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Baltimore Orioles Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 97-65 Manager: Buck Showalter

The Orioles seemed to stall in the driveway last year with their young guns starting pitchers struggling out of the gate and disappointing performances across the board. Only Matt Wieters and Adam Jones seemed to develop in the way this club expected coming out of spring training. They’ll need a lot more development of their young talent this season if they are to get the locals excited in the Inner Harbor.

Player in the spotlight: Adam Jones CF

Adam Jones has gone from a tremendous defensive centerfielder to one who can hit as well. Jones is now a solid 25 HR type of hitter with an average around .280. If he’s able to continue to improve and the Orioles get some production ahead of him, Jones could become a 30 HR and 100 RBI producer in the next year or two.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Brian Roberts 2B

Roberts is suffering from post-concussion syndrome and his return is unknown. He hasn’t played a full season since 2009 and at $10M per season through 2013, the Orioles have some valuable resources being tied up in a player who is a huge unknown. If Roberts is able to get healthy and regain his pre-injuries form, the Orioles will have a great leadoff hitter who can help the young pitching staff gain an early lead in games.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Tommy Hunter

Hunter was acquired from the Rangers last year where he was unable to crack the rotation after a very solid 2010 season. He’s only 25, but he’ll be asked to provide veteran stability to a staff that traded away mainstay Jeremy Guthrie in the offseason. If Hunter is able to revert to his 2010 level of performance, the O’s will get closer to lining up a respectable staff this year.

Biggest pitching question mark: Zach Britton

Britton starts the season on the DL with some shoulder trouble. He’s expected to return but the date is unknown. Britton had a solid rookie campaign in 2011, winning 11 games and looked poised to take over the role as staff ace. If he’s unable to pitch or pitch well this season, the O’s face another huge uphill climb to respectability. That puts a lot more pressure on the rest of the young pitchers led by Jake Arrieta, who got the opening day start.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Joe Mahoney 1B

The O’s lack top level prospects with a chance at breaking in over the next season and a half, but Mahoney is probably the one who could make it up. Mahoney will start in AAA Norfolk and could get the call up if he does well and the Orioles start slipping out of contention (a cynic might say they will never be in contention).

Prediction: 5th in AL East

The Orioles need their young pitchers to develop at the major league level. Then they can go out in the offseason and find some solid starters to hold the fort until their top prospects can arrive in 2014. It’s always an uphill battle in the AL East, but it’s even more so when seemingly all of the O’s prospects turn into journeymen type players. Unless Jones and Wieters become superstars, the O’s next hope comes with SS Manny Machado in September of 2013.

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MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/11

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Seattle 6 Baltimore 7 F/13
Kansas City 1 New York 3
Boston 6 Toronto 7 F/10
Oakland 2 Texas 7
Detroit 10 Minnesota 2
Tampa Bay 4 Cleveland 5
Chicago 2 Los Angeles 6
National  
Los Angeles 10 Pittsburgh 3
Washington 7 Atlanta 6
Philadelphia 1 Florida 2
St. Louis 6 Chicago 4
Cincinnati 7 Houston 3
San Diego 6 Milwaukee 8
New York 4 Colorado 3
Arizona 0 San Francisco 1

 

The Freak dominated again

Best of Yesterday May 10

Top Aces    
Player Team Stats
Tim Lincecum SFG 8 IP, 0 ER, 9 K, 2 BB
Ian Kennedy ARI 8 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 3 BB
Roy Halladay PHI 8 IP, 2 R/1 ER, 9 K, 2 BB
Homer Bailey CIN 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, W (2-0)
Joel Pineiro LAA 7 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, W (2-0)

 

Hitting Heroes    
Player Team Stats
Adrian Gonzalez BOS 3-6, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
Andrew McCutchen PIT 3-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Matt Kemp LAD 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
JJ Hardy BAL 4-5, HR, RBI, R
Victor Martinez DET 3-4, 4 RBI, 2 R

   

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Jimmy Rollins for the Phillies: 1-5, 11 pitches seen, E-6 in 8th

Facing one of the best pitchers in the National League, Rollins refused to work the count against Josh Johnson and only saw 11 pitches in 5 mediocre at-bats. In addition, Rollins committed the error in the 8th inning that led to the game winning run for the Marlins. Overall, it wasn’t one of J-Roll’s best games.

 

AL News/Notes

Francisco Liriano followed up his no-hitter by being ineffective and leaving the Twins game against the Tigers after only 3 innings. The official word is that Liriano was ill, but it could just as much been that manager Ron Gardenhire was sick of watching him struggle again.

Tommy Hunter’s rehab took a setback as the Rangers‘ pitcher suffered a Grade 1 groin strain and will be unavailable to restart his rehab for 3 more weeks.

  

NL News/Notes

Ike Davis left Tuesday’s game for Mets and was diagnosed with a strained left calf.

Geovany Soto left the game for the Cubs on Tuesday with a left groin strain. He’s going to have a MRI today.

Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa returned to the Giants’ lineup on Tuesday night. Miguel Tejeda sat for the returning DeRosa.

Tony LaRussa will miss the remaining 5 games of the Cardinals‘ roadtrip as he recovers from shingles.

Jason Heyward left the Braves game with numbness in his right hand. He was already scheduled for a MRI on Thursday for his shoulder.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 19 games
  • Astros Hunter Pence extended his hitting streak to 14 games

 

Top Wednesday Matchups

2:05 EDT Athletics (Gonzalez 4-2, 2.68) at Rangers (Harrison 3-4, 4.35)

7:05 EDT Rays (Price 4-3, 3.26) at Indians (Carrasco 1-1, 4.97)

7:10 EDT Phillies (Lee 2-3, 3.69) at Marlins (Nolasco 3-0, 3.23)

10:05 EDT White Sox (Peavy 2011 Debut) at Angels (Chatwood 2-1, 4.08)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/3

 

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Texas 4 Oakland 5
New York 5 Detroit 3
Los Angeles 5 Boston 9
Baltimore 2 Chicago 6
National  
San Francisco 0 Washington 2
Milwaukee 2 Atlanta 6
Florida 6 St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 San Diego 3
Chicago 2 Los Angeles 5

 

Thrilla by Godzilla!

Best of Yesterday May 2

A “Thrilla by Godzilla” gave the Athletics a walk off win over the Rangers. Hideki Matsui‘s 3rd homer of the season pulled the A’s within a game of the first place Rangers in the AL West. Josh Willingham had tied the game with a homer in the 8th off Arthur Rhodes.

Nick Swisher came through with a RBI hit in the 9th off Jose Valverde and Mariano Rivera closed out the Tigers to earn his 11th save for the Yankees. Alex Avila had a pair of solo homers for the Tigers in the loss.

The Nationals held the world champion Giants to 4 runs in their 4-game series. Tom Gorzelanny went 8 innings and Drew Storen saved his 6th game for the Nationals. Miguel Tejeda‘s two out error in the 7th inning led to both of the Nationals runs.

The Red Sox beat the formerly unbeaten Jered Weaver as they scored 6 in the 7th inning off the Angels bullpen to secure their win. Adrian Gonzalez‘ bases loaded double cleared the bases and David Ortiz hit his 3rd homer of the season in the 7th inning. Left fielders Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells finished the night batting .353; combined.

Alex Gonzalez doubled and drove in 3 runs while Jair Jurrjens held the Brewers to 2 runs in 7 2/3 innings to win his 3rd game for the Braves. Jurrjens’ is now 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA after 4 starts.

Paul Konerko hit 2 homers for the White Sox and Mark Buehrle won his 2nd game for the Sox. Sergio Santos came on for his 3rd save of the season. Chris Sale gave up a two-run homer to Derrek Lee in the 9th and there’s got to be some consideration to send him down to AAA to regain his confidence. Sale’s ERA is now 7.15 on the season.

Lance Berkman hit his 9th homer and drove in 4 runs for the Cardinals. But the Marlins got a sacrifice fly from Greg Dobbs in the 8th inning off Mitchell Boggs and Leo Nunez held on for his 10th save for the Fish.  Gaby Sanchez hit a grand slam in the 3rd and Mike Stanton also hit his 4th homer for the Marlins in the win.

Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a RBI single in the 5th in the Dodgers win. Alfonso Soriano hit his MLB-leading 11th homer for the Cubs. Clayton Kershaw won his 3rd game and Jonathan Broxton threw a perfect 9th for his 7th save.

Garrett Jones and Chris Snyder each hit a pair of two-run homers for the Pirates in the 1st inning of their win.  James McDonald won his second straight start with a solid 6 innings, giving up only 2 runs.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Yovani Gallardo was beat up again for the Brewers. He gave up 5 runs in 5 innings thanks to 4 walks and 9 hits allowed. Gallardo is now up to five consecutive starts in which he has allowed at least 4 runs for a total of 26 1/3 innings and 26 earned runs allowed. The Brewers were hoping that facing the Braves would help to cure his pitching ills, but it was not to be. This is quickly becoming a major concern for the struggling Brewers.

 

AL News/Notes

Rehabbing news for the Rangers as Tommy Hunter will be starting on Wednesday in AA and Neftali Feliz will pitch an inning as well and could return to the Rangers on Friday.

Nick Markakis hurt his knee and hand during the Orioles loss on Monday night, but should be ready to go Tuesday night in Kansas City.

Dallas Braden continued to experience stiffness in his shoulder on Monday morning and could be headed to see the doctor again. The Athletics have been fortunate to have Tyson Ross pitch well in Braden’s absence. Ross pitches again on Tuesday night.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell has adjusted fairly well in his first month as manager, but still has major issues with his starting pitching that needs to be addressed.

 

NL News/Notes

The Reds and Astros were rained out on Monday and will make up the game on Thursday afternoon. Homer Bailey is now expected to return to the Reds’ rotation to start Thursday’s game.

The GiantsPablo Sandoval is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday on his right hand. He’s expected to be out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks. Unfortunately for the Giants, that means more of the ultra-struggling Miguel Tejada at third base with Mark DeRosa also on the DL.

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner appear to be two to three weeks away from returning for the Cubs. The Cubs desperately need them to return as Ryan Dempster has really struggled and Monday’s starter, James Russell, has gotten lit up in his three starts.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 28 games

 

Top Tuesday Matchups

7:05 EDT Nationals (Hernandez 3-2, 3.23) at Phillies (Hamels 3-1, 3.13)

7:10 EDT Angels (Haren 4-1, 1.23) at Red Sox (Lester 3-2, 3.57)

7:10 EDT Brewers (Estrada 1-0, 3.00) at Braves (Hanson 3-3, 2.57)

8:15 EDT Marlins (Sanchez 1-1, 3.86) at Cardinals (McClellan 4-0, 3.23)

10:05 EDT Indians (Carmona 2-3, 5.15) at Athletics (Ross 1-2, 2.76)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

Texas Rangers Opening Day Overview

April 3, 2011 1 comment

Texas Rangers Opening Day Overview

Manager: Ron Washington          GM: Jon Daniels

  Lineup:
1 2B Ian Kinsler
2 SS Elvis Andrus
3 LF Josh Hamilton
4 3B Adrian Beltre
5 DH Michael Young
6 RF Nelson Cruz
7 1B Mitch Moreland
8 C Yorvit Torrealba/Mike Napoli
9 CF Julio Borbon

 

Kinsler is one example of why the Rangers can utilize Michael Young’s versatility as Kinsler has failed to play in more than 144 games in a season averaging about 123 games per season. When he’s in the lineup, Kinsler is one of the better second basemen in baseball. Despite his huge dropoff in HRs, Kinsler set a career high for OBP with .382. If he can rediscover his power and retain his OBP, he be one of the best leadoff hitters in the AL.

Andrus took a step back last season as he barely got over .300 in slugging. He’s going to be batting second and he’s going to need to increase his OBP to over .350 and get the ball into the gaps so he can utilize his great speed. He led the league in sac hits and the Rangers do value that kind of small ball, but his overall offensive contributions might be better served at the bottom of the order.

Hamilton is the defending AL MVP and there’s no easier lineup decision for Washington than to write Hamilton’s name in the #3 hole. While Hamilton was great last season, how good could his numbers look if he played in over 150 games instead of 132?   

Beltre comes over from the Red Sox where he had another “contract” year. Unfortunately for the Rangers, his next contract year isn’t until 2015 or 2016, depending on his vesting option. After hitting .334 with 48 homers with the Dodgers back in 2004, he signed a huge five year contract with Seattle where he hit about .265 with around 20+ HRs every year. Last year in Boston, with a one year contract, he hit .321 with 49 doubles. The Rangers should expect an OPS closer to his career average of .790 than the .918 he had last season. Eventually Beltre will move down to the #6 hole when the Rangers figure this out.

Young starts the season hitting 5th and DHing. There’s a chance that he’s going to be the most valuable player on this team if they don’t trade him because of his versatility in playing all of the infield positions. He could be moved up to the 2nd spot if Andrus hits like he did last season. He should be able to get playing time around the infield when Kinsler goes down and to give Beltre a weekly break at third. As long as he’s hitting at his career averages, the Rangers should be fine.

Cruz brought the lumber again but in limited time last season. When healthy, Cruz is one of the better power hitters in the AL. But he’s played in less than 400 games over the past four seasons and the Rangers have David Murphy around for when Cruz goes down. Murphy is solid as well and whoever plays right field will hit for the Rangers.

Moreland showed pretty good plate discipline after taking over at 1st when Justin Smoak was traded and did really well in the postseason. If he can continue to get on base and develop into a low .800s OPS guy, the Rangers should be happy.

Torrealba will get the majority of the starts at catcher while Napoli will fill in at catcher, first, and DH. Torrealba is a solid receiver and doesn’t hurt a team at the plate but doesn’t have much pop as his lack of a double digit home run season in Colorado would indicate. Napoli has very good power and the Rangers will find a way to get him into the lineup as much as possible. He’s a career .850 OPS guy and has hit at least 20 HRs three seasons in a row. His average dipped to .238 last year, but he should return to between .250 and .260 playing in Arlington.

Borbon is a prototypical 9th hitter in the AL as he can get on base at a modest clip (.327 career OBP) and has no power. He does run well and could function effectively as a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the order and give Kinsler RBI opportunities if he gets on base. If he does struggle to get on base, then the Rangers could move Hamilton back to center and put David Murphy in left.

  Starting Pitching
1 LHP CJ Wilson
2 RHP Colby Lewis
3 RHP Tommy Hunter(DL)/LHP Matt Harrison
4 LHP Derek Holland
5 RHP Alexi Ogando

 

Wilson returns to his role as ace of the Rangers staff that he occupied before Cliff Lee arrived last season. In order to take the next step in his development as a starter, Wilson will need to decrease his walk rate from almost one every two innings. Getting that to under 3 per 9 IP would probably help him lower his ERA a half point and keep him in games longer.

Lewis came back to the States from Japan and was a great addition to the staff. He went over 200 IP and put up stats worthy of a 2 or 3 starter. If he can increase his workload and pitch about 20 more innings, he should increase his win total from 12 to 15-17 if the Rangers offense cooperates.

Hunter was a solid contributor last season and used his great control to win 13 games. When he returns a week or two into the season, he’s going to be relied on to increase his innings into the 170-190 range and keep his ERA under 4.00. To do that, he must decrease his home run rate and continue to not walk many hitters.

Harrison is the #3 starter to start the season and struggled out of the bullpen the past three seasons. The Rangers are still high on his talent but he’s going to have to increase his K-BB ratio substantially to remain in the rotation all season.

Holland is a top young prospect who struggled as a rookie in 2009 but worked things out in AAA last season and showed improvement when he got the chance with the Rangers. To stick in the rotation he’ll need to maintain his strikeout rate while decreasing his walks and keep his HR rate where it was last season. The Rangers would love to get 180 IP and 12-13 wins from Holland in the 4 spot.

Ogando was slated to be the setup man in the bullpen before getting the call as the 5th starter with Hunter out to start the season. He came out of nowhere last season after being allowed to return to the US and blew away hitters at AA, AAA, and then with the Rangers. If he can pitch similarly in a starting role, he’s got the potential to be a middle of the rotation starter and win 13+ games. He could also return to the bullpen and take over the 8th inning role if needed.

  Bullpen
CL RHP Neftali Feliz
SET RHP Darren O’Day
  LHP Darren Oliver
  LHP Arthur Rhodes
  RHP Mark Lowe
  RHP Pedro Strop
  RHP Mason Tobin/RHP Dave Bush

 

Feliz will continue as a closer and that was the right move with last year’s AL ROY. When you’ve got a championship quality team, you have to have a dominating closer and Feliz proved last year that he can be that. If the Rangers find a potential replacement, then they can reconsider Feliz as a starter.

O’Day will be the 8th inning righty out of the pen and he’s been great over the past two seasons since coming over from the Mets. As long as he continues his quality work, the Rangers will turn their games into seven inning affairs.

Oliver and Rhodes have both been around since the days of the Roman Empire. Both are primarily situational lefties but can also pitch in a traditional setup role on occasion.

Lowe came over with Cliff Lee last year but has failed to pitch well despite a mid 90s fastball. Strop dominated at AAA last season but has failed in his opportunities in Texas. Tobin is a Rule 5 pick from the Angels who had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and could be ready to breakout this season. Bush is a veteran arm who has started most of his career but will be asked to provide long relief with the Rangers.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 RHP Tanner Scheppers
2 LHP Michael Kirkman
3 C Jose Felix

 

Scheppers is the Rangers best AAA prospect and is being converted into a starter. If that goes well, he could be up later this summer if the Rangers need a starter. Kirkman had a good season as a starter in AAA last year and also provided quality relief with the Rangers when called up. He’ll be the first arm the Rangers turn to inside the organization for a starter or lefty reliever. Expect him to be up for August and September in a pennant race situation. Felix is the most advanced everyday prospect and could be available to play in case of injuries, either at first base as Napoli could play there every day or at catcher.

Three Questions:

1. Can the current Rangers rotation get the Rangers back into the playoffs?

  • Cliff Lee is gone, obviously, and the Rangers are back to where they were last summer. They are taking a chance on former NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, but he’s not going to be ready until at least the middle of May. CJ Wilson is a good pitcher but he’s not an ace. Lewis and Hunter are solid as well but this rotation could really use another top guy. The key is going to be if the Rangers can do what they did last year and stay at or near the top of the AL West standings and see if another good starter becomes available in July.  

2. Will the Rangers stay healthy enough to win the AL West again?

  • Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler seem to be hurt every year and with the improving A’s and competitive teams in Seattle and LA, the Rangers can’t afford to lose any of their top offensive weapons for an extended period of time. They don’t have any major league ready every day talent at AAA and would need to make a deal if anybody goes down for an extended period of time.

3. Will the Rangers new ownership (Nolan Ryan) and pitching philosophy be on the cutting edge or ruin their good young arms?

  • Ryan has stated that he wants his pitchers to work deeper in games and not restrict his pitchers as much due to pitch counts. The prevailing wisdom throughout baseball through the past 20 years or so is to pamper and protect pitchers and not expose their arms to too much work. Will the Rangers new philosophy help change that mindset?

 

Projection

The Rangers have to be the favorites in the AL West, but will their starting pitching hold up throughout the dog days of summer? The Rangers pitchers have historically hit walls during the hot summers in Arlington and their bullpen usually suffers as a consequence. It’s how the Rangers navigate July and August with their pitching is what will determine their fate this season. There’s probably not going to be another Cliff Lee type of pitcher on the market and the Rangers will most likely be forced to look within their organization for a quality arm to bolster their staff. If Brandon Webb can be that guy, then the Rangers could return to the World Series.