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MLB: Baltimore Orioles’ Offseason Is Another Reason for Hope

Honestly, Baltimore Orioles fans: How confused are you about how this offseason is turning out?

We knew Andy MacPhail said that he was going to go out and make moves, but how many times have we been handed that speech, only to have him not sign anyone worth mentioning?

Well, how about these for some names: Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Kevin Gregg and Justin Duchscherer. Now, there are even rumors of Vladimir Guerrero.

Raise your hand if you saw the Orioles moving that many chips around.

Whether this will work or not, I can’t tell with any certainty. But I can say that 2011 could very well be the season of hope.

Two years ago, we were introduced to the young stars that will lead our organization into the future (Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, etc.). Last season, we saw them finally mature in the last two months under the tutelage of Buck Showalter.

Now, the Orioles have gone into free agency and already added five guys that will make big contributions to a team that could see drastic improvement in the upcoming season.

With Reynolds and Lee at the corner infield spots, the Orioles have found power at the plate and solid defense at crucial positions. Hardy is a giant improvement at shortstop from Cesar Izturis, as he isn’t a liability in the lineup. Kevin Gregg will more than likely earn the job for closer.

Finally, Duchscherer, if healthy (and this is a big “if”) gives the Orioles a veteran pitcher that stabilizes the rotation and unloads the pressure off of Jeremy Guthrie, which he struggled with in 2009.

What made these moves great for the Orioles is the low cost they came with. The Lee, Duchscherer and Gregg deals were low-risk because of the length of the contracts, so there is no chance of being burned like the Orioles were with Garrett Atkins or Mike Gonzalez.

In addition, the trades for Reynolds and Hardy used prospects that didn’t substantially hurt the organization’s future.

I have been an Orioles fan since I learned the game as a boy in the mid-‘90s and never have I seen such an aggressive offseason. If you are an Orioles fan that has criticized every non-move the team has made, give MacPhail credit for what he has done these past few months.

Maybe the Orioles can become a respectable organization yet again.

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Derrek Lee Signing Completes Orioles Infield, but How Much Will It Help?

After weeks of speculation, the Orioles finally signed their first baseman to finish the rebuilding of their infield. 

Derrek Lee will join recent signings J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds in making up the Orioles new infield, and more importantly, inject some power into an offense that was horribly stagnant in 2010.

The trio of Lee, Reynolds and Hardy will no doubt be better than last year’s trio of Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada and Cesar Izturis. However, exactly how much better it will be and whether it will be noticeable is a different story.

Starting with the pessimistic view – because after 13 terrible years, it is all the average Orioles fan has – all three are coming off dreadful seasons.

In fact, all three were very similar in that they saw diminished production due to spending the majority of the season playing through injury. 

Reynolds had issues with a quadriceps, Hardy had a deep bone bruise in his wrist, and Lee spent the entire season playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

This means that the entire Orioles infield will come into this season as injury prone. In addition to the injuries of Hardy, Reynolds and Lee, The Orioles infield is comprised of Matt Wieters, who played 130 games, and Brian Roberts, who was limited to just 59.

Considering the Orioles can’t afford another terrible season with this young core, a team full of injury-prone players seems like a big risk.

Lee is also 35 years old and many have questioned his bat speed and exactly how much he has left in the tank.

On the other hand, the Orioles just bought these three guys at their lowest possible values. They got Reynolds and Hardy with a couple of low-level prospects, and Lee with a one-year deal worth somewhere between $8 million and $10 million. 

If they can get healthy, all three can be solid players and could be the pieces the Orioles were missing last season. 

Reynolds is good for 40-plus home runs a year, and Hardy has good power for a shortstop. Finally, Lee has consistently batted .300 and been good for at least 20 home runs and 80 RBIs every season.

In comparison, the trio of Wigginton, Izturis and Tejada hit just 30 home runs and 143 RBIs in 2010 combined.

Add the numbers of the Reynolds, Hardy and Lee to the production outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Felix Pie/Nolan Reimold, and the Orioles could have a fairly productive offense. 

It may not strike fear into pitchers like it would if management had been able to sign Paul Konerko or Victor Martinez, but it will be able to score runs pretty consistently, and that’s what’s important.

With the Red Sox getting better by adding the likes of Carl Crawford and the Yankees being, well, the Yankees, it is hard to predict what the Orioles will do in 2011.

However, after spending seemingly an eternity in the pits, maybe the Orioles are close to seeing the sun rise.

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Baltimore Orioles Trade for Mark Reynolds, Add Power To the Lineup

Have you ever hear the expression “swing hard in case you hit it”? Well, that is the epitome of Orioles newly acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds.

Reynolds was traded for on Monday morning, just after the first day of Major League Baseball’s winter meetings in Florida began. In return, the Orioles gave away relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio (from Triple-A Norfolk).

The pace at which the trade developed was a little bit of a surprise, but the fact that several big names have already inked big deals this early in free agency changed the usual timeline baseball’s free agency takes.

In case you are unfamiliar with Reynolds, all you need to know can been seen by looking at two statistics: home runs and strikeouts.

When stepping up to the plate, there is a good chance he is going to do one or the other. In 499 at-bats last season, Reynolds did one of those two an astonishing 49 percent of the time.

Every player strikes out, but Reynolds has it down to an art form. He has amassed 767 strikeouts in just four seasons, one for every three plate appearances, and has led the league in the category each of the last three seasons.

While the strikeouts and his .198 batting average are far from ideal, his power is something that inevitably general manager Andy MacPhail couldn’t ignore. The Orioles had very little of it in the heart of their lineup last season, and with Adam Dunn signed by the White Sox and Paul Konerko looking like a long shot at this point, the O’s had to look to trade their talent.

With Reynolds, you get a player who is just 26 and has averaged 35 home runs per season over his first three full years in the MLB. That number should eclipse 40 this year, because he gets to play 81 games in Camden Yards’ notoriously short fences.

That is something that people don’t talk about enough: the effect that the Orioles ball park should have. Camden Yards actually allows hitters to hit home runs without having power. How else do you explain Cal Ripken’s 431 home runs?

When you have a batter that actually has that power, Camden Yards can become his best friend.

Add this power to the fact that he fills a huge void at third base, and you can see why this deal needed to be made.

People have already started comparing him to Garrett Atkins, but I believe these two situations are very different. To refresh your memory, Atkins was the first baseman the Orioles signed last season from the Rockies. He was cut after just 44 games due to his .214 average and one home run in that span.

Reynolds is different for several reasons: his age, his previous seasons and his previous team. Reynolds is three years younger and coming off of what can be considered an average year for him. In comparison, Atkins was signed after a terrible year where he hit just nine home runs (he’d averaged 25 in the previous three). 

Also, going back to the point of Camden Yards being hitter-friendly, Atkins played for the Colorado Rockies. Coors Field is infamous for its thin air, which turns pop flies into home runs. How many of Atkins home runs were just pop flies that continued to carry?

At the end of the day, I understand the frustration of Orioles fans: MacPhail seems to be unwilling to overpay players to come to Baltimore, even though it is obvious that it is the only way to convince people to play there.

I’m not saying the Reynolds deal is great, but it is certainly a start.

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Buck Showalter’s Brain Trust: The Baltimore Orioles Coaching Staff Next Season

Like most sports, a head coaching change means a complete overhaul of the entire coaching staff. While Buck Showalter used Dave Trembley’s crew for his time in August and September to finish the season, Showalter has spent the last few months figuring out who he wants to help him in the rebuilding effort.

The adventure took a bit longer than expected—probably because there were so many managerial spots available—but Showalter finally has the guys he wants. 

This is quite an impressive group.

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Baltimore Orioles: Which Free Agents Should They Keep?

General Manager Andy MacPhail has made it public that he will be aggressive in trying to sign players in an attempt to improve an Orioles team that actually impressed people over the final two months of the season.

That being said, very little is being said about the players that were on the roster last season that are currently free agents and whether or not to sign them.

Here is the list of the seven major free agents the Orioles will be at risk to lose and whether or not they should be in Baltimore next season.

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Baltimore Orioles: Potential Free Agent Targets

The Orioles will go into this offseason happier than any 90-plus loss team has in the history of baseball.

They might have ended the season with 96 losses, but they were 34-24 in August, September and October and under new skipper Buck Showalter, the young players that the organization was beginning to worry about, stopped the regression that was frustrating every fan in Baltimore.

Because of this recent play, general manager Andy MacPhail will almost certainly make a bigger splash in the free agent market this year.

Of the holes to fill, the Orioles would like a solid corner infielder–Josh Bell is not panning out like the organization thought he would–a power hitter and a inning-eating pitcher that can replace Kevin Millwood.

The Orioles would also like a shortstop to replace Cesar Izturiz, who is a liability at the plate, but the pickings are very slim.

Not on this list are the big names of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jason Werth because the Orioles would have to drastically over pay for these players and I don’t see any of those guys going from Playoff stud, to leader of a rebuilding club.

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2010 MLB Playoffs: Phillies and Rays Lead Unusual Group of Playoff Teams

In an era of baseball that has been controlled by the big market teams, this year’s playoff landscape is certainly different from past seasons.

All right, maybe it isn’t completely different—the crop is still led by the usual suspects from New York and Philadelphia.

Still, the familiar names of the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels will not be heard in playoff baseball this year.

Instead, teams such as the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds will be vying for the World Series title this month.

With the exception of the Rangers, who are making the postseason for the first time since 1999, the American League playoff bracket doesn’t look drastically different.

The Red Sox might not be in it this season, but the AL East was still dominant and contributes both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Yankees—who finished first and second in the AL, respectively.

As far as matchups go, the Rangers will face off against the Rays in a series that will more than likely produce the American League champion.

The Rangers have fallen on the backburner as far as press coverage goes this past month, but they have picked up their game lately and will have star outfielder Josh Hamilton back from a rib injury.

In addition, staff ace Cliff Lee has turned it around in September and October and has registered a 1.93 ERA in his last four starts—certainly putting to bed the thought that trading for him was a bad idea.

The only issue for the Rangers is the fact that they have to go up against the best team in the AL.

The Rays will be the favorites to come out of the AL because of their ability to continuously produce great pitchers.

David Price is one of three pitchers in the discussion for the league’s Cy Young Award, and he is followed by another big arm in Matt Garza.

James Shields might not have the numbers you usually see from him, but there is a reason his nickname is “Big Game James.” If you need a big start from him, you’ll almost always get it.

On offense, you know what the Rays can do. Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford are some of the best in the business, and as always, they bring some lesser-known players, such as Ben Zobrist and Reid Brignac, who will certainly make a big impact.

In the other divisional matchup, it is the beaten up Minnesota Twins against the Yankees.

The team the Twins will field is a shell of the talent they have on the roster.

It is true that catcher Joe Mauer is back from a knee injury that caused him to miss 11 days, but it is also true that he is batting just .181 since his return. Add that to the fact that they will not have All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau because of a concussion, and there just isn’t a way for this team to win a championship.

The Yankees problem is their pitching. Sabathia will be dominating as usual, but there isn’t a lot of consistency behind him. Andy Pettitte is just coming back from an injury, and Phil Hughes doesn’t have a lot of experience starting in the playoffs.

Why was AJ Burnett left off that list? It’s because he’ll probably be left off the Yankees roster because of an embarrassing 1-7 record since August.

The American League has dominated every headline for a long time, but this year has changed that a little bit.

The National League won the All-Star Game, meaning the National League champion will have home field advantage in the World Series.

On that side of the playoff bracket there are two teams I could see playing in the Fall Classic.

The hottest team right now is the Phillies, who went 21-6 in September to rip the NL East title away from Atlanta.

With a trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels on the staff, Philly might not have to pitch anyone else for the rest of the year.

The Phillies will go up against the Reds, who make for an interesting opponent.

Normally, this is where many writers would say the Reds haven’t made the playoffs since 1995 and just making it this far is great—but the truth of the matter is that they have been one of the top two or three teams in baseball all year.

If you haven’t heard the name Joey Votto yet, look it up now because he might be the best player in all of baseball.

The Reds are a legitimate threat to win it all and this is just the first of many playoff appearances for the up and coming Cincinnati organization.

The winner of this series will represent the National League, as the other two teams aren’t quite in the same league.

Of the other two teams, the Giants and the Atlanta Braves, look for the Giants to be the more likely team to advance to the NLCS.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox will go down as one of the greatest managers of all time, but the bottom line is that his Braves just don’t have the skill on offense to match up against the Giants’ pitching.

In the month of September, the Giants team ERA was 1.78. That is the fifth-lowest team ERA in any calendar month since 1920. Whether it be Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito or Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants have just been impossible to hit against.

When the World Series finally does get here, look for it to be a replica of 2008, when the Phillies beat the Rays.

The Phillies have too good of a one-two-three starting rotation and with the power they have in the middle of their lineup, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to beat them four times.


This article was featured in the Collegiate Times, a student run newspaper at Virginia Tech. You can follow the author, Nick Cafferky, on Twitter @Caffscorner

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The Baltimore Orioles Need a Power Hitter to Succeed in 2011

With the great run the Orioles have had this year, they could be an above-.500 team next year. 

However, it will take a few things to make sure that happens—the biggest of which is a power hitter.

When the calendar finally reaches April of 2011, the Orioles will be back to being the team that is expected to make at least a little noise in the AL East.

The biggest difference though, is that unlike last year, the buzz will be somewhat warranted, as the O’s have had a winning record since Buck Showalter became the manager.

In these last two months, the organization has seen a lot to be happy about. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have gotten out of their slumps, the rotation looks great, and hitting with runners in scoring position is no longer an embarrassment.

These are all great things, but the Orioles still lack that power bat to put in the middle of the lineup.

This season, the O’s power is led by Luke Scott with 27 home runs. That number isn’t terrible, but Scott is very up and down. He’ll hit five jacks in a week, but then will go 10 to 15 games without one.

If a team is looking to compete with the Rays and Yankees, that drought isn’t something you can afford from your main source of power.

In addition to the mercurial bat of Scott, the Orioles didn’t get a home run from a first baseman until June 30—that’s 72 games into the season!

Behind Scott, there isn’t much power. Nick Markakis has lost power and seems content hitting doubles, Jones and Wieters will probably top out at 25 homers a year, and Felix Pie and Brian Roberts are finesse guys.

If the Orioles are serious about winning 80 games or so next season, they need a big bat in the middle to provide power and overall production that will benefit everyone.

Some of the big names that could provide power that are available this offseason are Lance Berkman, Carlos Pena, Victor Martinez, and Adam Dunn.

Any of those guys would provide a spark in the middle of the lineup, and for all but one of those it would also be taking away a power hitter from an AL East opponent. It’s really a double whammy if you think about it.

Owner Peter Angelos has always said that if the team shows that significant improvement would be made with a big contract player, and that it wouldn’t just be spending money, he would shell out the cash to do it.

This offseason is that time.

The O’s have shown they can win against anyone over the last two months and with a little help, this trend could last all of 2011.


You can follow me on twitter @Caffscorner or read more of my content on my blog

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Baltimore Orioles Starters Producing Under Buck Showalter

It’s no secret that under Buck Showalter’s reign, the Baltimore Orioles might as well be a different team. They are 26-15 since he came on board and the biggest reasoning has been the team’s pitching.

Coming into the season, the rotation was supposed to be this young group of guys that were the future.

However, that image went out the window in the heat of summer when not a single one of them had an even mediocre ERA.

Well, under Showaler, the starting rotation has finally molded into what we expected…and even more. In the 41 starts, the staff is 19-11 with a 2.93 ERA.

Considering the fact that these numbers have been put up against some of the best teams in baseball, Orioles fans have got to be excited going into next year.

That being said, here is a list of the O’s starters and how they have done under the new regime.

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With No Freefall In Sight, Can The Baltimore Orioles Play Spoiler In AL East?

For the first time in years, the Baltimore Orioles are playing a new role in the American League East: the spoiler. 

Now, as a team that was hoping to win 80 games this year, being the spoiler for other teams’ playoff hopes is still a disappointment no matter how you want to word it.

However, the fact that the O’s have been competitive against the likes of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays is a very positive thing for a team that was beyond terrible for most of this season.

Baltimore came into 2010 with a great amount of hope for what it thought could be the beginnings of a playoff contender in the near future.

Unfortunately, that “could be,” didn’t seem to translate into anything other than a doormat, as the Orioles ended July with a 32-72 record, which was by far the worst in baseball.

All of a sudden, that Orioles fan from Spring Training who would have been disappointed about “playing the spoiler,” becomes ecstatic at the prospect of ruining someone’s playoff hopes.

The O’s being out of the playoff talks is nothing new (the organization hasn’t played in the postseason since 1997) but being able to successfully ruin another team’s pennant run late in the year is.

This is because the team has made a reputation of imploding in the months of August and September.

In the month of August, the Orioles finished with a record of 17-11 (17-10 under manager Buck Showalter). That was the first time the O’s have had a winning record in the month of August since 2003.

Think that’s bad? It gets worst.

The drop in win percentage during the months of September and October is almost comical. It is a plunge so bad, that it makes the drop in the price of BP stock seem tame (zing!).

In the last two seasons, the Orioles have had a win percentage of .451 from April to August.

It is nothing other than mediocre when compared to the other teams in the AL East, but when compared to the organizations win percentage of .250 in September and October, life in the Spring and Summer doesn’t seem all that bad.

The biggest reason for the late season woes is the schedule the team is forced to play. While most of the season is spent playing teams from all over the league, September schedules feature divisional foes almost exclusively.

That means series after series against the Yankees, Rays, and Boston Red Sox.

This is indeed a valid excuse, but if the team ever wants to be more than a joke, the excuses should stop.

Fortunately for the few fans that haven’t turned their backs on the team just yet, the annual September free-fall might not peak its ugly head out this year.

Instead of giving up, the Orioles are playing the best baseball they have in years and can actually hold their own against the big boys.

So far this month, the O’s have had series against the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees.

After going through that daunting nine-day span, the Orioles are 5-4 and had it not been for a Nick Swisher walk-off home run yesterday, they would have swept the Yankees in New York for the first time since the 1980s.

No longer the doormat, the Orioles and their play in the last month will be a crucial factor in who will win the AL East.

With three-game series against each of the three teams still in the hunt, how the clubs play Baltimore could be the surprising x-factor in the race.

Can you imagine someone saying that seriously in July? Not quite.

At the end of the day, Showalter couldn’t care less about who he can knock out of a divisional race; all he cares about is winning and putting his team in the best possible position going into 2011.

It is just a coincidence that his goals coincide with the idea of “spoiling” someone else’s season.

That being said, what the Orioles have done, and who they have been able to beat these past few weeks, has made the team relevant for the first time in a decade.

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