Tag:Orioles
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:42 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Bud Selig edition

No matter what you think of Bud Selig as a commissioner, there's never been any doubt about Bud Selig as a fan.

He loves baseball. He loves watching baseball.

He switches from game to game on television every night when he's home. And when Selig met with the Baseball Writers Association of America this week, he said that his favorite games this summer have involved the Pirates and the Indians.

"I go first to the Pittsburgh game, and then Cleveland," Selig said. "I'm enjoying those two situations very much."

It's easy to see why. Not only are the Pirates and Indians great stories, but Selig sees them both as great examples of how his financial (revenue-sharing) plan is working.

He's right. They're great stories.

As to whether they're proof that the system works, that's a lot more complicated. Selig would also argue that the Rays have proved the system works, because they've finished first two of the last three years in baseball's toughest (and most expensive) division.

Rays executives would dispute that. They say there's no way they can compete long-term against the financial resources of the Yankees and Red Sox, and they beg regularly for a realignment plan that would get them out of the American League East (not going to happen).

Indians people wonder whether they can sustain long-term success. Even with Cleveland's success on the field this year (the Indians spent much of the first half in first place), attendance at Progressive Field has been mostly disappointing.

The Indians could win again, but they could also eventually find themselves back where they were in 2008-09, where they felt forced to trade Cy Young winners in back-to-back years, because they couldn't afford to keep them.

The Rays, despite another competitive team, had the second lowest average attendance in baseball (19,115, ahead of only the Marlins) in the first half. The Indians, at 21,106, ranked 26th among the 30 teams. The Pirates, at 23,577, were 21st.

Does the system really work?

Ask again in a few years.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Indians fell out of first place on Sunday, and they'll begin the second half with two starters (Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot on the disabled list). But they also begin the second half with four games against a Baltimore team that might have been the worst in baseball at the end of the first half. And they start with the outstanding Justin Masterson on the mound, in Indians at Orioles, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. Jeremy Guthrie, who will no doubt be the subject of trade talks later this month, starts for the Orioles.

2. Selig is a traditionalist in many ways, but he's also a businessman. So when someone asked Tuesday whether he sees a chance of more scheduled doubleheaders, he quickly said no. He's right, there's no way most teams would give up a home date (and a potential big gate), for doubleheaders that most fans wouldn't attend, anyway. The A's are different, because they have trouble selling tickets. So they did schedule a doubleheader, in Angels at A's, Saturday (4:05 ET) at the Coliseum. American League All-Star starter Jered Weaver is scheduled to start one of the games for the Angels.

3. Did the Pirates play the Astros every day during the first half, and is that why they had a decent record? It's not true. The Astros and Pirates played only nine times in the first half (with the Pirates winning seven), which means they play nine times in the second half, too. Three of those come this weekend, including Pirates at Astros, Sunday (2:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park, with All-Star Kevin Correia on the mound.


Posted on: June 30, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 11:08 pm
 

3 to Watch: The best in the game edition

The bar is set high, but then it would be anyway.

Roy Halladay returns to Toronto this weekend, to pitch at the Rogers Centre for the first time since the big trade that sent him to the Phillies 19 months ago. Cliff Lee follows Halladay on Sunday, with a chance to become the first pitcher since Orel Hershiser (1988) with four consecutive shutouts.

And they'll do it on the same field where Justin Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays eight weeks ago.

So maybe by the time this weekend is over, we'll have a better way of answering the question that has been bugging me for weeks.

Who is the best pitcher in baseball right now?

"To be honest, I think it's between me and Halladay," Verlander said when I asked him that question last week. "But if you asked anyone, they'd probably say that about themselves."

Not anyone. I know that, because I asked Lee, the guy with three straight shutouts, the guy who had a ridiculous 0.21 ERA in June (compared to 0.92 for Verlander and 2.00 for Halladay).

"In my opinion, it's not even debatable," Lee said. "Nobody else is in Halladay's ballpark. It's not even close."

I can't say I tried to argue with him, but I did point out the three straight shutouts.

"It takes longevity," Lee said.

Halladay has the longevity, and he has the great history in Toronto. So when you look at this weekend's schedule, it's hard to leave his big return to the Rogers Centre out of 3 to Watch.

But I'm going to do just that, because I always stick to one game per series and I can't pass up Lee's attempt at a fourth straight shutout.

For this weekend, though, think of this as 4 to Watch, and pretend I included them both:

1. If you check the ERA leaders, you might notice that neither Lee nor Halladay leads the National League. Instead, it's Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, at 2.07, and it's probably worth pointing out that he gets his next start in Orioles at Braves, Friday night (7:35 ET) at Turner Field. Jurrjens faces Jeremy Guthrie, who was throwing 96-97 mph in his last start.

2. If you check the ERA leaders again, you might notice that Verlander doesn't lead the American League. Instead, it's Jered Weaver of the Angels, at 1.97, and it's probably worth pointing out he makes his next start in Dodgers at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. His mound opponent, Clayton Kershaw, isn't bad, either.

3. I'll assume you already watched Halladay against the Jays on Saturday (1:07 ET). But I'm sticking with Lee, in Phillies at Blue Jays, Sunday afternoon (1:07 ET) at Rogers Centre. According to research through Baseball-reference.com, only eight pitchers in the last 90 years have thrown four straight shutouts. The last before Hershiser was Luis Tiant, in 1972.




Posted on: June 14, 2011 7:05 pm
 

Astros, Orioles have new pitching coaches

Last week, it was hitting coaches, and then a manager.

Tuesday, two teams changed pitching coaches.

The circumstances were different. The Astros, who have the second-worst team ERA in the majors, fired Brad Arnsberg and replaced him with Doug Brocail. The Orioles announced that Mark Connor has resigned, and that Rick Adair would take over for him.

The Orioles said that Connor resigned for personal reasons, and MASN sports reported that the 61-year-old Connor "was dealing with physical issues that he couldn't overcome."
Adair, a former big-league pitching coach in Detroit and Seattle, had been the Orioles' bullpen coach, so the transition should be smooth. Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail told MASN that he had considered Adair and Connor to be "dual pitching coaches."

Brocail has never coached before. He joined the Astros front office last year, when he retired after a 15-year big-league career.
Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Orioles may already have a Prince in mind

The Orioles have shown signs of improvement this year, but this week's five-game losing streak on the West Coast is another reminder that they're not yet good enough.

It's almost certain that this will be the 14th straight year without a playoff game at Camden Yards -- and probably the 14th straight year without a winning record, as well.

What to do about it?

Orioles people have been telling friends in the game that they'll have significant money to spend next winter, that manager Buck Showalter wants a first baseman who can hit in the middle of the order -- and that Prince Fielder may be the top target on their list.

As colleague Scott Miller pointed out again in a column last week, Fielder is almost certainly a lame duck with the Brewers, who elected to keep him for a run at a championship this year but are extreme longshots for a deal that would keep him away from free agency after the season.

Meanwhile, the Orioles went looking for a big corner bat last winter, but ended up with Derrek Lee on a one-year contract. Lee has been a disappointment so far, limited to 40 games by injury and contributing just four home runs and 14 RBI.

Fielder will be one of the biggest names on the free-agent market, but as a first baseman whose current team is unlikely to sign him, he could be a reasonable target for a team like the Orioles.




Category: MLB
Posted on: May 8, 2011 8:27 pm
 

3 to watch: The perfect matchup edition


Twice last year, Roy Halladay pitched against Josh Johnson.

Their combined numbers in those two games: 32 innings, 16 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 30 strikeouts and a 0.28 ERA.

And one perfect game.

One game ended 1-0, in Halladay's favor (that was the perfect game, and the one run was unearned). The other game ended 2-0, in Johnson's favor.

The second game, in which Halladay allowed one run on six hits in eight innings, is his only loss in 19 starts against National League East opponents in his year-plus with the Phillies. He's an incredible 18-1 with a 1.56 ERA in those 19 games.

Which brings us to Tuesday night, when Halladay and Johnson meet up for the first time this season.

It's far too early to call this a Cy Young showdown (and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, who is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA and two shutouts, might be just as good an early candidate). And since this is just the second of six series between the Phillies and Marlins, there's every chance that Halladay and Johnson could meet up again.

That's fine. Anytime they meet, they're the featured game on 3 to watch. Anytime they meet, I'm paying attention, and I'm betting you will, too.

On to 3 to watch:

1. By this point in his Cy Young season, Zack Greinke was 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA. This year, because he played basketball and broke a rib, he's just now making his first home start, in Padres at Brewers, Monday night (8:10 ET) at Miller Park . Brewers fans are no doubt excited to see Greinke, but you have to wonder how much the Brewers' recent slide (eight losses in the last nine games) has hurt their enthusiasm.

2. Coming out of spring training, the Braves were the popular pick as the NL East team with a chance to take the division title away from the Phillies. But it's the Marlins who have spent most of the first five weeks of the season in second place, often just half a game behind the Phils. The Marlins split two games in Philadelphia last month (a third game was rained out), and they get their next chance at home this week. The highlight matchup, of course, is Halladay vs. Johnson, in Phillies at Marlins, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium.

3. If Halladay vs. Johnson might help decide the NL Cy Young race, then Michael Pineda vs. Zach Britton might have helped decide the American League rookie of the year race. Too bad that Pineda is facing Jake Arrieta (a fine young pitcher, but not a rookie) in Mariners at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards . Pineda, 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings, is the early leader. Britton, 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA, faces the Mariners on Thursday night.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Tigers haven't lost 8 in row (yet) under Leyland

In the 10 years before they hired Jim Leyland, the Tigers had 18 losing streaks of at least eight games (including six that hit double-digits).

In five-plus years with Leyland as manager, the Tigers have never lost more than seven straight.

They're at seven now, facing CC Sabathia and the Yankees on Tuesday night as they try to avoid making it eight.

Already, the seven-game losing streak forced the Tigers into a roster move. They called up second baseman Scott Sizemore from Triple-A Toledo, where he was leading the International League in hitting.

Leyland also told reporters that he may cut back on slumping Magglio Ordonez's playing time, especially once Victor Martinez comes off the disabled list Wednesday.

How special is it that the Tigers have gone more than five years without an eight-game skid?

Special, but not unheard of.

Seven other teams have avoided an eight-game losing streak in the same span, and two of them -- the Red Sox and Twins -- haven't even had a seven-gamer. The Twins, however, have a current six-game streak, heading into Tuesday's game in Chicago.

The Twins' last seven-game losing streak -- and their last eight-game losing streak -- came in 2003. The Red Sox haven't lost seven or more in a row since 2001, when they lost nine straight.

The other teams that have avoided an eight-game losing streak for at least five years:

-- The Mets, who somewhat surprisingly haven't done it since 2004.

-- The Angels, whose last eight-gamer came in 1999, under Terry Collins.

-- The Phillies, whose last eight-gamer came in 2000, under Terry Francona.

-- The Rangers, whose last eight-gamer came in 2005, under Buck Showalter.

-- The Yankees, whose last eight-gamer came in 1995, also under Showalter.

And the teams with the most eight-game losing streaks in the last five years?

The Orioles and Pirates, with eight apiece (that's eight eight-game losing streaks).
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:45 pm
 

3 to watch: The starting pitching matters edition

In some ways, the Yankee rotation has been better than advertised.

Freddy Garcia has started twice and still hasn't allowed a run. Bartolo Colon made it to the seventh inning in winning his only start. The often shaky A.J. Burnett is 3-0 in four starts.

Put together, the Yankee starters have a 7-3 record and a not-terrible 4.62 ERA, and that's even though they've lost four other potential wins to blown saves.

Not bad, as long as you ignore that other very significant stat: innings pitched.

Put together, the Yankee starters have pitched fewer innings than any other rotation in baseball.

Normally, and not surprisingly, teams like that don't win. It's been 11 years since the team that finished 30th in starters innings had a winning record, and longer than that since a team like that made it to the playoffs.

So far, the Yankees have gotten by, in part because they're scoring so many runs (more than six a game) and in part because four scheduled off days and three rainouts have helped the Yankees rest their bullpen.

The rain may not be over, but there's not a scheduled day on the Yankees' schedule either of the next two weeks.

On the other hand, the Yankees may have something better than an off day. They've got four games the next four games against the struggling White Sox.

Only one Yankee starter this year has finished seven innings (and CC Sabathia has done it just twice in five starts). By contrast, eight of the last 10 pitchers who started a game against the White Sox have finished at least seven innings, combining for a 1.90 ERA.

So maybe this is the week things turn around for the Yankee starters.

Either that, or maybe this is the week that short outings by starters start affecting the Yankees' record.

On to 3 to watch:

1. One thing to remember about Burnett: While his 2010 season was one of the worst ever by a Yankee starter, he was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts. So what should we make of Burnett's 3-0 record and 4.37 ERA in his first four starts this year? Maybe we'll know more after he makes his fifth start, in White Sox at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. Why's that? Because in two years as a Yankee, Burnett has faced the White Sox twice. He lost both games, allowing 15 runs on 18 hits in just eight combined innings.

2. When Jered Weaver beat the Rangers last week, he became the first pitcher since Dave Stewart in 1990 to go 5-0 in his team's first 18 games. Stewart went on to make it 6-0 in the A's first 22 games that year. Weaver can't do that, but he'll go for 6-0 in 23 games when he starts in A's at Angels, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. One note of caution: Weaver has just one win in his last 11 starts against the A's, dating back to September 2007. Weaver has a tough opponent in Gio Gonzalez, who has a 1.80 ERA through his first four starts.

3. As Scott Miller points out in Weekend Buzz, the Red Sox have recovered quite nicely from their 0-6, and then 2-10, start. In fact, if the Sox follow up their weekend sweep in Anaheim by winning their first two games in Baltimore, they could have a winning record by the time they finish Red Sox at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. That's basically unheard of. While teams have recovered from 2-10 starts to finish over .500 (and even to win 100-plus games), it usually takes a month, or two months, or even three months. The Red Sox have a chance to do it in 11 days. It's a nice pitching matchup Tuesday, with Josh Beckett facing Jeremy Guthrie.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:55 pm
 

Year of the closer crisis? No, just normal April

The Twins have changed closers. The White Sox have changed closers. The Cardinals have a closer problem.

And last night, when John Axford was wild (again) and blew a save (for the first time since his opening day disaster), Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked if his team has a closer problem. He said no.

But here's the bigger question: Is there a closer problem in baseball overall?

Or is this just a normal April?

Well, through the first 19 days of this season, there have been 24 blown saves in the ninth inning or later (including four each by Matt Thornton of the White Sox and Ryan Franklin of the Cardinals).

That sounds like a lot.

Well, through the first 19 days of the 2010 season, there had already been 26 blown saves in the ninth inning or later. The Rangers had already changed closers. The Orioles had put their unsuccessful closer on the disabled list. Trevor Hoffman was on his way out of the job in Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks were already on the to having one of the worst bullpens in history.

So is 2011 unusual? Or is this just a typical April?
 
 
 
 
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