Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The 07 Rotation: Daniel Cabrera...

...OR I can see clearly now.

I am calling it right now, Daniel Cabrera has turned the corner. We do not need to wait for him to turn the corner, he already has. To some of you that m
ay seem like the insane ramblings of a crazy person - perhaps, but its true and I will show you why.

Cabrera's 2006 was a tumultuous year, but an exciting one. Who can forget the absolutely ridiculous game against the Devil Rays, his second start of the season, where he pitched 5 innings walked 9 and struck out 10! He left the game ahead by 1 and in line for the win before the bullpen gave it up, as would be a theme for most of the season.

Daniel's 2006 campaign is summed up by one baseball term - walks. Cabrera walked 104 batters, that was the second highest total in the majors last year (behind the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano) He also struck out 157, 35th most in the majors. That K ranking may not sound impressive but think about this. Daniel struck out all those batters in only 148 innings pitched. There was only one other pitcher that posted that at least that many Ks in fewer innings Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir.

Daniel Cabrera's K/9in ratio last year was 9
.55. Taking into consideration his limited innings it still puts Daniel in the ranks of Johan Santana, Scott Kazmir, Jake Peavy, El Duke and Jeremy Bonderman. This kid definately has the stuff.

But can he harness it? That has always been the question with Danny. When he is on there is no mistaking it - he is damn near unhittable. In his 9 wins last year Cabrera's ERA against is at a remarkable 0.85. And in 63.2 innings pitched he struck out 63 batters. That is right, in his wins he averaged a K an inning. in that same span he only allowed 38 hits and 9 runs only 6 - SIX - of them were earned. But when Danny was off last year, boy was he ever. In his 10 losses Cabrera's ERA ballooned up to 9.12 and walking 45 batters over 49.1 innings.

What was exactly his problem? Well I think there were a couple factors.

1- Daniel is still growing. Last year he showed up to camp 2 inches taller and 20 lbs (of muscle) heavier. Daniel was already an imposing presence on the mound but at 6'7" and 258 lbs that is a body that a young pitcher could have trouble controlling.

2- The WBC/ Mazzone. Alone, these things are beneficial for someone like Danny, but I feel the timing of the WBC and the arrival of Mazzone hurt him during the first half of 06. I remember people being worried that Leo would have trouble coaching the young and emotional Cabrera, the exact opposite was true. Danny loves Leo and listens intently, but the timing of the WBC robbed him of important instructional time during the spring where he would have been able to learn more from the coach and fall into the new Mazzone-routine of things easier. Consequently Cabrera (and the rest of the O's staff) had to learn a new system on the fl
y. Some will call this a lame excuse, I'm sorry but I do not think it is a coincidence that the most consistent pitcher in the spring of 2006 was the only one who spent an entire summer with Mazzone.

Basically I think that Daniel started off the year with a mechanical hitch in his delivery and he got frustrated. It became a mental thing with the walks and sort of devolved from there until his stint in the minors came. After that stint though Daniel came back stronger and had a very good second half.

In second half Cabrera started 11 games ending with a 5-4 record. He lowered his ERA almost 1.00, from 5.15 to 4.26. Most importantly in 67.2 innings Cabrera threw only 34 walks and struck out 69. That is a K/BB ratio of 2.02. Daniel Cabrera showed MASSIVE improvement over the second half of 2006 as compared to his horrendous first half. He was healthy, the cobwebs were cleared, he got glasses - he turned the corner.

So what can we expect from Daniel in 07? No glasses that's one thing, as he recently got laser eye surgery to permanently correct his eyesight. Which is a good thing, though I was really hoping to keep that Ricky Vaughn comparison going a little longer. But after all is said and done, Daniel will probably still be a bit more erratic than we would like to see, I don't think he has outgrown that just yet, but after a full year of Mazzone and a better offense and bullpen to support him I expect only good things - namely a lot of strikeouts. Opponents' AVG against has fallen each year Danny has been starting and last year he held them to a .241 mark. Looking deeper Daniel also showed that he can be counted on when it REALLY mattered. With RISP Cabrera held batters to a .208 mark and an OPS under .690.

Between he and Bedard the Orioles could have two pitchers on staff that have the ability to become one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball.

Drew Forrester, WNST and Baltimore

Driving into work today Drew Forrester on WNST played a game to give away LAX tickets.

Using the 400 page media guide the caller would pick a page number and if the word Baltimore appeared on the page, they won tickets.

Of course the point of the game was to drive his point home, yet again, that Baltimore needs to be on the jerseys etc, etc, etc.

they got through 8 callers, 3 winners, 5 losers. Of course there is the outrage that Baltimore doesn't appear more in the media guide. But this struck me as the dumbest thing in the world. It would be like me looking through random pages of Moby Dick to find the word "whale."

Now I like Drew, and I support his quest. But seriously Drew that was lame and annoying. Should "Baltimore" be back - yes, of course it should. But the crusade you are becomes less noble and more like shrill whining when you get into petty stuff like "the amount of times the word 'Baltimore' appears in the media guide." It just cheapens the entire argument. Also, for what its worth I picked up my old 2005 Orioles yearbook and chose 10 random pages, the word Baltimore appeared in 6 of them.

Curiouser and Curiouser

CBS radio, carriers of WHFS, came out in the news today and said that the new policy was enacted on THEIR request as part of the new deal that the Orioles struck:

"But a top manager at CBS Radio - whose WHFS (105.7 FM) will carry Orioles games this year - said this policy was instituted at his organization's request and is just a matter of a rights-holder getting some extra benefits it paid for.

"What we have asked for is to be the focal point of information," Bob Philips, senior vice president, CBS Radio/Baltimore, said yesterday. "The Orioles are just trying to follow some things we asked for in the contract. We're trying to offer more access" to listeners."

Full article over at the Sun. I was just playing devil's advocate, when I said it was sour grapes on Davis' and BAL's fault - but it appears now that this is WBAL and CBS radio duking it out and putting the Orioles in the middle.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The More Things Change...

The more they stay MADDENINGLY the same. A recent Sun article revealing a new policy that the Orioles have installed states that no, that is NO, member of Orioles management will answer call-in questions on any station other than the new flagship station of 105.7 WHFS, and apparently JFK 1300.

The blogo-net-o-sphere is RIPE with discussion, as it should be. Anthony over at The Oriole Post chimes in with the "1984" reference. Kudos for literature. And Mike over at Oriole Magic comes in with yet another eloquent tirade against Orioles ownership. My opinion on the matter? Put simply it is just another black smudge on the PR face an organization th
at DOESN'T NEED ANYMORE! For the first time in a long time people are starting to look at this Orioles team with renewed vigor and interest. Guys like Gammons and Crasnick are picking us for possible surprise contenders, Schmuck is writing deceptively positive pieces even Tom Boswell, who crawled on the Nationals bandwagon so fast he skinned his knee-caps, had some nice things to say in a recent article.


Though I find it interesting that this gets released on WBAL, t
he recently spurned former flagship station, who also broke the OTHER speculative article that the Orioles were leaving to escape criticism. Maybe I just like playing devil's advocate but I find it odd that the two most damning PR stories get broke by the same station that the Orioles left in the dust. This after Steve Davis (who was kind of a douche in my opinion before) had about a dozen Orioles players, managers and coaches on his show the last week or so. Could WBAL's sour grapes be behind some of this bad PR? Possible. Could this policy have been around, just never really talked about or directly enforced? Perhaps. It doesn't change the fact that the cat is out of the bag now and it just looks bad.

How many times can the organization do this to themselves? And don't get me wrong, this is not that big of a deal. But when placed in the context of years of poor PR decisions and overall disconnection with the fans it just doesn't help the team's cause.

It gets old, having to talk about this stuff. I wanted this post to be about Daniel Cabrera (The first in a series on my rotation predictions, it will come later this week) but NO, timing and my desire to keep this thing relevant dictates I waste precious bandwidth on this drek.

Bottom line, this policy is bad news for the Orioles. Although if it was never released I doubt anyone would have known the difference because I can think of at l
east half a dozen times an Oriole manager/ FO person has been on sports radio (I listen to NST) and they NEVER took calls before. The host asked the questions, and they were good questions, but I can honestly not remember the last time I heard and Oriole management type person take callers' questions on any station other than the flagship, if at all.

If WBAL is right and this is a "new policy" created for the Orioles to have further control over their airwaves, then shame on the Orioles. If the Orioles are right and this is sour grapes from BAL, then shame on them.

Either way - this crap is tiring and bothersome and I wish to move on to brighter topics.

The first batch of shirts are in the mail, thank you for your patience and you will receive them all in a 1-2 days. Except my one lonely guy out there in Boston. Seriously brother, wear that to a Birds/Boston game, take a picture, send it too me. One lonely O's fan surrounded by Red Sox nation - makes my skin crawl. They are STILL AVAILABLE FOR ORDER! I have a 24 total shirts here in various sizes ready to ship to you! Place an order now, you should get your shirt within 7-10 days!

Trust me they look and feel great!

More serious baseball stuff tomorrow.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jamie Walker: Alert and Talking

New relief acquisition Jamie Walker had a VERY scary moment today down it Florida as he took a Nick Markakis line drive off the back of his head. Walker was taken to a local hospital and is "alert and talking" so it appears that the Orioles have dodged a bullet there.

When reading the first report from Roch's Blog my first thought was "here way go again." As I am sure that all of the rosy feelings that have been surrounding O's camp so far I'm sure have many O's

Scott Williamson is apparently feeling as healthy as ever as he is pleased to finally be throwing with out is arm sounding like a Chinese New Year celebration (poppopopopop pop) So good news all around today for the Orioles health wise, so far. I don't want to jinks anything.

Other than that Orioles camp so far has been rather uneventful. Which is a pretty good thing this early on. Basically its just basic drills getting them ready for spring training season that will begin March 1st against the Marlins.

Also from Roch's blog: de facto backup catcher Paul Bako has been very impressed with Chris Ray's ability to locate the ball. When I read that it rang MAZZONE to me, I really think that the Mazzone
fans waiting for the other shoe to drop as it were. factor will finally break through this year, especially with Cabrera. The only thing that I am sad about is he got laser eye surgery thus eliminating his need for glasses when pitching. I know that was the best possible thing for him to do for his game, but come on. How cool would it have been to have our own Ricky Vaughn out there on the mound? References to baseball comedy aside to me Danny Cabrera is the lynch-pin of the rotation this year. A theory I shall expand upon in a later entry tonight as I have to pack up and hop in the car and drive out to the eastern shore tonight.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Benson To Avoid Surgery, Other Notes

The third time is a charm for injured pitcher Kris Benson as his visit to a specialist in Alabama netted him a glimmer of hope. The third opinion has allowed Benson to attempt a month-long rehabilitation effort on his shoulder. If his shoulder improves then Benson may be able to return sometime during the 2007 season. (seen here in the Sun.)

Good news for Benson and the O's. I still think that nothing short of a miracle will keep Benson off the operating table this year but it is good to see him exploring all his options. Frankly the smart thing would be to get the surgery and come back strong, but if his rehab goes well we could be seeing good ol' Kris back at sometime during the 07 campaign.

In other early spring training news:

- Players are showing up early left and right including everyone's favorite Dominican short-stop (that was actually BORN there, I'm looking at you Jeter!) Miguel Tejada. Miggy's attitude and state of mind has been a hot topic through all of 2006 as accusations of lackluster efforts and revelations about showing up late to workouts and games came to light. But Miggy showed up early to camp and with a giant smile on his face. He's hungry to win and all signs point to a renewed Miggy. in fact the entire team is in good spirits as camp begins, and that is a VERY good thing.

- Now that the Orioles have signed pitcher Eric Bedard to a one year deal, avoiding arbitration, the FO re-focused attention back to signing second-baseman Brian Roberts to a multi-year deal. Roberts is happy with the deal he got now and seems optimistic that a long-term deal will get worked out. But the Orioles need to tread lightly here. After all kids, Roberts will turn 30 this year that is something that needs to be taken into consideration. To me a three year deal with an option for a 4th would be ideal for the Orioles and Roberts. And I'm not a betting man, but I am willing to figure that is pretty much what the final deal will look like.

-The Orioles also took a look at a Japanese pitcher of their own today. But Matsuzaka he is not. And he failed to make an impression on any front office personnel in Ft. Lauderdale. Too little too late it seems, but at least the Birds are making an attempt to branch out into the far east.

Spring Training is here guys, expect more updates as things start happening and we can finally start counting down until that beautiful spring-time ritual, opening day. I personally am done with the ice field that has become my yard and driveway. Attempts to clear it are futile at best which reduces me to doing my best Brian Boitano impression as I get out of my car. But baseball is coming ever closer and I'm getting antsy.

Also, this is a call to anyone going down to Spring Training. TAKE PICTURES, and SEND THEM TO ME! I would love to get some ST reports from my fellow flockers out there.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Shirts Next Week!

First round of Shirts are coming Next week. I should get them back from the printer either Thursday or Friday. If you didn't get one already, do not fret. Go ahead and place an order, I have a much more efficient printing system this time around.

A real update coming tomorrow, as everyone deserves their birthday off.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Welcome To Birdtown: Steve Trachsel

Well, THAT was fast. The Orioles have agreed in principle to a deal with the 36 year-old Mets free agent. The deal is reported, by the sun, to be between 3 and 3.5 million dollars. Details are still sketchy but the Sun also says that he will be brought in to "compete with Hayden Penn and Garret Olson for the 5th spot in the rotation."

But therein lies the question: "Who is Steve Trachsel?" Trax (as I have decided to call him from now on) is a 13 year MLB veteran who has spent most of his career in the NL. He spent one year (2000) in the AL east split between Toronto and Tampa Bay. His stint in the AL could have gone better. Between the two teams he combined for a 8-15 record and a 4.85 ERA. Basically that is what we would expect from Benson ERA-wise, I'm sure a lot of that record had to have come from being on a rather poor Tampa Bay team in 2000. But a deeper look raises more eyebrows.

He hasn't averaged more than 6K's/9IP since 2001. Last year he couldn't break the 5 mark and his K/BB ratio was a rather heinous 1.01. Eww.

And all of this was in Shea, a pitcher's park. It doesn't bode well for Trax here in Baltimore. But I always try to find the bright side........well.......umm.....AH!

Here is the bright side. HE WILL BE COMPETING WITH PENN AND OLSON FOR THE SPOT. This could be little more than just some added depth now that Benson is down for the year. I know we all heard that line before when Ramon Ortiz (AKA "He who's name shall not be spoke") but you got to think that Trax would be better than..you know who. He had a pretty decent year on the surface, peripherals not withstanding and he would probably be with a team right now if it were not for 2 rather bad outings in the playoffs.

Somewhere, someone is ready to raise hell about the Maine deal. Well, I say this to those people. You can't predict injuries folks, they happen. These are things you simply can't predict and hindsight is 20/20. you can say I told you so all you want but it doesn't change the position we are in now. WE got Benson, he was a solid guy last year, the trade was worth it - bad things happen....again.

Kris Benson: Out For The Year

Yes, that's right folks, Kris Benson is gone for the year with a partially torn rotator cuff according to Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports. Benson, who went 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA last year, appears to have torn his shoulder dring offseason workouts.

This is a pretty harsh blow to the Orioles for next year. Benson was the innings eater, if nothing else he put up and average of about 6 innings a game last year and with a young volatile rotation you really want a guy like that going out every fifth day. Despite his "warm body" role, Benson had a better year than his numbers would tell you. Anyone who watched the Orioles last year can tell you that the Birds' pathetic bullpen cost Benson at least 5 or 6 games over the course of the year. The only bright side to this: It happened so early that the Orioles have a lot of time to figure out what they are going to do.

So what DO they do? If they want to fill it with a comparable vet the early name being thrown around is Steve Trachsel, who last year with the Mets put a respectable year and has the mark of being a workhorse, only 5 times in his career he has pitched less than 160 innings a season. but do you want to being this guy in with any hope that he will be a real UPGRADE in the rotation? Probably not.

Next up, youth. The Orioles have some guys bouncing around on the ML bubble that must be chomping at the bit, if they weren't already. Namely
Hayden Penn, Garret (I still want to call him Gregg) Olson and the newest acquisition Jeremy Guthrie. Penn is probably the most ready that is to say he really has nothing left to prove at the AAA level but he has everything to prove at the ML level. His cup of coffee at the big show last year left a lot to be desired as he was pummelled about the face and neck by the teams he faced. Olson's name wasn't really thought of this year until reports came out of the Warehouse that there are members of the org that really think that this kid had a chance to make the rotation regardless of injuries. But having not pitched above AA ball you would like to see him get more seasoning. Guthrie, the waiver wire pick up from Cleveland, has big league experience and was a good security pick-up for just such and occasion. But like Penn he has had more struggle than success in the MLB.

What the Orioles do is going to depend on what they are looking to replace. If you are more concerned about having that solid, veteran, innings eater in the middle of the rotation to spell the pen and take some pressure off the kids then you really have to look into a guy like Trachsel. If you want to gamble and possibly go for someone with a huge upside then you let the kids go all Highlander during ST, fighting it out until the best man wins.

My condolences to Kris. He was an asset to the team last year and a bigger piece to this team than many gave him credit for. But weep not for him, He gets to stay at home with Anna all year, not exactly a bad way to recover if I do say so myself. Get well soon Kris, and we'll see you in '08. In the meantime - 2007 just got a whole lot more interesting.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


The Flock Blog is now totally interactive! Taking your comments on my pithy thoughts on the state of the birds, Baltimore and various other things.

Corey Patterson has inked a 1 year 4.3 million dollar deal (seen
here) and he will be on the team at least through this year. I really hope we find a way to hold on to C-Pat, as the kids call him, Though he may not be a VITAL part of the team like a Tejada or Bedard watching him play over the last year was a real treat. He gives his all in every play and watching him chug down the first base line beating out a bunt that the FIRST BASEMAN FIELDED was always amazing. The man is just so - darn - fast! It truly is mind boggling. I was at that game pictured, the bullpen's reaction was pretty much mine.

Worst case scenario, we get to watch Patterson shag balls for another year. But lets all hope for more.

While we are on the arbitration front, O's potential ace Erik Bedard has yet to sign a deal that would prevent the team from going to arbitration. The sides were still seemingly very far apart at last check and that is far from an encouraging sign. Not that I worry about the arbitration process, if there is
ANYTHING the Orioles do well is win arbitration cases. Still, I don't want to see it get to that. We avoided it with two players, both of which we are at least open to (if not actively seeking) long term deals with, leaving Bedard the odd man out. Bedard is a very important part of this team next year and I want him in camp next week not worrying about this thing. I want him with a multi-year, secure deal paying him money that he feels he is worth.

Remember guys, it will be a bargain today compared to what we will have to pay him in a couple years. GIL MECHE is getting 10 million dollars a year. Lock this kid up now.

Finally on a sad note, former Yankee, Marine and coach of the Orioles 1966 World Series team Hank Bauer passed away recently. Rather than me sitting here and trying to wax philosphical on a man I never had the pleasure to see play or manage I will just link you over to a nice little story on who the man that led our team to their first championship, shocking the Dodgers and the world and leading to this cover of TIME Magazine.

Bless ya Hank. And thanks for the great legacy that you started and we are hoping to reclaim.