Archive for the Baltimore Orioles Category

Back from the abyss: Prediction Review

Posted in Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sixers on June 7, 2011 by birdbytes

It’s been too long since my last post here, and it’s time to eat my words on the NHL and NBA predictions.  It’s also time to say “I told you so” about the O’s.

I predicted the Penguins would advance past round 1, and they were one win away from doing so.  But Tampa caught Lightning in a bottle (pun intended) and rode that all the way to the East finals.  There’s always next year…

The Sixers prediction was more tongue-in-cheek, and they played competitively in game-to-game but overall the Heat were too much for the Sixers.

The Orioles are four games under .500 headed into today.  They’ve won 27 games already, which they hadn’t done last year until July.  I hear people say stuff like “take out that 6-1 start, and they are…” But you can’t take those wins away — they count!  If you take the first seven games out of this season, you have to take the first seven out of last season for comparison.  They were reverse that last year.  Those games DO count.

Anyway I thought the O’s would be a 75 win team.  I went on the record, saying as much on 105.7 the Fan back in April.  At the time, the announcers thought I was crazy to think that 75 wins would be a successful season for the Orioles.

See, the O’s are a .500 club.  They’ll hang around .500 all season, and they’ll lose 4 and 5 in a row at times.  It will be frustrating for the fans that don’t look at the standings from a year ago.  I keep reminding myself that (A) they are not a playoff team, and (B) they are on pace to win 75-80 games.  Then I go back to one year ago in the standings.

Take a look:

2010 Orioles on June 7:  16-21 and 21 games back

2011 Orioles on June 7: 27-31 and 6.5 games back

11 game improvement in the win column and 14.5 game improvement in the standings.  Still in last place, but hey… I’ll take progress.

I’m heading to the Yard tonight for O’s-A’s.  Go O’s!

Orioles Win and Call Up Britton

Posted in Baltimore Orioles on April 2, 2011 by birdbytes

That was something special last night, an opening night 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.  It may only be one game, but the Orioles had great defense and stellar pitching to start the season.

Brian Matusz is going to the 15-day DL, that is the bad news from last night.  The exciting news is that the O’s are calling up top prospect Zach Britton about 20 days earlier than expected.

If you would recall, I mentioned Britton in the preview a couple months ago.  I said he would be here this season and have a chance to be the ace on this staff in the future.  I think he comes up and sticks here as long as he does well.  If he struggles, there is no harm in sending him back to Norfolk.

Now, the Orioles just need to win one of the next two to start with a series victory.

Predicting the Orioles

Posted in Baltimore Orioles on March 28, 2011 by birdbytes

I have already given you my breakdown of each position, and at this point it looks like it’s all pretty accurate.  Health is an issue heading into opening weekend, and how the veterans hold up and mix in with the core players will be key.

My prediction for the first full season under Buck?  I think these O’s are capable of winning around 72 to 78 games this season.  They’ll be in the mix for 81 wins (.500) in August and September, but I just don’t envision them having enough in the tank to get there this year.

However, that’s a strong improvement over last season and I think it will give them something to build on.

Enjoy opening weekend and I’ll see you at the yard!  I will be there on the 7th to see them take on the Detroit Tigers.

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

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.

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