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Orioles Thoughts For The Week

The Baltimore Orioles enter today 5-10 overall, 7.5GB in the American League East, and 4.5GB of the 2nd Wild Card.

I spent a good portion of the Winter prior to the ’17 season, and most of the off-season entering this year hoping the O’s would either reach deals with Machado and Britton or trade them off for assets under long-term team control.

When the Orioles elected to bring the band back for this year, my general take has been I hope the O’s either win enough to make it worthwhile, or lose enough early to make it easy for the decision makers to trade off from the roster prior to the Non-Waiver Deadline.

Despite this poor start, they haven’t quite reached the level where you can definitively expect them to sell – but they are trending there.

If the O’s were to lose today and tomorrow vs. the Red Sox; the Birds would have to go 80-65 just to finish 85-77. In most years, that would have you 5 or so games out of the 2nd Wild Card.

Clearly the Birds are digging a hole.

If the goal is contention, coming back and getting a series split here would obviously help.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

Here we discuss some general thoughts on some different O’s topics.

Cobb’s Debut

Well, that didn’t go to plan.  When he signed, I wrote that I thought we wouldn’t see him in an O’s uniform prior to May 1st. So it was a surprise to me, that he was up as quickly as he was. No excuses though for him, or for the Orioles. He decided he was ready. The O’s viewed him and agreed. He’s on the roster, he has to perform.  I believe he will.  As long as as O’s fans aren’t expecting him to be an ace, I think they’ll be pleased. Despite yesterday’s disaster, Cobb will keep the O’s in a lot of games.

Schoop’s Injury

Last year’s Most Valuable Oriole is now on the shelf with an oblique strain. MASN’s Gary Thorne stated yesterday that he could be out a month.  It’s a big deal that impacts the lineup and defense.

O’s Manager Buck Showalter utilized a lineup yesterday which shifted Beckham to 2nd base, and inserted Valencia at 3rd. I think that is best way to go, as Valencia (and Alvarez) can both stand at 3rd, and you get their bats in the lineup over the presumably better fielder in Vielma.

The only other alternative would be moving Machado back to 3rd, Beckham to SS, and possibly Valencia at 2nd. I don’t see Buck doing that.

Davis

Over the last three games, he’s 4 for 12. In the two hit game Wednesday vs. the Jays, he had a few encouraging ab’s as he allowed the ball to travel. He kept his head from flying off. He even took a pitch to left. If he’s going to pull himself out of this stretch, those are the keys. He has to use the entire field. Continue to think he’s trapped in his own head at this point. A dose of confidence is needed.

Going to need to see more than a couple of games for his confidence to return, or for the fans to believe either. As positive as his last three ab’s were against the Jays Wednesday, that was immediately followed-up by an 0-4, with 3k’s Friday in Boston. In several of those ab’s, he was completely lost. He also has 9 k’s in his last 6 games, with at-least 1 k in each game. At-least he rebounded some yesterday.

The O’s aren’t releasing him, but if the performance doesn’t improve (consistently) in the near-term, he is going to find some reduction in playing-time. Right now you keep him lower in the lineup, until his play says he deserves to move-up.

Have no problem with seeing players booed for non-hustle. Do dislike seeing players booed for poor performance. Do think Davis handled his recent booing with class. He’s accountable for his lack of production, and understanding of the reaction.

Tillman

I’ve long been a Tillman fan.

He’s another guy that doesn’t point fingers. When he doesn’t perform, it’s simply, “I didn’t do my job.”

Some O’s fans have long seemed to dislike Tillman because he was the de facto Orioles Ace, and didn’t measure up when compared to true #1′s across the game.

That wasn’t his fault. He was very reliable mid-rotation starter from 2012-16.

2017 was horrible.  He just couldn’t do anything effectively, and never looked right.

I did think that since he was at-least healthy enough to be on a ML mound, that he could get things corrected (including the mechanical issues which developed) in ’18.

My optimism was increased when Showalter had very positive things to say about what he saw from Tillman in January; when Tillman was at the Sarasota facility.  Showalter said Tillman looked strong, and improved. It can only be assumed that based on what the O’s saw there, they were willing to give Tillman a ML contract and $3M for ’18.

What did they see?

Tillman right now is the O’s 5th starter behind Bundy, Gausman, Cobb, and Cashner. 

If you believe Tillman can be an average 5th starter, you can continue to put him out there.

If you don’t believe he can be that, then you have to be thinking about alternatives.
For the O’s, that would likely need to be an option external to the organization.

His numbers and mechanics are a mess. It’s a lot of throwing across the body. Continued velocity issues. Secondaries way inconsistent. When he finds the plate, he’s being hit, and hit hard. He has just 3 k’s in his 11.1 innings, and has allowed 10 k’s.

Know he has the reputation of being a competitive guy.  And he keeps mentioning how much better he feels vs. last year, and how he thinks he’s getting closer.

He looks done. In combat sports, you don’t want to see a guy fighting that can’t defend himself.  That’s what he looked like on the mound Friday night.  That was tough to watch.

The Bullpen

Anyone else tired of hearing how relievers are a dime a dozen? 

Yes, relievers a volatile.
Yes, middling relievers are easily replaceable.

Elite relievers like Britton are not. 

An elite guy like Britton makes everyone better.  You can better choose your match-ups. The Manager can pick and choose how others are utilized better.

Britton’s absence doesn’t excuse the issues Givens and Brach have had so far, but I do think his return will help everyone.

That said, Britton won’t be back in an O’s uniform until the first week of June. (Barring any set-back.)

It’s on Brach, Givens, O’Day to lead the way until then.

Do have to be encouraged by what Bleier has done over the past year.
Castro has been a little up and down so far, but continue to love his live arm.

We’ve already seen Yacabonis, Scott, Harvey, and Hart. Today Hart was optioned, and David Hess recalled. Figures to be a number of arms up and down.

Araujo has been outstanding in-terms of what he has provided vs. reasonable expectations for him. He’s got 14 k’s in 9.2 innings, showing a fantastic change-up. Have to remember he entered the year with 2 innings at the AA level. He’s learning on the job.

I could still go either way in-terms of trading or extending Britton.  There should be plenty of time between when he gets back, for him to reestablish his value.

If the O’s get to the Non-Waiver deadline, and it’s clear they aren’t a contender; I have no problem with shopping Britton and seeing how much he can bring back. If you get high-quality under long-term control, it would be difficult to say no.

If the O’s decided to extend him today, I also wouldn’t cry there.

Definitely something to be said about getting to end of the game, and confidently believing you will be able to close things out.

The Defense

There is some good discussion at the board on Machado at SS.  Worth the read.

Overall, one difference in the ’18 Orioles vs. the ’12, ’14, and ’16 Orioles is the infield defense.

This isn’t about crushing Beckham – who I think has been generally adequate at 3rd – it’s just stating the obvious. The Orioles had something extremely special with Machado and Hardy at 3rd and SS.

In the OF, the idea going into ’18 was that Rasmus (and maybe later Hays) would represent a nice upgrade from Trumbo in RF.  We haven’t got to see that so far.

Santander is in better shape than he was last year, and he is livable. He’s not anything above that though, meaning right now you have two average at-best Corner OF’s, and an aging CF with declining range.

Gentry is a nice glove option off the bench.

The Future

I see and sense a lot of pessimism about the O’s future.

Admittedly, the organization is at a crossroads. That starts at the very top with Ownership, and continues to questions about what happens with (or who replaces) Duquette and Showalter.

I don’t feel things are dire though. To me, there is a core of interesting players to move forward with.

Let’s say the O’s bottom-out the next few months and they trade Machado, Britton, and Brach. Also eat some salary, and are able to move Trumbo.

Without knowing what those players would bring back, you’d have something like the following for ’19:

1st: Davis
2nd: Schoop
SS: Beckham
3rd: Mountcastle
C: Sisco
LF: Mancini
CF: Mullins
RF: Hays
DH: Santander

Bundy, Gausman, Cobb, Cashner…
Givens, Castro, Scott…

The acknowledged truth is that the above group is not good enough, when contending is the goal.

Every player is not going to hit their ceiling.

Is Davis ever going to rebound?

Schoop is only signed through ’19. Still feel like an extension there should be a priority.

Beckham would have to go back to SS. At-best he’s an average SS, and we’re still waiting to see what his bat is.

Mountcastle is currently hurt, and has to show he can hit AA pitching first.  His glove might never play. Showalter reminded him this Spring, that he has to walk more.

Sisco looks like he’s going to hit, there are remaining questions about his defense.

Mancini you feel good about as a solid regular at this point.

Mullins was a guy that I had previously saw as a 4th OF type. Is he going to be a legitimate option for an everyday role? He apparently has a sub-par arm. What’s the range like?

Hays is back at Bowie, refining his offensive game. Like with Mountcastle, Buck also challenged him to show more plate discipline this year.

Santander is up with the O’s, filling out the remainder of the time required as a Rule V pick. I like a lot of what we are seeing from him, but you also see that he’s a younger guy, that needs more experience. Once his 45 days are up, I wouldn’t be opposed to him going back to Bowie and getting regular ab’s for several months. Can he go from what he is today, to being a guy you are comfortable with serving as the DH next year? We will see.

There are questions everywhere. 

Some of the answers will be good, and some will not.

My argument is solely that there are players currently with the organization you can have differing levels of optimism about. 

A lot of cheap contracts, which should give the organization (not matter who is charge) the ability to augment.

Watching that group build, and become whatever they might be; might be more enjoyable vs. watching the current group try and hold on to what they were.

Attendance

I prefer watching games from home, but the stadium was so empty for that Toronto series (26,954 paid over 3 games) that I feel guilty. I’ll have to make a more concerted effort to get out to the Yard.

The O’s should triple down on their ‘Kids Cheer Free’ initiative. 

Really slash prices across the board, and give away tickets as well.

The best thing the O’s could do for their business is to put more people in the stands, and let them build up experiences as fans.

The next 7 home games are a 4 game weekend slate vs. Cleveland April 20th to the 23rd, followed by a Tuesday to Thursday 3 game series vs. Tampa Bay on the 24th to the 26th.

I think you can safely assume that there are very minimal sales for the 23rd through 26th.

Probably okay sales for the 20th, 21st, and 22nd.

The O’s should challenge themselves to fill the Stadium.

They can (rightfully) say they have discounts available almost every single game.

They can (rightfully) say that by establishing Kids Cheer Free, they are ahead of their peers in-terms of creating more opportunities for youth to take in games first hand.

But they need to go that much further.  Be annoyed as an organization when there are empty seats. Fill it with someone – paying or not – and create a better atmosphere.

You’ll sell more concessions, and you’ll grow your future paying fanbase.

That’s my challenge to them.

The O’s challenge to someone like me, is to tell me to get off my couch and come visit the Yard myself.

That’s fair, and I’ll do that.

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Written by Chris Stoner
1 week ago
Baltimore Orioles, ,

Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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