Haven't done one of these in a while, but I also hadn't been to the park in a couple months. It was fortunate that the Orioles started Joe Saunders yesterday (I've had arguments with people regarding Saunders not definitely being better than Tommy Hunter, and he didn't help those people with his first O's start), so I was able to see Zach Britton pitch instead.
- Zach Britton was excellent - especially his slider. He kept the ball on the ground while also easily setting a career high in strikes (was 7). No walks plus groundballs plus missing bats (most of the K's were swinging) is generally going to result in some success. Final line; 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 10 K.
- Nick Markakis doubled and walked, pushing his wRC+ to 123 on the season (just above 2007's 122, but still well short of that great 2008's 137).
- Adam Jones crushed the 101st home run of his career (26th on the season).
- Mark Reynolds pulled a Markakis with a two-bagger and a free pass, and pushed his batting line into above average territory (101 wRC+). Might even be at replacement level now (-0.1 fWAR coming into the game).
- Taylor Teagarden showed off his one skill at the plate in his first at bat, lifting what seemed like a medium-depth flyball over the scoreboard in right-field. Later he it another one deep, but sent it to center so it only resulted in a double.
- Manny Machado went 0-3 with a strike-out, and hasn't really done anything since hitting 3 home runs early after his call-up. Not fair to judge him harshly for it given his age and his promotion straight from Double-A to the Majors. He "looks" pretty good out there - I think he'll be a quality Major Leaguer in the not too distant future, but doesn't appear to be there yet. On the bright side, at least, he's not chasing too many pitches out of the strike-zone. Lots of swings and misses though.
- Not that it really mattered, but Pedro Strop "allowed" 2 run when he came on in the 9th. At the start of the inning I said "O's ahead by 4, which means I expect Strop to give up 2-3 runs now." Yep. Two hits put runners on, and then Jim Johnson came in (allowed the runners to score), but locked down the save (he now has more of those - 41 - than the Astros have wins - 40). Another two-run win. Of the (now) 8 games in which Strop has given up a run, the O's have still won 6.
- The (presumably drunk) idiot in front of the press-box who yelled (loudly, and irritatingly) for the entire game. Someone said they could hear him on the TV broadcast. Just reduces the enjoyment factor from being at the park.
The Orioles win again, and take 3 of 4 from the White Sox (the division leading White Sox, I should say). The O's are now in position to knock the Yankees out of sole possession of first place in the East (while ascending there themselves) in their series in New York. I'm not even sure how to handle that though.
I have to say, I'm not completely enamored with the Orioles calling up Manny Machado today. He's a great prospect - hitting well in Double-A (the .266/.352/.438 line doesn't look earth-shattering, but it's well above average in context as noted by his 122 wRC+) and having only just turned 20 - but, well, he only has a partial season at Double-A and he only just turned 20. I have a hard time imaging Machado is going to provide any sort of significant improvement for the O's down the stretch, especially given his lack of experience at third-base. And his arbitration clock is starting a fair bit earlier than I would have expected.
On the other hand, if the Orioles like Machado enough to think he's got a good chance of being the team's starter at third-base next year, then getting him a little seasoning down the stretch this year makes some sense (assuming he'll be playing more often than not, rather than sitting on the bench). Also, even if Machado doesn't outplay a Robert Andino or a Wilson Betemit, it's possible that having someone who is capable on both sides of the ball (not a stretch to think Manny while be less of a horror at third than Betemit; and there's a non-zero chance he can out-hit Andino, even if I think fans are greatly overstating the probability of it) allows Buck to utilize the roster more effectively overall. To wit:
vs. Left-handed Pitchers:
Wilson Betemit - .145/.226/193 (yikes!)
Mark Reynolds - .280.413/.453
vs. Right-handed Pitchers:
Wilson Betemit - .304/.357/.508
Mark Reynolds - .188/.296/.356
Freeing Betemit from third-base and allowing him and Reynolds to platoon at first (or DH, with Chris Davis at first) can turn the position into one of relative strength for the team. Add a potential Nate McLouth/Lew Ford platoon in left (neither guy is good anymore, but each has been a slightly above average hitter in his career against opposite-handed pitchers), and the line-up on any given night could be decent one. If Betemit spells Machado at third against tougher righties and Andino is around for defense if learning a (somewhat) new position at the Major League level is as hard as it sounds, it could be a small plus.
Given where the Orioles are right now - in the thick of a pennant race based largely on "fluky" success in one-run and extra-inning games, but with less than two months to go (during which their "luck" could certainly hold) - a small plus could be enough. And promoting Machado too early is definitely far less troublesome for the future of the franchise than trading him (or another young player) for a rent-a-vet would be. So while it might have been better to have to be patient about it, I'm excited to see Machado play tonight and hope he can show at least a little something this year.
The trade deadline has come and gone, with the Orioles (probably correctly) deciding to stand pat. Some thoughts on the non-trades and other things:
Blanton is a decent enough pitcher; he does have excellent control. Since moving to the NL his strike-out rate has gone up (to above average), though he can be prone to the long-ball (some of that is surely his home ballpark). His 3.60 xFIP over the last three years is actually 25th in the Majors (min. 350 IP). Part of that is his 13.6% home run per flyball rate getting regressed though, and his 4.12 FIP is a far less impressive 69th (and his 4.75 ERA is 95th out of 103). Checking in on Blanton is smart, but with him still being owed $3 M for the rest of this season, I wouldn't expect much (if any) excess value there. And he's a free agent after the season (when he could potentially be signed on the cheap as a back-end starter with some mild upside).
Somewhat doubtful, but maybe Blanton even passes through waivers and the O's can take a crack at him this month.
A lot of Headley's offensive value comes from his walks (10% walk rate career, 13.5% this year) and moving out of Petco doesn't do anything for that. You'd think he'd get more hits, but his career BABIP is .339 as it is so there's probably not much (if any) room for growth there (it is .369 career on the road, but that's not likely to be sustainable). So Headley would hit some more home runs, but I'm not sure how much his production would really improve (relatively speaking). And above-average hitting third-baseman who's also a plus on defense (+9 UZR/150 career, +8 DRS/150) is a quality player - perhaps one bringing $30 M in value above his salary to his team through 2014 (he has two more arbitration years left).
Is that worth Jake Arrieta AND 2-3 good prospects? Arrieta's 6.13 ERA this year is ugly, and he's not exactly tearing it up in Triple-A (7 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 3.78 ERA), but his 4.03 ERA and 3.83 xFIP point to a potentially above average starter. Four years of control of an average-ish starting pitcher is pretty valuable - perhaps worth as much as Headley straight up. I'd have probably gone through with that, and maybe included one prospect (but not multiples, or one of the O's best). It might even make more sense to pick Headley up after the season instead of now, as his 2012 production doesn't likely mean a great deal to the Orioles (I'm still not confident they end up higher than 5th place in the East) and he might come cheaper no in the middle of a pennant race.
* Tyler Hanson is batting .271/.378/.486 in Triple-A for LA this year, while Jarrett Martin is striking out a batter per inning in A-Ball (though with a 5.6 BB/9). Not mind-blowing numbers, but Eveland did just clear waivers with no team wanting him for free.
* It came against Anthony Swarzak of the Twins on July 19th, who actually K'ed the side that inning.