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.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Choking on a baker's dozen

It was an interesting night in MLB. In fact, something rather rare happened, and I'm not referring to the Zambrano-Zito matchup. And I'm also not talking about Jered Weaver's no-hitter.

No, this rarity happened in Atlanta, where the Braves rallied multiple times for a crazy 15-13 victory over the Phillies. With Roy Halladay as Philly's starter. Very weird.

"It was just a weird game all the way around," Braves catcher Brian McCann said on "Stuff you never see happened tonight. I've never been a part of a game quite like this before. Tonight was something that you never see."

Consider this, according to data on, since the start of the 2010 season there were 168 games in which a team scored 13 or more runs heading into last night. None of those teams lost. Going back to include 2009 and teams scoring 13 or more runs were 245-1.

I'm guessing no one would've seen this coming, especially with Doc on the mound. It was the 8th walk-off HR for Chipper Jones and his first since May 17, 2006. That one also came in the bottom of the 11th inning, a 3-run blast with Atlanta trailing by a run.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Catching some Zs

Carlos Zambrano faces Barry Zito tonight in San Fran. They have faced each other previously, but it is rare for starting pitchers whose surnames begin with "Z" to square off.

From what I've pieced together, Zito also faced Victor Zambrano, and Carlos and Victor started against each another. The only other instance, according to an old Jayson Stark note, came in 1925 when Boston's Paul Zahniser and Washington's Tom Zachary met.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Inge out

Brandon Inge was released by the Tigers today, bringing a sad but not unexpected end to his career in Detroit.

Inge came up in 2001 and saw the Tigers at their worst (2003) and best (2006) during that time. He had his best year in 2006 as Detroit went to the World Series, batting .253-27-83 and playing stellar defense at third. In fact, for several years it was worth watching Tigers' games for his play at third alone.

Always offensively challenged, Inge's power and defense still made him a worthwhile contributor through 2010. But, really, it seemed that he was never the same after having surgery on both knees following the 2009 season, which looked to have diminished his range in the field.

In addition to his on-field performance, Inge was a class act away from the diamond. In 2010, he received the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for his work in the community.

Goodbye, Brandon. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wanted: Base runners

Entering tonight, the Orioles ranked No. 3 in the AL in HR with 23. They ranked No. 4 in slugging, at .430.

Baltimore ranked No. 9 in runs per game, with 4.25 per contest, and No. 9 in RBI, with 63.

The O's were No. 12 in OBP, at .301. They had hit 15 solo dingers. They had 7 two-run homers and 1 grand slam. Earl Weaver would not be happy.

When they do get men on base, a timely knock wouldn't hurt, either. Baltimore was batting .232 with RISP.

Tonight, the Orioles won 2-1 over Toronto. Baltimore got its first run when Adam Jones grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. The game-winner came on a Matt Wieters' solo HR.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Swing batter

When Josh Hamilton comes up to bat for the Rangers, don't look away. Hamilton leads all AL batters in first-pitch swinging, at 62 percent.

The Orioles' Chris Davis and Jays' Colby Rasmus are second, at 43 percent, while the White Sox's Brent Morel and Rangers' Michael Young are at 42 percent.

Hamilton is 8-for-15 when putting the first pitch in play, a .533 average, with 2 HR and 6 RBI. He is batting .391-6-15 for the season.

In the NL, Freddie Freeman leads the way at 61 percent. Nick Hundley of the Padres and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates are tied for the next highest rate, at 46 percent. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and Dan Uggla of the Braves, both at 45 percent, round out the top five in the NL.

Freeman is batting .583 (7-for-12) when he puts the first pitch in play. Matt Holliday, who has put the first pitch in play a MLB-high 19 times, is batting .263 in that situation. Holliday is swinging 37 percent of the time.

For the season, Freeman is batting .276 and Holliday is hitting .194.

The Yanks' Derek Jeter is swinging 32 percent of the time (17th in the AL) and is 0-for-14. The Royals' Jeff Francoeur is swinging 39 percent of the time (8th in AL) and is 0-for-11. Oddly, Jeter is batting .382-4-12 for the season. Frenchy is at .246-0-2.

Lucas Duda of the Mets might want to hack more often. He's at 17 percent, but 2-for-3 with 2 HR.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Run down

The Phillies got 10 shutout innings from Cliff Lee last night and managed to lose 1-0 in 11 to San Francisco. Philadelphia's inability to score thus far in the season highlights one area of concern as they chase another division title.

Last year, the Phils won 102 games despite scoring 3 or fewer runs in nearly 48 percent of their outings. Thanks to their great pitching, though, and maybe some good fortune, they went 30-47 in those contests.

Their .390 win percentage in games in which they scored 3 or fewer runs was well better than the NL average, which was .243.

If the Phils played to the league average last year, they would have won only 19 of their 77 games in which they scored 3 or fewer runs.

So far this season, the Phils have scored 3 or fewer runs in nearly 67 percent of their games. They are 2-6 (.250) in those contests.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Get a whiff

The strikeout must truly be a pitcher's best friend. Not to say a pitcher cannot succeed without striking out batters, but boy does it seem to be a big help.

Taking a look at last year's K/9 leaders, there were 30 pitchers with at least 140 IP and 8.0 K/9. Of those, 24 had an ERA below 4.00. Also interesting, I thought, was the fact 21 of the 30 gave up fewer than 1 HR per 9 IP. Of the six pitchers with an ERA above 4.00, five gave up more than 1 HR per 9.

Conversely, out of the 30 pitchers with at least 140 IP and the lowest K/9 rates, 20 had an ERA above 4.00 (and 6 were north of 5.00) and 15 gave up more than 1 HR per 9. Of the 14 pitchers with a K/9 below five, 12 had an ERA above 4.00.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Leading off

There has been a lot of talk on Philly sports radio about the Phillies' lineup and difficulty scoring runs. During the course of the discussions, many people have brought up playing Juan Pierre regularly because he's so great at the top of the order.

Well, that is the perception, but it is not the reality.

Since the start of the 2005 season, Pierre's OBP is .334. He has averaged 43 SB and 14 CS (75 percent).

During that same time frame, Jimmy Rollins -- universally panned as a leadoff man -- has a .332 OBP, almost the same as Pierre. Rollins has averaged 31 SB and 4 CS (89 percent).

So if Pierre is a great leadoff man, so is Rollins. In fact, given Rollins' better baserunning, he is probably better than Pierre.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Porcello's grounded

With three seasons already under his belt, it's sometimes hard to remember that Rick Porcello is only 23 years old. (And he doesn't turn 24 until December.)

Some predicted a breakout season for Porcello this year and through two starts he's making good on those forecasts. So far, he has allowed 12 hits and 1 BB in 14.2 IP while striking out 8. His ERA is 1.84.

He's getting groundballs a little more than 50 percent of the time, which is key to his success. I'm sure most would feel better about his ability to sustain this success if he struck out more batters, but he's hovered between 4.6/9 IP and 5.1/9 IP throughout his career.

Obviously, this year's results are an extremely tiny sample. But Porcello pitched well during spring training and ended last season on a high note.

Over his last seven regular season starts in 2011, Porcello was 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA. The Tigers were 6-1 in those starts. He got groundballs 60 percent of the time.

How important are groundballs to Porcello? Last year, there were six games in which he gave up at least three more flyballs than groundballs (according to game logs on He gave up 33 earned runs in those six starts, for an 11.28 ERA.

By my math, that means his ERA in his remaining 25 starts was 3.64.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Chase was on

Chase Utley says he shall return, but I have my doubts. Even if he does return, I fear he will no longer be Chase Utley. And that is a shame.

I'm not sure fans in Philadelphia really appreciate what they had in Chase Utley. Sure, Harry Kalas called him "The Man," but it seems to me that while Utley was certainly popular, he wasn't beloved or truly recognized for his prowess. For five seasons, though, Utley was remarkable.

From 2005 through 2009, Utley was arguably the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols.

He probably should have won at least one MVP award, if not more. But he never finished higher than seventh in the voting, suggesting he was underappreciated in more places than Philly. According to Fangraphs' WAR calculations, Utley's best season was 2008 -- and he was 14th in the MVP voting.

Utley's NL rank by WAR each year was 3rd in 2005, 3rd in 2006, 3rd in 2007, 2nd in 2008 and 2nd in 2009. For those five years, Utley averaged .301, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 runs and 15 SB while playing sterling defense.

Oh yeah, he also made one of the best defensive plays in World Series history that no one seems to talk about, either. (Not to mention a memorable effing speech following the victory parade.)

Using cumulative WAR for 2005 through 2011, Utley trailed only Pujols in all of MLB. Alex Rodriguez was third. That's even after his offensive production began to drop a little bit in 2010.

According to Fangraphs' adjusted weighted runs created stat (wRC+), Utley is tied with Rod Carew as the sixth-best offensive second baseman since 1900, behind Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson.

I don't believe WAR or wRC+ to be the definitive words on a player's career, but they do provide some context. And it says here Chase Utley was The Man. Hopefully, he can be The Man again.