Tagged: Orioles

AL East

Note: a “straight run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on basic runs created and component ERA without the conversion into an ERA, i.e. just using the runs allowed estimate.  I then applied the Pythagorean Formula with an exponent of 1.83.

The AL East is split between three excellent teams, a pretty good one, and one that is downright terrible.  The three excellent teams are within 3 games of the lead, but that fourth one, the pretty good one, is only three games out of third place and only six games from the lead.  And they can really hit the heck out of the ball.

The top of the division is currently occupied by two excellent teams: the Tampa Bay Rays and those Damn New York Yankees.  
The Rays had been burning through their opposition and setting a fearsome pace in the division, with a run differential at or near 100 runs as recently as two weeks ago, but they have hit kind of a rough patch of late, having gone 6-6 over the past two weeks.  For one thing, the pace they were setting, for 115 or so wins, simply wasn’t sustainable, as it was being paced by lights-out pitching.  They still have a share of first place, sitting tied with the dreaded Yankees.  Despite recent signs of life, Centerfielder B. J. Upton continues to mystify, as his obvious talent stands squarely at odds with his on-field performance.  First baseman Carlos Pena has struggled at the plate, though he has recently been on a tear and set the Rays’ franchise records for home runs in a career.  As far as their young and dynamic rotation goes, David Price has been great, performing well in the Rays’ first game against the Braves, but both Matt Garza and James Shields have been inconsistent.  Nevertheless, the Rays still have an excellent defensive foundation, with very good pitching and a very good defense.  Their offense has slowed down, but they still project to be a top-level team.  Current record: 41-24, 0 GB; straight run differential projection 104 wins, .642 winning percentage; component runs projection 97 wins, .599 winning percentage.
Those damn New York Yankees are up to their usual tricks, proving they are among the best teams in baseball.  They occupy first place along with the Rays.  They have split the first two games of their series with the Phillies, including a game one hammering of Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay on Tuesday night.  C. C. Sabathia kind of returned to form on Tuesday, though he still had a long inning, one in which he seemed to lose focus and surrender three runs.  Most impressively, the Yankees have played well despite missing A-Rod in the lineup.  (A-Rod, in fact, may find his pursuit of certain career marks threatened by his lingering hip injury issues.)  The Bombers have been bombing, but, again, the recovery of A-Rod remains a concern, though this team is quite good in all areas, though probably not among the elite fielding teams in baseball.  But, hey, if you can pitch and hit like these guys can, how out of it can you get?  Over the last two weeks, the Yankees have been 9-4, and since the 5th of June they have surrendered more than four runs only twice.  Current record: 41-24 0 GB; straight run differential projection 104 wins, .642 winning percentage; component run projection 103 wins, .633 winning percentage.
The Red Sox have been rising, despite the fact that one prominent Boston sportswriter pretty much wrote them off for dead in the third week of May (if you check his archive, you’ll see that he hasn’t written about the Sox since then).  Another Boston columnist at least notes that the Sox have been rolling “despite lots of bumps.”  Actually, the Sox are either (a) underperforming or (b) getting a bit unlucky relative to their run differential, and they still are playing pretty darn well, meaning that both the Rays and Yankees ought not get too focused on each other just yet.  Remarkably, the Sox have been doing all of this since their putative ace, Josh Beckett, went on the DL after having been, well–suboptimal may be too nice, and rancid may be too harsh–not exactly ace-like to begin the season. Despite Shaughnessy’s early season whining and griping and moaning and crying over Adrian Beltre not being very good, Beltre is hitting the heck out of the ball, and the Sox offense is really clicking, despite being without Jacoby Ellsbury.  Heck, their rookie rightfielder smashed a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw in the Show on Saturday afternoon.  Over the past two weeks the Red Sox have been 9-5.  They are 39-28 and but 3 GB the division lead.  Their straight run differential projection is for 94 wins and .577 winning percentage; their component run projection is 95 wins and a .588 winning percentage.
The Blue Jays unfortunately reside in the AL East.  I say unfortunately, because they have been very good this season, and very, very powerful at the plate, leading the majors in home runs with 103 dingers in their first 67 games, putting them on pace for 249 home runs for the season.  They are only 3 games out of third place, but that puts them 17.5 games above the fifth place team, the odious Orioles (but more about them later).  The Jays are crushing the ball despite a serious fall-off in production from both Aaron Hill and Adam Lind.  Instead, other Jays’ sluggers have paced them.  I watched their game against the Padres tonight, and catcher John Buck smashed a ball off the Western Metal Supply Company building in the left field corner of Petco Park, a ball that hit the top facing of that building and would have probably flown another hundred feet had a damn building not intercepted its flight.  At any rate, the Blue Jays have shown some decent pitching here and there, but even with their power, their lack of on-base percentage makes them a suboptimal team in a division as stacked as this one.  The Yankees and Red Sox simply grind away on offense, the Rays pitch and field as well as anyone, and the Blue Jays are somewhat exposed in such an environment.  Given these facts, Joe Pawlinoski wonders what the Jays should do, as in, should they acquire pieces via the trade market for the here and now or should they focus on the future.  Like Pawlinoski, I think they’d be better off looking to next year.  Over the past two weeks the Jays a
re 5-8, but they have been on the road since the 8th, and they are a better home team and could thus be quite the spoiler down the road for those top three teams in this division.  The Jays are 36-31, 6 GB in the East; their straight run differential projection has them with 87 wins and a .537 winning percentage; their component run projection is for 86 wins and a .533 winning percentage.
Ah, the lowly Orioles. Man, what can I say but they really suck.  And there is yet more pain to follow.  Their bullpen is just a mess, with injuries and inconsistency galore. Their young starting pitching, which had me convinced that they could compete for fourth place in the division, has been, well, terrible.  They don’t score runs for their best two pitchers, Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie, who have the worst and the fourth or fifth worst run support in the American League.  And, as far as their offense goes, their first basemen are being offensively outproduced by three National League pitching staffs.  Yes, that’s what you just read: first basemen are producing less than pitchers are. If that isn’t the definition of The Suck Offensive Ineptitude, I don’t know what is.  Over the past two weeks, Baltimore is 3-11, and they have allowed 95 runs in those 14 games, an average of almost 7 runs allowed per game; their offense has scored but 38 runs in those same 14 games, barely above 2.5 per game; good grief, but that is terrible.  While rookie starter Jake Arrieta has been a welcome sight, and while both Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine have met with the team regarding the manager’s job, I have no clue what they could possibly do at this point to improve.  In the same vein of darkly despairing rhetoric, follow the link to see a late May rant at the Baltimore organization by an Oriole’s follower (I particularly like the opening: “Let’s not kid ourselves: The O’s organization has officially taken any hope of a brighter future and thrown it out of the window.”) The Orioles are 18-48, 30 games under .500 (with only 66 games played thus far), and 23.5 games behind the division co-leaders; for goodness’ sake, they are 17.5 games out of fourth place in a five team division!  Their straight run differential projection is for 46 wins and a .284 winning percentage, which would make them the worst team since the 2003 Tigers, who were the worst team since the 1962 Mets, which is epically terrible territory.  The Orioles component run projection is slightly “better” at 50 wins and a .309 winning percentage.  Wow, the Orioles are terrible.
Come back tomorrow for a look at the AL Central.
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Time for the Orioles to Deal?

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says, “Yes”, and he means the Orioles should deal off the older talent like Kevin Millwood, Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton, and Miguel Tejada.  He also says, “There’s no point in waiting,” and First Pitch Strike can’t disagree, for the AL East Standings show the Birds 8 games out of fourth place in the division.

Mariners’ Bats Awaken; Orioles Still Win

The Orioles beat the Mariners 6-5 on Thursday morning (out here on the Left Coast this game started at 9:05 am).

The Mariners’ bats came alive, and Felix Hernandez pitched 7 strong innings, surrendering a single run and only 5 hits.  Seattle, behind nice days at the plate from LF Michael Saunders and RF Ichiro, chased Baltimore starter Kevin Millwood after 6 2/3 innings, roughing him up for 5 ER and 3 HR, which is about a week and a half’s worth of HR output for their “offense.”  Note that Millwood somehow manages a no-decision in what was his worst start, of the season, with his most runs allowed.  (His Game Log can be viewed here.)  

Nevertheless, thanks to Luke Scott’s 8th inning grand slam, the Orioles rallied.  As you can see, Scott’s homerun represented a rather large swing in WPA (.586!).  

But wait, we are talking about the Orioles, and things did not go smoothly in the 9th.
Trailing 5-6 in the top of the ninth, the Mariners got two runners on, threatening mightily, but with two outs, Josh Wilson, trying to score from second on a base hit by Ichiro, was gunned down on a close play at the plate to end the game.
Mariners fans collectively said, er, “Ay, caramba!” and slapped their foreheads, with the echoes of that event still being heard this far south in the Willamette Valley. 
With this loss, the Mariners have lost eight consecutive series.  
To get a better sense of how incredible–as in, defying the credible–this loss was for the Mariners, try reading Geoff Baker’s liveblog account at the Seattle Times

Orioles’ Begesen Posts Second Straight Solid Start

*Whew*  There sure are a log of S’s in the title of this post, but the title does say it all: Brad Bergesen of the Orioles again had another excellent start.  After holding the Twins scoreless over six innings last Thursday, Bergesen tonight limited the already limited Seattle “offense” to 1 earned run over 7 2/3 innings pitched.  He surrendered 5 hits while walking only 2 and striking out 3.

The Baltimore bullpen made things interesting once Bergesen left the game, and closer Alfredo Simon entered the game with none out and two on in the top of the ninth, following some relatively ineffective work by Will Ohman and Koji Uehara, the two of them combining for -.058 WPA. While Simon allowed one inherited runner to score, he also managed to prevent a major outbreak of run-scoring and the Orioles held on to win 5-2, with Simon earning the save.  

Scott Baker Looking Good Again; Mauer in Starting Lineup

Scott Baker was very effective Saturday night against the Orioles.  Facing their third loss in a four game series against the Major League worst Orioles, Baker was very sharp, going 8 innings and surrendering only three hits and one run; he posted a .407 WPA (win probability added) for the game.

Thanks to his gem, the Twins can salvage a split in the series.
More analysis of the Twins’ doubleheader split available here at the always interesting (for Twins fans) Twinkie Town.
More details on Baker’s performance here. That makes two very solid outings in a row following a couple of, er, marginal starts.
Joe Mauer returned to the Twins lineup Sunday, starting at DH.   

Bergeson & Company Hancuff Twins

The Orioles won 2-0, but, watching the game, it looked more like the Twins lost 0-2.
For last night, at least, the Twins’ hitting woes with runners on base, and particularly in scoring position, cost them a game they could’ve, should’ve won.  Jesse at Twinkie Town summarizes things well:

The Twins managed to put runners in scoring position against him on a number of occasions, including one of the two bases-loaded situations Minnesota managed in the game, but each time he escaped.

Looking at the box scored it’d be easy to wonder what the hell happened.  Bergesen didn’t record a single strikeout, but allowed six hits and a pair of walks.  None of it matters, of course, except the big goose egg he included under the runs category.

On the night the Twins were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, including the two aforementioned bases loaded situations.  Commence gnashing of teeth and shredding of garments.

 
Aside from a hanging Pavano slider in the top of the second to Ty Wigginton (!), Twins pitching was very good: no runs allowed aside from Wigginton’s two run blast.  More on Ty Wigginton being a “pleasant surprise for [the] O’s” can be found here at (the always illuminating) FanGraphs, courtesy of Joe Pawlikowski.  Money shot quote:
Ty Wigginton has done nothing but hit since taking over as the full-time second baseman. His defense doesn’t stack up to Roberts’, but his offense has more than bridged the gap. His .445 wOBA currently ranks sixth in the AL.

Granted, Ty won’t keep it up, but like I said above, and as Pawlikowski concludes: 
If not for his production, where would the Orioles be? They’re 7-18 since Roberts’s last game. The difference between Wigginton and Roberts’s other most likely replacement, Julio Lugo, is more than 1 WAR right now. One win might not seem like a huge swing, but at this point the Orioles need everything they can get.
As indicated at the top, the problem last night was sleepy Twins’ bats; like it said here on Wednesday, the Twins are hitting below .160 with the bases loaded.  But like I’ve said before, this means the Twins, who are off to a very good start, have room for improvement.
On the other hand, the Orioles got one of what must be among their best–i
f not the best–pitching performance of the season.  Craig Calcaterra says:
I’d like to think that the Orioles pitchers are getting a secret kick out of Andy MacPhail publicly criticiz[ing] all the hitters, what with all of that “the hitting should be fine but the pitching will be a question mark” jazz from the spring.
An Aside: The kestrel that hung out all night on the right field fair pole was fairly entertaining given the lack of Minnesota offense.  It’s capture of that moth, as highlighted on the Twins broadcast, was actually the play of the game, given the random flight patterns of moths, and the bird’s ability to change make that catch and then athletically pivot towards its perch.
Some additional notes on the Twins:
Phil Mackey, on ESPN Twin Cities, gives J. J. Hardy some nice love for his Wednesday night heroics against the Tigers, particularly for his glovework, saying:

Hardy currently leads major league shortstops in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) — a defensive metric used by several MLB teams that includes a fielder’s range, arm strength, ability to turn double plays, and ability to avoid making errors.

Over the past three seasons combined, Hardy ranks third in UZR behind only Jimmy Rollins and Cesar Izturis. Hardy has also committed the sixth-fewest errors (23) among shortstops over the past three years.

Information about UZR is available here and, if you prefer, non-Tigers-loving analysis, here as well.  As always, stats like this can be found at the phenomenal FanGraphs website (FanGraphs homepage).
Also, I see here that the Friday night pitching duel between Millwood and Liriano has had to be rescheduled due to “inclement weather.”  
By the way, if you want to see a complete meltdown over the early season, er, performance of the Cleveland ballclub, I really, really have to recommend this video.