Saturday, May 1, 2010

O's cap off disappointing April with extra-inning win

Many fans were expecting a little more out of this team to begin the season. Well, things just haven't worked out that way so far as the O's now go into May with a 5-18 record -- which is also the worst record in the majors. But even with such a terrible record, the O's have been playing rather competitively, and last night's game was no different.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch most of the game, but I did get home just in time to see Miguel Tejada's game-winning single in the 10th inning to give the O's a 5-4 win over the Red Sox.

In the win, Adam Jones and Tejada each had three hits, and Nick Markakis had two (and a walk). Markakis and Jones each doubled, and Tejada added a solo home run in the eighth inning to tie the game at four. Then in the bottom of the 10th with two outs, Tejada hit a single right up the middle off of reliever Manny Delcarmen to score Jones from second.

The O's top four batters -- Jones, Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Tejada -- were responsible for all five runs. Hitters five through nine combined to walk three times, but they didn't record a hit, finishing 0-17 for the game.

But, for the most part, O's pitchers were able to hold the Red Sox down despite walking 10 batters(!). Starter David Hernandez wasn't sharp but was somehow wildly effective. Check out his pitching line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 K, 5 BB, 2 HR. So he only gave up three hits, but two of them were homers (hit by J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia). After Hernandez left, O's relievers gave up only two more runs in 4.2 innings. Alfredo Simon and Matt Albers each threw a scoreless inning, but Jim Johnson certainly struggled, allowing three hits, two walks, and one run (coming on another home run) in just one inning.

The win last night was an important one -- maybe it will be a confidence booster -- and hopefully the O's start to pull out more of these close games.

With April over, here are some team awards for the month:

Best hitter: Ty Wigginton: .308/.395/.631, 6 HR, 10.5 BB%

Even though it didn't translate into more wins, Wigginton really gave the offense a shot in the arm the last few weeks. With Brian Roberts out, Wigginton has given the O's a reliable hitting option at second base. Obviously he won't continue to hit this well, but it is worth noting that he's already drawn eight walks (compared to 11 strikeouts).

Runner-up: Nick Markakis: .284/.385/.455, 1 HR, 14.4 BB%

Markakis has only hit one home run, but he does have nine doubles already. What's even more impressive is his patience and knack for working the count: He's walked 15 times and struck out just 17 times. He may never be a power hitter, but he has a tremendous ability to use the entire field and may be someone who fits well in the No. 2 slot in the O's lineup.

Worst hitter: Garrett Atkins: .224/.246/.284, 0 HR, 2.9 BB%

Adam Jones has certainly been bad too, but no O's hitter (besides Julio Lugo, who barely plays) has been worse than Atkins. Not only has Atkins shown little power -- he has no homers and has only four doubles -- but he rarely walks. He only has two walks and has struck out 14 times. According to FanGraphs, Atkins has played about average defense at first (-0.3 UZR), but because of his horrible hitting he's been worth -$1.8 million. The O's front office obviously realized how bad Atkins was playing because they wasted little time bringing up rookie Rhyne Hughes. Hughes probably isn't any kind of long-term solution at first base, but it is kind of funny that in only five games Hughes already has the same number of walks as Atkins.

Best pitcher: Brian Matusz: 2-1, 4.40 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

Matusz's ERA is slightly high, but as a flyball pitcher, his BABIP (.335) has also been a little high, suggesting that as long as he continues to strike out a lot of batters and limit his walks, he should continue to put up solid numbers. He's bound to give up more home runs, but he should be fine. According to FanGraphs, Matusz also has the highest WAR (0.8) of all O's starters and has been worth the most ($3.1 million) so far.

Kevin Millwood (0-3, 3.38 ERA, 7.9 K, 2.0 BB/9), Jeremy Guthrie (0-3, 4.70 ERA, 5.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9), and David Hernandez (0-3, 4.55 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 4.9 BB/9) have also been pretty good, although Hernandez walks too many batters.

Worst pitcher: Brad Bergesen: 0-2, 12.19 ERA, 4.4 K/9, 5.2 BB/9

In his first three starts, Bergesen was really, really bad. He walked six batters and struck out only five, and he gave up four homers despite only pitching 10.1 innings. Just about everything Bergesen threw in the zone was getting hit hard. He struggled mightily, and the O's sent him down to Norfolk for what turned out to be only one tune-up start. In that outing, Bergesen pitched seven innings and gave up seven hits and two earned runs. He also struck out four and didn't walk a batter -- but he did give up a home run. Apparently, though, Bergesen did keep the ball on the ground: He recorded 14 ground ball outs. The O's are bringing Bergesen back up tonight to face the Red Sox, so he'll be tested right away. I find it hard to believe that one start in Norfolk was all he needed, but I guess we'll find out.

As far as relievers go, it might be a little too early to pick who has been the worst so far, but Matt Albers, Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio (while he up), and certainly Mike Gonzalez have been bad.

By the way, it'll be interesting to see which player gets optioned (or even possibly released) to make room on the roster for Bergesen.

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