Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Cundiff

The Ravens signed Billy Cundiff today, replacing released kicker Steve Hauschka.

It was between Cundiff and former Buccaneers kicker, Mike Nugent.

I would have preferred Nugent over Cundiff, but it's like picking between a green and red M&M.

Cundiff has played for the Cowboys, Saints and Browns. The Browns called him when their kicker, Phil Dawson, was injured earlier this season, and Cundiff went 6 for 6, including kicking the game winning field goal during the Browns' only win this season.

So it's safe to say that Cundiff is battle tested (joking).

Before the Browns, Cundiff was out of the NFL for 2 seasons. His career field goal percentage is 74.2%.

He's not Matt Stover, but he should be an improvement over Hauschka and that is all the Ravens can hope for in a kicker during Week 11.

O's 40-man set

Pitching prospect Steve Johnson is the son of former O's pitcher, Dave Johnson.

The Orioles set their 40-man roster today as the Rule 5 draft approaches.

The Rule 5 draft is where any team can draft a player not on another team's 40-man roster. The kicker is that the drafted player has to be placed on the 25-man roster come opening day, and remain there for the entire year. If that player doesn't make it with their new team, they are offered back to the original team.

Anyway, the Orioles failed to protect Steve Johnson, the 22-year-old prospect they acquired from the Dodgers earlier this season in the George Sherrill trade. Johnson is a decent prospect, nothing close to Brian Matusz status, but why the Orioles failed to protect Johnson is beyond me.

Granted, it's unlikely that a MLB team drafts Johnson, who has not even pitched 50 innings at AA ball, and keeps them for the entire season. But when you look at who the Orioles did protect over Johnson, it's enough to at least raise some eyebrows.

SP Chris Waters, age 29. 5.07 ERA in 76 IP. Waters is a dime a dozen bullpen arm who can start on occasion but probably shouldn't.

1B John Hughes, age 27. Career 798 OPS in MiL. Hughes has extremely poor plate discipline and with 1B prospects Brandon Snyder and Michael Aubrey in the system, this is a real head-scratcher.

RP Radhames Liz, age 27. Liz has spent time with the Orioles that most people want to forget. Straight fastball, poor control. If he is claimed, don't cry over spilled milk.

So there you have it. Johnson is in danger of being drafted by some other team who could stick him in their bullpen. He's got upside. And he should have been protected.

Now we'll just have to wait and see if this is a mistake that will come back to bite the Orioles in the ass.

Hauschka Outschka

The Ravens released kicker Steve Hauschka yesterday.

Much was made about Hauschka since he missed what could would have been the winning field goal in Minnesota in week 6. His other key miss was last week against the Bengals, a kick that could have brought the Ravens within 1 touchdown of the Bengals. Instead, he missed the kick and the Ravens eventually lost 17-7.

All said and done, Hauschka was 9 for 14 in his field goal attempts with one extra point blocked.

I do believe that Hauschka took a lot of the blame for the Ravens currently disappointing 5-4 record. Had he made that kick in Minnesota, the Ravens would be 6-3 and tied with the Steelers for second place in the division. But the Ravens defense, which allowed 426 yards to the Vikings is as much to blame for that loss.

That said, it's time for the Ravens move on. Hauschka couldn't be counted on to make crucial kicks.

The Ravens are expected to sign either Billy Cundiff or Mike Nugent today. Either kicker is likely to be an improvement over Hauschka, but not as consistent as Matt Stover, who has been perfect kicking for the Colts while Adam Vinatieri is injured.


NOTE: Terrell Suggs will miss 2-3 weeks with a torn MCL obtained from Brady Quinn's low block during an interception on Monday night. He could also miss the rest of the season....St player and back-up safety Haruki Nakamura will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Kill me, I love sequels. I get a kick out of going back to a world I loved the first or second time around.

Now, I'm not usually into the massive Hollywood sequel machine. I wasn't clamoring for Transformers 2. But I like sequels if for no other reason than to go back to the warm and fuzzy place I was when I watched the original.

And I may be in the minority, but I don't believe that sequels somehow tarnish the movies before it. If anything, I think as the sequels progressively get worse, as is mostly the case, it makes the original that much better by comparison.

So, here is my list of sequels I'd like to see get made.

10. The Exorcist 4. I know. All the sequels since the original have sucked. Actually, Part III wasn't too bad despite a weird dream sequence featuring Patrick Ewing. Anyway, even though most the other sequels and both prequels to the film buried the franchise in crap, I'd still like to see another installment get made. Return the series to Georgetown, bring back Linda Blair, and treat the film as seriously as William Friedkin treated the original. Probability Factor: 4. Both prequels are infamous for losing money for the studio, but with many horror franchises getting the reboot treatment these days, there's always hope that the pea soup will fly once again.

9. Cliffhanger 2. I'll admit, I'm a Sylvester Stallone apologist. I've always liked him even when he was making crap like Get Carter and Eye See You. So I'd be up for seeing another installment of one of Stallone's better action movies, which was released right before his career went into the tank. And hey, if Stallone can resurrect Rocky and Rambo and have those movies not suck, then I'd be willing to watch him bring this back too. Probability Factor: 5. There were rumors floating around the internet in the late 90's about a sequel entitled, The Dam, but nothing ever came of it. Based on Stallone's recent career resurgence, he might blow the dust off that script and put it into quick turnaround.

8. Dumb and Dumber 2. Forget the "prequel" ever happened. Re-teaming Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels for a sequel and getting the Farrelly Bros. to direct is the only way another Dumb and Dumber movie can ever be made. And based on their respective slacking careers, everyone involved might be up for another go around. Probability Factor: 6. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to hear this sequel get announced tomorrow or in a couple of years.

7. Bram Stoker's Dracula: The Un-Dead. Stoker's descendant just published a squel to his great-granduncle's original book, and it's said to be more like The Da Vinci Code than the original novel. I don't care. Just get Francis Ford Coppola back in the director's chair, Wojciech Kilar back at the composer's stand, and Gary Oldman back in that awesome red robe! The 1992 Dracula film remains to this day my #1 guilty pleasure film of all time and I would love to see the same crew tackle the new Dracula book, which has already been optined for a movie. Probability Factor: 9. The movie is going to be made, but I seriously doubt whether any of the cast or crew from the 1992 film will sign up. That said, I am a big Dracula fan, so barring Uwe Boll becoming the director, I'll be there on opening night.

6. Gladiator 2. The original Gladiator was a financial and critical success. If it weren't for the pesky fact that Maximus (Russell Crowe) died at the end of the film, I bet that a second Gladiator would have been out years ago. Despite his character's death in the first film, Crowe and director Ridley Scott were so interested in making a sequel they went to singer/screenwriter Nick Cave (The Proposition) and asked him to write a script. Cave did and it's one of the most buzzed about scripts floating around the internet today. According to a lucky bastard who read it, Cave's script is both bizzare and fascinating, as the now-dead Maximus is rented out by the Roman gods to do their dirty work. This means being reincarnated, of course. The kicker is that toward the end of the film, Maximus is granted immortality on Earth (he really just wants to join his wife and child in the afterlife), and in a montage it's revealed that Maximus has lived on and fought in every war that has ever been waged since the fall of the Roman Empire. The closing shot is of Maximus looking at himself in a Pentagon bathroom mirror. Woah. Probability Factor: 2. Studios balked at the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo sprinkled throughout the script and Crowe and Scott moved on to other projects. It probably would have been made by now if it's ever gonna happen, and Crowe and Scott aren't getting any younger. Don't think about it for too long at the risk of feeling old, but it's almost been 10 years since the original Gladiator was released. That said, Cave's script has generated somewhat of a cult following on the internet, so there's a small chance that someone could shrug their shoulders one day and say "let's make this bloody movie!"

5. Halloween 9. I hated Rob Zombie's remake. I never saw his version of Halloween 2 and it sounds like the rumored Halloween 3-D is going to be another blatant money-grab. What I long to see is a return to the series' roots, which was about actually scaring the audience. Not beating them over the head with torture-porn or watered down origin stories (what the hell was all that Thorn shit anyway?), just a return to a well-made slasher film about a guy stalking teenagers on Halloween night in suburbia. When Quentin Tarantino was attached to Halloween 6 (yes, you read that right. Producer Moustapha Akkad said QT's version would be "too bloody" and then went with a version of Halloween 6 which featured a guy's head exploding), he said his vision for a sequel would be a lot like the beginning of Halloween II, when Michael Myers was trying to get out of Haddonfield. There is a lot of potential for good characters and stories in a voyeuristic Halloween sequel. I also envision a very DePalma-esque feel, too. Cameras moving through walls, long takes -- all the stuff that made the original movie one of the best horror movies ever made. Probability Factor: 6. Not counting Halloween 3-D, I'm betting there will be another sequel made to the franchise's original storyline. Finding someone who will treat it as something more than a stepping stone to a bigger career in movies is the challenge.

4. Terminator 5. I'll be the first to admit that Terminator Salvation was a very flawed film, which is why I want to see another sequel improve upon that film. Salvation's script went through several writers and versions and it feels like it when you watch the movie. But when I first saw it in theaters, it felt like there was a very good movie in there somewhere. It also begged for an Extended Cut with more exposition and character development. But still, what ended up on the screen wasn't all bad, and both Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin kicked ass in their roles while Christian Bale was flat as John Conner. There are also so many directions the series can go in, and director McG has stated that he sees this as a new trilogy. The rights to the Terminator series are up for grabs as we speak, so it's likely that some studio will make a run at a fifth movie, which means that the return of McG, Bale or anyone else from Salvation is up in the air. But based on the troubling finished product that was Salvation, that may not be a bad thing. Probability Factor: 8. When the rights are purchased, the studio who ponied up the cash to buy it will likely put a sequel into quick turnaround to protect their investment.

3. The Little Lebowski. The Coen Bros. have never made a sequel, but if ever there was a Coen Bros. movie ripe for one, it's The Big Lebowski. I'd pay money to see Jeff Bridges and John Goodman read a telephone book as The Dude and Walter Sobchak, so it goes without saying that I'd love to see them deal with The Dude, Jr. in a potential sequel. Remember, Maude (Julianne Moore) wanted a baby, and she practically knew the Dude gave her one right after they finished having sex. Plus, seeing the return of Jesus (John Turturro, who has hinted that a sequel based on his character could be made) and the dozen other memorable characters from the film would be well worth it. Probability Factor: 5. If the Coen Bros. really, really want to please their fans, and make lots of money, they will return to the world of the tumbling tumbleweeds.

2. Star Wars - A Third Trilogy. What George Lucas says and what George Lucas does are usually two different things. He's said he'll never make another Star Wars trilogy, but everything he's doing (making a Star Wars live action TV show, countless Star Wars cartoons and releasing the films on Blu-Ray) points to a new trilogy happening at some point. And to tell the truth, Lucas can have as little involvement in a new trilogy as he wants. He wrote and directed all 3 of the latest films, and to be honest, they sucked when compared to the originals (Lucas only wrote and directed A New Hope). Lucas is a great idea guy, but should leave the details to someone else. I see Lucas doing just that if there is a new trilogy made at some point. Probability Factor: 7. Lucas can't let this franchise go and he shouldn't. It's what he's known for and the fans will always line up for more movies, and probably a couple years in advance.

1. The Godfather, Part IV. I know, I know. Part III was a mess and the Michael Corleone story was tied up into a nice bow back in 1990 when Part III was released in theaters. And when Mario Puzo died, Francis Ford Coppola swore off making another Godfather movie. (The two men were in the early stages of writing a script for a Part IV in the late 90's).

Even more difficult to get around -- any reoccurring characters featured in a potential sequel would either have to be recast due to the age of the actors playing them or lots and lots of age-reversing make-up would have to be used. But gosh darnit, I really want to go back to that world. I was 18 when I first saw these movies and they were instantly cemented into the #1 spot of my "Favorite Movies List". I also believe that there is an interesting story to be told post-Part III. When we left the Corleones, Vincent (Andy Garcia) was the Don of the family, and we all know what happened to the mob in the 80's -- it practically ceased to exist. So I'd like to see the final downfall of the Corleone family in the 80's while not treading into Goodfellas or The Sopranos territory. The Godfather movies have always had their own trademark stamp on them, and setting a sequel in the 80's would be risky. Probability Factor: 2. Unless FFC's wineries go bankrupt again, he won't return to the director's chair without Puzo and it's unlikely any new director worth their salt picks up the reigns. That said, when asked about another Godfather sequel, FFC grinned and said he'd never say "never" to anything. But this sequel remains the most unlikely of this list. And probably for good reason.

So there you have it. What sequels would you love to see get made?


The ironic history of Baltimore football is on display this week.

Last night, the Ravens played the Browns. The Ravens were the Cleveland Browns before they moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season, ditched the Browns colors and history, and became a new franchise.

Cleveland was awarded an expansion team -- the new Browns -- in 1999.

This Sunday, the Ravens play the Indianapolis Colts, who played in Baltimore until 1984.

Just thought I'd point that out.

Brown Out

Ray Rice ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on Monday night.

The Ravens (5-4) looked very unimpressive on offense in their 16-0 win over the Browns (1-8) last night. In a game they should have won by at least 20 points, the Ravens were blanked by the Browns defense in the first half and only managed to score points when the defense created turnovers deep in Cleveland territory.

They totaled just 274 yards of total offense against the Browns 31st defense. That's 3 straight games now where the Ravens have failed to go over 300 yards of total offense.

Joe Flacco and Ray Rice lead the way again, with Flacco tossing for 155 yards and no turnovers while Rice rushed for 89 yards and the only touchdown on offense. Derrick Mason turned in a decent performance after being shut down in Cincinnati with 78 receiving yards.

But despite some decent single performances, the offense as a whole sputtered for most of the night. The Browns defense does deserve some credit for stepping up and playing a good game, but the Ravens offense, which was 9th in points scored coming into the game, should've put the game away in the first half. Instead they went into halftime tied at zero and needed Browns turnovers to score points on offense.

Last night's game is just another example that the league has figured out the Ravens offense. Give Rice his yards, but pressure Flacco and box out the Ravens WR's.

And the Colts, who come to Baltimore this Sunday, have been figuring out the Ravens for years.

The Ravens' lone bright spot last night was the defense, which held the Browns' 32nd ranked offense to just 160 total yards and no points. They played physical, and did an excellent job pressuring Browns' QB Brady Quinn, but I won't put too much stock in their shutout last night. The Browns offense is worse than most college teams and maybe some high school teams. They didn't attempt to stretch the field until their final drive. They failed to challenge the Ravens' weak secondary. And they barely used Jamal Lewis, the kind of physical running back the Ravens have had trouble stopping this season.

Also, the controversy surrounding kicker Steve Hauschka should continue for another week after he missed his first field goal attempt of the game, a 36-yarder. He did, however, come back and make a 44-yarder later in the game but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Ravens make a move this week. Too bad a certain former Raven future Hall of Fame kicker will be wearing a Colts uniform this Sunday.

Anyway, the Browns are bad, really bad, and the Cleveland fans should have stuck to their plan of walking into the stadium after kickoff, leaving the stadium mostly empty for the start of the game. However, during the weeks since that plan was announced the Browns have taken steps to mend the fences in Cleveland and the stadium looked mostly full at kickoff.

All in all it was a less-than-impressive win over the Browns who are easily the worst team in the NFL. The Ravens on offense look slow and uninspired and the defense will still have issues against a team that can actually complete a forward pass.

Last night the Ravens played the worst team in the NFL. This Sunday, they play the best.

They better bring their A-game against the Colts, or the Ravens will be looking more like the team they were before they moved to Baltimore.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Missing McClain

The Ravens have sorely missed Le'Ron McClain on offense this season.

Looking at the Ravens and what ails them 8 games into the season, it's not hard to see that the Ravens have struggled to maintain drives during their 4 losses.

Yesterday, the Ravens held the ball for only 20 minutes.

In 2008, the Ravens lead the NFL in time of possession. And one of the biggest reasons for that was RB Le'Ron McClain.

In 2008, McClain had 902 rush yards, 10 rush TD's and 1 receiving TD. The Ravens used him in a closer role, as McClain's massive 260 pound frame wore down opposing defenses in the 3rd and 4th quarter of games.

Flash forward to the mid-point of 2010 and McClain has just 78 yards rushing, and 1 TD.

The reason? In 2008, McClain had future Hall of Fame fullback Lorenzo Neal blocking for him. In 2009, McClain is doing the blocking for Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

It's a shame the Ravens let Neal walk and then never picked up another fullback during the offseason. Because the Ravens are much better off with McClain sharing duty with Rice as one of the Ravens running backs.

So who is to blame for this oversight?

None other than Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

Cameron is too enamored with his new weapons, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, to realize what he has in McClain. Cameron has basically brought his San Diego offense with Philip Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson and set it up here in Baltimore. Only, Flacco and Rice are not at the level of Rivers and Tomlinson -- yet -- and the Ravens offense is much more one-dimensional than the Chargers ever were. If opposing teams can contain Rice you can shut down the Ravens offense.

So maybe an embarrassing loss to the Bengals and a 4-4 first half will wake up Cameron and some of the Ravens coaches, prompting them to realize that McClain needs to be reinstated as a RB instead of a FB.

Ravens lose to Bengals, playoffs in jeopardy

Joe Flacco was sacked 4 times by the Bengals in the Ravens' 17-7 loss.

Technically, the Ravens played a football game yesterday.

I beg to differ.

The Ravens turned in one of the worst performances in a couple years, yesterday, in a "not as close as the score indicated" 17-7 loss to the Bengals.

The Ravens fell to 4-4 on the season and erased any momentum they gained after crushing the Broncos a week before. They came out flat on both sides of the ball and the Bengals picked them apart.

On the first drive of the game, Carson Palmer drove the Bengals drove down the field on a 6 minute long drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell, putting the Bengals up 7-0. On the Ravens first drive, they sputtered out quickly, not even holding the ball for 2 minutes. The Bengals got the ball back, and drove down the field over the course of 4 and a half minutes, and scored another TD, this time coming from Cedric Benson.

Once the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first quarter, the Ravens had the ball for just over 4 minutes, were trailing 14-0 and had gained just 41 yards of offense.

When the second quarter began, it didn't get any prettier. The Bengals first drive lasted for 7 minutes and resulted in a field goal, putting them up 17-0. Thankfully, the Bengals must've eased up on the gas pedal after taking the 17-0 lead because they didn't score again.

But that still didn't make the game any less of an embarrassment for the Ravens.

The Ravens' longest drive of the day was 2:43. They scored a measly 215 yards of offense. Joe Flacco played what could possibly be the second worst game of his pro career, throwing for 195 yards, 0 TD and 2 INT. Again, Ray Rice was a large chunk of the Ravens offense, gaining 135 total yards. The Ravens' receivers couldn't get open, they were bottled up by the Bengals secondary all afternoon.

You have to give credit to the Bengals though. Thy held the Ravens 5th ranked offense to just 14 total points in their 2 wins over the Ravens. They just had the Ravens figured out, and it showed.

On defense, the Ravens reverted back to the defense from their 3-game losing streak. There was no pressure on Palmer. The secondary was routinely beaten. And again, Cedric Benson abused our defensive line for 117 yards and a TD. So much for a consecutive streak of holding opposing RB's to less than 100 yards, Benson has already done it twice this season. Even with Haloti Ngata, who missed the game with an injury, it wouldn't mave made much of a difference.

The writing is on the wall, ladies and gentlemen. The Ravens defense is finished.

Greg Mattison may have been a poor choice to take over for Rex Ryan but it's not all his fault. The Ravens put on another poor tackling clinic yesterday, trying to finger tackle Bengals players all day. Ed Reed, obviously still bothered by his neck injury looks like a shell of his former hard-hitting self. He whiffed on several tackles. Maybe it's time to see what Tom Zbikowski or Haruki Nakamura can do in his place.

And finally, Steve Hauschka missed a crucial field goal that would have put the Ravens within a touchdown with 7+ minutes left in the 4th quarter. It was a 38-yarder, not a chip shot by any means, but some point he's going to have to make some crucial field goals. Meanwhile, Matt Stover is perfect for the Colts.

At 4-4, the Ravens are on the fringe of the playoff race along with the Steelers (5-2), Chargers (5-3), Texans (5-4), Jets (4-4) and Jaguars (4-4). They still have several tough games on their schedule. A record of 11-5 will likely get you a seat at the table, but 10-6 could also get you in too. That means going at worst, 6-2 down the stretch. Based on what I saw yesterday, there's no chance this Ravens team can do it.

They looked like a team beaten before the game began yesterday. The win over the Broncos may have been their last hurrah. And on top of that, the Bengals showed the NFL how to destroy the Ravens in their two wins and teams around the NFL will take notice. The Colts and Steelers already know how to beat them. They've been doing it for years. But teams like the Bears and Packers just saw how to beat the Ravens.

It's sad to see, but this isn't your Ravens of old any more. No more smash mouth defense, grind it out offense. It's been replaced by sketchy coaching, poor tackling, and ill-timed penalties.

The Ravens motto this year has been "Play like a Raven".

I used to know what that meant, but I have no clue what the hell it means any more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

They'll be back, Part 2

Matt Wieters will lead the promising Orioles offense into the future.

Now onto the hitters...

Brian Roberts' 2009 season was one of the few bright spots for the Orioles, when he totaled more than 50 doubles for the third time in his career. At age 32, Roberts could experience some regression going forward, meaning that he will no longer be a lock for an .800+ OPS season any longer. His range at 2B has also diminished somewhat, but, Roberts should be valuable for the length of his contract. His OBP is still decent for a leadoff hitter, and even if Roberts doesn't get those two-baggers into the fifties anymore, you can still pencil him in for 40 or more. Roberts is probably the most consistent Oriole player since Cal Ripken so there is no reason to expect a drastic slide from him yet. I'll go ahead and say Roberts will be good for a .285 AVG, 10 HR, 65 RBI, and an OPS right around .800.

There's no denying that Adam Jones was on fire for the month of April and May last year. However, after the weather warmed up, Jonsey cooled off. Jones also had a knack for playing too shallow in CF which led to him running back on flyballs and having them get over his head. That's easily fixable though. Jones battled nicks and scratches here and there and failed to play more than 120 games. So forget Jones' hot/cold streaks, let's just see if he can stay healthy for the length of one season first. But when healthy, I do expect Jones to put up a line like he did last year -- .280/20/80 with an OPS around .820. He'll just be more consistent throughout the entire season instead of doing it all within 2 months.

Nick Markakis had a setback in 2009. After having an OPS just a shade below .900 in 2008, Markakis had an OPS a shade above .800 in '09. He became almost predictable at the plate, refusing to swing at first pitch meatballs. But ironically, his refusal to swing lead to him walking 43 times less than he did in 2008. Markakis stays healthy, and is largely consistent despite going through two prolonged slumps last year (.719 OPS in May, .642 OPS in September), so I do expect him to bounce back in a big way in 2010 thanks to the continued improvement (and protection) of Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. You can also chalk Markakis' struggles up to Aubrey Huff sucking in '09. I'd throw a 2010 Markakis line of .300/23/100/.860 out there without batting an eyelash.

Nolan Reimold was the Orioles' best hitter as a rookie in 2009. Too bad he was sidelined with an Achilles injury that caused him to miss some time. That injury might also effect him in '10, so expect to see Reimold spending a lot of time in the DH spot next year. There's also been some rumblings of Reimold moving over to 1B to keep him healthy, since Felix Pie has pretty much wrapped up the LF position going forward. Bill James has a big season projected for Reimold, and I do too -- .300/30/90/.880.

Matt Wieters was the #1 prospect in all of baseball coming into last season. And while he did struggle at times in 2009, he eventually got going (.882 OPS in September). Wieters and Reimold could become a minor version of the Bash Brothers in 2010. It's because of these two players that I have high hopes for this offense, which was tepid in '09. Wieters should cruise to a .280/25/100/.900 line pretty easily barring injury.

Felix Pie was another bright spot in the second half of the Orioles season along with Roberts and Wieters. He posted a 1.045 OPS in August. And despite his blunders on the bases, Pie looks to have wrapped up the LF position with his blazing speed. I think Pie is going to be a streaky hitter, much like Luke Scott, so I can't really pinpoint his projections. But I'll say a .260/15/60 line shouldn't be too far off.

No one is expecting much out of Caesar Izturis other than solid defense at SS and Izturis at least fit that bill in '09. It would be nice if he could get his OPS up around .700 for one season, but that might be asking too much since he's only had an OPS above .700 once in his career, and that was back in 2004. Looks like we're in for another .250/2/30/.630 season from our SS in 2010.

Ty Wigginton was a disappointment in 2009. His career OPS was over .800 and last year he barely got it over .700. He looks to be the opening day 3B and should hold it down until prospect Josh Bell is ready, so hopefully Wigginton will bounce back, but I have a tough time seeing it. Wigginton looked pretty bad at the plate in 2009. He was almost like a right-handed Jay Gibbons with his infield pop-ups and double-play grounders. I'd be surprised if he gets back to his career averages. It's a good thing the Orioles won't be counting on him other than to keep 3B warm for Bell. .250/10/40/.760

Luke Scott is not included in this because I believe he will be traded this offseason. I believe Reimold will become the DH, and while Scott could also learn 1B, I expect Andy MacPhail to sign a stop-gap option like Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson or Hideki Matsui while Brandon Snyder is primed to take over the position. I like Scott, but his hot/cold streaks are tedious, and he looks to be squeezed out of a role this offseason. Scott might be able to fetch a good return if he's packaged with a lower-level pitching prospect.

So there you have it...those are who I feel will be the definites to return in an Oriole uniform in 2010.

Do these projections give you hope that the Orioles can compete in 2010? Or do you think they are still a long way off?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

They'll be back, Part 1

Brian Matusz enters the 2010 season as the Orioles pitcher with the most potential.

While waiting for the Yankees to win the World Series (it's inevitable, right?) so we can get on with the offseason, I wanted to take a look at the players who will be 100% here on Opening Day.


Jeremy Guthrie had a down year in 2009 after logging solid '07 and '08 campaigns. The one thing Guthrie did do this season was go 200 IP for the first time in his career and avoiding the late-season shutdown that he'd seen in '07 and '08. It's possible that his participation in the WBC before the 2009 season messed up his clock, but that excuse shouldn't be valid after May, and Guthrie struggled for most of the season. He did, however, have some patches of well-pitched games, but overall, Guthrie took a beating in 2009, and finished with a 5.04 ERA and allowed a whopping 35 HR. Looking forward to 2010, Guthrie should come back to his former self and bit, and be a more reliable pitcher, but I don't think Guts will get back to his sub-4 ERA self. You can pencil Guthrie in for a mid-4 ERA from here on out, and that's exactly what the Orioles need at this point.

Brad Bergesen was hands down the Orioles best pitcher in 2009 (3.43 ERA) before he was injured at the end of July and missed the rest of the season. His bruised shin continues to bother him while running and may impact his delivery going forward. It's a shame that taking a ball of the shin has caused him this much pain and difficulty, because had it not been for that, I'd pick Bergesen as the Orioles best SP heading into 2010, with early estimates of Bergy being able to post an ERA around 4.00. While it's still unlikely the injury impacts Bergy in 2010, you have to begin to wonder. It's been 3 full months since he was injured and he's still not at full capacity.

Brian Matusz is without a doubt the Orioles most heralded pitching prospect. He cruised through the minors this season, and logged just a shade under 50 IP this season, earning the 22 year old a respectable 4.63 ERA. He enters the 2010 as the Orioles pitcher with the highest ceiling, but there could still be some speed bumps along the way. When it's all said and done, I do believe Matusz will be the Orioles ace with an ERA under 4.00 and around 200 strikeouts.

Chris Tillman was another big arm the Orioles promoted in 2009, but his results weren't as impressive as Bergesen and Matusz's. Instead, Tillman pitched more like the rookie he was/is instead of hitting the ground running like Bergy and Matusz did. Tillman will have his share of growing pains in 2010 but all said and done he should settle into a mid-rotation role really well with an ERA in the mid-4 range.

I guess you can say Chris Ray is still coming back from Tommy John surgery he had during the 2007 season. He missed the entire 2008 season and by the time he was back in 2009, he looked like he forgot how to pitch. His pitches lacked the movement they once had and his control was hit or miss. When he found the plate, he found the middle of it, resulting in a 7.27 ERA. Ray is down to his last try as an Oriole, but will probably be slated as a back of the bullpen pitcher in '10.

Kam Mickolio really impressed fans in his 13.2 IP, logging 14 strikeouts and a 2.63 ERA. The bad news is that he walked 7 batters in that time. Overall, Mickolio is still somewhat of an unknown, but has a high ceiling entering 2010 as one of the O's more explosive arms out of the bullpen.

Jim Johnson didn't work out well in the closer role after George Sherrill was traded, which means that the Orioles will be using a new closer in 2010. Johnson should slide back into his 8th inning role with relative ease, but even then he was not the dominant pitcher he was in 2008 in either role. Johnson, however, is still the least of the bullpen's worries, and I expect him to head in the direction of his 2008 ERA (2.23). I'd say a 3.00 ERA isn't too much to ask from JJ in '10.

Koji Uehara is far from being guaranteed a spot on the opening day team with a back that has plagued him since his days in Japan. So moving Uehara to the closer's role is probably the Orioles best bet. Uehara clearly can't handle the physical stress of being a reliever, and I believe he won't be able to handle being a closer either, but the Orioles are paying him through 2010 so they might as well try Uehara in that role. The good thing about Uehara is that he throws strikes and has that Asian unphasability going for him, which should work to his advantage in the closer's role. I just don't know if he'll be able to pitch on back-to-back days very often...but then again, how often do the Orioles need a closer on back to back days? I do see Uehara having success in the closer's role depending on his health, though.

Next up, the hitters! Stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bye bye losing streak!

The Ravens got back to their winning ways yesterday in a big way, shutting down the previously undefeated Denver Broncos, 30-7.

The Ravens were coming off a bye week that had followed 3 consecutive losses. A loss to Denver yesterday would have put the Ravens at 3-4 and likely ended their chances for the postseason with the Bengals and Steelers sitting atop the division at 5-2 each.

But the Ravens came out of their bye week a drastically energized team that pretty much fixed all their problems on defense. The first play set the tone -- Jarrett Johnson came in untouched and sacked Broncos QB Kyle Orton for an 8-yard loss. The Broncos went 3-and-out and the Ravens never looked back on their way to the win.

They held the Broncos to 200 total yards of offense. They sacked Orton twice and forced a fumble. Most importantly, the secondary played excellent, and held Broncos start WR Brandon Marshall to 4 catches and 24 receiving yards.

On offense, the Ravens had some trouble getting started. They kicked a couple of field goals to take a 6-0 lead before Ladarius Webb returned the post-halftime kick off 95 yards for a TD to put the Ravens up 13-0.

And after some costly penalties resulted in a prolonged Denver drive that ended with a Broncos TD, the Ravens tightened back up and the offense -- meaning Joe Flacco and Ray Rice -- got going.

Flacco completed his last 14 pass attempts and finished 20 of 25 for 175 yards and a TD. Rice rushed for 84 yards and a game-sealing score late in the 4th quarter. On the receiving end, Kelley Washington hauled in 4 passes for 58 yards, 3 of which came on 3rd down conversions. And Derrick Mason caught 4 passes for 40 yards and a TD.

In the end, it was a huge relief to see the Ravens come out and shut down the Broncos yesterday after 3 consecutive close losses. It also restored the fans hopes that the Ravens can still contend for the division or the wild card.

Next week, the Ravens travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who stole a win from the Ravens during their previous meeting in Baltimore.

It's another must-win game for the Ravens, who are pretty much playing "must-win" games for the remainder of the season.