Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orioles Magic

Monday, July 27-Thursday, July 30

Kansas City Royals (38-59) at Baltimore Orioles (42-55)

Pitching Matchups

Monday: KC - Bruce Chen (0-5, 6.58)
BAL - Rich Hill (3-3, 7.64)

Tuesday: KC - Brian Bannister (6-7, 3.76)
BAL - Jason Berken (1-8, 6.55)

Wednesday: KC - Zack Greinke (10-6, 2.04)
BAL - Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00)

Thursday: KC - Luke Hochevar (6-3, 4.84)
BAL - Brad Bergesen (6-5, 3.45)

There aren't many teams worse than the Baltimore Orioles this year, but one of them, the Kansas City Royals, make their way to the Yard this week for a 4-game series. The last time the Orioles played the Royals was in early May. At the time the Royals were the darlings of baseball, a surprise first place team. However, since then the Royals remembered that they are garbage, and are back to being a last place team.

While to most this is a series between two of the worst teams in the American League, Orioles fans see it as another sign of hope. That hope is in the form of 21-year old pitcher Chris Tillman. Tillman was part of the Erik Bedard to Seattle trade and is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Orioles have already seen tons of promise out of rookie pitchers Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez. If Tillman can live up to the hype the Orioles could have 3/5 of a dominant rotation for years to come.

Tillman will face off against the Royals Zack Greinke on Wednesday. Greinkemania has calmed some in the last few months but Greinke is still a dominant pitcher, with just a 2.04 ERA, the best in baseball. On Monday night, the Orioles welcome back Bruce Chen, as he meets his counterpart in terribleness, Rich Hill. Chen played for the Orioles for a short time but I always remember going to the Yard and seeing his Joke of the Day. Maybe he can dust it off for old times sake on Monday.

While Bergesen and Hernandez have impressed as rookies, Jason Berken has been horrible. It is of course way too early to give up on Berken as a player, buf if he has another poor start on Tuesday night it might be time to send him back to the minors.

The Royals are pretty awful offensively, but have a couple players to keep an eye on. 2B Alberto Callaspo leads the team with a .304 average, DH Mike Jacobs has 13 home runs to lead the Royals, and LF David DeJesus is the team leader with 46 RBIs.

The Orioles made a change in their lineup on Sunday against the Red Sox, moving Nick Markakis to the cleanup spot, replacing a struggling Aubrey Huff. Huff's average has dropped to just .248, and I am really hoping the Orioles can move him by the trade deadline.

At first glance, I was confident of the Orioles taking this series, because they are at home. However, the pitching matchups favor the Royals in 3 of the 4 games. I think the Orioles wind up with a split.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Orioles Magic

Friday, July 24 - Sunday, July 26

Baltimore Orioles (41-53) at Boston Red Sox (55-39)

Pitching Matchups

Friday: BAL - Brad Bergesen (6-4, 3.51)
BOS - Brady Penny (6-4, 5.02)

Saturday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (7-8, 5.12)
BOS - Jon Lester (8-7, 3.87)

Sunday: BAL - David Hernandez (2-2, 3.55)
BOS - John Smoltz (1-3, 6.31)

This weekend, in what is seemingly Mission Impossible for the Orioles, they travel to AL East rival Boston, and try to win a game on the road. The Orioles dropped to 1-14 on the road this season against the AL East following Wednesday's loss at New York against the Yankees. Things could start to get ugly for the Birds this season as their schedule is filled with games against the best division in baseball, the AL East. However, the Orioles might have a decent chance at success this weekend at Boston. The Red Sox are in the midst of a 5 game losing streak and have fallen out of first place.

The biggest reason for the Red Sox swoon over the past 5 games has been the wall that their offense has hit. Reigning AL MVP 2B Dustin Pedroia leads the Red Sox with a .304 average. LF Jason Bay leads the team with 20 HRs and 72 RBIs. His former Pittsburgh teammate Adam LaRoche was acquired by the Red Sox on Wednesday and figures to make his debut this weekend. Other dangerous offensive weapons for the Red Sox include 1B Kevin Youkilis (.299, 17 HRs, 57 RBIs), 3B Mike Lowell (.289, 10 HRs, 42 RBIs), and DH David Ortiz (.228, 12 HRs, 51 RBIs).

The Red Sox have some definite questions in their rotation, and two of their biggest question marks take the hill this weekend. Friday's starter, Brad Penny, hasn't won a start since June 17th, and the Red Sox have lost the last four games he has started. John Smoltz starts Sunday, and he has been mostly ineffective since making his debut in June. He's been lit up in 3 of his first 5 starts, including his last start, where he gave up 6 earned runs in just 5.2 innings of work. Jon Lester takes the mound Saturday and has been pitching great for the past two months.

The Orioles definitely have the edge in the pitching matchups on Friday and Sunday. I have written often about how excited I am about rookie Brad Bergesen, but another exciting rookie starter that has emerged is Sunday's starter David Hernandez. Hernandez has had just one bad start since being called up in May, and has given up just 5 earned runs in his last two starts. If Hernandez and Bergesen end up being as good as the promise they have showed, along with top prospect Chris Tillman, then the Orioles have a bright future indeed.

I think the Orioles will avoid the sweep this weekend, but I expect the Red Sox to win the series.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Orioles Magic

Friday, July 17 - Sunday, July 19

Baltimore Orioles (40-48) at Chicago White Sox (45-43)

Pitching Matchups

Friday: BAL - Jason Berken (1-6, 5.87)
CWS - John Danks (7-6, 3.91)

Saturday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 5.35)
CWS - Mark Buehrle (9-3, 3.66)

Sunday: BAL - Brad Bergesen (6-3, 3.54)
CWS - Jose Contreras (4-7, 4.54)

Adam Jones, coming off knocking in the winning run in the All-Star Game, and the Orioles return to action tonight in Chicago, taking on the White Sox. The White Sox are right in the thick of things in the AL Central, despite being just 2 games above .500. The Orioles are just 5 games worse than the White Sox but have no hope of contending. It really sucks that they play in the AL Beast. The Orioles goal is try to avoid a late season collapse, which has been the norm over the past 10 years, and maybe even finish at .500. The Orioles would have to go 41-33 the rest of the way for that to happen.

The White Sox have an average offense that contains a couple of major threats. RF Jermaine Dye leads the team in average and HRs, batting .302 with 20 HRs. 1B Paul Konerko leads the team in RBIs with 60, is also hitting .302, and has hit 16 HRs. Other players to watch out for are C A.J. Pierzynski (.299, 10 HRs, 27 RBIs), SS Alexei Ramirez (.281, 11 HRs, 42 RBIs), and DH Jim Thome (.255, 14 HRs, 50 RBIs).

The White Sox throw two of their best starters in this series, John Danks and Mark Buehrle, and hope to get a third straight solid performance out of Jose Contreras. Buehrle leads the White Sox in wins and ERA, and has 66 strikeouts to 26 walks this season. Danks had a tough time against Minnesota in his last start but prior to that had not allowed an earned run in two straight starts. Contreras has an awful record but as mentioned above, he has pitched very well in his last two starts. If Contreras can become consistent it would greatly improve the White Sox hopes of catching the Detroit Tigers.

Every time I write one of these and I see that Jason Berken is starting I want to poke my eye out. Can the Orioles please call someone up to take his place in the rotation? He is absolute garbage and the O's stand no chance of winning any time he pitches. As I have stated in this space many times before Jeremy Guthrie has been a complete disappointment. He started the season as the ace but now could be considered nothing more than our third starter. The Orioles best chance to win in this series will come Sunday, when their new ace Brad Bergesen takes the mound. If Bergesen can continue to pitch at a high level the rest of the season I think he has a great chance at being named AL Rookie of the Year.

Luke Scott was screwed when he wasn't at least given the chance to be one of the final additions to the All-Star team. Scott leads the O's with 18 HRs, and is third on the team with 51 RBIs. Plus, his .305 average leads the team. Someone who needs to get out of a funk is Brian Roberts. Roberts has seen his average dip to .273 while battling injuries. Hopefully, the break gave him some time to heal nagging wounds.

I think the O's get beat tonight and Saturday, before avoiding the sweep on Sunday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Week That Was

Hey lookie here, its The Week That Was! With the sports world slowing down a bit for the summer I had discontinued The Week That Was for a bit. However, with Major League Baseball entering the All-Star Break, and the UFC coming off their biggest pay per view ever, I thought now was the time to bring it back.

Saturday night was a glorious evening with friends at the bar, drinking lots of beer and watching grown men kick the crap out of each other. It was the UFC 100 PPV, headlined by World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar taking on Frank Mir, who defeated Lesnar in his UFC debut. I am not really a UFC fan but definitely a Lesnar fan, stemming from his days years back of dominating the WWE. Lesnar is an incredible athlete and physical specimen. In his first fight ever he took on Mir and was destroying him, until he made a rookie mistake and left his legs vulnerable to a submission. This time around Lesnar forced Mir to the mat from the start, never let him up and just physically dominated him, winning in the Second Round when the referee determined that Mir could no longer defend himself. Lesnar's dominating victory was memorable but even more memorable was his post match tirade. Lesnar cut a WWE style promo on Mir, flipped off the audience, talked about wanting to fornicate with his wife when he got home, and slammed UFC sponsor Bud Light, claiming instead that he would be drinking Coors Light. Stone Cold Steve Austin would have been proud. Some are criticizing Lesnar for the speech but I loved it. Lesnar is hated amongst UFC fans, who don't like that he came from "fake" WWE and is dominating their sport. Whether people hate Lesnar or like Lesnar, he has gotten them emotionally involved, which means those people will pay 50 bucks to either see Lesnar kick ass or get his ass kicked. I hope as the UFC continues to grow they don't become too corporate. Some of that is a necessity but what draws some people to UFC is that it is anti-establishment. I still wouldn't call myself a UFC fan, but I know that if Brock Lesnar is fighting someone, I am watching.

We are one night away from the Major League All-Star game. The All-Star game isn't just an exhibition, it determines home field advantage for the World Series. As silly as that is it has made the All-Star game even more watchable the last few years, as you can tell guys are giving their all. Going into the break, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in the American League at 54-34, while the Los Angeles Dodgers lead the National League with a 56-32 mark. The parity in baseball is apparent as only 9 out of 30 teams are legitimately out of contention at this point in the season. The Red Sox hold a 3 game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East, with the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays just 6 1/2 games out. The AL Central is a three team race, the Detroit Tigers hold a 3 1/2 game lead over the Chicago White Sox, and a 4 game lead over the Minnesota Twins. In the AL West, it is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in first, with the Texas Rangers just 1 1/2 games back, and the surprising Seattle Mariners just 4 games out of first. The current Wild Card leader is the Yankees.

In the NL East, the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies have separated themselves from the pack a bit. The Florida Marlins are 4 games behind, the Atlanta Braves are 6 games out, and the injury riddled New York Mets are 6 1/2 games back. In the NL Central, only 5 games separates first place from fifth place. The St. Louis Cardinals lead the division, the Milwaukee Brewers sit 2 1/2 games behind, the disappointing Chicago Cubs are just 3 1/2 back, the Houston Astros are a surprising 3 1/2 games behind, and the Cincinnati Reds are 5 out.

The Dodgers have a comfortable lead in the NL West, but the San Francisco Giants have been a surprise story and they are the current Wild card leaders. The Colorado Rockies have turned their season around since firing manager Clint Hurdle and are just 2 games behind the Giants for the Wild Card.

A couple of notes about the site. Starting Monday, August 10th I will begin posting 2009 NFL season previews. I will preview 2 divisions a week, leading up to the start of the season in September. Come September you will see the return of The Hail Mary, where I preview and predict each game every week. This year I will be picking against the spread and straight up. Also returning in September will be Cram Session, where I will preview and predict all of the of the Top 25 college football action. So starting next month expect a lot more updates to the site.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Orioles Magic

Friday, July 10 - Sunday, July 12

Toronto Blue Jays (43-44) at Baltimore Orioles (38-47)

Pitching Matchups

Friday: TOR - Brett Cecil (2-1, 6.23)
BAL - Jason Berken (1-5, 6.25)

Saturday: TOR - Ricky Romero (7-3, 2.96)
BAL - Brad Bergesen (5-3, 3.59)

Sunday: TOR - Marc Rzepcyznski (0-0, 1.50)
BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 5.35)

The last time I previewed a series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles the landscape of the AL East was quite different. The Blue Jays had gotten off to a hot start and were in control of first place in the AL East. However, since that time order has been restored and the Blue Jays now sit a game under .500, in 4th place.

It is kind of hard to understand why the Blue Jays are struggling. They have a +32 run differential, hit .273 as a team, and their pitching isn't that bad (4.33 team ERA). A lot of it probably has to do with them playing in the greatest division in baseball, the AL East. The Jays just got swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, and the last time they played in Baltimore they were swept.

3B Scott Rolen leads the Jays with a .330 batting average and brings a 25 game hit streak into the series. 2B Aaron Hill is having a fantastic season as well, hitting .298, leading the team with 20 HRs and 59 RBIs. Another dangerous bat in the Jays lineup is DH Adam Lind, .309 average, 19 HRs, and 59 RBIs.

The Orioles avoid the Jays ace Roy Halladay but do get to face underrated Ricky Romero on Saturday. Romero is not far behind Halladay with a 7-3 record and a 2.96 ERA. The Orioles Jason Berken takes the mound tonight and tries to just once have a quality start. Jeremy Guthrie starts Sunday, and his struggles continues this past week against Seattle when he couldn't make it out of the 4th inning due to control issues.

This is a great opportunity for the O's to head in to the All-Star break with some momentum. The Jays are reeling and aren't throwing out the best starters in this series. I like the Orioles to take 2 out of 3.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Orioles Magic

Monday, July 6 - Wednesday, July 8

Baltimore Orioles (36-46) at Seattle Mariners (42-39)

Pitching Matchups

Monday: BAL - Brad Bergesen (5-2, 3.53)
SEA - Jarrod Washburn (4-6, 3.36)

Tuesday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (6-8, 5.20)
SEA - Erik Bedard (5-2, 2.47)

Wednesday: BAL - David Hernandez (2-2, 4.15)
SEA - Felix Hernandez (8-3, 2.62)

The Orioles journey out west continues in Seattle for a three game series. As I predicted, the Orioles were only able to take 1 out of at 4 at Anaheim. It won't get any easier in Seattle. The Mariners were atrocious last year but it has been a different story for them this year. They find themselves in contention for the AL West and Wild Card.

I usually lead off with the offensive side of things but the main reason the Mariners have had a sudden turnaround has been their pitching. The Mariners have a fantastic 3.73 team ERA. The Orioles will get to see the best starting pitchers that the Mariners have over the next three games. Don't let Jarrod Washburn's 4-6 record fool you, he has been the victim of poor run support as his fantastic 3.36 ERA will attest.

On Tuesday, Baltimore gets to face former teammate Erik Bedard. This will be Bedard's first start off of the disabled list. The Orioles traded Bedard two years ago for All-Star Adam Jones and closer George Sherill. So far it would seem the Orioles won that deal. Jones and Sherrill have each earned All Star nods since coming to Baltimore while Bedard has been a regular on the DL. However, this year Bedard has pitched well and has been discussed as possible trade bait.

It doesn't get any easier for the Orioles on Wednesday as King Felix Hernandez starts. Hernandez was one of two Mariners named to the All-Star team. He has been lights out this year and one of the better pitchers in baseball. At just 23 years old it is scary about how potentially dominate Hernandez could be in future years.

While pitching has dominated the headlines for Seattle this year, they do have some potent bats in the lineup. RF Ichiro Suzuki is having another fantastic season and was the other Mariner named to the AL All-Star team. He leads the American League with a .362 average. 1B Russell Branyan is quietly having a strong year. He is hitting .293, with 20 HRs and 45 RBIs. 2B Jose Lopez leads the team in RBIs with 48. The Mariners also have DH Ken Griffey Jr. who hopefully will hang it up after this season, as he is hitting just .214 with 10 HRs and 26 RBIs.

The Orioles are throwing two potential stars at the Mariners. Brad Bergesen continues to pitch excellently and gets the start tonight. David Hernandez has had some quality starts recently and pitches Wednesday night. It is cautious optimism that O's fans have for Bergesen and Hernandez because of the status of Tuesday's starter, Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie came out of nowhere a few years ago and became the ace after the trade of Bedard. However, Guthrie has been terrible this year, with an ERA over 5.00.

The Orioles have one All-Star, the aforementioned Adam Jones. Jones is hitting .308, with 12 HRs, and 46 RBIs.

I like the O's chances of taking this series, expect nothing but low scoring games.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Orioles Magic

Thursday, July 2 - Sunday, July 5

Baltimore Orioles (35-43) at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (42-34)

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: BAL - Jeremy Guthrie (6-7, 5.11)
LAA - John Lackey (2-3, 5.06)

Friday: BAL - David Hernandez (1-2, 4.19)
LAA - Ervin Santana (1-3, 7.47)

Saturday: BAL - Jason Berken (1-5, 6.44)
LAA - Matt Palmer (7-1, 5.00)

Sunday: BAL - Rich Hill (3-2, 7.08)
LAA - Joe Saunders (8-5, 4.24)

The Orioles experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the past 2 days. On Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox, the O's made a miraculous comeback from a 10-1 deficit in the 7th inning, to defeat Boston 11-10. However, yesterday the tables were turned as Baltimore blew a 5-1 lead in the 9th inning, losing in 11 innings 6-5. It was a crushing loss as a win would have given Baltimore a rare series win against Boston. Now the Orioles head West, where they have a history of struggles.

Baltimore opens their West coast trip at Anaheim. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (worst name in sports) have seemed to right the ship after a slow start. They are back in their familiar spot of first place in the AL West and are starting to get some of their injured starting pitchers back.

One of the reasons the Angels have remained upright despite poor starting pitching has been their hitting. The Angels hit .278 as a team, led by 3B Chone Figgins, who is hitting at a .312 clip. CF Torii Hunter has avoided the supposed 33 year old wall and is having a tremendous season. He is hitting .305, with 17 HRs, and 59 RBIs. LF Juan Rivera isn't too far behind his fellow outfielder. Rivera is hitting .304, with 14 HRs and 46 RBIs.

Starting pitching has been an area of injury and inconsistency for the Angels. The Angels team ERA is high at 4.74. John Lackey takes the mound tonight, he missed most of the season and has struggled since returning. Ervin Santana will make his return from the DL on Friday. He is another pitcher that has been consistent for the Angles but has had injury troubles this season. Joe Saunders leads the Angels in wins and he get's the nod on Sunday.

The Orioles only have one bonafide starting pitcher right now and he won't be pitching in this series. Jeremy Guthrie has been up and down, as has Rich Hill, who can throw a shutout one game, and then get shelled and not even last an inning in another. With Koji Uehara on the shelf for the next couple of months, the Orioles have had to keep Jason Berken in the rotation by default, despite him being an abomination.

The Orioles are a bad road team and have a bad set of pitchers set to start this July 4th weekend. If the Orioles can at least get a single win in Anaheim, it has to be considered a success.