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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 19

Orioles Victory Number 19: 1-0 over the New York Mets

2002 Topps Chris Smith

The Orioles swept a series! Sure it was just a two-game series and sure it was against the Mets. And, yeah, they only scored three runs in the entire series, but wins are wins at this point. Their ace pitched like one and their superstar drove in the only run.  It's just as it all should be.

Another thing that Dylan Bundy (the ace) and Manny Machado (the superstar) have in common? They were back-to-back first round picks for the Orioles. Not only that, but first round picks that actually panned out into every day players, unlike the previous handful of picks the organization made. Which is one of the problems that the Orioles have had in developing their system.

Chris Smith (pictured above) was one of those problems. From 1992 (Jeffrey Hammonds) to 2003 (Nick Markakis) the Orioles brass drafted a collection of busts and disappointments. Beau Hale, Mike Paradis, Darnell McDonald and Rick Elder all heard their names called by the Os in the first round. They all kind of sucked.

Chris Smith was drafted 7th overall in 2001 (with Casey Kotchman, Gabe Gross and Jeremy Bonderman, Dan Haren, Ryan Howard and David Wright were still available. Granted it wasn't the greatest draft of all time). Smith, a 5'11" left-hander from Cumberland Collage was a highly sought after power pitcher.

Granted he had only been pitching for a short time as a college player. He had spent two years at Florida State as a power hitting outfielder before transferring to Cumberland in order to become a pitcher.

He signed shortly after the draft and then was almost immediately injured. Over the next five years he only appeared in 24 games before retiring, never rising above A league ball. He never really recovered from a misdiagnosed rotator cuff and was soon out of professional baseball.

Lately the Orioles have been a little better at scouting talent. Machado (2010), Bundy(2011) and Kevin Gausman (2012) are all currently contributing to the big league team and the picks in the years that follow are among their highest ranked prospects. Ryan Mountcastle (2015) and Hunter Harvey (2013) are examples.

So, will their newest number one pick, Grayson Rodriguez, follow in the lines of Bundy or Smith? Unfortunately, only time will tell.

Orioles Victory Card Number 18

Orioles victory number 18: 2-1 over New York Mets

1967 Topps Pin Up Poster Brooks Robinson

Alex Cobb picked up his second win on the season by striking out seven over six innings. The victory snapped the Orioles latest multi-game losing streak (this one was seven games) and got them within one game of not being in last place. As of Wednesday morning they still trail (lead?) the White Sox by one game for the worst record in the majors.  Hoo-ray.

Today's card - a Brooks Robinson "poster" from the 1967 Topps series.  I guess it's not technically a card since it's printed on paper stock, but this is my blog and I get to set the rules.  For a card that is 51 years old it's in pretty good shape. It is creased, but good luck finding one of these that isn't, and there is a small tear just above his lip.

I picked it up on ebay with some funds left over from off-loading an Ohtani card. I'm not buying a ton of cards right now (mostly because I haven't seen anything other than Donruss in Target over the last couple of weeks) and having given up on hockey cards I'm kind of treading water in terms of acquiring more cardboard.

There is a vague idea of picking up some cards of vintage stars, maybe some Koufax and Mantle cards that won't break the bank. Also, I really have to get around to picking up a Griffey Upper Deck rookie at some point as well as a Ripken 1982 Topps Traded. We'll see what happens.