Sunday, July 15, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 27

Orioles Victory Number 27: 1-0 over the Texas Rangers

2018 Topps Zach Britton

We're hitting that point of the season where I'm starting to wonder if anything matters at all.  Yes the Orioles won, which is always nicer than them losing, but still what does it all mean? In about a week the roster is most likely to be decimated. There is a good chance that Manny Machado is still in the organization only so that he can represent the Orioles at the All Star game,  which may be the dumbest reason yet for the Orioles to delay a trade.

The things this management staff does is mindbending at times. Take for instance the handling of Zach Britton. He should have been traded last year and he wasn't because of concern over the health of some of the players coming back in the deal, one of which was Colin Moran. Moran has since been traded to the Pirates and the third baseman has put up a slightly below replacement level season (-0.1 WAR) hitting .262 with 8 home runs and and a .336 on base percentage. If you were wondering yes those numbers are better than either Tim Beckham (by a long shot) and Danny Valencia (comparable).

Since then, Britton ruptured his Achilles which disrupted any chance of trading him in he off-season. It also took him out of action until mid-June. A point at which the Orioles were well out of the hunt for the playoffs. As a left-handed reliever who had a history of being dominant he was, by his very nature, a valuable trade asset. The only question involved was how the injury affected his performance.

For the most part it seems that he is getting back to his pre-injury ability. In fourteen appearances he's allowed runs in only two of them but he struggled with his control early in his return. Luckily for the Orioles (and his trade value) he's shown signs of his old dominance since the calendar flipped to July. In six appearances he's worked six innings, struck out six, walked one and allowed one hit. He's also induced 8 ground balls and allowed only 2 fly balls which indicates his sinker is back to it's pre-2017 nastiness.

So why hasn't he been traded yet? There is no reason to hold on to him, it's not like he's an All Star. Waiting is going to only invite the potential of another injury or bad outing. For the good of all things holy don't make the same mistake two years in a row.

And that's what we've come to. Any good performance by a player is now viewed through the lens of it improves his trade value, not as hope for the future. Valencia hits a home run - trade him. Jonathon Schoop singles to the right side to win a game - trade him. Chris Davis makes contact with a pitch - trade him.

Trade them all now. Blow this thing up in spectacular fashion. Trade everybody and call up the entire Norfolk roster. If someone wants Dylan Bundy and is offering a top-50 prospect, do it. Same with Kevin Gausman and Trey Mancini. Let's burn this thing to the ground. It's not going to make that much of a difference in the standings.

OK.  I'm done.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings (updated!)
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Zach Britton
3. Mark Trumbo
4. Danny Valencia
5. Mychal Givens
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Brad Brach
8. Kevin Gausman

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 26

Orioles Victory Number 26: 5-4 over the New York Yankees

2018 Topps Living set Manny Machado

Even in the darkest of times there can be a little bit of light. The Orioles are on pace to win about 46 games this season. That means they are on pace to lose....well a lot. There are many nights where they don't play very well. There is an overall lack of excitement in regards to most of the players in the line-up (I like Jace Peterson as much as the next fan, but he's not exactly a building block). The bullpen, once a strength is a rotating cast of characters struggling to string together three outs at a time.

Yet, on a night like last night, baseball can still be fun. The best player in a generation for the team belts two home runs including a Ruthian shot that landed over 440 feet from where contact was made. A struggling hitter slapped a ball the other way to score the winning run. The bullpen held it together and a once-dominant closer showed flashes of his old self in locking down the win. Best of all it came at the expense of the Yankees.

It's small moments like this that will get you through the season.

Seriously, how much fun was that first home run? That baseball was destroyed. Manny Machado took all of his recent frustration with the trade talks (for the first time this season it seems like it might be getting to him) and unloaded it on that innocent baseball. It's good to see his power coming back down the final stretch of his Orioles career.

It might have been the last great game he will have in the orange and white of the Orioles. So remember it fondly. There might not be that many more like it this summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 25

Orioles Victory Number 25: 5-4 over the New York Yankees

1985 Topps Mike Boddicker

The Orioles snapped another lengthy losing streak on the backs of home runs by Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia. For once, there were actual runners on base when the balls cleared the fence and provided enough runs for the Os to edge out the one-run victory.

Yea.  Twenty-five wins. On July 9th. That's so very, very bad. Sadly it might get worse. How? Well, the trades should start happening any day now. That means players that have been good enough to warrant attention from other teams will soon be playing for those other teams leaving holes in the Orioles line-up that will presumably be not as good as those that they are replacing.

One of those players is, of course, Manny Machado. The widely talented shortstop is the most sought after asset on the trade market this summer. There are reports that seven teams have made former offers for Machado and that the deal could come down this week.

That would lead to yet another wonderful slap in the face for the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. Their lone all-star representative, Manny Machado who was voted in by the fans on Sunday, could be playing for another organization by the time the game rolled around. A game taking place just down the interstate in Washington, D.C. none the less.  Great times.

This has happened in recent memory. In 2014 Jeff Samardzija was traded from the Cubs to Oakland after he had been named to the team but before the game was played. For the game Samardzija was deemed ineligible and wore a generic uniform and hat.

Photo by Jesse Johnson USA Today Sports

With the Dodgers as one of the leading contenders for Machado's services, history could repeat itself. As the game no longer determines home field advantage as it did in 2014, the league may let him play for the either team. In fact, they should lean into it and play it up. Maybe the winner of the home run derby gets to pick which team he plays for or there is a pre-game coin toss for his services.

The Cubs were still represented at the Mid-Summer Classic in 2014 as Anthony Rizzo made the squad. Will the Orioles be so lucky? Probably not, there really isn't a healthy player on the roster that has earned that distinction. So they could theoretically not have a player in the game.  That would be awesome.

Things could also come full circle if the Cubs end up snatching Machado. One of the players that is rumored to be on the way to the Orioles would be Addison Russell. The Cubs shortstop was one of the key players that went to Chicago in the 2014 Samardzija deal.  That would make me smile. 

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 24

Orioles Victory Number 24: 8-2 over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1981 Topps Dan Ford

Is this technically an Orioles card?  No, no it's not. I don't care. This is my blog and my rules. I have no idea who defaced this card of Disco Dan Ford. I don't think that's my handwriting (plus I would have been all of 5 years old and living in Germany when this came out). Could I have defaced it at a later date? It had to have been done sometime between 1982 and 1985 since those are the years he was with the Os.

Does it bother me that a card has been "ruined" like this? No, not really. I'm pretty sure I could snap my fingers and find a replacement in near-mint condition for this 37 year-old card. That someone (possibly me) took the time to scratch it out and "update" it makes it more endearing to me. Ford was a good player, and a key platoon player during the 1983 championship run, but he was no superstar. So it's not like someone scribbled all over a '52 Mantle.

In fact, it reminds me of a simpler time of collecting (caution - old man waxing nostalgic) when I was more concerned with getting cards of players that played for the Orioles. If you had offered me Ford, an Al Bumbry card and a couple of other no-name Baltimore players for a 1981 Tim Raines rookie, I would have made the trade in a heartbeat. After all, who cares about some guy playing in Montreal?

I have no doubt that this card was once wrapped in a rubber band and thrown in a shoe box. As a kid I just liked having cards, there was no need to worry about their condition. That didn't come until much later. Cards were to be looked at, traded and thrown in a box and stuffed in a closet when it was time to go to school.

Part of me wishes we could go back to that - get away from the "mojo" hits and $1,000 eBay sales  - but that's not going to happen. Heck, I'm as guilty as the next person to hoping that any pack I open has a Mike Trout short-print or insert in it that I can flip for a few bucks in the ol' PayPal account. Still, I almost get as big a thrill when I pull a Johnathan Scoop base card - just because it has the Orioles logo on it. Maybe I should find an Andrew Cashner base card and break out the ballpoint pen for old times sake.

Oh, in regards to the game - Mark Trumbo ups his trade value with two bombs and Kevin Gausman had another solid start.  Way to break another losing streak, boys.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings (updated!)
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Mark Trumbo
3. Brad Brach
4. Danny Valencia
5. Mychal Givens
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Zach Britton
8. Craig Gentry

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Orioles Victory Cards 22 and 23

Orioles victory 22 : 10-7 over the Atlanta Braves in 15 innings
Orioles victory 23: 7-5 over the Atlanta Braves

2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces Cal Ripken, Jr.

Who had the end of June before I screwed this up?  You did? Congratulations.  I knew it was going to be something along these lines. An extra inning game the night before I had to work a morning shift. Add on top of that plans to see the Pirates play and once I saw that Manny Machado had hooked a home run down the line late Friday night I knew the streak would be over.

They then tacked on another win on the back of some timely hitting.  Nothing like scoring seven runs off of two hits (a grand slam by Mark Trumbo and a bases-loaded double by Chris Davis) and another strong start by Dylan Bundy.

It's their first winning streak since June 5th-6th (coincidentally against a National League team) and they have a chance to win three games in a row for only the second time this season. The win also moved them out of the overall cellar in baseball. They're tied with the Kansas City Royals with 23 wins, but due to the fact that they've played one less game they have a slightly higher winning percentage. Guess they're not very serious about the number one overall draft pick next summer.

Could this be a sign that the Orioles are starting to put things together? The Braves are a pretty good team and these two wins were more reminiscent of the way the Orioles have won over the past few years. Decent enough pitching with a lot of offense. 

Only time will tell if they can keep this up and salvage the lost season.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 21

Orioles Victory Number 21: 3-0 over the Washington Nationals

1982 Topps Benny Ayala

Hey, hey, hey the Orioles actually stopped a losing streak before it began. Instead of going a week and a half between victories they managed to only go one game between wins. Andrew Cashner returned to throw 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball (start shortened due to rain delay) and the bullpen kept putting up the zeros (even though Brad Brach made it interesting in the ninth).

The offense was provided early, compliments Mark Trumbo doing a very bad thing to a hanging curveball:

The "Trumbo Jumbo" (please never say that again Mike Bordick) was his second in three games and fifth on the year. Since coming off of the disabled list Trumbo has been a relative constant source of offense in the Orioles line-up.

Don't confuse that with him tearing up the league. He is still hitting a rather pedestrian .262 with an OBP of .318 and basically playing replacement level baseball. Yet, on the Orioles that puts him squarely in the top tier of offensive performers.

One thing that seems a little different this year is that he is driving the ball to right-field and right-center with more authority than he has in the past. While the murder he committed on the baseball last night was to left field, two of his other home runs this year were to right field. Last year, only three of his twenty-three bombs were to the opposite field.

He's also hitting a lot of balls hard. According to  his average exit velocity is 92.9 MPH which is well above the league average of 88.8.  A lot of those hard hit balls are going back up the middle or to right field.

Per Fangraphs this is his spray chart so far for 2018 (last night's game not included)

And from 2017:

Despite the much smaller sample size, there is a greater proportion of line drives (red dots) and home runs (black dots) going to right field this season.  Is this a result of a different approach to hitting or just some short term anomaly that will dissipate as the season wears on? Hopefully it's the former. If he is focused on driving the ball back through the middle or to the opposite field it will make him a better hitter. His home runs will still come, he's too strong for them not to.

The more important question is, does this change in hitting philosophy make him enticing to other teams? A club looking to add a little right-handed power to their line-up might be intrigued by Trumbo.  While he is nominally a designated hitter he does have experience in the outfield and first base. He isn't going to win any Gold Gloves in the field, he isn't going to embarrass himself either. That opens up National League teams to the pool of prospective trade partners.

In trading for him, a team does have to factor in his contract. He wouldn't be strictly a rental since he is signed through 2019 at a rather hefty $13.5 million. Still, that's not an unreasonable amount of money for a player that has averaged 32 home runs and 94 RBI throughout his career. The Orioles could also kick in some cash to help offset that price tag and sweeten the return a bit. 

Trumbo alone isn't enough to bring back a top-tier young prospect in a trade, but a team might be willing to part with a mid-tier prospect or two to bring that bat into their line-up to gear up for the stretch run. At this point, the Orioles should be all in on a rebuild with the goal of bringing in as much young talent as possible. Trading Mark Trumbo would accomplish that.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Brad Brach
3. Zach Britton
4. Mark Trumbo
5. Darren O'Day
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Danny Valencia
8. Craig Gentry

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 20

Orioles Victory Number 20: 10-4 over the Miami Marlins

2018 Topps Manny Machado 1983 Insert

How about an insert from one of the best designed Topps sets of all times of the most recent superstar player to wear an Orioles uniform?

So, the Orioles finally cracked the 20-win mark on Father's Day. Dylan Bundy pitched well enough to win and finally received some run support.  Baltimore avoids getting swept on the homestand and heads a short train ride south to Washington with a little more confidence in their offense.

A lot has changed since the last time I was able to post here. Chris Davis has been benched. The Orioles went from one Joseph (Caleb) to none, back to one (Corban) and now up to two (Corban and Caleb). One dominating left-handed reliever returned (Zach Britton) while another was shut down for the season (Richard Bleier). Andrew Cashner missed a start while David Hess has solidified his spot in the rotation.

Benching Davis is the biggest move that has happened in the 11 days between victories and probably the most important one. The big first baseman with the big contract was on pace for one of the worst seasons in major league history and looked completely lost at the plate no matter where Buck Showalter put him in the line-up. He's not going to get traded and will most likely refuse an assignment to the minors (a move that Minnesota just pulled with their struggling slugger Miguel Sano) as his right as a veteran player.

The organization can't trade him as his value is significantly below that of a replacement player and he's owed more than $100 million on the rest of his contract. Trying to shoehorn him into the impending Machado trade would only lower the value of the return even more. Nor will the Orioles waive him with the length and money left on his deal.

So now the only solution is to hope that the extra work he's putting in with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and jack-of-all-trades Brady Anderson pays off in some shape or form. With a natural regression back to how he's been since signing his large contract would be a boon to the offense-starved Orioles line-up. If he can get his game back to where he's hitting .230-.240 and clubbing home runs every now and then that makes there line-up better.

In the meantime, can he be a reliable off the bench pinch hitter? Showalter had a chance to use him late in Saturday's game trailing by a run and instead pinch-hit Corban Joseph. So at this point the answer seems to be no. That hamstrings an already short bench and will make for some interesting roster decisions once Tim Beckham returns from his rehab assignment.

Corban Joseph is the most likely candidate for demotion once Beckham returns to play third base, which would set Trey Mancini as the starting first baseman (his natural position) and bump Jace Peterson back to the bench. Now the Orioles would have Peterson, Davis and Pedro Alvarez, all left-handed hitters, as their primary replacements. That's not ideal.

The next few weeks will see a lot of change to the Orioles roster (hopefully) and their may be an influx of youth coming in. It would be nice if Chris Davis regains his form enough to be a presence in the line-up instead of a shadow of his former self on the bench.