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April 16, 2011

Pre-game chatter: weather, slumping offense, Uehara

I abstain from giving any weather reports or making any foolish predictions about whether the Orioles will play or get rained out. However, I can say that the consensus from many at Progressive Field last night was that it may be very tough to get today’s game in because the amount of rain in the forecast. I can’t say I’ve seen any of these forecasts or even checked weather.com. The extent of my reporting on this topic came when I noticed before I walked out of the stadium late last night that the Indians’ grounds crew had already applied the tarp, always an ominous sign. If they don’t get the game in, I’m assuming that there will be a doubleheader tomorrow because this is the Orioles only trip here. Stay tuned.

I don’t like spending too much time obsessing over statistics the first couple weeks of the season, but it’s kind of hard not to at Progressive Field, where the huge JumboTron updates the batting averages and ERAs after every at-bat. I guess this is not exactly a newsflash but I looked up as the Indians were putting the finishing touches on the win and I was a little taken aback by the averages of the Oriole regulars. Unless you include Cesar Izturis who is hitting .286 while subbing for injured shortstop J.J. Hardy, there is not a single Oriole regular hitting above .260, Vladimir Guerrero’s current average. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are hitting .194 and .200 respectively. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are at .235 and .244. Derrek Lee, Guerrero and Luke Scott – the Orioles two, three and four hitters – have combined for two homers and seven RBIs. I asked manager Buck Showalter last night if there is any concern about the slumping offense and he said, ““We’ll be fine. We’ll be a good offensive team. Batting averages fluctuate 20 points per at-bat right now. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m aware of what our guys track records are more than what they are doing now.” That, of course, is all true. However, the Orioles simply have to start getting some consistent production from their lineup. This was supposed to be the strength of the team and through a dozen games – aside from a couple of big homers - it’s pretty much been the biggest weakness. And it’s not going to get any easier as the Orioles face Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano over the next four days.

Even when the Orioles try to get Koji Uehara work, the reliever barely breaks a sweat. Uehara hadn’t pitched in seven days when Showalter gave him the ball last night in the eighth inning of a seven-run game just so he’d get some work in. Five pitches – and no splitters – later, Uehara was back in the dugout, having retired the Indians in order. Uehara has faced 12 hitters spanning four appearances and retired 11 of them. He also told Japanese reporters after the game that he feels ready to start pitching in back-to-back games. If there is a game today and the Orioles have a late lead, you’d like to think he’d be available. After all, his appearance last night didn’t last much longer than a Guerrero at-bat.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (19)
        

Comments

Mr Insider: Any idea when Hardy is due back in the lineup??? When he left, everything went south it seems..

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Jeff Z's reply: He's still at least two week away.

Jeff, I'm in Cleveland for the 3 game series and other than the bottom of the 3rd, Britton didn't look bad. However, my biggest concern was watching the offense, they didn't even seem to care last night. They didn't look like they wanted to drive the ball but just slapped at it. Will Buck allow that to continue? Does he ever address that in the dugout during games?
It's hard standing in the $1 hot dog line for 3 innings getting heckled by every Indians fan.

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Jeff Z's reply: Lineup certainly looks flat, but you have to give some credit to Masterson, too. He was pretty nasty last night with that sinker.

LET KOJI CLOSE!!! END OF STORY!

Jeff, i told myself after last year that i would try and avoid making any rash and quick judgements on this ball club. However with just 12 games completed i have to admit and totally agree with your posting about batting averages. This club possibly could be worse then last year offensively. God for bid if i would happen to be right. We have a team that has so many players with so many holes in there swing that it's really starting to look scary. Adam jones is really starting to worry me to the point that i really don't think he will ever live up to that potential tag that so many orioles have placed on them.Brian roberts doesn't even look to walk anymore, hitting those early home runs has completely taken him out of his approach and what a leadoff hitter is suppose to do and that is get on base. Signing derrick lee and vlad was understandable considering that no other top free agents would come here , but lets be totally honest in the assement that no other team wanted there services and we had no choice but to sign them. If the orioles have to wait for luke scott to get that 5 for 60 streak over with and matt weiters doesn't put together a more consistent average this team is in big trouble with a capital T


If it's any consolation, Luke Scott was batting .177 in May last year before he hit over .300 the rest of the way.

The hits will come Ray... the hits will most definitely come.

It's SOS in Baltimore. Hitting is awful and pitching is worse. AdiO's

Jeff, are you noticing that there seems to be very little conversation going on here at Orioles Insider? It appears that the fans are just ... exhausted.

I was a huge optimist until this five-game skid. Now, it looks like even Buck is human, and the O's will continue to suck.

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Jeff Z's reply: Not necessarily Elton. I did an entry yesterday and it had something like 60 comments. The conversation is usually down on weekends. But I do agree that the good sentiment from the early start has faded big time.

@ Craig

Stay strong up there in Cleveland. Dont let the fans on Americas toilet bowl of professional sports teams get you down. This Indians run wont last and we all know the Browns and Cavs are terrible. Stay strong brother.

More Koji less Gregg! If Koji was put in that Yankers game the out come would have been different.

Koji will be the closer. O's fans may need to suffer another half a season with too many over-30 year olds in the lineup who are past their prime. Injuries and slower instincts may pay their toll (hope I'm wrong). On the other hand O's already have a host of talented young outfielders and talented infielders in the minors. Their young starting pitching will only get better.

Adam Jones will be fine as long as the pitchers hit his bat.

Buck says he's aware of the O's hitter track record and he isn't concerned. That doesn't make sense. They upgraded the offense and they still take big swings at bad pitches. What is wrong with Jones? CHANGING hitting coaches has proved unrewarding.

I think the O's need to reinstate their facial hair policy because they look silly with just about all of them with goatees. A nice little shade of facial hair is good, but all of that hair must be interfering with their line of sight at the plate. :)

Vance i said the same thing in another post. Those oriole fans that screamed about getting rid of crowley might be in for a shock. This team is completely lost hitting right now, everybody is swinging at bad pitches not working the count and all trying to hit home runs. If boston can sit down crawford today maybe sitting somebody on our team might send a message. I think buck is giving these players way to much credit by saying they have a track record. Crawford has a great track record lifetime 300 hitter and can't buy a hit right now.

Jeff, it seems that the O's have been searching for a closer since they traded George Sherrill for Josh Bell. Mike Gonzalez was signed to assume that roll and to say it didn't work is stating the obvious. And up to now, Kevin Gregg looks like Gonzalez revisited. Koji seems to be the most reliable in terms of his pitching, but injury and availability make him a question mark. Given the importance of closer, especailly with a young pitching staff, what do the O's do now?

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Jeff Z's reply: I understand the skepticism regarding Gregg. He's been shaky in his two save situations and really should be 0-for-2 had Nick Markakis not made a ridiculous catch. However, it's a little too early to call him a bust. He has a 2.25 ERA and his track record is he goes through some rough patches, but gets the job done more often than not.

I detest doing this but until Bucky gets it i've got to keep saying it. Derrek Lee does not have it anymore. Great guy; was a great slugger but in 2010 his average dropped almost 50 pts. from the year before, his HRs cut down almost half from 2009 and he had a week's extra # of strike-outs. He's going on 36. Lot of players lose their abilities before he did but it happens: lower bat speed, loss of strength in his legs, even picking up the ball in time to turn on the pitch. He had a great career but batting #3 now just makes him an inning killer.

the orioles suck again! please resolve the CBA nfl...Go Ravens

I love my Oriole shirts. I love my Mr. Boh shirt, and I can take a lot of ribbing about how poorly the Birds are doing. But I don't know how much longer I can continue to protect them,... Do they have to follow the Red Sox path?????

C'mon! If the O's win Sunday, they'll be at .500. Ask the Red Sox and Rays' fans how they'd like to be at .500 right now.

Let's try for .500-plus-one (81-80 with one cancellation) and consider that a happy milestone season.

I think it's possible. Being 5-1 was never possible. That's what's known as a fluke.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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