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Updated: 2017-10-20T20:00:02-04:00


Friday ALCS open thread



It's do or die time for the Houston Astros on Friday night, as they return to their home city needing a win to force a Game 7 against the Yankees, to be played tomorrow night, if necessary. That's not the greatest situation to be in, although they probably feel a little bit better about everything with Justin Verlander taking the mound for them.

Including the postseason, Verlander has only pitched in eight games for the Astros. He was the winning pitcher in all eight games, including one outing where he pitched in relief. That also included a complete game earlier in this very series, a game in which he struck out 13 Yankees batters.

Will things go as well the second time around? I guess we will find out. New York sure was a den of horrors for the Astros. Whether that's at all connected to the Yankees having already been sanctioned this season for illegal use of video technology to acquire signals, well, only the Yankees know that for sure. But they're not in New York any more.

Yankees starter Luis Severino is no slouch. His 2.98 ERA in the regular season is nothing short of impressive. You could double Severino's ERA and there were still three Orioles starters with a worse ERA than that. And he gave up only 21 home runs in 193.1 innings, which in this year's home run environment is actually pretty dang good.

If the Yankees win, it's over. There would be a throwback Yankees-Dodgers World Series. If the Astros win, we get some more exciting do-or-die baseball tomorrow night. I think we all know what outcome all civilized people prefer.

Today's Lineups

Brett Gardner - LF George Springer - CF
Aaron Judge - RF Josh Reddick - RF
Didi Gregorius - SS Jose Altuve - 2B
Gary Sanchez - C Carlos Correa - SS
Greg Bird - 1B Yulieski Gurriel - 1B
Starlin Castro - 2B Alex Bregman - 3B
Aaron Hicks - CF Marwin Gonzalez - LF
Todd Frazier - 3B Evan Gattis - DH
Chase Headley - DH Brian McCann - C
Luis Severino - RHP Justin Verlander - RHP

For Kevin Gausman, a familiar story this season


A rough first-half, supplemented by a strong second-half, reminded us Kevin Gausman is capable of becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter. Sounds familiar, huh? As a young man, I was not fortunate enough to grow up with a fondness for Orioles starting pitching. As an adult, I have not been fortunate to grow up with a fondness for Orioles starting pitching. Time is a flat circle, folks. When the Orioles drafted Kevin Gausman, a fellow Coloradoan who was the talk of high school baseball in the state when we were both seniors in high school, I was thrilled. I’d seen enough and heard enough to know that he was a power pitcher that resembled the hope the Orioles had been searching for. And every year he’s been an Oriole, Gausman has, at times, showed that his right arm is worthy of such lofty ambition. But there’s been those other times, too. Yet again, Gausman crumbled in the first half of the 2017 season, only to emerge as the team’s best pitcher down the stretch. If two years of the same thing means signals a trend, it’s a pattern unbecoming of a pitcher the caliber that Gausman is. The Bad As was stated before, Gausman’s 2017 mirrored much of what he did last season, except the peaks and valleys were much more extreme. In 97.0 first-half innings, Gausman pitched to a 5.85 ERA, with a 18.4-percent strikeout rate and a 9.8-percent walk rate, all numbers that don’t speak to Gausman’s talent level. Though the Gaus has never created a ton of strikeouts, he was basically pitching like a glorified Jason Vargas, you know, without the All-Star bid. In Gausman’s initial 97.0 innings this season, his WHIP finished at 1.76 (the worst in baseball), while this slate of poor peripherals can also be judged on the merits of a .376 BABIP (also the worst in baseball). He was probably as unlucky as he was bad, though with such a high walk rate while failing to put away hitters, he kind of got what he deserved. Gausman was also very predictable in his offerings, not helping the cause, either. Even as Gausman has progressed season-by-season, he continues to rely too heavily on the fastball. This approach, despite his 2016 surge proving otherwise, has been tried and tested and continues to define as insane. Whether he was stuck throwing fastballs because he couldn’t throw strikes or just wasn’t confident throwing his splitter is a question tough to answer, but the shorter answer is simple. Gausman is a prime example of what happens when you throw too many fastballs in an era where 96 MPH isn’t as intimidating as it used to be. All of these dudes nowadays can hit fastballs, and Gausman was far too predictable in trying to get outs. I thought one of the more intriguing moments of the Orioles collapse was right after his second-to-last start, an outing where Gausman went four innings giving up six runs, he was asked to sum up his 2017 season to that point. His response: “Not very good all around,” Gausman said of his season. “Didn’t go deep into ballgames. Not many quality starts. Obviously, I’m very frustrated. And with the season I had last year and obviously starting Opening Day. I haven’t been a guy that should have gotten that right this year. … I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well, so that’s what makes it even more frustrating.” And he’s spot on. Gausman didn’t go deep into ballgames, he should have gotten right sooner than he did, and though it may mean more to some than others, getting the ball on opening day can have its significance. The Orioles have every right to expect more from a pitcher like Gausman, and yet again he disappointed. Well, mostly. The Good Gausman also mentioned to MASN earlier in September that he felt much more relaxed and confident in his mechanics during the summer months, and it showed. Gausman finished the year with a 3.41 ERA and a strikeout rate of 26.2 percent, where his walks also declined. Compared to his first half 1.76 WHIP, Gausman lowered that figure to 1.20 down the stretch. So too [...]

Orioles’ starting rotation went from bad to worse after adding Jeremy Hellickson


Acquired at the trade deadline from the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson did his part to support one of the Orioles’ worst rotations in years. When I first received this assignment to write about Jeremy Hellickson’s 2017 season with the Orioles, I was tempted to submit the headline, “Hellickson’s contributions as an Oriole,” along with a blank page of copy. That would about sum it up, but instead I chose to share a few observations to show just how bad Hellickson played while wearing the black and orange. Of course we all know that the right-handed pitcher came to Baltimore in a trade with the Phillies just before the July 31 deadine. This was a time when fans were waiting to see if the Birds would be buyers or sellers with two months left in the season and the team just a few games back of the second wild card. The news of Hellickson joining the flailing Orioles’ rotation indicated that they would be buyers … sort of. Did anyone – including Dan Duquette – expect Hellickson to really put the team over the top? No matter the expectations, he was added to help solidify a rotation that was drowning. At least that was Dan Duquette’s wish. A wish not grounded in realistic expectations, given Hellickson’s 4.73 ERA in Philadelphia in 2017, and an ERA of at least 4.52 in three of his previous four seasons. Duquette’s wish didn’t come true. In fact, Hellickson’s time with the Orioles was so bad that he became only the sixth Orioles pitcher since 2010 to own a six-plus ERA while throwing at least 50 innings (see list below). His bloated 6.97 mark ranks him third, but of course, it would look even worse if he weren’t joined by two of his 2017 teammates. Chris Tillman tops the list with a this-can’t-be-right ERA of 7.84, and Ubaldo Jimenez finished his final season as an Oriole with a mark of 6.81. No wonder the 2017 team ERA of 4.97 was the highest since 2009. The undistinguished company Hellickson is keeping: Chris Tillman (2017) - 7.84 ERA Bud Norris (2015) - 7.06 ERA Jeremy Hellickson (2017) - 6.97 ERA Ubaldo Jimenez (2017) - 6.81 ERA Jake Arrieta (2012) - 6.20 ERA Wade Miley (2016) - 6.17 But don’t let these numbers distract from just how bad Hellickson was for the 2017 team. He started strongly for the Orioles, pitching 13 innings in his first two starts with a 2.08 ERA – including seven innings of shutout ball in a 6-0 win against the Royals in his Orioles debut. Across these two games, he struck out 12 and allowed just two walks and no home runs. For this brief amount of time, Duquette was looking like a genius. From that point on, Hellickson couldn’t maintain much consistency and won just one of his final eight starts. Three were barely quality starts, but his inability to pitch effectively the second and third time through the order did him in. Here’s his Oriole ERA in those situations: 1st time through the order: 2.36 2nd time: 7.58 3rd time: 7.90 These troubling numbers, along with a sharp decline in his K/9 rate since coming to the Orioles spelled doom for Hellickson. After sporting a strong 8.1 K/9 rate for the Phillies in July, Hellickson struck out just 5.8 per nine in August and 4.7 in four September starts. His ERA in those last eight games was a frightening 8.61. He walked 15 and struck out 19, while giving up 13 homers in just 38.2 innings pitched. Turns out, Dan Duquette sure wasn’t any genius. [...]

Friday Bird Droppings: Where the Orioles scrap heap signings never stop


The Orioles found a scrap heap guy on Thursday because Dan Duquette never sleeps. In today’s links, pondering Harvey’s role, Davis’s production, and more winning from high school Orioles teams. Hello, friends. There are now 159 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day 2018. One baseball game awaits our attention tonight as the ALCS returns to Houston and the Astros try to survive and force a Game 7 against a resurgent Yankees team. I wish I didn't have to write that. Tonight could be the last game being played until Tuesday. The Dodgers polished off the Cubs in five games on Thursday night, laying waste to Jose Quintana and John Lackey while their own ace Clayton Kershaw was dominant. Take heart, Cubs fans. At least you won it last year. In any case, there will be no games on Sunday and Monday even if the Astros force a Game 7. The number of former Orioles involved in this postseason has dropped substantially with the elimination of the Cubs. But hey, the Dodgers are still representing with Justin Turner and Rich Hill. And as I've mentioned before, if you remember the O's tenure of either one of those guys, you're surely confused about how it is that either one has something positive to offer a World Series-bound team in 2017. There hasn’t been a repeat World Series champion since the Yankees string of wins from 1998-2000. Around the blogO'sphere Orioles sign reigning independent league MVP, bolstering organizational depth (Baltimore Sun)Slow your roll, Sun headline writer. Let’s not act like a 27-year-old who never got above Double-A in affiliated baseball is depth. Still, best of luck to Joe Maloney, not to be confused with former Oriole Joe Mahoney. Decision pending on Harvey's role to begin 2018 season (School of Roch)There are times where I wonder if the Orioles actually have any idea what they’re doing. Any trial balloon floated about Hunter Harvey going to the bullpen is one of those times. Can Chris Davis become more aggressive and increase run production? (Steve Melewski)One of the times where the difference between “can” and “will”, often colloquially used interchangeably, is meaningful. Phillies' outfielder Kim Hyun-soo returns home after 'disappointing' 2nd season (Yonhap News)I wish Kim would have played better for the Orioles this year. He does, too. Breaking down the home run revolution by position (Beyond the Box Score)Our friends over at SB Nation’s Beyond the Box Score blog note that ten years ago, the average player hit 19.5 home runs. This year, the average player hit 25.1 homers. A lot of that increase came from second basemen. Springville volleyball: Three-peat (The Journal-Eureka)As you may know, it is the editorial position of this blog to celebrate the success of all Orioles teams everywhere. Today, a round of applause for the girls volleyball team of Springville High School in Springville, Iowa, who have won the Tri-Rivers Conference tournament for the third year in a row. Quincy Lady Orioles claim third straight Big 8 Cross Country title (The Coldwater Daily Reporter)And speaking of successful high school Orioles, the runners of the Quincy Lady Orioles from Quincy High School in Quincy, Michigan have also won a third straight title. Congratulations to both of these teams. Birthdays and anniversaries One lone former Oriole has a birthday today: Bobby Floyd, who appeared in a total of 47 games around the infield from 1968-70. Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Your birthday buddies for today include: Flemish painter Simon de Vos (1603), St. Paul's Cathedral designer Christopher Wren (1632), philosopher and education reformer John Dewey (1859), Dracula pioneer Bela Lugosi (1882), old time jazz man Jelly Roll Morton (1890), baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle (1931), singer-songwriter Tom Petty (1950), and rapper Snoop Dogg (1971). On this day in history... In 1740, Maria Theresa ascended to the throne of Austria. This sparked the War of the Austrian Succession, a seven year war[...]

Thursday NLCS open thread



The Cubs are in win or go home mode against the Dodgers, and they are running head long into Clayton Kershaw. Well, good luck.

The National League Championship Series could come to a close tonight. The same was true last night, but the Cubs managed to win a game and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers.

Chicago's reward for doing this is that they need to win for a second consecutive game to continue the series - only today, instead of facing Alex Wood (who, in fairness, was incredible this season) they go up against Clayton Kershaw, who hasn't had a WHIP above 1 for the past five seasons. In three of those five seasons, he had an ERA under 2! Holy mackerel. Even considering it's the NL, that's impressive.

For real, though, Kershaw has been in MLB for ten seasons now, and he has a career 2.36 ERA, with more than a batter struck out every inning and more than four strikeouts per walk. Things have not gone quite as well for him in the postseason, with a 4.57 ERA in 20 postseason appearances.

Whether it's fair to hold this against him is another discussion, but those numbers are decidedly what they are. The Cubs will be hoping that they can add fuel to a narrative critical of Kershaw in the postseason and thus prevent one of the World Series teams from being decided tonight.

Today's Lineups

Chris Taylor - CF Albert Almora - CF
Justin Turner - 3B Kyle Schwarber - LF
Cody Bellinger - 1B Kris Bryant - 3B
Yasiel Puig - RF Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Logan Forsythe - 2B Willson Contreras - C
Enrique Hernandez - LF Addison Russell - SS
Austin Barnes - C Javier Baez - 2B
Charlie Culberson - SS Ben Zobrist - RF
Clayton Kershaw - LHP Jose Quintana - LHP

Injuries dashed the high hopes for Zach Britton’s 2017 season


The Orioles closer fought injuries all season long in 2017 while his command and effectiveness suffered. Coming off perhaps the greatest season by a reliever in MLB history, no one’s stock was higher than Zach Britton’s entering the 2017 season. Fresh off of back-to-back-to-back sub-2 ERA seasons as a reliever, Britton looked to pick up right where he left off in the midst of a 49-game streak of converted saves. Unfortunately for the southpaw, his body had other ideas and Britton never found his 2016 form while fighting a multitude of injuries. Britton’s ailments started way back in spring training and threw off his throwing regimen from the get-go. With less than a week to go before the season, The Baltimore Sun put out this prophetic report to scare pretty much every Orioles fan who read it. Following oblique soreness down in Sarasota, Britton was never was able to amass enough innings to find his release point, and his command suffered. In his final spring appearance, Britton recorded four outs but surrendered two hits and walked another two batters. After finishing the Grapefruit League with more walks than strikeouts and a WHIP over 2.00, the Orioles were willing to let him figure it out in Baltimore. The season began and Britton was back in the closer role, but his struggles didn’t stay down in Florida. After the first two weeks of the 2017 regular season, Britton was sitting pretty with six saves in six opportunities. But despite moving into a tie for the second longest save streak in MLB history, it was apparent to anyone watching that something just wasn’t right with the lefty. Although Britton had an ERA of only 1.29, opposing batters were hitting .346 off of Britton and getting on base more than 40% of the time. Then on April 16th, Britton was put on the 10-day DL with the dreaded “forearm soreness” and his issues began to make some sense. After two weeks of the Orioles reiterating that Britton was not a candidate for Tommy John surgery, he rejoined the team to start the month of May. After putting the setback behind him, Britton tossed two scoreless appearances before his forearm flared up once again. Less than three weeks after going on the 10-day DL for the first time, Zach was back on the DL again for the same forearm issue, but this time he was gone for much longer. The Orioles’ closer made it off the 60-day DL in early July, leaving just enough time for a league-wide showcase prior to the trade deadline. Hoping to swap Britton for multiple top prospects similar to the Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller deals in 2016, Duquette and friends quickly found out that the market for Britton wasn’t in the same ballpark. Even after setting the American League record with his 55th consecutive save, Zach’s July ERA of 4.91 didn’t do much to quell the concerns regarding his forearm injury and the Orioles’ front office wound up nixing their best deal from the Astros. With the proposed return lacking a single top-100 prospect and the team’s control of Britton through 2018, the O’s chose to hang onto the 29-year-old and instead make a halfhearted run at the playoffs in 2017. We all know how that one turned out. Britton finished out the year in an Orioles uniform while continuing to struggle some with his command. His record-setting streak ended after 704 days with a blown save against the A’s in late August. Soon after, concerns about his knee popped up and a month and another blown save later, Britton was shut down for good to rest his left knee. Looking back at Britton’s season, it doesn’t appear nearly as bad as it felt watching at the time. His ERA of 2.89 looks solid, he blew only two saves out of 17 opportunities, and his 72.6% groundball rate was only topped by a single pitcher in all of baseball. But for the two-time all-star, it was his lowest season-long groundball percentage as a reliever, and his 2.89 ERA was still more than [...]

Thursday Bird Droppings: Where the Orioles want a lefty


The ALCS tilts towards the Yankees because justice is absent from this universe. In today’s links, the search for a lefty, the growth of the Orioles farm system, and more. Hello, friends. There are now 160 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day 2018. For today, at least, there is one game to be played that may entertain us. The Cubs avoided a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers on Wednesday night, meaning that Game 5 of the NLCS awaits. It’s an off day for the ALCS as the series travels back to Houston. The Astros, after coming to New York in command of the series, get back to their home turf having to win a game just to force a Game 7. The meltdown has been rather epic in its scope - and tremendously un-fun to watch for this steadfast Yankees hater. Relying on other teams to do what must be done is no good. Anyway, that series will wait until Friday for its next game. The NLCS may be over by then, or not, but even if it’s not, they’ll have their on travel day on Friday. So that makes Saturday the last day of the year that will have multiple MLB games being played - unless the ALCS doesn’t get to Game 7 or the NLCS doesn’t get to Game 6. The last two-game day could have been last night! Let’s get down to more important business - the Orioles. There’s always something to talk about, although whether it’s something new is another story. Around the blogO'sphere Adding left-handed rotation upgrade will be a challenge for Orioles in offseason (Baltimore Sun)The idea that there must be a lefty in the rotation is what gave us Wade Miley in the first place. Just get someone who doesn’t suck. Jones on young outfielders, E-Rod surgery, Reimold news (School of Roch)Adam Jones wanted the Orioles to get more athletic corner outfielders. He sounded satisfied about Trey Mancini and Austin Hays. MLBPipeline's Jim Callis says O's farm has made solid progress (Steve Melewski)Callis offers the opinion that the Orioles farm system has probably moved into the 15-20 range - which is a definite improvement compared to a year ago. O's impressed with high-ceiling draft picks at instructs ( it mean anything that the Orioles are impressed with DL Hall and Adam Hall in their instructional league? Probably not, but I guess it’s better than if they weren’t impressed. Tickets for Orioles center fielder Adam Jones' annual Ravens tailgate benefit now on sale (Baltimore Sun)Proceeds from the Fifth Annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore. Could Phillies be in division with Orioles, Pirates? (The Morning Call)One idea of an MLB expansion/realignment scheme floated in Baseball America earlier in the week. Things would seem weird compared to how they are now. Chips fall to Ludington (Orioles) in district semi (Manistee News)As you may know, it is the editorial position of this blog to celebrate the successes of all Orioles teams everywhere. Here, the boys soccer team of Ludington High School in Ludington, Michigan, knocked off a would-be Cinderella to advance in their playoffs. Birthdays and anniversaries There is one current Oriole with a birthday today. It's Anthony Santander, who is turning 23. The former Orioles who were born today are present-day Birdland villain Jose Bautista, 1988 pitcher Oswaldo Peraza, and 1966-67 backup catcher Vic Roznovsky. It is Roznovsky's 79th birthday today. An extra happy birthday to him. Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Your birthday buddies for today include: baseball Hall of Famer Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (1876), Merrill Lynch co-founder Charles E. Merrill (1885), author John le Carre (1931), boxer Evander Holyfield (1962), South Park co-creator Trey Parker (1969), and actress Gillian Jacobs (1982). On this day in history... In 202 BC, the Roman legions commanded by Scipio Africanus defeated the Carthaginian force under Hannibal in the Battl[...]

Wednesday MLB playoffs open thread


The Yankees have found new life against the Astros, while the Cubs look to have no life at all against the Dodgers. This could be the last night of the year with two baseball games. Much to my chagrin, the Yankees are going and doing it in their series against the Astros. As you know, of course, things are all knotted up in the ALCS now. If it were any team other than the Yankees or the Red Sox, it'd be exciting to see the team with a lot of young guys storming back to tie the anointed favorites who won over 100 games in the regular season. The Yankees by default can never be the plucky underdogs - and yet, these Yankees are, or would be if they were playing in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Washington state. No one believed in them, et cetera, and yet, here they have made a series of it. They are exploiting Astros flaws in a big way, including a bullpen weakness. I guess the Astros should have offered more to get Zach Britton. Should be a good one tonight as Dallas Keuchel faces off against Masahiro Tanaka. This is the stuff that postseason greatness is made up of. Two great starting pitchers squaring off against the AL's two most-potent regular season offenses, with the series tied up at 2-2, looking to gain an edge. Much less interesting is the NLCS, where the Cubs look to be clearly not in the same class as the Dodgers. Their bullpen is also trash, with one particular reliever, Carl Edwards Jr., having the kind of ongoing disaster that might make one wonder if he will ever be able to be a successful professional again. Down to their last game, the Cubs turn to former Oriole Jake Arrieta, who looked a lot like the Orioles version of Arrieta the last time he pitched this postseason. It really is something remarkable that the Nationals could not even beat this Cubs team. Too bad, so sad. Today's Lineups HOUSTON ASTROS NEW YORK YANKEES George Springer - CF Brett Gardner - LF Josh Reddick - RF Aaron Judge - RF Jose Altuve - 2B Gary Sanchez - C Carlos Correa - SS Didi Gregorius - SS Yulieski Gurriel - 1B Aaron Hicks - CF Alex Bregman - 3B Starlin Castro - 2B Carlos Beltran - DH Greg Bird - 1B Marwin Gonzalez - LF Todd Frazier - 3B Brian McCann - C Chase Headley - DH Dallas Keuchel - LHP Masahiro Tanaka - RHP [...]