Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Halves

The Ravens lost 23-20 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night.

At least it was a good game.

Going in, it was unsure whether rookie QB Joe Flacco would be able to handle the pressure of his first game on the road, during prime time, and against an always tough tough Steelers defense. Flacco performed about as good as you could expect in his third NFL game, going 16-31 for 192 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. Despite his impressive passing stats, he constantly held onto the ball too long in the pocket, resulting in several unnessary sacks and a fumble that was returned for a momentum-changing touchdown.

However, Flacco showed the impressive poise he displayed in the first two games. He continued to side-step pressure in the pocket and completed a highlight-reel-worthy Donovan McNabb-esque pass after scampering to his left and then right for twelve seconds. The play was just another reminder that Flacco, three games into his career, is going to be something special.

But as impressive as Flacco was under pressure, the Ravens let the game slip away from them, mostly due to stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

The Ravens dominated the first half of the game, going into halftime leading 13-3. At the half the Steelers only had 41 net yards, to the Ravens' 136. But when the Steelers came out after halftime, they switched to the no-huddle offense that seemed to keep the Ravens defense, which had been completely dominant in the first half, off balance.

Jarett Johnson's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was the game-changing play, tacking 15 yards onto a 8 yard Nate Washington reversal that gave the Steelers the ball well within Ravens territory. They scored their first TD in eight quarters three plays later. Then, on the first play of the Ravens' next drive, Flacco stepped back and tried to elude the pass rush when he should have just thrown the ball away. As he was getting sacked, the ball was knocked loose and picked up by the Steelers, who ran it in for their second TD in fifteen seconds to take the lead, 17-13.

The Ravens came back to tie the game late in the 4th quarter, with Flacco leading the offense on a brilliant 9 play, 76 yard drive which resulted in a Le'Ron McClain TD. He went 3-3 for 60 yards on the drive. Things were also looking good at the start of overtime, when the Ravens won the coin toss, but they went three-and-out and punted to the Steelers, who drove the ball down the field at will and kicked a field goal for the win.

Game over.

To their credit, the Ravens showed tons of heart, especially on the 4th quarter game-tying drive. If this game is a sign of things to come, Flacco is going to be the QB the Ravens have been waiting for since Vinny Testaverde was released in 1998. He is cool, calm and collected. The Ravens' long drives on offense gave the defense time to rest, and they were swarming the field all night.

But on the flip-side, the Ravens looked very undisciplined, racking up 8 penalties for a total of 76 yards. Most of them were as stupid as they were costly. Yes, it's a heated game against a division rival under the lights, but come on. Get your tempers under control. From a mental stand-point, they looked no different than the undisciplined Ravens teams of the past.

Another disappointing aspect of the game were the wide receivers. Only Derrick Mason was a factor, racking up 137 yards on 8 receptions. But where was Todd Heap? Where was Mark Clayton? Demetrius Williams was thrown to a few times, but had only 1 catch.

At 2-1, the Ravens are only a half game back of the Steelers, who are 3-1. But the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Ravens, as they host the 4-0 Tennessee Titans this Sunday. And that makes losing to the Steelers even more painful, since the schedule from here on out is brutally hard.

But, the Ravens are worlds ahead where we thought they'd be in the preseason, and look to be in pretty much every game they play if Flacco can maintain drives and avoid turnovers. He'll continue to get better, too.

Losing to the Steelers is hard, especially when the Ravens were dominating them for an entire half of the game, but if the Ravens can focus on the positives from this game and focus on improving discipline, this is the kind of game that can rally a team.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Things I learned in the second half of 2008...

During the usual Orioles second-half collapse (26-53 in the last 3 months), I learned some telling things about the Baltimore Orioles. Here they are...

1. Andy MacPhail will always take the long road. What we thought could be true during the never-ending Erik Bedard trade was cemented in fact when he failed to call up hot prospects Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, David Hernandez and Brad Bergeson. Instead, MacPhail rode out the season with aging veterans Ramon Hernandez and Jay Payton along with a never-was in Chris Waters. On the bright side, MacPhail seems intent not to rush his young prospects, but if ever there was a good time to get a look at these players in non-stressful situations, it was during the second half of 2008.

2. Shortstop is kind of an important position. After being spoiled with Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick and Miguel Tejada at shortstop for the better part of the last 40 years, O's fans finally got a taste of what it looks like when the SS position is a glaring weakness. Luis Hernandez, Alex Cintron, Freddie Bynum, Brandon Fahey... none of these guys played the position well enough to become even a full-time stop-gap at the position, making the 2008 season that much more painful.

3. Veteranosity is not always a bad thing. Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora each shed their "dead-weight" image and closed out some impressive seasons. While Mora's hot finish to the '08 campaign was more of a last hurrah than a career resurrection, Aubrey Huff could be a decent Plan B if the Orioles miss out on signing Mark Teixeira during the off season. It also shows you that picking up a veteran after a down year is a smart thing. Buy low, sell high.

4. Vertanosity is not always a good thing. See: Ramon Hernandez, Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, Steve Trachsel, Jamie Walker.

5. The Daniel Cabrera Era is over. Danny-boy failed to improve upon his dismal 2007 season, baffling and angering O's fans yet again in 2008. He started the season off well, putting together two months of solid pitching before reverting back to his old walk-this-ways. His control got worse, he's still a butcher as a defender, and the MPH on his fastball has gone down. Talk of moving CaBBrera to the bullpen is liken to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Either make Cabrera a throw-in player as part of a trade, or simply release him. Anything other than having Cabrera sporting an O's jersey in 2009.

6. Dave Trembley is not the great manager we all thought he was. He's actually more similar to Lee Mazzilli and Sam Perlozzo than Davey Johnson. But that's hardly a criticism, as those managers were playing with a short stack as well and got the wrong end of a raw deal. However, like those past managers, Trembley made a slew of questionable moves in 2008. He assigned players to restrictive roles (especially in the bullpen) and stuck with those pesky veterans longer than he should have. He deserves better players to manage, but it turns out Trembley is human after all despite his painfully honest, and sometimes uncomfortable, post-game press conferences.

7. Player development is in shambles. Failure to throw strikes and injuries are this organization's two most puzzling problems. Whether it is a philosophical problem or just bad luck, something needs to change -- and fast -- in the minor leagues. The Orioles led the AL in walks, again, and watched as their starting rotation and bullpen were decimated by injuries.

8. You can scratch Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz off the "key players of the future" list. Olson, 6.65 ERA. Liz, 6.72 ERA. Both pitchers had problems throwing strikes, which is no surprise if you read #7. Olson did manage to finish the season on somewhat of a high note, but Liz looks like nothing more than a bullpen arm, and based on his control problems, it's a stretch to say he could even be that. But the fact remains, based on what we saw in 2008, neither looks to be starting pitchers on a competitive team, which is what we hope the Orioles can become over the next few years.

It was an ugly finish. A disaster. That isn't to say there are no positives for the Orioles, but they are greatly outweighed by the negatives and question-marks surrounding this team. Andy MacPhail has his work cut out for him this off-season, but reality can't be ignored. This organization still has a long way to go, and it's something that can't be done in the span of a six-month offseason.

This offseason is very important, and the foundation for a winning team down the road can be put in place within the next few months. But it's a tall order. And with each passing week, I wonder if MacPhail is the right guy for the job.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wake me up when September ends

That should be the theme song for the Baltimore Orioles.

Remember when it used to be "Oriole Magic"? Back in... June? The players even made a cute video to go with it.


After their "high water mark" of 60-63, the Orioles have gone on a 7-24 run. Maybe they decided that they wanted to move up in the 2009 draft. Maybe they remembered that the reporters had predicted them to lose 100 games. Maybe they wanted to make sure that the last series in Yankee stadium went out with a bang -- for the Yankees.

The Orioles were swept, by the way, in a typical doormat fashion. Maybe the Orioles should give the Washington Generals some competition and start hiring themselves out as punching bags for colleges and high schools during their homecoming games.

Hey, the Orioles finally found something they're good at!

After the All Star Break, the Orioles become irrelevant as usual. They might as well be one of Baltimore's many indoor minor-league teams. The Bandits. The Bayrunners. The Blast.

When was the last time you cared about the Orioles after August 1st?

Really... it's depressing.

The Orioles looked to be much-improved after the Bedard and Tejada trades netted them a good group of young(er) players that injected the organization with youth and talent. But here we are, again, watching the Orioles play out the rest of the season like an employee at a job he hates -- watching the minute hand on the clock approach 5 p.m.

The things that Andy MacPhail need to do this offseason are numerous. Acquire some solid starting pitching. Get a MLB-quality shortstop. Fill the hole that has existed at 1B since Rafael Palmeiro left after 1998. Extend Markakis, Jones and maybe Roberts. And do all of this while continuing to deepen the talent pool in the minor leagues.

It's a tall order. And when you see the Orioles collapse the way they always do, it only seems to get taller.

Brown Stain

After an impromptu bye week caused by Hurricane Ike, the Ravens bounced back in a big way yesterday, beating the Cleveland Browns (0-3) 28-10.

The Ravens are now 2-0 and have sole possession of first place as they prepare to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers next Monday night.

The Ravens used the same game plan that worked against the Bengals in week 1. Play strong defense and control the game clock. And it worked again. The Ravens rushed for 153 yards, intercepted Derek Anderson 3 times and collected 4 sacks.

Le'Ron McClain lead the way again, rushing for 66 yards and 2 TD's. McGahee, playing for the first time this season, rushed for 64 yards and 1 score. It appears that the Ravens will use McGahee early and then turn to McClain to wear down the defense when they need to run out the game clock.

That appears to be a smart strategy since Flacco had his ups and downs. On the positive side, he completed 68% of his passes, but only made 19 attempts for 129 yards and had 2 INT's. He threw a bad interception early on over the middle, and his second pick came on a flee-flicker that didn't have much hope from the start. Had the play developed a bit faster, Flacco could have recorded the first passing TD of his career, but by the time the ball reached the Ravens receiver, two Browns defenders had arrived, intercepting the ball in the endzone.

That said, Flacco still looks smooth and calm in the pocker, side-stepping rushes, making check-downs and throwing the ball away when there was nothing available. It will be fun to watch Flacco improve as Harbaugh and Cameron have more faith in him to win games. But right now the Ravens' bread and butter is no different than it was in 2000-2006. Play good defense and run the ball.

And boy did they play good defense. Ray Lewis delivered a highlight-reel-worthy hit on Kellen Winslow, Jr. which caused the game's first INT. Ed Reed ran his INT back for a touchdown. And Terrell Suggs recorded 2 sacks.

The Ravens pass-rush appears to have returned after a season off in 2007, as they pressured Derek Anderson all day, keeping him off balance like they did Carson Palmer in week 1. With the Browns slow start, it looks like Anderson's days are numbered as the starter in Cleveland with first round draft pick Brady Quinn sitting on the sidelines.

Next week's game against the Steelers is shaping up to be a big one, with Pittsburgh having lost to the Eagles to fall to 2-1. It will also be the Ravens first game on the road after their trip to Houston was cancelled, so it'll be interesting watch Flacco perform on the road.

But the 2008 season looks to be more interesting that originally thought. And if the Ravens can stay healthy, the sky is the limit.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bengal Beatdown

After Joe Flacco's impressive 38-yard scamper for a touchdown, which put the Ravens up over the Bengals 17-3, I turned to Ben, my fellow 540 inmate, and said "Troy Smith got tonsillitis at the wrong time."

His response was classic. "He got it at the right time!"

The Ravens' dominating 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday was all about timing too. The Ravens entered the season with more question marks than answers and they benefited from opening up the season at home against a Bengals team that is in some serious trouble.

And in a schedule that looks to be pretty brutal, the Ravens will benefit from the weak part of the schedule coming in the first two weeks, as they travel to Houston to take on a Texans team that was blown out by the Steelers. If the Ravens play Houston like they played Cincy, they could very well start the season with a surprising 2-0 record as they come back home against Cleveland.

As for those question marks, many of them got a little less bothersome yesterday.

Let's start with rookie QB Joe Flacco.

Flacco was the Ravens' default starter since Troy Smith was down with a severe case of tonsillitis and Kyle Boller's torn labrum likely puts him out for the season. The Ravens signed veteran back-up Todd Bouman a week before the Ravens opening game, which meant Flacco was the QB with the most reps and knowledge of the playbook, even though he is a rookie.

Flacco responded well. While his numbers (15-29, 129 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT) aren't likely to have you racing to pick him up in your fantasy league, Flacco demonstrated patience and polish well beyond anything that Kyle Boller displayed during his five years as a QB. Flacco stood tall in the pocket, side-stepped pressure, moved from the pocket well, and knew when to get rid of the ball. We was not sacked at all.

Known to be a pocket passer, Flacco ran well, especially on his 38-yard TD run, turning in toward the middle of the field when he could have easily stepped out of bounds after getting a first down. He showed determination and heart. And this was just his first NFL game.

His passes were usually very catchable, even though the WR's had the dropsies today, dropping at least 4 passes that could have easily been caught.

However, the running game was probably the most pleasant surprise of the day. With Willis McGahee still hampered by a knee injury and not playing, the Ravens used a 2-fullback set to wear down the Bengals defense. La'Ron McClain punished the Bengals defense, gaining 86 yards on 19 carries. Ray Rice added 64 yards on 22 carries, and looked very good, despite a fumble that the Bengals returned for their only touchdown. In total the Ravens rushed for 229 yards, which allowed them to control the clock (36:15) and keep the Bengals supposed strong offense off the field.

That leads me to the defense, which brought their A-game today. I, as well as others, were very worried about this defense, with early season injuries mounting up as well as the age of some key veterans. But the defense looked very much like the defense from 2006, shutting down the Bengals offense and allowing only 154 yards total.

Chad Ocho Cinco was "Ocho Stinko", getting only 22 yards on 1 catch. The defense sacked Carson Palmer twice, but had him under constant pressure which kept him off balance all day. His final numbers were awful 10-25, 99 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT.

If there was one negative with today's game, it was the WR corps, which dropped several passes and failed to get decent separation yet again. Derrick Mason lead the WR corps with 44 yards on 4 catches.

Todd Heap, the great white hype, had 1 catch for 5 yards, on the Ravens' first drive, and that resulted in a fumble. Sadly, Heap is pretty much a non-factor in this offense and seems to have become a soft player, night-and-day different from his days as a hard-nosed tight end who would play hurt and take shots to make the catch. Where has that Todd Heap gone?

The Ogden-less offensive line was very impressive today, giving Flacco time to check down and pump fake. They didn't give up any sacks, which should be a testament to their success, as well as the intelligence of Flacco, who knew when to get rid of the ball. The OL also opened several holes for the Ravens running backs as well. I think it's safe to say the expectations for the future of this OL unit are high for a reason. And that doesn't even factor into the recently siging of Willie Anderson, who didn't play yesterday.

All in all, it was a wonderful day for the Ravens, as rookie head coach John Harbaugh recorded his first win. While the offense was not much different than the Brian Billick offenses of 2000-2006, it was assuring to see the Ravens pound the ball in the red zone instead of predictably switching it up with passes that were bound to fail. Also, the Ravens first touchdown came on a double reverse, something that Ravens' fans always thought was in Billick's playbook, but was never used.

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron's offense wasn't flashy but it got the job done and played to the strength of the Ravens and to the weakness of the Bengals. It's nice to feel confident in the offense again, even if it is for just one weak.

The same can be said of the Ravens. They are 1-0.

Friday, September 5, 2008

2008 Predictions and Projections

With the 2008 season about to get underway, let's take a look at how I think this season will play out for rookie coach John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.

Joe Flacco - with Flacco as the starter-by-default, he has a chance to prove himself early. If he plays well in the time before Troy Smith is able to come back, there may not be a need for Smith to play much in 2008. The odds for Flacco to succeed, however, are heavily stacked against him. He must contend with a patchwork OL (though it has been made stronger with the signing of Willie Anderson) as well as a bunch of unproven WR's. There have been comparisons of Flacco's situation around Baltimore to the situation Ben Roethlisberger came into in Pittsburgh, but let's be real. Flacco is more than likely going to struggle. Projection: 7 G, 55%, 1,200 YDS, 6 TD, 8 INT

Troy Smith - after coming down with a severe case of tonsillitis, the former Heismann Award winner has to be feeling a bit nervous about his situation. Once tabbed as the Ravens 2008 starting QB, he is now battling his way back to health while Flacco, the Ravens' future franchise QB, is starting sooner than expected. If Flacco plays well, Smith may never get his chance. I expect Flacco to be mediocre, like most rookie QB's, and I expect Smith to start half of the games this season and be mediocre at best too. By the mid-way mark, the Ravens will have fallen out of playoff contention and the starting gig will be handed back to Flacco permanently. Projection: 8 G, 50%, 1,700 YDS, 7 TD, 12 INT

Willis McGahee - battling a knee injury, McGahee is going to be worked slowly back into the starting role. However, that knee could be a huge cause for concern going forward, as McGahee has been bothered by knee injuries his entire career going back to his days at the University of Miami. It's a good thing that the Ravens drafted Ray Rice, and Rice appears to be ready for an expanded role. I wouldn't be surprised to see McGahee hampered with injuries for most of the season and find himself out of a job come spring. Projection: 10 G, 850 YDS, 6 TD

Ray Rice - the rookie from Rutgers will be given a chance to prove himself now and for the future with McGahee bothered by a knee injury. I think he's up for the task. Rice has good speed and can break tackles. My bet is that he will be the starting RB by the end of the season. Projection: 16 G, 825 YDS, 5 TD

Derrick Mason - the veteran WR had a solid season last year, and was the only Ravens WR who put up anything resembling impressive stats. It's unsure how Mason will fare with Flacco and Smith chucking the rock in '08, but Mason still looks to be the surest target in the passing game. Projection: 16 G, 1,000 YDS, 6 TD

Mark Clayton - he disappeared after an impressive rookie campaign in '06. Here's to hoping Clayton bounces back in '08. I think he just might. The Ravens will be trailing a lot this season, which means that Flacco and Smith will be forced to pass. That means good things for Clayton and the remaining Ravens WR's. Projection: 16 G, 850 YDS, 5 TD

Todd Heap - Heap's biggest obstacle is staying healthy. When healthy, Heap is a top 5 TE in the NFL and a huge boost to the passing attack. If Heap can stay healthy, Flacco might be so bad after all. While I do think Heap is going to miss some time this season, I still think he will be the next best thing to Derrick Mason in the passing game. Projection: 8 G, 500 YDS, 4 TD

The Defense - the Ravens have always prided themselves on being a strong defensive team, but this will be the last year that people put Baltimore and defense in the same sentence. The unit is aging and all signs point to the Ravens going in a new direction in 2009 and beyond. If the likes of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Samari Rolle can stay healthy, they could have a solid year, but chances are injuries are going to take their toll on the Ravens in 2008, causing the defense to crumble into a shadow of its former self. Enjoy #52 trolling the field while you can. Things could look much different next season. Projection: middle to lower end of the rankings for the Ravens defense.

Week-by-week Predictions

CIN - W - Flacco impresses in his debut and the Ravens are able to run on the Bengals weak defense. The game, however is close and won by a late Stover FG.
@ HOU - L - the Texans are on the rise and the Ravens on their way down.
CLE - L - the Browns offense is too much. Let's just hope the Ravens fans aren't teased into thinking the Ravens have won before the ref's make the team come back onto the field ten minutes after the game was over.
@ PIT - L - this game is ugly, just in time for the season to get ugly.
TEN - L - outside of Vince Young, there's a lot to like about the Titans. We'll see why.
@ IND - L - the Ravens will lose this game so bad they could get 2 losses added to their record.
@ MIA - W - Revenge!
OAK - W - unless the Raiders drastically improve earlier than people expect, the Ravens should win this game at home.
@ CLE - L - the Browns' fans will revel in beating the old Browns once more.
BYE - they might even lose this week too.
@ NYG - L - I don't think the Giants are that good, but they will look good against the Ravens at home.
PHI - L - Ravens lose a close one.
@ CIN - L - When is the last time the Ravens have won in Cincy?
WAS - L - from the looks of the Redskins last night, this game could be called the Toilet Bowl.
PIT - L - the Ravens have had success against the Steelers at home these last few years, but it ends here.
@ DAL - L - maybe we can get Jessica Simpson to suit up in purple.
JAX - L - most fans will be playing with their Christmas presents while this game is played.

Record 3-14. That Indy game is going to count as 2 losses.

In the end, 2008 is going to be about the development of Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, Ray Rice and Mark Clayton. If those guys can become solid contributors in 2008, then the Ravens know who they can build around in the future. I do expect 2008 to be somewhat of a farewell tour of sorts for like likes of Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and maybe even Ed Reed. I think John Harbaugh was handcuffed with this roster and will lobby for changeover during the next offseason.

If the 2008 Ravens can stay healthy, and the Flacco/Smith combination isn't horrible, then I do think the Ravens could add 4-5 more wins to their expected record. I just don't see this team making a playoff run with their brutal schedule.

At any rate, I am expecited to watch some football. Here's to the 2008 season being better than expected.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ravens sign Bouman


In a strange turn of events that saw media outlets report that the Ravens had signed Joey Harrington and had been close to signing Chris Simms, turns out the Ravens have actually signed 36-year-old veteran Todd Bouman to a one-year deal.

Just watch... tonight they will be reported to sign Browning Nagle.

Not that any of this matters much, since guys like Simms, Harrington and Bouman are pretty much inter-changable. Of the three, however, I still would have liked the Ravens to have signed Harrington, since he actually has had some limited success as a starter in the NFL and could provide some leadership for Joe Flacco, even if the advice is "don't do what I just did."

Anyway, Bouman is 36 and has spent time in Minnesota and New Orleans. There's not much to go on, except for his 8 TD's in 5 games while filling in for Dante Culpepper in 2001. That just goes to show you how having Randy Moss and Chris Carter for weapons can work wonders for you.

Apparently Bouman was the most impressive in the workouts. Or maybe the Ravens already knew what he looked like in purple, so they signed him.

Who cares?

Hopefully he will never have to see action in 2008.

Ravens reportedly close to singing Harrington

The Ravens are close to singing QB Joey Harrington to become the #2 or #3 back-up QB depending on the health to both Troy Smith and Kyle Boller over the course of the season.

Boller looks to be finished for the season and the Ravens are said to be making a decision about his future this week. Smith on the other hand is still trying to come back from a nasty tonsillitis virus that left him 20 pounds lighter. It could be weeks before he gets back to his previous strength.

Meanhile, the Ravens have already tapped rookie Joe Flacco to be the week 1 starter versus the Bengals because there is no other choice on the roster. It's likely that Flacco will start 1 or 2 games until either Smith gets healthy or Harrington becomes familiar enough with Cam Cameron's offense.

Harrington's reputation around the NFL is that he is a huge bust, after being taken with the 3rd overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2002. Harrington failed to live up to the hype, tossing 60 TD's and 62 INT's during 4 years in the Motor City before being released.

In 2006 he signed with Miami and threw 12 TD versus 15 INT's and last year with the Falcons he chucked 7 TD against 8 INT.

There's no denying that Harrington is a bust, but it may not be entirely his fault. Detroit wasn't exactly a place to thrive, as Matt Millen made a living out of making bad moves and the head coach position had less stability than a revolving door. In Miami and Atlanta, Harrington was looked at as nothing other than a quick fix, and when he didn't perform above expectations, he was tossed aside.

In Baltimore, Harrington is yet again a quick fix, and the state of the OL and the WR corps don't point to any Jeff Garcia-like resurrections. Harrington is likely to be here a year, and then continue on down the short road to early retirement.

On message boards, I hear Ravens fans complaining about the potential Harrington signing, but there weren't any other options. The Ravens brought in Chris Simms over the weekend, but his weak arm and injury history left the Ravens worrying if they could potentially lose yet another QB at some point during the season. At least Harrington has a decent history of staying healthy.

The bottom line is that the Ravens needed somebody, anybody. And while Harrington may not be Mr. Right, he'll do right now.

At least he's an upgrade over Casey Bramlet.

Walk this way

I'm going to say something that is not exactly groundbreaking.

Orioles pitchers can't throw strikes.

For the second season in a row, the Orioles will have allowed the most walks in the AL. The Orioles have not cracked the top 10 in walks allowed (allowing the least) since 2002.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a problem.

For too long the Orioles have placed an emphasis on hard-throwers (Daniel Cabrera) and pitchers with "stuff" (Adam Loewen) over pitchers who have good control. The one Orioles pitcher who exuded good control in the MiL was traded faster than you can say "Anna Benson in a half-buttoned Orioles uniform".

Something needs to change. The Orioles can't keep allowing walks if they want to make a jump to the next level. Take a look at the first place teams in the AL right now. Tampa is 7th in walks allowed, Chicago 4th, Minnesota is 1st and the Angels are 3rd.

It's common sense. Less base runners allowed = less runs allowed.

And right now the Orioles are giving away free base runners like they are at a Grand Opening.

Things may get better as the young pitchers (Olson and Liz) get more MLB experience, but pitchers like Cabrera and Burres are who they are. And neither of them should be in the starting rotation come 2009 because they simply don't throw enough strikes.

What the Orioles need to do this offseason, amongst dozens of other things, is change the pitching philosophy in the minors. Draft pitchers who throw strikes. Sign pitchers who can throw strikes. Trade for pitchers who can throw strikes. Sign coaches who preach throwing strikes above all else.

Enough with the raw talent pitchers who can't throw strikes!