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Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Orioles

Assessing the American League East

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ESPN’s Buster Olney has completed an article series that assessed baseball’s best teams piece by piece, assembling an MLB top ten team list in six categories.

The series is not particularly good news for the Red Sox, who did not fare well in the analysis.

Here’s a look at how the teams of the American League East are currently viewed (ESPN Insider subscription required for the links, sorry).

  • Overall Top Teams – Blue Jays #8, Yankees #10. Only two other AL teams made the list (Tigers #3, Athletics #5) – has the overall balance of power shifted to the National League?
  • Starting Rotations – Rays #6, Blue Jays #7. Tampa Bay traded James Shields and is still among the top teams – a testament to their organizational depth. And it looks like the Marlins (Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle) and Mets (R.A. Dickey) trades are primed to pay off for Toronto. Wondering what to expect from Boston’s rotation in 2013? Check out this analysis by Bill Baer who sees the Red Sox staffing staff as not improving enough.
  • Bullpens – Rays #2, Orioles #4. So much for pitching being the heart of a great team. The Rays are the only team in the top ten for both the rotation and bullpen, and not make the top ten team list.
  • Offensive Lineups – Red Sox #6, Blue Jays #8, Yankees #10. Good news for Boston (note: the analysis assumes Mike Napoli is part of the Red Sox lineup). But scoring runs was not a Boston problem last season – they were tied for eighth place in the MLB in runs scored in 2012. The road to improvement starts with pitching – and as cited above, it doesn’t look like the Red Sox moved into the top tier there.
  • Infields – Rays #4, Yankees #5, Blue Jays #7. Toronto could be the underrated group here, particularly if Jose Reyes takes it up a notch and Brett Lawrie gets it together. With Stephen Drew in the fold and once they finally resolve first base, the Red Sox should have a chance to move up into the top ten conversation.
  • Outfields – Orioles #10 – Adam Jones is The Man. The Blue Jays are knocking on the door – if Jose Bautista bounces back from injury and Melky Cabrera shows he can perform without being on the juice. Also, looks like the days of the Red Sox and Yankees having feared outfields are over (at least for 2013).
  • Sorry catchers, you didn’t prove important enough for Buster’s analysis. Not sure any AL East catchers would have cracked a top ten list – although Baltimore’s Matt Wieters would merit strong consideration.

Tallying up the Categories

Not that every area should be given equal weight but here’s how the teams measured up in the number of times making each category.

  • Blue Jays – 4
  • Yankees – 3
  • Rays – 3
  • Orioles – 2
  • Red Sox – 1

This list feels like the order we may see experts use to stack up the AL East in their pre-season predictions.

Right now, it looks like all of Toronto’s wheeling and dealing is paying off – at least in the winning the off-season. Can’t wait for the games to begin.

How do you see the AL East sizing up right now?

Boston Red Sox – Baltimore Orioles Series Notes

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The declining production of Vladimir Guerrero is a “concern” for the Orioles. Baltimore is not going anywhere this season. Guerrero needs to produce to either be attractive to a contending team or give a reason for the Orioles to keep him in the lineup over a younger player.

Former Orioles relievers Matt Albers has been an excellent pickup for the Red Sox this season. One key value add, Tim Britton notes, is Albers’ ability pitch more than one inning.

There was a lot of chatter after the David OrtizKevin Gregg “fight.” Gregg said the O’s are not scared of the Red Sox and their $180 million payroll. Big Papi apologized for his actions (no need to – from this corner).

Kyle Weiland says he is ready for his MLB debut against the Orioles. Weiland could be an interesting “piece” for the Red Sox down the stretch run – with his ability to start if injuries continue in the rotation or to be a power arm if Bobby Jenks does not turn things around.

Zach Britton was demoted by the Orioles to AA. Britton started hot but faded quickly. Still a good prospect – let’s see how he handles adversity. Baltimore sent Britton to AA for service time reasons – that may not sit well with Britton.

Boston Red Sox – Baltimore Orioles Series Preview

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Last night was not Jon Lester finest pitching performance of the year but he delivered a big win.

First, it enabled a sweep against the Yankees and the team hitting the .500 mark for the first time this year. On reaching the mark, Gordon Edes reports Terry Francona saying, “It’s not one of our goals, but we’re making strides.”

Second, Lester now claims the best winning percentage (.718) in MLB history for any pitcher with 50 or more decisions.

The win moved Lester past Spud Chandler on the all-time list – and note: with Lester in the top 5 is Pedro Martinez who is at .687 for his career.

Red Sox – Orioles Pop Quiz

Eight Baltimore pitchers have struck out 15 batters in a game. The last pitcher to do so did it against the Red Sox in 2000. Who was it? Hint: He was a very good pitcher.

Orioles Update

  • Here’s a look at the pitching match-ups – the Red Sox will face rookie sensation Zach Britton in game two.
  • Chris Tillman says he looks forward to pitching today’s series opener – his first start ever at Fenway Park. He is coming off a strong start in his last appearance (1 ER in 6 IP) – but it was against the hapless Mariners.
  • Danny Knobler calls the Orioles the “new Rays” of the AL East. I agree Buck Showalter has spurred a new attitude and the O’s have some quality young pitchers. But Baltimore has too many underperforming veterans (Derek Lee and Mark Reynolds come to mind) to say they are on Tampa’s path.
  • More pitching help is on the way. Brian Matusz is set for a rehab start today, coming back from a strained ribcage muscle
  • Reynolds has been a disaster at the plate – 3 for his last 25 ABs. This shouldn’t be a surprise to Baltimore. Reynolds batted .198 last season in Arizona. Look for him to gone by the All-Star Break.
  • However, Matt Wieters has been a clutch hitter this season, going 13 for 23 (.565 Avg.) with 20 RBI – when at the plate with runners in scoring position.

Red Sox Review

Scott Lauber looks at the Red Sox catcher situation and has a classic quote from Theo Epstein, “I don’t think we’re looking for our catchers to pace our offense.”

The Red Sox can get away with good field, no hit from catcher – especially if there is some improvement against the stolen base. Last night, Jarrod Saltalamacchia chipped in with the first home run by a Boston catcher this year.

Brian MacPherson writes every time Daniel Bard has taken the mound it has been a high leverage situation. MacPherson also notes Rich Hill has been effective against both lefty and righty hitters.

Sean McAdam writes Josh Beckett has re-established himself as an elite pitcher. I agree.

Pop Quiz Answer

Mike Mussina struck out 15 Red Sox on September 24, 2000.

Boston Red Sox – Baltimore Orioles Series Preview

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What a difference a week makes.

Last Monday – despite 2 wins in a row – the Boston Red Sox faced a still-skeptical fan base that things were really turning around.

Now, Boston has a five game winning streak going – including their first 4 game series sweep in Anaheim since 1980.

And the team has won 8 of their last 9 games – and has the .500 mark within reach for the first time this season.

With Baltimore slumping – 3 wins in their last 14 games – the Red Sox should win the series and get above .500.

Why are the Red Sox winning? Boston starters have allowed 2 or fewer runs while pitching at least 5 IP in each of the last 9 games.

It’s all about pitching.

Red Sox – Orioles Pop Quiz

Eight times an Orioles hitter has had 5 hits in a game. The last player to hit this mark did so against the Red Sox in 2005. Who is the player?

Orioles Update

The Red Sox face Zach Britton in the series opener. Britton has 3 wins, tying the Baltimore record for a rookie starter in April. He’s the kind of starter who does well against Boston – 1) a lefty and 2) a rookie they have not faced before in the regular season.

Brian Roberts has hit in a team season-high 11 straight games, going 16 for 47 (.340 Avg.).

Mark Reynolds is struggling (1 for last 25 AB) – with a .177 Avg. and 20 K in 62 AB for the season. Not a surprise for a guy who has struck out more than 200 times in each of the last 3 seasons and batted .177 last year. The lure of the long ball – Reynolds had 32 HR in 2010 – gives him a job. I don’t see the average/HR tradeoff working in the Orioles favor. Don’t expect him to last the season in Birdland.

Reynolds is not the only hitter not producing. #2 hitter Nick Markakis (.208 – 2 HR – 6 RBI) and #3 hitter Derek Lee (.225 – 1 HR – 2 RBI) are putting up anemic numbers. Baltimore has a team batting Avg. of .230 (Sox not much better at .239).

Red Sox Review

  • Series opening starter Clay Buchholz is 5-2 with 2.98 ERA against the Orioles. Last season, he went 15 IP and zero earned runs in 2 games started versus Baltimore.

Pop Quiz Answer

Miguel Tejada had 5 hits vs. Boston on July 9, 2005.

State of American League East – Today

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We have two-plus months until Spring Training so a lot can – and will – still happen, but here’s a look at the American League East today.

Boston Red Sox. Getting Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford made the Sox the talk of baseball. Review Winter Meetings scorecards – in the Boston Globe, New York Daily News, Yahoo! Sports and others covered in Friday’s post – and Boston has become the division favorite (today).

One has to look hard to find negative comments on the Red Sox moves – but check out the esteemed Thomas Boswell making the case Crawford is a poor fit for Boston, the Nationals’ Jayson Werth deal was a better move and Josh Willingham was the better play for the Red Sox.

New York Yankees. The heat is on to get Cliff Lee. Failure to land him – even if they trade for Zack Greinke as Plan B – is off-season failure. Especially now that the Red Sox have loaded up on left-handed hitters.

Sprinkle in the PR fiasco surrounding the Derek Jeter signing and all is not well in the Bronx.

On the plus side, Mariano Rivera once again proved to be a class act in how he handled free agency. Liked the Bill Madden quote from an AL executive, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this winter it’s that there are only two players in baseball who aren’t about the money – Paul Konerko and Mariano Rivera.”

Baltimore Orioles. Every Winter Meetings scorecard I have seen places the Orioles as winners but the graders must be marking them on a curve.

Yes, getting Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy – and re-signing right-hander Koji Uehara – helps the team. While the Orioles had a busy week, I don’t see how these moves help Baltimore move up in the big picture, either getting in the hunt in 2011 or building for the long term.

These are baby steps at best – but maybe Buck Showalter can continue to work his magic helping the O’s get to .500 baseball (remember, they were 30 games below that mark in 2010).

Tampa Bay Rays. Baseball’s biggest losers in the off-season so far. Losing Crawford, Carlos Pena and most of the team’s bullpen, most notably Rafael Soriano (although technically still a free agent).

Perhaps the biggest loss is Rays Karma. Management has sent the signal to players and fans they are nothing more than a development system for big market teams. If the Trop was mostly empty last year – next season should be even worse.

Joe Maddon has work cut out for him – but I think he can rally his troops. Maddon is optimistic about next season and still sees a 90-win season in the cards.

Desmond Jennings for Crawford is a downgrade but let’s see if the kid plays to potential.

Pena delivered great defense and pop – but remember he batted less than .200.

Relievers come and go – success one season often doesn’t guarantee success the next year. GM Andrew Friedman needs to work some magic in the bullpen – not unlike Theo Epstein.

The issue is with the Joaquin Benoit and Kelly Downs contracts, relief is getting expensive. We will see if Friedman can find some bargains.

Toronto Blue Jays. Things were pretty quiet for the Blue Jays last week but they feel they laid the groundwork for future moves.

The team needs a quality starter to replace Shaun Marcum who was traded to the Brewers for a promising minor leaguer. Toronto’s name pops up on the list of teams in the Greinke hunt. And obviously that would be a splashy move.

The Jays also need one more hitter – it will be interesting to see if Manny Ramirez surfaces there.

And, like many teams, the Blue Jays need to fill some bullpen holes. Downs is gone and Kevin Gregg is likely on the way out of town.

All the AL East teams – and others around MLB – are competing for the same crop of relievers. Which GMs make the right moves – and which ones don’t – will be a factor in division races.

GM Alex Anthopoulos has his work cut out. We’ll see if Anthopoulos can build on the foundation he claims to have built.

What are your views on the AL East? Who are the current winners and losers? What moves are still to be made?

 

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