The Mystery of the Orioles

Every season in baseball there are surprise teams, and none this season have been more surprising than the Baltimore Orioles. That continued surprise has something to do with the fact that despite every stat and ounce of logic and reason the Orioles keep winning. The Orioles aren’t just outplaying their run differential they are running away from it. With 536 runs scored and 581 allowed the Orioles expected record is 59-68 but instead their record is 70-57. The Orioles have been lucky to a point that every Orioles fan should rush to their closest casino and bet everything they have on 8.

It is easy to explain why the Orioles are where they are. They are 24-6 in one run games and 12-2 in extra innings games. Most teams, even good teams, end up around .500 on those types of games. They are basically a coin flip. The types of games where one little physical or mental mistake can cost the team the game. The Orioles luck goes far beyond this. Look at last night’s game. The two heroes of the game were Lew Ford and Nate McLouth. A player who was out of MLB when the season started and another who was quickly on his way out. They both hit homeruns and ended up accounting for three of the Orioles four runs.

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Ballparks, Back Pain, and Cheering for Your Team

There are two parks that everyone praises as a couple of the best in baseball, and it makes me wonder if those people have ever set in the cheap seats. A truly good ballpark doesn’t have a bad view in the house, but if you’re in Baltimore and seated down the left field line you will be facing the warehouse, and in San Francisco in the upper deck in left you’re facing the bay. I know those are great views, but if I wanted the views I wouldn’t pay for tickets to a ball game.

I have heard from various sources that PNC Park is the same way and last night I found out that Citizens Bank Park has seats that don’t face the action. Waking up this morning with back pain from having to turn and watch the action drives home the point of how great Nats Park is as a place to watch a ball game. Aesthetically it isn’t brick or throwback in the least. It is grey and bland. It has a lot going for it though. For one, and I didn’t notice this until just this week, there is no sun field. When the sun is setting it does so across the centerfield concourse. Nats Park also has all the seats facing towards the pitcher’s mound and home plate. As far as a place to watch a ball game Nats Park is one of the best parks in baseball.

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And his Name is Dan Uggla

There is something that I love about Dan Uggla and it has very little to do with the baseball player Dan Uggla. He is a right handed pull hitter who hits for a low average. He is a three true outcome player who gains value because he plays at second base, but he plays second base with all the grace of a three true outcome player. What I love about Dan Uggla is that there isn’t a baseball player out their whose name fits them more than Dan Uggla.

If you were to imagine a player named Dan Uggla they would look exactly like Dan Uggla. The short cropped all American haircut and plain face of a Dan, and the tight shirts, giant forearms, and big ugly swing of an Uggla. When Dan Uggla strikes out he looks like a caveman trying to knock a brid out of the sky. He had a vicious helicopter swing where the bat flies over his had with such force it looks like his entire upper torso will one day be catapulted into centerfield. His swing is just that violent and the exact swing someone named Dan Uggla would possess.

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It’s Now or Sometime in the Distant Future

The psyche of baseball fans has always intrigued me. I probably shouldn’t worry myself so much with how others think, but I always try and understand. There are some argument though that I just can’t. I remember when the Nationals signed Jayson Werth most of the people were against the deal and the reason was that the Nationals weren’t going to win in 2011 and by the time they would be winning Werth would be at the end of the deal and old and overpaid. The funny thing is that there exist a lot of years between 2011 and the last couple years of Werth’s contract.

The Strasburg shutdown debate almost feels like it is trending the same way. That this is the year the Nats are good and by the time they are good again Strasburg will be hurt anyway. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it seems to me that baseball fans can only think about the present or a time in the distant future. Think about all of the fans that are against giving away prospects because they may help a team in four years as opposed to trading for a player that could help them immediately and for a couple years after that.

Prior to the 2009 season the Nationals made a strong run at Mark Teixeira, but he ended up signing with the Yankees because he wanted to win immediately. There were many though that questioned why the Nationals would even be interested in a player like Mar Teixeira when they weren’t going to be good in 2009 or for a few years after that, but the fact is that in 2012 Mark Teixeira has a 2.8 WAR and as good as Adam LaRoche has been in 2012 his WAR is still less than that at 2.3.

The money Teixeira makes cannot be compared to the money that LaRoche makes, but Adam LaRoche has never and will never be as good a player as Mark Teixeira. There are other players that the Nats went after when they weren’t good that would be helping the team right now. They had passing interest in CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Cliff Lee. It is questionable how any of those signings would have effected the 2012 roster and the answer to that will never be known, but what isn’t debatable is that all of those players are still good. The argument that a move doesn’t make sense for the future is at times looking too far into the future.

The worst kind of loss

Yesterday, for the third time in his career, Josh Johnson has been the losing pitcher in a 1-0 game.  This also makes the second time it came at the hands of the Phillies, with the previous time being the Roy Halladay perfect game.

We have to imagine that Josh Johnson would like to throttle some of his teammates for being completely inept at scraping together at least one run during these games, while he’s pitching lights-out baseball, but sometimes that’s just how things unfortunately pan out.  The first time this happened against the Phillies, frankly nobody could hit Roy Halladay, but being shut down by Kyle Kendrick for seven innings has to be enough for anyone to become homicidal.

However, it’s not even that which makes the loss so bad.  It’s the fact that the game’s sole run came on the second pitch of the entire game, when Jimmy Rollins smacked a line drive home run into the corner, which would be the entire decision right then and there.  Think about that for a second; the game started at 7:10 pm EST, and at 7:11, maybe 7:12 pm, the game was decided.  Over the span of the next two hours and 32 minutes, there were 254 official pitches thrown in which zero additional offense was mounted for either team.

All while Josh Johnson hurled pitch after pitch for eight total innings, allowing just one more hit and one more walk, striking out seven, while the Fish couldn’t muster but just two RISP chances, which Carlos Lee flew out to end both threats.

1-0 defeats are nothing new to Josh Johnson at this point, but to lose after the first batter of the game?  That’s truly the worst kind of defeat.

Money, Power, Respect

The other day on MLB Network Mike Sweeney said that Mike Rizzo had no business making the decision on if Strasburg should be shutdown, because Mike Rizzo never played at the major league level. This is kind of the same argument that was used against Sparky Anderson when players called him a minor league motherfucker. We all know what happened with Sparky Anderson, but before being a World Series winning manager he was open to criticism.

Think about it this way. Billy Beane has done more with less than any GM in baseball history, and yet those that argue against him hold the trump card. He has no rings. In order for a baseball man, either a manager or a GM, to get respect they have to win the big one. If they don’t do that then it will always be brought up that they have yet to do it. Any amount of success they reach will be meaningless, because they don’t have a ring.

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The 2005 Draft

Watching MLB Network this morning they were talking about how a number of the players taken in the 2010 draft haven made it to the majors and done so quickly. They then went on about how this was a change in philosophy. This line of thinking is wrong. Good players will play in the majors and make it to the major leagues quickly. It is impressive the Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, and Chris Sale have played in the majors just two years after being drafted, but that isn’t the most impressive draft of the recent era.

Just five years before 2010 baseball might have had its greatest draft ever. Here are just a few names from that draft; Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce,  Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, and Colby Rasmus. Two players from that draft, Ryan Zimmerman and Joey Devine, debuted the year they were drafted, and Justin Upton debuted two years later at the age of 19. By 2007 Zimmerman, Gordon, Braun, and Tulo were all playing regularly at the major league level.

It has been two years since the 2010 draft and it can be argued that not one of the players that has debuted from that draft is having as good a season in 2012 as any of the previously mentioned players had in 2007. It could be in a few years when Bryce Harper is contending for the NL MVP and Manny Machado is the second coming of Alex Rodriguez that we look back at the 2010 draft and say it might be better than the 2005 draft, but for now the 2005 draft reigns supreme.