his miscue with a two-run single and later scored the winning run.

The Tigs are 3-3 this year and improved to 10-3 against the Rangers dating back to September 2007.

Potenially good news: Joel Zumaya is going to start his rehab assignment.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tick tock

All five of Detroit's games this season have been completed in less than 3 hours. Prior to today's 2:56 affair, the previous four all clocked in at less than 2:45.

Let's keep the Rangers in town

When people talked about Detroit scoring 1,000 runs in 2008 and winning the World Series, they obviously were under the mistaken impression the Tigers played only Texas. Last year, the kitties scored double digits against the Rangers in 4 of 9 meetings (and in three other games scored eight runs in each!). Detroit averaged better than 9 runs per game against Texas, which would have led to more than 1,500 runs over a 162-game schedule.

Today, Detroit beat the Rangers 15-2. Miguel Cabrera hit a grand slam and drove in 6. Armando Galarraga pitched 7 strong innings. It was a tough return to the bigs for Texas pitcher Kris Benson, who allowed 10 hits and eight runs in 5.

So the Tigers are 2-3, which is a much better start than the 0-7 a year ago. Still, they probably should be 3-2 and the pitching looks like it could be an adventure all season. I think I read somewhere that teams should win 60-65% of the games in which they score 5 runs (and the percentage increases with each additional run). Right now, the Tigers are 1-1 when scoring 5 runs and 2-1 when scoring 5 or more. We'll see how that plays out.

Nick Adenhart

I didn't know much about Nick Adenhart prior to the past several days. I watched some of the game he pitched Wednesday night and was stunned and saddened to hear of his death, which was made even more senseless by the circumstances.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The San Francisco treat

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum lasted only 3 innings last night against Milwaukee, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs. The performance matched the shortest of his career and provided this great dialogue (from MLB.com):

Lincecum proved to be unintentionally amusing as he expressed his intent to maintain perspective.

"I'll try to take it with a grain of rice and move on," he said.

Rice?

"Rice, salt, whatever. I'm half-Asian," Lincecum said.

Lincecum's outing matched Sandy Koufax, in 1966, for the briefest by a reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Clunk

On one hand, I don't worry about the Tigers losing their opener. They were facing Roy Halladay on the road, so you would figure on a loss. The way it went down, however, was like 2008 never ended. Justin Verlander was rocked for 8 earned runs, matching his career worst. I don't think there were many cheap hits, either. The trouble all started with a two-out walk in the first; several minutes later, it was 4-0 Jays.

Detroit did rally a bit, getting within 9-5, and Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge hit homers, but it was tough. The Tigers made two errors, including one by sure-handed (or formerly sure-handed?) Adam Everett.

Edwin Jackson will try to turn it around tonight against David Purcey.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

2009 Mets Preview: The Pitchers

The 2008 Mets' pitching and defense weren't as superlative as the offense, but they still bested the league average by allowing 4.41 runs per game (the average was 4.63). The team's 103 ERA+ ranked sixth in the league. This year's starting staff is basically the same as the group that did a solid job last year, aside from perhaps some improvement in the fifth starter role. The bullpen, however, has been almost completely remodeled and this could be the piece that puts the Mets over the top in the NL East.

Johan Santana
2008: 16-7, 2.54 ERA, 234.1 IP, 206 K, 63 BB

A starting pitcher can't do much more than lead the league in both ERA and innings pitched as Santana did in 2008. A bullpen that coughed up seven leads after he left probably cost him the Cy Young Award, but he was at least one of the three best pitchers in the league. The fact that he did all this while posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career is a bit puzzling and troubling and I don't really expect him to post another ERA under three, but I have little doubt that he'll fill the role of ace admirably once again.

Mike Pelfrey
2008: 13-11, 3.72 ERA, 200.2 IP, 110 K, 64 BB

Pelfrey is another starter whose record doesn't reflect how valuable he was in 2008. It was a breakthrough year for the former first round pick. His strikeout totals don't look too impressive but he and his sinker do a great job keeping the ball in the park as he allowed just twelve home runs all year. He may never match Santana's low ERA, but the twenty-five year old Pelfrey could be very valuable for years to come if he repeats last season's quality and durability.

John Maine
2008: 10-8, 4.18 ERA, 140 IP, 122 K, 67 BB

Maine lost significant time in 2008 to a bone spur in his right shoulder, but surgery has apparently taken care of the problem. He has yet to give the Mets a full, healthy season, which has contributed some to the team's September troubles. But when he does take the mound in good health he is a solid mid-rotation starter. He will only turn twenty-eight this year and doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on his arm, having pitched his first full major league season in 2007. There is certainly a chance that he will put it all together for 200 innings and if he does that, the Mets' could have a rather formidable rotation.

Oliver Perez
2008: 10-7, 4.22 ERA, 194 IP, 180 K, 105 BB

I could probably just fill this space with a picture of myself shrugging my shoulders and looking confused. I like Oliver Perez and am glad he's back, but he can be quite maddening at times. At the very least I am pretty confident he'll pitch a good number of innings and strike out a bunch of people. Beyond that, who knows? Last year he led the majors in walks and he has been pretty awful in both the World Baseball Classic and Spring Training. On the other hand, he pitched better under pitching coach Dan Warthen last year than he had under Rick Peterson in the first half. In 2009 he will probably be the Met most likely to walk seven batters in an inning but also among the top two most likely to throw a no-hitter.

Livan Hernandez
2008 with the Twins and Rockies: 13-11, 6.05 ERA, 180 IP, 67 K, 43 BB

Well, one thing the Mets didn't have last year was a fifth starter who could reliably go out and pitch for six or seven innings without getting completely annihilated. So now they have that. Hernandez will do what he does, eat up a lot of innings while giving his team the chance to win 7-5. Hopefully Jonathan Niese will get on a roll at AAA at some point and save us from this.

That brings us to the bullpen. The only relievers who played a significant role in 2008 and are returning in 2009 are Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes. Feliciano somehow lost the ability to retire right-handed hitters in 2008, but he still did a good job against lefties and will likely do the same this year. Stokes had a solid year and should be okay in low leverage situations this year.

Bobby Parnell pitched a few innings in the majors last year but should have a bigger role this year. I was never too impressed with his numbers as a starter in the minors, but as a hard-throwing reliever, he may find his niche. Darren O'Day and Sean Green are a couple of newly acquired righties who should look pretty good by virtue of not being Aaron Heilman or Scott Schoeneweis.

And then there's the big two. JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez could give the Mets the best eighth and ninth inning combination in the league. The only question, aside from how to split up the proceeds from 70s buddy cop movie-themed "K-Rod and Putz" merchandise, is Putz's health. If he is recovered from the elbow troubles that bothered him last season, he could be the best reliever in the Mets' 'pen. Rodriguez won't save 62 games for the Mets, but he should give them the most reliable closer they've had in years.

All of this adds up to a team that should once again be very competitive in the National League East. The Phillies and Braves both have good teams, so I don't expect the Mets to have an easy road to the playoffs, but I feel good about this team. Last year, my official prediction was 95 wins. The Mets fell six short. But I am undeterred.

Offical prediction: 93 wins

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Batters up - outfield edition

Hey, welcome back Joe!

Now, let's take a look at the Tigers' outfield.

LF - Carlos Guillen: Batted .286/.376/.436 in 489 PAs last year. Interestingly, the AL averages for third basemen (where Guillen saw most of his time last season) and left fielders is identical. Guillen's BA and OBP exceed the averages substantially while the slugging is modestly better, too. Hopefully, playing LF will help Guillen's back woes. And, hopefully, he can play the position without incident.

CF - Curtis Granderson: Batted .280/.365/.494 in 629 PAs last season. Scored 112 R in 141 games. Led the AL in triples for the second consecutive year. Walked 19 times more than in 2007 and struck out 30 times less. Keep in mind, he led the AL in whiffs in 2006, so he's made great strides. He could move into elite status this season.

RF - Magglio Ordonez: Batted .317/.376/.494 in 623 PAs last year. He is to the outfield what Placido Polanco is to the infield when it comes to consistency. The dude is a .312 lifetime hitter. Throw out his first full season in 1998 and two seasons that saw his playing time limited because of injuries, and Maggs has driven in 100+ runs in 7 of the remaining 8 seasons (and he had 99 RBI in the other!). Age will become a concern, like Polly, but there's no reason to believe he will not produce at his usual level. If the Tigs fall out of the race, he most likely will end the season with a contender.

DH - Marcus Thames: Batted .241/.292/.516 in 342 PAs last year. Marcus Markley Thames should exceed 400 PAs for the first time in his career now that Gary Sheffield is in Flushing. Thames doesn't walk or get on base with frequency. He hits homers. He could top 40 this season.

Bench - Josh Anderson: Batted .294/.338/.426 in 146 PAs for the Braves last season. He stole 10 bases in 11 attempts. I don't know much about him, but Baseball Prospectus says he's a fifth outfielder. So, as long as none of the regulars is injured, it seems Anderson is well cast.

2009 Mets Preview: The Hitters

Throughout the offseason a number of people have talked about the Mets' need to add a bat. But really, the fact that they scored five runs in the last three games of the season doesn't change the fact that the Mets had a great offense last year. The 2008 Mets tied for second in the National League in runs scored with 799, 4.93 per game, and ranked third in the league with an OPS+ of 100. And everyone who was any good last year is back this year. True, Luis Castillo and Brian Schneider are also back. But most of the important offensive players are young enough to be counted on to keep up their recent production. I certainly wouldn't have minded if the Mets had added a second baseman who can hit the ball more than 150 feet through the air, but this is not enough to doom the bats to mediocrity.

Catcher
2008 NL average: .255/.328/.387
2008 Mets average: .249/324/.378

The 2009 Mets have the same crew of backstops as the 2008 team: one guy who can't hit and one guy who can't stay healthy. And even that was good enough to be about league average last year. Brian Schneider hit a little better than he had the previous couple of years while Ramon Castro saw his slugging percentage drop more than 100 points from his big 2007. Now, I wouldn't be shocked if Schneider slugged .300 or Castro came down with Ebola virus, but I think the more likely result is another adequate season from this position. Given the rarity of guys who could theoretically hit a home run on the Met bench, I would also like to see Jerry Manuel use Castro as a pinch hitter late in games once in a while, but I won't get my hopes up.

First Base
2008 NL: .277/.359/.479
2008 Mets: .271/.348/.497

Carlos Delgado is one of the big questions of 2009 given his age and the ridiculousness of his 2008 second half. But as you can see from the overall averages, first base was not a huge plus for the Mets in 2008, due in large part to Delgado's awful start. A thirty-seven year old Delgado may not be able to slug .606 like he did in the second half of last year, but he was so good in that second half that he can fall off somewhat and still be a very useful hitter. I would bet on him getting the 31 home runs he needs to reach 500 and if he does that, I think the Mets will have done well at this position.

Second Base
2008 NL: .271/.338/.408
2008 Mets: .258/.339/.338

So, even in his apparent postmortem state, Luis Castillo can draw a walk or two. You'd think that at some point pitchers would realize that Castillo hitting the ball is not a bad outcome for them and just throw it down the middle, but apparently they haven't yet. Of course, none of this matters because according to the talk out of Spring Training, Castillo is in The Best Shape Of His Life. I mean, I don't know how Met fans can hear that and still be worried. The fact that the Mets didn't bother to sign a decent backup at this position further supports the conclusion that Castillo is gonig to have a big year. Everyone should just calm down.

Third Base
2008 NL: .265/.335/.441
2008 Mets: .302/.390/.531

David Wright is only twenty-six! The only question is whether this will be the year he gets that elusive MVP award.

Shortstop
2008 NL: .276/.334/.404
2008 Mets: .292/.353/.466

Jose Reyes is only twenty-five! Okay, it would be nice if Reyes could keep up his tremendous production all the way through September at some point and finding a backup better than Alex Cora to give him a rest every once in a while might help with that. But really, with a left side of the infield like this, it's easy to understand why the Mets would want to just sit back and watch.

Left Field
2008 NL: .271/.350/.453
2008 Mets: .273/.334/.396

This is a position where the Mets are taking a pretty big chance in 2009. But, as you can see from last year's stats, there's not much place to go but up. Daniel Murphy's stats prior to last season do not look like those a future major league left fielder, but he hit over .300 with a good number of walks in both Binghamton and New York last year. It's reasonable to be wary that this might be a fluke, but watching Murphy last year and seeing his approach, which had him seeing 4.25 pitches per plate appearance, has me pretty optimistic. I don't expect he'll hit for a lot of power like a prototypical left fielder and his defense is still a work in progress, but I think he can put up a high on base percentage with enough doubles to keep the slugging respectable. At the start of Spring Training there was talk of platooning Murphy, but at this point Jerry Manuel seems to have fallen hard for the kid. Seriously, I think I saw him writing "Jerry Murphy" over and over in the margins of his notebook during a recent press conference.

Center Field
2008 NL: .267/.334/.426
2008 Mets: .283/.373/.486

Carlos Beltran: great center fielder or the greatest center fielder? No one in the NL is in either his league or the same ballpark. All signs point to him having another great all around offensive year and winning another Gold Glove (the deserved kind, not the Nate McLouth kind). Anyone who is unsatisfied with what the Mets are getting for their $119 million is not paying attention.

Right Field
2008 NL: .271/.344/.444
2008 Mets: .283/.347/.423

If Ryan Church could hit for a full season like he did for the first two months of last season, the Mets would really have something. But that's unrealistic. After his concussion problems last year and the way he failed to hit in the second half, it's hard to expect much from him. I do think he'll at least play good defense for as long as he's in the lineup. But with Fernando Tatis and now Gary Sheffield on the roster, the Mets have a few chances to get more offense out of this position than they did last year.

If Church does stay healthy and productive, the Mets might have the best bench they've had in a few years, at least offensively. Tatis's .267/.369/.484 line last year was pretty surprising, but he's only thirty-four. If he can get regular work backing up all four corners, he could be a big contributor again. Sheffield may not have much left, but for the league minimum, I am glad Omar Minaya gave him a shot to try to prove otherwise. Those two along with Castro could give the Mets solid power off the bench. Jeremy Reed should provide a little outfield defense once in a while. And Alex Cora can probably stand at second base or shortstop occasionally without too much trouble.

Altogether, this looks like one of the top few offenses in the league to me. There's no way to know how Citi Field will play, but if it's no more offense-dampening than Shea, I think this team should score in the neighborhood of eight hundred runs again. If they can save about fifteen of those for the final weekend, all the better.

Batters up - infield edition

C - Gerald Laird: Batted .276/.329/.398 in 381 PAs last year for Texas. He should be adequate for Detroit, at a position where adequate makes one almost super. Matt Treanor is the backup.

1B - Miguel Cabrera: Batted .292/.349/.537 in 684 PAs. He led the AL with 37 HR and drove in 127. There are indications 2009 could be better. Miggy was .284/.349/.489 during the first half of last season as he learned a new league. He was .302/.350/.601 the second half. He should be enjoying life in the cleanup spot, where he flourished at the end of last year. Jeff Larish is the backup at just about ever corner. He should be able to provide some pop from the left side.

2B - Placido Polanco: Batted .307/.350/.417 in 629 PAs. He is as steady as they come, although his age is starting to become a concern. Solid with the glove. Gives production well above his $4.6 million salary. Ramon Santiago is the backup. Santiago put up an OPS of .870 last season in 156 PAs. Can't expect a repeat; his 4 HR nearly equaled his total (6) for the previous six years.

SS - Adam Everett: Batted ... oh, who cares? Everett hasn't posted an OPS+ above 80 since ... ever. He was brought to Detroit for one reason, to flash the leather. As long as he stays healthy and can make the plays in the field, the Tigers (especially the pitchers) will be happy.

3B - Brandon Inge: Batted ... oh, who cares? Inge was returned to third for one reason, to flash the leather. He actually had a productive spring at the plate. With the whole fuss over his position in the past, he might have a decent year with the bat. If he can simply get his OPS back to the .750 to .775 range (from the .675 neighborhood), he would be a tremendous asset.

Hit the ground running

Last year, Detroit started the season 0-7. With that memory fresh, many are talking about how important it is for the Tigers to start quickly this year. I agree. And here is another reason: The Tigers open the campaign with 10 games in 10 days. In 2008, Detroit had two days off before even reaching game No. 8.

Fortunately, six of the 10 games are at home. Detroit opens Monday in Toronto (Justin Verlander vs. Roy Halladay) and then hosts Texas and the White Sox. Then the Tigs get a travel day to head to Seattle, followed by LA and KC. At least they get a day off between Seattle and LA. But it is clear, particularly with the uncertainty around this squad, that Detroit needs to be ready to spring from the gate.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Tigers' roster

Courtesy the Free Press:

Starting pitchers: R Armando Galarraga, R Edwin Jackson, R Zach Miner, R Rick Porcello, R Justin Verlander.

Relief pitchers: R Eddie Bonine, R Brandon Lyon, R Ryan Perry, R Juan Rincon, L Nate Robertson, R Fernando Rodney, L Bobby Seay.

Catchers: Gerald Laird, Matt Treanor.

Infielders: 1B Miguel Cabrera, 2B Placido Polanco, 3B Brandon Inge, SS Adam Everett, 1B/3B Jeff Larish, SS/2B Ramon Santiago.

Outfielders: LF Carlos Guillen, CF Curtis Granderson, RF Magglio OrdoƱez, DH/LF Marcus Thames, OF Josh Anderson.

We'll look at the team in more detail the next few days, but a bench of Treanor, Larish, Santiago and Anderson indicates the Tigers' regulars better stay healthy.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nate the Grate

Nate Robertson is unhappy being moved to the bullpen. He did not demand a trade, but said his time in Detroit might be nearing an end. Given that he's owed $17 million through 2010, it's unlikely anyone will take Robertson off the Tigers' hands.

While I appreciate what Robertson has done for the Tigs in the past, and admire that he still wants the ball, sometimes you wonder what guys like this are thinking. Robertson posted a 5.52 ERA and allowed 25 baserunners in 14.2 IP this spring. He was 7-11 with a 6.35 ERA last year. Only once in his career (2006) has his ERA+ been better than average. His hits allowed and walks have increased since 2006 and his strikeouts have dropped slightly.

In fairness to Robertson, Zach Miner, who got the final starting spot, fared no better overall this spring. But Miner was 8-5 with a 4.27 ERA last season, including 5-2/4.30 as a starter.

Maybe Robertson can work his way back into the rotation. But at this point, he needs to earn it, which is something he doesn't seem to understand. If Robertson simply accepted the demotion and recognized he was largely to blame, this would sit better with me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The devil you know

It's not often a manager names an Opening Day closer, but that's what Jim Leyland did today when he said Fernando Rodney has the job. Rodney, however, was not named the team's full-time closer. It seems Brandon Lyon, Ryan Perry, and Joel Zumaya could all see time in the role. I figured Rodney would have the inside track, primarily because the Tigers are familiar with him. I can't say I have a better idea at this point.

It was 24 years ago

George Plimpton gave us "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch."

The kids are alright

Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry both have made the Tigers' roster. This is not much of a surprise given the fact Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis are on the DL and no one else pitched all that well to push Porcello out of the mix (and he certainly pitched better than his competition). And with Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney failing to grab the closer's job, and Joel Zumaya on the DL, there was ample reason to keep Perry as well.

Sweepstakes Over?


Although not officially stated by Manager Dave Trembley, all indications are that the O's rotation is set to go with Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Adam Eaton, Alfredo Simon and Mark Hendrickson.

This is not official either, but this rotation will almost certainly be awful.  Nevertheless, there is a reasonable possibility that it will be better than the 2008 version (which was officially awful) of Jeremy Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Brian Burress and Steve Trachsel.

Jeremy Guthrie (10-12, 3.63 era in '08) is at the top of both rotations.  Despite a horrible spring, I remain hopeful that he'll be as effective as he was in 2008.   I'd like to see Trembley juggle the rotation such that Guthrie faces more 3 & 4 opposing pitchers and fewer 1's and 2's.  Guthrie is a legitimate ML starter, but not a legitimate #1 starter.  Whaddya say, Skip?  Back him up a day here and there because of a "twinge" in his elbow.

Koji Uehara (6-5, 3.81 era in Japan in '08) is slated for the #2 spot.  He's 102-55 with a 2.91 era in his career in Japan.  He had a good enough spring to expect that he'll be an improvement over Daniel Cabrera (8-10, 5.25 era in '08).

Adam Eaton (4-8, 5.80 era in '08) might reasonably be expected to perform no worse than the '08 #3 slot in the rotation of Adam Loewen (0-2, 8.02 era) and his replacement - Garrett Olsen (9-10, 6.65 era).  If Eaton regains his top form, he could even improve on those numbers.

Alfredo Simon was 5-10, 6.43 era in '07 in AAA with Texas.  He only pitched 17 2/3 innings in 2008.  The 2008 #4 slot - Brian Burress - was 7-10 with a 6.04 era.  Simon has pitched "lights out" this spring, allowing 2 Runs in 16 innings.  I have no idea how he did this, but it's won him a spot in the rotation and we'll get to see if can really pitch in the AL.

Mark Hendrickson (7-8, 5.45 era in '08) my have the most difficult challenge when it comes to improving the #5 slot in the rotation.  Steve Trachsel (2-5, 8.39 era), Rhadames Liz (6-6, 6.72 era) and Chris Waters (3-5, 5.01) combined for 11 wins from the #5 slot in 2008 despite giving up boatloads of runs.  I doubt that any O's starter will have 11 wins in 2009.

The strength of the '09 Orioles (if they have one) will be the bullpen and offense.  If the O's bash (which they might) and the starters can go deep enough, regularly enough to keep the bullpen healthy and in their roles, the O's may just improve on their 68 wins in 2008.