Are the Baltimore Orioles Headed in the Right Direction?
In a word: YES!
When Andy McPhail was brought in, my thought was, "Great, another good GM that Peter Angelos will interfere with and drive out of town, just like Pat Gillick."
However I was wrong. So far, Angelos has stayed out of the way and let McPhail do the job he was hired to do.
He traded away two players that were basically a cancer in the clubhouse. Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard.
For Bedard, the O's received:
George Sherrill, who was the Orioles' lone representative at the All-Star Game this season. And has panned out as our closer. He has struggled a bit lately but has converted 31 of 37 saves and has 52 strikeouts in 48.1 innings pitched. Sure, his ERA is a bit higher than it should be for a closer—4.66—but that has come from a couple of three-run outings.
Adam Jones, who, until he got hurt, was having a pretty solid season. He's made a lot of highlight-reel catches in center field, with a .993 fielding percentage. He has filled in at a position we have had concerns with for the last couple of seasons.
He batted .279 over 108 games (which is more than he played in his first two seasons combined). With his speed, he had eight steals and six triples.
As the weather has warmed up, so has his power stroke, with five of his seven homers coming in June and July. Jones fouled a pitch off his foot and will be out at least four weeks, but he is definitely someone the team can build an outfield around.
Minor-league pitching prospect Chris Tillman, who is currently on the Orioles' AA affiliate Bowie Baysox. He is tearing up the minor leagues, with a 7-4 record, 3.67 ERA, and 124 strikeouts in 112.2 IP over 24 games.
I expect that he will make his major-league debut during the September call-ups. Unless there is an injury before then.
As well as two other minor-league pitchers, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler
For Tejada, the O's received:
Luke Scott, who has become entrenched in LF. Scott started off very hot, reaching a .389 BA by Apr. 18. Of course, he cooled off, but had a respectable.282 BA by the end of April. Over the course of the season, he is batting .267 with 19 doubles, 19 home runs, and 47 RBI.
Dennis Sarfate has struggled in his two starts but was effective as reliever.
Matt Albers has pitched well sporting a 3-3 record, 3.49 ERA, 26 strikeouts in 49 innings before being placed on the DL.
Besides these new acquisitions we have some great veterans.
2B Brian Roberts was almost shipped to the Chicago Cubs several times, but the right deal couldn't be worked out. I, for one, am very happy about this. Not only is he a fan favorite, he is one of the best defensive 2B in the game. He has compiled a .984 fielding percentage over his eight-year career.
This season, he has only committed five errors and has a .991 fielding percentage. He is also having one of the best offensive seasons of his career, batting .294 with eight home runs and 41 RBI.
Yes, his power is down, but other than 2005, his career HR high is 12, which is still completely in reach.
What he has lacked in power he has made up for in extra-base hits, with 44 doubles and 8 triples. He is also very wily on the basepaths, having racked up 29 steals, while only being thrown out 10 times.
3B Melvin Mora: Since the All-Star break, he has been on fire, raising his BA from .233 to .262. In August, he is batting .395 with two HRs and 14 RBI.
1B Kevin Millar is a leader on and off the field. I'm not a big fan of his, for reasons I don't feel like getting into here, but I can see what he brings to the team.
At .244, he could be hitting better, but he does have 18 HRs and 60 RBI on the season.
He is a very good fielder as well, having committed only four errors on the season while compiling a .996 fielding percentage.
Rounding out the infield is our catching tandem of Ramon Hernandez and Guillermo Quiroz. Ramon's stats for the year, thus far, are .254/12/47 in 95 games. Guillermo is batting .204 with two homers and 12 RBI in 38 games.
Waiting in the wings is Matt Wieters, our first-round draft pick in the 2007 draft. He is rapidly working his way through the minor leagues.
His season stats are .351/24/80 over 112 games and two leagues. If he doesn't get called up during the September expansion, he will be vying for the job in Spring Training.
You're probably wondering where the shortstop is? Well, that's what O's fans are wondering as well. This is one of the glaring deficiencies on the team. Since dealing Tejada, we have lacked offensive production from the position. Several players have taken turns at SS and none have filled the void either offensively or defensively.
DH Aubrey Huff is having a fantastic year, batting .302 with 24 HRs and 76 RBI. I thought he may be trade bait at the deadline, but it didn't happen.
Along with Scott and Jones, Nick Markakis rounds out the OF.
Nick has progressed every season at the plate, as well as being extremely consistent in the OF making only 6 errors in 3 seasons.
This season, he is batting .301 with 17 HRs and 71 RBI.
Another speedster, Markakis has 10 steals on the season.
He is becoming an elite outfielder, yet he is one of the lowest paid OFs in baseball. We signed him through this season, but he wasn't happy with the amount. I don't care what he wants; this is a guy the Orioles need to wrap up for a long time.
Filling in for Jones, while he's been injured, have been Jay Payton and Lou Montanez. Payton is a solid bench player and has a strong arm.
Now, on to the pitching staff.
Daniel Cabrera is a 6'9" right-hander that has finally begun to grow into the potential they have been talking about his entire career.
So far this season, he is 8-7 with a 4.78 ERA, 89 strikeouts, and 71 walks.
You may be asking if I think that he's turned the corner finally. Well, the main thing is that he's become more consistent. His walks are down, as is his ERA. Meanwhile, he is an innings eater and has two complete games this year.
He still has a way to go, but I like the progress I've seen with him this season.
Jeremy Guthrie is 9-8 with 3.26 ERA and 102 strikeouts.
The Orioles picked him up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians prior to last season, and he has been very good for us ever since.
He struggled a bit at the beginning of the year after being labeled the ace of the squad. But he has recovered nicely and is back on track.
The bullpen has been pretty good this season, with guys like Jamie Walker and Fernando Cabrera having pitched well.
Chris Ray, Hayden Penn, and Adam Loewen are trying to work their way back to the bigs after various injuries have sidelined them.
One of the best moves I think the Orioles have made in the last year or so was to make Dave Trembley the manager. After being named manager during the 2007 season, he led the team to a 40-53 record.
Yes, the Orioles are under .500 again this season, but they are improving.
Trembley believes in fundamentals. They practice the same drills during the season as they do in Spring Training.
His reasoning is that if it's important to work on those things before the season, why wouldn't it be just as, if not more, important during the season.
I agree with this philosophy and have seen solid results from it.
We will probably finish in the cellar again this season, but I think this will be the last year we do so.
If McPhail can make a deal for a shortstop, or if one presents himself from the minors, we will start climbing the steps very shortly.
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