Fielding problems have undone the Showalter renaissance of 2010.
Despite their recent strong play (a six-game winning streak ended on Sunday), the Orioles have at times this season flirted with losing 100 games, an ignominy they have somehow avoided since 1988 despite their 14 consecutive losing seasons. It was not supposed to be this way. Last season’s abrupt turnaround from a 32-73 record under Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel to 34-23 under Buck Showalter seemed to indicate a newfound competence, one that was supposed to be further improved this year by a young starting staff that would a year older, a year better, and augmented by top pitching prospect Zach Britton, Baseball Prospectus’s #17 prospect coming into the season.
A team doesn’t get to lose 95 to 100 games without all phases of the operation disappointing. Orioles batters have excelled in one area, hitting home runs, but have done so at the expense of putting runners on base. Orioles batters have the fourth-highest home run total in the American League, but are last in walks drawn. Despite a league-average .257 batting average, their inability to reach base means that they rank only 10th in on-base percentage. Put it all together and you have a team that ranks ninth in runs per game, and one that struggles to score if it doesn’t hit the ball out of the ballpark. The Orioles lead all of baseball in one category, the so-called “Guillen Number,” the percentage of team runs that come as a result of its homers. The Orioles actually outrank the Yankees at this, with 43 percent. In their case, it is not a good thing.
None of this is surprising; it was clear heading into the season that the organization’s attempts to revamp its offense were at a nascent stage of development compared to the pitching. The season-opening rotation of Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman, Britton, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergesen—with an injured Brian Matusz waiting in the wings—was supposed to give the Orioles a cadre of electric hurlers who would grow into dominance and haul the team back to competitiveness in spite of the team’s lack of promising young position players. Instead, Orioles starters have put up the highest ERA of any rotation in the game (5.29) and struck out the fewest batters (439). The average AL starting pitcher has an ERA of 4.10 this season. Of their most frequent starters, only Guthrie (4.42) and Britton (4.54) are on the good side of 5.00; Matusz, who has spent all season coping with a mysterious case of diminished velocity, has a stunning 8.92 ERA in eight starts.
The Reds' farm director discusses the state of his organization's system, and the prospects on the way.
A once-moribund Reds' player development system is now bringing a stream of big-league talent to the Queen City, and the primary architect is Terry Reynolds. Cincinnati's farm director since 2004, Reynolds has overseen the development of Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Drew Stubbs in recent years, and a further influx is on its way. The talent pool falls short of elite status, but with players such as Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey on the doorstep, and Yonder Alonso and Mike Leake coming fast, Reynolds has every right to be proud of his accomplishments.
Activating Eric Byrnes makes for a crowd in the D'backs lineup, but could it also be a creative outlet for Bob Melvin?
Folks, I owe all of you in my audience an apology for writing only sporadically of late, but my home's been flooded twice in an 11-week period, and that's been a pretty major distraction. I'm sorry, to you and to my colleagues, but believe you me, watching and talking about baseball is always good for what ails you.
Kevin now turns to the National League as he gives us highlights from the minor leagues' first half.
The minor league regular season is over at the end of
August, which means we've now reached the halfway mark. Let's take a look at whose
stock has risen and fallen, who the candidates are to be each team's top prospect
in my postseason rankings, and what unresolved questions need to be answered as
we officially move into summer.
The Red Sox take a gamble on Pedro Astacio. Andy Pettitte comes off the DL again for the Astros, while Wade Miller replaces him. The Indians bullpen will give erstwhile closer Bobby Howry a chance. And the Padres engage in some micromanagement that Chris finds absolutely maddening. All this amd much more news from around the league in your Friday edition of Transaction Analysis.