Monday, February 28, 2011

What to do with Reimold?

The news before spring training indicated that Nolan Reimold had been working all off-season to be in great shape and recover from his Achilles Injury. As we all know, Nolan has an abysmal year in 2010. If you watched or listened to the game today against the Pirates, you would surely know that what was said before camp is true.

-Nolan Reimold went 1-1 today with a HR and 3 walks. Most people would be excited about the HR in this case, but I am actually ecstatic about the walks. The HR is great, but we all know that he has power, and pitchers are just getting warmed up basically. The 3 walks show me that he is calm and determined to make the team. Patience is also another key virtue to his game, and the reason he was so successful in 2009.

-This does not mean he will make the team however, as it really was only one game. Let's remember that his competition also had a good game today.

-Felix Pie also had a Double today, and apparently made a solid catch in Right Field.

-There may not be room for both Pie and Reimold on the 25 man roster unless a few things happen:

1. Nolan Reimold beats out Felix Pie for the 4th Outfielder spot, although there are still some problems for Nolan.
  • Reimold does not play Center Field (Or has not in a long time)
  • Pie has no options left while Nolan does.
2. Jake Fox wins the Backup Catcher role over Craig Tatum, thus allowing the Orioles to keep a 5th Outfielder.

Either of these are possibilities for Reimold to make the 25 man roster. If he keeps playing this way for the entire spring training, I see no reason to send him down to the minors besides the fact that they want him to get at-bats. This is going to be a big thing to watch as spring training goes along, and it's probably the most exciting position battle in camp this year (besides closer).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Orioles Bullpen: Strength or Weakness?

The Orioles have vastly revamped their bullpen in each of the past couple years.

Koji Uehara
  • Jamie Walker
  • Danys Baez
  • George Sherrill
  • Matt Albers
  • Dennis Sarfate
  • Michael Gonzalez

-Looking back at that list now, you could argue that it was fairly horrific. Besides George Sherrill, there were no standouts, although most of them were indeed serviceable. But did they pitch towards their value? I would argue no, and that they were on the wrong type of team for the contract that was given. of course we still have Michael Gonzalez under control for another year, so we should realistically with-hold judgment on him.
Now the question is:

Is the Bullpen a strength or weakness for the Baltimore Orioles?

Lets take a look:
-We are paying Kevin Gregg 10mil over 2 years to most likely be our closer or setup man. Gregg has been surprisingly consistent over his 4 years as a closer (2 FLA, 1 CHC, 1 TOR). But that consistency is generally of a second tier closer. He can be an effective asset to a bullpen though.
-Michael Gonzalez has 1 year at 6mil left on his contract (2yr 12 mil). He missed a large portion of the 2010 season to injury, and as most Orioles fans try not remember, was terrible at the beginning. But after his long DL stint, he was highly effective and possibly our best reliever over the last 2 months. Gonzalez is now fully healthy and looking to complete a full season in whatever role Buck decides for him. He is a dark-horse candidate for closer, although it is doubtful he would win. I see him more of a late inning lefty setup man. 
Michael Gonzalez
-Koji Uehara should battle with Gregg for the Closers role. The loser obviously becomes the main setup man. I found this funny tidbit while surfing the internet. Uehara in Japanese actually means "exquisite control". Interestingly enough, that is exactly the type of pitcher that Uehara is. He is a very solid reliever when healthy.

-The rest of the bullpen remains to be seen, and I mainly wanted to touch on these three pitchers.
-My main point is that if these three pitchers can keep themselves healthy throughout the entire season, then the Orioles could have an effective bullpen. That is a big IF however, since Uehara and Gonzalez have known health concerns and histories. But the Bullpen can be a strength if these guys pitch towards their abilities.

-I am not saying that the Orioles will have one of the better bullpens in the league, but I do think that they have enough pieces to have a more serviceable bullpen than before. It will be interesting to see how Jim Johnson, Jason Berken, and the others play in their newly accustomed roles.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Case for Luke Scott in Left Field

Since the Orioles have signed Vlad, I consistently have read how the Orioles are now weaker defensively in the Outfield due to Luke Scott being entrenched in the Left Field hole. I may be the minority here, but I actually think the defense will not miss a beat.

Take a look at these three players UZR/150 statistics:
 You can read on what UZR/150 Ratings are at FanGraphs (where I also pulled these numbers)

   Year         1     2    
Player 1:  -3.4  |  7.7
Player 2:  -5.8  |  8.5
Player 3: -13.4 | -6.2

-As you can see, Player 3 is clearly the worst defender based on these ratings.
-You could argue who is better between Player 1 and Player 2, but the fact of the matter is that they are not varying drastically enough for it to affect the team play.
-The average UZR/150 of Player 1 is 2.15
-The average UZR/150 of Player 2 is 1.35

Player 3 is Nolan Reimold with a -9.8. UZR/150
Player 2 is Luke Scott  with a 1.35 UZR/150                      
Player 1 is Felix Pie with a 2.15 UZR/150


Now if I calculated in how many mental errors Felix Pie has during a year, his UZR/150 would plummet. This is why I think and the statistics show, that Luke Scott is a much better fielder than he is given credit for. Of course his range is lesser than that of Felix Pie's, but he makes up for it with consistent and routine play as well as a cannon arm. Another thing with Luke Scott is that he thrives on consistency, and usually produces better when he gets to consistently practice in-game on his skills. This is just another reason why I believe the signing of Vlad Guerrero significantly improved the Orioles.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Orioles Pitching Staff: What to Expect?

Today marks the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting. In past years, this would have sparked a wave of questions about the Orioles pitching staff , and most of them would not have had answers until the end of spring training. This year is a little different. For once in a very long time, the Orioles have a clear idea about how the pitching staff will look at the beginning of the season (for the most part).

-Jeremy Guthrie will be the #1 pitcher heading into spring training. He is certainly the worst #1 pitcher in the AL East, but is a veteran workhorse that will once again provide a substantial amount of innings. I project Guthrie to hover around the 200 IP mark again this year, and if he can keep his K/BB ratio in-check he should pitch to similar stats as last year. Guthrie is at his best when he attacks the hitter and pitches inside. He hit 16 batters last year (his next highest in a season was 9). I am a big fan of Guthrie although I realize he should not be a teams #1.

- Brian Matusz will anchor the #2 slot in the rotation. If you know me, then you know that I expect big things from Matusz. I really love his approach towards hitters, and when Matusz is on his game, he can be near impossible to hit at times. I expect Matusz to improve vastly on last years performance, although I doubt he will be 7-1 with a 2.12 ERA like he was when Buck Showalter first arrived. I would expect an ERA around 3.73 with around 170-180 IP. Matusz has the ability to rack up Strikeouts as well, and I could easily see him producing 160+ K's. His curveball is deadly towards lefties (ask David Ortiz). What anyone should be looking for in Matusz is continual growth. A step back could really put the Orioles in a dire situation, as it is clear that they are REALLY relying on Matusz for this year and the future.

-Justin Duchscherer will attempt to lock down the #3 spot. I say attempt because he simply has a hard time staying healthy. Justin has never pitched more than 140 innings in any season, and only did that once (2008). He honestly would be a better reliever than starting pitcher, but they did not sign him to relieve. I expect Justin to produce sound numbers if he can stay healthy, although I am going to be pessimistic about that happening. If he can give the Orioles 120 IP , it will be a positive.

-Brad Bergesen will most likely hold the #4 spot. I am an avid fan of Bergesen and he is probably my favorite pitcher to watch. He relies on his quick-pitch mentality to speed up the game time and not allow the batters enough time to prepare themselves. Brad does not have the "stuff" near any of the other pitchers on the staff, but he makes up with it by pitching smart and locating the ball effectively. When his sinker is on, Brad will deliver 10+ ground balls a game. This allows himself to pitch through any walks or players on base because of the double play possibility. Brad should win out the #4 spot due to his prior experience in the MLB, and his effectiveness last year once Buck arrived. I expect him to pitch the entire season for the Orioles., barring injury.

-Jake Arrieta will most likely win the #5 spot. He may have the best arsenal on the entire staff, but he also lacks the control and efficiency that pitchers like Bergesen and Matusz have. Arrieta was a fast mover through the system, and that was solely because his "stuff" was too good for the minors. Now that he has had a taste of the MLB, it is time for him to begin pitching a little smarter. Jake will most likely win this spot because he has shown flashes of brilliance in his time in the MLB last year. He also is 24 and appears ready to pitch an entire season in the MLB. I expect Jake to have some growth bumps this year, and he could very well be the weak link of the rotation. But in order for the Orioles to get any better, they are going to need patience with these young guys.

Chris Tillman and Zach Britton are most likely on the outside looking in. They both could use some more seasoning in the minors, although they certainly could be called up any moment this year. People need to be reminded that Tillman is still only 22 years old, and it was amazing that he had even cracked an MLB roster when he did. Britton could honestly be in the rotation now, but they will not rush him if they do not have to. I expect Tillman to be first in line to start if anyone gets injured.


Overall I expect the Orioles starting rotation to be much better than last year, although they will still be going through some growth bumps. It could either be a very surprising season from the pitching staff, where they pitch to a high level and finally turn the prospect potential into ML talent; or a disappointing season where they regress. Lets hope that we have the surprising season.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Two New Orioles: How Do They Change the Roster?

The Orioles Continue to make moves this off-season. I cannot tell you how excited I am to watch this team play come Spring Training.

-Justin Duchscherer has now officially signed with the Orioles for a guaranteed contract of 700K, although based on certain clauses this could escalate up to 4.5Mil. To make the full 4.5Mil he will need to start 30+ games, something he never has done and most likely will not start to do in his early 30's. He should be a solid #2 or #3 starter for the O's if he can stay healthy. I expect him to slot behind Guthrie on opening day.


Here is my projected pitching staff for the beginning of the season:

Guthrie
Duchscherer
Matusz
Bergesen
Arietta

-I expect Tillman and Britton to be in AAA, although they will certainly get a chance to fight for the final two -spots in the rotation. The only 3 spots that are locked would be Guthrie, Duchscherer, and Matusz.


-Vlad Guerrero has agreed to a contract with the Orioles today for 1 year, 8Mil. Of course people are going to complain and say the Orioles outbid themselves. But honestly, the past failures of this team set themselves up for that. They are going to have to pony up to get all the players they are interested in. I am ecstatic about this deal. Yea, they could have gotten him most likely for a few Mil less, but its worth it paying more in my opinion. Vlad will be a spark and a TRUE cleanup batter, something that the Orioles have lacked for a while.

-Im going to post the same lineup I envisioned earlier when I speculated about the Orioles signing Vlad.

Roberts 2B
Markakis RF
Lee 1B
Guerrero DH
Scott LF
Reynolds 3B
Jones CF
Wieters C
Hardy SS


Bench:
Izturis
Pie
Tatum/Fox/Harris/Reimold

(I assume Reimold would be traded or sent to AAA with a Vlad Signing)

-I could still see the Orioles trading Reimold or Pie. I've also heard the possibility of Luke Scott getting traded, although I feel as if that may be unlikely (It's really more of a fan rumor). The Orioles did just sign Randy Winn to a minor league deal though, so it is not odd for people to wonder.

-The Orioles have done a hell of a job this off-season in my opinion. Let's be honest and say that NO big time free agents are going to come to Baltimore until we prove we can win. But AM still has put together a formidable team in my opinion. February could not end any sooner for me! Bring on Spring Training.