Posted on: October 19, 2008 12:26 pm
 

Big East Preview 1, Cincinnati Bearcats

Now that college basketball is practicing for real, I'm analyzing the Big East team by team, alphabetically by school.  I'll culminate the whole thing in a preseason ranking of all 16 teams, but I'm holding off on making exact predictions on where each team will finish exactly until I've done all the research on all the rosters.  What fans of each team will get is a somewhat impartial (except for Pitt, obviously) view of how things will shape up.  The conference is a monster in 2008-2009, so if I think your team isn't going to be in the running it isn't necessarily because I think that team is bad.  We open with Cincinnati, a team with a winning history but recent struggles.  Will they be all the way back in the '08-'09 season?

2007-2008

Results:

13-19 overalll, 8-10 Big East (10th)
eliminated 1st round Big East tournament (by eventual champion Pittsburgh)
lost 1st round of innaugural College Basketball Invitational (Belmont)

Roster:

Kenny Belton       F
Rashad Bishop  F
Larry Davis          G
Marvin Gentry      G
Adam Hrycaniuk C
Anthony McClain C
Brandon Miller     G
Avin Mitchell          F
Marcus Sikes       F
Deonta Vaughn   G
Jamual Warren   G
Darnell Wilks       F
John Williamson F
2008-2009

Departures:

Gentry, Sikes, Warren, Williamson, Hrycaniuk

The Bearcats lose a lot of minutes in that group, but not really a lot of quality minutes.  Williamson certainly contributed, with 11.6 points per game in 26.5 minutes, but the others really did not take full advantage of their time on the floor.

Arrivals:

Mike Williams F (transfer from Texas) He is a talented player, but unproven.  In his tenure with Texas, he only played his freshman season, averaging 13.6 minutes, 2.3 points, and 3.1 rebounds.  He should be able to improve on that, but I'm not sure he will be the impact player that some suspect.

Domonic Tilford
G (transfer from South Alabama) I'm not 100% certain about this, but I believe Tilford has been tabbed to replace JUCO transfer Nick Aldridge, who was kicked off the team for selling drugs.  Any Uc fans have confirmation?  Anyway, I think he could be a bigger addition than Williams, if that's true.  He adds experience to the guard play alongside Vaughn.

Cashmere Wright
G
Dion Dixon G
Yancy Gates F
Steve Toyloy C
John Reik  C

That's the freshman class, and it looks pretty impressive.  This team will be very deep at guard, and won't lack for talent at Forward, either.  They really didn't get great play at Center last year, and the two newcomers should improve that, especially Reik with his size.  They will be relying on freshmen or Anthony McClain, though, so Center could be their weak spot.

The schedule:

Nonconference games: South Dakota, Texas Southern, Western Illinois, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, UAB, Xavier, Charleston Southern, Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis

There are four, perhaps five, very dangerous games on that slate, with some real cake in between.  The Bearcats will need to win one or two of those, and avoid any upsets in the easy ones, to look good going into conference play.

Two-time opponents: Georgetown, Providence, St. John's

That is by no means easy, but perhaps as forgiving as one can ask for in this conference.

Remaining roadies: DePaul, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Villanova
Home games:  Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, West Virginia

Not a bad split.  They get three of the four preseason Big East favorites at home, and play none of those twice.

The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
    Vaughn averages 20 points a game, while Tilford, Dixon, and Wright support him for great depth in the backcourt.  Yancy Gates is as good as advertised, and Mike Williams steps up in a big way.  Reik immediately capitalizes on his height and is spelled capably by McClain and Toyloy.  They blow through a pretty tough nonconference slate with one or two losses, and finish Big East play over .500, win a round or two in the Big East tournament, and get a 7 seed in the NCAAs.  I think NCAA second round is about the best this team can hope for, though.

Worst Case Scenario:
    Let's be clear, this does not include the possibility of injury to a major part of the team.  Vaughn goes a little cold (still good for 12-15 ppg, though).  Williams is not the player they hoped for, and Tilford is unable to keep pace in the Big East.  The talented freshman class just isn't ready to go, as a whole.  Cincinnati meanders into conference play with 5 losses, and just can't compete with the big guns in the conference.  They still manage to knock off a couple of great teams, but return to the CBI.  They're too talented to not win that tournament, if they land there.

My take:
    There is a lot of talent coming to Cincinnati this year.  Their coach got more from them than he should have last year, except down the stretch.  The arrivals are certainly better than the departures, and Deonta Vaughn is among the best scorers in the conference, if not the nation.  This year it won't be Deonta Vaughn and "who else?"  They're improving, but this is the wrong year to be sneaking up on the Big East.  I'm sure the Bearcats will be better, but I'm not so sure that will translate to a much higher finish in the standings.  Most of the teams that finished ahead of them last year are also better.  The Bearcats are going to beat some very good teams this year, but I don't think they're ready to win consistently against top competition.  They have NCAA tournament talent on that roster, but I believe there are 11 teams in the Big East who can make that claim, so getting in will not be easy.  There's a bright future here, to go with a storied past.  Even with Vaughn graduating, I think the 2009-2010 team will be a force again in the Big East as they'll be improving while the top dogs soften a little around them.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 8, 2008 1:28 pm
 

Week 6 NFL picks and explanations

The league has finally started to separate itself, and the last two weeks have had some very difficult to predict games.  But there are still a ton of teams in the balance (I'm talking to you Dolphins, Saints, and Falcons, among others) and this week could see some more things crystallize.  Of course, it could also see some teams slide or drop into that middle ground.  Man, October football is great!

Panthers (4-1) at Buccaneers (3-2)
    This looks like the game to see this week.  These teams are eerily similar.  Both can run the ball-with powerful duos instead of one feature back.  Both can stop the run.  Tampa Bay has the edge on the ground.  The Panthers, though, can throw it, and are a little better at stopping the pass.  These teams are close.  Both, though, have struggled with penalties.  The more disciplined team wins this game, and it's easier to be disciplined at home.
Bucaneers 20-17

Bears (3-2) at Falcons (3-2)
    Another exciting game involving an NFC South team.  The Bears appear to be the favorite in a weakened NFC North, but the Falcons have played better than expected.  I look for the Bears defense to win this one, and here's why:  What the Bears have given up they've surrendered through the air, and Atlanta has been doing its damage on the ground.
Bears 21-10

Rams (0-4) at Redskins (4-1)

    This one looks easy.  Is it one of those deceptive, "why they play the games" contests?  No.  The Redskins are for real, and the Rams are really this bad.  The new coach gets them some points, though.
Redskins 38-14

Bengals (0-5) at Jets (2-2)
    The Jets are coming off a bye, Brett Favre just threw 6 TD passes, and the Bengals are in shambles.  That's why I know I'm out on a limb here.  But the Bengals are too good to stay winless much longer.  Not good, but better than 0-6.  Cincinnati goes into New York and stuns the J-E-T-S.
Bengals 24-21

Raiders (1-3) at Saints (2-3)
    That decision to fire the coach - and withhold pay - made a bad situation worse.  The Saints are hurting, and I think their injuries keep them out of the postseason, but they get a win here to even their record.  They're just plain better than the Raiders, they're at home, and Oakland is a mess.
Saints 30-20

Lions (0-4)  at Vikings (2-2)
    Are the Lions or the Rams the worst in the league?  It doesn't matter, because both are much worse than the Vikings, who have been inspired by Gus Frerotte of all people.  The Vikings continue their recent roll.
Vikings 24-10

Ravens (2-2) at Colts (2-2)
    Both of these teams need a win here if they want to stay close to the Steelers and Titans, respectively.  The Colts have struggled every week, but the Ravens rely entirely on a defense.  That D is good, but not good enough to stop Peyton Manning and all his weapons.  Indy should be riding high after escaping the Texans, as well.
Colts 17-14

Dolphins (2-2) at Texans (0-4)
    Everyone is on the Dolphins bandwagon after seeing them take down the Patriots and Chargers.  Not me.  They had a game plan for the depleted Patriots, and the Chargers are not as good as they were.  LT just isn't getting it done, for whatever reason.  Can they really get up for an 0-4 team the way they did against their last two opponents?  I don't think they can.
Texans 21-17


Jaguars (2-3) at Broncos (4-1)
    This is a tough one.  The Jaguars can run it and the Broncos have a soft defense.  The Jags also seem to have Denver's number.  This time, though, I don't think they can stop Jay Cutler.  The Broncos get a scare, but come out on top.
Broncos 31-27

Packers (2-3) at Seahawks (1-3)
    Nothing like a trip to one of this season's biggest busts to right the ship.  That Packer D is a problem, but the Seattle offense just isn't.  Aaron Rodgers will have a pretty good day.
Packers 34-14

Eagles (2-3) at 49ers (2-3)
    This is a battle of two teams more talented than their records.  The Eagles, though, have proven more than the Niners.  Most teams would be 1-3 over a stretch of Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Washington.  Folks outside the NFC East are reluctant to admit how good those four teams are.  This just in: VERY good.  Maybe the Eagles are the worst of the bunch, but that's still better than average.  This game, though, will surprise people with how good it is.
Eagles 31-28

Cowboys (4-1) at Cardinals (3-2)
    Is Dallas the most talented team in the league?  Maybe.  Arizona can run and gun with them, though..and both teams have questions to answer on the defense.  This will be a wild one, and I give the advantage to the home team.  An unpopular pick, I'm sure...and I'll gladly eat crow if I'm wrong.
Arizona 38-35

Patriots (3-1) at Chargers (2-3)
    The Patriots are without their golden boy...we know already.  The Chargers have theirs (Ladanian Tomlinson) but he hasn't really shown up this year.  The Pats just won one tough game on the West Coast, and I think they finish the trip with another W.  Belichick can really coach 'em, and he has figured out how to make that offense work with Matt Cassel at the helm.
Patriots 17-14

Giants (4-0) at Browns (1-3)
    The undefeated defending champs against the 1-3 Browns coming off a bye.  I'll take the champs, though not by 38 like last week.
Giants 28-12


Open Dates:

Bills:     They get good news in an extra week for their ailing QB to heal, and more good news, I say, in Jets and Dolphins losses.  They also learn, though, that the PAtriots are going to be their to push them all year.

Chiefs:     This poor team gets a week to stew over their spanking in Carolina.  We'll have to wait to find out of they or Oakland are the worst in that division.  If you ask me, it has two bottom five teams.

Steelers:     Another team with an extra week to heal.  They need it after a punishing Monday Night game against the Ravens and another hard-hitting match with Jacksonville.  They showed that the NFC North is heirs to seize by winning those two games with injuries, and the week to rest will only help.

Titans:     The open date might actually hurt them, because they might see the Colts creep a little closer and it pauses that roll they've been on.  They should bat the Chiefs in their week back, but a loss to Indy in week 8 could really change things in that division.
Posted on: September 9, 2008 12:28 pm
 

Red Sox Nation a myth?

I was watching that infamous sports highlight show on that other network this afternoon, and they said "Red Sox Nation.  Hank steinbrenner calls it a myth, but the stats say otherwise."  They went on to speak of how the Red Sox just set a record for consecutive sellouts, starting in May 2003.

OK, that's cool for them.  But I say that this isn't that special, or particularly indicative of a "nation."  They have a small ballpark in a populous city.  They have been winning - two World Series in the span of the record, in fact.  So why is it surprising?

That said, if one considers the definition of nation, simply a large group of people unified by a common ideal or cause who wouldn't be unified otherwise (my paraphrase) then they certainly do have a nation.  It is important to remember that "nation" and "country" are not the same thing.  Technically, "Red Sox Nation" does not mean Red Sox fans everywhere in the country...it means Red Sox fans anywhere they might happen to be, who share little in common other than being Red Sox fans.  I'd say, by that definition, RSN is no myth.

Where "myth" comes into play is that RSN is not any MORE of a nation than the collective group of fans of any team.  Is it bigger?  Probably.  But why is that?  Because they have a large market and because they win.  If the Padres had been winning as regularly over the last four years then Padre Nation would probably be as large.  No reason to single them out, but that's the case.  I didn't choose New York, Chicago, or LA because they have a split fan base with two teams in the same market.

So, for once, something that Hank Steinbrenner has said makes a little bit of sense.  It isn't exactly technically correct, because RSN exists and is not some ephemeral nothing...but the spirit of his statement, that the Red Sox don't have some especially unique fan base, is true.
Posted on: May 17, 2008 12:30 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2008 12:43 pm
 

The American League

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

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

Turn-arounds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Standings

East
Red Sox
Rays
Yankees
Orioles
Blue Jays

Central
Indians
White Sox
Tigers
Twins
Royals

West
Angels
Mariners
Athletics
Rangers

One final note: The central to me could really finish with 2, 3, and 4 in any order. I predict the Indians to win and the Royals to hit the cellar, though.
Posted on: April 24, 2008 2:15 pm
 

How are the Orioles doing it?

Well, the Orioles have the ninth best record in baseball right now, and I'm thrilled.  I mean, we O's fans feared as bad as a 100-loss season, and didn't expect to rush out of the gates so much as fall out of them on our face.  When I look at the stat lines, they say, just like the "preseason paper" that we shouldn't have quite the record we do.  Shouldn't be among the worst, but we shouldn't be in the top third either.  So why are we doing so well?  Timeliness and small things.  Mostly, though, I credit the pitching staff for being much better than the numbers might indicate.

In general:

The team ERA is 4.18 (16th), The starters' ERA is 4.55 (20th) and the bullpen ERA is 3.50 (9th).  Only the bullpen numbers look very good.  The thing is, all three of those numbers actually make things look worse than they have been, especially lately.  Despite those ERAs, the staff has compiled 11 Quality Starts (T-8th), is 80% converting save opportunities (including 7-7 from the closer), and most of the bullpen has been outstanding.  The thing I noticed after looking hard was that the days when the pitchers failed were almost universally either games where we either had even more offense than we gave up or where we barely scored anything and would've lost even with a decent pitching effort (exception: the 10-5 loss to the Rays when the 'pen gave up 8).  The pitchers have given up runs in bunches, but if you ask me that's OK.  Losing by 5 is no worse than losing by 2, and I'd rather the pitchers give up three more runs then than in the other games, which we've been winning by 1 or 2.  It's also very worth noting that almost all of the starters are exhibiting a trend of improvement nearly every trip to the mound.  This clearly won't continue forever, but it is a heck of a good sign.

A closer look at the starters:

Jeremy Guthrie has an ERA over 4.  This looks bad.  The thing is, it has been dropping, because his first start was also his worst (and his only bad one).  He has no wins, but he has put together 4 quality starts in 5 chances.  This seems to be a trend for him...we didn't score for him last year either. 

Adam Loewen's ERA is the ugliest of the bunch, but it too has come down every start, and his innings pitched have gone up each time out, as well.  His most recent start was a quality start, his first since returning to the fold. 

Daniel Cabrera is showing signs that maybe, possibly, could-it-be, perhaps he is maturing into the pither he was projected to be.  Every single start his ERA has dropped...A LOT.  After his first start it was 13, and 4 starts later it's under 4.5.  It dropped by 33%, 34%, 13%, and 14%.  He's starting to show control, and has now ripped off three straight quality starts.

Brian Burres has had one bad inning all year, and it has ballooned his ERA.  Even with that stretch, it's under 4.  He's only had 1 quality start, but he's also only started 3 games.  He also appeared once in relief, as Matt Albers appeared once in the rotation (this proves we have two VERY capable swing men).

Steve Trachsel has been Steve Trachsel.  He always allows baserunners, and you can usually count on him to stay on the mound for a reasonable number of innings and allow a limited number of those baserunners to score.  He has two quality starts, one that he missed by only a third of an inning, and one bad outing.  He hasn't really followed the "improvement" trend, but he's the nly one who doesn't need to because he's proven year after year to be a reasonably dependable back-of-the-rotation guy.

A closer look at the bullpen:

This unit actually has numbers that are very good, especially when compared to last year's pen.  They've dropped 2.21 runs from the ERA.  Consider the following as well: we were worried about overwork, but they've actually pitched only 64.1 innings, which is the 8th fewest in the league.  Could be better, but I wouldn't complain much about that stat.  I think the ERA of a relief pitcher is nearly meaningless, because 1 bad outing drives it wildly high compared to the kind of performance you can usually expect.  I prefer to look at percentage of appearances in which an ER is allowed before anything else.  Some of the Orioles staff with high ERAs look good in this light: Jamie Walker has appeared in ten games but only allowed runs twice, George Sherril has appeared 9 times and allowed runs twice (once in a non-save and once he picked up the save anyway), Chad Bradford in 8 games while allowing runs twice.  Matt Albers only allowed a run once, and it was in a start.  Randor Bierd and Jim Johnson haven't allowed runs at all yet.  The only ones who look "bad"  by this standard are Greg Aquino and to a lesser extent Dennis Sarfate (3 of 5 and 3 of 9 respectively).

What does it all mean?

Obviously, there are factors other than pitching that are winning games for the Orioles.  Defense, stolen bases, timely hitting all come to mind.  The above tells me several things.  First, this club WILL continue to be better than expected (not playoffs; I'm an optimist but not that much).  Not all of the pitchers are going to last, but some of them are bound to.  Second, it tells me to do the following with the bullpen (ot immediately, but ultimately): keep Sherrill (I want to see Sherril, Ray, and Baez fight it out for the closer/setup roles for next year), release Aquino, and puff Sarfate up for a trade.  Walker and Bradford can go or stay.  Johnson and Albers are a bright future to bridge the gap.  Third, itt ells me that this year's Orioles team is a young, exciting, scrappy team who will find a way to win games rather than an aging, deflated team that will find a way to lose them.

 

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 11, 2008 7:21 am
 

Orioles Organizational Report 3: A Frederick

OK guys, here is finally what I promised on Monday.  The third in my series of minor league reports, this one focusing on the A Frederick Keys.  In this team is our greatest expression of the youth movement and bright future of our ballclub.  Frederick is home to our single most anticipated young player (for now) surrounded by the most exciting group of prospects.  I think I will seriously consider doing a minor league tour...they're all pretty close and figure to be exciting teams to watch.  I'm not going to do the "categories' of player from this level on down, because realistically everyone this low in the organization is here with the idea of building for the future.  Some will pan out and some will not.



Catchers:

Justin Johnson   He got bumped up to Frederick because Hernandez was hurt and everyone slotted up 1, last year.  nothing to write home about, IMO, but he was pretty successful while playing with Aberdeen.
Mike Pierce   This guy went in the 28th round, and with the next guy on this team here I don't count on him getting much playing time.
Matt Weiters   I can't say enough about him, so I won't try.  He is to the minors what Markakis is to the majors for this rebuild.

Infielders:

Miguel Abreu    He's a late rounder who should be watched closely.  He scorched for Aberdeen, and then scorched for Delmarva.  that's telling, because there seems to be a HUGE dropoff in general when making that jump.  If he continues for Frederick I'd say he's the real deal.
Todd Davison  He surprised at lower levels, but struggled in the transition to Frederick.  Probably a career minor-leaguer.
Bill Rowell    This kid has a lot of people talking.  Tremendous power potential; I'd like to see him in the majors in 2010.
Brandon Snyder   Former C prospect moved to 1B because of injury.  He's been improving since, and I think he's probably the best 1B prospect in the organization.
Chris Vinyard     this kid has scorched through every level below Frederick.  Let's see how he does here.
Jason White     I can't make up my mind about this kid.  He's another who had success in rookie ball, but I don't have any confidence about whether he can make the jump.

Outfielders:

Chris Amador
   Has some pop and drives in runs.  Will that translate to success higher up?
Bobby Andrews   I don't see much from him, but the beauty of this level is just how wrong I could be.
Danny Figueroa   Another victim of injury.  He could have real success if he stays healthy.
Brandon Tripp   2007's minor league player of the year.  Odd thing is, he sucked for the ironbirds but succeeded immensely with the Shorebirds.  Kind of backwards.  I hope the upswing continues.  If it doesn't, promote him and maybe he'll go backwards again!

Pitchers:

Jake Arrieta   big name from tCU and Team USA, had an 0.0 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.  Predicted by many to be the Organizational pitcher for the year.
Pedro Beato   Another TJ victim for the O's.  I expect little from him given our track record with that surgery.
Brad Bergesen   Showed huge improvement from 2006 to 2007.  That's what the farm is all about.
Jason Burch   He has been all over the place, but was successful as the Key's closer last year.
Brandon Erbe   A young pitcher who has caught the eyes of many.  In my mind he's only moderately impressive, though.
JP Martinez   Nothing seems special about this one to me.
Ryan Oullette   He used to be a SP prospect, but I think he has a bright future in the bullpen.  I wish he was Russian so I could make a pun on his last name.
Wilfrido Perez   I wouldn't be too excited about this, but he did pitch 25 consecutive scoreless innings at Delmarva.
Jake Renshaw  He is a complete mystery to me.  Anyone got anything?
Ryan Rodriguez   Minor league Rule 5 guy.  Didn't know those existed.  Who knows?  Will we here R-Rod in the future?  Maybe rolled, ~Rrrod!
Kyle Schmidt    Struck out approximately 46,752,300 batters.  Don't know how much upside he has beyond that.
Chad Thall   Very good SO/BB ratio.  that's a stat I like to see (perhaps too much.


Well, add to the above, from the DL, infielder Ryan McCarthy, Outfielder Paul winterling, and Pitcher Tim Bascom.  Sorry I got a little goofy toward the end, was both getting bored with it and in a bit of a hurry.  Like all of our system now, Frederick is loaded with pitching talent.  Unlike the rest, though, I think this squad has more infield potential than outfield.  I love Rowell, Snyder, and Vinyard and I think Abreu could be something too.  And of course, Weiters will be our catcher soon, very soon.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 8, 2008 7:20 am
Edited on: April 11, 2008 7:22 am
 

Orioles Organizational Report 2: AA Bowie

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



Catchers:

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

Infielders:


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

Outfielders:

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

Pitchers:

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


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

Orioles Organizational Report 1: AAA Norfolk

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

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



Catchers:

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

Infielders:

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

Outfielders:

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

Pitchers:

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


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

So, we're certainly deep at both SP and bullpen, have a few bright spots in the outfield, and are sorely lacking in infielders at the AAA level. I guess that's what everyone's been saying, but there it is broken down.
Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com