A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 8/6-8/9 @ Baltimore, 8/24-8/26 at home
Offense: A potential lineup: Brian Roberts-2B, Nick Markakis-RF, Ty Wigginton-1B, Luke Scott-DH, Adam Jones-CF, Felix Pie-LF, Matt Wieters-C, Josh Bell-3B, Cesar Izturis. Bench: Julio Lugo-MI, Jake Fox-C, Corey Patterson-OF.
Oh Baltimore. What happened? How did you fall to 28th in runs scored this season? That .704 OPS is probably the answer. Brian Roberts finally returned to active duty July 23, having been on the DL with an abdominal strain since April 10. It seems weird trying to judge his season over 56 PA. Age seemed to be catching up with him somewhat last season, and these injuries can't have helped. He's still fast and has good pop for a second baseman, and should remain good to decent for at least a few more years. It seems that Nick Markakis isn't going to live up to his full potential. He followed up his amazing 2008 season (6.3 WAR) with a disappointing 2009 (2.2 WAR). His power continues to decline (.145 ISO) and he has now had two consecutive seasons of below average defense. Ty Wigginton came out of the gates on fire, with an OPS of 1.086 in April and .877 in May. Unfortunately for Andy MacPhail, he cratered the next two months. This is why Ty is still in Birdland. He's walking more this season than he ever has before, and is showing some decent power. His defense, ick. It wouldn't be shocking to see him in Camden again next season, as Brandon Snyder really hasn't been crushing the ball in the minors. Luke Scott is the O's best hitter, and it shocks me that they didn't trade him away last week. Why hold on to him when you won't compete this or next season? Scott has been murdering the ball this season, to the tune of a .290 ISO. He is a great left-handed bat, and it would have been great to see him in the black and white.
Adam Jones has been a bit of a letdown this season. While he's played better defense, he's walking even less and hitting for less power. If he can't get his OBP over .330, he'll never be much more than average. He still has a great shot at an All-Star career, but he needs to get going and fast. Felix Pie rounds out the trio of disappointing outfield seasons. Much like Jones, his walks and power are done. Unlike Jones though, he has played atrocious defense this year (UZR small sample sizes being noted). Pie is the kind of player that is a fringe starter on bad teams, which the Orioles happen to be. I realize this post just seems like me hating on the Orioles, but I do like them and their players. They are just having an abysmal year. Matt Wieters hitting numbers may not look as good as last season's, but that is what happens when you somehow manage a .356 BABIP over 385 PA. He has upped his walk rate 3% and cut his strikeout rate by 3.7% though, which are much more encouraging. He is still only 24, and is good defensively. He may never be Carlos Santana with the bat, but he will most likely be a top 5 AL catcher for the next couple seasons. Josh Bell probably could have used some more time in the minors. He backslid some at Norfolk this year, but still earned his call-up last month. Bell was a great return for George Sherill, and the number one hitting prospect in the system should pick it up as the season goes on. Lord knows he can't hit much worse. Miguel Tejada becoming a Padre clears his path. Cesar Izturis is a utility man who has had a starting role in Baltimore the past two seasons due to the lack of a viable alternative. He is nothing to worry about.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Kevin Millwood-RHP, Jeremy Guthrie-RHP, Brian Matusz-LHP, Jake Arrieta-RHP, Brad Bergesen-RHP, and Alfredo Simon-CL.
When you combine the third worst offense in baseball with the worst pitching staff in baseball (in terms of R/G), you get the worst record in baseball. Kevin Millwood has already allowed 23 homeruns, with 2 months left in the season. He is pitching the worst season of his career, and if he isn't injured and not telling anyone I will eat my hat (I like that old-timey phrase). He throws a high-80's fastball, a slider, a curve, and a changeup. None of them are plus pitches anymore. He is an incredibly expensive and bad fifth starter. Jeremy Guthrie has been the true default ace of the rotation, being the only one with an ERA+ over 100 (it currently sits at 101). The half-Japanese Mormon (which has nothing to do with anything other than being really cool to me) seems to go relatively unnoticed despite pitching decently each year. On a good team, he's a fourth or fifth starter you love to have. He does tend to have problems with the longball, which the Sox can take full advantage of. He throws a low-90's fastball, a slider, a change, and the occasional curveball. His fastball and slider have both been plus pitches in the past. Matusz, the lone southpaw, has the brightest future. He was ranked the number 5 prospect in baseball by BA this preseason. When he gets a little bit more control, he will be lights out. He throws a low-90's fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. Though it hasn't seemed it this season, his changeup is his money pitch. Jake Arrieta was the number 5 prospect in the system this winter, due in large part to his nasty slider. His control has been awful in the majors, but this wasn't exactly unexpected. He struggled with his command in the minors and is only 24. He has a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. All have been scouted as above-average. Brad Bergesen has not followed up his debut season very well. After the embarrassing pre-season injury during a commercial shoot, he just has not bounced back. The .339 BABIP hasn't helped much. He throws a high-80's fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. Alfredo Simon took over as closer when Mike Gonzalez proved that he lacks the ability to not hurt himself. He does not have nearly good enough control to remain in the role long term. He throws a mid-90's fastball, a split finger, a changeup, and a curveball.
Outlook: The AL East is a lot like chess. Now look, check it, it's simple, it's simple. Now, the king, he move one space any direction he damn choose, 'cause he's the king. Like this, this, this, a'ight? You see this? This the queen. She smart, she fast. She move any way she want, as far as she want. And she is the go-get-shit-done piece. And this over here is the castle. Like the stash. It can move like this, and like this. These right here, these are the pawns. They like the soldiers. They move like this, one space forward only. Except when they fight, then it's like this. Look, the pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out the game early. Unless they some smart-ass pawns. So far, the Orioles have not been some smart-ass pawns. Prediction: 5-2 season series.
Go check out Camden Chat, and no, that last paragraph wasn't the only Wire reference in the article.