Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to Handle Dylan Bundy

11-0, 0.20 ERA, 158 K’s in just 71 innings- these are the eye-popping statistics of Dylan Bundy from his senior season at Owasso High School.

Bundy, the 4th pick overall in 2011 MLB Draft, is the Orioles Top Prospect and is already being looked at as the possible savior of the Orioles franchise.

With that said- I believe that we should come nowhere even close to rushing Dylan Bundy to the big leagues.

Bundy has boat-loads of talent. Many scouts believe that he is the most major-league ready high school pitcher in recent memory. He is also expected to be the ace of the Orioles staff in the near future.

The biggest concern about Bundy is his height, being only 6 feet tall. A lot of scouts believe that shorter pitchers generally get hurt more. Additionally, shorter pitchers find it difficult to get good plane on their fastballs, meaning they come in flatter than those of taller pitchers.

However, Law disagrees with this opinion of scouts and he also raves about Bundy’s mechanics and the use of his lower half of his body.

He may be one of the most talented prospects in baseball today, but what would be the use of wasting his talent by rushing him to the majors? The Orioles should start Bundy off in High-A Frederick and see where it goes from there.

Bundy ETA for the Majors is 2013 as it stands right now. However, I believe bringing him up as a September call-up in 2013 is the best the thing to do. He may have the talent to pitch in Baltimore starting next year, but it isn’t worth rushing him.

If things with such a talented pitcher like Bundy don’t work out, the Orioles franchise could be set back another 5 years. All we need is patience.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Orioles Should Trade for Mike Pelfrey

According to this post on MLBTradeRumors, the New York Mets want to trade Mike Pelfrey.  The Orioles should trade for him for a variety of reasons.

Why Pelfrey?

Pelfrey has thrown no less than 184 innings since 2008, showing flashes of the potential he once had.  As recent as 2010 Pelfrey pitched very well with an ERA of 3.66, which is supported by a FIP of 3.82.  This wasn't exactly a one-hit wonder, as Pelfrey pitched to a 3.72 ERA in 2008 over 200 IP.  Again, a FIP of 3.96 suggests that the ERA was not fluky like some might believe.

Don't get me wrong, Pelfrey pitched pretty horribly in both 2009 and 2011, and isn't exactly a dynamic guy with a K/9 of just 5 over the past 4 years.  However, Pelfrey has done a great job of getting groundballs, last year being an aberration if you look at his career stats.  Through 2009 Pelfrey average a GB/FB ratio of 1.7 which fell to just 1.31 last year.  If Pelfrey could bring that figure back to his career average he could succeed in Camden Yards despite gaudy strikeout numbers.  We know this can be successful because Zach Britton posted a FIP of 4 last season despite striking out just 5.66 batters per nine innings.

Makings of a Trade

The O's could propose a trade of Kevin Gregg for Mike Pelfrey.  This trade removes Gregg from the O's books, and more importantly from coming into games that matter.  The Mets get a guy who can make sure that DJ Carrasco and Pedro Beato start the season in AAA, getting more experience before making full-time bids in the bullpen.  From a contract standpoint it makes a lot of sense too.  Pelfrey will make $5.675 Million this season, while Gregg is set to make $5.8 Million.  Gregg will benefit from moving to the NL, and Pelfrey will benefit greatly from getting out of New York.

I'm not going to lie and say that Pelfrey is a tremendous upgrade over what the O's have.  Or that he's even  lock to make the rotation.  However, this trade could be mutually beneficial for both teams.  The O's could put Pefrey in the rotation, assuring that Hunter, Wada, and Simon move to the bullpen (where they belong).

This is a gamble worth taking.  Why?  Gregg isn't exactly the most beloved Oriole if you ask the fans.  Similarly, the O's wnt to make sure they put their young pitchers in a position to succeed.  With Zach Britton out for a while, this type of gamble could pay huge dividends.  What's the worst case scenario?  Mike Pelfrey ends up being as bad as Kevin Gregg?  I think the O's could live with that.  We Already are.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Directions to Success

I'm not going to repeat the number.  I know that I don't need to tell you how many years it's been.  That's not why I'm here, and quite frankly, I hope most of you are tired of talking/reading/thinking about it.  What I am here to do though, is pontificate on the next Orioles winning team.  No, you know what, let's get crazy and talk about the next Orioles playoff team.  Let's talk about the directions to success.  (I'm not sure that's the right 'success').

The Situation
It took, on average, 97.8 wins over the past 5 years to win the American League East.  Wow.  Let's be honest with ourselves, the next O's playoff team likely gets in via the wild card.  The average win total for the first Wild Card (WC1) over the past 5 years has been a still impressive 94 wins.  However, there will now be two wild cards, and the average win total for the second Wild Card (WC2) was just 88.6 wins.  Well there's reason for optimism there, as the total number of wins required for the WC2 is more than 5 wins less than WC1.

Who's the competition?  The next O's team to make the playoffs is realistically looking 3 or 4 years down the road.  Assuming that, the roster will likely look very different than it does today.  However, individual players are merely cogs in the system that drafted, developed, traded for and signed them.  Looking at the teams as systems, the major competitors in the American League for the O's time frame are likely to be: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Royals, Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Angels and Mariners.

Don't get me wrong here, I wouldn't be surprised (at all) to see the tigers become less competitive in 2014 and have the Twins become a force to be reckoned with.  I'm just saying that given what we know, these teams seem to be in a strong position going forward (with emphasis on the O's projected timeline).

Your Baltimore Orioles
The O's offense is actually respectable ranking in the middle of the pack of the AL in wOBA and wRC+.  Let's assume Wieters settles in offensively to be slightly better, Machado is everything we expect and the team makes a few moves to fill in holes as they emerge.  This puts the team up in the top 5 range in the AL, plenty good to compete with the better offensive teams.  Not to mention the O's would likely have at least one impact bat just emerging (Jon Schoop) and maybe more.

Where the O's struggle is pitching.  Specifically developing young pitching, and having it stay healthy.  Let's assume Matusz has figured it out (which isn't really a safe assumption until games that matter come around).  I'm not even going to attempt to project the rotation for 2014 or 2015 right now, but let's assume that it features 3 top pitching prospects in Britton, Matusz and Bundy.  These guys will help make up the core of a rotation that, if they all develop as they once were believed to, is pretty darn good.  The rotation could feature young guys with a lot of potential like Parker Bridwell.  It might not.

Changes to 'Our System'
Wei-Yin Chen should probably work on his release point...
This is the area that the O's stand the most to gain from.  The O's have already begun revamping the player development system by introducing a long toss regimen to help strengthen pitcher's arms.  I'm a believer in long toss, and that's honestly a personal decision that you have to make I guess.  All I know is that two things benefited me as a young baseball player.  The first was keeping the same regimen over the length of a season or multiple seasons.  The second was long-tossing.  For me, it built arm strength and reinforced good mechanics.  It's incredibly difficult to long toss with poor mechanics.

Here the O's have made a conscious effort to introduce programs from the top down on both sides of the ball to have continuity across all levels of the system.  Rick Peterson and Mike Boulanger have a lot of work ahead of them but I believe that this overhaul has been long overdue.  Additionally I would be remiss if I didn't mention Brady Anderson and his emphasis on fitness, and the positive impact it will inevitably have on the players coming up through the system.

The Goal
I have an opinion on who the O's should draft when it rolls around later this summer.  In reality though, it doesn't much matter who they draft if he comes into a broken system that can't properly develop players.  I want Bundy, Machado, Schoop and everyone else to succeed.  It is through them that the O's will be successful as they will be the hot shot rookies to Matt Wieters' veteran wisdom.  We know our weaknesses, and we know which teams are likely to be good.  We know what we have in house, and we know where the opportunities are.

It's going to take a lot more than drafting good players to get to 89 wins.  It's going to take a serious focus on player development.  The top prospects of years past (Adam Loewen, Billy Rowell, Daniel Cabrera) haunt this organization.  We can't go back and fix them, so it's about time the O's started making sure that we don't live through the same nightmare twice.  I think they're finally starting to get it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Surprise - Pitching

Chen warming up before his start. Courtesy of @EddieInTheYard
So far this spring there has been a big surprise coming out of Orioles camp.  Various O's pitchers have shown improvement over last year not only in performance but also in health and ability it seems.  Guys like Matusz and Arrieta have shown solid improvement on the radar gun and seem to be healthy.  Arrieta claimed that he had not felt this good since turning pro which is a troubling and positive sign all wrapped up in one bundle.

Matusz has sat in the high 80s to low 90s this spring, with solid secondary stuff and good command.  He's ranged from 87 to 94 sitting mostly around 89 or 90.  Matusz put up another solid outing today against the Phillies going 4 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 hits with 4 Ks.  Matusz threw 53 pitches, 70% of which were strikes.

Arrieta who threw the other day against the Rays reportedly hit 97 on the gun and looked good doing it according to those in attendance.  If Arrieta is healthy and has his command figured out, he could be a reliable option for the club in the rotation.

Jason Hammel, one of the newest Orioles hit 94 on the gun in his start.  Hammel wasn't as impressive as his younger teammates, but it was a good beginning to his Spring.

Wei-Yin Chen (one of my underdog candidates for the top of the rotation) looked good in his debut throwing strikes on a ridiculous 76% of his pitches.  Chen sat in the low 90s, a velocity that bodes well for the dynamic lefty.  Keep in mind that Chen is just 26 years old, and is just entering his prime.

Overall, the pitching has been solid this Spring which is a good sign as that was the biggest weakness facing the team going into this season.  That said, it is Spring Training, so don't take too much out of it.  It is a good sign, but let's not get carried away digging into the meaning of a team ERA below 3 in Spring Training.  It should also be noted that offense is down all across Florida (with the exception of Detroit, Pitt and Toronto).

Hopefully they keep it up when the games count.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 5, Spring Training Game Notes

Disclaimer - These posts will be a work in progress as we move through the season and find the best way to break down the games for you guys.

Yesterday featured a split-squad series, with half the team playing the afternoon game against Tampa, and the rest playing the evening game against Pittsburgh.


Brian Matusz started the game and pitched better than his final line suggests.  Matusz sat 90 - 91 with his fastball, and showed pretty good control (especially given the time of year).  This is obviously a huge question mark going into the rest of spring, but early reports are good.  Matusz got ahead of hitters, taking 3 of the 6 batters in the first inning to 0-2 counts.  His secondary stuff looked good too, missing in several curveballs and changeups throughout his start.  I also liked his willingness to throw his secondary stuff in any count, including starting off an at-bat, which is important to keep hitters off balance.

Kevin Gregg was... well... Kevin Gregg.  Gave up two quick hits including a crushed homerun.  He then struc out the side.  Sigh.

Matt Lindstrom and Darren O'Day, two new relievers the O's have this year had some mixed results.  For Lindstrom, velocity comes easy despite a violent leg kick in his delivery.  His delivery may be affecting his control though, he has a career 3.39 BB/9.  O'Day will remind O's fans of Chad Bradford given his unique delivery.  He showed good deception but again below average control.  Hopefully these guys can tighten their control as the spring goes on.


Ryan Adams and Chris Davis were the highlights of a lineup that might look similar to one we'll see during the regular season.  Both guys had good first at-bats, battling, and ultimately putting good swings on the ball.  Later in the game Chris Davis followed it up with another solid at-bat in 6th inning by lacing an RBI single into right field after falling behind 1-2.  Small victories.

Manny Machado, shortstop extraordinaire, made 2 nice plays at SS.  Machado, it should be noted played in the afternoon game against the Rays, and then came in off the bench in the nightcap.  Machado made a fantastic diving grab in the top of the 7th showing really good range.  He also made a great throw to first, showcasing his arm strength as well.  Machado helped finish the inning as well starting a double play on a grounder back up the middle.


It was a good first game, and there are definitely areas to grow.  I'm not really worried about the results or the score, though some O's fans might find it depressing to check the final score.  I think the O's have room to grow, but some of the younger guys and/or guys competing for a roster spot showed well.

Jake Arrieta apparently looks pretty good this spring, another good sign for O's fans.

Also, this is the best tweet to this point of Spring Training as far as I can tell: