Monday, April 30, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 8

Orioles Victory Number 8: 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers

2007 Upper Deck Corey Patterson

For the first time since April 11th, the Baltimore Orioles didn't lose two games in a row or more after a win. They end April with a record of 8-20 which leaves them 12.5 games behind the Red Sox. Of course, General Manager David Duquette isn't quite ready to blow the team up. He's giving them until Memorial Day (where they could be 20 games out!) to see what kind of team they are.

Their 5-3 victory over the Tigers on Sunday was their second win in three nights. It was also the second time in three nights that Pedro Alvarez hit two home runs. Alvarez now has six home runs for the season which is good for second on the team behind Manny Machado. He's done all of that in only 59 at-bats .

He also started at third base. That meant that the Os defense was:

3b - Alvarez
SS - Machado
2b - Jace Peterson
1b- Trey Mancini

That's...that's not what we were expecting when the team rolled out of Sarasota at the end of March. Injuries have played a huge factor in the changes, Jonathon Schoop and his messed-up oblique are the biggest hole that has to be filled, but Alvarez was only starting because Danny Valencia had a hamstring problem. So the back-ups are getting hurt now, which really cuts into a team's depth.

It also gives other players an opportunity.  Jace Peterson is one of those players. The former first-round pick was picked up off of waivers a week ago to fill the utility role after Schoop was hurt. He may have played his way into a permanent utility role, not by hitting a ton (he has 3 hits in 18 at-bats) but by doing pretty much everything else. Despite only having three hits he has driven in four runs and stolen three bases while playing flawless defense.

All three bases he has stolen have been third. Once on a double steal and twice off of the pitcher. With both Detroit and Tampa playing the shift against Chris Davis, Peterson gambled that he could beat the pitcher to the bag and in both cases he was correct.

Hopefully, more players take advantage of this play. If the team is going to give you a free base - take it. Heck, then maybe Davis can bunt him in on the next play and start picking up some cheap RBIs.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 7

Orioles Victory Number 7: 6-0 over the Detroit Tigers

1995 Topps Stadium Club Chris Hoiles

The Orioles snap their latest losing streak due to a brilliant performance by.....Chris Tillman?  That's right the former ace of the staff that was re-signed to a try-me one-year contract for $3 million shut down the Tigers over seven innings allowing only one hit and striking out five. In picking up his first win of the season, Tillman lowered his ERA to 7.03 and it's the first time since 2016 that he's worked 7 innings in a ballgame.

Those stats are interesting, but the stat that I enjoyed the most belonged to Adam Jones. The longtime Oriole is hitting .257 and his on-base percentage.... .265.  That is fantastic. Want an even better stat? Over the last 15 days he's hitting .288 and his OBP is... .278!  That's just...I don't know what that is. It's proof that Adam Jones is not here to take a walk. So how can a player have a lower OBP than batting average?

Apparently a sacrifice fly counts against a player's on-base percentage but not his batting average. So over a small sample size (like 15 games) a player who doesn't walk a lot can see his OBP dip below his batting average.  Jones, who had zero walks during that time frame, did have a couple of sacrifice flies.

On the season, Jones has two walks. One came during the second game of the season and the second April 4th. So he's gone almost a month without a free pass. And I have absolutely no problem with that. I love that Adam Jones is up there hacking. He's been hacking for 1500 games in the MLB and I don't think he's going to stop.

Jones is swinging no matter what the count is. More times than not he puts it into play and 255 times he's put it over the fence. So while he might not be a player that excites the advanced stats crew, he is entertaining to watch. Sometimes that's all we need out of a ballplayer.  Play hard and have a little fun.

That's who he is and he shouldn't have to change. No more than Chris Davis should change. This is the way the Orioles were built - home run happy power hitters that occasionally do something other than hit the ball out of the park. It's Buck Showalter's job to figure out how to win with the pieces he has. Until September of last year he managed to do it.

Regardless of what happens this off-season, Adam Jones is going to go down as one of the all-time best Orioles. He'll be in their Hall of Fame, hopefully his number is retired. I think he ends up re-signing with them - something along the lines of the a 3-year deal around $40 million. It'll be more than he should get based on his performance, but it'll be worth it to keep him around (after all they'll have some money left over once Manny Machado signs with the Yankees) so they Orioles should get it done.

By the time it's all time he should have 2,000 hits, 300 home runs and 1,000 runs batted in. All with less than 400 walks in his career. Not too shabby.

(For the record Chris Hoiles 435 times in his 10 year career with the Orioles)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 6

Orioles Victory Number 6: 3-1 over the Cleveland Indians

2001 Topps Opening Day Mike Mussina

Finally, the O's are back in the win column and, despite being one of the best pitchers in the AL, Dylan Bundy finally picks up his first win of the season. So far in 2018 Bundy has made 5 starts, thrown 31.2 innings, struck out 40 while only walking 9, WHIP of 1.105, ERA+ of 286 and a FIP of 1.98.  And his record: 1-2.

I'm not sure I'm ready to go full Brian Kelly yet and call for the abolishment of the win as a statistic, but it's obvious that it's value is quickly diminishing. Richard Bleier has two wins on the season and has thrown a total of 14.1 innings. He's been good, but he hasn't been as good as Bundy. Hopefully, baseball writers (especially those that vote on awards) are starting to come around to the fact that wins aren't the be all, end all stat for pitchers, especially starters.

Would I like to see Bundy or any other Orioles pitcher win 20 games in a season? Hell, at this point I'm hoping the Orioles get to 20 wins as a team.  Seeing how no Baltimore pitcher has done it since Mike Boddicker in 1984 it would be nice to celebrate that arbitrary stat. Mainly because it means the team is successful.

The last Oriole to come close was the man pictured above. Mike Mussina got to 19 wins in 1996. He also won 19 in 1995. Mussina also had three seasons with the Orioles that he won 18 games. He never got to the magic mark in black and orange, waiting until his final season in New York to hit the 20 win plateau. No one in their right mind would argue that the 2008 version of Mike Mussina was better than the 1996 version. He just happened to play for a better team that scored him more runs.

This was the last season Mussina was featured in an Orioles uniform on a Topps card. He didn't sign early enough in the off season for Topps to airbrush him into a Yankees uniform so Baltimore fans had to suffer seeing him in the home whites one more time when they were opening packs that year. His debut in Yankee threads would come in Series Two Topps.

Since then the O's have been looking for a dominant right-hander that can take the mound once a week and shut down their opponents. It wasn't Erik Bedard or Chris Tillman. Zach Britton looked like he may take the honor, but couldn't transition to starting in the majors. Now it's hopefully Bundy.. At some point the Orioles are going to start scoring runs for him. Hopefully at some point the Orioles are going to start scoring runs for anyone. Once that happens his wins will start piling up.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 5

Orioles victory number 5: 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays

2007 Upper Deck Chris Britton

The Orioles picked up their first win at home since Opening Day and didn't need extra innings to do so. That was nice. Kevin Gausman was the winning pitcher as he went 6 innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 7. It was his longest start of the season and lowered his ERA to 6.60 That might not be an impressive number, but considering it was at 13.50 after his first start, it's a good sign.

Honestly, the pitching really hasn't been the problem this season. While I'm not ready to throw this rotation out against the 1971 Baltimore rotation, they haven't been horrible. Dylan Bundy is on his way to becoming the first Cy Young finalist to not win a game in a season, Andrew Cashner has turned in a couple of decent starts and Gausman has improved. Now Chris Tillman and Mike Wright, Jr have been gas cans in their first couple of starts, but one of them should be booted to the bullpen once Alex Cobb makes his debut on Saturday.

If only they could get the offense rolling on a consistent basis. The team is near the bottom in average and on-base percentage and middle of the road when it comes to runs (but a top-5 team in home runs). They've been held to 2 or fewer runs in 6 of their 12 games, including just one run in each of he previous two games against Toronto.

Their bullpen, normally a strength of the team, hasn't exactly been lights out either having blown four save opportunities out of seven and walking a ton of hitters. Hopefully, with Cobb in the rotation the starters can begin pitching deeper into the games and lighten the workload for the bullpen.  Of course, that's something we hope for every year and have yet to see it happen.  But it's still April so we can still dream.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 4

Orioles Victory Number 4: 8-7 over the New York Yankees in 12 innings

2007 Topps Turkey Red Nick Markakis

When I left for work today I didn't think I'd have to write one of these after the game. As I turned off the T.V. and grabbed my heavy coat (serious snow flakes on April 9th? It's getting a bit out of hand) the Birds were down 5-1 and digging into a bullpen that had seen a lot of work over the last week.

Yet they chipped away and won, taking three out of four from the Yankees and showing signs of hope for the season. While not yet at the level of the 1989 Why Not? team, at least they've risen above the 1988 0-21 team.  It's nice to see the offense finding their footing a little bit, even if a lot of the offense was produced by Anthony Santander and Craig Gentry, not exactly the key cogs to the line-up.

Still, good teams have everyone chip in and while I'm not quite ready to label the Orioles as a good team, they at least are showing some heart.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 3

Orioles Victory Number 3: 7-3 over the New York Yankees in 14 innings

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Kevin Gausman

Yeah, yeah I know. It's only three wins into the season and I already failed to post a victory card before the next game. What can I say, a 14-inning game coupled with a 5:30 a.m. alarm conspired to make this post a little late.  It didn't help that the O's followed their late night victory with a 1:00pm start on Saturday (checking that score to see if I have to do a double post.  Nope. we're good.)

While all due credit goes to Pedro Alvarez for the dramatic extra-inning grand slam, how about another decent start from the rotation. The above pictured Gausman pitched 5 innings, struck out 3 and only gave up 2 runs to lower his ERA to 8.00 on the season. The fact that Gausman kept the new Murder's Row in the ballpark was impressive after the home run fest he had during his last start.
 That's the third decent start turned in by the rotation and gives some hope that they aren't going to repeat the tire fire that they were last year.

More offense from Manny Machado has he hit two home runs (quiet down with the talk of him taking a shine to his soon-to-be-future-home-stadium) and the beleaguered Chris Davis mashed his first tater of the season.

Three wins on the season now for the Birds, including two over the rival Yankees. They did drop Saturday's game, but have the chance to take the series on Sunday as Mike Wright, Jr. is scheduled to make his second start of the season.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 2

Victory Number 2 - 5-2 over the New York Yankees 

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Chance Cisco

When you start a project like this there are two things you worry about. First, that you won't be able to keep up and will drift behind and eventually give up. Luckily, that hasn't happened yet. My goal of posting a card following every Orioles victory before they start the next game is still intact after two wins.

The second thing you fear is that you have some sort of cosmic control over the outcome of ballgames happening a few hundred miles away. That, in some way, by celebrating every win with a cardboard image you are jinxing the team despite the fact that you are 40-some-odd years old and know better than to believe in things like jinxes or curses.

Yet here we are, or more precisely, he we were a few days ago with the Orioles suffering their fourth straight loss and honestly not being remotely competitive in any of the losses. At that point I wondered if this exercise in cardboard creativity was having some adverse affect on their play. We all knew the pitching would be suspect at best, but at least they'd be able to hit, right? Not so much as first the Twins pitching and then the Astros pitching shut their bats off.

With the Yankees and their line-up looming for the next four games, the likelihood of a 1-9 start to the season was not out of the realm of possibility. I also began to ponder if a 21 game losing streak following an Opening Day victory was just as bad as a 21 game losing streak to start the season (hello team of my youth the 1988 Orioles). The answer I came up with was no, but not by much.

Luckily one of the three late Spring Training signings and first man to rock a beard in a Baltimore uniform under the Showalter administration, Andrew Cashner, pitched six strong innings and the bats woke up enough to propel the team to a 5-2 win over Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees.  So good for them. Cashner picks up the first win for an Orioles starting pitcher on the season (despite Dylan Bundy's best efforts) and Chris Davis is hitting a respectable (for him) .250 when he's not leading off.

So, good job Orioles.  Let's see if you can make it two in a row and send Yankee fans into an early season meltdown.