Friday, April 26, 2019

Orioles Victory Card 10: Time to check on how the season is going

Orioles Victory Number 10: 4-3 over the Chicago White Sox

1991 Score Bob Milacki

May 11th.  That's when I wrote about the Orioles 10th win last year.  They're a solid seventeen days ahead of last years pace.  And that's with a decidedly worse roster. Not to mention they've already gone through their first round with the AL East.  While 10-16 and a last-place position in the standings isn't anything to write home about it is at least a little better than what we were expecting.

They're on pace for about 62 wins which translates to 100 losses. From a financial position I'm happy about the pace (yes I took the over on 59.5 wins before the season started) but not comfortable. There are more four game losing streaks in the future, so it would be nice if they offset them with a couple of three or four game winning streaks. If they can up their winning percentage to around .400, that would be fantastic.

Do they have the horses to get to that mark? Maybe? The offense seems to be coming around and they've had a couple of decent starts. Chris Davis has hits, Trey Mancini has shaken off his knee injury and a sophomore slump, Renato Nunez looks like a diamond in the rough as does Dwight Smith, Jr. Now, a couple of those names could end up being trade bait as the summer rolls around so there could be a little drop off post trade deadline, but in theory some of the holes could be filled by the next wave of Orioles stars.

Pitching has been a wild card. There have been some good moments and a lot of not so good moment. Andrew Cashner has 4 wins while John Means has 3. Cashner could be pitching his way to a contender while Means, an 11th round pick from 2014, could be the surprise of the season. Meanwhile Dylan Bundy doesn't have a win and continues to struggle with watching balls fly over the fence, they have no closer and they've used three position players out of the bullpen already.  So again, a mixed bag.

All of this means that the Orioles are right on pace with where everyone thought they would be. They are going to lose about 100 games. There are going to be disappointments, Cedric Mullins and Tanner Scott, to go along with the success stories.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 9: It's Brady Time!

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 9: 9-1 over the Chicago White Sox

2001 Upper Deck UD Reserve Brady Anderson

Chris Davis hit a home run yesterday. It was his second of the year and 242nd of his Orioles career. Currently he ranks 6th all-time in franchise history trailing only Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Andrew Jones. It is possible, with a halfway decent season, he could catch Jones who is 21 big flies ahead of him on the list.

The man pictured above, Brady Anderson, is, along with Davis, one of only two Orioles to have hit 50 home runs in a season.  Anderson, currently the VP of Baseball Operations, slugged 209 home runs during his playing days in Baltimore. Known for freakish workout habits and long side burns, Anderson was a fan favorite during his playing days.

In his prime (and when he wasn't out injured) he was the type of ballplayer that most teams would like to have on their roster. While his home run totals fluctuated from year to year he was a doubles machine, racking up 329 of them over his career. From 1992 to 2000 he never had a season with less than 25 doubles. He could steal bases as well. His 307 SBs are a modern day record for Orioles players (George Sisler had 354 but most of those were for the St. Louis Browns). His defense wasn't too shabby either.

For the past few years his role on in the organization has been a little nebulous. Some have referred to him as a "shadow GM" and his roles in acquiring players as always been somewhat unknown. It was a bit of a surprise that the new regime kept him on over the offseason. New GM Mike Elias seems to value his "institutional knowledge" and he claims that there is plenty of work to split up between himself, Anderson and the rest of the front office staff.

Could keeping Anderson on board be a public relations ploy by the new staff? Possibly, as Anderson was one of the most popular players over the past 30 years and cutting him adrift wouldn't have been a great move for a club that will have a cavalcade of new faces over the next few years. Fans do enjoy having a bridge from one generation to the next and Anderson can fill that role over the next few years. He's also probably on his way to becoming a GM at some point so why not stick around and learn some new tricks from Elias?

Due to the breakout nature of his one solitary 50-HR campaign (he never hit more than 24 in any other season), his statuesque physique, and the fact that his best year came in the mid-90s, his name was constantly associate with the steroid rumors of the day. There was never any definitive proof that he juiced and he adamantly denies it to this day. He never popped up in the Mitchell Report or failed a test or was caught with a bottle of Andro in his locker.

This isn't an argument for or against if he used steroids, just an enjoyment of the fact that he had a pretty good career for the Oriole and that for my generation at least, the number 9 will always be associated with Brady Anderson.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 8: It's Bowman Season!

Orioles Victory Number 8: 6-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Bowman Ryan Mountcastle

While the Orioles were blowing and regaining leads against the best team in the American League, hundreds of card collectors around the globe were ripping open packs of brand new 2019 Bowman cards. It's where the prospects are. For those who focus on the future more than the present, Bowman is the set that really gets things going.

For me, I randomly buy some Bowman here and there and then forget about it. Every couple of years or so I'll go through what I bought just to make sure I don't have any hidden gems floating about as it sometimes takes a few years for prospects to pop and make it to the majors.

Take the card above. It's three years old and Mountcastle still hasn't made it to the majors. He is still regarded as one of the Orioles top prospects ( has him second as does Baseball Prospectus while Baseball America has him ranked third). Everyone agrees that the young man knows how to hit a baseball, but where exactly he's going to play on the field remains a mystery. Already in his young career he's lined up at shortstop, third base, and (starting this season) at first base.

It wouldn't be shocking to see him get some reps in the majors later this summer with eyes on him being a full-time major league player next season, but for this season he should stay in Norfolk and demolish AAA pitching.

So who makes the cut for this season's future prospects in the 2019 Bowman set? Well, according to the checklist on, the base set has two rookie cards (Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart) along with veterans Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens. The prospects are:

Rylan Bannon - drafted in the 8th round in 2017 by the Dodgers and part of the Manny Machado deal. The infielder is ranked 23rd by and started the season in Bowie.

Ryan Mountcastle - in Norfolk for this season.

Ryan McKenna - The speedy outfielder was picked in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and is currently ranked 7th overall by He's playing the outfield for Bowie this season.

Yusniel Diaz - The centerpiece of the Machado deal last season, the Cuban-born outfielder struggled after the trade initially, but started to pick things up towards the end of the season. He is the consensus top prospect in the organization and despite starting the season in Bowie, may crack the Orioles line-up by the end of the season.

DL Hall - Hey, a pitching prospect! The 21st pick overall in the 2017 draft, Hall is rapidly moving up through the Orioles system. He starts in Frederick this season, but may see time in Bowie as well. has him ranked third overall behind Diaz and Mountcastle.

Last year's top pick, Grayson Rodriguez makes an appearance in the Bowman Scouts' Top 100 insert set while Dean Kramer, who had a cup of coffee with the Orioles last year, has a Chrome Prospect Autograph insert.

I doubt I'll invest too much into Bowman this year, probably just pick up a team set or participate in  a group break, but if you like speculating on young talent, this is the product to get.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 7: Chris Davis' Best Weekend in a Long, Long Time

Orioles Victory Number 7: 8-1 over the Boston Red Sox

2016 Topps Now Chris Davis (card number 13) . Print Run of 266

It's funny how quick time goes. The card you see above was "released" on April 11th, 2016. That's only three seasons ago. For Chris Davis it must seem like a lifetime. When this card was made available by Topps, Davis was coming off of a 2015 in which he hit 47 home runs, posted a 5.3 WAR and slashed .262/.361/.923. Even with 206 strikeouts that was pretty impressive.

It was also the first year of his brand new $161 million 7-year contract, the most expensive deal in Orioles history. The Orioles got off to a hot start that season. As the card mentions, the Orioles were 6-0 thanks to his game-winning home run. They would add one more win to run their franchise-record streak to 7 games.

The Orioles would go on to win 82 more games that year and finish second in the AL East which was good enough to qualify for the Wild Card play-in game. What happened there is best saved for another day.

As for Davis, he had an o.k. season. His slash line dropped to .221/.332/.792 and he only hit 38 home runs.  He still posted a 3.8 WAR and had 38 home runs. Not a great season (especially for $23 million) but it wasn't horrible. Unfortunately it would be the best season he would post for the next three seasons.

Almost three years to the date (April 13th, 2019) Topps produced another Topps Now card of Chris Davis. This card celebrated the fact that Davis had managed to pick up his first hit in 54 at-bats, a streak that started way back in September of 2018.

Not quite as memorable of an accomplishment.

In today's victory, Davis continued his slow crawl back from the depth of Hell with his first home run since August 24th, 2018.

  It was a vintage Chris Davis home run, gone from the moment it cracked off off the bat. It was also his hardest ball hit of the season:
So, is Chris Davis back? Not in the sense of the 2013-15 Chris Davis where he was one of the most feared power hitters in the league. Is he back in the sense of providing at least replacement level numbers? Possibly.

He finished off the series against the Red Sox by going 4 for 12 (.333), driving in six runs, with two doubles and a home run. He did strike out four times (including twice on Monday), but most of the balls he put in play were pretty well struck. There are signs that perhaps he is poised to have a better season than last year despite his slow start. His current BABIP is .125, yet his average exit velocity of balls put in play is 90.4 MPH and he has a hard hit percentage of 50%. That means he's making solid contact but it hasn't been translating to hits until this weekend.

At some point all of these hard hit balls have to start falling in. He's also making more contact than in the past. While we're still well within the small sample size realm, his 34.3% strike out rate is the lowest since 2016. So if he's striking out less and hitting the ball harder, that should translate to more hits. Hopefully.

It's unlikely that he ever approaches the highs of 2013 and 2015, but if he can get back to the 2016-type of production that would be enough to stay in the line-up and help the 2019 Orioles win more than their expected shares of games.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 6: Tim Nordbrook and Bobby Gritch Entwined in Free Agency

Orioles Victory Number 6: 9-5 over the Boston Red Sox

1976 Topps Tim Nordbrook

Today's card comes courtesy of a trade. Now that I'm settled back in and have access to the complete collection, the trading has picked back up. Two trades in ten days is pretty good for me. In exchange for a bunch 2019 Topps duplicates, Trading Card Database member madams30 sent this card and thirty-nine other cards I needed from Texas.

While the five 1976 Topps he included were the hook, the nine 1988 Topps may have been the most important. Why? Because they completed my 30 year quest to complete that set. I quest that, if I'm not mistaken started with a box of cards purchased from Price Club (for you young kids, that's what Costco was before it was Costco). It was the first time I purchased an entire box of cards and if I'm not mistaken I did consume all of the gum that came in the backs.

That box had 540 cards (36 packs of 15 cards each) and most likely included just a few duplicates. That means it took me 30 years to knock the remaining 250 or so cards left on the checklist.  Speaking of the checklist, I'm sure more than a few of them have cards marked off on them.

Pretty sure Tony Armas completes the collection. Could be wrong though.

That's enough about 1988 Topps, let's get back to Nordbrook. He was born in Baltimore in 1949 and drafted by his hometown club in the ninth round of the 1970 draft (18 spots after Rich "Goose" Gossage).

He made his way through the minors in four years, highlighted by a .287/.364/.685 slash line for the Rochester Red Wings in 1974. That earned him a quick six game call-up in 1974 and another 40 games in 1975 as a back-up infielder. He was a solid defender but he wasn't going to unseat Bobby Grich and Mark Belanger.

He appeared in 27 more games for the Orioles in 1976 before being sold to the California Angels in September of that year. He ended his Baltimore career with a slash line of .183/.301/.498. He bounced around for another three seasons, seeing time with the Angels, White Sox and Blue Jays before playing his last game in 1979.

Oddly enough, Nordbrook and Grich would intersect again post-Baltimore as they were both part of the inaugural MLB free agency class in 1976. Part of the reason the Angels bought Nordbrook from the Angels in 1976 was because he was set to be a free agent. Back in those days, teams were limited to signing only two free agents. The exception was that they could replace the number of players they lost in free agency. The first two signees for California were Don Baylor and Joe Rudi. With Nordbrook choosing free agency, that opened up a third slot for the Angels.

That slot went to California-native Gritch. As part of the first free-agent class Gritch could be considered the first free agent to spurn the New York Yankees. They wanted him, and supposedly offered him a $2.2 million contract. He turned it down to play in front of his parents in California. The Yankees didn't sulk for long, they used that money to sign Reggie Jackson. That turned out ok.

Also of note. While this card shows Nordbrook wearing the number 43, he changed it late in 1975. The new number - 8. He and Dave Skaggs would be the last players to wear it before a certain lanky infielder from Havre de Grace, Maryland would make it famous.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 5: All hail our new hero Trey Mancini

Orioles Victory Number 5: 12-4 over the Oakland A's

2017 Topps Update Trey Mancini

The headlines from yesterday's game will all be about Chris Davis and his ongoing streak of futility. Lost in the schadenfreude of his 49 consecutive at bats without a hit was that Trey Mancini went 3-for-3 with 2 runs and 2 runs batted in. His first inning home run, the fifth of the season, ignited the scoring outburst that led to victory.

With the mass exodus of players and Davis' current hardships, Mancini has emerged as the face of the franchise. Despite entering just his third full season in the major leagues he is the veteran leader of the team. A stellar rookie season was followed by a less than successful sophomore year. Was it a product of his knee injury? Or, was it Mancini reverting back to a norm?

Honestly it's hard to say. This is a player that has barely cracked the 300 game mark in the majors. He is 27, which is to say he should be in the middle of his prime playing days. It also puts him in an interesting position. He's not young enough to be considered a prospect, but he isn't exactly a grizzled veteran.

So what do the Orioles do with him? Do they build around him or do they trade him off for more assets. He may be on the older side, but he is also an extremely affordable player who has power. He has 56 home runs in the 318 games hes played in. He also hits a lot of line drives. For a power hitter his average launch angle is 6.4. Usually a power hitter will be in double digits (Aaron Judge is at 11.8 this season). A team needing right-handed power could be interested him especially since he's under team control for another three seasons.

Of course, all of those reasons are why the Orioles should keep him as well. He's their best player and he's affordable (he's earning just $575,000) and isn't blocking anyone in the system. In fact, he's most likely best as a first baseman so he's kind of blocked by Davis. Besides the fans (all 6,585 that showed up on Monday) need someone to rally around during these trying times.

It seems he wants to embrace the role of leader. Speaking to NBC Sports in spring training he said,

"I’m definitely trying to do my best to be a leader on the team and be somebody that the community can look up to as well." 

He can do that by being an example to the younger players on the team, by remaining a professional no matter how trying the season may be. He can also do it by being the best hitter on the team. It's going to be a long season, but at least Trey Mancini gives the fans a reason to keep going to the games.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 4: A little here's your card

Orioles Victory Number 4: 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays

2002 Upper Deck MVP Tony Batista

The next game isn't over so I still made the deadline. The ol' day game after a night game got me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 3 - David Hess Will Lead the Way

Orioles Victory Number 3: 6-5 over the Toronto Blue Jays

2018 Topps Chris Tillman

Seriously, I'm obviously having trouble keeping up with these wins. No off days, actual morning shifts and a two hour time differential is wrecking havoc on my free time writing. Oh and I was recapping the Lightning victory over the Senators as well.  It's hard to watch two games at once when you're supposed to be keeping track of one of them.

So I missed David Hess' 6+ inning, bullpen-saving start against the Blue Jays.  The Orioles really needed a starter to work deep into a game in order to save some arms. It shouldn't be so shocking that he worked into the seventh inning, he did work at least six innings in seven of his starts last year. Hopefully, he can keep that rolling this year and become one of those unsung, back-of-the-rotation innings-eaters that help keep a team around .500.

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar keep hitting and Chris Davis managed a walk (baby steps). The bullpen did enough to hold the win, even if it was a bit of a Katie-bar-the-door ending. Brandon Hyde kept true to his closer-by-committee stance as Richard Bleier became the third pitcher to pick up a save. 

Hopefully they keep finding a way.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Orioles Victory Card # 2: Well...this was unexpected

Orioles Victory Number 2: 7-5 over the New York Yankees

2002 Fleer Ultra Brook Fordyce

If you had the Orioles taking two out of three from the Yankees on opening weekend, well you're better at this than I am. I was thinking one of three would be good and if they were at least competitive for all three, but lost, that would be ok as well.

Instead, timely offense, Yankee mistakes and a cavalcade of relievers all led to the O's finishing up the weekend in second place, mere percentage points out of first. This could be the high point of the season (if you're a glass half empty person) or the beginning of a super fun summer (if you like the glass being half full).

One of the fun surprises was the animated actions of Pedro Severino. It was a delight seeing him pump his fist after strikes and emphatically position his glove to remind the pitcher where he wanted the pitch to be.  As a former catcher (through high school, at least) I remember there were certain pitchers that needed a little extra support or encouragement. Either they didn't pay attention that much or were quick to get down on themselves if something went wrong.

Watching him pump up Dylan Bundy throughout the first four innings was great. Hopefully, that's something that can continue throughout the season. As for Bundy, there were some positives to take from his start. He only made it through 3.2 innings, but he did strike out 7 and more importantly did not allow a home run. That's something that only happened in 9 of his 31 starts last season and only once in his last 15 appearances. 

The five walks were a bit of a bummer and the biggest reason he couldn't make it out of the fourth inning, but it's still a positive start for him. There were five flyballs hit against him, but nothing that came close to leaving the yard. That's quite an accomplishment against the Yankees. He'll get to face them in his next start in Camden Yards this weekend, hopefully the results are the same.

John Means bailed the pitching staff out with a solid 3+ innings of work. He racked up 5 strikeouts of his own by mostly featuring his change-up. It was working so well that he basically broke Giancarlo Stanton  with a change-up to end the jam the Orioles were in in the fourth inning. I'm all for him rolling through the AL East throwing his change-up 45.6% of the time. Just keep throwing it until they hit it.

On to the Blue Jays!