Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Peña, Marko Mitchell, O's baserunning

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • Zachariah Blott gives the current Wizards logo an F -- the only team to receive a failing grade:

    I suspect a club executive doodled this on a pad at some meeting in 1997 when the Bullets decided to change their name. There is no way this is the work of an actual artist who knows anything about aesthetically pleasing designs. Someone decided to go with curvy, so all of their logos—primary and alternative—are now made out of scythe blades. There’s no excuse for this amateur trash. Maybe it’s just tradition. The Wizards started as the Chicago Packers back in 1961, and their logo was downright pathetic.

    Ouch. [Empty the Bench]

  • In case you didn't know (I didn't), Carlos Peña currently has hit more home runs (37) than singles (36). [FanGraphs]

  • Kelly Dwyer lists the top 10 lottery busts of the decade. Surprisingly, Kwame Brown isn't No. 1. [Ball Don't Lie]

  • Caron Butler is looking forward to an exciting season. [Washington Wizards Blog]

  • Brandon Marshall at practice on Wednesday:

    Now that guy is a team player. The best way to get a new contract is definitely to act like a jerk in practice by punting the ball away from the ball boy. Nice going. [Larry Brown Sports]

  • Defensive coordinator Greg Blache thinks Chris Wilson has "done a good job" switching from defensive end to linebacker. [Redskins Insider]

  • Peter Schmuck thinks that the Orioles need to make "a legitimate run at a high-quality veteran starter either by trade or in the free agent market." [The Schmuck Stops Here]

  • Marko Mitchell's new name is apparently Lanky Livingston. Confused? Don't be. Fred Smoot is involved. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • In something that needed to happen months ago, Dave Trembley and third-base coach Juan Samuel ripped the Orioles for their awful baserunning this season. The best quote(s) came from Samuel:

    "For some reason, they're not processing it," said Samuel, who has served as the Orioles' base running coach the past three seasons. "It's just a lack of concentration because they know. They are major league players or at least we think some of them are. To me, some of them are not. Some of them to me have to be thankful that expansion came because some of them wouldn't be here. Some of the stuff that you see them do is not OK. You're going to tell me that they are in the big leagues and don't know how to run the bases?"

    . . . "It has never bothered me to take criticism," said Samuel, who stole 396 bases and was a three-time All-Star during his 16-year career in the big leagues. "I'm man enough to do it. If they don't want to make the players accountable, then I'm going to be accountable. But to me, players need to be accountable. If you make a mistake, you need to take responsibility for your mistake. You have to do it. That's why you see teams that are up here [in the standings] and teams that are down here, because they don't want to be accountable. It's always somebody else's [fault], and that's a problem."

    For the most part, I agree with him. Poor baserunning can definitely be attributed to a lack of concentration, or just not caring enough about it. Several O's make some terrible mistakes on the bases, though I wouldn't say that they don't deserve to be in the majors because of it. On the basepaths, most O's runners don't get great primary and secondary leads, don't take the extra base, and take chances when they shouldn't and give up outs. Apparently the O's worked hard on baserunning in spring training, but they need to do it again. [Baltimore Sun]

  • SI's Chris Mannix ranks the Wizards eighth. [Sports Illustrated]

  • According to DeAngelo Hall, he dominated J.J. Redick in high school. [D.C. Sports Bog]

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Should Pie start in LF next season?

If you haven't been watching the O's for a while, then you probably haven't noticed how well Felix Pie has been playing lately. In 74 at bats since the all-star break -- yes, a small sample size, but still -- Pie is hitting .324/.378/.568 with four home runs and 13 runs batted in.

And although he'll probably never be an on-base machine because he doesn't walk very much, his walk percentage numbers are still up (8.6 percent), and he's cut down on his strikeouts (23.8 percent).

Let's make one thing clear though: I'm definitely not counting out Nolan Reimold or what he has accomplished this season. However, Reimold may fit in as the designated hitter next season, especially depending on how well Luke Scott can impress the coaching staff at first base. If Scott can play average or above average defense at first, then having Pie in left field (5.7 UZR, 16.6 UZR/150) would be a defensive upgrade over Reimold (-7.5 UZR, -11.3 UZR/150). Again, those numbers are just from this season, but I'd trust them from what I've seen. Pie seems to cover more ground and chase down more flyballs, even if he isn't exactly the most graceful outfielder.

It's also interesting to note that even though Reimold is performing well at the plate in his rookie season -- out of all MLB rookies with 300 plate appearance or more, Reimold is second in home runs (12), t-fourth in average (.274), second in OPS (.823), and third in walks (42) -- Felix Pie, according to FanGraphs, has been worth $4.6 million while Reimold has been worth $4.4 million -- and that's with about 100 fewer plate appearances. Playing solid defense really does help.

Even if Pie continues his strong performance at the plate for the rest of the season, though, it's unlikely that he'd be the unquestioned starter in left field, probably because he doesn't get the chance to hit left-handed pitching very often. Pie is hitting .286/.354/.460 in 161 at bats against righties this season, but in just 20 at bats against lefties, he's hitting .150/.143/.300. It's hard to gauge anything from only 20 at bats, but there's obviously a reason why he doesn't play more when a lefty is on the mound.

Again, depending on Scott's defense, the O's lineup against right-handed pitching in 2010 could very well include Scott, Reimold, and Pie -- and it may make the O's a little bit better.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bobby Crosby's dad should calm down

Ed Crosby, a former major league scout and father of A's infielder Bobby Crosby, recently gave his thoughts on A's GM Billy Beane and his unfair treatment of Bobby:

"My feelings are that he has been messed around with, and that Billy Beane (A's general manager) has done a number on him. Right now Bobby's on the disabled list, and he's not even hurt. He had a twinge in his left calf, but it wasn't serious enough to put him on the DL. But they were just looking for an excuse. Bobby's not hurt, period.

. . . He was healthy last season, and played in 145 games. He had to spend the off-season having to hear how the A's were bidding for (Rafael) Furcal (Dodgers' shortstop). He never said a thing, and came to spring training higher than a kite. And then the A's acquire Orlando Cabrera, and turn Bobby into a utility player. He's a shortstop, and a darned good one if they would just leave him alone. Baseball is a tough mental game, and it's hard to play it when a team is messing with your psyche."

Yes, Crosby was healthy last season and played in 145 games, but he also hit .237/.296/.349 with seven home runs and 61 runs batted in. He also is a decent shortstop, posting a 2.8 UZR and a 3.0 UZR/150 in 2008. In fact, his defense at shortstop is where he gets most of his value, which accounted for his $4.9 million worth of value last year according to FanGraphs.

But because of injuries, lack of offensive abilities, or something else, Crosby hasn't improved on his back-to-back strong seasons in 2004 (AL Rookie of the Year) and 2005. He hasn't posted on on-base percentage higher than .300 since 2005, and he hasn't hit more than nine home runs since 2006. So why exactly was it so surprising that Beane went out and signed Orlando Cabrera, who had been very good the last few seasons and was worth much more than Crosby? Granted, Cabrera hasn't been all that good this year, but Crosby has still been worse.

Crosby probably deserves a chance with another team, but his father wasn't publicly complaining about Beane and the A's hitting philosophies when his son was putting up promising numbers earlier in his career. Unless Crosby can stay healthy and get on base more consistently, he may actually not be much better than a utility player/backup middle infielder for the rest of his career. And that's not Beane's fault.

("Father Crosby scorches Beane's handling of son")

Guthrie back on track?

The Orioles haven't had much to play for lately, but with 35 games remaining, the O's can (among other things): give their young pitchers more major league innings; take a look at Michael Aubrey; allow Felix Pie to get some regular at bats; evaluate Luke Scott at first base; and provide some more time behind the plate to Matt Wieters.

But besides the O's youth, Jeremy Guthrie is also trying to take advantage of the rest of the season -- at least when he's pitching against AL Central teams. After an ugly start on August 16 against the Angels when he allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings, Guthrie has pitched two impressive games in a row.

Last Friday he allowed one run and six hits over seven innings in a win over the White Sox, and yesterday he similarly gave up one run and six hits over seven innings in a win over the Twins. Guthrie struck out five and walked none -- his first start without walking a batter since June 10. With those last two starts, Guthrie has lowered his ERA from 5.66 to 5.26.

So what has changed? For one, Guthrie kept the ball in the ballpark better against the White Sox and Twins, allowing just a solo shot to Jim Thome. (Guthrie has allowed the second-most home runs in the majors (29).) Guthrie was also able to finish off some batters when he was ahead in the count, which is something he's struggled with the entire season.

I hope that Guthrie is slowly returning to his 2007 and 2008 form, but to continue his string of good starts he'll have to shut down the powerful Yankees offense at Camden Yards on Monday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Samuels's knee 'likely to be an issue all season'

With there already being at least some concern that the Redskins' offense may not be significantly better even with a healthy offensive line, left tackle Chris Samuels, the line's most important cog, is having problems with his right knee. The injury isn't considered to be serious right now, but it could hamper Samuels throughout the season.

The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga elaborates:

Samuels's right knee, though, is likely to be an issue all season, Coach Jim Zorn said. It bothered the 10-year veteran regularly last year, and he underwent minor surgery this offseason.

"He did great," Zorn said Sunday. "His knee was sore coming into the game. There was some questions as far as whether he felt like he could go, and he and our trainers worked together to put it all together and he had a good 20 plays."

Zorn acknowledged, though, that the athletic training staff, as well as the coaches, will have to monitor Samuels regularly if he is to make it through the season healthy.

"I think the training camp takes its toll," Zorn said. "And then once we get into the season, where you're playing on it once a week and the practices are not as physical -- they're more technical -- I think that will really help him."

Samuels should be fine; he's tough and has played through pain plenty of times before, I'm sure. But if his knee doesn't improve and he's forced to miss time, the Redskins could be in for a long season.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Sproles, Betts, Mickolio

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • Darren Sproles is exciting to watch in real life, but he's pretty entertaining in this Fantasy Files video:

    Less Tomlinson, more Sproles. [Shutdown Corner]

  • Your eyes may be deceiving you when it comes to arguing against UZR and other advanced fielding statistics. [FanGraphs]

  • Brian Orakpo is playing well and impressing the coaching staff. [Redskins Insider]

  • Danny Granger had to alter his Batcave plans a bit:

    Granger: [...] I wanted an underground tunnel entrance. I had to take that out. I found out there's so many state codes and laws against that (laughing) so we had to take that one out. But we still have the underground thing going on and I mean I've got cars and things that turn my cars and I even got sort of like a moat thing going on so it will be interesting to see.

    Why didn't Gilbert Arenas think of this idea first? [Ball Don't Lie]

  • Mike Wise describes Phillip Daniels's determination to return after tearing his ACL last season. [Washington Post]

  • Jim Rice doesn't think many of today's major leaguers are good role models for kids. [ESPN]

  • Ladell Betts will probably be the main third-down running back this season, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing. [Redskins Insider]

  • This just in: The Redskins defense should be pretty good. [ESPN]

  • In just under 10 innings pitched this season, Kam Mickolio has been outstanding. [The Schmuck Stops Here]

  • Although they've been doing a better job over the last few months, the O's need to play better defensively. [Camden Crazies]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Paulus refuses to go away, named starting QB

On one hand, it's rather impressive that Greg Paulus went from playing basketball at Duke to being named the starting quarterback at Syracuse. On the other hand, Paulus's name will be mentioned in the sports world for at least a few more months. So that's unfortunate.

And in case you're still wondering (hopefully you're not), Paulus is still a scrapper:

Orange head coach Doug Marrone officially named the former Duke basketball player as his starting quarterback on Monday night, even though Paulus has not played football in four years and has never played a collegiate snap. . . . "He has instincts that are hard to teach," Marrone said. "He knows how to look people off, how to take control of the game and how to change plays.

"If you had ever met Greg Paulus, you'd understand and I wouldn't get a lot of the questions that I get," Marrone said. "If something can be accomplished, he can do it."

Marrone's exactly right; just take a look at how Paulus successfully demonstrates proper defensive positioning:

It's a shame that Paulus won't have any hardwood floor to slap before he takes the field for Syracuse.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weekly Rundown: J.R. Smith, Bugel, Arenas

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • Tim Keown on the annual MLB saga involving beanballs and angry hitters:

    Through it all, there is no end to the hand wringing from MLB headquarters, where everyone furrows their brows and interviews the umpires and issues the fines. They're very serious about this business.

    That's their first -- and biggest -- mistake.

    If they want to clean up this part of the game, there's a really easy answer: Stop trying so hard.

    If you don't want Fielder to rush the Dodgers' clubhouse, let him rush the mound. Get out of the way, and get the umpires out of the way. And for the sake of all that's right with the world, get the suits out of the way.

    Think of it as going organic, letting nature take its course.

    Let them fight. Let them do what they want to do. Let the game police itself the way it did before every game was televised and every highlight dissected.

    I don't know if I agree with him or not, but Kevin Youkilis certainly does. [ESPN]

  • Adrian Wojnarowski provides an interesting look at J.R. Smith of the Nuggets. [Yahoo! Sports]

  • The New Mexico State football program needs some help:

    In a twist on Little League moms lining up with after-game treats, New Mexico State's budget-conscious football staff distributed an e-mail this week asking fans to donate after-practice or late-night snacks for hungry players.

    It's a consequence of the national economy, of course.

    "It's a decision we had to make with regard to our meals," first-year coach DeWayne Walker said Thursday. "There are a lot of other areas where we have to make tough choices with how we're going to spend our money."

    I hope they like oatmeal cookies, orange slices, and Capri Suns. [ESPN]

  • Joe Posnanski counts down the worst contracts in baseball and concludes that "we should just start referring to bad baseball contracts as 'Ricciardis.'" [Joe Posnanski]

  • Joe Bugel still loves football -- and violence. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • According to several reports, Gilbert Arenas is back on the court and is looking solid. [Truth About It]

  • After homering today, Nick Markakis has reached base in 36 consecutive games. [School of Roch]

  • Marc Hulet thinks that Brad Bergesen, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold all have at least a shot of winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. [FanGraphs]

  • The Redskins have announced changes to their Twitter policy:

    The Redskins announced Sunday that media organizations covering the team can no longer use Twitter to report updates from the team's preseason practices.

    "We, like other teams, are concerned about the type of information that's being reported during practice," said team spokesman Zack Bolno. He said the Redskins don't want sensitive information about injuries and strategy being shared during practice.

    Since training camp began more than two weeks ago, reporters from several outlets have used Twitter to give fans practice reports in near real-time, reporting roster updates, injury news, commenting on plays and drills and even sharing photos.

    The team's official web site and 980 AM, which is owned by Redskins owner Dan Snyder, are not subject to the ban, Bolno said.

    None of this news is shocking, especially the part about ESPN 980's exemption from the ban. [Redskins Insider]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

O's offense still struggling

It's easy to point a finger at the Orioles pitching staff and blame them for much of the team's struggles this season. Jeremy Guthrie has certainly had a down year, but even though the rookie pitchers have taken their lumps at one point or another -- and surely will continue to do so for the rest of the season -- they've kept the O's in many games.

Meanwhile, with more than one-fourth of the season remaining, the O's offense is currently ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored (516), ahead of only Seattle and Kansas City. The offense also ranks fifth in batting average (.268), ninth in on-base percentage (.331), 11th in slugging (.412), 11th in OPS (.743), 10th in total bases (1600), 11th in home runs (109), and sixth in doubles (211). The O's have combined to strike out the second fewest times in the AL (683), but they're also 11th in walks (350). The O's also aren't very good at playing small ball: They have the worst stolen-base percentage (67 percent) in the AL, are last in sacrifice bunts (9), and are generally a bad baserunning team. So, maybe it's not really shocking that a team that doesn't hit for a ton of power, doesn't walk much, and doesn't take the extra base can't seem to string several high-scoring games together.

To compare, last year the O's were a little better on offense. They finished eighth in runs (782), eighth in OBP (.333), fifth in slugging (.429), eighth in OPS (.762), fifth in total bases (2384), seventh in home runs (172), and fourth in doubles (322). They finished fifth in fewest strikeouts (990) and ninth in walks (533). Their stolen-base percentage was slightly better (69 percent), and they sacrificed more, though only 27 times.

So what exactly has changed? Let's take a look (batters placed in order of at bats):

I know that I didn't include every player or at bat from this year's or last year's teams, but it is interesting to see how much better Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff were last season -- and how bad Jay Payton was. Markakis and Roberts have also regressed a bit, but Adam Jones and Luke Scott have had better seasons so far. Nolan Reimold has been a welcome addition to the lineup, and he may possess the best batting eye on the team. Matt Wieters's numbers also figure to improve in the near future.

With the 2008 versions of Mora and Huff, though, the O's offense this year would have been significantly better. Still, they'll both probably be gone next season, so the Orioles could definitely be looking for some corner infielders in the free agent market.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tom Coughlin is a nice guy

Earlier today Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog discussed some comments from Albert Haynesworth about when Tom Coughlin (coaching in Jacksonville at the time) asked some odd questions before Haynesworth had been drafted:

The Giants, of course, are coached by Tom Coughlin, a man who had once grilled Haynesworth on his ethics before he was drafted, when Coughlin was still in Jacksonville.

"I spent three or four hours on the phone with him the day before the draft," Haynesworth said. "He kept asking me these questions that didn't quite make sense to me. He's like, 'OK, if I ask you to do something and you know it's the wrong thing to do, what are you going to do?' So I'm like, 'Well, I'll do the right thing.' And he said, 'No, do what I say.' We kind of clashed at the time. I said, 'Yeah, I don't need to go to Jacksonville.' "

Classy guy, that Tom Coughlin -- not that Haynesworth is exactly leading the league in class.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Campbell, Vitale, Zaun

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.
  • The Redskins improved their defense by adding Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo, but the offensive line is a legitimate concern. [Shutdown Corner]

  • Jason Campbell is working hard and trying to be a team leader. [Pro Football Talk]

  • According to John Feinstein, Tony Kornheiser is a diva when it comes to parking:

    Last February on a Saturday morning I’d just finished working out when my phone rang. It was my pal Sally Jenkins. She was in town and she and Tony wanted to go to that day’s Maryland game to, “show Gary support.” No doubt the two of them walking in would mean the end of any further controversy involving Coach Gary Williams.

    “Why don’t you go with us?” she said.

    “I’m going to another game,” I said.

    There was a pause. “Can we have your parking pass?”

    The real reason for the call. “Sure you can,” I said. “But it isn’t on the loading dock (right next to the back door) where Tony likes to park. You’ll have to walk about 50 yards.” (Since I rarely go to Maryland games these days the only time I’d ask Gary for a spot on the loading dock would be if I HAD to go and it was snowing or freezing cold).

    Sally called back soon after to say they didn’t need the pass. Tony had called Gary a few hours before tipoff and Gary had gotten him onto the loading dock. [Feinstein on the Brink]

  • T.O.'s reality show isn't really doing that well. [FanHouse]

  • Delonte West almost makes JaVale McGee look normal. [Ball Don't Lie]

  • The Nets are expecting Jarvis Hayes to take on a larger role next season. Good luck with that. [Nets Daily]

  • Although I do agree with Gene Wojciechowski, the best way to leave Bartman alone is to stop writing about him. [ESPN]

  • Maryland fails to make Dick Vitale's preseason top 40, but Duke, of course, is in his top five. [ESPN]

  • Chris Mortensen offers this interesting nugget on some Minnesota Vikings players:

    As for the lovable and crazy Jared Allen, he has formed a Yahtzee league with linebackers Chad Greenway and Heath Farwell, among others. "You gotta kill some time," Allen said. "We thought about all the old games like Clue and Monopoly, but Yahtzee won out."

    As long as they're not playing on a boat, I think that's just fine. [ESPN]

  • The Mottrams take down the Cooleys in a throw-off. [Mr. Irrelevant]

  • Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff, and Danys Baez have all cleared waivers. Still, I'd be surprised if they went anywhere. [Baltimore Sun]

  • Jason Whitlock wrote about Jeff George -- again. [Jason Whitlock]

  • Finally, Tampa Bay Rays catchers have been so bad that even Gregg Zaun offers a significant improvement at the position. [FanGraphs]

Friday, August 7, 2009

Peter Schmuck defends MacPhail, Orioles

The Orioles are 45-63, and they're 5-15 since the all-star break. As usual, many fans are frustrated. But Peter Schmuck is tired of the whining:

Question: Did anyone in any independent local media outlet that publishes preseason predictions pick the Orioles to finish anywhere but last? Did anyone speculate that the Orioles had any chance to be really competitive against the other four teams in the American League East?

I don't expect anybody to be happy about the way the Orioles are playing right now, but acting like some other manager would have dragged them into contention or some other free agent pitcher (including A.J. Burnett) would have prevented them from finishing in the basement is simply absurd.

This is team at a critical point in a rebuilding plan, bringing up young player after young player to prepare for -- perhaps -- a more competitive situation next year and beyond. And I'm reading posts from people who already think Chris Tillman is a bust after 10 1/3 innings at the major league level.

Nobody is enjoying this, and I wouldn't expect anyone to. I'm certainly not, and I've pointed out on many occasions that I think this Orioles team doesn't know how to win and lacks a killer instinct. I've also spent years dissecting the mismanagement of this team from the law office to the manager's office, but I'm not going to join in the ridiculous call to abandon a highly progressive rebuilding program after two years and two months.

Most rebuilding jobs take four or five years, but the Orioles have a chance to be competitive in the third year of Andy MacPhail's accelerated plan. And there's still a surprising percentage of fans who are ready to throw the whole thing out the window and start over again because the team is going to finish this year right where everybody thought it would.

He's exactly right. When was the last time the Orioles had this much promise? Look at all of the potential impact rookies on the roster: Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and David Hernandez. Sure, some of them are struggling right now, but who cares? Like Schmuck says, the Orioles were never going to contend this year, or possibly next year, anyway.

Andy MacPhail has helped the Orioles reload the farm system with some fantastic trades. Just recently, he traded George Sherrill, basically a throw-in in the Erik Bedard trade, to the Dodgers for two more solid prospects: third-baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Steve Johnson (ranked as the 3rd and 14th best prospects dealt at the trade deadline, respectively, according to FanGraphs' Marc Hulet).

The possible starting rotation next season could look something like this: Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman, and David Hernandez. Koji Uehara could recover nicely in a bullpen role, but he probably won't be in the rotation. And that's not even mentioning some of the other talented pitching prospects still in the O's system. Plus, Jason Berken has struggled, but he could still turn things around at some point, as could Rich Hill.

Anyway, the future looks bright for the Orioles. If you don't think so, just take a look at the O's outfield, at catcher, or at the young pitching talent that will be developing over the next year or two. It's frustrating now, but the goal is to eventually compete for a long time -- not just finish .500 one season so everyone feels a little bit better.

The real AI?

Here's a video of Allen Iverson giving a thoughtful speech in July to promote his scholarship program. It's only about three minutes long, and it's definitely worth watching.

(HT: Bill Simmons)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Matusz solid in debut as O's win

Orioles' rookie left-hander Brian Matusz pitched five innings and gave up one run in his major league debut tonight as the O's beat the Detroit Tigers 8-2. In those five innings, Matusz walked three but struck out five as he kept the Tigers off balance. He wasn't particularly efficient -- he threw 99 pitches -- but 65 of them were for strikes, and he was still good enough to get his first win in his first game in an Orioles uniform.

Matusz received plenty of support from the O's offense, which knocked around Jarrod Washburn (5.1 IP, 6 ER) in his Tigers' debut. Nick Markakis and, surprisingly, Cesar Izturis, each had three hits, including a home run, and three runs batted in. Markakis's bomb to right-center, by the way, was estimated at 442 feet.

Chris Ray also had a strong performance, pitching two and two-thirds scoreless innings in relief of Matusz. Ray, who struck out two and walked one, lowered his ERA from 8.74 to 7.82 -- so at least that's something positive for Ray to build on.

Noteworthy batting numbers:

Since the all-star break ended, Nick Markakis is hitting .329/.372/.571 -- and that's not including tonight's three-hit performance. Brian Roberts is also on a post-all-star break tear, hitting .351/.407/.500 over that stretch. It's not surprising that the O's offense has started to heat up a bit with those two finding their offensive grooves.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Zorn, Marbury, Corso

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.

(Quick note: This post is a day late, so I'm going to include some links from today. Anyway, I should have mentioned this before, but I've been pretty busy lately, and I probably won't be able to post as often in the next few weeks. But I'll still try to get as many posts up as I can. To those of you who do so, thanks for reading.)
  • It's pretty funny to mention this now, especially after what happened yesterday, but Melvin Mora, last week, said that he wanted "to be an Oriole forever." [Baltimore Sun]

  • Tony Kornheiser is planning a return to radio. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • Apparently the Redskins offensive line is one of the worst in the league. [FanHouse]

  • Howard Bryant wrote a long, interesting piece about Billy Beane and Moneyball, but I'm still not sure exactly what point he was trying to make. Is Beane a bad GM? Is he too concerned with things outside of baseball? I don't think either of those things is true. [ESPN]

  • Jim Zorn being Jim Zorn at Redskins training camp:

    "Here's what I did, I wanted to kind of cut down on all of the colors. We had an excellent color scheme last year, ok? I wanted to become more boring, and use our burgundy as the featured color. Because we had light gray, dark gray, black, smokey gray. We had dark burgundy, we had red. We had all kinds of colors. And then we had bellbottom sweats, where guys were taping around [their ankles]. You guys remember that? White tape around everybody's ankles? We looked like bike riders trying to keep their pants from getting greasy.

    So what I did is I got together with Brad Berlin, our equipment manager, and we kind of created just a cutdown on colors and styles of what we wanted the team to look like."

    Don't ever change, Zorn. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • J.A. Adande weighs in on the confusing and odd Stephon Marbury situation. [ESPN]

  • Posnanski on advanced fielding statistics: "They’re not as good as they could be or will be ... I think everyone would agree about that. But they try (and often succeed) and taking an objective look at how effective a player performs defensively. Those numbers say [Yuniesky Betancourt] is a disaster at shortstop. Flawed numbers or not, I would tend to believe those over my lyin’ eyes." [Joe Posnanski]

  • Brendan Haywood is better than you think he is. [Truth About It]

  • Check out this crazy catch by the Pirates' Delwyn Young last week that the umpires (understandably) missed. [FanHouse]

  • Rob Neyer is a fan of the George Sherrill trade:

    I'm not going to criticize the Dodgers for trading Josh Bell. Who knows? Maybe Casey Blake will live forever.
    What I will do is send up a big hip-hip-hooray for the Orioles, because the single best thing any rebuilding manager can do, ever, is trade a relief pitcher in late July for a couple of solid prospects.

    Let me repeat for anyone not paying attention: a relief pitcher.

    Relief pitchers are, well, I would say that they're "fungible" except that word always makes me think of a massively fun and rigid airship. Instead I'll say that a relief pitcher, purely in terms of value, is not worth two solid prospects.

    Bell and Johnson are solid. Bell opened the season as the Dodgers' eighth-best prospect, and has done nothing this season to damage his credentials -- he's got mid-range power and a .364 career on-base percentage. Johnson is 21, almost 22, certainly throws hard enough (90-93) and has struck out nearly a batter per inning in his five minor-league seasons.

    If I were an Orioles fan, I would be organizing a party right now.

    Oh, and I'm also a fan of the trade. [SweetSpot]

  • Mike Williams has lost more than 100 pounds in eight months. Next step: Play better in training camp. [Redskins Insider]

  • Speaking of losing weight, Ralph Friedgen has lost 95 pounds. [FanHouse]

  • Could a quarterback controversy be coming for the Redskins? [Hogs Haven]

  • Is PFT's Mike Florio at it again? [Mr. Irrelevant]

  • Lee Corso is on the comeback trail, and I wish him the best of luck. [Awful Announcing]

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mora wants to play, lashes out at Trembley

Unhappy with his recent lack of playing time, Melvin Mora felt that it was reasonable to share his feelings on the subject today with the media:

"I don't appreciate the disrespect, because I've been playing hurt for a guy who won't respect you. I don't deserve it. I need to have my respect. This is not a guy who just came to the Orioles. This is a guy who's been here for nine years.

. . . I need to sit down in my house, see what team [is] thinking to win. I know here they're rebuilding and they bring a lot of young guys here, good players. I know it's time for me to move on."

. . . Mora insisted the benching wasn't as maddening as the reason he was given for the move.

"Don't give me the excuse that I cannot beat John Smoltz, that I cannot beat Josh Beckett or I cannot beat [Jon] Lester or I cannot beat Pedro Martinez or I cannot beat nobody here, because I've been here for nine years. I've been here for nine years and all those guys in the East, they know me. You don't make the All-Star team for nothing. You deserve respect."

So basically, Mora is saying that because he was a good player in previous years, he should be playing everyday now no matter what -- or something like that. Here's Dave Trembley's response:

"If I give a guy a day off -- guys who are up there in age, they've played a long time, guys who are struggling -- I'm trying to help them. I'm not trying to hurt them. It's easy to look at things from the negative. You've got to be a team guy here."

Trembley is, more or less, saying that Mora shouldn't be getting regular at bats because he isn't the same player -- which is true because he's not.

This season, Mora is hitting .256/.321/.330 with three home runs and 27 runs batted in. In 285 at bats, Mora has collected exactly 15 extra base hits. Fifteen. His fielding at third has been about average -- 0.4 UZR, 0.6 UZR/150 -- so it's not like he's been making up for his woeful hitting with extraordinary defense.

I can't comment on whether or not Trembley respects Mora, but I do know that lots of other players around the league are hurt and are playing through pain just like Mora. First of all, if Mora really is hurt, then he shouldn't be playing (especially not as an everyday player). Second, hurt or not, his hitting numbers are very bad. At this point in his career, he's just a singles hitter, and it's difficult to believe that he was actually hitting fifth earlier in the season.

For comparison's sake, Wigginton is hitting .257/.304/.392 with seven homers and 27 runs batted in. He also has 19 extra base hits in 245 at bats, which really isn't that much better than Mora, but it's still four more in 40 fewer at bats. His defense at third has been pretty bad, but he has been better than average at first. He hasn't played many games at either consistently this season, so take that for what it's worth.

As far as playing time goes, neither Mora nor Ty Wigginton deserve regular at bats in the lineup. And after his outburst, Mora pretty much sealed his fate of looking for another team to play for next season.