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July 2005 Archives

July 12, 2005

Baltimore's diamond constellation

Commendations are in order for the Orioles' four 2005 All-Stars: Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, and B.J. Ryan. Tejada and Roberts were voted to start for the American League at shortstop and second base, respectively, by the fans. Mora made the team as the third-base reserve and Ryan as the top relief pitcher in balloting by players, managers, and coaches.

And all four are deserving of the honor. According to the Baseball Prospectus's Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) metric, Tejada and Roberts have dominated their peers offensively this year: Tejada's 52.8 VORP are eleven runs more than the second-place AL shortstop, Texas's Michael Young, while Roberts stands alone above all other AL second basemen with his 51.6 VORP (the next closest, Texas's Alfonso Soriano, is at 24.3). Tejada and Roberts have handily topped their NL counterparts as well.

Mora, though not quite as proficient as he was last year when he was left off the team due to injury, has accumulated 23.9 VORP, which place him far behind the Yanks' Álex Rodríguez (49.0) and a few runs in front of the next batch of AL third basemen consisting of four players in the 19-21 VORP range. But because Mora spent about two weeks on the disabled list, his production per plate appearance well exceeds that of his closest competitors and thus solidifies his standing as the league's second-best third baseman at the break.

Ryan clearly is one of the top firemen in the league. Although his nineteen saves in 22 opportunities are just the seventh highest total in the AL, his 13.50 strikeouts per nine innings lead all relievers in the junior circuit (the Birds' Tim Byrdak has racked up 16.62 K/9, but he has only pitched in four games) and his 4.92 K/BB and 1.09 WHIP are also excellent. Ryan is at the top of his game right now, and among closers he is as feared as anyone in baseball.

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July 13, 2005

2005 midseason analysis, part 1: the standings

At the All-Star break, the 47–40 Orioles find themselves at a pivotal stage in their drive for a playoff spot. Their tumble over the past three weeks dropped them two games below first-place Boston in the American League East and a game and a half behind Minnesota in the wild-card race. And the Orioles aren't the only team contending for that last playoff spot: Cleveland, New York, and Texas trail the Twins by two games.

Early in the season, the Orioles dominated opponents like a division leader should, winning nearly two out of every three games while their main rivals, the Red Sox and Yankees, battled injuries, slumps, and decline. Indeed, for the season's first two months, Baltimore appeared to be cruising toward a postseason berth, and as recently as a month ago, the O's still sat comfortably atop their division with a three-game lead over Boston. Housing in Jimmyville (the fictional municipality of optimistic Oriole fans) was booked solid.

But as usually happens, the breaks began to even out. Injuries took critical players out of the Orioles' lineup, and the reinforcements were not as good as the men they replaced. The pitching rotation regressed, the bullpen blew a few leads, and some hitters fell into slumps. Meanwhile, other teams caught up to or passed the Birds. Baltimore's current trajectory is uncertain: from here the team could remain in contention or sink further still.

How have the O's reached this precarious position, and where do the signposts point for the second half? A survey of the team's first-half statistics may help uncover the answer.

Continue reading "2005 midseason analysis, part 1: the standings" »

July 15, 2005

2005 midseason analysis, part 2: team stats

As the Orioles play the first game of the rest of their season in Seattle tonight, I present this sprint through Baltimore's pre-break statistics, most of which I gleaned from the bounty of baseball numbers available at ESPN.com. Thanks also to the conscientious scorers at STATS, Inc., who supply the numbers to ESPN. Other data sources I used are the sites of the Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times.

Continue reading "2005 midseason analysis, part 2: team stats" »

July 16, 2005

Palmeiro hits 3,000

Congratulations to the Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro for reaching the 3,000-hit mark. He did it with a double off of Seattle's Joel Pi´┐Żeiro in the fifth inning of Friday night's game at Safeco Field. It was a solidly struck liner to the opposite field that landed inside the foul line on the warning track in the left-field corner.

The placement of the hit was odd because Palmeiro has been an incorrigible pull hitter for most of his career, leading teams to load their defenders toward the right side of the diamond. However, this particular hit would have landed safely even if the defense had been conventionally aligned. Later in the game, he singled to clear one of those pesky zeroes from his career hit total.

From what I gather, the low-key Palmeiro hasn't exactly cherished the intense attention that followed him as he approached this milestone, so he must be relieved that it's over. Cheers, Raffy.

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July 19, 2005

2005 midseason analysis, part 3: injury accounting

“Guess what? I got a fever! And the only prescription is more cowbell!”

—fictional record producer Bruce Dickinson (as played by Christopher Walken) on a Saturday Night Live sketch that first aired April 8, 2000

With 70 games left in the regular season, Baltimore finds itself in the thick of the playoff race. But in the past month or so, the team has not been winning consistently the way it did early in the year. Injuries have thrown the Birds' formerly smooth-running outfit out of rhythm. Will the Orioles find their figurative cowbell in time to fuel their drive for the playoffs?

Continue reading "2005 midseason analysis, part 3: injury accounting" »

July 27, 2005

Judge to Comcast: Yer out!

Finally, some action! But not the kind of action most Orioles fans were hoping for:

This morning, the Comcast-MASN feud went to a courtroom to be heard by a judge for the first time. (For more of the backstory, read Eric Fisher's report in today's Washington Times.) The result? Montgomery County Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson dismissed Comcast's lawsuit, ruling that the Orioles did not violate the matching-offer condition in their contract with Comcast by planning to move their telecasts to the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which is jointly owned by the Orioles and Major League Baseball (the split is 90/10). The contract requires the Orioles to allow Comcast to match any third-party offer to broadcast the Orioles' games when the current agreement concludes after next season. According to the judge, MASN does not fit the definition of a third party.

The judge gave Comcast 30 days to respond, so the standoff is not over. But the end may be in sight. If today's ruling holds up, a resolution of the suit could occur before the end of the season, allowing Washington Nationals games to be shown on an MASN channel via Comcast.

This development brightens the outlook for Nationals fans who subscribe to Comcast cable. Those fans have been unable to view many of their team's games in this inaugural year because Comcast has refused to carry MASN on its network during the dispute. Meanwhile, Orioles games have continued to be shown on Comcast Sportsnet per their existing broadcast agreement with the network. But the ruling is certainly welcome news for all those in the Orioles' camp, as a healthy MASN would mean a more stable financial future for the team.

July 28, 2005

Sing a new song

For the past two weeks, trade rumors have been bouncing from treetop to treetop in Birdland. Local news services have been busy releasing updates on proposed deals, sports talk radio shows have been flush with callers, and online discussion forums have been packed to season-high levels. Many Orioles fans, invigorated by the thrill of the chase, have appealed to club management to make a bold move (or two or three) and push the team from its doldrums to the forefront of the crowded AL playoff race.

Of course, sports fans have a tendency to be short-sighted and impatient. But no less than Baltimore Sun senior columnist John Eisenberg, typically a level-headed opiner, has been one of the leaders of the chorus. Eisenberg argued pointedly in his July 1 column that the front office needed to add talent to the existing squad this year because another promising opportunity for a playoff run might not happen in upcoming years. Further muddling the situation, he wrote, is the uncertainty surrounding the return of club management—the contracts of front-office heads Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie are up for renewal at the end of this year, and manager Lee Mazzilli's contract option for 2006 has yet to be activated. Eisenberg wrote that the Orioles needed to make “a dramatic move intended to give [them] a better chance of winning—now.”

Don't think twice, it's all right

That was four weeks ago. But Eisenberg has kept up the pressure, writing in yesterday's column, "[The Orioles] have a realistic chance, and they should do all they can to improve themselves in the five shopping days left before the deadline."

Eisenberg's verbal prods represent a shift in the atmosphere of expectations surrounding Baltimore's baseball club. After a series of fourth-place finishes followed by a third-place finish last year, now visions of the playoffs dance in the heads of the Orioles' faithful. The possibilities of a brighter tomorrow have taken a back seat to the pressing realities of today.

And to keep up with the new reality, Eisenberg argues, a corresponding shift in responsibility is in order for the team's current regime: instead of being "sellers" of veterans at the trading deadline, they should now be "buyers" peddling young prospects for established major-league talent.

Continue reading "Sing a new song" »

July 30, 2005

O's make a splash by getting Byrnes

The Orioles finally made a trade, sending Larry Bigbie to the last-place Colorado Rockies for Eric Byrnes in an swap of outfielders. The transaction was announced in the middle of Friday night's game. Here's a link to the story from Saturday's Washington Post.

Byrnes, 29, is headed for his third team in 16 days, as he came to the Rockies from the Oakland Athletics on July 13. He's probably best known for the hustling, highlight-reel catches he made for Oakland over the past few years. Scouting reports and statistics rate him as an above-average corner outfielder defensively. He can also play center, where he is about average.

He's not a bad hitter either. This year he hit .266/.336/.474 (BA/OBP/SLG) for the Athletics, numbers roughly in line with his production in 2003 and 2004. (Keep in mind that Oakland's stadium deflates offense slightly.) A right-handed batter, he has slightly above-average power for a corner outfielder and knows how to use his speed to steal an occasional base (37 SB with an 86% success rate in his career).

Continue reading "O's make a splash by getting Byrnes" »

About July 2005

This page contains all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in July 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2005 is the previous archive.

August 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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