Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Take a Flier

Talk is rampant over at the Orioles Hangout that Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Claudio Vargas was released yesterday.

Vargas is a 30-year-old veteran starting pitcher with a career 4.95 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

He's basically a younger, Dominican version of Steve Trachsel.

And one would think that since Trachsel projects to be terrible in 2008 that the O's would take a flier on Vargas, maybe even at Trachsel's expense. After all, Vargas is younger and still has more of a chance to pitch above his career averages than Trachsel at this point.

Vargas is no devourer of innings, having only topped 150 IP once, but Trachsel doesn't project to pitch more than 100 IP before he is yanked out of the rotation with a cane around the neck like a bad performer at a talent show.

He's going to be bad folks.

But the Orioles are in love with Trachsel's veteranosity, his intangibles. He's a leader and teacher of men, which is fine and dandy, but his Christ-like similarities end there. He can't walk on water and he throw a good curve ball, much less hit one. Besides, the only pitchers on the O's who are relatively inexperienced and in need of Trachsel's wisdom and guile are Adam Loewen and Randor Bierd. It's not like he's got a whole bunch of Young Life kids on a retreat to look after.

The O's should know better. It's severely unlikely that Trachsel pitches well this season, and it's also unlikely that he makes up for his suckiness by helping the other pitchers enough to warrant keeping around. Now, his mentoring ability can't exactly be measured, but I'm willing to bet that it's not going to make up for much of anything.

And that's why pitching coach Rick Ranitz was hired.

If the Orioles wanted Trachsel in the clubhouse they should have talked him into becoming a coach. Then they would have been able to take a flier on someone like Vargas.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Patience is the key

2008 is going to be a lesson in one thing and one thing only... patience.

The Orioles are about to break camp with their 25-man roster and as it stands, there are only a half dozen players on the roster who have any chance to be key players for the Orioles in the future.

They are... Nick Markakis (24), Adam Jones (22), Adam Loewen (24), Jeremy Guthrie (29) Scott Moore (24), and Daniel Cabrera (27).

Yeah, players like Randor Bierd (24), Brian Burres (27), and Guillermo Quiroz (26) are still relatively young, but they'll have to buck some serious trends to become anything resembling the future of the Baltimore Orioles.

The rest of the roster will be filled out with a bunch guys on the wrong side of 30. Brian Roberts should and probably will be traded at some point between now and the trade deadline so he doesn't count, and then there are decent guys like Luke Scott and George Sherrill who are right at the 30 year-old line. They could go either way.

So basically, 2008 comes down to watching the above named six players who are under 30.

Of course there are chances for prospects like Garrett Olson, Hayden Penn, Radhames Liz and Nolam Reimold to make a name for themselves in 2008, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

We're still going to be forced to watch like likes of Jay Payton, Melvin Mora, Kevin Millar (our clean-up hitter), Aubrey Huff and Jay Gibbons collect more meaningless at-bats than they deserve, while the future of the Orioles hangs in the balance.

No, I didn't expect Andy MacPhail to dive head first into a massive rebuilding plan. That became evident when he was content to let the Erik Bedard trade drag out a full two more weeks than necessary.

I do believe his patient approach is something that will pay off in the long run, but as much as we tell ourselves to be patient, it's still hard to swallow the notion that 2/3 of the roster on Opening Day will be filled with fodder that most likely won't be here in 3 years.

What the Orioles need to do, starting now, is be efficient -- shedding the dead/expensive weight from the roster and replacing them with players from the minor leagues who are ready. If Steve Trachsel is struggling, call up Olson, Penn or Liz sooner rather than later.

If Reimold is ready, release Gibbons, move Luke Scott to DH and trade Millar or Huff.

We've got players knocking on the door. Don't ignore them to watch another re-run of Everybody Loves Raymond.

And while 2008 will start with the tedious act of watching these same old players another year, at least... no, FINALLY... there is the chance to have some actual youth and potential on the team by season's end.

So while you must be patient on Opening Day, just remember, that if all goes well, the Orioles roster should look much different by the trade deadline, as well as the end of the season.

That said, play ball!

It's Opening Day.

Guthrie named Opening Day Starter

The O's finally got it right.

After teasing fans with rumors of sending Steve Trachsel out to the mound on Opening Day, the Orioles stepped back from the cliff they were about to jump off of and made the logical choice, naming Jeremy Guthrie the Opening Day starting pitcher instead.

Roy Firestone, who occasionally posts on the Orioles Hangout message forum, had this to say about Guthrie, and it's just an added bonus to see such a man get the chance to open up the 2008 season.

Congrats to Jeremy and good luck!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trachsel Opening Day Starter?

I'd heard some rumors about Steve Trachsel being named the Opening Day starting pitcher, but I didn't think much of them because they seemed too far-fetched.

After all, Jeremy Guthrie came out of nowhere last year and pitched to the tune of a 7-5 record and a 3.70 ERA in 175 innings. Plus, with Erik Bedard traded to the Mariners, Guthrie is now the O's "ace", though in name only.

In short, Guthrie should be a shoe-in for the Opening Day starter.

But this morning, The Sun's Roch Kubatko fanned the flames of those rumors when he mentioned in his blog, "Roch Around the Clock", that there is a feeling in the Orioles organization that Trachsel should be the Opening Day starter.

I don't know why I am so violently opposed to this, but I am. After all, Opening Day is just one game. If Trachsel goes out there and gets shelled, like I fully expect him to, there are still 161 other games for the O's to win.

But I am taking off work, and driving all the way down to Baltimore from Frederick to see the game, and I'll be damned if I am going to sit there and watch Steve-effing-Trachsel get bombed by the Tampa Bay Rays on the one day that I can feel good about being an Oriole fan.

Trachsel may have pitched better than I expected last year, but he was also very lucky to have an ERA below 5.00 with a 45/69 strikeout-to-walk ratio. So excuse me if I don't have faith that he will repeat that lucky performance in 2008.

Matter of fact, if Trachsel's K/BB ratio becomes more lopsided, as it has over the last few years of his career, Trachsel will probably have an ERA hovering around 6.00 and be out of the rotation by June.

Oh and by the way, Trachsel has a 6.92 ERA in 13 IP so far this spring. If he were competing for a spot in the rotation, instead of being handed one, he'd be dead last.

Meanwhile, Guthrie has a 3.00 ERA, has struck out 9 batters in 9 IP and has walked only 2.

In short, starting Trachsel on Opening Day is like waking up on your birthday and stepping on a thumbtack. You'll get over it, but it's no way to start the day you look forward to all year. Plus he is 0-3 versus the Rays, with a 5.93 ERA.

It also signals that the Orioles still put too much stock in "veteranosity" when they should be letting the younger guys get their crack at the big time. They are the future, after all. And 2008 is going to be all about the future.

But more importantly, Guthrie deserves it. Just let the guy pitch on Opening Day for crying out loud.

Friday, March 7, 2008

General Patton

The Baltimore Sun has just reported that Troy Patton, the pitching prospect acquired from the Astros in last fall's Miguel Tejada trade, is going to miss the entire 2008 season to undergo surgery for a partially torn labrum that had been bothering him for almost a year.

Sadly, this pretty much spells the end of Patton's career, at the age of 22.

Labrum surgeries are nearly impossible to come back from, and when pitchers do make it back to the majors, which is a rare feat in and of itself, they are mere shadows of their former selves.

You might remember former Oriole Eric DuBose. The former first round draft pick was once a left-handed fire-baller in the A's system, and one of their highest touted prospects, until he underwent a surgery for a torn labrum in 2001.

We all witnessed what happened when he came back from the surgery. DuBose was lucky to hit 90 MPH on the radar gun and continued to struggle with arm stiffness. He pitched 188 innings with the Orioles over 5 seasons and collected a 5.21 ERA.

He bounced around in the minors with the Indians and Rockies last year, but never made it back to the show. He probably never will.

At this point, Patton will be lucky to have a similar fate.

This might cause people to call the Miguel Tejada trade a disaster, but that isn't even close to reality.

The Orioles traded Tejada a day before he was named in the Mitchell Report, which was reason enough to trade him. The Orioles also got back 4 other quality players, which proves that sometimes quantity is better than quality.

Luke Scott will be the starting LF and is a huge upgrade over Jay Payton while 3B/C Mike Costanzo is impressing coaches so far in spring training. He'll probably be on the MLB roster at some point in the season. Reliever Dennis Sarfate is also looking like a shoe-in for the bullpen and pitcher Matt Albers could become a swingman, coming out of the bullpen and starting when needed.

The Orioles knew about Patton's troubles when they acquired him. They wanted to take a risk, and so far it hasn't worked out. At this point, it probably won't. But the Orioles still made out on the Tejada deal.

Here's to hoping that Troy can come back from the surgery and pitch effectively in the majors. After all, he is only 22.

I just hope the kid has a back-up plan if things don't work out.