Saturday, May 2, 2009

Raining in Baltimore

For the 3rd day in a row, it's raining. Unfortunately, it's not just raindrops coming down out there, but losses for the Orioles as well. As of this morning, the O's have officially taken over the basement position in the A.L. East, a spot which has become become familiar over the past 2 seasons, with the resurgence of the Blue Jays and the rise of Tampa. So far the O's are 9-15 and have lost something like 12 of their last 15 games.

The 2 main reasons for this are poor pitching, and an inability to score runs after the 5th inning. The bottom 3 of the Orioles lineup has the lowest batting average of ANY team in the majors, including N.L. teams where the pitcher traditionally bats 9th. While some changes have to be made (more on that later), bad luck has been a factor in some players poor starts. Cesar Izturis looks to be turning it up a little bit, and has the highest average of the 3 (.232). Greg Zaun is a fine defensive catcher, and seasoned veteran who has hit a lot of balls hard, they just happen to be right at people. Zaun is an important piece of the puzzle this year, since he will ultimately be the mentor to Matt Wieters when/if he is called up to the show. Currently, he is hitting an anemic .138. This brings us to Felix Pie. There has been a lot of noise from the fans to end the "Felix Pie Experiment" and call up Nolan Reimold, or let Lou Montanez, who is already with the team, take over in left field. Montanez hasn't looked much better than Pie this year in limited action, but personally, I prefer either player to Pie. Pie looks lackadaisical in left, and swings at everything thrown to him at the plate. Offensively, I think Reimold and Wieters need to be called up sooner rather than later. If we're going to be a basement team this year anyway, why not let the kids grow and adjust to Major League pitching? It can't be worse than what's happening now.

This brings us to the pitching staff (UGH!). Lone bright spot Koji Uehara has been hurt by lack of run support, but has looked pretty good in his starts this year. Team "ace" Jeremy Guthrie has been struggling a bit, but is still the only other pitcher aside from Koji that belongs in a Major League rotation. Rounding out the Orioles starting 5 are 2 guys better served as long relievers, Mark Hendrickson who got pounded last night in Toronto, and Adam Eaton. Both of these guys have career ERAs right around 5.00 and are veteran pitchers. The fifth starter at the moment is Brad Bergesen, who was called up on April 21st, and has only made 2 starts, looking very good in one, and very mediocre in the other. At least he'll be fun to watch this year.

If you look at the pitching prospects the O's have stockpiled in the minors right now, one has to wonder why they don't make some moves, and at least get the top guys some experience. Sadly, we probably won't see any of these guys until September, unless someone gets injured, but there are 3 guys that have all the skills, and seem ready for a taste of big league ball.

Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton and Chris Tillman all have at least one season in AA ball or higher under their belts, and would be a hell of a lot more fun to watch then Hendrickson or Eaton. Arrieta and Tillman are 2 of the top 50 prospects in the league, and if Patton hadn't of missed all of last season with an injury, he would most likely be on that list as well.

In some instances, going with established, veteran players is a good thing, and allows the kids to get some reps in the minors. This is not one of those instances. One could argue that the Norfolk Tides have a better rotation then the Orioles do at the moment, and I couldn't argue with that sentiment. Bringing up the young guns would make this team more competitive and a hack of a lot more fun to watch.

It would be easy to blame Orioles manager Dave Trembley for the 9-15 record, but he has been dealt a losing hand by management, and until some moves are made to improve this team, they are going to continue to struggle.

Andy McPhail, if you're reading this (which I know you're not) PLEASE start thinking about 2009 instead of focusing all your energy on 2010.


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