Archive for February, 2011

Eagles Offseason Needs

Posted in Philadelphia Eagles with tags on February 24, 2011 by birdbytes

I’ve been promising this one for about two months and before it’s put off any longer, check out my latest Bleacher Report article.

It focuses on five areas that I think the Eagles need to improve (not necessarily about particular moves they’ll make to achieve that).  I think it beats the Kevin Kolb trade speculation or anything related to the CBA.

Enjoy!

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2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: OF & DH

Posted in Baltimore Orioles with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by birdbytes

This is the second to last installment of my 2011 O’s season preview.  I’ll be finishing up later this week with a quick grade of the new Buck Showalter-selected coaching staff.  In March, I’ll talk more about the upcoming season as well as make some predictions.  However, I’ll reserve that until we see some Spring games first (they start Monday, folks).

Without further adieu, the outfield and designated hitter.

The Orioles are quite fine, thanks, when it comes to their outfield positions.  In fact, I’d be surprised not to see a trade (for a quality 3rd starter) involving one of them.  The starters are solid – Luke Scott in left field, Adam Jones in center field and Nick Markakis in right field.

Scott is coming off a 27 home run, .284 average season at DH.  The biggest question mark for him is his defensive play, but I think it is blown out of proportion.  Last season in 14 games in the outfield he had a 1.000 fielding percentage.  His last lengthy stay on defense came in 2008 and he posted a .990 fielding percentage.  That’ll be just fine if he hits 25 or 30 homers.

Adam Jones is a potential All-Star perennially, but he needs to be more consistent for the long season.  Last year he hit a solid .284 and 19 home runs.

Finally, Nick Markakis – a fan and personal favorite.  He needs to bounce back from a “sluggish” 2010 that saw him hit .297 but only drive in 60 runs.  The year before he drove in over 100 runs.

The O’s also have depth with Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold.  I don’t expect both to be with the O’s on April 1 in Tampa, but I do think they’ll both be in the organization (unless a solid 2nd or 3rd starter is offered with prospects).

Grade: A-

The addition of the Orioles final piece of the player puzzle in 2011 at designated hitter, will help the cause for Markakis.

Last but certainly not the least in my preview is Vladimir Guerrero.  Vlad is a seasoned veteran who those of us in Central PA remember from his days with the Harrisburg Senators.  Everyone else will remember him best for his Anaheim Angels days, and everyone in Texas will remember him for the run to the Series last year.  How he will be remembered in Baltimore remains to be seen (Sammy Sosa ring a bell?).   Vlad hit .300 with 29 home runs in 2010, a season in which he played 152 games.  He struggled down the stretch, but if he hits 30 home runs before August, we’ll take it.

Grade: A

Tag, Michael Vick is “It”

Posted in Philadelphia Eagles with tags , on February 15, 2011 by birdbytes

As expected, the Eagles used their exclusive franchise tag to retain their rights to Michael Vick if there is football next season.  I would like to see them work out a 3 year deal before the strike so that there is no remote possibility that they lose out on his services.

I’ll be writing about the priorities from my standpoint when time permits, but wanted to quickly give my input on this.

I like the move but it’s all moot right now because there is no real guarantee that there is a tag in the new bargaining agreement.  However, from what I have read and heard this was really their only option.

And frankly, Vick goes from $5 mil to $20 mil.  Not too shabby for a guy who is still on probation and only 2 years removed from a prison term, is it?

2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: SS and 3B

Posted in Baltimore Orioles with tags , , on February 15, 2011 by birdbytes

Combining the left side of the infield in one entry tonight.  Offensively, shortstop has been a liability for a few seasons now – Cesar Izturis is still with the club, but he’s a defensive shortstop.  In other words, what he has in defense, his lack of a bat negatively makes up for it.  He’ll be a serviceable utility infielder for the O’s in 2011.  Meanwhile, his replacement comes from the Minnesota Twins as the central figure in one of two trades to start the offseason.

J.J. Hardy hit .263 in 2010 with 38 RBI and 134 triples (6 homers).  Doesn’t sound like gaudy numbers, but it’s a definite upgrade from Izturis (.230, 1 HR in 2010).  That alone should be sufficient in telling you this is an upgraded position.  The other piece is that Cesar is supposedly this great defensive shortstop, but compared to Hardy, they are about the same.  Izturis has a career .980 fielding percentage while Hardy has a career percentage of .978.

It’s not a lot of pop from a position that once featured Miguel Tejada and Cal Ripken, but it’s a nice upgrade.

Grade: C+

Rounding out the infield in 2011 will be Mark Reynolds, slugger and strikeout king formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  2009 was his best season, when he slugged 44 home runs and hit .260.  Last season was not nearly as successful, but he did swat 32 homers.  However, he hit for just a .198 average.  The well-documented downside of Reynolds is the strikeouts.  He is, literally, strikeout king – 211, 223 and 204 the last three seasons.  If he hits 30 or more home runs and the rest of the offense comes through, I think the Orioles would be happy to swallow the K’s here.

Not a bad pickup for the O’s at 3B.  Last season they had Miguel Tejada, a natural shortstop, and Jay Bell (who is not quite ready for MLB action).  This is a slight upgrade, and if Reynolds limits the strikeouts it could be a diamond(back) in the rough situation.

Grade: C-

2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: Second Base

Posted in Baltimore Orioles with tags , on February 10, 2011 by birdbytes

The 2010 Orioles were missing a major presence in the middle of the infield – and top of the batting order – for about two thirds of the season.  We’re talking about an All Star defensive second baseman with the ability to hit well in the top spot, and an excellent baserunner with the ability to steal  a lot of bases.

Welcome back a healthy Brian Roberts, O’s fans.

Last season Roberts played in just 59 games but hit .278 with 14 doubles, 12 stolen bases, and 28 runs scored.  However, that sample included some time playing hurt so look back to the prior season.  In ’09 Roberts stole 30 bases, 56 doubles and scored 110 runs while batting .283.

You can’t tell me they didn’t miss Roberts last season with those numbers (56 doubles is very, very good).

Not only is Roberts healthy, but he sounds more excited this season because the front office is finally showing that they want to try to win games.  Just imagine Roberts getting on base for Markakis, Guerrero and Lee.  That should produce some runs in the top four spots in this lineup.

He might not be the best player on the team any longer (Markakis, Jones) but he is still a force that the Orioles will be glad to have back this season.

Grade: A

2011 Baltimore Orioles: First Base

Posted in Baltimore Orioles with tags , on February 8, 2011 by birdbytes

Out with the old, in with the new.  Essentially that’s what Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter are saying by replacing 3 of 4 starters in the infield from last season.  The biggest splash – although J.J. Hardy was a good upgrade – was adding 1B Derrek Lee.  Lee played with the Cubs and Braves last season, a career .282 hitter with 19 home runs a year ago.  Compare that to Ty Wigginton, the Orioles 1B last season, who hit .248 but 22 homers.

The Orioles add Derrek Lee for his defense as much as his offense.  He is an excellent defensive first baseman, and a proven leader and winner.

He is, however, coming off a minor injury that will be something to “keep an eye on.”

I like the addition of Lee, but I think they didn’t really upgrade the position, just delayed the inevitable gap there is in the farm system at 1B.  Derrek Lee is sufficient, but is not the power first baseman a la Pujols or Fielder that the Orioles (fans?) covet next offseason.

Grade: C+

Stay tuned this week for 2B and SS as we journey along the O’s position-by-position.

2011 Baltimore Orioles: Catcher

Posted in Baltimore Orioles with tags , , on February 6, 2011 by birdbytes

So far we’ve looked at the Orioles starting rotation and their bullpen.  Up next is who will be calling the games and catching the ball for the Orioles, behind the plate.  At the top of the depth chart in the catcher position for the Orioles is super-prospect Matt Wieters.  Wieters is entering his third season with the parent club and needs to have a breakout season to help this revamped Orioles team to compete.

In 2010 he had a bit of a dropoff in production, hitting just .249 with 11 home runs.  However, one would have to believe that the additions of Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds would help improve the production of the rest of the Orioles.

Defensively, Matt is a solid catcher and will improve in his third season and first full season under Buck Showalter.

Backing him up is most likely Jake Fox (although Chris Tatum stands a chance to compete there).  Fox, a former Chicago Cub, is a career .285 hitter and provides solid depth at the position.  I wouldn’t expect to see him in more than 30 to 40 games as long as Wieters is healthy, but he’ll be a solid backup.

This is one of the positions that is tough to assign a grade to.  Potential exists for Wieters to be a top catcher in this league, but so far he is fairly average.

Grade: C+

Check back this week for 1B, 2B, and SS.

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