On a Monthly basis, Orioles Hangout will be posting Q&A’s conducted with blogs and sites representing Boston, New York, Tampa, and Toronto.
The purpose of these Q&A’s will be to regularly check-in and get an understanding of what is currently going on with the O’s divisional foes.
Those contributing are:
Boston Red Sox
Site: Fire Brand of the American League (http://firebrandal.com/)
Site Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/firebrandal
Writer: Troy Patterson
Writer Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TroyPatterson
New York Yankees
Site: River Avenue Blues (http://riveraveblues.com/)
Site Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/riveraveblues
Writer: Mike Axisa
Writer Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mikeaxisa
Tampa Bay Rays
Site: DRaysBay (http://www.draysbay.com/)
Site Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/draysbay
Writer: Jason Collette
Writer Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/jasoncollette
Toronto Blue Jays
Site: The Tao of Stieb (http://taoofstieb.blogspot.com/)
Site & Writer Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TaoofStieb
Writer: Tao O’Stieb
Orioles Hangout: “The Boston Red Sox head into the last day of May on top of the American League East standings. The offense is strong (2nd overall in on-base %, 4th overall in runs), while questions remain with the back of the rotation. Overall, how are you feeling about the Sox as the calendar turns to June?”
Red Sox / Fire Brand of the American League: “I don’t think you can feel any way but confident right now. The team was expected to lead the division and is now playing like it. While the injuries to the rotation are troubling there have been encouraging signs from the fill ins. John lackey is also due back soon and if his elbow is healthy we should only get better.”
Orioles Hangout: “Lackey threw 40 pitches over two simulated innings on the 27th, and is expected to return to the rotation June 5th. Owed $45.75M during the 2012-14 seasons, you have to expect he will continue to be handed the ball. Coming off the DL, what are you looking to see out of Lackey in the immediate near-term?”
Red Sox / Fire Brand of the American League: “Lackey has some off the field issues as well this year with his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer, so I think everyone is willing to give him a mulligan on the start to this year as she was diagnosed right before the season. I never really thought he was a #2 type pitcher, but I want to see the pitcher who could throw 210+ innings and maintain an ERA under 4.00.”
Orioles Hangout: “While he is still scheduled to meet with Dr. Yocum tomorrow, Matsuzaka reported today (5/30) that he is feeling better and has improved range of motion. Boston appears optimistic he can avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan crushed Matsuzaka and his signing in a recent piece. Do you consider the Matsuzaka contract the worst decision from Epstein during his tenure as GM?”
Red Sox / Fire Brand of the American League: “It might have been the worst, but I would have to judge that on how many teams tried to make the same choice. There were several teams in the $30-45 million range for the initial bid so many teams had the same feeling. As for Theo this along with the quick bail on Edgar Renteria have to be the two worst signings although I don’t believe Renteria was as bad a player as the fan base did.
In my opinion this hype that caused the large bid by the Sox won’t happen for a Japanese pitcher for a long time. Although many have had success it is usually short lived and they become mediocre or bomb very quickly.”
EDIT: After meeting with Dr. Yocum, it appears Matsuzaka is heading towards surgery.
Orioles Hangout: “After a productive April (.836 OPS), Gonzalez has been on fire in May (.979 OPS). Obviously you were aware he was an elite player when he was obtained. What have you learned about him while watching him play on a daily basis?”
Red Sox / Fire Brand of the American League: “His swing is not going to be prone to slumps. He can put a solid swing on anything and has a very good eye. I think his walk rates in San Diego might have been boosted by an awful offense out there, but he is still a quite patient hitter.”
Orioles Hangout: “As strong as Papelbon has been this year (2-0, 2.78 era, 10 saves, 22.2 ip, 21 hits, 1 hr, 3 bb’s, 31 k’s, .624 OPS against), is there still the belief he will not with Boston in ‘12?”
Red Sox / Fire Brand of the American League: “The common thought is that he will still be gone. Signing him will take money the Sox have yet to spend on a reliever other than his arbitration numbers. If he maintains this level he could be worth the 3/$36 he might get, but there are also the shoulder questions about him from his early days.
Not to be forgotten is that Papelbon will surely get an A rating come free agency and be worth 2 draft picks to the Sox. If he ends up going to a team drafting in the second half of the draft they always value the draft picks in the equation to resign. I would enter talks with him, but I’m not confident they can do it.”
Orioles Hangout: “As of Memorial Day, the Yankees are 6 games over .500. At 29-23, New York is tied for 1st in the AL East. If there are no significant additions to the roster, do you expect the Yankees to reach the playoffs?”
Yankees / River Avenue Blues: “I do but it won’t be easy. They definitely need to bring in some more pitching because they can’t (shouldn’t) count on Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to maintain low-3.00 ERA’s all year. The offense can be inconsistent but is plenty good enough even though they’re getting next to nothing from RF and DH.”
Orioles Hangout: “After a tremendous April (.975 OPS), Russell Martin came back to Earth in May (.715 OPS). Is the league pitching to him in any consistent way?”
Yankees / River Avenue Blues: “No not really, he was expected to come back to Earth. He wasn’t going to hit six homers a month every month, after all. Martin is still drawing a ton of walks, especially now that he moved up a few spots in the order and teams can pitch around him a bit more. By no means was he bad in May, just a little less awesome than he was in April.”
Orioles Hangout: “With homers in 4 of his last 5 games, Teixeira now has 16 homers and a .913 OPS. Despite his production (and perhaps more importantly, his contract) some still believe the Yankees will bid on Pujols if Pujols’ reaches the open market. Do you think NY will bid on Pujols? If so, would the expectation be a move of Teixeira to DH?”
Yankees / River Avenue Blues: “I don’t. They’ll get connected to Pujols for sure, and probably even sit down to talk with him and his agent, but that will be just due diligence. People will laugh when I saw this, but the Yankees can’t really afford another massive contract like that, not with CC Sabathia due another long-term deal after he opts out. Plus they have no place to put him; moving Tex (or Pujols) to DH would be wasting their gloves, which have value and are being paid for. Pujols isn’t exactly having a banner year either, and there’s enough dead money on the payroll as it is. So they’ll be in the mix, but I would be floored if they signed him.”
Orioles Hangout: “While Rafael Soriano deals with elbow soreness, Chamberlain has been strong. (2-0, 3.12 era, 26 ip, 19 hits, 3 hr’s, 6 bb’s, 22 k’s, .603 OPS against, 1.69 G/F). Stuff seems improved this year?”
Yankees / River Avenue Blues: “No not really, pretty much the same as it was last year. He’s throwing a few (but not a ton) more curveballs than we’ve seen him throw in the past, but it’s not like it’s a new pitch. Joba was actually better last year even if it’s not showing in the ERA. For whatever reason he’s decided to trade some strikeouts for ground balls, which I don’t like.”
Orioles Hangout: “Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s contract expires after the end of the 2011 season. Do you want him to return? Do you believe he will? Internal candidates that could replace him? External candidates you would be interested in?”
Yankees / River Avenue Blues: “I do want him to return and I think he will, but I’m less certain of that now more than ever. Cash has been surprisingly candid over the last few months, which I liked, but it was very out of ordinary for him. Just makes me wonder if he’s getting stuff off his chest before he bolts.
One thing Cashman has done a great job of is making sure no obvious replacement emerged in house, increasing his job security and value to the franchise. The best candidates are the two scouting directors – Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) and Billy Eppler (pro) – but neither have any assistant GM experience, let alone actual GM experience. Jean Afterman, the current assistant GM, specializes in contracts/negotiations and not actual baseball decisions, so she’s not an ideal candidate either.
If they were to go outside the organization for a replacement, the obvious candidates are the guys we’ve heard connected to most other GM jobs: Tony LaCava, Logan White, Josh Byrnes, etc. Kim Ng has Yankee ties; would they make her the first female GM? Would she leave her new job with MLB? I’m not sure.”
Orioles Hangout: “Gary Armida of FullCountPitch recently had an interesting piece on Cano (http://fullcountpitch.com/2011/05/19/canos-choice/), your thoughts on what you are seeing out of the Yankees 2nd baseman?”
Yankees / Rive Avenue Blues: “Cano’s patience has been a hot topic for years, and I think most Yankees fans have accepted that he simply won’t ever be a high OBP guy. He’s gotten away with the impatient approach because his contact skills are absurd; he gets the bat on the ball pretty much wherever it’s pitched. Cano has definitely taken a step back this year though, he’s swinging at way more bad pitches and just pitches in general. It’s working because he’s a really good hitter, but his production has predictably come down with that approach.”
Orioles Hangout: “Desmond Jennings has a .853 OPS at AAA Durham. When do you expect him to replace Sam Fuld in LF?”
Tampa Bay / DRaysBay: “Sometime in early July, as long as the Rays feel Super Two status will stay in the next CBA. One scout told Baseball Prospectus earlier this week that Jennings looks, “bored,” down in AAA and that’s my fear in keeping him down this long. Sam Fuld ended May with the second worst wOBA that month out of all regular players in baseball with a .187 mark. His defense has been helpful, but he’s erased all of those gains with his lack of hitting. If the Rays were not so hamstrung by their budget, Jennings would already be up.”
Orioles Hangout: “In February you picked Matt Joyce as your breakout candidate in the division, and he certainly has lived up to that pick with his exceptional 1.048 OPS, .450 wOBA in his initial 159 ab’s of ‘11. A very solid player having a great stretch, or a good player emerging as one of the league’s best?”
Tampa Bay / DRaysBay: “The league is seeing what we at DRaysBay have been predicting going back two years now (http://www.draysbay.com/2009/5/28/892011/asessing-matt-joyce). He will cool off since his peripherals are extremely high right now, but he is walking more, striking out less, and using all parts of the field this year. The fact he became just the fourth left-handed hitter in the past three seasons to homer off of C.J. Wilson the other night really shows just how well he is seeing the ball. By the way, go vote him into the All-Star game.”
Orioles Hangout: “Brignac is 4 for 41 in May (.098 baa), and has just a .394 OPS overall. Closer to the guy that had a .786 OPS in his 2,438 career Minor League ab’s, or a guy not capable of contributing in the bigs?”
Tampa Bay / DraysBay: “It wouldn’t surprise me if he is sent back to Durham once Elliot Johnson returns. Brignac has always hit well in Camden Yards, but that is about the only place he is hitting these days. His swing looks very long right now and he is up there trying to do anything to make contact. Frankly, his swings are tough to differentiate from someone like Andy Sonnanstine’s right now. He is still a plus defender, but his minus bat is neutralizing any gains in the field and I think he would be best served with a stint back in Durham to get things straightened out and to find some confidence at the plate again.”
Orioles Hangout: “In 2010, James Shields had an era of 5.18, and allowed 246 hits, in his 203.1 innings of work. He had an OPS against of .828. In ‘11, Shields has an era of 2.15, and has allowed just 63 hits in his 83.2 innings. His OPS against is .606. What has been the biggest visible difference you have seen in Shields this year over last?”
Tampa Bay/ DRaysBay: “He’s much less predictable this season. Last season, he threw too many first pitch fastballs & cutters and gave up 26 first pitch extra base hits and the league hit .438 against him with a 1282 OPS in 125 plate appearances. This season, the league is hitting just .286 against him on the first pitch with a 731 OPS and he has given up just two first pitch extra base hits. He is throwing his curve much more often for strikes on first pitches and is not afraid to use his change-up at any point rather than only when he’s even or ahead in the count.
Orioles Hangout: “Tampa has 12 picks in the 1st two rounds of the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft, including 10 of the first 60 overall. If the Rays go best player available with each selection, do you believe the funds exist to sign each pick?”
Tampa Bay/ DRaysBay: “The funds are there since the team scaled back payroll this year further than they initially announced. The team payroll is roughly $32-33M off last year’s final numbers so as long as they do not go crazy and draft someone terribly overslot, say like Matt Purke, then they should be able to ink most of what they draft. If not, they will just take the comp pick and try again in the next draft.”
Orioles Hangout: “At 28-28, Toronto is 4 games out of the Division lead, and just 2 games out of the Wild Card. Do you feel the Jays are a legitimate playoff contender?”
Toronto / The Tao of Stieb: “I think that’s still a stretch. Virtually every team aside from the Twins (*WHO PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY DON’T YOU KNOW!) are still in the mix at this point, and it’s entirely plausible that there will be ten teams taking a run at the playoffs by the time August rolls around. That’s not a bad thing, as it will result in these “meaningful games” that people around Toronto bemoan the lack of for this franchise. But moreover, I wouldn’t want to see the Jays get into any sort of mindset where they felt like they needed to make a run at the pennant this year. That’s the sort of thinking that results in Steve Parris and Steve Trachsel coming to your team.”
Orioles Hangout: “Juan Rivera had a .810 OPS for LA in ‘09, with 25 homers. In ‘10 the OPS dropped to .721. In his first year with the Jays, Rivera has a .699 OPS in his initial 172 ab’s. What are you seeing out of him?”
Toronto / The Tao of Stieb: “I’ve noted before that he must have had mono or something in the first month of the season, because he appeared to have little or no energy in any aspect of his game. Even swinging the bat looked like a hardship. But over the past few weeks (since he has been moved to first base on a regular basis), he’s put up an .864 OPS and has a hit in all but two of 14 games. By year’s end (supposing he’s still around), I could imagine him posting a .800 OPS with 15-to-20 homers. Maybe that’s overly ambitious, but I could see him being somewhat more than an anchor of the offense.”
Orioles Hangout: “Toronto has 4 of the first 57 picks in the MLB Draft. Which names are you hearing associated with the Jays most often with the 21st overall pick in the 1st round?”
Toronto / The Tao of Stieb: “I won’t even try to fake this with you. I haven’t the faintest, and frankly, that’s probably for the better. The kids who get drafted next week likely won’t step foot on the Rogers Centre turf until 2015 at the earliest, so I’m not going to wrack my brains over who they should or shouldn’t pick. Que sera, sera.”
Orioles Hangout: “Arencibia continues to hit (.824 OPS, 18 xbh’s in 147 ab’s) overall, and is destroying LHP. Where do you think he belongs in the Rookie of the Year consideration?”
Toronto / The Tao of Stieb: “A lot of the Rookie of the Year discussion comes down to who has had the opportunities to pile up counting stats. With JPA having demonstrated his worth both on offense and behind the plate, he’s managed to wrest some of the “personal catcher” starts away from José Molina. Which means that barring injury, he’ll be in the equation. His numbers compare pretty favorably with Mark Trumbo of the Angels, and though they have a 20 to 30 game head start on Eric Hosmer, he could make up that ground. Also, a fairly strong group of rookie starting pitchers (Zach Britton, Jeremy Hellickson, and especially Michael Pineda) will probably be in the mix as well. All of which is to say: That kid closing in Anaheim probably wins it.”
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Lifelong. Down by the river.
Lifelong. Down by the river.