Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Orioles Magic

Thursday, May 28 - Sunday, May 31

Detroit Tigers (26-19) at Baltimore Orioles (21-26)

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: DET - Armando Galarraga (3-4, 5.74)
BAL - David Hernandez

Friday: DET - Dontrelle Willis (1-1, 3.57)
BAL - Brad Bergesen (1-2, 5.49)

Saturday: DET - Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.55)
BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (4-4, 4.90)

Sunday: DET - Edwin Jackson (4-3, 2.58)
BAL - Jason Berken (1-0, 3.60)

The Orioles welcome the AL Central leading Tigers to Camden Yards. What could just be any other series in May has instead taken on extra significance for the Birds. The number one prospect in all of baseball, C Matt Wieters will make his debut Friday night for Baltimore. Wieters has been hyped up for some time and finally Orioles fans will get to see the potential power and switch hitting catcher.

The Tigers have earned themselves some separation from the other weak AL Central teams. They are a balanced team with some big bats in the lineup and good arms in the rotation. Offensively they are paced by 1B Miguel Cabrera (.374, 10 HRs, 37 RBIs), 3B Brandon Inge (.274, 12 HRs, 33 RBIs), and CF Curtis Granderson (.247, 11 HRs, 27 RBIs).

The O's will face Edwin Jackson on Sunday, who leads Tigers starters with a 2.58 ERA, they also get to face Justin Verlander on Saturday, who leads the Tigers in strikeouts with 85 in 10 starts. Wieters will face Dontrelle Willis in his first at-bat Friday. Willis recently returned and after a rough first outing, had a very encouraging second outing. Willis was once one of the bright young pitchers in the game, then seemingly lost his mechanics. Hopefully, the Orioles get to face bad Willis on Friday.

The Orioles have been calling up other players besides Wieters. David Hernandez makes his first career start Thursday as the Orioles try to figure who pitches three through five are. RF Nolan Reimold has played well since being called up. He is hitting .265, with 4 HRs, and 9 RBIs in just 13 games this season.

The Orioles have won 5 of 6, the Tigers will be stiff competition, a split would be nice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Orioles Magic

Friday, May 22 - Sunday, May 24

Baltimore Orioles (16-25) at Washington Nationals (12-28)

Pitching Matchups

Friday: BAL: Rich Hill (1-0, 3.18)
WSH: Jordan Zimmerman (2-1, 6.35)

Saturday: BAL: Koji Uehara (2-3, 4.34)
WSH: Ross Detwiler (0-0, 3.60)

Sunday: BAL: Brad Bergesen (1-2, 5.35)
WSH: Shairon Martis (5-0, 4.53)

It's the 2009 Battle of the Beltway! Look at those records, we sure do have some good teams in our area! I will admit that the Battle of the Beltway used to excite me. I have hated the Washington Nubionals ever since they came from Montreal. It wasn't really anything they did, it was their "fans". Most of their "fans" deserted the Orioles and quickly jumped on the Nationals bandwagon. Some did something even more disgusting, they became fans of both teams. I have been to many Battle of the Beltway games, and nothing irks me more than seeing a fan with a Nubionals hat and an Orioles shirt. Pick a side!

The Nubionals are the worst team in baseball and come into this game losers of 10 of their last 12 games. Their problems actually mirror the Orioles problems. They have a decent offense that can put up runs, but they have absolutely no pitching and a hideous bullpen. Free agent pick up, LF Adam Dunn has been everything the Nationals could have hoped for and more. He is hitting .280, with 12 HRs and 33 RBIs. 3B Ryan Zimmerman is off to a hot start, hitting .353, with 10 HRs and 32 RBIs. SS Cristian Guzman has one of the highest averages in baseball, .373.

With a semi decent pitching staff, and a somewhat competent bullpen the Nubionals could at least be 10 games under .500 instead of 16. Countless times this season the Nubionals have led games going into the 8th and 9th innings, only for their bullpen to blow it. Jordan Zimmerman takes the hill tonight, he was recently called up by the Nubionals and is a glimmer of hope for the future. Shockingly, they have a pitcher that is undefeated, Shairon Martis comes into his start Sunday, 5-0.

The Orioles come into the series losers of 4 in a row, and were just swept in embarrassing fashion by the hated New York Yankees. They are already out of contention and its another wasted season in O's town. The one thing they can give their fans is a season series win over the Nubionals, please don't screw that up Baltimore.

Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 NBA Playoffs

Eastern Conference Finals

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #3 Orlando Magic

Finally, the Cavaliers will have some legitimate competition. The Cavs have had more days off than playoff games thus far, after demolishing both the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in back to back sweeps. Some people have been crazy enough to suggest the Cavaliers might go 16-0 and win the NBA title. I have two problems with that. Firstly, this team plays in Cleveland, sports history mandates that their road to the championship won't be that easy. Secondly, they beat the Hawks and the Pistons, teams that instill fear in no one and teams that wouldn't even have made the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The Magic disposed of the defending NBA Champion Boston Celtics in seven games. They tried many times to choke the series away but finally choked the life out of the Celtics in Game 7 in Boston. The Magic own the distinction of being the most frustrating team to watch in the NBA. They have a dominant center in Dwight Howard and a team full of chuckers in JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. When those chuckers are hitting, like they were in Game 7 at Boston, the Magic are pretty much unbeatable. However, when they don't, instead of realizing that and feeding the big man inside, they keep chucking.

The Magic can take some confidence from the fact that they had the Cavaliers number in recent years, including a beat down in Orlando the last time these teams got together. Matchup wise the Cavs have the greatest player in basketball, LeBron James, and the Magic have to contain him in some way. Really, the Magic's focus should be to let LeBron get his and shut down his teammates, including Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

I think LeBron and Mo Williams hold distinct advantages for the Cavs. If Jameer Nelson was healthy for the Magic I would like their chances much more, as the point guard battle wouldn't be lopsided. However, with Rafer Alston starting, I think Williams and West can tear him up. I expect Howard to have a big series and dominant Ilgauskas, but its hard to pick against the team with homecourt advantage and the best player in the world. The Magic will show that the Cavs are beatable but they won't show it enough to make the Finals.

Prediction: Cleveland over Orlando, 4-2

Western Conference Finals

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #2 Denver Nuggets

It ended up being much harder than any Lakers fans expected but the Lakers are in the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season. The Lakers seemingly have been playing with a laissez faire attitude, turning their effort level on and off. With their backs against the wall against the Houston Rockets the Lakers would use maximum effort, but if given any sort of wiggle room the Lakers looked about as good as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Hopefully, they have been paying attention to the playoffs because any sort of let down against the Nuggets will lead to the end of their season. The Nuggets have been the second most dominant team in the playoffs and because of that are losing room on their bandwagon. The Nuggets have become the popular pick to defeat the Lakers and prevent the dream showdown of Kobe vs. LeBron.

The Nuggets certainly have an edge at point guard. Derek Fisher was made to look foolish for most of the series against Houston by Aaron Brooks and will have to deal with a player that is twice as good as Brooks, in Chauncey Billups. However, who do the Nuggets have that can slow down Kobe Bryant? Who on the defensive end will help them contain Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum? Kenyon Martin hasn't been able to do it in the past and I'm not buying that Carmelo Anthony has all of the sudden become a defensive stopper. I keep hearing that the Nuggets play defense now but they haven't faced a team with the amount of weapons that the Lakers have.

Another fact the people seem to want to overlook is that the Lakers have absolutely dominated the Nuggets in recent years. Sure, most of those games were without Billups but the Nuggets first have to prove to themselves that they can even beat the Lakers once, let alone four times in one series.

Don't get me wrong, this will be a very competitive and entertaining series. I think the Lakers will not have the on/off switch in this one because they will show nothing less than maximum intensity. Kobe vs. LeBron is meant to happen and while most of the time we don't get to see our dream matchups in sports, this year we will.

Prediction: Los Angeles over Denver, 4-2

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Orioles Magic

Thursday, May 14- Sunday, May 17

Baltimore Orioles (14-20) at Kansas City Royals (18-16)

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (2-3, 4.97)
KC - Gil Meche (2-3, 4.43)

Friday: BAL - Adam Eaton (2-3, 7.18)
KC - Zack Greinke (6-1, 0.51)

Saturday: BAL - Koji Uehara (2-3, 4.01)
KC - Kyle Davies (2-1, 5.22)

Sunday: BAL - Mark Hendrickson (1-4, 6.35)
KC - Luke Hochevar (0-1, 36.00)

The Orioles begin a 10 game road trip today in Kansas City. The O's just completed a 7 game home stand where they finished 4-3, not the best, but better than their recent efforts.

Despite their struggles for the past 11 seasons the Orioles have owned one team in Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals. However, this isn't your typical Royals team this year. They are currently tied for first place in the AL Central. However, they have shown signs of being the same old Royals as they enter this series losers of 5 straight.

Pitching has carried the Royals early in this season, with their most famous story being SP Zack Greinke. Greinke was put on the cover of Sports Illustrated a few weeks back and instead of succumbing to the SI cover jinx, he has thrived. Greinke just suffered his first loss of the season in his last start and even there he only gave up 1 run. A win by the Orioles on Friday against Greinke would be shocking.

Offensively, the Royals are led by 1B Mike Jacobs. Jacobs is hitting .262, with 7 HRs and 21 RBIs. Their other strong offensive presence is 2B Alberto Callaspo, who leads the team with a .324 average.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ritacco's Rant

Mr. Hirsch, the creator/writer/editor of this blog, has asked me to step in and submit today's blog post. During his recent trip to tic-infested VA Beach he contracted what might be the mildest case of lime disease in the existence of mankind and is now facing the work repercussions from it. In short, he's actually doing work. So since all my bosses decided to travel or "work from home" today I've accepted his offer as the 1st guest writer for CBH Sports. This will vary significantly from previous posts, that is, instead of rambling on about the minute detail of each and every game played that the U.S. sports media or Mr. Hirsch considers important (the O's!?! I mean seriously), we'll focus on a sport topic that I either have a beef with, mild knowledge of, or just general interest in.

Today will focus on the immature, unsportsmanlike behavior that exists in many soccer players. I can already hear it: "But S.R. aren't all soccer player's just children or pansies' anyways?" or a comment having to do with the perceived softness of the sport. So I'll admit that "simulation" (what FIFA calls flopping) makes watching the sport difficult at times but I'd argue it's similar to someone taking a charge or forcing someone into a foul in the NBA. Shouldn't that be frowned upon as well? I mean you're not making an honest play on the ball but instead using the interpretation of a law/rule for your advantage. But we'll leave that for another post. In the past week immaturity went from "influencing" the referee's decision to outright pouting and ungentlemanly behavior. The three most guilty players? Well that'd be Ronaldo, Drogba, and Ballack. Examples below:

3: (basic jist of Ballack's actions in the first 30 seconds of video, don't mind the German)

You can blame this behavior on a variety of reasons, like the ref just being an idiot, the astronomical salaries that promote selfishness, or a tremendous passion for the game. Whatever your excuse, it's not good enough. This type of behavior is completely inexcusable and it needs immediate attention. Not only to punish the guilty but create laws that effectively prevent it from ever occurring again. Even more so a shift needs to occur in players mentalities. Reduce the selfishness, remember that you are one part of a whole, and, no matter how good you are, you don't exist without you're teammates.

WARNING: Social commentary to come!! These players are acting very selfishly which some say our society as a whole has trended towards. It's convenient to blame failure on one instance or pout when one doesn't get what he wants. I'm sure all of us at some point in time are guilty of it but it's different when it comes from the elite players or members of said institution. We seem to forget that sometimes to win the war one must accept a different role and to blame failure on one instance is to ignore the failures that got you there. Their needs to be greater accountability in all our institutions; our sport teams, our financial institutions, and our government. The buck must stop somewhere and one must be honorable enough to accept it.

So with that said I hope you enjoyed this short commentary and welcome any comments.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Orioles Magic

Wednesday, May 6 - Thursday, May 7

Minnesota Twins (13-14) at Baltimore Orioles (10-17)

Pitching Matchups

Wednesday: MIN - Kevin Slowey (4-0, 5.17)
BAL - Mark Hendrickson (1-4, 5.79)

Thursday: MIN - Glen Perkins (1-2, 3.34)
BAL - Brad Bergesen (1-0, 5.17)

The Orioles managed to win a game in Tampa Bay and end their six game losing streak. Besides that, they're still garbage. They begin a seven game home stand tonight, starting with a quick two game set with the Minnesota Twins. This might be an alright matchup for the O's as the Twins offense is anemic and the Orioles may not have to score more than 5 runs to beat them. However, Orioles pitching tends to make just about every offense look good.

1B Justin Morneau is the Twins offense. He leads the team in almost every statistical category. He is hitting .318 with 6 HRs and 21 RBIs. However, C Joe Mauer recently returned from the disabled list and has been swinging the bat very well.

Pitching has also been an issue for the Twins. The Orioles will meet their wins leader, Kevin Slowey, tonight but he has been fortunate that the offense has decided to show up on nights he pitches as he has an unimpressive 5.17 ERA.

From top to bottom the Orioles have no pitching. Their ace Jeremy Guthrie has a 5.05 ERA, their closer George Sherrill has blown 2 saves, forcing Orioles manager Dave Trembley to go to a closer by committee format, between Sherrill, Chris Ray, and Danys Baez (ugh). When you have a closer by committee, it really means you have no closer. The Orioles haven't won a series in 2 weeks, a 2 game sweep here would be nice.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2009 NBA Playoffs

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks

The series no one wanted to see has come to fruition. Pretty much any NBA fan was hoping the Miami Heat would defeat the Hawks in the First Round so that we could be treated to a battle of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Instead we will have to settle for LeBron against Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, and company.

The Cavs steamrolled the Detroit Pistons in four game and will be playing their first game in 9 days tonight. The Hawks are coming off the most boring seven game series in the history of the NBA Playoffs and will be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to conditioning. The Cavs are of course led by MVP LeBron James, and also complemented by PG Mo Williams, PF Anderson Varajeo, C Zydrunas Illgauskas, and SG Delonte West.

The Hawks get contributions from all over the place, SG Joe Johnson is their scoring leader, PF Josh Smith is their leader in rebounding, steals, and blocks, while PG Mike Bibby is the one that stirs the drink. Overlooked but worth mentioning is that the Hawks are a formidable home team, they finished 31-10 at home in the regular season.

I think the Hawks can steal a game at home but they have no chance to take this series. LeBron James could almost single handedly lead the Cavs over the Hawks, add in the contributions that his teammates have given this year and the Cavs roll will continue.

Prediction: Cleveland over Atlanta, 4-1

#2 Boston Celtics vs. #3 Orlando Magic

This series got started last night as the Magic built a 28 point lead in the second half, nearly choked it away, and then held on for the victory. The Celtics are missing PF Kevin Garnett and PF Leon Power for the rest of the playoffs. For them to have any chance in this series they will need SG Ray Allen, and PF Glen Davis to play out of their minds like they did against the Chicago Bulls.

The Magic are led by superstar C Dwight Howard, and are a team that loves to shoot threes. PF Rashard Lewis, SF Hedo Turkoglu, SG Mickael Pietrus, and SG J.J. Redick live and die by the three. Watching the Magic can be maddening because they should build their entire offense around Howard, but seem content to feed him the ball occasionally and shoot threes the majority of the time.

The Celtics are a depleted and exhausted team and it showed in the first game. I think the Magic are ready to take the next step in their evolution as a championship contender and will end the Celtics reign as champions.

Prediction: Orlando over Boston, 4-2

Western Conference Semi-Finals

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #5 Houston Rockets

If anyone thought the Lakers path to the Finals would be easy it was erased last night. The Rockets took Game 1 and did it rather easily on the Lakers home floor. The Lakers were undone by a horrible shooting night by just about everyone with FC Pau Gasol, C Andrew Bynum, PF Lamar Odom, and SG Kobe Bryant all struggling. I don't expect the Lakers to continue to shoot as poorly as they did last night but the Rockets defense is much better than the defense the Lakers faced from the Jazz in Round One.

The Rockets got great games from SF Ron Artest and C Yao Ming last night. The x-factor could be PG Aaron Brooks, who was running circles around the Lakers all night. The big question for them will be can they play at that high a level for an entire series.

I think the Lakers will recover in Game 2 Wednesday night and then steal a game in Houston. It will be a very tough, physical series but Bryant is going to will the Lakers on to the Western Conference Finals.

Prediction: Los Angeles over Houston, 4-2

#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks

Both these teams surprised me in Round One as I had both of them losing in their respective series. The Mavericks and Nuggets both decimated their opponents, the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Hornets. I wasn't taking the Nuggets too seriously but after the way they destroyed the Hornets, and then crushed the Mavs in Game One, they are definitely a title contender.

PG Chauncey Billups has changed the entire culture of the Nuggets team and it is apparent his winning attitude has rubbed off on his teammates. SF Carmelo Anthony is just as good as ever, and PF Kenyon Martin has changed his game to become quite the defensive threat. The Nuggets are also getting great contributions from FC Chris "Birdman, Hardcore Drug Abuser" Andersen.

The Mavericks are led by PG Jason Kidd. Kidd is completely useless on the defensive end but can still find the open teammate better than almost any point guard in the game. SF Josh Howard and PF Dirk Nowitzki both had a great series against the Spurs. PG Jason Terry provides the spark for the Mavericks off the bench.

It has become quite clear that the Nuggets are the second best team in the Western Conference. The Mavericks will put up a fight but it won't be enough.

Prediction: Denver over Dallas, 4-2

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Week That Was

The First Round of the NBA Playoffs is finally finished and the Second Round tipped off yesterday. The Los Angeles Lakers are back in action tonight after almost a week off, as they are set to take on the Houston Rockets. The Lakers easily disposed of the Utah Jazz in the First Round, 4-1. Conventional wisdom would say the Rockets should pose a much greater threat, but the Lakers dominated them in the regular season, winning all four meetings. Of course, the playoffs are a completely different animal.

The Chicago Bulls season came to an end as they lost Game 7 at Boston. People seem hesitant to say anything beyond this series being the greatest first round series ever, but to me this was the greatest series I have ever seen. I will not say ever in the history of basketball, but as a basketball fan since I was 6 years old I have never seen a more competitive and entertaining series. Sure both coaches made some bonehead moves but for sheer entertainment value, it doesn't get any better than what I just witnessed over the past 2 weeks.

Check back tomorrow as I will have a full preview and predictions for the Second Round of the playoffs.

The NHL Playoffs are also in to their second round and to the excitement of the Washington, DC area the Washington Capitals are still playing. The Caps recovered from a 3-1 deficit against the New York Rangers, winning that series. That has set up a dream matchup in the Second Round between Alex Ovechkin and the Caps versus Cindy Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps took Game 1 at home in exciting fashion and the series continues with Game 2 tonight. This series could really bring in the casual hockey fan, and possibly provide a boon to the NHL.

The Baltimore Orioles completed a miserable week that saw them go 0-6. They now sit at 9-16 and the wheels are coming off already. The team can't win unless they score 6 runs or more, which is an impossible pace for the offense to maintain. It is just as frustrating as ever to watch this team. No Orioles Magic today, but they start a 2 game road series at Tampa Bay. My expectations are low.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Orioles Magic

Friday, May 1 - Sunday, May 3

Baltimore Orioles (9-13) at Toronto Blue Jays (15-9)

Pitching Matchups

Friday: BAL - Mark Hendrickson (1-3, 5.40)
TOR - Roy Halladay (4-1, 3.75)

Saturday: BAL - Brad Bergesen (1-0, 5.59)
TOR - David Purcey (0-2, 7.01)

Sunday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (2-1, 5.20)
TOR - Scott Richmond (3-0, 2.70)

The Orioles have gotten a three month jump on their usual July collapse and have currently lost 11 of their last 14 games. I was thinking it and then Brian Roberts said it after the Orioles lost to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday. When the Orioles hit, they get no pitching, when they pitch, they get no hitting, same story as it has been for the past 10 years.

The Orioles now travel to their personal house of horrors, the Skydome in Toronto. The Toronto Blue Jays sit in first place after the first month of the season, to the surprise of all baseball experts. The Blue Jays have perennially been stuck in third and fourth place for what seems like forever, but might be poised to make a Tampa Bay Rays like ascent this year.

2B Aaron Hill is having a breakout season, which is more impressive considering he was out for most of last year with a severe concussion. He leads the Blue Jays in batting average (.365), home runs (5), and RBIs (20). The Orioles get the pleasure of facing the Blue Jays two best starters in this series, Roy Halladay and up and comer Scott Richmond. It is no surprise that Halladay has gotten off to a fast start, but Richmond has been a pleasant surprise. Richmond made the team as the fifth starter out of spring training and has been virtually unhittable thus far.

The Orioles "ace" Jeremy Guthrie has not pitched well as of late and he really needs to get going for the Orioles to have any chance to be playing meaningful games once the calendar hits June. Being an Orioles fan is quite depressing and I am expecting the Orioles to get swept this weekend, womp womp.