Thursday, April 30, 2009

April in Review...

The Orioles finished the month of April with a 3-2 loss to the California Angels (I’m still refusing to buy into the LA Angels of Anaheim or whatever they’re called these days) and are currently 9-13, which is good for 4th place and 5.5 games out of first place. They’ve lost 11 out of their last 14 games after starting 6-2.

Overall, this is about where we should have expected the Orioles to be record-wise at the end of April. Maybe they are even a little ahead of where we thought they’d be. But that still doesn’t make it OK, since their losses are usually the result of boneheaded baserunning mistakes and errors.

That said, it still doesn’t feel like the Orioles are playing with a full deck. Matt Wieters has yet to be called up. Nolan Reimold is currently tearing up AAA Norfolk and looks to be an improvement over the struggling Felix Pie. And Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson should at some point be replaced in the rotation by Chris Waters, David Pauley, David Hernandez or Troy Patton.

Looking on the bright side of things, Koji Uehara looks to be a great signing and a stabilizing force in a rotation held together by orange-colored duct tape. But other than Uehara, the rotation is a mess. Even the usual zen-like calming presence of Jeremy Guthrie has had trouble being effective (5.40 ERA, 16K, 11 BB).

In the bullpen, the positives are almost as slim as they are in the rotation. Jim Johnson (3.00 ERA), picked up where he left off from last year before getting hurt. Danys Baez, who was on the verge of being released before opening day, is the team’s most effective reliever with a 3.00 ERA, 11 K and 2 BB in 12 IP.

On offense, the top 3 are on fire. Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are hitting a combined .365 with 66 runs, 8 HR and all have an OBP of .420 or higher. The middle of the line-up has performed well with Melvin Mora healthy, but the bottom 3 (Greg Zaun .111, Pie .157, Caesar Izturis .242) have been absolutely dreadful. The Orioles can’t afford to wait for Wieters much longer and it’s becoming clearer that Reimold might be needed to replace Pie sooner than we thought.

Manager Dave Trembley has also not helped matters much. His mismanagement of the bullpen is troubling at times. He’s forced Baez, Chris Ray and George Sherrill into 7th, 8th and 9th inning pitchers respectively, regardless of match-ups. Not to mention these roles could wear them out quickly. Trembley utilizes the hit and run with an offense built for doubles and home runs and it results in running the Orioles out of potential big innings. Before the season he also left me scratching my head by saying that Reimold needed to work on his bunting skills (he currently has 6 HR in Norfolk to go with an OPS of 1.212). Why the obsession with small ball? And his speeches about fundamentals and “playing the game the right way” don’t materialize on the field (the Orioles lead the AL in errors with 15).

To be fair, the Orioles did face a tough schedule in April even though most of their games were at home (NYY, TB, @TEX, @ BOS, CWS, TEX, LAA). It seemed like every team they faced had a stacked line-up that gave our pitchers fits. Maybe things will eventually even off at some point. But as April has come to an end its hard to put your finger on this team. There are a few things to like and a lot of things to hate. But overall this still feels like an incomplete team.

Right now the Orioles are like the student who hands in the first 2 pages of a 3-page essay. When the teacher asks him where the 3rd page is, the kid shrugs his shoulders and says, “it’ll get here soon. Chill out”.

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