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May 9, 2011

Orioles news and notes: lineup changes, Pie, roster moves

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a hard guy to read, so I say this without much confidence or conviction, but I’d almost be surprised if we head down to the clubhouse tomorrow afternoon and there isn’t some sort of shakeup. Now, I’m not talking about J.J. Hardy being activated, which most of us expect to happen either tomorrow or Wednesday. I’m also not talking about a flurry of roster moves with four or five guys coming and going. I am talking about some lineup alterations and perhaps one or two roster moves. I have no inside information at this point, just a feeling from observing Showalter and listening to his responses yesterday that he’s seen enough and he feels like he’s given everyone -- his veteran hitters, specifically -- an opportunity, and they are still not producing. Today’s day off will give Showalter ample time to ponder things, though I’d be willing to bet that is all he has been doing lately. I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions and change for the sake of change, but it’s getting late early, as the expression goes, and the Orioles' offense is showing no sign of waking from a slumber.

We’ve talked many times about potential lineup changes, about moving Nick Markakis from second to third, about moving Derrek Lee down in the order and moving Matt Wieters and Adam Jones up. I’m fine with all that, but here is one change I’d like to see more often: Felix Pie somewhere in the lineup. I’m not saying Pie should be in there every day, but with the offense desperately in need of a jolt of speed and energy, why not give Pie three or four consecutive starts to see if he can get something going? Why not put him second behind Brian Roberts and see whether they could get on base a little, create some havoc and open up some holes and some RBI opportunities for Nick Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero? I know Luke Scott has been swinging the bat better and it’s tough to take him out of the lineup when the left fielder appears to be getting hot. But a day off for Scott, especially with his shoulder hurting, couldn’t hurt. It couldn’t hurt Markakis to get a day off as well, or Lee to spend a night on the bench and Scott to play first base, sacrificing some defense in the hopes of jump-starting a punchless lineup. Pie has started only six games all season, the fewest among the position players. Three of those starts came in the first week of the season with Scott nursing a groin injury. I’m not saying he’s the answer here, that he’s going to be the catalyst. I am saying the offense is in desperate need of some energy and exuberance and Pie brings both of those characteristics.

To create roster space for Hardy, the path of least resistance would be to demote Clay Rapada and go with the more traditional 12-man pitching staff. That’s also appears to be the most likely move unless the Orioles suddenly feel that they can no longer carry two utility infielders and do something with Cesar Izturis. The only other option that I see is to skip Chris Tillman’s Wednesday start and send him down to the minors, keeping an extra reliever for a little longer at a time where the bullpen has been heavily taxed. Because of today’s day off, the Orioles could go with a four-man rotation for a little while, but they’d still need a fifth starter on Saturday. So basically it would amount to delaying the inevitable for a couple of extra days of bullpen security.

This is something to look for down the road, but it’s worth noting that Brian Matusz and Alfredo Simon, two candidates to join the rotation, are both on the same schedule in terms of pitching days. They are both scheduled to pitch May 11, May 16th and May 21st. The member of the big league rotation that is on that same schedule? Chris Tillman. That may not mean much because with off days and other juggling, that could change pretty quickly. But it’s obviously no secret that Brad Bergesen and Tillman each have about two starts left before Matusz and Simon are ready, and they are running out of time to save their rotation spots.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:30 AM | | Comments (66)
        

Comments

Another outstanding column, Jeff. And I believe you are right on. Buck has said all season that the veteran guys have "track records" and there is really no reason to beleive they won't eventually perform to the numbers on their baseball cards, to use another old saying. But, if this team has any realistic chance of competing, which I think they do, how much longer can they go without trying to shake things up?

Roberts is in a horrific slump, we all know about Lee and Markakis, though Lee slowly but surely seems to be coming out of it. Vlad is Vlad, but Reynolds can be called noting less than a disappointment so far. Sure, he had some big hits early, but now seems to be a liability, with limited power and no rally extending tools, though he has shown he can take a walk.

I have no answers, I suspect no one else really does either, and that includes management. At some point you just have to trust your players, but sooner or later, they betray that trust. I'd love to see Pie, he brings the kind of enthusiasm this club needs. And Adams, Bell, and Snyder are all hitting well in Norfolk, even Reimold is swinging better, could they get a look-see?

Lots of issues, but for the first time in a long time, maybe there are some other options.

Why isn't Vlad's .289 OBP a candidate for being moved down? He's actually been a worse hitter than Derrek Lee at this point.

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Jeff Z's reply: At this point, they all should be candidates. But it's almost like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titantic or whatever that expression is. There is one guy - Robert Andino - who is either matching or exceeding his offensive expectations and he is likely going to become a reserve with Hardy's expected activation on Tuesday. ONE GUY. So I agree, it's hard to make all these switches when there is nobody who is doing much better anywhere else in the lineup.

I like getting Felix some more playing time, but honestly, as a fan, I'm pretty close to not really caring anymore. I was not one who expected this team to compete for a wild card slot this season, but I did expect to see some improvement, especially with the offense and bullpen. So far it's looking like just another lost season and it's getting very hard to maintain any enthusiasm at all.
I live in Vermont so I can't listen to day games, so I spent the afternoon listening to the Red Sox. I was about to take a break and check the computer to see how the O's were doing when I got an update during the Sox broadcast telling me the O's were down 3-0. I never bothered to go to the computer and didn't check until late last night, and then it was just to see how bad the final score would be. It's becoming an article of faith now that if the O's are down by a couple runs past about the 4th inning, then the game is lost. Just like it has been for the last decade, except for the wonderful last third of last year.
I don't ask much of this team. I just want to hear some good baseball, to think they have a chance to win, but lately it's simply a matter of wondering how long they'll hang around before the game is out of reach, with the definition of "out-of reach" getting less impressive day by day.
Is this EVER going to change?

Jeff:
I have not been the biggest fan of Pie because of his attitude and lack of plate discipline, but I agree with you that Pie shoud get at least 3-4 consecutive days in the starting lineup, because of his energy and speed. Right now the entire lineup is dead, with Luke Scott being the ONLY exception. Luke Scott is the only regular player who is not performing terribly at the plate. The lack of a running game makes this team even more boring to watch. Brian Roberts used to be the only Orioles player who stole a lot of bases, but he looks like he is done not only as a hitter, but also as a base stealer. Veterans such as Markakis, Lee, Reynolds, Guerrero, and Roberts should all spend some decent time on the bench in order to demonstrate that their lack of production will not be tolerated.

What about the fact that every single batter except Andino is hitting well under his lifetime average? Perhaps this is expectable with Lee and Guerrero, in their twilight years, but it just doesn't make sense that EVERYBODY is slumping at the same time. Isn't this the responsibility of the new hitting coach? Do you have any information that he has encouraged people to make changes in their approach to hitting? We did hear that Wieters tried a new approach that didn't work, and has now gone back to his old
swing. Maybe Terry Crowley deserves more credit that he has been given.

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Jeff Z's reply: Wieters went back to a style he was using in college and in his first professional season. He is working on things with each guy, like every hitting coach does. Markakis seems to have a different stance or hand positioning every other game. Guys are trying different things to break out. I think in some cases - including Markakis - they are trying too much.

well jeff a shacke up seems to be in order. i do not think swapping the line up around will make that much difference. the real shake up might be a talk out behind the barn. they just look like they have no zip,vim or vigar.

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Jeff Z's reply: I'd agree with that. They just look dead and extremely flat right now and that is often the result when things aren't going well in all phases. I agree that a lineup change isn't the be all and end all.

maybe you haven't noticed but lee is starting to hit and hit with some power so i wouldn't drop him down or sit him. not sure how well pie would be batting second. not the most patient hitter, doesn't bunt and i'm not sure if he has the baseball acumen to move runners up as opposed to just swinging and trying to hit the ball. you have a team that lacks speed, strikes out a lot and doesn't take many pitches

B Rob has lowest obp of any regular. Lee and Reynolds are even better...

How about this lineup:

Pie RF / LF
Hardy SS
Jones CF
Vlad DH
Scott LF / 1B
Wieters C
Lee/Markakis 1B / RF
Reynolds 3B
Roberts 2B

If B Rob turns it around, we have top of order to bring him in.

Also, would love to see very aggressive baserunning. Tons of walks this past series, and no steals. B Rob, Andino, Pie, Reynolds, Markakis, Jones...let them run. We need to be the aggressor.


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Jeff Z's reply: Most of these guys have green light to run on their own and they are apparently not comfortable doing it.

When was the last time they had a priest or a witch doctor in the clubhouse? This team is definitely under some kind of voodoo curse. Every year they put different folks on this team and we keep getting the same lame result. How many times have you watched someone hit a leadoff double and said to yourself "I'll bet they won't get him in." Really, though, you can juggle the lineup all you want, feel free, but the pitching has just been awful of late.

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Jeff Z's reply: Very true, not a whole lot of ambiguity why they are struggling so much. The starting pitchers are giving up a ton of runs and not getting deep in the game. The lineup isn't hitting with RISP, or sometimes at all. And the bullpen, aside from Sunday, hasn't been very good lately either

I don't know what Adam Jones has possibly done to move up in the lineup. As much attention as Vlad has gotten for not talking, Jones has only walked three times more. Easily the most overrated Oriole in my opinion. People keep talking like he's a star in the making, and it's just not there.

As for Tillman, once Matusz comes back I would really like to see him move to the bullpen for the rest of the season (or until he's needed in the rotation again). What's the point in sending him to the minors? He's torn through the minors and time and time again. His issue is clear- he doesn't know how to strike major league hitters out. There's no better place for him to figure out how to do that than in the bullpen. I just don't see what he has to gain by going back to the minors where he's already proven he can succeed. He needs to be facing top competition and adjusting to it.

Jeff,

I could go through all of the situations this weekend where the O's should have done this or done that better, but the one thing that sticks out the most is a point that Jim Palmer brought up and that is Roberts and Markakis not bunting when the infield was playing so far back on the both of them.

Roberts led off with walks his first two at bats and Markakis couldn't move him over. Longoria was playing back on the edge of the grass. Same thing for Roberts.

It just seemed that if either of them laid down a bunt, they could have walked to first.

It would have made Tampa Bay move in a bit and then they are both more dangerous hitters.

But if 3, 4 and 5 aren't hitting, it becomes moot.

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Jeff Z's reply: I didn't hear Palmer's comments and I have no problem with the idea of players bunting every once in a while to get on base, but I think the Orioles offensive troubles go well, well beyond not bunting. They were 2-for-18 with RISP the past two games. They didn't get a single clutch hit all weekend wth the exception of Wieters' two-run double yesterday.

Jeff,

What about Reynolds? Release the guy! Move Andino to third. If anyone believes Reynolds has more upside than Andino, they just don't know baseball. I blame Reynold's Little League coach for letting him advance with a swing like that!

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Jeff Z's reply: He obviously shares in the blame for the offense's poor performance. Like about eight other guys on the team, his numbers are unacceptable across the board. I do like that he had five walks in the series, but he's getting paid to hit the ball over the fence and in the gaps much more than he's doing.

absolutely agree ! Bat him 2nd ; he was a very patient hitter in '09 after Jones got hurt. Trembley often had him first or 2nd. Last year he was coming back from injury and trying too hard to impress, batting down in the order and swinging at pitcher's pitches early in the count.t

I'll go one step further. Make Pie a regular by giving Scott, Lee, Vlad, Nick, and Jones one day off a week.

Jeff, It is definitely getting to crunch time.
We are nearly a month and a half in and not one hitter has hit consistently.

I thought the whole crew should go last year when Trembley went, including the Crow.

I'll just go ahead and eat those words. What is Presley getting paid for exactly? And the excuse that it's on the players is absurd. If that's the case, then why pay a hitting coach at all?

Pie has to play.

Sure would be a great time to have some minor leaguers knocking on the door. Unfortunately, seems like most of ours are not even at the front gate.

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Jeff Z's reply: Hey PJ, I think everybody shares in the blame, and that certainly includes Presley. However, I still think it's on the players. They are getting pitches to hit and they're not hitting them. They are getting opportunities to drive in runs, and they're not driving them in. Showalter and coaches have stuck with these guys and they're not getting much to show for it. Again, if it was just one or two guys, I might think differently. This is the entire lineup, except Andino and maybe Pie who has been OK offensively in limited at-bats.

Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing - I still contend that many Os have proven themselves, are under career averages and will break out.

If you recall, was it just last year Luke looked like he would never break out offensively but ended up going on a monster tear.

Lets be patient, the pendulum will swing. Don't sell your stocks when the market is low.

If i was the opposing manager i would tell my pitchers that if they walk Mark Reynolds or hit him i will take them out of the game.

Once Hardy returns: Reynolds rides the pine, PH as needed, Andino tries 3B while he's hot.

Nick just doesn't seem well, mentally.

Perhaps inserting Pie into the lineup would create a short-term jolt (or perhaps not: the one thing the Orioles are finally doing is showing some patience at the plate, which Pie is not known for). But Pie is not the longterm answer. He's a nice 4th Outfielder. Andino, by the way, is also not the answer: he is already beginning to re-discover his level, which is as a bench player.

A simpler answer to me would be to put Hardy in the 2-hole, drop Nick to 6th or 7th.

Perhaps the answer is to begin to think about this team as still a rebuilding team, and to act accordingly. I am not sure what this would mean in terms of roster management in the short term. But in the long term it would mean taking an objective look at who is potentially going to help us if we were lucky enough to have a winning team in a year or 2, and who is not. Lee, Guerrero, and Scott are certainly part of that equation, but I also think that Roberts and Markakis might have to be included in that discussion as well.

Let me see if I've got this straight. You go out and get a guy who batted .198 and led the league in Ks and now is batting .187 and on pace to lead the league in Ks and you're surprised? As Buck would say, seems like he's right on his track record.
As for Lee and his batting in the 3 hole--more than a head scratcher. His numbers are a joke and completely deceiving. Almost all of his hits have come when the game was already decided. I can not remember one important hit he's gotten when the game was on the line. Plus he's about to give Reynolds a run for his money on the K list.
This has to be the most depressing and disappointing Orioles season in many a moon and Buck is at the head of the line in this regard. His seemingly flat line stupor with all of this going on is mindboggling.
A real shame!

Jeff,
Agree totally about Pie, who has a quick bat and speed. But why not give Fox, who led the team in homers in ST, a chance at third and bench Reynolds?


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Jeff Z's reply: That's certainly an option as well.

Lets face it Jeff , this organization spreads an air of "why should I try hard , no one else is" ? This team just always looks like a loosing ball club , they don't bring in top tier players then wonder why they aren't winning..........These players are smart guys , they know they will not play meaningful games in September , they see the competition............When they see an honest effort from Mgt. to bring in top tier free agents I believe they all will try harder , until then , they are just collecting paychecks and the big boys come here for practice..............

Jeff, we can blame the players, the batting coach, and even the manager if we want,but the real blame for this continuous slide is none other then ANDY M. I understand and get what he was trying to do but in the 4 years that he has been here the grow the arms and buy the bats has been a complete failure.His record bringing in free agent hitters has to go down as the worst of all time. Sure we can give him a slight reprieve because we understand that no top free agents will ever come here,but in the end he is responsible for putting this 25 man roster together.

Aging players like Lee and Vlad might have something left if they were on a contending club, but to put them on a team with no hope is asking way to much. Our core players like Roberts, Jones, Nick and Brian are all going backwards with there performances and after getting atkins off the scrap heap last year you would have thought andy would have learned his lesson in bringing in reynolds.Jeff we have only played 33 games so far and the team seems life less out there.For my money the real blame falls squarely on the shoulders of our GM.He is completely outdated in his methods.

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Jeff Z's reply: I wouldn't argue that the free agent offensive additions have not worked out during MacPhail's tenure. I also agree that he has put together this team and deserves a good amount of the blame when the team isn't performing. But my biggest concern beyond the struggles of Lee, Reynolds, Vlad, Atkins and any of the other free agent position players added is why are the young hitters, who were supposed to be the backbone of this team, struggling so much? Why has Markakis' numbers sagged so much over the past year and a half and why does he continue to look lost for months at a time? Why hasn't Jones plate discipline improved more where you have to throw him strikes to get him out? Why has Wieters struggled so much offensively since his callup? Did the Orioles overrate their own talent like they've done so often in the past? I'm not sure that is the case because every scout in baseball projected Wieters as a sure-fire stud and a future middle of the order bat. Every other team would have been foaming at the mouth to acquire Jones and Markakis. I know baseball is a tough game and it takes young guys a while to get acclimated, especially when you are facing AL East type pitching, but the lack of marked improvement from the young hitters would scare me more than anything if I'm an O's fan.

Jeff,

Without Pie and Andino in the lineup, this is basically a station to station team on the bases, save Jones. Very few leg hits, stolen bases, or first to third on singles. As a result, little things lose close games, like not being able to advance runners. Nothing can make up for bonehead plays like Roberts made yesterday, getting picked off second with nobody out. We can't expect to simply slug our way to wins every night.

I have not been a Pie fan in the past, but I think the kid deserves an extended shot in left field to add speed and defense to the lineup. I would platoon Scott and Lee at first or DH to give Guerrero a rest. I hope I am wrong but Lee could become this year's Garrett Atkins. His bat looks slow.

The return of a healthy Hardy should inject more punch into the lineup, but I think it is time to add speed. I like Scott's bat but I really think he should be platooned, along with Lee and give Pie a chance to win the position. As far as moving people down in the lineup, how many people can you move down? There are only 9 positions and somebody has to hit 1 to 6.

What do you think about giving Pie an extended shot in left and platooning Scott at 1b and DH?

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Jeff Z"s reply: I'm fine with that. My whole point in the blog was that perhaps it's a good time for Pie to get an extended look to see if he can get it going and energize the team a little. i don't reallly care how you do it: whether it's platooning Luke at first; giving Vlad time off, giving Markakis and Jones periodic days off. Just for this three-game series against Seattle, you can give him a start in left field and have Luke sit one of the days; second day, you can start Pie in left, and have Scott play first and sit Derrek Lee; third day you can sit Markakis and give Pie a start in right; 4th day, you can start Pie in left, have Vlad take the day and DH Scott. There are ways you can spread it around a little. And again, I want to make it clear that Pie is not the be all and the end all and is going to solve the O's offensive woes. But not much else is working either.

Jeff,

I tend to agree with some others who have weighed in on Reynolds. His at bats are becoming more and more painful to watch...a big swing full of holes. Could this be another Garrett Atkins debacle? When Hardy returns, why not try him at third for awhile and allow Andino to stay in the line up at short?

I also agree, Jeff, that Buck has to find a way to get Pie some playing time to hopefully provide a spark to this line up.

Finally, Izzy may be a popular clubhouse figure, but he is, quite simply, an automatic out at the plate.

If the team doesn't play any better this week, it is time to bring up Bell and Reimold. Bell is hitting .290 and is 6 for his last 11 at bats with 5 home runs. The O's may as well bring him up and let him mature at the major league level.
He can do just as good as Reyonolds.
And if Derek Lee doesn't soon pick it up, we may as well play Pie in left field and alternate Scott and Reimold at first base. All I know is something is going to give soon as Buck is not going to let things continue as is.

I agree that patience is a virtue here - most of these players have a history and aren't going to slide too much from that history, unless they have hit a sharp decline phase of their career (a possible factor for Lee & Guerrero).

Having said that, I agree with Jeff that Pie needs to play. The O's still can't be sure what they have in him, because the talent he showed in the Cubs' system was so far above what he's produced in his limited shots in the majors. If he can stay healthy, he's a difference maker.

Beyond that, Reynolds is what Reynolds is & that was a decision the O's made when they signed him - you're not going to get him to hit .250. You just have to hope the HRs come. There's no reason to have Izturus on this team now that Andino has proven himself. Jake Fox needs some more ABs too (why would you ever play Scott against a LHP?)

But there's no reason to give up on this team - until this weekend the pitching's been good & the best of the young lot (Matusz) is on his way back. It's only May 9.

Pie should be rotated thru each outfield position throughout the week. Monday-LF, Wednesday-CF, Friday-RF

People often say, "don't panic"! In this case, its time to PANIC!
SHAKE IT UP!!

LF-Pie
CF-Jones / Pie
DH-Guerrero
1B-Scott(&LF) / Lee(bat #6)
C-Weiters
RF-Markakis / Pie
3B-Hardy / Izturis / Reynolds
SS-Andino
2B-Roberts

@ The Folks who want Fox @ 3rd.

No! As Ray said Reynolds is what he is, but he's a decent third baseman fielding wise and that's who the O's wanted. So, hopefully the hitting comes. As for Fox, I would rather see him at 1st base then anywhere else. I would not want Scott @ 1st base. I don't think he's effective over there regardless of what the UZR tells me. He can't move laterally IMHO. Plus, he doesn't handle ground balls that well in left field, what makes you think that will change when he's at first?!?

Sure, I would like to see Pie more, heck I would even like to see Ryan Adams play some second base for us. Or like I suggested put Andino in for a few games. Lastly, for those who are poo pooing Vlad, we don't exactly have a Josh Hamilton in the line up these days. much less a good contact hitter like Michael Young. For Vlad to start firing on all cylinders, those around him have to start hitting too!

why does everyone think that a hitting coach is to blame for player's struggles? seriously, these are professional hitters. Vlad, Lee, Markakis, Reynolds, B-Rob, Jones (maybe), Scott, basically everybody not named Wieters and Pie have been in the league long enough to be able to know what they're doing wrong.

Jeff, I haven't seen this brought up yet, but has it been mentioned that their approaches at the plate are because of a poor scouting system?


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Jeff Z's reply: I'd agree that the approach hasn't always been there but the Orioles walked what 18 times over the past three games and only two of those baserunners scored. I didn't necessarily see poor approach as the problem over the weekend. They are just not hitting period. Not sure what you mean about scouting and approach. Derrek Lee has always had a good approach and I think that has continued though he has had some at-bats where he's gotten anxious because he's so desperate to make an impact. Everybody in baseball has known Vlad's approach for years. And if you are talking more about specific approaches against pitchers, I'd think they have faced most of these AL East pitchers plenty of times where they know what they are up against.

I agree it's time to bench Reynolds and bring up Bell and maybe even Reimold and let's see if that jump starts some people. Does Reynolds have any options left??

Put me in the dugout and I will not stop cheering, bust a few jokes, and get excited. The Orioles have always had no emotion and will to win day after day. I believe, so maybe i will rub off on these guys. They need a good luck charm.

We traded David Hernandez for Mark Reynolds, right? I like Reynolds glove but I think Hernandez could certainly bat .198 and strike out 200 times for a lot less money! Then he could pitch now and then as well.

Jeff,

We've played 34 games and we have a snapshot of what to expect from the O's the rest of the way. Jones, Weiters, Guerrero and Scott will provide occasional power. Derrek Lee and Matt Weiters will flash the leather. Markakis and Roberts are trending downward (although Nick has started to pick it up).

Doctor Longball cannot save the Orioles. We must have speed at the top of the order [and in the 9-hole). Roberts has to have the worst OBP of any leadoff hitter in the AL. Felix Pie or Andino needs to hit leadoff. Why not switch Adam Jones and Derrek Lee in the batting order to increase run production?

Nice to see they're talking about bringing Hardy back, who is hitting .222 in Norfolk. He'll fit right in. As for the folks wanting Reimold up, he isn't doing much better. On a serious note, though, why is there no talk whatsoever of giving Troy Patton a look? He seems to be doing well at Norfolk, and has put up good numbers in the majors in the past. This seems a real head scratcher to me. He certainly can't do any worse than Tillman or Bergesson, either of which could do for a short DL stint for 'arm fatigue,' followed by a little rehab in the minors. That seems to be what good teams do anyway when one of their starters is struggling. Instead this team talks out of both sides of their mouths. They say it's time the training wheels are off, and that they need to produce or best of luck somewhere else, but they also say these guys need to get their work in and take their lumps when they aren't producing. Ambiguity and double-speak is a manager's worst enemy.

Brandon Snyder seems to be doing well.Why not give him a chance at first.

Time to break out Buck's motivational video again to light a fire.

Reynolds and Lee are waiting for that 3&2 Fastball down the middle. No pitcher in the AL will throw them one, especially in the Eatern Division of the AL. Only Oriole pitchers do that.

We've been misled. If they hadn't won all those games at the beginning, our responses would be more tempered. Okay, maybe more resigned to failure. Fact is, the Orioles really aren't as good as those other teams... Tampa Bay, the Yankees, Indians... Where is this team better than last year? Lee provides better defense than Atkins/Scott/Wigginton at first. Hardy is a better hitter than Izturis but he's been out. Reynolds is a bit better defensively than Tejada but no better offensively. The rest? Starting pitchers have varied from very good to awful but have not been consistently good (as they were in August and September). The performance of the relievers has made us pine for Albers. So far the Orioles are only marginally better. The averages of Markakis, Roberts and Jones will improve but the team lacks leadership. I'm beginning to doubt that a .500 season is in the cards.

Maybe Roberts shouldn't be batting leadoff. Is this sacriligious? Why is our lineup so carved in stone?

When I've asked hitters at the "A-Ball" level why they don't take more pitches and work the count more they have been quick to tell me that they didn't get where they are by walking. While that may be true that philosophy ignores a couple of important fundamentals regarding the approach to hitting: 1) It's never a bad idea to force the starting pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible early on. Who knows, you might just shorten his day, (2) If a pitcher knows he doesn't have to throw a batter a strike to get him out he's not going to throw him one. Consequently the hitter doesn't have much from which to choose. I don't know for sure, because I've never played professional baseball, but I suspect that coaches look for flaws, work hard to tweak struggling hitters but don't spend enough time discussing the virtues of a well planned approach to an at-bat.

A few adjustments to the batting order should certainly happen. Buck needs to find a formula that works and giving Pie time at the two spot sounds like a great move. For one, it gives you two chances at the top of the order to get speed on the bases ahead of power. I've also felt that Roberts at one and Jones at two makes sense for the same reason.

Os are 5 wins ahead of year after 33 games and straight-line gets 3 more wins than last year's 66, which even included the amazing Buck-run (OK, this is admittedly crude, but numerically-accurate).

If we assume that JJ, Matusz and Duchscherer, and Simon all return to form, and hitting improves somewhat --- at least as good as we thought it might be,
do you think they need a major roster move to fill in gaps or are there any viable candidates even out there to trade for?

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Jeff Z's reply: No, I think what you see is pretty much what you're getting. As you said, Matusz, Simon and Duch are on mend. I'd expect Josh Bell, Reimold and Snyder to all get opportunities this year. But there are no quick fixes out there.

What should be happening with Roberts is he should be getting some days off. No player is entitled to play every single game without rest based on past performance, particularly when said player has as many health issues as he does and is making mental mistakes as well as not hitting. Buck of all managers should not be letting his veterans write the lineup a la Dave Trembley. Is it an order from Angelos that regulars don't have to take days off unless they want to?

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Jeff Z's reply: Angelos has nothing to do with it. Roberts sat out the other day in KC, though it is fair to suggest that Buck does like to run his veterans out there a lot.

the orioles have the lowest BABIP in baseball, at .260. ("batting average on balls in play.") the median is about .290. their line drive % is right in the middle of the pack, so buck and luke aren't kidding--the team is making some good contact but have been particularly unlucky so far. i would expect offensive production to improve even if everything stays the same and the players keep doing what they're doing.

I told ya so. D Lee is a bum and worthless. He should be demoted to AAA for hitting practice. He stinks. There is not one Oriole I wouldn't trade for better pitching. Hitting is a joke. There is no way .500 will happen in 2011. Last place is where the Orioles belong and 23.5 games out by August 1.

Jeff, I know Roberts is a great guy and always plays hard, but one thing that constantly frustrates me is that he seems to put himself ahead of the team when it comes to bunting. The guy NEVER bunts, even in clear bunting situations.

Yesterday, the Rays were practically giving him a bunt single to the right side. If he drops that down, it's first and third, no outs. Assuming everything else goes the same, Nick loads the bases and Lee's double play puts the tying run on third with two outs and Vlad coming up.

I love B-Rob as much as the next guy, but I'm surprised Showalter has not made an issue of this.

A poster a few days ago made a tongue-in-cheek remark, but sadly, it's true: Roberts is way too much like Willie Mays Hayes in Major League 2. He seems to forget his main responsibility is getting on base, period. Not stepping up to be the hero and deliver the big HR all the time.

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Jeff Z's reply: Fair criticism. Thing is, Roberts worked on bunting a lot during spring training and Showalter predicted that we would see much more of it because they had talked about it. I think he's squared a couple of times this season, but you are right, it's clear he just doesn't like to do it.

Kind of tired talking about the same thing with these Orioles. I mean we could be talking about last year, the 2004 season, the miserable 2005 season & on & on.
The only thing that changes with this franchise are the years. Same issues, same horrible draft choices, same lousy record, same 6 game winning streak that gets us thinking World Series.
So let's change the topic for a minute.
How about that jerk Joe West & his bumps of Francona? I mean I hate the Sox as much as the next guy but Francona had every right to get an explanation from the other consistantly horribly rated umpire Angel Hernandez before the worst umpire in the game (West) had to get in the middle again of something he could have stayed out of.
Most Crew Chiefs let the player or manager have their say with the umpire in question & then move in if things just are not breaking up. Not West...he has to be into everyones business & he had to bump Francona 7 or 8 times. If Francona bumped him by his shadow he'd be fined & suspended.
Why the hell does MLB continue to put up with his crap?
The players consistantly vote West one of the 5 Worst umpires in the game EVERY year for a reason.
The clown just doesn't care & MLB should end his comic routine now.
By the way, great info Jeff. Thanks.

Any stats on Os averages hitting first pitches vs. going deeper in the count? A couple weeks ago, Gary Thorne showed an unreal 100 point drop in averages in MLB players who hit any pitch except the first.

Quite a dilemma.

B-Rob must like those MLB stats. Saturday, after trailing by many runs, Os got back-to-back walks and even the crowd was getting into it. B-Rob hit the very next pitch and popped out --- took the wind right out of OPCY. What was he thinking?

Note to those who think you can just put anybody at third: Ask an older fan to tell you about Floyd Rayford.

What is amazing is that the same team (except Matuscz has been out) seemed to be better than last season. They were when 6-1. Who would have predicted that the hitting would flat-line? Roberts was hot, then came down to earth, and the team tanked. Starters must go 7 + innings, and the bull-pen has to hold leads. The O's have a lot of problems with BOTH pitching and hitting.

People arguing for Reynolds' benching or even release in favor of Josh Bell or Fox....Really? Have we gotten so blinded by the losing that we've lost a sense of reason?

Fox has looked gross in each opportunity he's had (I think he's something like 4 for 30). Granted his chances have been few and this can be attributed to lack of playing time, but he's turning 29, is on his 3rd club now and has never been able to contribute anything that suggests he can be a regular player.

As for Bell, did you people watch him last year? I think his OBP was below .225 if I remember correctly. It's possible he could develop in the next year or two and be ready to be a contributor but he had an extended look last year and did nothing.

My point is this notion that Reynolds should be let go in favor of these two guys in really curious to me. Reynolds is a proven above average third baseman. I get the frustration at him so far this year, but c'mon man!!!


I agree that Reynolds should be left alone, or even moved UP in the order so as to see more hittable pitches. My gut feeling is that he is going to be fine, with a little less pressing that he has to have the whole team on his shoulders. This guy can hit a ton...he can K twice every game, because he will deliver 3 or 4 bases most games. Plus, he has the best glove at 3B in a long time

How about sending Guthrie down for a few weeks?????


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Jeff Z's reply: Why because he had one bad start?

When I've asked hitters at the "A-Ball" level why they don't take more pitches and work the count more they have been quick to tell me that they didn't get where they are by walking. While that may be true that philosophy ignores a couple of important fundamentals regarding the approach to hitting: 1) It's never a bad idea to force the starting pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible early on. Who knows, you might just shorten his day, (2) If a pitcher knows he doesn't have to throw a batter a strike to get him out he's not going to throw him one. Consequently the hitter doesn't have much from which to choose. I don't know for sure, because I've never played professional baseball, but I suspect that coaches look for flaws, work hard to tweak struggling hitters but don't spend enough time discussing the virtues of a well planned approach to an at-bat.

I think I would bat pie 2nd and drop everyone else 1 spot.. PUT HARDY at SS and let ANDINO play 3B several games.. I thought he did a pretty good job there september last year.. LET REYNOLDS sit several days and work on his mental game.. BUT I question whether we can afford to go 2 or 3 times more through the rotation with BERGENSEN AND TILLMAN.. Bergensen could fill a BP spot if he finds his sinker... I love TILLMANS arm but wonder if he is a high ball fly ball pitcher if he can ever succeed in camden yards, or we should let him tear up AAA and trade him to a team with a big park.. The orioles are determined to make Klein into a starter, but given their yearly seach why not groom him or someone as a closer.. ALL the mock drafts say our only best choice at #4 draft in june will net us another very high college pitcher who could be here in a year or two if we get him signed ASAP. NOT my money but maybe worth extra money up front to get him pitching this year.....

I hope you are right regarding the coming lineup changes, Jeff. Activating Hardy, should by all accounts get us better defensively at short. Andino, while making marked improvement at the plate has cost us at times in the field. I know he had the spectacular diving stop to start a double play, but JJ is a solid defender. Also, Hardy can handle the two spot.

I'm not so sure as someone else posted that Andino hasn't earned a spot at this point. I like the idea of him at third. While Reynolds is a defensive upgrade at the position, that's not what we were sold in the offseason. It might motivate him to get his act in gear if he thinks there are other options besides him.

As for Pie not being a two hitter, well how's Nick handling that role? Andino has shown that he has become a more disciplined and thus his hitting has improved. Pie might do well in that role and he provides more speed than Markakis who never seems to run. How long does he get a pass? Roberts, too.

Lee's at bat to end the game was atrocious. I applauded the move when they got him, like his d, great in the clubhouse, etc. In that situation though, after playing ball my entire life I can't imagine swinging at the first pitch there after Nick gets hbp and we have first and second with one out. In no scenario does that work. Thing was, I was following the game on the computer and I thought, "He's gonna hit into a double play to end it." He's always been a disciplined hitter so he's pressing right now. Yes his bat looks a little slow, but what's Markakis' excuse? Changing his hands or stance every other game he looks confused and like he just doesn't have a plan up there. Often he makes weak outs and rarely pulls the ball.

Again, drop them both in the order and take some pressure off hopefully. Wieters made a nice adjustment now move him up to get some more production out of him.

The other people advocating for a platoon system that gets each of these guys a day off makes sense, but we have to do something.


Pie cf Andino 3b
Hardy ss Hardy ss
Scott lf Lee 1b
Guerrero dh Scott dh
Wieters c Wieters c
Roberts 2b Roberts 2b
Markakis rf Markakis rf
Lee 1b Jones cf
Andino 3b Pie lf

I do think we can go back to the vets when they snap out of it, unless guys like Andino and Pie are ready to hit their stride. Why not now, though?

Jones could stand some down time, too. He's got to become more disciplined. He's shown power, just not consistently.

What do you think?

In order to become a winner a team has to have chemistry, but most important, the team must have good players. I know that Adam Jones wants to win, but let's be honest with ourselves. He simply isn't as good as we or he want to believe that he is(offensively). That goes the same for Roberts(offensively), Lee(offensively), Weiters (offensively), Reynolds(offensively)

Fans don't want to hear it, but the Os are not going to win with any of its current players. We've watched Roberts and Markakis for years now. Nothing has changed in the standings. Neither of them has taken any steps upward. Its not going to happen. Now that we know that it will not happen, its time to do what hurts for the better good.....trade Roberts, Markakis, along with Lee, Scott, Guerrero, Reynolds, Gregg, & Uehara. Don't touch any starting pitchers. Not even Tillman. He should become a long reliever. Trade, what we wish, were star players, to saturate the organization with more pitching.

Another great piece, Jeff, but I think there is more to the story.

I contend that buck stops with Buck and that he has done little if anything positive in the way of managing the roster or the lineup. he has been on autopilot. It's as if he has never managed a club in a funk.

Joe Maddon and the Rays are running circles around the Orioles organization and maybe the folks in the warehouse are beginning to realize it. Both clubs are moving in diametrically opposite directions. When the Rays haul in ten of the top sixty picks in the draft perhaps somebody will finally write something about it.

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Jeff Z's reply: Write something about what? That the Rays have a smart front office and the Orioles decision making has been lacking in relation to their AL East rivals lately? I think that has been well covered over the years.

Let me run this by the long-sufferin' fans one more tim.
Last year, Lee hit half the homers he hit the year before. His BA was 50 points lower and he struck out 20 more times, which is about an extra weeks worth of games. Notice his homers are solo shots? The pitchers bear down on him a little more with a man on and just wear him out.
Reynolds hit .198 last year in 145 games. He's walking now because he's afraid to swing the bat. This will catch up to him in probably this very next series. He got away with being hit a coupla times and getting a free pass by laying the bat on his shoulder. If i was the opposing manager i'd take my thrower out if he walked or hit Reynolds. These 2 guys are in a neck and neck race for SO King of the Birds.

Great article Jeff. Like almost everything else it boils down to expectations. We see players with exquisite resumes in our lineup and hope springs eternal even though they are in that danger zone of decline. Our desperate desire to improve and to show real improvement overtakes objectivity. The truth is we signed one guy who fell apart the last half of 2010, an older guy coming off of injury and a legendary strikeout machine. Our primo left handed starter is yet to pitch and we were forced into bringing our next prized prospect up abit early. So what's left? A kid who throws softballs(Bergeson) and has never found his sink since being hit by a batted ball. A AAAA pithcher in Tillman who I seriously doubt will ever cut it consistently. An injured guy(the Duke) A bullpen devoid of HEAT(Go look at Davy Johnsons pens, most could bring heat) There are a few minor bright spots, Jones,Andino,Weiters,Britton but not enough to add up to a hill of beans. The core of Roberts,Markakis,Luke our carry overs simply are not living up to their reputations. And they often play/look rather disinterested and uninspired(the Roberts pickoff was simply inexcusable) So folks lets sit back and relax. We cannot change this bunch. Lower those expectations unless you want to go freakin crazy. Enjoy the few high moments. Keith Law had it dead on from the start. LAST PLACE.

I'm all for getting Pie some more playing time and I think I disagree with most on here in that I'm not so down on Jones and not so high on Andino. Jones has actually been showing a lot more plate discipline lately. He has had several at bats recently where he's taken the pitcher to 9, 10, even 14 pitches in one at bat. That's a VERY good sign for a young (yes he IS still young) hitter. I think you'll see him start to put up some better numbers very soon and he would be a prime candidate to move up to 2nd or 3rd. He has speed and has even shown early this season he is a threat to drop down a bunt. With the increased plate discipline more walks will come.

Andino on the other hand is very overrated on these blogs. People have him replacing Hardy, replacing Reynolds... He is a light hitting middle infielder with slightly above average speed, average defense, and slightly below average baserunning ability. He has career backup written all over him, and if you take Reynolds out of the lineup you're sacrificing a lot of potential power and making the lineup that much easier for opposing pitchers. Reynolds strikes out a lot and hits for low average, we all know this. He also has hit a decent amount of doubles and the power stroke is there. Pitchers have to respect that to some extent. No pitcher is going to face Andino with one on in a one run game and be concerned about giving up a go ahead home run or game tying double. I think Reynolds just like everyone else is in a slump. I know I have a much better feeling about him than Atkins whom everyone seems overly willing to compare him to here.

The problem is this team doesn't have any one or two players capable of pulling them out of a slump - they're just not good enough. The only way they will be competitive is if EVERYONE starts hitting and pitching at the same time. It happened for the last quarter of the season last year, and could happen again at some point this year, but I'm not putting any money down on it. But giving guys like Reimold and Bell a chance to prove themselves (we've been down that road, no one was impressed) is not going to turn this thing around.

Not sure I understand at all the consensus on here that Reynolds needs to just go away. Is this based on only looking at batting average? I know one thing, it cannot be an opinion based on there being a better option available.

Look a little deeper guys, yes he's off to a slow start and yes he's batting below .200. We all are aware. But he's leading the team in doubles,and is a PROVEN power producers. People who are saying he needs to sit are being ridiculous. In favor of who? Bell? Fox? Move Andino to 3rd? Give me a break. You're going to regret your words when he has a hot stretch and hits 3 or 4 home runs in a week like he's PROVEN over several years he will do.

Plus, in spite of his batting average he's still 5th on the team in OBP (better than Markakis, Jones, Roberts, and Vlad)

So moral of the story, relax with the Reynolds bashing. He's better than any other guy we could put at third by leaps and bounds.

Pat makes some decent points. The idea is a guy that could bat .220 hit 35 HR and drive in 90 while batting 8th. Problem is it's hard to see that guy that right now, but I do think you need to give it a couple of months to adjust to a new league etc... One problem is his glove has not been great. Keep in mind Josh Bell appeaars to be figuring things out.

Lee's bat has slowed and he has no shot against quality pitchers, but his glove has saved 20 runs this year. Move him to 7th and let him hit his 20 HR;'s.

Why is everyone in such a hurry to get rid of Bergeson. Yes he needs to get consistent, but he left to an ovation in his start before Sunday. He needs another pitch, but Tillman isn't even close to him right now. Tillman tops out at 89 and has poor command - can't wait to watch him face King Felix tomorrow.

OK - John Russell needs to swap places with Willie Randolph. Getting Hardy thrown out by 20 feet tonight marks the 3rd time he;s shown desparation trying to get a runner home, and cost the O's 1st and 3rd with one out and Lee up. Instead Nick goes to second, Lee gets walked and Fox ends the inning, Nice job coach - what are you thinking?

It's time for Adam to move to the three hole and see what he can do. Against lefties - maybe Andino plays some second base - hard to watch Roberts right now - his defense has been sliding, he won't steal bases and all he does is fly out to 320 feet.

Bottom line is this team has pieces in all the wrong places - Andy needs to change some of those pieces with some trades.

Wow - it's hard to believe how bad this team looks right now. They don't advance runners - they don't make quality outs - first and second no one out, meands nothing.

Reynolds and Lee are automatic strikeouts in clutch situations right now, and while Weiters has looked good in spurts, does anyone notice how many swings he wastes, how few balls he hits hard and how often he is badly late on any ball with velocity?

And Roberts - just ridiculous - he doesn't even look like he cares. He swings at anything - he doesn't run hard to first - and he's lazy in the field. When I DVR a game, I just FF through any at bat in a clutch situation because he will undoubtedly strike out or fly out to CF.

I was really looking forward to this year - but the joke is on us, This team is quite possibly worse than last year.

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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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